Breaking: Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty To Lying To Congress And Investigators

Ken AshfordBreaking News, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Michael Cohen made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom this morning and pleaded guilty to a new criminal charge. Cohen admitted to making false statements to Congress about his efforts to build a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. That real estate deal has been a focus of the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.

Specifically, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about: 

  • The timing of the Moscow project
  • Discussions with people in the Trump Organizations and Russia about the Moscow project
  • Contemplating travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow project

Michael Cohen’s new plea deal includes a cooperation agreement with Mueller, indicating that Mueller believes he has additional knowledge that may help the investigation.

The specifics?  Here is what Cohen told Congress about the Trump Moscow Tower deal:

But the truth is that the Moscow deal didn’t die in January 2016.  The Moscow deal lasted until into Summer 2016 when Trump was the presumptive nominee.

Furthermore, Cohen discussed deal more than three times with candidate Trump (“Individual 1”).

Cohen briefed Trump family members about it during that time.

And Cohen took steps in contemplation of Trump’s travel to Russia including talking directly with Kremlin officials (not just email). In fact, 
he was negotiating a Trump Tower in Moscow at the same time Russia was stealing e-mails to disrupt the US presidential election.

Here is Cohen contemplating a Moscow trip just AFTER the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr and all.

Trump has repeatedly told the press and the public that he doesn’t have any deals with Russia, etc.  It is likely the Mueller asked Trump about his dealing with Russia, and if he maintained that there were no deals during that time, he committed perjury.

One thing is clear: while Trump was negotiating business deals with Russia, he was praising Putin on the campaign trail.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with arguing for better relations with Russia and/or Putin. But the point is that this was repeatedly presented to voters as a good-faith declaration of what Trump intended to do as president, in keeping with his vision of what would be good for the U.S. Yet voters were not told that Trump’s business organization was trying to negotiate a major real estate deal there at the same time.

Here’s a rundown of some of Trump’s statements along these lines, per compilations by CNN and Foreign Policy:

  • In January of 2016, Trump tried to absolve Putin of blame after a British inquiry found that Putin had probably ordered the 2006 poisoning of a Russian dissident. “I don’t think they’ve found him guilty,” Trump said, adding that “he hasn’t been convicted of anything,” and “he says he didn’t do it,” and “who knows who did it.”
  • In February of 2016, Trump said it would be “good if we actually got along” with Russia, adding: “I think I’d have a good relationship with Putin.”
  • In April of 2016, Trump said that Putin had been “very nice to me,” adding that if we can “get along with Russia, that would be a tremendous thing. I would love to try it.”
  • Also in April of 2016, Trump said: “We’re going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia.”
  • In May of 2016, Trump said that Russia wants “to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got with somebody?”

Trump also repeatedly praised Putin throughout 2015, during the earlier period of negotiations over the project (which we now know continued deep into 2016).

It is of course possible that Trump would have said all these things if there were no business dealings with Russia underway. But either way, voters deserved to know that those dealings were happening. And now, with the new revelations, that whole display from Trump looks potentially more conflict-ridden and corrupt than it did at the time.

Trump responds to press by backtracking: Running for president “doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business” Also says of Cohen: “He is a weak person… Michael Cohen is lying and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me.” 

BTW, this is what the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES tweeted last night:

Relatedly, Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt got raided by authorities this morning. The raid had to do with money-laundering operations (the “Panama Papers” scandal). Deutsche Bank was :helping clients set up offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there” without the bank reporting it, claimed German authorities. 

So the raid had nothing (supposedly) to do with Trump. But Deutsche Bank is the only bank who would lend money to Trump (because of all his bankruptcies and defaulting on loans to most US banks).

Oh, not for nothing, but here’s a picture of Michael Cohen in April 2016, just after his offices were raided. Sitting behind him is the former CFO of Deutsche Bank’s wealth management division. Huh.

Sorta kinda related, this just happened:

UPDATE — Trump cancels more meetings at G-20 summit. I think he has domestic concerns.

Two Answers To Mueller Questions

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

You always have to question the veracity of exclusive reports like this, and the unnamed sources. We don’t know who they are, or if they are knowledgeable.  But here goes.

From CNN:

President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

One source described the President’s answers without providing any direct quotes and said the President made clear he was answering to the best of his recollection.

This is the first insight into how the President responded to the Mueller team’s written questions — a key unknown as Mueller aims to wrap up his investigation and prepare his final report.

These two points — WikiLeaks and the Trump Tower meeting — are critical to Mueller’s central mission: investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

The President’s lawyers previously told CNN the answers would match his public statements. Still, these written answers could be subject to criminal charges if false.

The Blue Dye Theory

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Seems like every news outlet is discussing the fact that Manafort’s lawyers shared information with Trump lawyers — specifically, Manafort has insight into what Mueller knows, and he’s sharing it with Trump (via the lawyers).

My first reaction was “So what?” This happens all the time, especially when there are several potential targets of criminal wrongdoing. There’s nothing illegal with information-sharing UNLESS one of the participants has signed an agreement with the government not to talk to third parties.

The New York Times story even acknowledges that Manafort’s team and Trump’s team had an informal (if formal) defense pact, and while it might be unusual for Manafort to continue to cooperate with Mueller while at the same time feeding info to Trump, it isn’t that unusual for a guy like Manafort, who plays all sides to get the best outcome. Manafort courted Mueller in order to get a light sentence, but he helped out Trump in order to get a pardon — possibly.  So yeah, he played both sides.

But here’s where things get REALLY interesting, and the media hasn’t latched on to it yet. You would THINK that Manafort’s plea agreement would have a clause forbidding him to talk to third parties (which would be binding on his attorneys). But I looked at Manafort’s plea agreement — no such clause exists! But if you look at the plea agreement of Richard Gates (Manafort’s associate) — it DOES contain that clause.

I have the receipts. I’ll include a screenshot of the relevant sections of the plea agreements of Manafort and Gates below. They are exactly the same EXCEPT that Manafort has one less restriction: Unlke Gates, Manafort is not retrained from talking to third parties about his plea agreement and “information derived therefrom”.

Relevant section of Gates Plea Agreement:

Relevant section of Manafort Plea Agreement:

Did you catch the difference? Section (c) of the Gates Plea Agreement does not appear in the Manafort Plea Agreement.

Why would Mueller allow Manafort to talk to third parties? Did he drop the ball when drafting Manafort’s agreement?  Did Manafort’s lawyers negotiate this clause out, and why would Mueller allow that?

Enter the blue dye theory.

The blue dye theory is that Mueller INTENTIONALLY left that clause out, HOPING that Manafort would share information with the Trump team. Mueller then gives Manafort some false information, Manafort shares that with Trump, Trump answers Mueller’s written questions (which he did last week) which contain the falsity, and boom — you have Trump lying to prosecutors.

This is bolstered by the fact that Mueller, just prior to Thanksgiving, asked the court to postpone Manafort’s sentencing for ten days — in other words, he wanted to postpone Manafort’s sentencing until AFTER Trump responded to Mueller’s written questions (although Mueller didn’t say THAT).  The court granted that request.

Either that, or Mueller screwed up by allowing Manafort’s people to talk to Trump’s people.

UPDATE: @nycsouthpaw, a legal analyst who noted the difference a while ago in the Manafort and Gates plea agreements, asked the Special Counsel about it, and they declined a response.

Another Mueller Investigation Bombshell Drops — Ties Corsi And Stone To Assange

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

NBC:

Two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi sent an email to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone anticipating the document dump, according to draft court papers obtained by NBC News.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps,” Corsi wrote on Aug. 2, 2016, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to the draft court papers. “One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”

The email was revealed in a draft court document, known as a statement of the offense, sent to Corsi by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Mueller also sent Corsi a draft plea agreement stipulating that the special counsel would not oppose Corsi requesting a sentence of probation if he agreed to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators.
As NBC News reported on Monday, Corsi said he has rejected the deal. He has described Mueller’s team as “thugs” and insisted that he did not “intentionally lie” about his communications related to WikiLeaks.

The draft court documents obtained by NBC News provide the most extensive account to date of Corsi’s contact with Mueller’s prosecutors.
The interviews began on Sept. 6 when Corsi told investigators that an associate, identified by Corsi as Stone, asked him in the summer of 2016 to get in touch with an organization, identified by Corsi as WikiLeaks, about unreleased materials relevant to the presidential campaign, the draft court papers say.

“Get to (Assange) [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails,” read the email to Corsi dated July 25, 2016, according to the draft court documents.
Corsi said he declined the request and made clear to Stone that an attempt to contact WikiLeaks could put them in investigators’ crosshairs, according to the draft court documents.
But Mueller’s team said that was a lie.
Instead of turning down the request, Corsi in fact passed it along to a person in London, according to the draft court documents. Corsi said that person was conservative author Ted Malloch.

Eight days later, Corsi sent the email to Stone saying that WikiLeaks possessed information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and planned to release it in October.

“Time to let more than (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta) to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton),” Corsi added in the Aug. 2, 2016, email, according to the draft court papers. “That appears to be the game hackers are now about.”
On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first of two batches of emails that Russian hackers stole from Podesta, altering the trajectory of the presidential race.

Mueller’s team says in the court papers that Corsi scrubbed his computer between Jan. 13, 2017, and March 1, 2017, deleting all email correspondence that predated Oct. 11, 2016, including the messages from Stone about WikiLeaks and Corsi’s email to Malloch.

Corsi remained in contact with Stone in 2017 when the former Trump adviser’s connections to WikiLeaks came under investigation by the FBI and congressional committees, according to the draft court papers.
On Nov. 30, 2017, Stone emailed Corsi asking him to write about a person whom Stone had told congressional investigators was his “source” or “intermediary” to WikiLeaks, according to the draft court papers.
Corsi and Stone have identified that person as Randy Credico, a radio host and one-time friend of Stone.
“Are you sure you want to make something out of this now?” Corsi responded, according to the draft court papers. “Why not wait to see what (Credico) does? You may be defending yourself too much — raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more.”

Stone responded by telling Corsi that Credico will “take the 5th — but let’s hold a day,” the draft court document says.

The draft court documents says that Corsi met with the special counsel’s office for several additional interviews and provided access to his email accounts and electronic devices.

In the interviews, the draft court papers say, Corsi said that his claims to Stone, beginning in 2016, that he had a way of obtaining confidential information from WikiLeaks were false.

Corsi, the former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars, has told NBC News that he had no direct or indirect contact with WikiLeaks. Corsi claims to have anticipated WikiLeaks’ release of the hacked emails by “connecting the dots” between public statements from Assange and other available materials.

“Why did I think they were coming out in October? Because I said to myself if I had these emails I’d use them as the October surprise,” Corsi told NBC News on Tuesday. “And why did I think they would come out serially, drip by drip? Because Assange is very strategic. He understands the news cycle.”

A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment. Corsi’s lawyer, David Gray, also declined to comment.

But in a letter drafted by Gray and addressed to Mueller’s team, Corsi’s lawyer argued that he should not be charged with a crime based on a faulty memory.

“I understand that this plea to making a false claim is predicated on the fact that Dr. Corsi had emails and phone calls wherein he was in fact interested in WikiLeaks,” Gray wrote.

“He had not had the benefit of reviewing all of his emails prior to the interview and you graciously allowed him to review his emails and amend his statements — which he did. Now, after various amendments to his statements, Dr. Corsi is being asked to affirmatively state that he lied to FBI agents. The issue is that the statements that Dr. Corsi made were, in fact, the best he could recall at the time.”

Gray also noted that if Corsi were to plead guilty, he would have to give up his securities license and cease his online chats until sentencing, depriving him of crucial sources of income.

Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, said the documents suggest that Mueller has more on Corsi than is laid out in the draft court papers.

“Based on reviewing these documents, I believe that the office of the special counsel may have more evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Corsi beyond the false statements, and that is why they engaged in plea negotiations,” Goldman said.

The “I don’t remember” excuse of Corsi might prevail in court (proving knowledge — or lack of knowledge — is hard), but in the court of public opinion, it’s laughable.

Corsi claims he guessed his way to Wikileaks clairvoyance. Right.

One thing is clear: Stone and Corsi were in it up to their eyeballs.  And the fact that Mueller is cutting deals with them — and Manafort — means he has his eyes on bigger fish.  And what could be bigger than those guys? Someone in Trump’s inner circle, or Trump himself. I mean, by August 2, 2016, Corsi was emailing Stone to “predict” that WikiLeaks had more document dumps in the works. Stone has said he spoke with Trump the following day, August 3.

What’s With The Bandage On Trump’s Arm? Inquiring Minds Want To Know!

Ken AshfordHealth Care, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Stumbling and coordination issues point to many things. One of those things is ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

And a new and expensive treatment for ALS calls for IV into the arm is called Radicava.

What will Radicava do for people with ALS? How meaningful of a treatment is it?
Although Radicava is not a cure, it may be an important advance in helping people live with the disease. Because people with ALS experience varying rates of progression, slowing the decline of that loss of function is important. Depending on a person’s level of function when they begin treatment, the impact Radicava demonstrated in clinical trials could translate into potentially helping people preserve function longer.1

What is the recommended dose of Radicava?
Radicava is administered via intravenous infusion. According to the Prescribing Information, Radicava is administered in 28-day cycles by intravenous infusion. It takes 60 minutes to receive each 60 mg dose.1
For the initial cycle, the treatment is infused for 14 consecutive days, followed by a two-week drug-free period. All cycles thereafter are infused for 10 days within a 14-day period, followed by a two-week drug-free period.

***

How much will Radicava cost me?
The drug’s list price is $1K per infusion, $11K per dosage cycle, which amounts to $146K per year. This does not take into account coverage from insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. The company also says it will offer co-pay assistance for commercially insured patients. 

Look, I’m not a conspiracy theorist and this post is mostly — MOSTLY — tongue-in-cheek.  But I’m on record now as saying that the President of the United States has ALS.

Breaking: Manafort Colluded

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Last night:

Prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said Monday that Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement, accusing President Trump’s former campaign chairman of lying repeatedly to them in their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Manafort denied doing so intentionally, but both sides agreed in a court filing that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District should set sentencing immediately.

\The apparent collapse of Manafort’s cooperation agreement is the latest stunning turnaround in his case, exposing the longtime Republican consultant to at least a decade behind bars after he pleaded guilty in September to charges of cheating the Internal Revenue Service, violating foreign-lobbying laws and attempting to obstruct justice.

The filing also indicated that Mueller’s team may have lost its potentially most valuable witness in Manafort, a top campaign official present at discussions at the heart of the special counsel’s mission to determine if any Americans conspired with Russia’s efforts to sway the U.S. election.

Still, prosecutors may know more about Manafort’s interactions than he realized, allowing them to catch him in alleged lies

Is Manafort stupid, or is there something so egregious that he is hiding, even after being given a plea deal?

Well, just moments ago, from The Guardian:

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

Manafort and Assange represent two different prongs of the Russia scandal. What business wold they have together? None that I can think of, other than collusion.  As dot-connecting goes, this is huge. This is collusion.

Trump’s tweets before this news broke….

Some skepticism — and perhaps rightly so:

Mmmaybe, but lest we forget: the Trump campaign (including Jeff Sessions) spoke with Russian officials in plain sight at the Republican Convention, when they changed their platform to align more closely with Putin. This was just before Trump publicly asked the Russians to release emails.

Wikileaks denial…

And Guiliani denies according to this Law & Crime report:

Following a groundbreaking report accusing Paul Manafort of meeting with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prior to President Donald Trump‘s 2016 election win, it seems the Commander-in-Chief’s attorney is doing some damage control.

NBC News’ Kristen Welker tweeted Tuesday that Rudy Giuliani described the Guardian scoop as “unequivocally fake news I am told.”

Giuliani, who in the past has routinely acted as Trump’s ally in tamping down unfavorable news related to the president, has been notably quiet in previous weeks, now speaking up in light of the Manafort news.

Guiliani was told it was fake news? By whom? And how would that person know, unless it was Manafort or Assange?

WaPo analysis with timeline:

The critical question, if such a meeting took place, is the extent to which Manafort and Assange discussed the 2016 campaign, if at all. To that end, it’s important to consider the timeline of what’s known about Manafort’s connection to the campaign and Assange’s access to the stolen material to determine the extent to which abetting Trump’s candidacy might have been a subject of conversation.

The primary document that outlines Assange’s role in the hacking is the indictment obtained by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against a group of alleged Russian intelligence officers who allegedly accessed the DNC network and hacked Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Here’s how we understand the timelines of Manafort, Assange and the Russians to overlap. (This timeline includes information from past timelines we’ve compiled.)

2013: Manafort and Assange meet in London, according to the Guardian. At the time, Manafort’s clients included the president of Ukraine and his political party. Former president Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was ousted from office in 2014 during protests against his government. Putin helped Yanukovych escape to Russia, where he’s lived ever since.

2015: Manafort and Assange meet in London again, the Guardian reports. Assange has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in that city since 2012, making it easier to determine those with whom he’s held meetings. At least one meeting with Manafort wasn’t logged by the embassy, though, according to the Guardian.

It’s not clear when the alleged 2015 meeting occurred. Manafort didn’t join the Trump campaign until the following year, but Trump announced his candidacy that summer.

This same year, according to the indictment against the Russian intelligence officers, Russia accesses information from individuals associated with the Republican Party.

Feb. 29, 2016: Manafort makes his first outreach to Trump’s campaign, pitching himself as an outsider to D.C. after meeting with Thomas Barrack, an adviser to Trump. Trump requested a meeting with Manafort at some point afterward.

March 2016: The Guardian reports that Assange and Manafort meet in London, though the precise time of the alleged meeting is vague..
If it was in March, that timing is interesting. In the middle of the month, Russian hackers allegedly began probing the DNC network for vulnerabilities. At the end of the month, Podesta’s email is penetrated after he clicks on an email giving hackers access to his account.

March 28, 2016: As hackers believed to be working for Russian intelligence are attempting to hack other Clinton campaign staffers’ emails, Manafort is hired by the Trump campaign to manage the delegate process at the convention. In addition to the connection through Barrack, Manafort is recommended by his former business partner, Roger Stone — himself a longtime adviser to Trump.

April 6, 2016: Hackers allegedly linked to Russian intelligence gain credentials for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from an unwitting employee.

April 11, 2016: Manafort emails his longtime aide Konstantin Kilimnik, based in Ukraine. Kilimnik, who was indicted by Mueller’s grand jury in June for obstruction of justice, is believed to have links to Russian intelligence. In the April 2016 email, Manafort asks Kilimnik if his longtime client Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the U.S. government, is aware of media coverage of Manafort’s new position. Deripaska and Manafort had been embroiled in a business dispute for years.

“How do we use to get whole?” Manafort asks Kilimnik.

April 18, 2016: Hackers route through the DCCC to access the DNC network. They set up a domain called DCLeaks that will eventually be used to distribute hacked material. The theft of material continues for weeks.

It’s important to note at this point that there is no demonstrated relationship between Assange and the hackers alleged to be working for Russian intelligence who have begun to obtain the material that WikiLeaks would ultimately release.

April 26, 2016: George Papadopoulos, an adviser to the Trump campaign, is told by a Russia-linked professor in London that the Russians have “thousands of emails” that serve as “dirt” on Clinton. Papadopoulos emails campaign staff the next day, indicating that he has “interesting messages” to share from his contacts.

June 7, 2016: Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. speak by phone multiple times as Trump Jr. is working to set up a meeting between campaign staff and a Kremlin-linked attorney who Trump Jr. believes has incriminating information about Clinton. After speaking with Manafort and his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump Jr. sets up a meeting on June 9 at 3 p.m. at Trump Tower.

June 8, 2016: DCLeaks launches, including information about Clinton and George Soros.

June 9, 2016: The Trump Tower meeting occurs. Manafort attends and takes notes.

June 12, 2016: In an interview on British television, Assange for the first time mentions having emails related to Clinton. The organization had “accumulated a large cache of information about the Democratic presidential nominee that could be used to bring an indictment against her,” according to ITV.

Assange appears to be referring to emails from Clinton’s private server, including some already publicly released.

June 14, 2016: The Washington Post reports that hackers believed to be connected to Russia have accessed the DNC network. Apparently in response, the hackers establish a persona dubbed “Guccifer 2.0” who purports to be the sole hacker involved, based in Romania.

June 20, 2016: Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele files the first of a series of reports alleging a connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian interference effort. It alleges that Russian intelligence had a dossier of compromising material on Trump and Clinton and that Russia had been passing compromising information to the Trump campaign about his competitors.

June 22, 2016. WikiLeaks reaches out to Guccifer 2.0 to ask that the hacker(s) “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” This contact apparently occurs over Twitter, suggesting Assange’s involvement. With the Democratic convention looming, WikiLeaks requests information about Clinton that could be used to foster “conflict between bernie and hillary.”

July 7, 2016: Manafort contacts Kilimnik again to invite the oligarch Deripaska to get a private briefing on the campaign.

The same day, another campaign adviser named Carter Page travels to Russia to give a speech. The next day, he sends a memo to campaign staff with an overview of his travel. It reads, in part, “Russian Deputy Prime Minister and [New Economic School] Board Member Arkady Dvorkovich also spoke before the event. In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.”

July 14, 2016: The hackers send a file to WikiLeaks with instructions on accessing the archive of DNC documents.

July 18, 2016, WikiLeaks confirms access to the DNC files. It begins publishing them on July 22, shortly before the Democratic convention.

July 19, 2016: Steele files a report alleging that Page met with senior Russian officials while in Moscow, along with a representative of the oil and gas company Rosneft. Page’s contacts with Dvorkovich are only revealed publicly in 2017.

July 27, 2016: At a news conference, Trump asks Russia to release emails he suggests may have been stolen from Clinton’s private email server. That same day, Russian hackers attempt to access the Clinton server for the first time, according to the Mueller indictment.

August 2016: In an undated report apparently filed in early August, Steele alleges that Manafort is at the center of efforts by the Trump campaign to coordinate with the Russians. It alleges “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between [the campaign] and the Russian leadership,” that is “managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries.”

Aug. 3, 2016: Trump ally Stone claims in an email to have had dinner with Assange, a claim that is almost certainly untrue. It’s apparently the first time Stone claims to have had contact with the WikiLeaks leader.
Over the course of the rest of the month, Stone claims to have contact with Assange publicly and to defend Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 and Stone exchange messages on Twitter. Those released publicly, which appear to be the entirety of the communication, don’t appear to include any information about upcoming releases.

Aug. 9, 2016: WikiLeaks publicly denies contact with Stone — and does the same in internal conversations obtained by the Intercept.

Aug. 19, 2016: Manafort is fired from the Trump campaign after reports emerge about his allegedly receiving millions of dollars in illicit funds for his work in Ukraine.

Oct. 1, 2016: Stone receives a text message from radio host Randy Credico, who interviewed Assange in August, to tell him to expect “big news Wednesday.” The next day, Stone tweets a tease about Clinton being “done” on Wednesday, including the hashtag “#WikiLeaks.”

Oct. 7, 2016: WikiLeaks begins releasing the Podesta emails. The Mueller indictment doesn’t indicate how the group obtained this material.

Oct. 20, 2016: In a report filed by Steele, he alleges that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has stepped in to manage the campaign’s purported relationship with Russia, including a meeting in Prague in August. An unconfirmed report from McClatchy earlier this year suggested that Mueller’s team was aware of a trip by Cohen to that city in 2016.

Cohen’s trip “was in order to clean up the mess left behind by western media revelations of TRUMP ex-campaign manager MANAFORT’s corrupt relationship with the former pro-Russian YANUKOVYCH regime in Ukraine,” the report reads.

Nov. 8, 2016: Trump is elected president.
So let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Guardian report is correct. It’s not clear that, in March 2016, Assange had any awareness of Russia’s alleged efforts to hack the DNC or Clinton campaign staffers. It seems clear, based on Mueller’s indictment, that the DNC information wasn’t in WikiLeaks’s possession until July and that the outreach from WikiLeaks in late June may have been the first contact between WikiLeaks and the Russian team.

Establishing a relationship between the two would be significant. But assuming that Manafort and Assange *did* meet, the publicly visible line between Trump’s campaign and Russian actors is still indirect.

So WaPo is skeptical. A little. But follow the dots, people. It’s not hard:

Russian hackers —> Assange —-> Stone and Manafort —–> Trump campaign

Here’s a similar timeline from NBC:

We’re not there yet.  There are gaps in this roadmap.  But there is a tentative roadmap.

And now finally, Manafort’s denial:

Legal options against the Guardian?  Yes, discovery will be most interesting.

Trump <> Obama

Ken AshfordImmigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Remarkable exchange. 

It’s remarkable in that Trump admits they do it differently, but it is the same policy.  Well, no.  If you do it differently, it is not the same policy.

Tear gas was shot this weekend at a few hundred members of “the caravan” as they attempted to cross into the United States from Mexico to seek asylum.  Tear gas.  At women and children.  

What is remarkable, apart from the stupidity, is that Trump is trying to HIDE behind Obama. Rather than saying “we are doing THIS way, OUR way”, he is getting defensive and claiming (falsely) that this is no different than what has been done in the past.

Who buys this crap?

So Much Winning

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

The jobs cut is about 15% of its workforce. In doing so, General Motors is killing multiple passenger cars, including the Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet Cruze.

GM will close the Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck in Michigan after December 2019. It will also stop allocating production at propulsion plants in White Marsh, Md., and Warren, Mich., after December 2019.

Trump on Auto Plants: “They’re going into Michigan and Ohio and all over. They’re coming into Illinois…they’re going North, South Carolina. They’re coming into Florida,” Trump said at an Oct. 27 rally in Murphysboro, Ill.

UPDATE: 

Trump said he told [GM CEO Mary] Barra she had “better” reopen plants in the US soon.”We have a lot of pressure on them. You have senators and a lot of other people, a lot of pressure,” the President said. He said the company should find a car that sells better than the Chevy Cruze.

Weekly List 106

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

There is no such thing as a slow holiday news week in the era of Trump! This week, in the chaos of news and not normal, reporting of Ivanka Trump’s use of a personal email account for White House business — remarkably similar to Hillary Clinton’s private server on which Trump fixated throughout his 2016 campaign and beyond — was barely mentioned in the news 48 hours later.

This week there were more alarming breaks from norms, including Trump siding with Saudis over U.S. intelligence on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump bypassing advice by White House counsel to give troops at the U.S.-Mexico border the right to use lethal force, Trump attacking the admiral who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid, and once again Trump attacking the Judiciary Branch for ruling against him — this time drawing the ire of both Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and the American Bar Association.

With just weeks until the Democrats take control of the House and can subpoena and investigate, and as the Mueller probe lurks into its final stages, Trump is increasingly frantic and belligerent. Trump continues to cozy up to authoritarians and break from norms, including concern for human rights. At home, a notable rise in the normalization and occurrence of hate crimes and the rise of white supremacists continues.

  1. WAPO reported that of the 277 women who ran in the midterms, a record 124 have won so far. In the next session, there will be 102 women in the House of Representatives, 13 in the Senate, and 9 governors.
  2. As midterm votes continued to be counted, Democrats held a popular vote lead over Republicans in the House of more than 8.6 million votes, the largest midterm margin since Watergate, and will pick up nearly 40 seats.
  3. A Quinnipiac University poll found nearly 60% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling race relations. Republicans approve by 76%, while Democrats disapprove by 93%.
  4. On Saturday, on his trip to California where 76 have died in the wildfires, Trump claimed Finland does not have wildfires because crews “spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things” to clear forest floors.
  5. On Sunday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview he spoke to Trump briefly about forest management in Paris, but that he has no idea where Trump got the idea that raking is part of his country’s routine.
  6. On Saturday, while traveling to the Asia-Pacific in Trump’s stead, Vice President Mike Pence laughed off the suggestion that Trump questioned his loyalty, saying he “was tempted not to dignify it with a comment.”
  7. On Sunday, two days after the White House demanded “decorum” at press conferences, Trump tweeted, “So funny to see little Adam Schitt,” misspelling incoming House Intelligence Committee chair Schiff’s name.
  8. On Sunday, Trump told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace he would not overrule his acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker if he decides to curtail the Mueller probe, saying, “I would not get involved.”
  9. Trump also claimed he “did not know [Whitaker] took views on the Mueller investigation” before appointing him, adding, “I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt…probably, we’re finished,”
  10. When asked by Wallace about retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, Trump called him a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.”
  11. Trump attacked McRaven, saying he should have apprehended bin Laden sooner. McRaven had publicly defended former CIA director John Brennan in an op-ed when Trump revoked his security clearance in Week 92.
  12. On Monday, Trump attacked McRaven, tweeting, “we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did,” claiming he (Trump) wrote that in his book “just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center.”
  13. Trump also tweeted, “We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars…Fools!” Trump’s claim on his book is untrue: there is one mention of bin Laden, but it was after he was already one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
  14. On Monday, the Republican National Committee’s Twitter account joined Trump in attacking McRaven, claiming he was on “Hillary Clinton’s short list for Vice President in 2016,” and, “He’s hardly a non-political figure.”
  15. McRaven’s name did appear on a lengthy list of possible Clinton 2016 running mates, as well as on one for Trump, although McRaven did not endorse a candidate. McRaven has recently been battling leukemia.
  16. On Tuesday, reporters asked Trump why he has yet to visit troops in a combat zone, breaking precedent of heads of state throughout history. Trump said he plans to visit a war zone, but did not specify where or when.
  17. Trump claimed he has not visited troops because he does not want to associate himself with wars he views as failures. He has also cited the long flights and potential security risks as reasons he has avoided visits
  18. San Francisco Chronicle reported that a record 14,056 migrant children are in Department of Health and Human Services custody, topping a record from two months ago, in an already overburdened system.
  19. Under Trump, ICE background checks on sponsors has resulted in arrests of undocumented adults who come forward to take custody of the children, leaving more children spending time in holding facilities.
  20. Previous administrations did not use immigration status in determining the release children into sponsor care. HHS has opened tent facilities in Texas which can house thousands more children.
  21. NYT reported the price tag for the regime reuniting families separated under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy is $80 million and rising with 140 children still in custody — an average of $30,000 per child.
  22. On Monday, WAPO reported documents filed in a challenge to a question on the 2020 Census survey revealthe Trump regime privately discussed the possibility of sharing future census information with law enforcement.
  23. Experts warn such a move could have a chilling effect on response rates, as well as cautioning that the Justice Department does not have the authority to change the rules.
  24. On Monday, the Seattle Times reported a yogurt store owner called 911 on behalf of the employees at the store who complained about an “unwanted subject,” saying customers are “kind of scared because he looks suspicious.”
  25. The man, Byron Ragland, was doing his job supervising a parent-child visit. Ragland is also a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, a psychology student at the University of Washington, and a Black American.
  26. A white woman in Phoenix went on a racist rant when Lennys Bermudez Molina asked if she could sit in an open seat next to her, saying “I prefer white — let’s just put it like that.” Molina recorded a video of the conversation on her cell phone.
  27. The white woman continued, “I would prefer the whole freaking nation to be white. How about that?” adding “Oh, it’s going to happen. You’re going to be wiped out, trust me.”
  28. College campuses reported an uptick in anti-Semitism. Cornell University reported three swastikas in 9 days, and at Duke University, a tribute to victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre was defaced by a large, red swastika.
  29. On Monday, the Guardian reported, according to a document released by Washington state law enforcement,the FBI now classifies far-right Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”
  30. The document revealed that the “Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violenceat political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities,” and “have a history of misogyny and glorifying violence.”
  31. On Wednesday, NBC News reported the sister organization, The Proud Boys’ Girls has also been classified as “extremist.” A female sheriff’s deputy in Washington state was fired in July for her affiliation to the group.
  32. On Wednesday, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes publicly claimed in a video to have quit the far-right group, saying “I am officially disassociating myself from the Proud Boys.”
  33. McInnes blamed his departure on the “NYC Nine,” eight of whom have been arrested by the NYPD, claiming “I am told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing.”
  34. PBS “Frontline” released the second part in their series, “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis,” which reported on the resurgence of white supremacist groups, and their recruiting inside the U.S. military.
  35. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe protested outside the U.S. Capital on Thanksgiving Day over Trump’sDepartment of Interior’s alternative interpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act to take away their land.
  36. WOSU Radio reported the Ohio legislature is weighing a bill during the lame duck session which would ban abortion entirely, and would allow criminal charges against both doctors and pregnant women seeking abortions.
  37. A federal judge in Mississippi struck down an abortion ban after 15 weeks, passed by the state legislature in March. The judge derided the legislation, saying its “professed interest in ‘women’s health’ is pure gaslighting.”
  38. The judge also noted despite the state ranking as the most medically challenged for women, the state leaders are silent on expanding Medicaid and “our alarming infant and maternal mortality rates.”
  39. On Tuesday, a group of 38 Republicans in the House sent a letter to Trump, calling on him to scrap protections for LGBTQ workers included in the newly negotiated NAFTA trade proposal with Mexico and Canada.
  40. On Friday, the Trump regime asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process, and to immediately take up Trump’s transgender military ban and rule on the issue in its current term.
  41. The Solicitor General asked the court to consolidate the challenges to the ban and rule on this issue, saying “The decisions imposing those injunctions are wrong, and they warrant this Court’s immediate review.”
  42. Lawyers representing challenges said there is no need to abandon the norms of the Supreme Court waiting to take action until regional appeals courts have ruled, questioning the urgency of the Trump regime.
  43. A rule change was proposed by Nancy Pelosi which would overturn a 181-year ban on religious headwear on the floor of Congress, as Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first two Muslim American women in Congress.
  44. On Monday, Politico reported the general overseeing the deployment of troops at the U.S.-Mexico border said the troops will start heading home in the coming days, having completed the missions for which they were sent.
  45. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said the first troops have started to leave and all the troops will be home by December 15, in time for Christmas, as originally expected.
  46. On Tuesday, Buchanan’s command appeared to backpedal on his statement, which seemed to suggest the deployment was unnecessary, saying “no specific timeline for redeployment has been determined.”
  47. On Wednesday, WAPO reported, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo, the Trump regime is considering sweeping new measures which would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed.
  48. The regime’s plan, known as “Remain in Mexico,” would be a major change from current screening procedures, which generally allow those who fear returning to their home countries to avoid immediate deportation.
  49. Trump has repeatedly said he despises the current system, known as “catch and release,” which allows migrants to remain in the U.S. until they can get a hearing with an immigration judge. Trump has pledged to end it.
  50. Under the plan, asylum seekers would have to meet a higher bar in the screening procedure — that they fear persecution in Mexico—in order to meet the requirement for immediate admission into the U.S.
  51. On Thursday, Politico reported on a fiery West Wing meeting presided by Trump Monday on the topic ofgranting the troops at the U.S.-Mexico border the right to use lethal force to defend border patrol agents.
  52. John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen were initially against the measure, saying it was beyond Trump’s constitutional powers. Pitted against all the other attendees including Trump and Stephen Miller, the meeting devolved into a melee.
  53. Also at the meeting was Chris Crane, president of ICE and Brandon Judd, president of the border patrol union. Kelly and Nielsen finally agreed, and Kelly signed a Cabinet declaration granting the military the authority.
  54. The move by Trump ran afoul of guidance by acting White House counsel Emmet Flood, who cautioned Trump it would likely run into constitutional roadblocks. The decision came after dozens of meetings.
  55. On Monday, in a departure of its nearly 100 year tradition of having a comedian headline its roast, the White House Correspondents’ Association announced presidential biographer Ron Chernow will headline this year.
  56. On Monday, CNN asked for an emergency hearing after Trump threatened to revoke Jim Acosta’s press pass again. That afternoon, bowing to pressure, the White House said his press pass has been “restored.”
  57. On Monday, the White House issued new rules for reporters, including how they can ask questions. The press corps did not agree to the new rules, which the correspondents’ association said it had “no role” in crafting.
  58. On Monday, WAPO reported that a record request by liberal watchdog group American Oversight revealed that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to send hundreds of emails about government business in 2017.
  59. White House ethics officials learned of the emails in responding to the request. Emails were sent to White House aides, Cabinet officials, and her assistants, many in violation of federal records rules.
  60. The private email account was on a domain shared with Kushner. In the emails, she discussed or relayed official White House business. Ivanka’s attorney claimed none of the messages contained classified information.
  61. The domain “ijkfamily.com” was set up by Ivanka and Jared in December 2016 through a Microsoft system. Emails were prescreened for security problems by the Trump Organization, but stored by Microsoft.
  62. Ivanka discussed government policies and official business fewer than 100 times, and shared her official schedule and travel plans with herself and her personal assistants  fewer than 1,000 times.
  63. On Tuesday, when asked by reporters, Trump defended Ivanka, saying “Just so you understand, Ivanka Trump did some emails, they were not classified like Hillary Clinton,” adding, “they were not deleted.”
  64. Trump also said, “Ivanka Trump can handle herself. They are in the historical records, no deletion whatsoever,” adding, “It is all fake news.”
  65. When reporter April Ryan, a Black woman, asked Trump, “Elijah Cummings wants to investigate Ivanka’s emails. What do you say, sir?” Trump pointed at her, turned away, then asked the group, “What else?”
  66. On Monday, Mueller’s team filed a brief, saying Mueller’s powers are still intact, writing “Whitaker taking charge of the Russia probe “neither alters the special counsel’s authority…nor raises any jurisdictional issue.”
  67. The explanation came in response to a case brought by former Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller against Mueller, claiming Mueller is an unlawful prosecutor because Trump did not appoint him and he was not Senate confirmed.
  68. On Monday, Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Mazie Hirono sued to block Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general, saying his placement in the post was unconstitutional.
  69. The lawsuit, which is the third filed to block Whitaker, cites that the Vacancies Reform Act does not allow for the appointment of people to cabinet-level positions who have not been senate confirmed.
  70. On Monday, CNN reported the watchdog group American Oversight said in a letter sent to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics that the DOJ had failed to provide a copy of Whitaker’s public financial disclosure reports.
  71. Whitaker has likely had to file two sets of public financial disclosures since joining the Justice Department last year. Federal ethics law requires the reports be available to public requestors within 30 days of their filing.
  72. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Whitaker has received more than $1.2 million over three years from Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit.
  73. FACT, which says it is dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials, has no employees, but allowed Whitaker to regularly appear in the media. In 2014, the IRS approved FACT for tax-exempt charity status.
  74. WAPO analyzed Whitaker’s 200 plus television and radio appearances from 2014 to September 2017, andfound an overwhelming focus on Democrats, including 750 mentions of Hillary and 185 of Mueller.
  75. FACT was founded in 2012 under a different name and mission. At the time, Whitaker, was a U.S. attorney with a legal practice in Iowa that paid him $79,000 a year. The source of funding remains unclear.
  76. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the inspector general to investigate Whitaker’s communications with the White House, citing concerns he shared confidential information about the Mueller probe.
  77. Schumer also wants the inspector general to investigate whether Whitaker “provided any assurance” to Trump or other White House officials “regarding steps he or others may take” related to the Mueller probe.
  78. On Wednesday, CNN reported the Office of Special Counsel opened an investigation into a possible Hatch Act violation by Whitaker, for taking donations for a 2014 senate run while serving as chief of staff at the DOJ.
  79. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from accepting political contributions. The $8,800 of contributions were made in January and February to repay debt from his unsuccessful run for a Senate seat in Iowa.
  80. On Tuesday, NYT reported Trump told former White House counsel Don McGahn in the spring that he wanted to order the DOJ to prosecute two of his political adversaries, Hillary Clinton and James Comey.
  81. McGahn said no, and told Trump he had no authority to order a prosecution. He also had White House lawyers write a memo warning Trump could face a range of consequences, including impeachment.
  82. Trump privately continues to float ideas, like appointing a second special counsel to investigate Clinton and Comey. He has also attacked the integrity of DOJ officials, saying they are on a “witch hunt” to bring him down.
  83. Trump has also been frustrated FBI director Christopher Wray would not open an investigation on Clinton for her role in Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation, calling his appointee “weak” for not pursuing her.
  84. On Wednesday, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Hill “of course she [Clinton] should be investigated” for obstruction of justice, citing “destroying evidence in a gross and massive way,” meaning deleted emails.
  85. On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked Trump’s proclamation targeting some asylum seekers, ordering the Trump regime to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants no matter where or how they entered the U.S.
  86. Judge Jon Tigar of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, “Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”
  87. On Tuesday, when asked by reporters about the ruling, Trump called it a “disgrace,” and labeled Judge Tigar “an Obama judge.”
  88. On Wednesday, in a highly unusual public statement, when asked by an AP reporter, Chief Justice John Roberts rebutted Trump’s statement, saying an “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
  89. Roberts said, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” adding, “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best.”
  90. On Wednesday, Trump responded in two tweets, saying, “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have “Obama judges,” adding, “It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary.””
  91. Trump also tweeted, “Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security — these rulings are making our country unsafe,” adding, “Very dangerous and unwise!”
  92. On Wednesday, the American Bar Association took the unusual step of issuing a statement criticizing Trump’s attacks on the 9th Circuit Court, saying judicial independence is critical to American democracy.
  93. ABA also said “when government officials question a court’s motives, mock its legitimacy or threaten retaliation,” they “erode the court’s standing and hinder the courts from performing their constitutional duties.”
  94. On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Trump tweeted, “Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuitis a complete & total disaster,” adding “It is out of control, has a horrible reputation.”
  95. Trump later tweeted, “79% of these decisions have been overturned in the 9th Circuit,” citing Fox News. Trump also called the 9th Circuit a “dangerous disgrace” and a “dumping ground” for “easy wins and delays.”
  96. In a scathing series of tweets, George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, refuted Trump’s claims about the 9th Circuit as untrue.
  97. On Monday, Reuters reported Germany halted all arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and imposed a travel ban on the 18 Saudis linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from entering the 26 countries in the EU.
  98. On Tuesday, in an extraordinary statement, Trump sided with the Saudi Crown Prince MBS over the findings by U.S. national intelligence agencies on the killing of Khashoggi.
  99. Trump’s 633 word, crude statement with exclamation points ignored known facts, stating, “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
  100. Trump added “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder…In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” adding Iran’s crimes are worse anything Saudi Arabia has done.
  101. In his statement, Trump also came close to embracing the conspiracy theory of Khashoggi’s critics in Saudi Arabia, that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and an “enemy of the state.”
  102. Trump also wrote, “The world is a very dangerous place,” and repeated his false claim that alienating the Saudis would put $110 billion in military sales at risk. So far just $14.5 billion in sales have been booked.
  103. On Wednesday, when asked by reporters if he was motivated by personal gain, Trump said, “I don’t make deals with Saudi Arabia,” and “I don’t have money from Saudi Arabia.”
  104. Trump also falsely claimed siding with Saudis would keep the price of oil down, telling reporters if we break out relationship we will “see oil prices go to $150 a barrel.”
  105. On Tuesday, the editorial board of WAPO condemned Trump, saying he has slandered Khashoggi and betrayed American values, and his actions let dictators know “they can murder their critics and suffer no consequences.”
  106. The Post compared Trump’s move with his siding with Putin on Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying he had “affinity for a brutal and reckless leader by disregarding the findings of the U.S. intelligence.”
  107. On Tuesday, WSJ reported Saudi Arabia is accused of torturing at least eight of the 18 women’s-rights activists imprisoned this year without being formally charged with any crime. At least one tried to commit suicide.
  108. Torturing women is unprecedented according to activists. At least four were subjected to electric shocks and lashings, one was sexually assaulted, and many were kept in solitary confinement for several months.
  109. On Wednesday, Trump celebrated low oil prices, tweeting “Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” Experts say the fall in price has little to do with Saudi Arabia.
  110. On Friday, the WSJ reported that the recent downward trend in oil prices is due to a surge in crude production from the U.S. petroleum industry combined with a weakened global growth, not related to Saudi and OPEC output.
  111. On Thursday, Denmark and Finland joined Germany in halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  112. On Tuesday, a photo of Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith wearing a Confederate soldier’s hat and holding a rifle surfaced on Facebook. The photo was taking during a 2014 visit to the Jefferson Davis Home.
  113. On Tuesday, Trump defended Hyde-Smith’s lynching comment in Week 105, dismissing her comment as a joke, and adding “She is a tremendous woman and it is a shame that she has to go through this.”
  114. Following the lynching comment, several corporations, including Pfizer, Amgen, Walmart, AT&T, and others asked to have their campaign donations to Hyde-Smith returned.
  115. On Tuesday, Hyde-Smith offered a qualified apology, saying her comments did not mean she would “enjoy any type of capital punishment,” and “for anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize.”
  116. On Thursday, as Vice President Pence stood in for Trump at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, he broke from Trump, directly confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin on election interference.
  117. Pence told WAPO of his conversation, “So I looked at him and I said, ‘We know what happened in 2016,’” adding, “I’m very aware of what you’ve said about that, but I’m telling you we’re not having it.”
  118. On Wednesday, Mueller’s team urged a judge to deny a request from former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos to delay the commencement of his two week jail sentence, which is scheduled to begin November 26.
  119. Papadopoulos’ attorney filed a motion, saying sentencing should be delayed pending the case challenging the constitutionality of Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.
  120. On Wednesday, AP reported Trump was set to be interviewed by Mueller’s team on January 27 at Camp David, but Trump’s lawyers balked. John Dowd sent a feisty letter disputing Mueller’s authority to question Trump.
  121. Reportedly Trump wanted to do the interview, but Trump’s lawyers, after being informed of the 16 topics Mueller wanted to cover from Mueller team prosecutor James Quarles, canceled the interview.
  122. This week, Trump’s lawyers handed over his written answers to some of Mueller’s questions, after a hard fought battle to compromise. Trump answered only questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  123. Trump’s team refused to answer questions about whether he has tried to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and his campaign. It is unclear if Mueller intends to push for more answers.
  124. On Thursday, House Republicans subpoenaed James Comey and Loretta Lynch to testify privately. Comey tweeted, “I will resist a “closed door” thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion.”
  125. On Friday, WAPO reported Jerome Corsi, an associate of Trump and Roger Stone, is in plea negotiations with Mueller’s team. Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the 2016 campaign to Stone.
  126. Corsi cooperating could shed light on whether Trump or his advisers were connected to and had knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of Mueller’s inquiry.
  127. The New Yorker reported Emma Briant, an expert on disinformation at George Washington University, has unearthed new emails from October 2015, revealing the earliest documented role played by Steve Bannon in Brexit.
  128. Emails show Bannon, then vice president of Cambridge Analytica, owned largely by Robert Mercer, was in the loop for discussions with the leaders of Leave.EU, a far-right nationalist organization.
  129. Mueller’s investigations into foreign interference in Trump’s election, and British probes into Brexit, have increasingly become interwoven, including the role of the Russian Ambassador to the U.K., Alexander Yakovenko.
  130. Investigators from both countries are also looking into the role of Nigel Farage, the former leader of Euroskeptic U.K. Independence Party, who was an ally of Bannon and Trump, and also visited Julian Assange in 2017.
  131. On Thursday, Trump started the day tweeting, “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!” then devolved to warning of “bedlam, chaos, injury and death” at the U.S.-Mexico border if law enforcement cannot do their job.
  132. In the morning at a press gaggle, when asked by reporters at Mar-a-Lago what he was thankful for, Trump responded, “for having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country.”
  133. Trump continued, “I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it.”
  134. When asked how he would rate the job he is doing, Trump responded “Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it. I would give myself an A-plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?
  135. Trump also broke with tradition, using the Thanksgiving morning conference call with military members in five countries overseas to instead weigh in on several controversial political issues.
  136. Trump again criticized the 9th Circuit, saying “We get a lot of bad court decisions from the 9th Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side,” adding, “We always lose…then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court.”
  137. Trump also said, “it’s a terrible thing when judges…tell you how to protect your border,” calling it a “disgrace.” Later in the day he said “judicial activism” prevented security officials from protecting the border.
  138. He blamed “the world” for the death of Khashoggi, dismissing the finding of the CIA that Saudi Crown Prince MBS was to blame, instead claiming the crown prince hated the death even more than Trump did.
  139. After claiming “Nobody’s done more for the military than me,” Trump made numerous false claims about military, and asked commanders what they were seeing in their regions on a call which is publicly broadcasted.
  140. Trump bragged about sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, even as troops are being pulled back, and expressed no doubts about the constitutionality of giving soldiers the right to use lethal force there.
  141. Trump had Thanksgiving dinner at Mar-a-Lago, which he has dubbed the “southern White House,” hosting a large crowd of more than 500 paying members along with his family.
  142. Before leaving for Mar-a-Lago, Trump bemoaned to reporters “being president has cost me a fortune.” In addition to other business like Trump Hotel DC, Mar-a-Lago is now charging $200,000 a person for members.
  143. NBC News calculated that in Trump’s first 673 days in office, he has spent almost one-third (217) at a Trump property, and about one-quarter (165) golfing at a Trump golf property.
  144. On Friday, New York state Supreme Court threw out Trump’s motion to dismiss, and said the NY attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation can proceed.
  145. The judge noted a separate case has determined Trump is not immune to civil actions while serving as head of state, and said allegations of wrongdoing were strong enough to let the case go forward.
  146. On Friday, the White House quietly released a massive new federal report by the National Climate Assessment warning that national disasters like wildfires and hurricanes are worsening because of global warming.
  147. The report found warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration,” and contradicted Trump who has been unwilling to acknowledge global warming as a cause.
  148. The report warned of worsening conditions, noting the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, costing the U.S. nearly $400 billion since 2015.
  149. A co-author noted the recent wildfires in Northern California can be attributed to climate change, saying “a warm, dry climate has increased the areas burned over the last 20 years.”
  150. The report found the Lower 48 states have warmed 1.8 degrees since 1900 with 1.2 degrees in the last few decades alone. By the end of this century, the U.S. will be 3 to 12 degrees hotter.
  151. The report, written by outside scientists and officials from 13 federal agencies, was released on Friday afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving, prompting advocates to accuse the Trump regime of trying to bury it.
  152. Trump tweeted about cold weather on Wednesday, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
  153. Trump tweeted again on Thursday: “This is the coldest weather in the history of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC, and one of the coldest Thanksgivings on record!”
  154. The report addressed this: “Over shorter timescales and smaller geographic regions, the influence of natural variability can be larger than the influence of human activity … Over climate timescales of multiple decades, however, global temperature continues to steadily increase.”
  155. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a food safety alert warning to consumers to throw away romaine lettuce due to an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened 32 people in 11 states.
  156. Wired reported that after disease outbreaks linked to food, in 2011, Obama’s Food and Drug Administration issued rules requiring produce growers to begun testing their water, starting in 2018.
  157. However, Trump’s FDA, bowing to pressure from the farm industry and Trump’s overarching dictate to eliminate regulations, earlier this year shelved the water-testing rules for at least four years.
  158. Trump and his Mar-a-Lago guests were spared from the romaine lettuce scare on Thanksgiving. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Friday morning that the contaminated lettuce likely originated in California.
  159. On Friday, the Hollywood Reporter revealed Bill Shine, the White House communications chief will be paid by both the White House and Trump ally Fox News this year and next, according to his financial disclosure form.
  160. Shine started his White House position on July 5, and had an unusually long extension of 68 days for filing his form. Whitaker released Shine’s form on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Trump Wanted DOJ To Prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey Because Of Course He Did

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

NY Times “bombshell”:

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.

Some are saying this is the final nail in the obstruction of justice case against Trump, because it shows his intent to go after his political enemies including — in the case of Comey — those who might have facts bearing on the Russia investigation against him:

[Y]ou can also bet that this latest New York Times story will be remembered by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats starting in 2019. It could also be the case that Mueller isn’t asking any of these questions because he already knows the answers.

It is also somewhat amusing to note that if McGahn really warned Trump he could be impeached if he ever ordered the prosecution of Comey or Clinton, it may still be true that the expressed desire to do so can and will be used against Trump. You can bet this Times story would also be mentioned in an impeachment proceeding.

National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime that “If there ever are Articles of Impeachment (and that is not a foregone conclusion), these types of episodes,” as chronicled by the Times, “will be listed under the category ‘abuse of power.’”

I think all of that is overstated. After all, wanting to prosecute political enemies is different from actually ordering or even urging the DOJ to directly do so.  What happened is bad and definitely Trumpian, but the fact remains that McGahn did steer Trump away from the actual act.

In related news, Trump laid out for the special counsel his defense in the investigation into possible ties between his associates and Russia’s election interference, the president’s lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday.

The details of Mr. Trump’s responses were not immediately clear, but his lawyers said that now that he had handed over answers to questions from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the time had come to end the investigation.

I suspect some of the questions were carefully avoided, particularly if they related to obstruction of justice, which Trump said he would not give any answers on (because executive privilege).  If I am right, most of early 2019 will be all about a subpoena battle, and it will be up to the new Supreme Court to decide if Trump must comply.

Trump Gives MBS A Thanksgiving Pardon

Ken AshfordCrime, Middle East, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Trump said “we may never know” the facts around the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while emphasizing that Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman have both “vigorously” denied any knowledge about the planning for his death

The CIA pins this directly on Mohammad bin Salman.  As do most other world intelligence agencies.  Trump ignores his own intelligence people.

First of all, as an “official statement”, this is terrible.  Exclamation points?  Campaign slogans?  WTF???

Trump is declaring his decision on how to (not) respond to Khashoggi killing while openly conceding he doesn’t have all the facts yet.

Trump also is repeating his false claim about a $450 B Saudi purchase order. It is not true. It is merely a letter of intent.  He also throws in the slander — untrue — that Khashoggi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Asylum Ban

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Immigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A federal judge is once again standing in the way of Donald Trump’s illegal orders—this time his proclamation blocking people who cross the southern border between ports of entry from applying for asylum:

“Whatever the scope of the president’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote in his opinion. “Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims.”

The immigration law in question says that migrants can apply for asylum “whether or not at a designated port of arrival.”

I have to wonder if there are any legal minds who think about Trump’s edicts and executive orders. Surely there must be someone who says, “You will get challenged on this in court and you will lose.” 

Maybe Trump doesn’t care. Maybe he wants to be seen as going up against current laws and the Constitution.  In any event, it’s odd to me.

The Camp Fire Horror

Ken AshfordDisastersLeave a Comment

The numbers coming out of the Northern California fires are horrible:

The number of reported dead in Butte County’s Camp Fire increased by two Monday, bringing the total to 79, Cal Fire said in an incident report.
One of the human remains found Monday was located in a structure in Paradise; the other was located outside in Magalia, according to a press release from the Butte County Sheriff’s office.

Of the 79 dead, 64 have been tentatively identified, according to the release.

The number of unaccounted for people decreased by 294 Monday and currently stands at 699, said the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

The 151,000-acre fire has reached 70 percent containment, Cal Fire reported as of 7 p.m.

The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire has destroyed more than 15,000 structures, including more than 11,700 homes, according the Monday evening incident report.
Multiple evacuation zones had status updates Monday. In the updates, authorities warned residents returning to their homes and properties that services are limited, and residents should make sure they have access to food, water and fuel for their cars. Areas affected by the fire will not have power, phone/cell service, water or the ability to call 911, the incident report said.

Trump’s visit to the region last weekend, filled with silliness about climate change denial and how the forest floors need to be “raked” have been a distraction from the huge and unfortunate death toll.

Beyond words.

But Her Emails

Ken AshfordClinton Email Faux Scandal, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It is hard to fathom how stupid Ivanka Trump must be. To do this after her father railed against Hillary Clinton for so long….

Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s prac­tices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. He attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her “Crooked Hillary” for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

Faced with a Washington Post report that Ivanka Trump had regularly used a private email account to conduct government business in 2017, the explanation from her side went like this: She didn’t know that was wrong!

I’m not kidding.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump lawyer Abbe Lowell, said “While transitioning into government, until the White House provided her the same guidance they had to others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family,” Mirijanian said.

How. Is. That. Possible.

How could Ivanka Trump have not known — even prior to the White House providing her “guidance” — that using a private email account to conduct official business was a giant no-no?

As you may remember, the central attack by Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign centered on her decision to use a private email account and server while serving as secretary of state. Trump insisted that Clinton was not being fully transparent about why she used a private email server for government business — and used that as a foothold into a broader questioning of whether the former secretary of state could be trusted with the nation’s top job.

“How can Hillary run the economy when she can’t even send emails without putting entire nation at risk,” Trump tweeted in June 2016. A month later, he tweeted this: “The invention of email has proven to be a very bad thing for Crooked Hillary in that it has proven her to be both incompetent and a liar!”

The press, by the way, is not covering the story with the same breathless-ness as Hillary in the 2016 election.

Oh, well. Another day in Trumpworld.