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Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Night Soother

by digby

The Best Cat Videos Come From the Wild

The Best Cat Videos Come From the Wild

What you see is taken from ‘camera traps’ that are set up in the the wild to monitor the wild life and endangered species that normally we would not have the chance to see.

It puts us in a very privileged position, because these creatures have no idea that they are being filmed and we see first hand how they live their lives from day to day.

For now. Most of these magnificent creatures will be extinct before long because the human species is incapable of being a responsible steward of our shared planet.

Not soothing, I know ...
Junior liar

by digby


How many people tried to get Trump to Moscow? And why?

by digby

All this talk about Cohen wanting to set up a trip to Russia reminded me of all the approaches to other people in the campaign to arrange a trip to Russia. Of course, Emptywheel wondered about it too and broke it down:

Last night on TV, Anthony Cormier said that the negotiations between Michael Cohen and Felix Sater actually continued into July, but that the later discussions were on encrypted chats that got deleted.

We know that Sater was at Trump Tower on July 21, 2016, because he bought some campaign swag that showed up in FEC filings. (h/t Andrew Rice on Twitter)
Sater told POLITICO he was unaware he had exceeded the maximum contribution. Informed that purchases of campaign paraphernalia count as contributions, Sater said he had bought campaign merchandise in the basement of Trump Tower last month. He said he made two $2,700 contributions to the Trump campaign online through his iPad.

The purchase of campaign merchandise and two contributions for $2,700 each are all dated July 21 in the FEC filing.
That same day, George Papadopoulos signaled something to Ivan Timofeev about Trump’s RNC speech.
“How are things [Timofeev]? Keep an eye on the speech tonight. Should be good.”

The next day is almost certainly when Sergei Millian first started cultivating Papadopoulos.
Millian’s cultivation of Papadopoulos likely explains this reference in the affidavit supporting Papadopoulos’ arrest, showing Papadopoulos asking Ivan Timofeev over Facebook on July 22, 2016 for any information he had on someone he was about to meet for the first time (see my timeline here).

“If you know any background of him that is noteworthy before I see him, kindly send my way.”
That would say that, on the same day WikiLeaks released the DNC emails — which itself took place a day after Papadopoulos signaled something about Trump’s RNC speech to Timofeev — Millian started cultivating Papadopoulos, who apparently had started spending more time in NYC.

That relationship would lead to a proposed business deal between Millian and Papadopoulos — basically as cut-outs for the business deal that Cohen and Sater started.
Mr. Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.


Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”

One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” he wrote.

Apparently, a new witness recently went to the FBI to describe Papadopoulos’ continued involvement in this deal — and his direct ties to Trump.

The letter, dated November 19 and obtained last week by The Atlantic, was sent to Democratic Representative Adam Schiff’s office by an individual who claims to have been close to Papadopoulos in late 2016 and early 2017. The letter was brought to the attention of Schiff and House Intelligence Committee staff, according to an aide who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The letter was also obtained by federal authorities, who are taking its claims “very seriously,” said two U.S. officials who also requested anonymity because of the sensitivities of the probe.

The statement makes a series of explosive but uncorroborated claims about Papadopoulos’s alleged coordination with Russians in the weeks following Trump’s election in November 2016, including that Papadopoulos said he was “doing a business deal with Russians which would result in large financial gains for himself and Mr. Trump.” The confidant—whose name The Atlantic is withholding on request but whose identity is known to congressional and federal investigators—stated a willingness to take a polygraph test “to prove that I am being truthful” and had come forward now after seeing Papadopoulos “become increasingly hostile towards those who are investigating him and his associates.” A lawyer for Papadopoulos declined to comment.


The confidant who sent the letter to Schiff’s office last week claimed to have witnessed a phone call between Papadopoulos and Trump in December 2016, around the same time that Papadopoulos was allegedly boasting about the Russia deal and sending emails to Flynn and Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon. In one email, Flynn urged Papadopoulos to “stay in touch, and, at some point, we should get together.” Trump has called Papadopoulos “a coffee boy” who played no meaningful role on the campaign.
In his sentencing memorandum, Papadopoulos alluded to his concern about getting the job he expected in the Trump Administration (on which the deal with Millian was premised) to explain why he lied to the FBI in January 2017.
The agents asked George to accompany them to their office to answer a “couple questions” regarding “a guy in New York that you might know[,] [t]hat has recently been in the news.” George thought the agents wanted to ask him about Russian businessman Sergei Millian. Wanting clarification, he asked the agents, “…just so I understand, I’m going there to answer questions about this person who I think you’re talking about.” The agents assured George that the topic of discussion was Mr. Millian who had been trending in the national media.

En route to the FBI office, George voiced concern about the repercussions of his cooperation ever becoming public because the Wall Street Journal had just reported that Sergei Millian was a key source in the “Trump Dossier” controversy. George explained that he was in discussions with senior Trump administration officials about a position and the last thing he wanted was “something like this” casting the administration in a bad light.


George knew Mr. Millian only as a businessman pitching an opportunity to George in his personal capacity. The agents asked how they first met, what they discussed, how often they talked or met in person, if George knew whether Mr. Millian was connected to Russia or a foreign intelligence service, and who else on Mr. Trump’s campaign may have been in contact with Mr. Millian.


George found himself personally conflicted during the interrogation as he felt obligated to assist the FBI but also wanted to distance himself and his work on the Trump campaign from that investigation. Attempting to reconcile these competing interests, George provided information he thought was important to the investigation while, at the same time, misleading the agents about the timing, nature, and extent Case 1:17-cr-00182-RDM Document 45 Filed 08/31/18 Page 9 of 16 10 of his contacts with Professor Mifsud, Olga, and Ivan Timofeev. In his answers, George falsely distanced his interactions with these players from his campaign work. At one point, George told the agents that he did not want to “get too in-depth” because he did not know what it would mean for his professional future.


Out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration, he hoisted himself upon his own petard.
All of that suggests the deal was still on in January 2017, and Papadopoulos was trying to preserve his opportunity to serve as a cut-out for the deal and so lied to the FBI.

That's not all. Click over to see the rest.

It's possible that there were multiple Russians randomly trying to set up meetings with Trump and Putin for different reasons. And it's possible that I'm going to win the lottery.


The suck-up timeline of the Moscow Project

by digby

via Buzzfeed

Felix Sater proposed the Trump Moscow project in September of 2015, three months after Trump started running for president. Trump signed the letter of intent on October 28th, the day of the thrid GOP presidential deabte (that CNBC marathon that had Trump slumping over his podium like a dying swan at the end.)

Here is what Trump said about Putin during that period the deal was live, via CNN:

Sept. 23, 2015

Trump says at a town hall event in Columbia, South Carolina, that he will “get along with Putin.”

Sept. 27, 2015

Sept. 28, 2015

Trump tells reporters at Trump Tower that “Putin is a nicer person than I am.”

Sept. 29, 2015

Trump tells Bill O’Reilly that Putin gets an ‘A’ for leadership.

"I will tell you that I think in terms of leadership, he is getting an 'A,' and our president is not doing so well," Trump said. "They did not look good together."

Oct. 2, 2015

Trump tells Sean Hannity that “Putin has no respect for our president whatsoever.”

Oct. 6, 2015

Trump tells conservative radio host Michael Savage he’s met Vladimir Putin.

“Yes,” Trump says. “Yes, a long time ago. We got along great, by the way.”

Oct. 11, 2015

Trump said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he and Putin had “fantastic ratings on ‘60 Minutes’ together” and again said he thought they’d get along well.

"I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on '60 Minutes' together and we had fantastic ratings. One of your best-rated shows in a long time," Trump said. "So that was good, right? So we were stablemates."

He added, "I think that I would probably get along with him very well. And I don't think you'd be having the kind of problems that you're having right now.”

Oct. 13, 2015

Trump asserted in an interview with the Guardian that Putin was going into Syria to combat ISIS.

“He’s going to want to bomb ISIS because he doesn’t want ISIS going into Russia and so he’s going to want to bomb ISIS. Vladimir Putin is going to want to really go after ISIS, and if he doesn’t it’ll be a big shock to everybody,” Trump said.

Still, in mentioning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he noted that Putin is “an Assad person” and “the United States doesn’t like Assad.”

Oct. 14, 2015

Told Bill O’Reilly that Putin was his “stablemate” on 60 Minutes.

“Well, you know, I actually hosted it 10 years ago and Lorne Michaels called me up the other day. He said I'd love to have you host and I agreed to it because it's an honor. I did 60 Minutes last week — that was an honor. My stablemate was Vladimir Putin and we did very well.”

Nov. 10, 2015

Asked a Republican debate what he would do as president in response to Russian aggression, Trump said, “Well, first of all, it's not only Russia. We have problems with North Korea where they actually have nuclear weapons. You know, nobody talks about it, we talk about Iran, and that's one of the worst deals ever made. … So, we have more than just Russia.”

He went on to say, "I got to know (Putin) very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night. But, you know that."

“But, if Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100% and I can’t understand how anybody would be against that,” he added.

Nov. 13, 2015

Trump walks back his Putin stablemate comment, saying his 60 Minutes segment was separate from Putin’s.

Dec. 18, 2015

Trump said on Morning Joe that Putin was a better leader than Obama, and dismissed Joe Scarborough’s allegations that the Russian president “kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said.
He added: "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity."

Dec. 20, 2015

In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Trump defends against allegations Putin has ordered the killings of journalists and dissidents.

“As far as the reporters are concerned — as far as the reporters are concerned, obviously I don't want that to happen. I think it's terrible — horrible. But, in all fairness to Putin, you're saying he killed people. I haven't' seen that. I don't know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he's killed? Because I've been — you know, you've been hearing this, but I haven't seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven't' seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.”

Dec. 21, 2015

Trump tells Iowa radio host Simon Conway, “I’ve always had a good instinct about Putin. I just feel that that’s a guy—and I can analyze people and you’re not always right, and it could be that I won’t like him. But I’ve always had a good feeling about him from the standpoint.”

Dec. 30, 2015

Trump says at an event in South Carolina that Putin says he’s “brilliant.” And attacks his opponents, saying, “they want me to refute his statement.”

Jan. 26, 2016

In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump discusses the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent, and the 2016 findings of a British inquiry that Putin “probably approved” his poisoning.

"Have they found him guilty?” Trump said. “I don't think they've found him guilty.”

“If he did it, fine. But I don’t know that he did it. You know, people are saying they think it was him, it might have been him, it could have been him. But Maria, in all fairness to Putin—I don’t know. You know, and I’m not saying this because he says, ‘Trump is brilliant and leading everybody’ —the fact is that, you know, he hasn’t been convicted of anything.”

Feb. 15, 2016

Trump says at a news conference he’d be a better negotiator with Putin than his rivals.

“You want to make a good deal for the country, you want to deal with Russia – and there’s nothing wrong with not fighting everybody, having Russia where we have a good relationship as opposed to all the stupidity that’s taken place.”

Feb. 17, 2016

Trump says at a rally that he has no relationship with Putin.

"I have no relationship with him other than he called me a genius,” Trump said. “He said, ‘Donald Trump is a genius and he is going to be the leader of the party and he's going to be the leader of the world or something.’”

Feb. 26, 2016

Trump says at a press conference that he can’t imagine Marco Rubio meeting with Putin.

“I joked recently about, ‘can you imagine Putin sitting there waiting for a meeting and Rubio walks in and he's totally drenched,” Trump said. “I don't know what it is, but I've never seen a human being sweat like this man sweats.”

Feb. 28, 2016

Trump says at campaign rally in Alabama he’d be a better negotiator with Putin than his rivals.

He says Putin has been “very nice” to him.

March 12, 2016

Trump says at a rally that the media falsely claims he admires Putin:

“Putin said good things about me. He said, ‘he’s a leader and there’s no question about it, he’s a genius.’ So they all said, the media, they said -- you saw it on the debate -- they said, ‘you admire President Putin.’ I said, I don’t admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. I mean, he might be bad, he might be good. But he’s a strong leader.”

March 21, 2016

Speaking at the Old Post Office, Trump says, “Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice and it has no effect on me other than I think it's very nice.”

April 26, 2016

Trump says during a victory speech “We're going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia.”

April 28, 2016

Trump says Putin has been “very nice” to him:

"I'm saying that I'd possibly have a good relationship. He's been very nice to me," Trump told Bill O’Reilly. "If we can make a great deal for our country and get along with Russia that would be a tremendous thing. I would love to try it."

May 2, 2016

Trump tells Indiana radio host Charly Butcher that the US should call Putin to ask him to stop Russian planes from barrel-rolling over US aircraft, but that if they didn’t stop, “at a certain point...you gotta shoot.”

May 5, 2016

Asked if he’s ever spoken to Vladimir Putin, Trump gives a “no comment” toFox News’ Bret Baier.

“Yeah, I have no comment on that,” he said. “No comment.” When Baier pressed him, “Yeah, but I don’t want to comment because, let’s assume I did. Perhaps it was personal. You know, I don’t want to hurt his confidence. But I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago – Miss Universe contest – which is a big, incredible event, and incredible success. I got to meet a lot of people. And you know what? They want to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got with somebody?”

May 27, 2016

Trump calls Putin “a strong leader” at a rally.

June 3, 2016

At a rally in California, Trump mocked those who wanted him to “disavow” Putin’s praise of him.

“Then Putin said, ’Donald Trump is a genius, he’s going to be the next great leader of the United States.’ No, no, think of it. They wanted me to disavow what he said. How dare you call me a genius. How dare you call me a genius, Vladimir. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be good?"

[In here is where the deal fell apart, with Cohen canceling his trip on the day the DNC email hack was revealed.]

July 25, 2016

Trump tweets:

July 27, 2016

Trump tells a local Miami CBS affiliate that he has nothing to do with Russia and has never met Putin, saying, “But I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”

July 27, 2016

Trump says at a news conference that he had never met Putin and didn’t know who he was:

“I never met Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I'm a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”

He also said, "I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there's nothing I can think of that I'd rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now, so that we can go and knock out ISIS with other people.”

In the same news conference, Trump called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails as secretary of state.

To be fair, Trump was sucking up to Putin before this deal and continued to do it afterwards. It's reasonable to speculate, however, that he was sucking up for years to get a deal and has been sucking up since then to cover one up.

And there's also the possibility that this is just the tip of kompromat iceberg.

Trolling Trumpie hard

by digby

Putin seems to be especially miffed and he's not hiding it. He's probably not happy with his boy generally but he undoubtedly expected him to back his latest Ukraine move (especially since he has been so accommodating to MBS) and all Trump came up with was, “We do not like what’s happening either way. We don’t like what’s happening, and hopefully it will get straightened out."

Then he canceled the scheduled the private meeting with Putin via tweet making the Kremlin even angrier:

“We regret the decision of the U.S. administration to cancel the scheduled meeting of the two presidents in Buenos Aires. This means that discussion of serious issues on the international and bilateral agenda is being postponed indefinitely.”

Basically, they are tightening the screws saying, this isn't how it works, Donnie boy: you answer to us. And you know it.

Everybody knows it.

He can't stop confessing to corruption

by digby


Trump tweeted yet another admission of his lies and corruption this morning:

As I noted in my Salon column (and as anyone who's been awake the last three years knows) Trump insisted that he never had any dealings with Russia over and over and over again.

Now the evidence is clear that he was lying and he keeps admitting it in his statements and tweets and he's trying to say he's always been open about it and it didn't amount to anything.

Let's just say that if he knew about the 50 million dollar "gift" to Vladimir Putin he may have broken a law that he has railed against for years --- a law against bribing foreign officials.

I would imagine his lawyers wish he'd STFU. But then, what else is new?

Michael Cohen, anti-hero

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Last June, after Michael Cohen pled guilty to a number of federal crimes, including paying hush money on behalf of the President of the United States, he came forward and talked to ABC's  George Stephanopoulos and said he wanted to "do the right thing for his family." I wrote at the time that he seemed to be contemplating becoming the John Dean of the Trump Russia scandal, quoting Vanity Fair's Emily Jane Fox reporting that people were coming up to Cohen on the street saying he could be a hero if he stepped up and told the truth.

No one really expected him to do that at the time. After all, he had said he'd take a bullet for Trump. But it turned out that for all Cohen's loyalty to Trump it wasn't reciprocated. Trump had a fit when the feds served their search warrant on Cohen's office but almost immediately turned on his old friend, behaving as if he hardly knew him. In truth, Trump had been treating Cohen like a lackey for years, denying him respect and refusing to bring him into the White House despite it being his fondest wish to be treated like family.

Looking at years of jail time and the loss of all your property tends to focus the mind and Cohen wised up. He realized that he had been abandoned and would have to save himself. He hired an old Washington hand, Lanny Davis, and threw himself at Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, practically begging him for a chance to tell everything he knew about the unethical and illegal activities of the President of the United States. You can imagine it was a heady feeling to have that kind of power over the man he believed had betrayed him.

Mueller played hard to get. Cohen was not offered one of those cooperation agreements like Manafort and Flynn. The prosecutors didn't seem very interested in what he might have to say. There were sporadic reports of him talking to them but it was as if they were just indulging a desperate man. That was wrong. They were listening and they were just biding their time. On Thursday, in a move that surprised everyone, including the White House which only got a heads up just before it happened, Cohen appeared in court and pled guilty to lying to Congress about his dealings with Trump and Russia. This is the first time that Trump himself has been connected to the Russia conspiracy in a court of law.

It was first reported back in 2017 that Trump had been negotiating a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the first few months of the Republican primary. Trump signed a letter of intent in October of 2015 and supposedly the deal fell through that  December.  Last spring Buzzflash further reported that this negotiation had actually continued all the way up until June 2016 after Trump had clinched the nomination. Cohen and Trump denied it and it seemed not to make much of an impression on the public although it probably should have. On Thursday that story was confirmed.

It had been reported that the Trump organization's partner in the deal, a fascinating character and old friend of both Trump's and Cohen's named Felix Sater,  had bragged to Cohen that he could get to Putin, telling the lawyer, “buddy, our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.”  That's an odd statement, to say the least.  Until yesterday it was assumed that this was just hyperbole between the two old friends. As it turns out, Cohen actually dealt directly with the Kremlin, as well as a former General with Russian Military Intelligence,  while Trump was cinching the presidential nomination.  And he testified that he kept Trump and members of the family (assumed to be Don Jr and Ivanka) apprised throughout the campaign about how the deal was going.

And that's not all. Buzzfeed reported last night that they planned to offer Vladimir Putin a 50 million dollar "gift" of a penthouse in the new building. It's unknown if Trump was aware of that but you can bet they wouldn't have ever followed through on such a thing without his ok. As it happens the deal was abruptly canceled on the day the DNC hack was publicly reported, just before Cohen was slated to fly to Russia to prepare for Trump to make the same trip after the convention to seal the deal.

Trump told the voters that he knew nothing of Russia.  He said it over and over again. Yet his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort,  was 20 million dollars in debt to a Russian oligarch and his oldest buddy, Roger Stone, was plotting with Russian hackers and Wikileaks to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign. His chief foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn, was on video cozying up to Putin and had to resign after it was reported that he reassured the Russian ambassador that they were going to lift sanctions the Obama administration imposed for interfering in the election on Trump's behalf. Two others, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos had strange ties and contacts with Russians during the campaign, one of whom is doing time in jail today for lying to the feds about it.

And now we know Trump's personal lawyer was secretly negotiating with the Kremlin for a Moscow Trump Tower development as the candidate was fawning over Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail like a moonstruck schoolgirl.

Whether or not what Trump did was technically illegal is beside the point. Trump lied to the American people about all of it --- and the Kremlin knew he lied. It's easy to imagine that Trump's good friend Vladimir Putin may have reminded him about that in those private meetings they like so much. It's not as sexy as some of the other rumored kompromat but it's got teeth.

Trump canceled his meeting with Putin at the G-20 that was set for this week-end. He said it was because of the recent skirmishes between Russia and Ukraine. More likely Trump just didn't want to face him. After all, all this was supposed to be their little secret.

In Emily Jane Fox's latest story about Cohen she describes him getting into his car outside the courthouse yesterday as a skateboarder rides by and shouts,  “Yo! That’s Michael Cohen. You’re gonna take down Trump!”   Maybe if Trump had shown just a little more loyalty to his man Cohen he wouldn't be in this position. No one with Trump's ethics should ever make his lawyer into his enemy.

Here are a couple of videos from yesterday:


"Stronger than a blue wave"

by Tom Sullivan

The expression is so well known "With Surgical Precision" could replace "First in Flight" on North Carolina's license plates. The line refers to the federal court ruling against the state's voter ID law passed by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2013. The heavily gerrymandered congressional districts the legislature drew in 2011 have been in court ever since. Adjusted once by court order and ruled again unconstitutional, pending appeal they were still in use on November 6.

The blue wave that swept across the country in November and gained Democrats 40 seats in the House of Representatives broke against the red levee Republicans erected in North Carolina, the New York Times explains. The status quo held there and in Ohio as well. Although the statewide vote split almost evenly, Republicans won 10 of the 13 congressional seats. Certification of the close 9th District contest is held in abeyance pending an investigation into possible absentee ballot fraud.

Voting November 6 under court-ordered nonpartisan maps, Pennsylvania shifted its congressional balance from 13 Republicans and five Democrats to nine Republicans and nine Democrats, the New York Times explains.

Republicans in North Carolina publicly admit their maps are a partisan gerrymander. They simply deny that makes them illegal.

“We’re in charge ... That’s the way it works,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

While 87 of the state's 100 counties lie within a single congressional district, that surgical precision came in how Republicans chose to divide the other 13. Woodhouse tells the Times it was impossible to keep those intact and still maintain equal-population districts:

The results can be seen clearly in Guilford County, home of Greensboro, North Carolina’s third-largest city and a Democratic stronghold. The legislature split the city between the Sixth and 13th Districts, which had the effect of dissolving its voters into the red seas of North Carolinians outside the city limits and leaving the city represented entirely by Republicans in Congress.

Of the 57 counties where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, only 17 have a Democratic representative in Congress. But every county where Republicans outnumber Democrats has a Republican representative.
The results are also clear on the boundary between NC-10 currently represented by Rep. Patrick McHenry and NC-11 held by Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows, both Republicans. The amoeba-like appendage added to NC-10 in 2011 reaches out to split the heavily Democratic city of Asheville (mine), making NC-11 a safe Republican seat while making NC-10 only marginally less Republican. Democrat Heath Shuler held the NC-11 seat for three terms, but declined to run again after redistricting rendered the district unwinnable.

Both McHenry and Meadows comfortably held their seats this year.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

They're standing by their man

by digby

It's astonishing. TPM reports on GOP official, slack-jawed and drooling, unable to raise even the slightest concern over the fact that the president was secretly doing multimillion dollars deals with Vladimir Putin during the campaign
The White House’s closest allies in Congress and the media are leaning on President Trump’s go-to line in downplaying Thursday’s news that Michael Cohen has entered into a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Ignoring the meat of the development—that Cohen admitted he was working on a deal for the Trump Organization to develop a project in Moscow in the middle of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign—Trump’s defenders have claimed that Mueller is forced to prosecute false statements because he has no stronger criminal charges to bring.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) dismissed Cohen’s new guilty plea, calling it “a process crime.”

“I’ve yet to see anybody indicted for actually colluding with the Russians,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to NBC News.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), newly elected as the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, echoed that there has yet to be any development that “in any way changes the landscape, so to speak, where the President is concerned,” as he told Fox News.

Other congressional Republicans took a stronger line against Cohen. Both outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Judiciary Committee member John Kennedy (R-LA) said that Trump’s former attorney deserved to be prosecuted for the crime of lying to Congress.

Michael Anton, former spokesman for Trump’s National Security Council, also lashed out at Mueller’s team for pursuing a “process” crime, telling Fox that the special counsel has strayed from his initial mandate of investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Pro-Trump media ran with that line as well. A splash feature on Breitbart News read “Mueller ripped for ‘false statement prosecutions’” and linked to a write-up of a Fox interview with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

“I think the weakness of Mueller’s substantive findings are suggested by the fact that he has to resort to false statement prosecutions, which really shows that he didn’t start with very much, and that the very fact that he’s conducting an investigation has created these crimes,” Dershowitz said. “These are not crimes that had been committed prior to his appointment, they’re crimes that were committed as the result of his appointment.”

Ok, but what crimes were they covering up with their lies? Eh, who cares, amirite? If Mueller isn't locking them up, we just don't give a damn and neither do his voters.

I'm not sure if they will care if it's proven that he made an explicit offer of a quid pro quo to Vladimir Putin's right hand man.

Oh wait. It appears that he did.

Who among us hasn't secretly offered a foreign adversary a 50 million dollar "gift" in the middle of a campaign in which said adversary sabotaged your political opponent?

Perfectly normal. Perfectly fine.


How many quid pro quos are there?

by digby


President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump's relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

BuzzFeed News first reported in May on the secret dealings of Cohen and his business associate Felix Sater with political and business figures in Moscow.

The two men worked furiously behind the scenes into the summer of 2016 to get the Moscow deal finished – despite public claims that the development was canned in January, before Trump won the Republican nomination. Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.

Is this the "art of the deal?" Promising payoffs to a foreign power in exchange for approval for a personal project --- and help sabotaging your political rival's campaign? Was he expected to sweeten the deal with some sanction relief if he won?

Did Putin and his henchmen know all about Trump's years of exposure as a money launderer and held it over Trump's head as well?

Sure looks like it could be all of that and possibly more. There's a reason that the trump campaign was crawling with Russians from every direction. That's not normal.

Trump's been lying about all of this. And Vladimir Putin knew all about it. In fact, they were clearly using the same talking points.

You want kompromat? You don't need the pee tape. This is more than enough.

This is one of the most stunning moments in American history and we now can see exactly why he was an obsequious toady toward his handler:

Read the above linked article and the one Buzzfeed published last spring.


Vlad's going to be mad

by digby

His boy hasn't kept things under control. And Trump doesn't want to face Daddy alone:

President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin set for this weekend, citing Russia’s recent seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships

In recent days Mr. Trump has wavered about whether he would meet with his Russian counterpart at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires. Before leaving for the summit on Thursday morning, he told reporters outside the White House he would “probably” keep the appointment with Mr. Putin.

“They’d like to have it,” he said of the Russian leadership.

But soon after boarding Air Force One, Mr. Trump sent out a pair of tweets calling off the meeting, citing Russia’s recent actions against Ukraine. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Trump made the decision after a conversation aboard the plane with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, who spoke by phone from Brazil.

Mr. Trump wrote that his cancellation was “based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.” He said that he was open to rescheduling his meeting with Mr. Putin “as soon as this situation is resolved!”

Trump has met secretly with Putin before. So I wouldn't put it past him to do it again. But it's unlikely that he'll be looking forward to it.

Update: According to the news as I write this, the Russian's aren't happy. They know Trump's excuse has to do with the "optics" of meeting Putin in the middle of this Cohen news.

And according to CNN, White House officials say Trump is in "a terrible mood, spooked, and completely distracted."

Everyone should be prepared for something really crazy to happen in the next little while...


California lets people vote. Paul Ryan finds that suspicious.

by digby

Paul Ryan's just letting it all hang out now:

Weeks after House Republicans lost their majority, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday cast serious doubts about the “bizarre” election system in California, where it appears that seven GOP-held seats will flip to Democratic control.

The California election system “just defies logic to me,” Ryan said during a Washington Post event.

“We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race. This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is.”

It was a remarkable comment from the retiring Speaker of the House, who until now had not joined President Trump and other Republicans who have complained about what they believed were election irregularities in places like Florida and California.

After this story was published, Ryan campaign spokesman Jeremy Adler said in a statement: "The Speaker did not and does not dispute the results" of the election.

California does have a more liberal policy when it comes to counting ballots. The Golden State allows absentee ballots to be counted if they are mailed by Election Day and arrive at the registrar by the Friday after the election. That’s why results in a handful of close California House races were not called until days, or weeks, after Nov. 6.

In many cases, the GOP candidates had been leading on election night, but Democrats ultimately prevailed as additional absentee and provisional ballots were tallied in the days after.

“In Wisconsin, we knew the next day. Scott Walker, my friend, I was sad to see him lose, but we accepted the results on Wednesday," Ryan said. In California, “their system is bizarre; I still don’t completely understand it. There are a lot of races there we should have won.”

When pressed about his California comments, Ryan said it seemed “bizarre” and “strange” that Democrats would win all seven competitive House races in California. Democrats ousted GOP Reps. Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher, Jeff Denham and Steve Knight and won seats held by retiring GOP Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa. GOP Rep. David Valadao is trailing Democrat TJ Cox, but the race is too close to call.

“The way the absentee-ballot program used to work, and the way it works now, it seems pretty loosey goose,” Ryan said. “When you have candidates who win the absentee ballot vote and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre. I just think that’s a very, very strange outcome.”

Ryan, who is leaving Congress in early January, made clear that he doesn't believe there was "anything nefarious" about the results. He said he would not ask California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former Democratic House lawmaker, to investigate.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat who oversees elections there, aggressively pushed back on Ryan's complaints.

“It is bizarre that Paul Ryan cannot grasp basic voting rights protections,” Padilla said in a statement to The Hill. “It shouldn’t 'defy logic' that elections officials are meticulous in counting every eligible ballot. California works to ensure every ballot is counted properly and every ballot is accounted for. In the most populous state in the nation — and the state with the largest number of registered voters — this takes time."

“In California, we believe in an inclusive and accessible democracy. We provide voters as many opportunities as possible to cast their ballots,” Padilla's statement continues. “That is why we have no excuse vote by mail, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and early voting. These reforms helped drive California’s historic registration and a 30 year high in midterm turnout."

He isn't this stupid. He knows how it works and why California rejected the useless assholes like him who are enabling the cretinous miscreant that Republicans put in the White House --- and their own malevolent agenda. We're not a bunch of deluded Fox viewers here, sorry.

He's just being the dishonest hack he's always been. Clearly he's got his wingnut welfare job all lined up.


"I could actually run my business and run government at the same time"

by digby

That was almost exactly five years ago.

Trump said this today:

Just a reminder: Trump says there was nothing wrong with running his business while he was a candidate and he admitted that he did that.

But he also believes that he could run the country and his business at the same time. Which, of course, he has been doing even though he says he turned it over to the spwan.


Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he faces no legal obligation to cut ties with his businesses, even as he described how winning the presidency has made his brand “hotter” and acknowledged advancing his business interests during a conversation with a British politician.

"The law's totally on my side, the president can't have a conflict of interest,” Trump said in an interview with New York Times editors and writers.

Trump said he was surprised by how little was legally required of him. "In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this,” he said. "I'd assumed that you'd have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don’t.”

January 11,2017:

I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to,” Trump said.

He was making deals throughout the campaign. There's a good chance he's been doing it since he became president.

It makes you think they call it "executive time" for a reason.


They knew he was a snake before they let him in

by digby

This is from a National Review article of May 2016:

A friend of Donald Trump’s recently approached him to suggest that he will eventually have to release his tax returns, as every presidential nominee has for decades... “What will you do if the returns come out as part of an October surprise?” Trump was asked. Trump pondered the question and replied, “I’ll say they aren’t mine.”

That stunning answer is the essence of Donald Trump. “It’s exactly what I’d expect him to say,” Fox Business’s Charlie Gasparino, who has known Trump for decades, told me.

At the time National Review was 100% Never Trump. Today, not so much. Rich Lowry is team Trump most of the time.

You should have been nicer to Michael

by digby

He feels no loyalty any more:

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, admitted in court on Thursday that he had engaged in negotiations to build a tower in Moscow for Mr. Trump well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known.

Mr. Cohen said he discussed the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than three occasions and briefed Mr. Trump’s family members about it. He also admitted he agreed to travel to Russia for meetings on the project.

Trump admitted to lying today. I'm not sure he knows he did. But he has said many times that he had nothing to do with Russia.



Only mostly dead

by Tom Sullivan

Given that Uncle Sam is supporting bombing a starving population in Yemen and teargassing desperate migrants on the Mexico/U.S border, these may be small lights in the darkness, but take what you can get. Two items this morning on how the United States sees itself, or still wants to. The U-S-of-A may be only mostly dead.

The noxious civil asset forfeiture practice police agencies made a regular feature of drug enforcement thirty years ago is under challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. "Policing for profit" at long last is on trial.

The state of Indiana confiscated Tyson Timbs' $42,000 Land Rover after arresting him for selling $400 worth of heroin to undercover cops. The vehicle is more than four times the amount of fine assessed for the crime, and Timbs sued to get back his vehicle. A trial court agreed the "fine" in this case was excessive. An appeals court agreed.

Indiana's state Supreme Court ruled, however, that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines (Eighth Amendment) does not enjoin the states from imposing them. U.S. Supreme Court justices from across the ideological spectrum challenged that assertion on Wednesday when the case came before the high court.

"Weirdly enough, the court has never explicitly held that [the Eight Amendment] restricts state governments," writes Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

There is little doubt that the justices will use Timbs to incorporate the clause at long last. Under long-standing precedent, a right that is “fundamental” to “ordered liberty” and “deeply rooted” in history receives protection under the 14th Amendment. And in its extraordinary brief, the Institute for Justice—the libertarian firm representing Timbs—demonstrates that the right against excessive fines checks both boxes. It was enshrined in the Magna Carta and safeguarded by most state constitutions when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. When Congress wrote the 14th Amendment, lawmakers argued that it would nullify “Black Codes” in Southern states that levied crippling, arbitrary fines on newly freed slaves. There is really no plausible argument that the right against excessive fines is not “fundamental” or “deeply rooted” and thus incorporated against the states.
Questioning on Wednesday did not go well for Indiana, as NPR's audio coverage confirms. Justices hammered Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher who struggled to justify the practice finally before the Supreme Court.

"In 2014, federal prosecutors used asset forfeiture to take more stuff than burglars," Stern adds.

Decades of states blurring the lines between who is a criminal and who is the law, I'd argue, has contributed to the widespread lack of trust in government that has led us to the Trump era. A ruling to quash civil asset forfeiture would begin restoring that trust.

Next up: "Nearly all of the world’s 180-plus countries include the term education in their constitution," Alia Wong explains in The Atlantic. A class-action lawsuit filed in Rhode Island seeks to include education as a right in the one major holdout nation: yours:
The 14 plaintiffs in Cook v. Raimondo, all public-school students or parents on behalf of their children, accuse the state of Rhode Island of providing an education so inferior that the state has failed to fulfill its duties under the U.S. Constitution. But given that there is no explicit guarantee of education in the Constitution, the lawyers are making a sort of bank-shot argument: that in denying citizens of Rhode Island a quality education, the state is in essence preventing people from exercising their Constitutional rights, such as forming a legal assembly (as is guaranteed by the First Amendment) or voting (as is guaranteed by the Fifteenth). That this denial falls unevenly across the population is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which promises people equal protection under the law. As of Wednesday afternoon, none of the defendants offered comment on the suit.

The absence of an explicit right to education in the Constitution is not some mere oversight but is instead the result of the country’s federalist system of government: Schooling in America is not the domain of the federal government, but rather the domain of states, all 50 of which mandate in their individual constitutions the provision of public education. This decentralized approach has its benefits: Local governments control their local schools, and parents in any one place can more easily involve themselves in educational policy than they could if those policies were national. But one consequence, many observers contend, is that school funding varies hugely from region to region, often with those who have the greatest need getting the least. With close to half of education spending coming from local property-tax revenue, a child’s zip code has a huge bearing on the quality of her schooling.
Court fights over this inequality have been fought for years in state courts. A favorable federal court ruling in Cook v. Raimondo, litigants hope, "can appeal not just to liberals who are more inclined toward the establishment of a national right to education, but also to conservatives who’ve long advocated for improved civics education." Not to mention it could result in more equitable education across states and districts. It is a shrewd strategy.

Should the Supreme Court rule against policing for profit, perhaps it will be of a mood later to prohibit public education for profit (looking at you, charter school movement) and to restore civics in schools. Don't hold your breath. Still, these two cases suggest our institutions may only be mostly dead. Don't throw out that old bellows just yet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The coffee boy enjoys Samovar service

by digby

Add this to the crazy from Natasha Bertrand and Scott Stedman at The Atlantic late today:

George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his interactions with a Russia-linked professor in 2016, went to jail on Monday after fighting, and failing, to delay the start of his two-week prison sentence. But a letter now being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI indicates that Papadopoulos is still in the crosshairs of investigators probing a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The letter, obtained last week by The Atlantic, was sent to Democratic Representative Adam Schiff’s office on November 19 by an individual who claims to have been close to Papadopoulos in late 2016 and early 2017. The letter was brought to the attention of Schiff and House Intelligence Committee staff, according to an aide who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The letter was also obtained by federal authorities, who are taking its claims “very seriously,” said two U.S. officials who also requested anonymity due to the sensitivities of the probe.

The statement makes a series of explosive but uncorroborated claims about Papadopoulos’s alleged coordination with Russians in the weeks following Trump’s election in November 2016, including that Papadopoulos said he was “doing a business deal with Russians which would result in large financial gains for himself and Mr. Trump.” The confidant said they were willing to take a polygraph test “to prove that I am being truthful” and had come forward now after seeing Papadopoulos “become increasingly hostile towards those who are investigating him and his associates.” A lawyer for Papadopoulos declined to comment.

If corroborated, the claims in the letter would add to an emerging portrait of Trump and his associates’ eagerness to strike backdoor deals with Russia even after the intelligence community concluded that Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election. (Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried to set up a “backchannel” to Russia in the weeks after the election and met with the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank during the transition period. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, meanwhile, negotiated with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions before Trump was inaugurated.)

Much of the attention in recent days has been focused on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and what the campaign knew about WikiLeaks’ plans to release stolen Democratic emails. But Papadopoulos remains one of the most important figures in the Russia investigation. He was ostensibly the first member of the Trump campaign to learn that the Russians had stolen emails that they planned to use against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Rather than tell the FBI about the Russian “dirt” on Clinton, Papadopoulos continued trying to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as the campaign wore on. His disclosure to an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that Russia had dirt on Clinton is purportedly what triggered the FBI’s Russia investigation—Australian officials reported the comment to American law enforcement authorities in July 2016, after WikiLeaks released the stolen DNC emails.

Federal and congressional investigators are now examining the letter to determine whether Papadopoulos’s ties to Russia were deeper than he has acknowledged, and whether he stayed in Trump’s orbit because of, rather than in spite of, those connections. The confidant who sent the letter to Schiff’s office last week claimed to have witnessed a phone call between Papadopoulos and Trump in December 2016, around the same time that Papadopoulos was allegedly boasting about the Russia deal and sending emails to Flynn and Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon. In one email, Flynn urged Papadopoulos to “stay in touch, and, at some point, we should get together.” Trump has called Papadopoulos “a coffee boy” who played no meaningful role on the campaign.

Papadopoulos, who has denied having any financial ties to Russia, has claimed in recent weeks that his contact with a shadowy overseas professor named Joseph Mifsud was a set-up by Western intelligence agencies. Mifsud, who claimed to have high-level Kremlin contacts, told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Kremlin had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails—well before the Russian hacks on the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta were made public. Papadopoulos told the FBI that he learned of the Kremlin “dirt” before joining the Trump campaign, but that was a lie, according to prosecutors. He had already been a campaign adviser for well over a month by the time Mifsud told him about the stolen emails.

Mifsud was also apparently eager to connect Papadopoulos with his current wife, Simona Mangiante. Mangiante told The Atlantic last month that she first heard about Papadopoulos and his work for the Trump campaign after starting a job at the London Centre of International Law Practice, where Mifsud was the “Director for International Strategic Development,” in September 2016. Mifsud and his associate Nagi Idris told Mangiante over lunch that Papadopoulos, who worked at the London Centre briefly in the spring of 2016, would be visiting London soon, and that if Mangiante met him, she should “make sure” she said she liked Trump—or not discuss politics at all. Mangiante insists, however, that Mifsud never directly introduced her to Papadopoulos, who she says she met on LinkedIn later that fall.

Mifsud may only be one part of the story of Papadopoulos’s connections to Russian nationals in 2016. According to the letter sent to Schiff last week, Papadopoulos revealed in late 2016 that “Greek Orthodox leaders” and their Russian counterparts were “playing an important role” in Papadopoulos’s collaboration with the Russians.

Papadopoulos’s contact with Greek officials in 2016 have been of some interest to those investigating a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. In a September interview with CNN, Papadopoulos acknowledged for the first time that he told Greece’s foreign minister about the Russian “dirt” on Clinton in May 2016 while visiting the country on a trip authorized by the Trump campaign. Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to visit Greece the very next day, and the foreign minister “explained to me that where you are sitting right now, tomorrow Putin will be sitting there," Papadopoulos told CNN, claiming that his disclosure about the “dirt” was “a nervous reaction” that he just “blurted out.”

Throughout 2016, Papadopoulos made multiple trips to Greece and developed a working relationship with influential Greek officials while he was serving as a foreign policy advisor on the Trump campaign. In addition to the foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, Papadopoulos had meetings with the former President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Ieronymos II, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. Papadopoulos’s closest association with the Greek government, however, appears to have been with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, an outspoken supporter of Moscow with whom Papadopoulos met several times in 2016 and early 2017, including at Trump’s inauguration. In his congratulatory tweet celebrating Trump’s election victory, Kammenos noted Papadopoulos’s importance in maintaining U.S.-Greek relations. A NATO military intelligence official told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that the Greek Ministry of Defense “is considered compromised by Russian intelligence.”

It remains to be seen whether Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will subpoena Papadopoulos to appear before the panel once the Democrats take control in January. Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Atlantic that, “at the appropriate time,” the congressman hopes to get “full answers on the range” of Papadopoulos’s “contacts with the Russians and their intermediaries.” Boland said that Schiff and his staff “evaluate all information brought to our attention, and remain concerned about the conduct that formed the basis of Mr. Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, as well as his subsequent and apparently contradictory statements.” Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators about “the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”

There's more at the link. This is just nuts.

I wrote in my Salon column this morning that we are looking at a number of different strands to the possible conspiracy which includes some people participating incertain strands but not others. It's obvious at this point that the Russian government was probing the Trump campaign from many different directions.

Keep in mind that to prove a conspiracy, the participants do not have to know the full extent of the plan. Any of these people who participated are in the crosshairs whether they understood the scope of the Russian campaign or not.


Chip off the old block

by digby

You can't make this stuff up. These Trumps all suffer from serious narcissistic personality disorder:

That's right up with Trump saying on Thanksgiving that he's thankful he's done such a great job.

President Soprano

by digby

He can't stop obstructing justice:

He’s never discussed a pardon for Paul Manafort, President Trump said Wednesday — but it’s “not off the table.”

“It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” the president said during an Oval Office interview.

He ripped special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and charged that Manafort, former political adviser Roger Stone and Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi were all asked to lie by the special counsel.

“If you told the truth, you go to jail,” Trump said.

“You know this flipping stuff is terrible. You flip and you lie and you get — the prosecutors will tell you 99 percent of the time they can get people to flip. It’s rare that they can’t,” Trump said.

“But I had three people: Manafort, Corsi — I don’t know Corsi, but he refuses to say what they demanded. Manafort, Corsi and Roger Stone.”

“It’s actually very brave,” he said of the trio. “And I’m telling you, this is McCarthyism. We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy. And that was a bad situation for the country. But this is where we are. And it’s a terrible thing,” Trump added.

The professional liar circles the wagons around his henchmen. He might as well just say, "stay strong Paulie, I'll take care o' you."

I don't think we need to look for any other metaphors to explain this president. He's just a cheap mob boss. Nothing more.


Trump knew. Of course he knew. And Mueller knows he knew.

by digby

I have no idea what was going on with the Manafort plea deal, but one this is obvious --- Mueller knew he was sharing information with Trump. The New York Times article last night implies that this was a reason the plea agreement fell apart but that can't be true. If I knew the Manafort team was sharing information, then they did. After all, it was reported back in October.

Not only that, it was also known that the Manafort plea agreement mirrored the one the Special Prosecutor had with Rick Gates with one exception:

Ken Dilanian of MSNBC is saying he thinks this was just an oversight on the Mueller team's part. But if you look at the second tweet you can see that it was brought to the attention of the Special Prosecutor by that lawyer and one presumes he wasn't the only one. They knew.

As I noted in my piece for Salon this morning, this suggests to me that they didn't have a reason to care that Manafort was sharing with Trump and that the real reason talks broke down is exactly what they said it was --- Manafort could not stop lying about something. We don't know what that was but whatever it was, it made Manafort useless to them and they pulled the plug.

There is some informed speculation that Mueller's team wanted to see if Trump would take some bait and lie in his written answers, suggesting that that's why they waited until they had been presented. It's possible but unlikely, in my opinion. I think Mueller is very well aware of the political ramifications of this investigation and would not risk that. More likely, they were looking for Manafort to confess to crimes they already know he committed and he refused to do it for reasons of his own, most likely to keep open the possibility of a pardon.

The Trump team is now saying that the president has no involvement in collusion which is a switch from their earlier insistence that the "witch hunt" is a hoax and there was no collusion. This seems to be related to Stone and Corsi's clear involvement with Wikileaks.

Over and over again, we've seen evidence referenced in the various Russia indictments that there was involvement with a senior member of the Trump campaign.  If the conduit is Roger Stone, that member is almost certainly his close associate for 40 years, Donald Trump.

The Corsi plea agreement draft names him:
The draft statement of offense describes Stone as “Person 1” and someone that Corsi “understood to be in regular contact with senior members of the Trump Campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump.” 
The inclusion of Trump by name infuriated Trump’s legal team, which obtained a copy of the draft the week before Thanksgiving. In response, the president’s attorneys delayed submitting his written answers to Mueller and formally complained to both the special counsel’s office and the Justice Department, according Giuliani. 
“It’s gratuitous. It’s not necessary,” he said. “If you read out of context, it creates a misimpression that they were in contact with the president during this critical time. And I believe that was done deliberately.” 
They say the draft of the Corsi agreement was delivered to them anonymously and they turned it over to the DOJ. But we've also been told that the grifter Corsi has a joint defense agreement with the Trump team. So I don't know what the real story is there.

But one thing is clear. The Mueller team has reason to believe that Roger Stone kept Trump abrest of all the Wikileaks sabotage during the campaign.

This morning, CNN reported that they had received the answers to two of the questions Mueller had asked the president to answer under oath. He told them that to the best of his knowledge  Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

If he had any credibility at all, that might be believable.  But nobody involved in this is more relentlessly dishonest than the President of the United States. He is lying.