Monday, October 30, 2017

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

The Trump/Russia collusion story certainly is important, but my number one concern going forward remains GOP voter suppression tactics against Democrats.  It's how they won in 2016, and how they plan to keep winning in 2018 and beyond.  And if Democrats won't do anything about it, then voting rights groups and the courts will.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is once again being accused of violating federal elections laws.

Common Cause Indiana in a federal lawsuit filed Friday calls for an injunction to be issued against Lawson, whom the political watchdog group accuses of unlawfully purging voters from state rolls.

Specifically, Common Cause challenges the new "Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck" system that allows election officials to immediately remove voters identified as having registered to vote in another state. The process finds a match based on first name, last name and date of birth. 
Common Cause alleges that the crosscheck system contradicts the protections in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, resulting in "nonuniform, discriminatory and illegal cancellations of Indiana voter registrations." 
For example, one requirement of federal law says a state “shall not remove” a voter from its list of eligible voters due to change in residence unless the voter confirms a change in residence in writing or fails to respond to a notice sent by the state.

The ACLU of Indiana, national ACLU and voting rights group Demos are representing Common Cause in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

I've talked about Crosscheck before: the twisted and flawed brainchild of Kansas GOP Secretary of State (and now Trump voter suppression commission head) Kris Kobach.  Indiana used the flawed system to disenfranchise thousands of Democratic voters in 2016 based on faulty information.  If there's someone with your name and your date of birth anywhere else in America that's registered to vote, both of you could get removed from the voter rolls under Crosscheck.

Now we're seeing lawsuits on this.  That's definitely a good thing, but whether or not they will be resolved in time for the 2020 election is anyone's guess.  And right now through a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression, the GOP has Congress all but locked down for the foreseeable future, as well as multiple state legislatures.

No wonder then they are trying to get rid of the 17th Amendment and direct election of Senators too, instead putting their appointment in the hands of state legislatures.  If that were the case now, the GOP would have nearly 70 Senators instead of 52.

Getting rid of Trump is certainly necessary, but going forward after his term is even more important.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Hell of a day so far from Robert Mueller.  Two major indictments and a guilty plea with cooperation by the witness. Lawfare's Ben Wittes and Susan Hennessey recap where we're at now:

The first big takeaway from this morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The President of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department
The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team now admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials” and to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some them. 
Before we dive any deeper into the Manafort-Gates indictment—charges to which both pled not guilty to today—or the Papadopoulos plea and stipulation, let’s pause a moment over these two remarkable claims, one of which we must still consider as allegation and the other of which we can now consider as admitted fact. President Trump, in short, had on his campaign at least one person, and allegedly two people, who actively worked with adversarial foreign governments in a fashion they sought to criminally conceal from investigators. One of them ran the campaign. The other, meanwhile, was interfacing with people he “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials” and with a person introduced to him as “a relative of Russian President Vladimir Putin with connections to senior Russian government officials.” All of this while President Trump was assuring the American people that he and his campaign had "nothing to do with Russia." 
The release of these documents should, though it probably won’t, put to rest the suggestion that there are no serious questions of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the latter’s interference on the former’s behalf during the 2016 election. It also raises a profound set of questions of its own about the truthfulness of a larger set of representations Trump campaign officials and operatives have made both in public, and presumably, under oath and to investigators. 
And here’s the rub: This is only Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s opening salvo. 
As opening salvos go, it’s a doozy.

Every indication is that Papadoupolos was flipped to get Manafort and Gates, and that the two of them are going to be pressured to flip on everyone else: Michael Flynn and Carter Page, then Jared Kushner, then Jeff Sessions, and finally Donald Trump himself. 

Considering the charges being laid out for Manafort and Gates, there's zero doubt in my mind that indictments are sealed and waiting for Flynn and Page at the minimum.  The big tip-off is the FARA charges against Manafort and Gates: violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. We know Flynn and Page both lied about working for foreign powers, and being willing to prosecute on that means Flynn and Page are certainly in the crosshairs.  You can make the case that Kushner is facing similar charges considering all the times he's lied about foreign contacts.

It also means Jeff Sessions is most likely facing perjury charges.  Remember, he lied to Congress under oath on a number of occasions.  Sessions was at that same March 2016 meeting that Papadopoulos and Trump were at as part of the Trump foreign policy squad.  Sessions has tesified under oath that nothing happened there, but Papadopoulos's confession means otherwise.

And that leads us to Trump.  At the very least, as the Lawfare team points out, the collusion story is very, very real.  A lot of Trump regime folks, current and former, are in dire trouble right now.  Who and how much trouble, we're going to see over the next few weeks and months.

We're now in the next phase of the game, and everything is now playing for keeps.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

So CNN was correct: the first Mueller investigation indictments were indeed unsealed this morning.  Paul Manafort, you're our first contestant on Russian To Judgment, COME ON DOWN!

Paul Manafort surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning, after a person close to the case said the first charges were filed in a special counsel investigation. 
The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office. Also charged was Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said
Mr. Manafort walked into the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington at about 8:15 a.m. with his lawyer. 
Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show. 
Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

No doubt the Trump folks will say this has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with Manafort's relationship as an unregistered foreign agent for the Turkish government.  That may be true, in the same way Alphonse Capone being indicted on income tax fraud had nothing to do with him being a gangster and everything to do with Capone being a lousy accountant.

Note Rick Gates being nabbed on this indictment as well.  We haven't really talked about Manafort's sidekick being in legal trouble, but I'm betting we will be.  The NY Times piece linked above on Gates is pretty thorough.

Nearly everywhere Paul Manafort went, it seemed, Rick Gates followed, his protégé and junior partner. Election campaigns in Eastern Europe and Africa. Business ventures with a Russian tycoon. The upper ranks of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. 
Mr. Gates survived Mr. Manafort’s purge last summer amid allegations that his mentor had taken millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, retaining a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee. But Mr. Gates, 45, soon followed in Mr. Manafort’s footsteps once again: In April, amid new questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, he was abruptly forced out of a lobbying group formed to advance President Trump’s agenda. 
Now, Mr. Gates has been drawn into the burgeoning federal investigations into diplomatic and financial dealings between Russian interests and the president’s inner circle. In a newly disclosed memo, a lawyer for the Trump campaign ordered members of the president’s transition team to preserve records relating to five Trump associates, among them Mr. Manafort — already known to be a subject of the investigation — and Mr. Gates. The memo indicates that transition lawyers believe Mr. Gates’s actions are under scrutiny by the Justice Department or the House or Senate Intelligence Committees — or soon will be. 
As investigators examine Mr. Manafort’s financial and political dealings at home and abroad, they are likely to run into Mr. Gates wherever they look. During the pair’s heady days in Ukraine, it was Mr. Gates who flew to Moscow for meetings with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch. His name appears on documents linked to shell companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

Keep in mind Gates remained Manafort's man in the Trump regime until April and still made trips to the White House as recently as June.  Gates is now facing charges as well, and again, Gates met with the Russians, specifically Oleg Deripaska, who I first noted was a Putin ally back in August 2016 when I told you Manafort was dirty.  Gates was Manafort's right hand and definitely neck-deep in Manafort's slime pit.

We've seen the first Mueller indictments.  We're far from the last.  Manafort and Gates are the fulcrum, Mueller's pulling on the lever, and he may just end up shifting the world.

But where do we go from here?  What will Trump's response be?  What will McConnell/Ryan do?  What will the Dems do?  We'll see.

The full indictment is here, 12 counts for both men, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the US, tax fraud, false statements and unlawfully being a foreign agent.  These are "in prison for the rest of your natural life" charges, guys.

And yes, the first charge, conspiracy against the US?  For actions from 2006 through 2017.  And note this:

But the bigger news might be the third indictment.  Former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.   He's the Trumpie who was behind the now-infamous March 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Three days after Donald Trump named his campaign foreign policy team in March 2016, the youngest of the new advisers sent an email to seven campaign officials with the subject line: “Meeting with Russian Leadership - Including Putin.” 
The adviser, George Papadopoulos, offered to set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump,” telling them his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity, according to internal campaign emails read to The Washington Post. 
The proposal sent a ripple of concern through campaign headquarters in Trump Tower. Campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis wrote that he thought NATO allies should be consulted before any plans were made. Another Trump adviser, retired Navy Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, cited legal concerns, including a possible violation of U.S. sanctions against Russia and of the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from unauthorized negotiation with foreign governments. 
But Papadopoulos, a campaign volunteer with scant foreign policy experience, persisted. Between March and September, the self-described energy consultant sent at least a half-dozen requests for Trump, as he turned from primary candidate to party nominee, or for members of his team to meet with Russian officials. Among those to express concern about the effort was then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who rejected in May 2016 a proposal from Papadopoulos for Trump to do so. 
The exchanges are among more than 20,000 pages of documents the Trump campaign turned over to congressional committees this month after review by White House and defense lawyers. The selection of Papadopoulos’s emails were read to The Post by a person with access to them. Two other people with access to the emails confirmed the general tone of the exchanges and some specific passages within them.

We now know Papadopoulos has plead guilty back on October 6, that was also unsealed today. The indictment is a doozy.

And unlike the first two sets of charges, there's a guilty plea and a direct connection to Trump's campaign and Russian collusion.

 Stay tuned.  More's coming.   Mueller has three birds in hand and at least one is singing.

Shit just got real, America.


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