Saturday, February 24, 2018

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Yesterday's guilty plea from former Trump regime aide Rick Gates has led to some new developments in the Mueller probe and some familiar names now coming up in connection with Gates, his business partner and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and their years' worth of lobbying violations, international money laundering and bank fraud.

First up, Mueller leveled new charges against Manafort as a direct result of Gates's guilty plea.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is accusing President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman of secretly paying former European politicians to lobby on behalf of Ukraine.

The new allegation against Paul Manafort comes in a newly unsealed indictment made public Friday. The indictment followed a guilty plea by Manafort’s longtime business associate, Rick Gates.

The indictment accuses Manafort of paying the former politicians, informally known as the “Hapsburg group,” to appear to be “independent” analysts when in fact they were paid lobbyists. Some of the covert lobbying took place in the U.S.

The indictment says the group was managed by a former European chancellor. Court papers accuse Manafort of using offshore accounts to pay the group more than 2 million euros.

We know that Manafort and Donald Trump have known each other and have worked together for decades, and that both have always been interested in Russian and European money...the untraceable, laundered kind.  Manafort has long been a deal-maker and fixer, that's why Trump hired him to run his campaign.  If anyone could have arranged a little "help" from Moscow, whether it was money or influence operations, it's Manafort.  Gates has long been Manafort's partner in crime on the business side and he was welcomed into the Trump campaign as a result.

But there's another name that has come up as a result of Gates's plea, and that's a particular California Republican congressman who has deep ties to Putin and Russia.

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates just admitted to lying to U.S. investigators about a March 19, 2013, meeting between his boss, Paul Manafort, and an unidentified U.S. congressman. Public filings show a meeting that day between Manafort and Dana Rohrabacher, a Russia-friendly Republican congressman from California.

You'd better believe Rohrabacher is squarely in Mueller's sights, too.

Details of a March 19, 2013, meeting surfaced last year in supplemental filings from DMP International, Manafort’s firm, and Mercury Public Affairs, whose partner, Vin Weber, also participated in the 2013 meeting.

Weber and a representative for him didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lobbying that Gates and Manafort are accused of hiding included work on behalf of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Russia.

After the guilty plea on Friday, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, who has sought better relations with Russia, said: “As the congressman has acknowledged before, the meeting was a dinner with two longtime acquaintances –- Manafort and Weber –- from back in his White House and early congressional days.”

“The three reminisced and talked mostly about politics,” the spokesman said. “The subject of Ukraine came up in passing. It is no secret that Manafort represented Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine.”

Now, there's no reason on the surface for Gates to lie about meeting Rohrabacher for dinner five years ago, but Mueller clearly knew what happened at that meeting, well enough to bring charges against Gates, and well enough for Gates to plead guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI.

The larger story remains that Gates is 100% cooperating with Mueller, and everyone knows it.

His Place In Infamy

The NY Times surveyed 170 political scientists and historians on where America's presidents rank in 2018, and absolutely nobody should be surprised as to who comes in dead last.

Where does Donald Trump rank on the list of American presidents?

We surveyed presidential politics experts to sketch out a first draft of Trump’s place in presidential history.

Since our previous survey in 2014, some presidential legacies have soared (Barack Obama’s stock has climbed into the Top 10), while others have fallen (Andrew Jackson toppled to 15, out of the Top 10).

And President Trump? Let’s say that, according to the 170 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section who filled out our survey, he has at least three years to improve on an ignominious debut.

James Buchanan, who was at the helm as the United States careened into civil war, was dislodged from his position as our nation’s worst president by our current president, Trump.

His Oval Office predecessor, Barack Obama, shot into the Top 10, up from 18th in the previous survey. Ulysses S. Grant also got a bump, up seven places from 2014, perhaps owing to a strong assist from Ron Chernow’s recent masterpiece.

The biggest declines were for Bill Clinton, arguably the result of contemporary scorn for his treatment of women, and Andrew Jackson, for evolving attitudes on his treatment of Native Americans.

The survey's top 10:

  1. Lincoln
  2. Washington
  3. FDR
  4. Teddy Roosevelt
  5. Jeffeson
  6. Truman
  7. Eisenhower
  8. Obama
  9. Reagan
  10. LBJ

Hell of a thing to see Obama edge out Reagan.  We really had no idea how lucky we were to have Obama when we did.  As for the bottom, Andrew Johnson, Pierce, William Henry Harrison, Buchanan, and Trump round out the worst chief execs.

The rehabilitation of Dubya continues as well, he's up to 30 now, when ten years ago historians had him down with Buchanan and the like.  On the "greatness" score, Lincoln is a 95, where Trump is a 12, if that tells you anything.  Obama came in at 71.  Most US presidents ended up in the middle between 35 and 65.  These days Nixon doesn't even make the bottom ten.

Trump really has redefined the American presidency, hasn't he?
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