Thursday, January 18, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said. 
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections. 
It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up. 
All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Mueller’s investigation is confidential and mostly involves classified information. 
A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined comment.

You have to admit, Russians funneling money to Trump through the NRA is about the maximum GOP in GOP scandal. And this isn't the first time Alexander Torshin's name has come up in the Russian collusion investigation, either.

Allegations of collusion continued to pile up against Donald Trump Jr. this week, with the New York Times reporting Friday that the first son went to a May 2016 dinner attended by a top Russian official who was trying to set up a covert meeting with the campaign.

NBC News confirmed Saturday that Donald Trump Jr. talked with Alexander Torshin, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the deputy head of the country's central bank, at an event hosted by the National Rifle Association in Kentucky. But the first son's lawyer insisted the duo didn't sit together.

Don Jr. met with Torshin at an NRA event in 2016 right here in Kentucky.  Hmmm.  Jared Kushner is linked to the same NRA event too.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to disclose what lawmakers called a "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite" involving a banker who has been accused of links to Russian organized crime, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. 
An email chain described Aleksander Torshin, a former senator and deputy head of Russia's central bank who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as wanting Trump to attend an event on the sidelines of a National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016, the sources said. The email also suggests Torshin was seeking to meet with a high-level Trump campaign official during the convention, and that he may have had a message for Trump from Putin, the sources said.

Torshin has quite the reputation internationally, it turns out.  He's been in Washington DC a lot, lately, like the time he tried to meet Trump himself at the National Prayer Breakfast last spring.

The leader of the delegation, central bank Deputy Chairman Alexander Torshin, a former senator who laughs off Spanish claims that he’s a crime boss, was even hoping to shake hands with Trump, an old acquaintance. But the White House nixed the meet-and-greet at the last minute without explanation, according to two Russians familiar with the matter. 
The brief meeting Torshin was due to have with Trump was canceled after a White House aide realized the Russian had been suspected of being a mafia “godfather,” Yahoo News reported, citing five people it didn’t identify. 
The White House said a meeting with Torshin at the National Prayer Breakfast was never on Trump’s agenda. 
Torshin declined to elaborate on his trip, saying only that he’s been to the annual event 12 times. In an interview with Bloomberg last year, the gun enthusiast said he’s known Trump for five years and the two men last had a jovial exchange at the National Rifle Association convention in Tennessee in 2015, just before the future president announced his run for the White House.

Spanish cops pretty much know he's a mobbed up, and rather deep.

On February 1, Alexander Porfirievich Torshin, 63, a Russian politician and banker who is close to Vladimir Putin and whom the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor and the Civil Guard define in their reports as a godfather from a notorious Russian mafia organization, had in his diary for the next day an appointment to meet in Washington with the world’s most powerful man: Donald Trump. The encounter was due to take place before an official and well-attended breakfast meeting, which Torshin attended as the head of a Russian delegation. The meeting was canceled that very night, according to sources from the White House, given the wave of criticism in the US press related to the influence of certain Russian circles in President Trump’s power teams. But the information reveals the heights to which this person, who has been investigated by the Spanish authorities, had reached in his rise to the upper echelons of the American leader’s circle.

Now the FBI is investigating Torshin and any illegal campaign contributions he may have made to the NRA.  Better believe Mueller knows far more about this subject than the story lets on, too.

Stay tuned.

Shutdown Countdown, Con't

There seems to be little chance that parts of the US federal government will be operating on Saturday. House Republicans can't get their act together, Senate Republicans don't have the votes either, and Trump is all over the place on what he may or may not do, calling the current proposal "horrible" and saying he won't sign it.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday aligned himself solidly with conservative Republicans on immigration, criticizing a proposed bipartisan deal as “horrible” on U.S. border security and “very, very weak” on reforms for the legal immigration system.

The Senate proposal - aimed at addressing Democrats’ demands for protections for young adults brought to the United States illegally as children and dubbed “Dreamers” - fell far short of what most Republicans believe needs to happen, the president said.

“It’s the opposite of what I campaigned for,” Trump told Reuters in an interview.

The plan was presented to Trump last week by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.

Trump drew international condemnation after reports emerged that he had questioned the value of taking immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean nation of Haiti during a closed-door meeting with lawmakers at the White House last Thursday, referring to them as “shithole” countries.

Trump has denied using that word. Trump in the interview on Wednesday declined to say what specific words he used.

“I‘m not going to get into what I said, but I will tell you, it was a tough meeting,” Trump said.

Many Democrats have said they will not vote for spending legislation to keep the federal government funded past a Friday deadline without an immigration deal, and Republicans will need at least some Democratic votes to pass the funding extension in the Senate.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to try to help a deal along, but Kelly basically told them to go make tortillas or something, and it did not go well.

In a sign of the new low bar set for policy talks in Washington, several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus insisted to TPM that their meeting with Kelly never became heated or devolved into profanity. But neither did it give them a clear path forward on eleventh-hour negotiations around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“The problem is not the ability to have a cordial conversation, the problem is having a substantive conversation where we learn what the administration wants in return for saving the DREAMers,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) complained in Spanish as he exited the meaning. “I didn’t get a sense that the administration has a clear bottom line.”

Menendez added that, while unclear, the White House’s demands seemed to be “way beyond” what is realistic.

“What they want in return [for DACA] is a continuously moving target, and it continuously expands,” he said, in English. “Interior enforcement, more border patrol, a wall, asylum reform—these are the type of things we talked about for a comprehensive immigration package that covered broader 11 million undocumented people. The administration continues to seem to want everything Democrats were willing to give in the process of considering comprehensive reform just for these 700,000 young people [under DACA]. But holding them hostage to that type of view is simply not acceptable.”

In the meeting, members said, they pushed Kelly to narrow the scope of a deal, putting aside the President’s previous demandsfor terminating the diversity lottery visa program and for dramatically cutting back on family reunification programs, and focusing instead just on DACA paired with some form of border security. Kelly did not agree to this framework, the lawmakers said, though he “listened respectfully.”

At this point, Trump doesn't even know what Trump wants, so there's not going to be a deal until somebody talks the old man into it.

Meanwhile come Monday a lot of Americans are going to suffer most likely.  There's still a possibility that we could go through a short-term punt into next month, but at this point who knows.

Spiking The Storm

So the story broke over the weekend (from the Wall Street Journal, no less) that Donald Trump allegedly had an affair with a porn star named Stormy Daniels in 2016, allegations that probably would have made a difference in the election.  Affairs aren't illegal (and certainly aren't anything new in politics) but Daniels alleges that Trump's lawyers payed her a pretty large sum of money ($130,000) to keep quiet about the affair ahead of the election, which makes this a much larger deal.

This story gets a whole lot worse as it turns out news outlets knew about the affair and the payoff, and spiked the story.  And of course the biggest news outlet that knew was FOX News.

Fox News had a story at the height of the presidential election that detailed an alleged sexual relationship between porn actress Stephanie Clifford -- whose stage name is "Stormy Daniels" -- and Donald Trump, but opted not to publish it, four people familiar with the matter told CNN. 
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment to keep Clifford silent about the alleged relationship in October 2016. Cohen, Clifford, and the White House denied the report. 
The allegation of a relationship was no secret to Fox News, though. 
One of the network's reporters, Diana Falzone, had filed a story in October 2016 about an alleged sexual relationship between Clifford and Trump, people familiar with the matter said. 
Falzone had an on-the-record statement from Clifford's manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, confirming that her client had engaged in a sexual relationship with Trump, three of these people said, and Falzone had even seen emails about a settlement. 
But the story never saw the light of the day, to the frustration of Falzone, two of the people said. 
"She had the story and Fox killed it," one of the people familiar with the matter told CNN
Falzone is a reporter for Fox News who frequently covers celebrity news and issues related to sexual harassment. She filed a lawsuit against the network in May 2017 alleging gender discrimination. Fox News has denied her allegations and the case is ongoing.

It gets worse.  Falzone wasn't the only reporter who tracked this story down.  Slate's Jacob Weisberg fully admits he followed this story before the election.

Daniels said she was talking to me and sharing these details because Trump was stalling on finalizing the confidentiality agreement and paying her. Given her experience with Trump, she suspected he would stall her until after the election, and then refuse to sign or pay up. 
As an alternative to being paid for her silence, Daniels wanted to be paid for her story. She thought it might come out anyway, as one version did on the website the Smoking Gun in October 2016. (The site reported the allegation that Trump and Daniels had an affair, not that they had negotiated a settlement.) Daniels said she wanted, in her words, something to show for her experience. Another motivation to go public, she said, was her anger about Trump’s newfound opposition to abortion and gay marriage. 
I told Daniels that Slate did not pay sources but encouraged her to come forward without compensation. I proposed interviewing her on Trumpcast and writing her story. She never said yes and never said no. Late in the discussion, I asked a Slate colleague to help me verify her account. We both spoke to Daniels and to Gina Rodriguez, a former porn actress turned agent, who Daniels was using to negotiate with media organizations. I gathered that Daniels was also discussing going public on Good Morning America. At one point she considered holding a press conference in Dallas, where she lives. 
And then, about a week before the election, Daniels stopped responding to calls and text messages. A friend of hers told me Daniels had said she’d taken the money from Trump after all. I considered publishing the story without her cooperation. After all, she had never said anything was off the record. But if I did so, she would presumably disavow what she had told me, and the only people I had corroborating her story were sources Daniels herself had pointed me to. For the most important aspect of the story—the contract for her silence—I also lacked independent corroboration
Around the time Daniels went silent, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece headlined “National Enquirer Shielded Donald Trump From Playboy Model’s Affair Allegation.” That story, which was published four days before Election Day, revealed that American Media—whose CEO is Trump’s friend David Pecker—had seemingly paid Karen McDougal $150,000 for her silence. For any other politician, a scandal like this would be career-ending. But in the run-up to the election, the Journal story had little impact.

So both FOX and Slate knew.  If Daniels was actively shopping her story, it's possible other news outlets knew about the story too...but in every case it was spiked and lost in the noise.

Trump could have basically gotten away with anything in the election run up to November 2016.

And he did.  Our media helped him do just that.


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