Rosenstein Told Trump He’s Not A Target

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Bloomberg:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein, who brought up the Mueller probe himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said.

After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation.

The change in attitude by the president comes after weeks of attacks on the special counsel and the Justice Department, raising questions about whether he might take drastic steps to shut down the probe.

The shift gives some breathing room for Mueller, as well as Rosenstein, who has been criticized strongly by House Republicans for being slow to comply with requests for classified documents. Last week’s meeting was set up in part to allow Rosenstein to assuage Trump’s frustration with his decisions.

Yeah. He’s not a target NOW.  He’s a subject though, and could be a target some day.

 

Jim Bridenstine Just Voted In As NASA Administrator

Ken AshfordScience & Technology, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

50-49.  Unbelievable.

A climate change denier.  No space background.  No science background. He has also spoken out on the House floor criticizing the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allowed LGBTQ members.

He does have some administration experience — managing a small museum in Tulsa. But now he has a staff of 17,000 and a budget of nearly $19 billion (not to mention the numerous contractors it works with).

Another Trump incompetent.

Puerto Rico Disaster

Ken AshfordDisasters, WeatherLeave a Comment

CONFIRMED: There is a black out in Puerto Rico. The entire island is without power. There is “ZERO power generation at this point”, according to a spokesman. A fault was detected on the line 50700 which starts in Aguirre Central It may take 24 to 36 hours to restore power.

The latest blackout prompted Gov. Ricardo Rossello to call on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to cancel its contract with the subcontractor that caused the massive outage.

“I have suggested to the PREPA Board of Directors that they cancel the contract with the Cobra subcontractor who is directly responsible for this power outage,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Seven months after being struck by Hurricane Maria, this is still happening.

And the next hurricane season is about to start.

Shameful.

Will Cohen Sing Like A Canary?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump whose home and office were raided earlier this month reportedly said, “I’d rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump,” in a conversation with a radio host.

But many in Trump’s circle are not so sure.

Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen — long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies — might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

“That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”

In an interview with CNN last week, Cohen called the raid “unsettling to say the least.” But he also said in the same interview that the federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful” — a dramatic departure from his usual combative style.

Those comments raised eyebrows among some in Trump’s inner circle, who noted that one of the president’s most ferocious attack dogs seemed unusually taciturn.

“When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out,” said one Trump ally who knows Cohen.

Cohen has said that he owes everything to Trump and it is clear that he would go to extremes.  But Cohen has a wife and children.  And when faced with only seeing his kids from inside a prison, it is hard to believe that his loyalty will hold. Especially if Cohen gets thrown under a bus.

But then there is the pardon.

The good news for Cohen is that Trump could pardon him if he’s convicted of violating federal campaign finance or banking laws. The very bad news for Cohen is that he could still be convicted of those alleged crimes under New York state law — and Trump would have no way to prevent him from being punished for his misdeeds.

Here’s why: New York has laws that closely mirror the federal ones Cohen stands accused of breaking. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman could charge Cohen with breaking those state laws regardless of whether Cohen is convicted of breaking some of the federal ones — and regardless of whether Trump issues a federal pardon. He also has a wide array of weapons to use against Trump’s attorney and confidant.

Take federal banking laws, which Cohen may have broken if he lied about the reason he got a loan to pay off one of the women. That would also be illegal in New York, which outlaws bank fraud. New York prosecutors could go after Cohen at the same time as federal prosecutors do. The only difference would be that Cohen would have no White House protection.

Schneiderman hasn’t announced any kind of investigation into Cohen, but he has been coordinating closely with the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller on their investigation into former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Some commentators argued that the early charges against Manafort, which left off a series of related crimes, were a sign that Mueller was leaving the door open for state prosecution.

And while many states have laws on the books related to the types of crimes federal prosecutors are investigating Cohen for, including bank and wire fraud, the New York state judicial system is uniquely well prepared to handle possible financial crimes.

So Cohen has severe legal problems, and could turn on Trump very easily.

It’s telling that the people who have an acquaintance with the facts understand that the only question now is if Cohen will flip on the president, not whether he has anything to offer to the prosecutors.  But I think this is the wrong question to ask.

A better question is if the prosecutors now have all the evidence they need from Cohen. They may not need his testimony at all. Everyone is wondering if he’ll cut a deal, but the prosecutors may have no interest in a deal. The biggest piece of evidence Cohen could probably provide is oral confirmation that he did indeed travel to Prague as the Steele dossier alleges in order to collude with the Russians in paying off hackers and covering up Paul Manafort’s connections to the Kremlin. But the prosecutors reportedly have evidence that Cohen made the trip. They had that evidence before the raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. Certainly, Cohen could fill in important details and explain what Trump knew and when he knew it, but if he doesn’t want to cooperate it might not be necessary to cut a sweet deal to prove the case.

The Prague trip is hardly the only criminal vulnerability here. Cohen has been involved in real estate deals and negotiations abroad that probably involved bribes and other financial crimes. He’s made threats against journalists and people who have accused Trump of everything from fraud to sexual assault. Stormy Daniels alleges that Cohen sent someone to threaten her in Las Vegas, which was done in front of her child. Yesterday, she released a sketch artist’s drawing of the man who told her she had a nice child and it would be a shame if something happened to her mother. We already know he’s under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations in relation to his efforts to help Trump cover up his sexual dalliances. Prosecutors also seem to have him on something related to New York City’s (and maybe Chicago’s) taxicab business, although that’s not likely to involve the president. To be honest, this is just scratching the surface. As Josh Marshall reported this week, Cohen is so tightly connected to the Russian mafia that he essentially is the Russian mafia.

No More Castro

Ken AshfordCubaLeave a Comment

For as long as I have been alive, a Castro has been the leader of Cuba. That will no longer be.  Raul Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel as president in 2006, will remain head of the Communist Party, but will step down as Cuba’s President.  Cuba’s National Assembly has elected Miguel Diaz-Canel to become president, meaning a leader not named Castro will take the office for the first time in six decades.

Diaz-Canel is Raul Castro’s hand-picked successor — and, at 57, he is nearly 30 years younger than his octogenarian predecessor. This move is “the centerpiece of an effort to ensure that the country’s single-party system outlasts the aging revolutionaries who created it,” per the AP.

Cuban television announcers used buzzwords such as ‘unity’ and ‘continuity’ in their broadcasts. State media tweeted under the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (We are continuity). The message to the populous was clear: The end of an era with a Castro as head of state does not mean the end of Cuba’s communist system.

Díaz-Canel, an engineer by training, has sent mixed signals about whether he is a reformer or a reactionary. Whatever his instincts may be, he will be influenced by forces that pull in opposite directions. On the one hand, the economy needs to be unshackled if it is to provide Cubans with better living standards. On the other, the Communist Party is loth to give up control, or to allow the rise of an elite that might compete with it.

Hannity Under Fire For Journalistic Ethics

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept Media, Right Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

… Or lack thereof.  From Politico:

Just hours after the raid on the office of Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Hannity inveighed that special counsel Robert Mueller had “declared war against the president of the United States.” But Hannity didn’t disclose that he, too, had received legal advice from Cohen. Hannity’s relationship with the embattled attorney was revealed during Monday’s hearing over materials gathered during the raid — and only after a judge pressed Cohen’s attorney on the identity of a previously unnamed third client.

The omission raised questions about whether Hannity had violated journalistic ethics — or whether he was a journalist at all.

Hannity has shifted in recent years on that point. “I never claimed to be a journalist,” Hannity told The New York Times in 2016 when asked about his informal advising of then-candidate Trump. The next year, Hannity referred to himself in a Times magazine profile as an “opinion journalist” or “advocacy journalist.” He said last month that his show “breaks news daily” in response to colleague Shep Smith characterizing Fox News’ prime-time lineup as entertainment.

Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, said you don’t “move out of the realm of ethics when we move into the realm of opinion.” She said commentators should still be expected to maintain independence from subjects they are covering and disclose relevant ties.

“This is not a small matter,” she said. “We’re talking about one of the most important new stories of this time and he did not disclose his connection to it while commenting on it. His audience deserves to know when he has connections that may be affecting that commentary.”

Bartzen Culver added: “An organization needs to have standards for the people who do its reporting or commenting.”

This is absolutely true. Ultimately, the fault lies with Fox News which — if it has journalistic standards — certainly doesn’t care to enforce them. I’ve seen other opinion journalists on other networks — Rachel Maddow for example — report the conflict of interests that she (or MSNBC) has.

UPDATE: Fox responds —

Yeah, they don’t seem too concerned about holding up journalistic standards.

Trump Goes Soft On Russia Again

Ken AshfordRussia, Syria, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia yesterday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team.

Why did he do it?  Here’s what a cynic might say…

Sunday morning: Haley announces new Russia sanctions

Sunday evening: Comey says Russia may have blackmail info on Trump

Monday: Trump reverses Haley, defers sanctions

Speaking later with reporters aboard Air Force One as Trump headed to Florida, Press sec Sarah Sanders added that “the president has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he’d still like to have a good relationship with them.” Another White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said Trump had decided not to go forward with the sanctions. Trump concluded that they were unnecessary because Moscow’s response to the airstrike was mainly bluster, the official said.

Which of course is beside the point. Assad will feel free to use chemical weapons on his people as long as he has Russian backing. And Russia will continue to back Assad, particularly when it comes at no cost to Russia.

NY Times:

“Trump seems to think that if he accepts what his advisers recommend on even days of the month and rejects their recommendations on odd days, the result will be a strategy,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and Columbia University who served as ambassador to former Soviet states in the 1990s.

“By and large, other governments don’t know whether to laugh or cry at all this,” Mr. Sestanovich said. “But in Russia, laughter is getting the upper hand.”

Mr. Trump was annoyed with Ms. Haley for getting out in front of the policy, the administration official said, and the president’s decision to reject sanctions left her hanging in public with her credibility on the line.

Ms. Haley has been one of the strongest critics in the administration of Russia’s behavior around the world, often speaking far more harshly than Mr. Trump would, but she has rarely been reined in publicly this way. She made no comment on Monday.

Haley should quit.

Kimba Wood SDNY Court: Live Tweets Revealing Sean Hannity

Ken AshfordBreaking News, Courts/Law, L'Affaire Russe, Right Wing and Inept Media, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Sean on his radio show said he never got a retainer, never received a bill, never had a matter with a third party. He admits to asking Cohen some questions (advice, opinion about public matter) and making sure he had attorney-client privilege. (Why would you get attorney-client privilege for some opinion about public matter?)  He doesn’t understand what the big deal is.

Apparently, he doesn’t believe that he should be required to disclose that relationship. Also, the representation in court was that Hannity wanted to keep it quiet.  WHY, if it is no big deal?

AND NOW HE WEIGHTS IN:

Did The Steele Dossier Get The Cohen Trip To Prague RIGHT?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Ever since it came out, right wingers and Trump TV have tried to poke holes on the Steele Dossier, claiming that it is full of untrue allegations.

First of all, Steele did not ever claim to have ironclad proof. The dossier sets out what Steele was told by his sources — and confirmed by other sources. Everybody acknowledges that it is only hearsay. In fact, that is a perfect explanation of why Steele’s “oppo research” was never used by the Clinton team during the campaign.

Aaaaaanyway, one of the allegation in the Steele Dossier related to Michael Cohen making a trip to Prague. To summarize, it reported that initially Paul Manafort was the Trump campaign’s chief contact by the Russians, but when he was fired, Michael Cohen took over. Here is how the dossier described the purpose of the Prague meeting:

In other words, one of the main topics of the meeting in Prague was to discuss how to handle payments to the hackers who had “worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” About those payments, it was reported that they “had been paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin.” If that turns out to be true, it is game, set and match for a criminal conspiracy.

Given that the hackers were a primary focus of this meeting, this tweet from the foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden is significant.

When the contents of the dossier were first published by Buzzfeed in January 2017, then-president-elect Trump dismissed the entire document as “false and fake.” Cohen denied that he had ever been to Prague, and used his denial of that specific claim as evidence that the whole dossier is fake news.

… and since he seemed willing to show his passport, everyone took him at his word. Including me.

But a bombshell McClatchy report Friday says that Mueller has evidence of the Cohen trip to Prague, one that would not require a passport:

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.

If this turns out to be true, the dominoes will fall very fast.

Interesting Hearing Expected Today In SDNY Court

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The defendant: Michael Cohen (Trump’s attorney-ish)

The issue: Whether documents, tapes, and other things seized by the FBI can be reviewed by a “filter team” to weed out privileged documents, and whether Cohen’s lawyers (on behalf of Cohen) and/or Trump’s lawyers (on behalf of Trump) can review them first for responsiveness

The time: 2:00 pm Eastern

What makes this even more interesting is that a lawyer someone hired last Wednesday to represent Donald Trump, Joanna Hendon, might try to push prosecutors from the Southern District of New York to explain that they have probable cause to believe crimes involving the president have been committed.

Let’s back up and set the scene:

Last Monday, the FBI served Michael Cohen warrants listing crimes known to pertain to his taxi medallion businesses and his efforts to suppress information about Trump’s embarrassing sexual behavior, though the warrants themselves probably listed bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations as the crimes. “[T]he riders to the search warrants – copies of which have been provided to Cohen – identify the federal criminal statutes under which Cohen is being investigated,” the government emphasized in its memo.

The taxi medallion stuff has no know tie to Trump. The hush arrangements clearly do, but at least in the case of Stormy Daniels, Trump and Cohen have both publicly denied an attorney-client role, which the government pointed out. “President Trump has publicly denied knowing that Cohen paid Clifford, and suggested to reporters that they had to ‘ask Michael’ about the payment.” It’s certainly possible Cohen has claimed to have firewalled Trump in other hush payments in the same effort to avoid campaign finance violations; to the extent that Trump has not been a formal party in those agreements, he may have likewise waived privilege.

And then there’s the crime-fraud exception to privilege, which the government invokes four times in its response to Cohen, describing how an investigative team can legally access such materials without approval from Cohen or his client if a judge okays it.

[T]he Filter Team will review them to determine whether the material is: (1) not privileged, (2) potentially privileged, (3) requires redaction, and/or (4) potentially meets an applicable exception (for example, the crime-fraud exception). To be clear, under no circumstances will a potentially privileged document or a document potentially subject to the crime-fraud exception be provided to or described to the Investigative Team without the consent of the privilege holder or his/her counsel, or the court’s approval. If the Filter Team is unable to clarify a document’s category, or if there is an exception to the privilege that applies to particular material, such as the crime-fraud exception, or any waiver of the privilege – the Filter Team will (1) confer with counsel for the privilege holder at the appropriate time and before any such material is shared with the Investigative Team and, if no agreement can be reached, submit the material under seal to an appropriate court for a determination as to whether the material is privileged;

***

In the face of inaccurate and/or overbroad claims of privilege, the USAO-SDNY would be seriously prejudiced if it were not able, through a Filter Team, to evaluate the validity of such claims. As Judge Barbara Jones explained in permitting review by a filter team, “[w]ithout the benefit of such a review, the privilege team would likely be unable to argue, for example, that no attorney-client privilege attached to the communication because of the crime-fraud exception, or that a document should be available for use at trial, regardless of work-product contents, because of necessity and unavailability by other means.” [my emphasis]

Even though the FBI informed Cohen he was raided as the subject of an investigation pertaining to his own business, he fought the memo by invoking the part of the US Attorney’s Manual pertaining to witnesses, not subjects, which SDNY corrected.

Cohen’s reliance on the USAM misplaced, but he invokes the wrong section. Cohen cites to section 9-19.220 of the USAM, which, as Cohen points out, applies to “attorneys who are not suspects” of a criminal investigations. See Br. at 22; USAM § 9-19.220 (noting the procedure to be followed when privileged materials are sought from a “disinterested third party”). Cohen, however, is not the disinterested third party contemplated by the USAM. The applicable provision is that which applies when the attorney is a “suspect, subject or target” of the investigation.

And even though he was told he was being investigated for crimes unrelated to it, his lawyers nevertheless treated the raid as part of the Mueller investigation. Their description of communications with SDNY, for example, begins this way, followed by several redacted lines.

On April 9, 2018, Mr. Cohen’s legal counsel was advised in a telephone call by an Assistant United States Attorney from the Southern District of New York, that the Office of Special Counsel (Robert Mueller) had “referred a portion of” the subject matter of the warrants to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Id. ¶ 31. Each page of the attachments to the search warrants contains a footer with the date “2017.08.02” (August 2, 2017)—that happens to be the same date that the Office of Special Counsel’s jurisdiction was amended by the Deputy Attorney General. One obvious and credible explanation is that the attachments listing the subject matter of the warrant used by the U.S. Attorney’s Office were drafted by the Office of Special Counsel as earlier as that date. [three lines redacted]

The government, in addition to mocking Cohen’s assumption based off the footer metadata, reveals what that redaction hides: Cohen speculated, “see Br. at 10, that the SCO drafted the search warrants.”

 

Nevertheless, both sides treat Cohen’s attempt to treat this as a question of the Russia investigation seriously. The government provides three pieces of evidence to describe why Cohen couldn’t be trusted to turn these materials over pursuant to a subpoena — because the crimes themselves involve fraud and deception, because he had, by Friday, already invoked the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels civil suit suggesting he’d withhold documents here as well, and because a tantalizingly redacted passage that suggests Cohen or someone else has already started destroying evidence…

We should remember that Cohen had been a subject of investigation for several months and this was not the first warrant against him, meaning the FBI already had emails and/or phone conversations.

In addition, however, the government does contest Cohen’s claim that he fully cooperated with any of the three Russia investigation his lawyer addresses at length in his declaration, which (having treated this raid as part of the Mueller investigation rather than pertaining to separate crimes) he uses to argue that Cohen could be trusted to turn over documents willingly. For example, the government notes that Cohen himself has said he didn’t cooperate with the Congressional investigations (and wasn’t treated as a target).

It appears that Cohen was not a target of those investigations. Additionally, while Cohen claims in his motion to have been cooperative, he offers no support for this assertion. Publicly, Cohen suggested the opposite, telling Time Magazine that he declined a voluntary request from Congress because it was “too broad.”

Even better, and critically important to the Trump filing submitted last night, is where SDNY fact checks the Cohen claim, backed by his lawyer’s sworn declaration, that he hadn’t fully cooperated with Mueller’s investigation because Mueller asked for everything.

Cohen also states that the SCO “had requested that the Trump Organization produce all of Mr. Cohen’s communications that were within the Trump Organization’s custody, possession, or control,” and that Cohen objected “on the grounds that [the request] called for production of privileged communications, among other things.” (Br. 8-9). Although in the ordinary course, the USAO-SDNY would not comment on investigative requests or demands made to third parties, particularly those from a separate office undertaking its own, independent investigation, in light of the representations made by Cohen’s counsel, USAO-SDNY contacted the SCO about these representations and understands they are not accurate. In particular, the SCO did not request that the Trump Organization produce “all communications” by Cohen in the Trump Organization’s possession or control irrespective of subject matter or privilege. Indeed, the request made by the SCO was considerably narrower, and specifically omitted, among other things, any documents that were protected by privilege or of a purely personal nature. Cohen nonetheless objected to that request for documents and, after discussions between Cohen’s counsel and the SCO, the SCO decided not to seek production at that time. That Cohen sought to preclude the Trump Organization from producing these third party communications belies both (i) his general assertion of cooperation, and (ii) his stated principal interest in protecting attorney-client communications. Indeed, a careful review of Cohen’s motion papers reveals that he does not purport to have personally produced any documents to the SCO.

The intransigence pertaining to Cohen’s documents involving the Trump Organization continued over to last week’s response. While the Trump Organization (which I suspect is really who hired Hendon) did not request to be party to this fight, they did send SDNY a letter last week demanding that it return every document involving Cohen and the Trump Organization.

USAO-SDNY has already received correspondence from counsel for the Trump Organization (Cohen’s former employer), which referenced the searches conducted of Cohen’s premises and claimed:

We consider each and every communication by, between or amongst Mr. Cohen and the Trump Organization and each of its officers, directors and employees, to be subject to and protected by the attorney-client privilege and/or the work-product privilege.

As a reminder: in March, Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents, including but not limited to Russia. That’s one reason, I suspect, that Cohen believes this raid is partly about supporting Mueller’s investigation (I wonder whether Trump Org is the entity that has started destroyed documents?). And that’s one reason, I suspect, that Cohen’s team made a bid to review the seized documents for responsiveness (they use the word 13 times in their filing) before SDNY’s taint team gets the documents.

That is, in addition to whatever other crimes Cohen has facilitated for the Trump Organization, he wants to make sure that the government can’t use materials seized in this raid to investigate other crimes, such as those Cohen might be suspected of in relation to the Mueller investigation.

Having failed to cooperate with both the congressional and Mueller investigations, which is one reason SDNY cites for having used a warrant rather than a subpoena, Cohen now wants to reset the clock so he can treat this raid as a subpoena rather than a warrant so he gets to decide what is responsive to the crimes he is being investigated for or even to the demands of the Russia investigation.

Frankly, to the extent that Mueller might use Cohen’s own crimes as an excuse to search his documents (which the FBI seems to have sorted, even to the level of describe specific checks on the search warrant returns) and his devices (which they seized) to find materials relating to the Russian investigation, I’m sympathetic to Cohen’s case. Sure, Mueller can and may already be working on obtaining warrants to search for materials he might use now that the devices are in the government’s possession. But given how advanced the Mueller investigation is, it seems the government should be expected to obtain separate probable cause warrants rather than rely on plain view doctrine to search for materials on Cohen’s devices relating to Russia.

All of which brings us to the letter Hendon submitted last night on behalf of Trump personally. Herndon actually goes several steps further than Cohen’s team did (while he asked to do the first review, he made a concerted case to appoint a Special Master to do it), asking that Cohen get copies of the seized materials, after which Cohen will decide what pertains to Trump, which Trump will then get to review to decide whether he will assert privilege, only after which SDNY will be permitted to object.

1. Enjoining the government from using a taint team to conduct an initial privilege review;

2. Directing the government to provide Mr. Cohen and his counsel with a copy of the materials seized from Mr. Cohen by the government on April 9, 2018;

3. Directing Mr. Cohen and his counsel, after the government provides Mr. Cohen and his counsel with a copy of the seized materials, to identify to the President all seized materials that relate to him in any way and to provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel;

4. Directing the President and his counsel, after they review the materials provided by Mr. Cohen, to identify for the government’s taint team all materials over which the President asserts privilege;

5. Authorizing the government’s taint team to raise any objections to the President’s assertions of privilege with the Court; and

6. Prohibiting the government’s taint team from providing the Investigation Team with (a) any materials over which the President asserts a privilege without objection from the taint team, and (b) any materials that the Court rules are privileged over the taint team’s objection.

This effectively flips the process on its head, turning the seizure back into a subpoena situation. And while Herndon doesn’t make this as obvious as Cohen’s team did, they intend the Cohen and Trump reviews to include a review of responsiveness as well as privilege.

The level of protection provided to the privilege-holder in the familiar context of a grand jury subpoena duces tecum should be accorded to the President here. When a grand jury subpoena for documents is served, the recipient, with the advice of his counsel, reviews the documents in his possession and produces the responsive documents, with one critical exception: with notice to the government, the recipient withholds all responsive documents that he and his counsel conclude are subject to a privilege, identifying such documents in some fashion without disclosing the privileged contents, often by means of a privilege log. [my emphasis]

Curiously, Herndon doesn’t contest that the government has good reason to believe materials have gotten destroyed, but says that now that the government has obtained the documents, any risk of destruction is gone. Here’s the entirety of the section where Herndon addresses the government’s need to seize these documents.

Of course, here, the government chose not to serve a grand jury subpoena, but instead to execute search warrants on an attorney’s office, residences, and effects. The government asserts that this truly extraordinary measure was necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence. (Gov’t Opp. at 14.) But even if that is true, the exigency has dissipated entirely, as the seized materials are now in the government’s control, beyond any of the potential misuses of the materials that motivated the seizure in the first place. Therefore, the fact that the government seized privileged documents rather than subpoenaing them is now irrelevant – except for the profoundly important privilege issues that the government’s unilateral and peremptory action has raised.

The government insists that it is “entitled” to the seized materials. (Id. at 2, 19.) However, to the extent the government seized privileged information, it is not entitled to have that information, much less review it. See, e.g., von Bulow, 828 F.2d at 99 (recognizing the “urgent” “need for timely protection [from disclosure] … where the discovery sought is … blanketed by the absolute attorney-client privilege”). It simply cannot be the case that by acting in such an aggressive, intrusive, and unorthodox manner, the government has somehow created an entitlement on its own part to eliminate the President’s right to a full assertion of every privilege argument available to him. Indeed, if the Court were to endorse the use of a taint team under these circumstances, raids of law offices would likely become more commonplace, as they would permit the government to wrest from the privilege-holder the ability, in the first instance, to assert privilege over documents and rightfully withhold them.

The government has done what it has done, and it has thereby protected against every notional evil it could have articulated in favor of its action. It no longer has any cognizable interest in proceeding by any procedure other than that which is typically employed to ensure that the attorney-client privilege is fully protected.

Note what has fallen out of the discussion of exigency? The crime-fraud exception, which SDNY had made clear it expected to find ample evidence of.

Elsewhere, Herndon does mention SDNY’s expectations of finding materials that fall under the crime-fraud exception, but she suggests that a taint team cannot be trusted to access the documents first because it might provide the investigative team documents that are clearly not privileged, a non sequitur to the point of crime-fraud exception documents.

The government has assured the Court that “under no circumstances will a potentially privileged document or a document potentially subject to the crime-fraud exception be provided to or described to the Investigative Team without the consent of the privilege-holder or his/her counsel, or the court’s approval.” (Gov’t Opp. at 6.) Presumably the government intends by those words to comfort the Court, but the government simply cannot make that guarantee. See, e.g., Lek, 2018 WL 417596, at *1-3. As discussed above, under the government’s proposal, the taint team will turn over to the Investigative Team all materials that the taint team itself deems not privileged. If such materials contain any privileged information that the taint team failed to identify, the President’s privilege will be irremediably violated. The President, the public, and the government have a vital interest in ensuring the integrity of the privilege review process, and the taint team procedure is plainly inadequate to the task. [my emphasis]

Remarkably, Herndon suggests that the public (!!!) has an interest in letting criminal suspect Michael Cohen, who has already proven uncooperative with valid investigations, sort through his materials to decide whether the government should have documents that prove he abused his position as a lawyer to commit fraud on behalf of a client.

As the government has said, it’s not clear Cohen has any clients besides Donald Trump.

So how will the SDNY respond to this?  It is possible that the SDNY is going to provide details in court today of the crimes that it has probable cause to believe were committed. Because, in the face of an otherwise compelling claim that this is an exceptional case, what SDNY is investigating is still that Cohen served not to provide legal advice to Donald Trump, but to provide legal cover for fraud.

I have no idea what Kimba Wood will do in response (and I suspect SDNY will challenge the legal precedents Herndon has invoked).

But I suspect we’re going to hear a lot more about how SDNY has reason to believe that Michael Cohen hasn’t been serving as a lawyer for Trump, he has been serving as a fixer for him. Cohen has produced evidence of serving only three clients, one of which is still unknown. The other two are the president and Elliot Broidy (a finance chairman for the RNC who used Cohen to cover up an affair with a Playboy playmate that resulted in her pregnancy and a subsequent abortion).

And Stormy Daniels will be looking on as evidence of that fact.

RELATED:

Government responds to last night’s intervention from Trump team:

Cohen also responds:

Weekly List 74

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week, Trump became angry and stormy after the office and hotel room of his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen were raided by the FBI. The country stood on edge as Trump threatened to fire Mueller, Sessions, and Rosenstein. Other than a few hollow warnings, Republicans in leadership did nothing by way of passing legislation or any other measures to block Trump from taking steps to dull or end the Mueller probe. And as Speaker Paul Ryan became the latest Republican leader to announce he will not seek re-election in November, increasingly it appears the party will abdicate its responsibility to counter Trump.

In a week without any real focus, policy, or direction, Trump careened on trade and on Syria. After spending much of week attacking and discrediting institutions and familiar targets like Obama, Hillary, McCabe, and Comey, Trump ended the week late Friday by addressing the nation on a US missile attack on Syria, which, unlike a year ago, will be an open-ended military engagement. With a non-functioning and unstaffed State Department, many senior national security roles vacated, and disagreement voiced by Secretary Mattis, the decision to strike — as with most decisions in recent weeks — was made by one man.

  1. Late Saturday, a fire broke out at Trump Tower on the 50th floor, leaving one dead and four New York City firefighters injured. This is the second fire in the sprinkler-free residential tower in 2018.
  2. Trump tweeted “Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job,” but failed to acknowledge the death in his building. Trump was one of the developers in the late 1990s who lobbied against requiring sprinklers in buildings.
  3. Late Saturday, Trump again defended Scott Pruitt and his security spending, tweeting Pruitt “received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA,” adding “Scott is doing a great job!”
  4. Also on Saturday, Trump attacked the Justice Department and FBI of slow-walking documents “relating to FISA abuse, FBI, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Clinton Emails and much more,” tweeting what do they “have to hide?”
  5. WAPO reported on repeated clashes between Trump and chief of staff John Kelly, and Kelly’s downward arc of influence in the White House. Kelly’s credibility has also suffered amid misstatements, including his handling of the Rob Porter scandal.
  6. Kelly has instituted “Policy Time” sessions once or twice a day where advisers would address Trump on specific issues and bi-monthly cabinet meetings. Kelly’s efforts to create an atmosphere of discipline clashed with Trump’s freewheeling impulses.
  7. Reportedly, Kelly has threatened to resign multiple times — one senior White House official jokingly called it “a weekly event.” Trump has told friends recently he likes rallies where he can escape Kelly’s shackles.
  8. On Sunday, Trump attacked The Washington Post on Twitter, calling the paper “far more fiction than fact,” and saying the story on Kelly “is made up garbage.”
  9. On Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro echoed Trump on “Meet the Press,” calling The Washington Post “fake news most of the time.”
  10. On Sunday, NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet told CNN that Trump’s rhetoric against the media is “out of control” adding, “his advisers should tell him to stop.”
  11. On Saturday, Syrian activist groups reported Assad’s regime used chemical weapons on the rebel-held city of Douma. At least 25 were killed and 500 wounded. In Week 73, Trump said he would withdraw troops from Syria.
  12. On Monday, Trump signed an executive order calling for enforcing work requirements for the poor, and directing agencies to consider adding work requirements to government aid programs that lack them.
  13. On Tuesday, Trump’s Justice Department announced it would halt a program that offers legal assistance to detained foreign nationals facing deportation as it audits the program’s cost-effectiveness.
  14. Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice held information sessions for 53,000 immigrants in more than a dozen states. The federal government will also evaluate Vera’s “help desk,” which offers tips to non-detained immigrants.
  15. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California heeded Trump’s call to send the National Guard to the Mexico border, but said his 400 troops will have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.
  16. Jamie Allman, who hosted a nightly show on the Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate in St. Louis, was fired and his show canceled after he sent a vulgar tweet threatening to sexually assault Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg.
  17. Brennan Walker, a 14 year-old black teen in Rochester Hills, Michigan who missed his school bus and stopped at a neighbor’s house while walking to school to ask for directions, was shot by homeowner Jeffrey Ziegler, whose wife initially answered the door and yelled at Walker.
  18. Ximena Barreto, a Trump appointee to deputy communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services, shared an image in 2017 that said “our forefathers would have hung” Obama and Clinton for treason. Barreto was suspended earlier this week for insulting Islam and spreading conspiracy theories.
  19. AP reported in the 135 days since Mick Mulvaney took over as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency has not recorded a single enforcement action against banks, credit card companies, debt collectors, or finance companies.
  20. Politico reported that the EPA fired Mario Caraballo, a career staffer who approved an internal report undermining Pruitt’s claims he needed around-the-clock bodyguards and other expensive security protection.
  21. NYT reported Kevin Chmielewski, the former EPA deputy chief of staff, told lawmakers Pruitt insisted on staying at luxury hotels costlier than allowed and flying airlines not on the government approved list to get frequent flyer miles.
  22. Chmielewski also told lawmakers Pruitt often scheduled trips back to Oklahoma so he could stay for the weekend, and if he wanted to travel somewhere, told his staff to“find me something to do,” to justify travel.
  23. ABC News reported almost 30 senior employees at the Interior Department said they were reassigned last year, and some have formally complained it was in retaliation for their work on issues like climate change.
  24. On Thursday, the Senate approved Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist whose clients include Murray Energy, as the EPA’s deputy administrator, the agency’s No. 2 official. Democrats complained of Wheeler’s efforts to block regulations that protect Americans’ health and climate change.
  25. AP reported Wheeler accompanied Murray CEO Robert Murray to a series of closed-door meetings to lobby the Trump regime to kill environmental regulations affecting coal mines.
  26. Guardian reported Sinclair-TV chairman David Smith met with Trump at the White House. Smith claimed the meeting was to pitch a new product: chips for cell phones and other devices that can receive transmissions.
  27. On Wednesday, Wendy Vitter, Trump’s nominee for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, refused to answer whether Brown v. the Board of Education was correctly decided at her confirmation hearing.
  28. On Monday, La Prensa reported Trump Panama Hotel Management has pressured the Panamanian government to step in to its dispute with Orestes Fintiklis over control of the hotel formerly named after Trump.
  29. In Week 69, a Panamanian court ruled for Fintiklis, and Trump’s name was removed. The US Embassy in Panama said that “matters related to the Trump Organization are sent directly to the White House.”
  30. ProPublica reported the Trump Organization has filed at least nine new lawsuits against municipalities alleging Trump’s properties are worth far less than he claims, and therefore they owe much less in taxes.
  31. This marks the first time a US leader has been in legal battles with local governments. Experts say it creates a “dangerous precedent” because local governments rely on the federal government for resources.
  32. On Thursday, following his frequent attacks on Amazon, Trump issued an executive order forming a task force to be chaired by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to evaluate the Postal Service’s finances and operations.
  33. Denver Post reported Centennial Coalition, a Republican “dark money” nonprofit in Colorado, hired Cambridge Analytica to help the party win the state Senate in 2014. Centennial used targeted abortion mailers.
  34. Concerned Citizens for Colorado, controlled by Senate Republican leader Bill Cadman, also hired the company in 2014 and 2015. Concerned Citizens sent $100,000 to the Centennial Coalition in 2014.
  35. On Monday, in a morning tweet, Trump attacked “STUPID TRADE” with China. Later at a Cabinet meeting, Trump assured farmers, who have been targeted by China’s tariffs, that they “will be better off than they ever were” under Obama.
  36. The Trump regime is considering using a Depression-era program, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) created in 1933, to bail out farmers caught in his trade war with China.
  37. The CCC can borrow up to $30 billion from the Treasury Department and extend that money to farm groups. Republican lawmakers have told the regime the approach will not provide the needed relief to farmers.
  38. On Thursday, Trump told a gathering of farm-state lawmakers and governors that he is looking into rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal he pulled the US out of days after he took office.
  39. Politico reported Paul Manafort’s lawyers filed a motion to suppress evidence found in a storage unit, arguing entry was illegal because the storage unit employee did not not have authority to let the FBI into the locker.
  40. The May 27 search warrant for the storage locker authorized FBI agents to seize financial or tax records relating to Manafort, Rick Gates, or former Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Manafort’s lawyers argue the warrant was overbroad.
  41. Daily Beast reported according to court documents, one of Manafort’s associates led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort’s businesses and finances. The name is redacted from the filings.
  42. On Monday, NYT reported the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office and hotel room, seizing business records, emails, and documents related to several topics, including the payment to Stephanie Clifford.
  43. The Southern District of New York prosecutors obtained a search warrant after having the case referred to them by Mueller. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a federal judge they are likely to discover evidence of criminal activity.
  44. On Monday, WAPO reported Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations. The FBI took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns.
  45. Search requests indicate prosecutors’ interest in possible violations of election law by Cohen. As the acting attorney general supervising Mueller’s work, Rod Rosenstein would have determined if the topic needed to be referred.
  46. On Monday, WSJ reported the probe is being conducted out of the FBI’s public-corruption unit. Investigators would have had to receive high-level approval to seize documents of a personal lawyer because of sensitivities around attorney-client privilege.
  47. Trump spoke to the press at the White House before meeting with senior military commanders on Syria,calling the raid a “disgraceful situation,” an “attack on our country in a true sense” and “a total witch hunt.”
  48. Trump said they “they broke into” Cohen’s office, who he said is a “good man.” Asked if he will fire Mueller, Trump said “We’ll see what happens,” adding “And many people have said, “You should fire him.””
  49. Trump again complained about Sessions recusing himself, saying Sessions made a “terrible decision” and “what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country,” adding he would have chosen another person if he had known.
  50. On Tuesday, Trump continued his attack on the raid, tweeting “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!” and “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” There are exceptions to attorney-client privilege for crime or fraud, past or future.
  51. On Monday, NYT reported Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation from Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk to the Donald Trump Foundation in September 2015 for a 20-minute appearance through a video link to a conference in Kiev. Cohen solicited the donation.
  52. Records on the payment came as Mueller’s team subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents, emails, and other communications about several Russians, including names not publicly tied to Trump.
  53. On Tuesday, WSJ reported that in connection with the raids, federal prosecutors asked the Trump Organization for its records relating to the $130,000 payment to Clifford.
  54. WSJ reported the search warrant also sought information on the $150,000 payment by AMI, publisher of National Enquirer, to Karen McDougal, as well as information on Cohen’s associates in the taxi industry.
  55. On Tuesday, NBC News reported Stephanie Clifford is cooperating with federal investigators in their probe of Cohen.
  56. On Tuesday, NYT reported Trump considered firing Mueller in December 2017 after hearing news that the special counsel obtained subpoenas targeted Trump’s and his family’s banking records at Deutsche Bank.
  57. Trump’s lawyers and advisers worked quickly to learn that report was false, and Trump backed off. Trump has openly discussed ways to shut down the probe, but lawyers and advisers have convinced him this would only exacerbate his problems.
  58. On Tuesday, Rachel Maddow reported Dana Boente, the former acting Attorney General, has been asked to be interviewed by Mueller’s team in the Russia investigation.
  59. Maddow also revealed handwritten notes, allegedly by Boente about his conversation with Comey, which would be the first contemporaneous evidence of what Comey told colleagues about his conversations with Trump.
  60. On Tuesday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said a press briefing that Trump could fire Mueller, “He certainly believes that he has the power to do so,” adding Trump believes Mueller has “gone too far.”
  61. On Tuesday, NYT reported on Trump’s mood the day after the raids on Cohen’s office and hotel room,reporting he was “brooding and fearful” and according to two people close to the West Wing near a “meltdown.”
  62. Aides said they felt “anxious” Tuesday that Trump might use the raid as a pretext to fire Mueller. Trump reportedly said the raids were proof that Mueller was out to get him.
  63. Over the weekend, Trump engaged in few activities, and after watching Fox News reports that the deep state was looking to sink him, he came unglued and said he wanted to fire Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller.
  64. On Tuesday, CNN reported Trump is considering firing Rosenstein as a way to put greater limits on Mueller. Trump is also weighing firing Sessions whom he feels has not done enough to protect him in the probe.
  65. On Tuesday, Politico reported Trump will host a dinner for Republican leaders at the White House on Wednesday. Reportedly, the dinner was planned before Trump’s attack on Mueller and others on Monday.
  66. On Tuesday, Trump canceled his trip to attend the Summit of the Americas in Peru, citing the need to oversee the “response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
  67. This marks the first time a US leader has not attended the summit since 1994, and Trump has yet to make a trip to Latin America. Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and protectionism are not well received in the region.
  68. The White House said Vice President Pence will attend in Trump’s stead. Pence’s office advertised he would be attending “a banquet hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.” Kuczynski resigned three weeks ago, following a corruption scandal.
  69. On Wednesday, Ivanka told the media that she and Jared are heading to Peru for the summit amid drama at the White House. Ivanka said she would unveil a new economic empowerment program for women of the region.
  70. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee said it would move forward with legislation to limit Trump’s ability to fire Mueller. Committee chair Chuck Grassley is seeking assent to add it to the committee’s agenda for Thursday.
  71. In a letter responding to Sen. Ron Wyden, the NRA acknowledged to Congress that it has accepted contributions from about 23 Russians, or Americans living in Russia, since 2015, saying most were for membership dues.
  72. The NRA acknowledged that Kremlin-linked Alexander Torshin, placed under US sanctions in Week 73, has been a member of the NRA since 2012, and has paid membership dues but not made any contributions.
  73. On Wednesday, a day after Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee had threatened to impeach FBI director Christopher Wray and Rosenstein, the Justice Department turned over the document that launched the FBI’s Russia investigation in 2016.
  74. On Wednesday, NYT reported that the FBI agents who raided Cohen’s office and hotel room were seeking information about whether he worked with the Trump campaign to suppress negative information about Trump.
  75. The warrant, which was striking in its breadth, allowed prosecutors to gather information, including documents related to the “Access Hollywood” tape, as part of an investigation into whether Cohen’s possible coordination violated campaign finance laws.
  76. The investigation is being run by Robert Khuzami, whose boss, Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney in Manhattan recently appointed by Trump, has recused himself.
  77. On Wednesday, New Yorker reported Dino Sajudin, a Trump Tower doorman, met with a reporter from the National Enquirer in late 2015 and agreed to grant exclusive rights to his information for $30,000.
  78. Sajudin’s story was that Trump may have fathered a child with a former employee in the late 1980’s. The payment from AMI, parent company of the National Enquirer, came five months after Trump launched his presidential campaign.
  79. The story never ran, similar to those of Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal. Two former employees said Cohen was in close contact with the AMI executives at the time reporters were looking into Sajudin’s story.
  80. On Thursday, Sajudin released a statement, which said in part, “I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower I was instructed not to criticize President Trump’s former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child.”
  81. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Steve Bannon has stayed in touch with some members of Trump’s circle, and is now pitching them a plan to help Trump cripple Mueller’s Russia probe.
  82. Bannon’s plan is for Trump to fire Rosenstein, to stop cooperating with Mueller including allowing staff members to be interviewed, and to have Trump protect himself by asserting executive privilege.
  83. Mueller’s team asked a judge in Alexandria, Virginia, to issue 35 sets of subpoenas to witnesses for a trial set to begin on July 10. Mueller asked for blank subpoenas, with names to be added later.
  84. On Friday, NBC News reported Rosenstein invoked the quote Martin Luther “Here I stand,”  telling confidants he is prepared to be fired by Trump, and said he had done his job with integrity.
  85. Rosenstein also said in private conversations that he did the right thing in firing Comey in May 2017, saying the American people did not have all the facts that led to his decision to the write the memo.
  86. On Friday, WAPO reported that Trump allies are worried Cohen, who is known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, may have had recordings seized in the raids Monday.
  87. It is not known if Cohen taped his conversations with Trump, but people familiar say Cohen taped both business and political conversations, with one adding, “It was his standard practice to do it.”
  88. On Friday, lawyers for Cohen and Trump appeared in court seeking to temporarily bar prosecutors from examining records and electronic devices, including two cell phones, seized by the FBI.
  89. The Justice Department’s 22-page motion said Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months by federal prosecutors for his business dealings, and that a grand jury was empaneled.
  90. The motion revealed authorities had searched a number of email accounts used by Cohen, and the results indicate “Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged” with Trump.”
  91. The motion also revealed prosecutors examined a safe-deposit box used by Cohen, carrying out the search for fear that evidence might be destroyed if they just served him with a subpoena.
  92. After three separate hearings on Friday, US District Court Judge Kimba Wood indicated that she did not have enough information to make a decision. She ordered lawyers, and Cohen personally, back on Monday.
  93. NYT reported Trump sees the inquiry into Cohen as a greater threat to him than the Mueller probe. Reportedly Trump finds himself isolated as he tries to find a new criminal lawyer, and aides are hesitant to advise him for fear of being dragged into the investigation.
  94. According to sources, Trump called Cohen on Friday to “check in.” Depending on what was discussed, the call could be problematic as lawyers typically advise clients against discussing investigations.
  95. Cohen has said he would defend Trump until the end. He has served Trump for more than a decade as a trusted fixer, including during the campaign when he helped with hush scandals.
  96. Search warrants indicate authorities are interested in Cohen’s unofficial role in the Trump campaign, including demanding all his communication with the campaign, and in particular with Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks.
  97. Bloomberg reported Trump’s legal team has an open gap in defending against the Mueller probe: Jay Sekulow, who is in charge of legal strategy and negotiations with Mueller, is an expert in constitutional law, not criminal defense.
  98. On Friday, WSJ reported Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million settlement on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser with ties to Trump, with a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by Broidy.
  99. Cohen arranged the payments to the woman as part of an agreement with the Los Angeles woman which prohibits her from disclosing her relationship with Broidy. The first payment was due December 1st.
  100. In a statement, Broidy acknowledged the “consensual relationship” adding “I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.” Cohen turned down requests to comment.
  101. On Friday, Broidy resigned as deputy national finance chairman at the Republican National Committee. Steve Wynn had recently also resigned as a deputy national finance chair, but Cohen remains in his position.
  102. On Monday, ProPublica reported Sessions became friendly with Broidy as part of the Trump campaign, andturned to Broidy for advice and recommendations for positions in the Justice Department.
  103. Sessions gave Broidy a private email address — hybart@jeffsessions.com — to send along his picks. As noted in Week 69, Broidy was convicted in 2009 for his role in a major New York state public corruption and bribery case.
  104. On Friday, CNN reported the FBI seized recordings of conversations between Cohen and lawyers for Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal.
  105. Cohen recorded some of his calls with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both women, but no longer represents either. Cohen contacted Davidson recently and encouraged him to go public with what he knew about his former clients and their agreements.
  106. McDougal alleges in a lawsuit that Cohen has a close relationship with Davidson, and that Davidson was part of a “broad effort to silence and intimidate her and others.”
  107. One source told CNN that Cohen played recordings of conversations he had with political and media figuresduring the exploratory part of the campaign for Trump and other associates.
  108. On Friday, McClatchy reported Mueller has evidence that Cohen secretly made a trip to Prague months before the presidential election, as described in the Steele dossier.
  109. The dossier cited information from a “Kremlin insider,” who said the Prague meeting was to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  110. Investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany in August or early September. It is unclear if Mueller’s team has evidence Cohen actually met with Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally.
  111. Cohen has vehemently denied that he made a trip to Prague or colluded with Russians during the campaign. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, has also denied that he visited Prague.
  112. On Saturday, Cohen tweeted, again denying he has been to Prague, saying he was in LA with his son, and accusing the reporter of “bad reporting, bad information.”
  113. On Monday, Facebook announced it will create an independent commission that partners with academics and researchers to study the effects of social media on democracy and political elections.
  114. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg testified before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees. Zuckerberg apologized at the opening of the hearing, but this did not appease senators of either party, with Richard Blumenthal saying, “We’ve seen the apology tours before…”
  115. Zuckerberg faced tough questioning from senators of both sides, which between the two committees was almost half the senate. Lawmakers plan to interview other technology companies, including Google and Twitter.
  116. Democratic Sen. Ed Markey plans to introduce a new bill, the CONSENT Act, which would require social media companies and other major web platforms to obtain explicit consent before they share or sell personal data.
  117. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 decree over data on 71 million Americans in the hands of Cambridge Analytica. The fine could potentially be huge.
  118. The Guardian reported British and US lawyers plan to file a class action lawsuit against Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, SCL Group Limited, and Global Science Research Limited for misusing the personal data of more than 71 million people.
  119. On Sunday, Trump called out Putin and Russia for the chemical attacks, tweeting, “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…” This is the first time Trump has attacked Putin by name.
  120. On Sunday, Michael Anton, Trump’s National Security Council spokesman resigned. Anton was brought in by Flynn, and was one of the sharpest defenders of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
  121. On Tuesday, Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, resigned at the request of National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bossert advised Trump on cybersecurity and counterterrorism since the beginning of his regime.
  122. On Tuesday, Nadia Schadlow, deputy national security adviser for strategy, resigned. Schadlow was the third senior national security official to resign or be pushed out with Bolton’s entree to the White House.
  123. On Monday, Yulia Skripal, the daughter of Sergei Skripal, both of whom were poisoned in a nerve gas attack allegedly carried out by Russia in the UK, was discharged from the hospital and taken to a secure location.
  124. On Wednesday, in a series of tweets, Trump warned US airstrikes are coming in Syria, “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’”
  125. In his most direct criticism of Moscow yet, Trump tweeted, “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Trump also tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.”
  126. On Thursday, Trump reversed himself tweeting, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”
  127. On Thursday, after Trump’s Twitter threats, Defense Secretary Mattis tried to put the brakes on a possible military strike warning it could escalate into a wider conflict between Russia, Iran, and the West.
  128. Mattis detailed his concerns in closed-door meetings to Trump’s White House and Trump’s top national security advisers. Mattis also pushed for more evidence that al-Assad was behind the chemical weapons attack.
  129. On Friday night, Trump addressed the nation about his decision to order strikes on Syria. Many pundits drew a comparison to “wag the dog” — creating a crisis to divert attention from a scandal.
  130. Citing al-Assad’s use of chemical weapon against his own people, the US, along with the UK and France, struck Syrian research, storage, and military targets. Trump said earlier in the week, “We are very concerned…this is about humanity.”
  131. Unlike the US missile attack in Syria a year ago, this operation was described by US generals as open-ended; although Mattis was careful to say at a press conference Friday, the missiles were not the opening of a broader campaign.
  132. NPR reported that so far in 2018, the US has accepted only 11 Syrian refugees. This follows a dramatic decrease from 15,479 Syrian refugees resettled in 2016 under Obama, to just 3,024 in 2017 under Trump.
  133. On Friday, Reuters reported that pro-Assad officials claim that, similar to US strikes a year ago, the targeted bases were evacuated days ago thanks to warnings by the Russians.
  134. On Saturday, in a morning tweet, Trump bragged about the missile strike in Syria, saying “Mission Accomplished!” The words were reminiscent of George W. Bush’s haunting phrase in 2003 about the supposed end of major combat in Iraq.
  135. On Saturday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council that US forces are “locked and loaded” if Assad stages another chemical attack.
  136. At the time of the Syrian air strike, acting Secretary of State John Sullivan was in Peru at the Summit of the Americas. Eight of the top ten roles at State remain unfilled, as well as many key ambassador roles.
  137. On Wednesday, McClatchy reported Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo failed to disclose last year in his questionnaire to lead the CIA that he owned a Kansas business that imported equipment from a company owned by the Chinese government.
  138. The issue, which troubled several senators, never came up in Pompeo’s Senate confirmation hearing to become CIA director. Pompeo’s Senate confirmation hearings to become Secretary of State began on Thursday.
  139. On Thursday, two key Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tim Kaine and Jeanne Shaheen said they won’t back Pompeo for secretary of state. Republican Sen. Rand Paul also indicated he would vote against him.
  140. Trump nominee Pompeo could be the first state nominee since 1925 not to get a favorable vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support his nomination for secretary of state.
  141. On Sunday, conservative pollster Frank Luntz told Fox News, “I think the Republicans are in deep trouble,” saying if the elections were held today, the Republicans would lose the House and the Senate.
  142. On Wednesday, Axios reported Paul Ryan will not run for re-election in November. Insiders say Ryan passed tax reform, his longtime dream, but is ready to step out of an endlessly frustrating job, in part due to Trump.
  143. A Republican insider said, “This is a Titanic, tectonic shift. … This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held,” saying now funds will be diverted to help Republicans keep control of the Senate.
  144. Politico reported, according to Nielsen ratings, MSNBC’s rating surged 30% from first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018, while Fox News’ rating fell 16%. Analysts said some of Fox News’ audience may be experiencing Trump fatigue.
  145. On Wednesday, Axios reported on a clip from Comey’s first interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos scheduled for Sunday night, in which Comey compares Trump to a mob boss.
  146. Comey said he was asked by Trump to investigate the salacious allegations from the dossier to “prove that it didn’t happen,” adding Trump said it would be “terrible” if Melania would believe them to be true.
  147. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted promoting Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s show, “Big show tonight on@seanhannity!” On his show that night, Hannity attacked Hillary Clinton, Mueller, and Comey.
  148. On Thursday, CNN obtained a copy of the battle plan to discredit Comey to be used by Trump allies which includes branding Comey as “Lyin’ Comey,” digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans nationwide.
  149. On Friday, Trump lashed out at Comey in a series of tweets, calling him “a proven LEAKER & LIAR,” and a “weak and untruthful slime ball” who deserved to be fired “for the terrible job he did.”
  150. Trump also tweeted that Comey “leaked CLASSIFIED information” for which he “should be prosecuted,” and Comey “lied to Congress under OATH,” adding “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”
  151. On Friday, CNN obtained a copy of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on Andrew McCabe, which found McCabe “lacked candor” on four occasions when discussing the disclosure of information to the WSJ.
  152. The disclosures were related to the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation. In addition, the report found that McCabe was not authorized to disclose the existence of the investigation.
  153. The report also cited McCabe’s conversations with federal investigators and Comey. The report, which went to Congress on Friday and is expected to be made public, formed the basis of Sessions’ firing of McCabe.
  154. Trump used it to attack Comey, calling the report “a total disaster,” adding “He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey — McCabe is Comey!!” And referring to them both as a “den of thieves and lowlifes!”
  155. On Friday, Trump pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former Bush administration official convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2007. This follows his controversial pardon of Joe Arpaio in Week 41, which he also announced on a Friday, as Hurricane Harvey was about to hit.
  156. Trump acknowledged Friday he has no personal relationship to Libby, “I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” Trump does have an ongoing feud with the Bush family.
  157. Trump said Libby was unfairly convicted because of an overzealous prosecutor. A number of Trump aides have pleaded guilty to similar charges such as lying to the FBI, and Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation.
  158. The pardon also telegraphed Trump’s open hostility to the criminal justice system and institutions, as well as signaling Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency as a personal political tool.
  159. Bloomberg reported Trump ordered the DOJ to hire Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was forced out of the National Security Council by H.R. McMaster for showing Nunes classified documents. Cohen-Watnick went to work for Oracle after he was fired.
  160. When Trump learned in the fall of 2017 Cohen-Watnick was not at the Justice Department, he told staff he wanted him on the job as soon as possible. Generally, the White House has a policy against the rehiring of staff who are dismissed.
  161. VICE News reported two senior officials in the Trump regime, Makan Delrahim and David Bernhardt, were once registered as lobbyists for Access Industries, a holding company controlled by Russian oligarch Leonard Blavatnik.
  162. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 69% of Americans support Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian government attempts to influence the 2016 election.
  163. The polls also found 64% of Americans support investigating Trump’s business activities, and 58% supportinvestigations in alleged hush money.

More And More, It Looks Like Cohen Is At The Center Of All Trump Misdeeds

Ken AshfordElection 2016, L'Affaire Russe, Stormy Daniels Affair, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The Wall Street Journal just published a stunning scoop. In 2017 Michael Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million hush deal for a major GOP fundraiser named Elliott Broidy, deputy finance chairman of the RNC. If that name rings a bell, it should. Broidy is at the center of the part of the Russia probe involving the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and international fixer and convicted pedophile George Nader.

Nader, in turn, is the guy who set up those meetings in the Seychelles which brought together Erik Prince and that Russian banker. Both Nader and Broidy have been frequent visitors to the White House during Trump’s presidency and involved in ways that are still not totally clear in the mix of money negotiations, geopolitics and Russia back channels with a series of Gulf emirates.

Also notable, the woman in question became pregnant and ended her pregnancy in an abortion, though in a statement to the Journal Broidy says that decision was solely hers.

Here’s a document dump relating to the raids earlier this week: the government’s opposition to Cohen’s TRO motion (Cohen wants to prevent the FBI from reviewing his stuff).  The memorandum is notable in that Cohen is a suspect of criminal activities relating to his “own business dealings” and not as an attorney.

Here’s what is remarkable about this TRO motion as it is being argued — it means that today, there is a lawyer who works for the DOJ under the executive branch headed by Trump, and there is a lawyer representing Trump’s personal lawyer, and they are arguing exact opposite positions.

UPDATE:

White House Laying Groundwork For Rosenstein Firing?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Here it is?

NBC News:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.

In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity.

Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey’s dismissal, the sources said.

And remember….

UPDATE:

Comey Attacks Increase

Ken AshfordClinton Email Faux Scandal, Election 2016, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Well, I am definitely buy Comey’s book now. Bit of a Streisand Effect going on with all the GOP attacks on Comey and his book.

Trump today…

As with most of Trump’s tweets, these two are largely fact-free. And Trump, as candidate, PRAISED the way Comey handled the Clinton matter (as did Fox and all Trump surrogates). There is no way that Trump fired him for that — oh wait, we KNOW why Trump fired Comey….

But Trump’s tweets are part of a largetr GOP broadside against who the new RNC-funded website calls “Lyin’ Comey”

However, when put to the people, who do they think is the liar?

Well, a poll from ABC News-Washington Post examined that.

According to the poll, the former FBI director has the edge, as far as trustworthiness.

By a margin of 48 percent to 32 percent, Comey is rated “more believable” than President Trump.

Nearly half–47 percent–of poll respondents said they disapproved of Trump’s decision to fire Comey, compared to only 33 percent who said they approve.

Yes. The NY Times Review of Comey’s book also looks at the match-up of Comey v Trump:

Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”

One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.

The other chooses his words carefully to make sure there is “no fuzz” to what he is saying, someone so self-conscious about his reputation as a person of integrity that when he gave his colleague James R. Clapper, then director of national intelligence, a tie decorated with little martini glasses, he made sure to tell him it was a regift from his brother-in-law.

One is an impulsive, utterly transactional narcissist who, so far in office, The Washington Post calculated, has made an average of six false or misleading claims a day; a winner-take-all bully with a nihilistic view of the world. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one of his own books. In another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The other wrote his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”

The other is a straight-arrow bureaucrat, an apostle of order and the rule of law, whose reputation as a defender of the Constitution was indelibly shaped by his decision, one night in 2004, to rush to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, to prevent Bush White House officials from persuading the ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize an N.S.A. surveillance program that members of the Justice Department believed violated the law.

One uses language incoherently on Twitter and in person, emitting a relentless stream of lies, insults, boasts, dog-whistles, divisive appeals to anger and fear, and attacks on institutions, individuals, companies, religions, countries, continents.

Is there any comparison? I would rather have Comey’s character and background than Trump’s any day.

In fact, Trump seems to be PROVING every allegation in Comey’s book. Comey says Trump is untethered from truth; Trump asserts, without proof, that Comey is a perjurer and criminal. Comey says Trump has no respect for institutional values; Trump uses his Twitter account to call a former FBI agent an “untruthful slime ball” and to demand his prosecution, violating longstanding norms against presidential interference in criminal cases. Comey says Trump disputes basic facts and normalizes lying; Trump asserts leaks and perjury without proving them, claims without evidence that Comey was terrible at his job, and without substantiation says there was unanimous support for his firing. Trump also claims he fired Comey for mishandling the Clinton investigation, even though Trump has repeatedly contradicted the official explanation the White House gave for dismissing Comey.

Comey says Trump ignores, excuses, and rewards unethical behavior; Trump, even as he blasts Comey as a perjurer, issues a pardon to former Dick Cheney aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted of lying to federal investigators.

Comey says that Trump takes an us-versus-them mentality and places his own well-being above all else; Trump declares all-out rhetorical war on Comey, after firing him for refusing to clear Trump’s name publicly, and after Comey refused to ease up on a case against Trump’s fired national-security adviser. There is scant need for a fact-checker on a book when the president is eager to prove it right.

At the time, Trump was making a lot of noise about a broken and in shambles FBI, even as agents and others within the bureau were saying the opposite, in regards to their respect for James Comey as director.  You’ll hear more of that in the coming weeks, but it is hard to see how the FBI was in “shambles”. It’s not supported by evidence.

What’s ironic about the tweets is this breaking story…. Trump plans to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who was convicted of LYING and also LEAKED the identity of a CIA officer.  This is how the New York Times frames the issue.

Mr. Libby, who goes by Scooter, was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to F.B.I. investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s 30-month prison sentence but refused to grant him a full pardon despite the strenuous requests of Mr. Cheney, a decision that soured the relationship between the two men.

A pardon of Mr. Libby would paradoxically put Mr. Trump in the position of absolving one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump has denounced as a catastrophic miscalculation. It would also mean he was forgiving a former official who was convicted in a case involving leaks despite Mr. Trump’s repeated inveighing against those who disclose information to reporters.

Interesting that Trump would pardon a liar and a leaker while calling out Comey for being the same.

Why now?

Probably John Bolton, who has long agitated for a pardon is now National Security Adviser. He now has access to the Oval Office.

But another reason?  It’s a signal….

In any event, it seems like Trump supporters are not prepared for this fight:

The FBI Director’s loyalty is not to the President, but to the mission. That’s why Comey (or any director) would stay on.

If these are the arguments, Trump will only “win over” his base.

Here’s five surprises from Comey’s book

1) Trump was obsessed with the so-called “pee tape”

Comey said he first met Trump in person at an intelligence briefing before the inauguration, which is also where he first briefed Trump about the Steele dossier. The memo, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, alleges evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Comey writes that Trump was focused on one particularly sordid detail from the dossier: an allegation that a blackmail tape exists of Trump asking prostitutes to pee on a bed in a room the Obamas stayed in at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow. Per the Washington Post:

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.

Comey said Trump followed up with him after the meeting in a phone call on January 11, saying the “pee tape” couldn’t be real because he’s a germaphobe. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me,” Comey recounts Trump saying. “No way.”

Trump complained the allegations were painful to his wife, Melania Trump, and that the logistics didn’t make sense, according to the Post:

The president-elect argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes. And after Trump explained that he would never allow people to urinate near him, Comey recalls laughing.

“I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants,” Comey writes. “In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

Comey said Trump brought it up again during their unusual one-on-one dinner on January 27 at which Trump tried to demand loyalty of the then-FBI director:

And then Trump brought up “the golden showers thing,” Comey writes. The president told him that “it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true.” Comey writes that Trump told him to consider having the FBI investigate the prostitutes’ allegation to “prove it was a lie.”

And again on a March 30 call:

“For about the fourth time, he argued that the golden showers thing wasn’t true, asking yet again, ‘Can you imagine me, hookers?’” Comey writes of their March 30, 2017, call. “In an apparent play for my sympathy, he added that he has a beautiful wife and the whole thing has been very painful for her. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’”

2) Comey has some things to say about Jeff Sessions

Comey has documented in contemporaneous memos his interactions with Trump, but in his book, he goes into even more astonishing detail. He describes confronting Attorney General Jeff Sessions about leaving him alone with the president. Here’s how Sessions responded, according to Comey:

Sessions just cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side. He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.

3) Comey is airing his Trump grievances. Like, really airing them.

Comey said he can’t make a judgment on whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice — but he’s not a fan of what he witnessed during his tenure. “I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which, while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” Comey writes.

That’s tame compared to some of his other assessments of Trump:

  • “His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
  • “As he extended his hand. I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
  • “I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”

4) Comey says the Trump administration reminded him of his days prosecuting the mob

“The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control,” Comey writes. “The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

5) Comey defends his handling of the Clinton email investigation — and makes it seem as if everyone else has absolved him too

Comey apologizes to Hillary Clinton, nodding to her own takedown of him in her book What Happened. “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that,” he writes. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”

Comey also says President Barack Obama reassured him after the election about his decision to send the letter about Clinton, according to the Post:

Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”

On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”

UPDATE:

UPDATE #2:

Trump also going after fired FBI Director McCabe:

I don’t think anyone except a small circle has seen the McCabe report. I’ll wait for someone else to tell me what it says.

Ah, here we go.  Yup, looks like Trump (who doesn’t read) didn’t read the report:

Trump says that McCabe was controlled by Comey, yet Comey and McCabe contradict each other. So McCabe and Comey can’t BOTH be liars!

By the way, the President is very unhinged today. It’s unseemly.