Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Just another set of reminders that in the end, the Trump regime collusion villains may have gotten elected, but they're bad at not being caught anyway.  The information included in the Papadopoulos indictment is pretty damning.

Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos made a significant claim in an email: Top Trump campaign officials agreed to a pre-election meeting with representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The message, if true, would bolster claims that Trump’s campaign attempted to collude with Russian interests. But it’s unclear whether Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was merely boasting when he sent the July 14, 2016, email to a Kremlin-linked contact. There’s also no indication such a meeting ever occurred.

The email is cited in an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting criminal charges against Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy volunteer on Trump’s campaign. But it’s not included in court documents that detailed his secret guilty plea and his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The evidence gleaned during Papadopoulos’s three months of cooperation could further advance Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion by Trump’s aides. This latest email, one of many unsealed on Monday, runs counter to the steadfast denials by Trump and his supporters that anyone attempted to work with the Russians. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Papadopoulos, a low-level adviser that few people on the campaign knew, “has already proven to be a liar.”

Prosecutors didn’t explain why the email wasn’t included in the detailed admissions of Papadopoulos’s wrongdoing, and it’s possible they concluded the assertions weren’t true.

Writing to the Russian contact a week before the Republican National Convention, Papadopoulos proposed a meeting for August or September in the U.K. that would include “my national chairman and maybe one other foreign policy adviser” and members of Putin’s office and Russia’s foreign ministry.

It has been approved by our side,” Papadopoulos wrote.

This is where the collusion story gets bad for the Trump regime.  Papadopoulos's supervisor was Jeff Sessions, who is now of course Attorney General.  Young George here has also been cooperating with Mueller for months.  If this was planned and approved with the intent of getting the dirt on Clinton, as it very well looks like, then things are going to get untenable for them and fast.

Of course, it's not helping that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are complete clowns, either.

A new court filing Tuesday showed exactly what Manafort and Gates told banks and investigators about their net worths and travel histories over the past few years.
Among the highlights: 
* Manafort currently has three US passports, each under a different number. He has submitted 10 passport applications in roughly as many years, prosecutors said. 
* This year, Manafort traveled to Mexico, China and Ecuador with a phone and email account registered under a fake name. (The name was not disclosed in the filings.) 
* Over the past year, Manafort traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo and Grand Cayman Island. 
* Both Manafort and Gates were frequent travelers to Cyprus. "Extensive travel of this nature further evidences a risk of flight," the prosecutor's filing said. 
* Manafort wrote on loan applications and other financial documents that his assets were worth between $19 million in April 2012 and $136 million in May 2016. 
* In some months, like while he served as Trump's national campaign chairman in August 2016, Manafort's assessment of his total worth fluctuated. In August 2016 he said his assets were worth $28 million, then wrote he had $63 million in assets on a different application. 
* Gates "frequently changed banks and opened and closed bank accounts," prosecutors said. In all, Gates opened 55 accounts with 13 financial institutions, the prosecutors' court filing said. Some of his bank accounts were in England and Cyprus, where he held more than $10 million from 2010 to 2013. 
Manafort's and Gates' attorneys have asked the judge to release them from house arrest.

These guys are going down on money laundering and conspiracy charges so hard that they might not hit the bottom before they die in prison.

Unless they roll over, that is.  Pay attention to the Cyprus connection, too.  Trump's Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross, who was vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, the island's biggest bank.  You'd better bet that Manafort and Gates and their money-laundering trail came across Wilbur Ross's desk at some point.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, was vice-chair and leading investor in the Bank of Cyprus, the island’s largest bank, which was “one of the key offshore havens for illicit Russian finance," according to an extensive investigative report by financial journalist James Henry of "Ross has been Vice Chairman of this bank and a major investor in it since 2014. His fellow bank co-chair evidently was appointed by none other than Vladimir Putin.”

“Ross’ involvement in the Bank of Cyprus raises many questions about his judgment, but also about the Trump Administration’s seemingly endless direct and indirect connections with friends and associates of Vladimir Putin, who all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies say conspired to interfere in the November 2016 U.S. election on behalf of Donald Trump,” Henry continued. “Whether or not these connections involve any criminality, these are the kind of relationships that most American business people would not tolerate for 30 seconds.”

“After all, as discussed below, since the 1990s Cyprus has served as one the top three offshore destinations for Russian and former Soviet Union flight capital, most of it motivated by tax dodging, kleptocracy, and money laundering,” Henry said, giving multiple citations. “As of 2013, just before the banking crisis, Russian depositsaccounted for at least a third of all bank deposits in Cyprus. As one leading newspaper put it, 'Russian money is in fact at the heart of the island’s economy.' Nor is Ross’ Bank of Cyprus in particular—now probably at least half owned by Russians any stranger to money laundering, tax dodging, or odious finance. With a market share of 30 percent, Bank of Cyprus has long been the market leader in Cypriot financial chicanery.”

If Mueller is following the money, Ross could be next on the list along with Sam Clovis, Jeff Sessions, and Mike Flynn.

Or maybe the next contestant is Jared Kushner. Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman:

Until now, Robert Mueller has haunted Donald Trump’s White House as a hovering, mostly unseen menace. But by securing indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and a surprise guilty plea from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Mueller announced loudly that the Russia investigation poses an existential threat to the president. “Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.” 
The first charges in the Mueller probe have kindled talk of what the endgame for Trump looks like, according to conversations with a half-dozen advisers and friends of the president. For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream. According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up. 
The consensus among the advisers I spoke to is that Trump faces few good options to thwart Mueller. For one, firing Mueller would cross a red line, analogous to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during Watergate, pushing establishment Republicans to entertain the possibility of impeachment. “His options are limited, and his instinct is to come out swinging, which won’t help things,” said a prominent Republican close to the White House. 
Trump, meanwhile, has reacted to the deteriorating situation by lashing out on Twitter and venting in private to friends. He’s frustrated that the investigation seems to have no end in sight. “Trump wants to be critical of Mueller,” one person who’s been briefed on Trump’s thinking says. “He thinks it’s unfair criticism. Clinton hasn’t gotten anything like this. And what about Tony Podesta? Trump is like, When is that going to end?” According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.” (The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.)

Stay tuned.  It's going to move quickly now.

Wasting Away In Kushnerville, Con't

I've talked about the allegations of monstrous debt collection by Jared Kushner's apartment management companies before, now it looks like legal action is finally being taken against Trump's slimy son-in-law by Maryland's AG.

The Maryland attorney general is investigating one of the Kushner family's real estate businesses after media reports surfaced earlier this year about allegedly abusive debt collection practices and poor conditions at several of its properties.

Kushner Companies said it is cooperating with Attorney General Brian Frosh, Maryland's top legal officer.

"We have been working with the Maryland Attorney General's Office to provide information in response to its request," Kushner Companies told CNN through a spokesperson. "We are in compliance with all state and local laws."

A Baltimore-based attorney is working with Kushner Companies on the matter, according to a person familiar with the attorney general's inquiry.

A spokesperson for the AG's office declined to comment, citing a policy of not confirming or denying investigations.

The inquiry does not mean charges will be filed.

This spring and summer, media reports exposed allegedly coercive tactics and inadequate maintenance in multifamily housing developments run by Westminster Management or related entities. An affiliate of Kushner Companies, Westminster manages about 17 properties in Maryland, including developments in Baltimore, Middle River and Essex, according to its website.

Kushner Companies has been under the microscope since President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, entered the political scene — first as Trump's confidant during the 2016 campaign and now as a senior White House adviser.

A Kushner financial disclosure form shows income of $1.6 million from Westminster. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Kushner continues to have undisclosed meetings with foreign powers, and the White House refuses to give any details on what Kushner is doing.  This time, Kushner visited Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.

Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing.

Kushner was accompanied in the region by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Greenblatt continued from Saudi Arabia to Amman, Jordan; Cairo; the West Bank city of Ramallah; and Jerusalem, where he was on Sunday.

The Trump administration has said its strategy is to try to draw in neighboring Arab leaders to play a role in Middle East peace. “Jared has always been driven to try and solve the Israel-Palestinian dispute,” said billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, a longtime friend and close Trump confidant. “The key to solving that dispute is Egypt. And the key to Egypt is Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.”

It's cute that Trumpies are trying to unofficially sell this as a Mideast peace deal trip and maybe to a certain extent you could call it that, but nobody believes that this is about peace anymore.  The Saudis announce a new developmental region called NEOM, essentially a $500 billion mega-city built from scratch the same week Jared Kushner jets to Riyadh?

Doesn't take a genius to see what's going on here.  Trump Tower NEOM anyone?

Kushner is all about the real estate fraud.  Keep an eye on both of these stories.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Greg Sargent is sounding the alarm that Trump's counterstroke against Mueller is at the very least being set up as an option to use as Trump could clear the decks, Nixon-style.

Let’s be clear on what’s happening in our politics right now. President Trump and his media allies are currently creating a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt — with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or close down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary
We often hear that Trump and his allies are trying to “distract” from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s intensifying investigation. That’s true, but this characterization inadequately casts this in terms ordinarily applied to conventional politics. Instead, Trump’s trafficking in this stuff should be seen as another sign of his fundamental unfitness to serve as president. Similar efforts by his media allies should be labeled as a deliberate effort to goad Trump into sliding into full-blown authoritarianism, and to provide the air cover for him if he does do so

That's a hefty charge to throw, but Sargent makes his case pretty solid.

The Associated Press reports that people who have spoken to Trump say that he has recently revisited the idea of trying to remove Mueller, now that Mueller appears to be digging into Trump’s finances. Meanwhile, CNN reports that former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon is privately urging Trump to try to get Republicans to defund Mueller’s probe. 
Last night, Sean Hannity delivered perhaps the most perfect expression yet of efforts to create the rationale for such moves. Hannity dismissed the news of major allegations against Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort and the cooperation adviser George Papadopoulos as big nothingburgers. He also hit all the high points of the new Trump/media campaign. Those include reviving the made-up scandal that Hillary Clinton approved a deal for a Russian nuclear agency to gain access to U.S. uranium extraction rights in exchange for kickbacks, and the absurdly exaggerated claim that the Clinton campaign, having paid through various intermediaries for research that ultimately led to the “Steele Dossier,” actually colluded with Russia to interfere in the election. These have been extensively fact checked and debunked
In an important new piece, Post fact checker Glenn Kessler blows another big hole in one of this campaign’s key story lines. Kessler notes that multiple Trump media allies are repeating the claim that Clinton gave away “20 percent” of our uranium capacity to Russia. And he shows that, for various technical reasons, this figure is itself absurdly inflated, and the description of this as a Clinton giveaway has no relation to reality. 
But the real point of Hannity’s presentation came when he flatly accused Mueller of trying to “change the narrative to distract from the real Russia collusion and massive cover-ups.” Hannity added that Mueller “is clearly complicit in the Uranium One scandal.” This is a reference to the fact that Mueller headed the FBI when the uranium deal happened. Reports that the FBI was investigating a Russian energy official at the time have led to GOP questions about why the Obama administration green-lighted the deal anyway. But this is also absurd, as Kessler explains, since the deal went through an extensive multi-agency process and no evidence has been presented that this process improperly skirted any FBI probe. 
Regardless, Hannity concluded: “We are at a real crisis point in America tonight.” Trump has tweeted in support of many of these allegations. And as Jonathan Chait details, other Trump media allies have explicitly cited these and other similar story-lines (Mueller’s investigators are Dem donors!) in support of the notion that Mueller should resign or that Trump should close down the Russia probe

Don't count on GOP leaders in Congress to lift a finger on stopping Trump should he fire Mueller.  Some are making noises that Mueller should be "allowed to continue" for now, but that's as far as they are willing to go.

But it's going to be an untenable position.  Fox News state media is screaming for the blood of Democrats and if Trump doesn't deliver, there will be hell to pay.  We all know how easily Trump is manipulated, so the question remains how long will it take (and how many additional Mueller indictments) before Trump orders him gone and for Jeff Sessions to drop those cases?

Will Sessions comply if he does order it?  Will Republicans do anything if he does?  What happens then, when we get into Constitutional crisis territory (not that we're actually far off now)?

John Schindler takes a look at what happens now.  The bottom line is that Trump's mental and emotional unfitness for office is only matched by his criminal unfitness.

Above all, this case proves that President Trump’s months of tweeting angrily that the Russian investigation is “fake news” and there’s “no collusion” between himself and Moscow are simply a lie. This morning, the president took to Twitter, as is his custom, and ranted that “Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.” This is yet another lie, as there’s a picture of the March 31, 2016 campaign national security meeting in Washington, where Papadopoulos is seated just a few feet from Trump. Moreover, the notion that a young campaign staffer would conduct personal diplomacy with Russian spies on behalf of Team Trump without getting go-ahead from his superiors is laughable. 
For months, President Trump has insisted that the entire Mueller inquiry is a fraud, and that his campaign had no ties to Russia whatsoever. Now, we know that’s simply untrue. Things are about to get much worse for the White House, especially since the FBI has admitted that Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the Bureau and Team Mueller in their investigation into illicit Russian influence in our nation’s capital
In particular, his arrest and plea deal were concealed for months so that the FBI could protect Papadopoulos’ role as a “proactive cooperator” for the Bureau. That’s spook-speak for his use as a witting tool of the investigation. Anyone affiliated with the Trump White House who’s talked or met with George Papadopoulos since late July should be aware that whatever was said has been communicated to the FBI—indeed, Papadopoulos was likely wearing a wire that recorded the conversation
Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump and his Kremlin linkages entered a new phase yesterday, one from which there will be no return for the White House. Day One of this new phase delivered genuine bombshells, but many more are yet to come. Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos represent a small piece of a much larger counterintelligence puzzle that the public will learn about in coming months.

Stay tuned.  November could be a pivotal month in American history.  It will mark one of two things: the beginning of the end of the Trump regime, or the beginning of the end of America.

Still not sure which.


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