Friday, April 6, 2018

Last Call For The Friday Night News Dump™

Friday evening, where bad news for the GOP goes to die unnoticed (hopefully they think) but it never does, of course.  Today's contestant: Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was already retiring this year after a sexual harassment scandal where he settled an $84,000 claim using taxpayer money, has now abruptly resigned from the House this afternoon.

Since being elected to Congress in 2010, I've worked to make government more efficient and responsive, cut government spending, repeal Obamacare, protect life and reduce the debt. Locally, I've worked tirelessly to get federal funding for the widening and deepening project at the Port of Corpus Christi and help our other area ports and military facilities. I've also been extremely successful in working with our communities on recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Most importantly, I've been able to help countless people, especially veterans with their problems with the federal government. 
"While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it's time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve. 
Therefore, I sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott today resigning from the House of Representatives effective at 5:00 p.m. today, April 6, 2018.

Several Republicans were already vying for his seat, and even with the midterm losses that the GOP will undoubtedly suffer this year, Farenthold's TX-27 seat isn't going to be one of them.

Which makes me wonder very much why he's getting out now.  Politico hinted a couple of weeks ago that this was coming.

Tales of allegations of misbehavior in Farenthold's office first surfaced late last year. Lauren Greene, a former aide to Farenthold, sued the Texas Republican for creating a hostile work environment, gender discrimination and sexual harassment. She said Farenthold told her he had fantasies and "wet dreams" about her. After complaining about the behavior, Greene said she was fired. 
CNN reported last year that Michael Rekola, another former aide to the Texan, told the Ethics Committee that Farenthold was verbally abusive to him. He said that the congressman suggested Rekola have oral sex with his fiancee before their marriage because it would be the last time he would be able to do so. Farenthold denied making those comments. 
Farenthold said in December he would repay the $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle the lawsuit. It is not clear if he has.

So we'll see when the other shoe drops, but it's not a real mystery: the faster he resigns, the faster he gets on board with FOX News and the right-wing gravy train. Just ask former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz.   There's going to be a flood of lame duck GOP Representatives on the market in a few months, so he's acting now.

Now that a budget bill has passed, expect a lot more Republicans to hang it up.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

More major leaks from the Mueller probe as somebody is very interested in keeping Mueller's actions in the news and publicly so to prevent a Saturday Night Massacre firing spree.  The best way to do that is to show Mueller closing on on Trump's shady business deals and money laundering schemes to keep Trump in panic mode, and so far it's working.

No new indictments yet, but plenty of additional details today on a previous indictment: Paul Manafort is in a metric crapton of trouble and almost certainly is going to flip if he hasn't already.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office moved to seize bank accounts at three different financial institutions last year just one day before former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted, prosecutors disclosed in a court filing Thursday.

The previously unknown move against the bank accounts was revealed in a list of search and seizure warrants prosecutors submitted to a federal court in Washington after Manafort's defense team complained that the government was withholding too many details about how the warrants were obtained.

The new filing also indicated that Mueller's investigators have been pressing on with their work in recent weeks despite the pair of indictments pending against Manafort and a detailed indictment in February of the Russia-based Internet Research Agency and a dozen Russian nationals for alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

On March 9, the special counsel's office obtained a search warrant for information related to "five telephone numbers controlled by AT&T," the prosecution said. It did not reveal who the numbers belonged to, although it said some information about the search was given to Manafort's defense on Wednesday, so presumably there is some connection to the veteran political consultant who held a top role in the Trump campaign for several months in 2016.

Prosecutors said some information about the various searches was withheld from Manafort because it relates to the identity of informants or "to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort." POLITICO reported in January that an errant court filing by the defense indicated that at least one employee of a Manafort consulting firm was surreptitiously cooperating with the FBI and journalists.

This is how good Mueller is at this game, it's not a leak if Manafort's defense team is requesting additional information from the prosecution in order to prepare said defense and Mueller just so happens to get that information in a public filing that just so happens to inform a whole bunch of journalists that new wiretaps have been requested, because the defense team's client just so happens to be possibly involved in charges that haven't been announced yet because they just so happen to involve a new aspect of the Mueller investigation, and that wiretap request supporting those new charges just so happened to be as recent as last month

It's all an amazing coincidence, you know.

Paul Manafort is going away for a very long time, kids.  He's in so much trouble at this point I'd have to say that the window on him flipping may already be closed.  But that would mean Mueller has a even bigger fish on the line and that Manafort's usefulness has come to an end.

You think Tangerine Tyrant Toddler is sweating yet?

If he's not, just a reminder that while Trump's long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen is currently under a lot of legal scrutiny for his conduct involving $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels, Cohen was also Trump's personal lawyer during the 2016 campaign and was apparently deeply involved in the money laundering aspect of Mueller's ongoing probe.  Meet the bigger fish...

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.

It’s unclear how many properties or deals the Mueller team might be looking at; the Trump Organization’s foreign business relationships span the globe from properties in Panama, Brazil and Uruguay to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Trump’s children — Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric — were parties to talks involving many of the dealings. Generally, the discussions revolved around licensing fees for use of the Trump name.

Prior indictments and guilty pleas secured by the Mueller team to date have focused on campaign personnel such as ex-campaign chief Paul J. Manafort, his aide Richard Gates and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The New York Times reported on March 15 that Mueller had subpoenaed unspecified records from the Trump Organization. Days before that, the Washington Post reported that Mueller’s team was looking into a Moscow hotel deal for which Cohen brought to Donald Trump a letter of intent from a Moscow developer during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen left the Trump Organization in January 2017, and has been front-page news of late because of his acknowledgement that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the November 2016 elections through a company established for the purpose of buying her silence with a non-disclosure agreement. Daniels has sought to toss out that agreement, appearing last month on a 60 Minutes broadcast to describe her alleged 2006 extramarital affair with then-businessman Trump. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One Thursday, Trump denied knowledge of the payment to Daniels, deferring to Cohen.

“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney,” Trump said. “You’ll have to ask Michael.”

Cohen and Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump's already throwing Cohen under his golf cart.  I bet Cohen wants to return the favor, especially if motivated by a long involuntary stint in decidedly substandard concrete federal housing.

I've been saying that Mueller's next round of indictments would focus on Jared Kushner, but looking at this I'd have to say that Michael Cohen may very well be the next target instead.  Having Trump's personal lawyer flip would be the golden arrow in Mueller's quiver on everything else he wants to nail Trump on, and could be an even more important get for Mueller than Kushner in the long run.

We'll see.  Stay tuned, kids.  It's gonna be a long weekend for Trump.


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