Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Two new developments in the Mueller probe today, first, a pretty big one: new sealed charges have been leveled against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

New sealed criminal charges have been filed in federal court in the criminal case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against President Donald Trump’s former senior campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, a court record seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed.

The single page, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, does not shed light on the nature of the new charges. Its inclusion in a binder in the court clerk’s office that is routinely updated with new criminal charges signals that Mueller’s office has filed a superseding indictment replacing a previous one from last year.

Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager for almost five months in 2016, and Gates, who was deputy campaign manager, were indicted by Mueller’s office in October. They face charges including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failure to file as foreign agents for lobbying work they did on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions. Both have pleaded not guilty.

This is big, because the fact these charges are sealed are immensely suggestive of charges forthcoming against other individuals, and also neatly sticks a fork in the complaint that Manafort and Gates weren't charged with anything close to a conspiracy involving the Trump campaign.  Those sealed charges?  You want to bet somebody's scared as hell?

It also means that if Rick Gates really is turning state's evidence against Manafort, these new charges could be what he's pleading guilty to.  We'll find out eventually, but my guess is Paul Manafort is screwed...or maybe he too is now cooperating.  Mueller has been one step ahead of everyone, it seems.

That brings us to story number two today: Manafort is in a lot of trouble regardless of those sealed charges.

Federal investigators are probing whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in return for $16 million in home loans, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News. 
Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank for homes in New York City, Virginia and the Hamptons. 
The banker, Stephen Calk, president of the Federal Savings Bank, was announced as a member of candidate Trump's Council of Economic Advisers in August 2016. 
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team is now investigating whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Manafort and Calk. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the millions he had earned working for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine drew media scrutiny. Calk did not receive a job in President Donald Trump's cabinet. 
The sources say the three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, and one source said that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the deals is cooperating with investigators. 
In court filings Friday related to Manafort's bail, federal prosecutors said they have "substantial evidence" that a loan made from the bank to Manafort using the Virginia and Hamptons properties as collateral was secured through false representations made by Manafort, including misstatements of income. 
When asked by NBC News if Manafort had lobbied the Trump transition team or the White House for a position for Calk, the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Again, this has less to do with Trump and conspiracy than it does Paul Manafort being a really awful criminal who has been busted a mile wide open by Mueller, but the fact remains the same that Manafort is looking at some very lengthy prison time for all this if he's not pardoned by Trump...or Trump's successor.

We'll see.  Stay tuned.

Those Dedicated Disinformatzia Dupes Next Door

CNN looks at the people all too eager to give in to Russian interference in the November 2016 race for Trump, and finds people who would make P.T. Barnum proud to fleece.

A Donald Trump supporter who unwittingly helped a Kremlin-linked operation to meddle in American politics says he only learned of his part in the Russian plot when the FBI showed up at his doorstep months later. 
Harry Miller was paid as much as $1,000 by the Russians to build a cage that was used to depict a person dressed as Hillary Clinton in a prison cell at a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida in August 2016. 
The stunt was part of an elaborate scheme run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll group in St Petersburg, Russia with links to the Kremlin, that was designed to undermine the American political system, according to a new federal indictment. The agency and thirteen Russian nationals associated with it were named in the indictment, which was made public by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office on Friday. 
In early August 2016, the indictment says, the Internet Research Agency began reaching out to Trump supporters in Florida to organize a statewide "flashmob" that it dubbed "Florida goes Trump." 
The group used its "Being Patriotic" Facebook page, which was designed to look like it was run by real Americans, along with Instagram and Twitter accounts, to organize and publicize the event. 
The people behind the "Being Patriotic" page reached out to Miller, a vocal Trump supporter who lived in Florida at the time. Miller agreed to build a cage on the back of his flatbed truck and was paid somewhere between $500 and $1,000 to cover the cost of materials, he told CNN. 
Miller said he had multiple phone calls with people from the group. He noticed that a man with whom he spoke did not speak English fluently, he told CNN, but assumed he was speaking to a first-generation immigrant who supported Trump. 
Miller posted pictures on social media that show the cage, and a man and woman dressed as Bill and Hillary Clinton in it, during the August 2016 West Palm Beach event.

Miller was duped, though.  He was an unwitting participant in international espionage!

But he sure wanted to lock that Clinton bitch up, didn't he?  He had no problem with that.  Our Russian friends knew exactly who would be receptive to their message, so much so that an outside observer would wonder if the Russians had very willing help from this side.

That's going to be the real story now that Mueller has established the Russian conspiracy existed.  Who helped them unwittingly, and who gladly assisted them?

The Pope Of Kentucky, Con't

Back in December I talked about the awful case of state Rep. Dan Johnson, a long-time fire-and-brimstone Kentucky preacher who instead of facing charges of sexual assault of a member of his congregation, he drove to a bridge and shot and killed himself instead

Last night Kentucky voters in Bullitt County elected Johnson's replacement to the State House, in a county where Donald Trump won in 2016 by 49 points.  The Democrat who ran against Johnson in 2016, Linda Belcher, lost narrowly to Johnson then.

This time around Belcher took on Johnson's widow, Rebecca Johnson.  And last night, Linda Belcher won by 36 points.  Today, Johnson is claiming massive voter fraud cost her the election.

An hour after being defeated by Linda Belcher in a special election in Bullitt County Tuesday night, a spokesman for Rebecca Johnson said she is claiming voter fraud.

"The big story out of Bullitt County appears to be voter fraud," David Adams, Johnson's campaign manager said in a text message.

Belcher secured 68.45 percent of the vote, according to the Bullitt County Clerk's office. Rebecca Johnson, Dan Johnson's widow, secured 31.55 percent. There were 4,947 votes cast.

Johnson, however, claims that numerous people were turned away as being ineligible to vote at their local polling place.

"I've heard from people all day long saying they went to vote for me at the correct polling place and were refused the opportunity to vote," Johnson said in a statement. "It's like we are in a third world country."

The Bullitt County Clerk's Office did not respond to a request for comment after the election results were announced.

Let me tell you something about Bullitt County, Kentucky, guys. The notion that a Republican would have been turned away from a polling place here trying to vote for the widow of Dan Johnson is about as realistic as Betty White sprouting two extra pairs of arms and becoming the world's best mountain climber.

We'll see where this goes, but for Belcher to win by 36 points here is a massive shift.  And if that's any indication as to how voting will go in November, Republicans need to be terrified.

It means every red seat where a Democrat is challenging the GOP is in play.  Every one of them.

Let's go.


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