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 DCReport.org. "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.