Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Flips and Flops and the Russia investigation
I'm not sure what to make of this but it seems interesting:
Former CIA Director James Woolsey dined with President Donald Trump last weekend at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida — where, a report said, they had a "lengthy conversation" at the main dining table surrounded by several of Trump's friends, associates, and political allies.Woolsey is not a naif and he had to know he was going to be spotted and that it would raise eyebrows. Unless he's reporting back to Mueller, which he very well might be, this is a very odd thing for him to do. I do not believe he'll lie to the feds for Trump. He's a terrible person but he isn't a Trump loyalist.
A tipster told Politico's Playbook about the conversation, which raised eyebrows given Woolsey's centrality to the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Woolsey, who served on the board of Flynn's lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said.
Woolsey apparently notified Vice President Joe Biden through a mutual friend about the meeting, which he thought could have been an illegal discussion, Woolsey's spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said earlier this year.
Franks confirmed late last month that Mueller's team had interviewed Woolsey about the meeting. He said Woolsey and his wife had been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau's Russia investigation in May.
"Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI regarding the September 19, 2016, meeting Ambassador Woolsey was invited to attend by one of General Flynn's business partners," Franks said in a statement at the time. "Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel."
Franks released another statement responding to Politico Playbook's tip on Monday. "Ambassador Woolsey has served 4 Presidents," the statement said. "He has never communicated the contents of his conversations with any of them to a third party and doesn’t intend to start now."
Woolsey's participation in the September 19, 2016 meeting and another one the next day with two Turkish businessmen — during which he reportedly pitched a $10 million contract to help discredit Gulen — may have landed him on the FBI's radar even before Trump won the presidency.
Now, Mueller has reportedly gathered enough evidence against Flynn and his son to charge them with crimes related to their previously unregistered lobbying work for Turkish government interests.
"Whenever a subject of a criminal investigation talks to a witness, the prosecution will ask questions about what was discussed during that meeting," said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. In this case, he said, the subject is Trump and the witness is Woolsey.
This crew never fails to amaze does it?
Update: here's something more:
A Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of violating US sanctions on Iran pleaded guilty on Tuesday, prompting speculation that he could be cooperating with prosecutors building a case against Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser whose lobbying work for Turkish government interests is under federal investigation.
The trader, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in March 2016 in Florida. His case was set to go to trial in New York this week on charges of fraud and money laundering, but he took a plea deal that will require him to testify against his codefendant in the same conspiracy, a defense lawyer said on Tuesday.
Former US attorney Preet Bharara wrote a memo last May alleging that Zarrab "facilitated millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of Iran ... through a global network of companies located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates " designed to evade US sanctions.
Bharara also accused Zarrab of wrongdoing that implicated top Turkish government officials. Zarrab, he alleged, had "engaged in a massive bribery scheme ... paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and US dollars" to facilitate his transactions.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fiercely lobbied high-level Obama administration officials for Zarrab's release, beginning shortly after Zarrab was arrested in Miami last March. Erdogan made personal appeals to both Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, and he sent his justice minister at the time to meet with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to argue that the case was "based on no evidence."
Zarrab was not released, but Erdogan apparently continued lobbying for his release into January. By the time Obama left office, the Turkish government had already begun establishing ties to people close to President Donald Trump, including former Flynn and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani joined Zarrab's legal team in March, shortly after Flynn was fired over his conversations with Russia's former ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak.
Federal prosecutors are now pursuing a separate but parallel investigation into whether Flynn used his cabinet position to secure Zarrab's release from a New York jail and return to Turkey a controversial Muslim cleric loathed by Erdogan — in exchange for as much as $15 million.
Zarrab could have information about Flynn's ties to Erdogan that could be useful to federal investigators examining the extent to which Flynn was working for the Turkish government both before and after the election.
"You can fill in the gaps that federal investigators are looking for any relation between Erdogan and Flynn," criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos told NBC last week. "So, to the extent that Zarrab has any connection or knowledge of that, it is very important that they're flipping him."
I'd say so ...
digby 11/28/2017 01:30:00 PM