As I've said before, there's three aspects to the Mueller investigation into the Trump regime, the Russian conspiracy to collude with Trump's team in order to affect the 2016 election, the long-time money laundering through Trump's international holdings, and the obstruction of justice to cover up evidence of the first two parts of the story.
It was a very busy weekend on the Mueller front, we've got four for your today. Since Trump and his compatriots are terrible liars, the obstruction of justice investigation is proceeding faster than the other two sections of the probe, and the theory from Bloomberg News this morning is that Mueller will sit on any charges against Trump and/or his family until the rest of the investigation is completed.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.
That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case -- the part that may hit closest to Trump personally -- witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.
The revelation is a peek into Muller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.
The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.
Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges -- as the president’s lawyers have requested -- could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.
Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The timing for whether -- and when -- to interview Trump or his family members is one of the most sensitive decisions Mueller faces at this stage of his investigation. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.
This is a weird story, which heavily implies that Mueller has more than enough to start charging the President and his inner circle with obstruction of justice, but the second Mueller makes a move either way on it, the fear is that Trump will fire Mueller.
I'm assuming the story is to inform people to hold on and to expect Mueller's team to go dark again after a relative whirlwind of action over the last several weeks. It's also a reminder that the investigation in total is far, far from over.
Connect the dots in public reporting on Trump’s financial dealings, and a business model comes to light, one based on association with crooks, money launderers — and lots of Russians.
Take Trump’s Panama tower. The project’s lead broker, Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira, was a criminal; in 2009, he admitted to money laundering and was arrested for fraud and forgery in other projects. He fled the country.
All-cash deals for condos — a red flag for money laundering — were commonplace at Trump Panama. Convicted drug-money launderer Colombian David Helmut Murcia Guzmán bought 10 condos. Suspected Russian money launderers Andrey Bogdanov and Ivan Kazanikov bought a dozen others. A former financial crimes prosecutor in Panama, Mauricio Ceballos, called Trump Ocean Club Panama “a vehicle for money laundering.”
Are financial crimes the kompromat (compromising evidence) that gives Russians leverage over him?
Panama is not an isolated instance — the business model started with his casinos.
The U.S. Bank Secrecy Act requires that the gambling industry (notorious for money laundering) keep strict records to detect and prevent “cleansing” of mobsters’ ill-gotten gains. The Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J., once paid a $10 million fine for willful violations of that act. It admitted doing it on purpose! What was the company hiding then?
Associations with criminals and Russians accelerated as the Trump Organization began licensing its name on hotel-condo projects.
Trump’s partners in its SoHo project in Manhattan, as in other deals, were crooks. Felix Sater, a Russian, had pleaded guilty to money laundering and stock manipulation and a stabbing with the stem of wine glass. The FBI considered partner Tamir Sapir part of a Russian mob. Financing for that hotel came from an Icelandic bank close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Three-fourths of the sales were all-cash.
At Trump Tower Toronto, the Trump Organization first partnered with Leib Waldman, who had fled the United States after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement. Then a Russian-born Canadian, Alex Shnaider, replaced Waldman. Shnaider had made fast money in the former Soviet Union and dealt with a Russian bank connected to Putin. Another foreign bank, accused previously of acting as a conduit for Russian money laundering, financed the project. The project incurred excessive construction costs — a trademark of money laundering — and went bankrupt while 400 other similar condo towers in Toronto succeeded.
In 2012, the Trump Organization partnered with a family referred to as “the Corleones of the Caspian, after the fictional Mafia family in “The Godfather” films,” to launch a hotel-condo project in Azerbaijan. Duffel bags of cash were used to pay contractors. Was money laundering during construction its real purpose? One thing’s for sure: No one who intended a luxury hotel to succeed would ever locate it on the wrong side of the tracks, where this one stood. It never opened.
With evidence of so many financial crimes, the Russians may not need the salacious acts recounted in the Steele dossier to compromise Trump. A few major felonies might do quite nicely.
Remember, it's not just Trump, his entire family is in on the business, and business is good.
Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father’s 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election, records obtained by The Associated Press show.
The president’s eldest son and Texas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach have been involved in business deals together dating back to the mid-2000s and recently formed a company — Future Venture LLC — despite past claims by both men that they were just friends, according to previously unreported court records and other documents obtained by AP.
Beach last year met with top National Security Council officials to push a plan that would curb U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies in the oil-rich nation.
Ethics experts said their financial entanglements raised questions about whether Beach’s access to government officials and advocacy for policy changes were made possible by the president’s son’s influence — and could also benefit the Trump family’s bottom line.
“This feeds into the same concerns that we’ve had all along: The really fuzzy line between the presidency and the Trumps’ companies,” said Noah Bookbinder, who leads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a public policy group. “Donald Trump Jr. sort of straddles that line all the time.”
Last February, just as Trump Sr. was settling into office, Beach and an Iraqi-American businessman met with top officials at the National Security Council to present their plan for lightening U.S. sanctions in Venezuela in exchange for opening business opportunities for U.S. companies, according to a former U.S. official with direct knowledge of the proposal.
The Trumps are corrupt to the core. It'll be easy to jump on the obstruction of justice and call it a day, but the real issue remains the repeated criminal violations of corruption and influence peddling. If Mueller has to sit on an open-and-shut obstruction case to get to the slimy middle of this garbage mountain, then so be it.
And finally, let's not forget that the White House staff could be facing plenty of criminal liability for enabling the Trump regime.
If special counsel Robert S. Mueller III one day proves that someone on the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia, a top White House spokesman may live to regret what he said Sunday.
Appearing on ABC's “This Week,” deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said President Trump would have been aware of any such collusion if it did occur.
“There's been zero evidence, after a year of investigation, that we've seen of actual collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,” Shah said. “The president, who would be aware of any types of efforts, has been pretty clear, understands and knows that there is no collusion.
“And so, as he has said, this investigation is everything from a hoax to a witch hunt. It's not going to find any evidence of collusion.”
Okay, but what if it does? Shah has just ruled out the idea that someone else could have colluded with Russia without Trump's knowledge. If we find out one day that someone within the campaign did collude, Shah's remarks suggest that Trump had to have known about it. There's no other way to read them.
They're crooks and they're stupid crooks. And hey if the story gives Trump's people heartburn, well. We'll see.