Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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

At this point, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should probably be shopping for orange jumpsuits as his business partner in New York has just flipped and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Under the deal reached with the New York attorney general’s office, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. 
The broadened scope of Mr. Freidman’s cooperation may prove worrisome not only to Mr. Cohen, who is the target of a continuing federal investigation, but also Mr. Trump. 
The president’s lawyers are already resigned to the strong possibility that the inquiry into Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That likelihood may now be greater, with Mr. Freidman potentially sharing what he knows with federal prosecutors in New York and the special counsel.

Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen’s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. 
Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, declined to comment on Tuesday. 
President Trump’s lawyers sought to distance their client from the case.

Like jujitsu, it's all about leverage. Get an advantage against your foe's weak spots, and you can turn that into a move that brings them crashing down.  Friedman flips Cohen, and Cohen turns on Trump...and that's the ball game.

Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison. 
Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he will avoid jail time and receive five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding. 
Later Tuesday, Mr. Freidman texted a New York Times reporter about the article that had been published about his guilty plea, calling it “shameful” and comparing it to a tabloid story. “Michael is dear dear personal friend and a passive client! That’s it!” he wrote. “I am humbled and shamed!” he said, adding that the guilty plea represented “me taking responsibility for my actions.” 
“I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years and now I am a felon!” he wrote. “I hate that I have been grouped in this runaway train that I am not a part of!” 
But asked if he was cooperating with the authorities, Mr. Freidman would not respond.
After Mr. Freidman’s guilty plea, his lawyer, Patrick J. Egan of Fox Rothschild, declined to comment. But earlier this year he said his client “considers Michael a very good friend and a great client.”

This guys was facing the rest of his life in the slammer, and he's getting probation and a pocket change fine because of what he has on Cohen.  And Cohen, if he's got an ounce of common sense left in his skull, will look to use what he knows as leverage to avoid a similar multi-decade stay in substandard federal housing.

And that leaves Trump, high and dry.  If Manafort and Flynn somehow don't bring Trump down, Cohen definitely will, as the evidence of Cohen's wrongdoing continues to pile up.

Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved. 
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law. 
The meeting at the White House was last June. 
Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House. 
Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks". 
This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help. 
He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000. 
There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.

Now, how happy do you think Donald is going to be there when he realizes Cohen made 400 grand and didn't cut him in on the finders' fee?  What else is Cohen doing that Trump didn't know about?

Stay tuned.

The Path For McGrath

Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath was victorious yesterday in her primary against Louisville Mayor Jim Gray, and as Mother Jones election correspondent Tim Murphy reports, the reason is because she was able to sweep all the rural counties along the Bourbon Trail.

In the end, it happened just like Amy McGrath said it would. When I asked the recently retired Marine Corps fighter pilot last month why she thought she had a shot at winning the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, she pulled out a map and started highlighting the counties surrounding Lexington, the district’s population hub. 
“We’ve got to get somebody that can get these counties back—I can do that,” she said. “Everywhere I go, all these counties are hugely patriotic—huge fans of military and service—and there’s an instant connection there. I’m not gonna be able to win them all, maybe, but people are listening to me in ways that they’re not going to listen to Jim Gray.” 
Gray, the mayor of Lexington, was her seemingly formidable opponent. The wealthy, popular, former US Senate candidate had been encouraged to run—much to McGrath’s frustration—by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, DC.

But McGrath’s campaign believed turnout would spike in the rural counties because of local races for offices like jailer and judge. So she invested heavily in rural field offices, billboards, and advertisements in small-town weekly newspapers. She mailed out a 32-page economic plan that leaned hard on the rural development—everything from broadband access to turning tobacco into a bio-fuel. When the results came in on Tuesday night, McGrath won her primary by 8 points, winning everything but Lexington. 
And then something funny happened. McGrath, who had spent much of the last six months trashing the DCCC, was suddenly being promoted as one of the organization’s rising stars. DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, heralded McGrath as “battle-tested in more ways than one” and stated that “there is no question that Amy can flip this district.” It pushed out an internal poll showing McGrath leading the Republican incumbent, Andy Barr, by 15 points. 
This is how Washington-based campaign committees say, “Uh…sorry?” 
It was a pretty good metaphor for how the much-hyped Democratic civil war has gone so far this year. In races across the country, outsider candidates have turned the DCCC into a piƱata, accusing the national organization of butting into primaries and picking winners and losers. But it’s not always so clear cut.

It's not, but there's two factors here: one, McGrath is yet another Democratic veteran running on their service record, in McGrath's case, as America's first female Marine F-18 combat fighter pilot.  Veterans do well in rural America, especially in the Midwest, and the one thing Democrats have done well this cycle is recruit veterans from all walks of life and all branches of the Armed Services.

Second, the DCCC is still terrible and Ben Ray Lujan is only slightly less incompetent than Steve Israel was before him.  McGrath should steer clear of letting them try to run her campaign, because they will definitely try to take over.  She knows what she's doing, and she knows how to win in this district.

I only wish she was running in KY-4 instead of Seth Hall, but I'd take a moldy ham sammich over Thomas Massie at this point.

Primary Motivations, Con't

Last night's primaries made for some interesting results here in Kentucky, with two big national stories.  First, in KY-6, Amy McGrath easily defeated Lexington Mayor and former Senate candidate Jim Gray, winning every county in the district except for Gray's home of Fayette.

Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath surged to victory over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, setting up a November election that will attract national money and attention as Democrats try to make Kentucky part of a possible blue wave in 2018.

"Can you believe this?" McGrath asked the crowd at her victory party in Richmond. "What happened tonight was amazing. I couldn't be more humbled and more honored to be standing here tonight as your nominee."

She is a candidate who fits the Democratic moment. The former fighter pilot — the first woman Marine to fly into combat in an F-18 — is a political newcomer at a time Democrats across the country are looking for a fresh response to the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

There are no women in Kentucky's congressional delegation.

Gray was widely perceived as the front-runner when he entered the race last December after months of encouragement from national Democrats. That encouragement was quickly used by McGrath’s campaign to paint Lexington's first openly gay mayor as the establishment candidate, a definition he was never able to shake.

Andy Barr, R-Lexington, coasted to victory over his primary opponent, Chuck Eddy, a self-defined moderate Republican who ran a limited campaign, setting up what’s expected to be a competitive and expensive general election in the fall.

A truly competitive House race in Kentucky is pretty amazing stuff, especially in an R+9 district.  It won't be an easy battle for McGrath but I honestly think she has a real shot, especially if Lexington turns out to support her.

As far as the General Assembly, looks like Kentucky will be getting a new House Majority Leader either way.

As upset teachers across Kentucky Tuesday tried to flex their political muscle, Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House, according to unofficial results.

Brenda tried in the Republican primary election for the 71st House District seat to capitalize on teacher anger against legislators who backed a controversial pension bill in this year's law-making session. It was Brenda's first bid for public office.

Shell, a farmer who has occupied the seat since 2012 and had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as a potential rising star in the GOP, played a prominent role in handling the pension bill in the legislature.

The measure sparked a backlash of frustration by thousands of teachers who held protests at the Capitol.

An ebullient Brenda said Tuesday night that Shell called him about 8:10 to congratulate him. "He was very gracious," said Brenda.

Brenda said he had to thank God fiirst and then all his supporters. He said he not only got help from teachers but from state workers who were upset with the legislators and Gov. Matt Bevin "for what they did on the pension bill."

Shell, who was pondering a bid for House speaker next year, could not be immediately reached for comment.

I'm sure Shell will be back in the future, the guy is only 30 and has a long career ahead of him in the state of trying to make people miserable.  But the teachers won a round here and took Shell out for now, and that's got to give a lot of lawmakers who voted for Matt Bevin's awful pension and tax plans pause.

The Democrat in the race is Mary Renfro, by the way.  Here's hoping she comes out on top.

Here in my neck of the woods, Democrat Seth Hall will be taking on national embarrassment Thomas Massie.

Northern Kentucky's congressman, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Garrison, hasn't faced much opposition since he first won election to Congress in 2012.

The closest the Democrats came to defeating Massie was in 2012 when Bill Adkins got within 27 percentage points.

Democrat Seth Hall hopes to do better in this solidly Republican district. He beat Bellevue resident Patti Piatt and Trimble County resident Christina Lord in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. Hall had 41 percent of the vote and a comfortable 1,000-vote lead over Piatt with 515 of the 531 precincts reporting among the 20 counties of 4th Congressional District.

Hall's victory may have come as a surprise to many Northern Kentuckians who backed Piatt. She ran a very visible campaign on social media and with mailers.

Piatt won the three Northern Kentucky counties but lost most of the rural counties. The 4th District extends from a western tip of Jefferson County in the west and goes east to Lewis County.

"We were in all the districts," Hall said. "Patti spent most of the time in Northern Kentucky. We worked every county."

Hall hails from La Grange, located outside Louisville. He served as a member of the Democratic National Committee and as treasurer for the Oldham County Democratic Executive Committee, according to the Henry County Local paper.

He has his work cut out for him. President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 39 percentage points in the district.

"Our people are going to be organized," Hall said.

It may not be enough.  This is an R+18 district that loves, loves, loves Donald Trump.  Even I hold no illusions that a blue wave will be enough to wash Massie away.

But if there were ever a year where a Democrat could get lucky, this is it.  I'll be phone banking for Hall this year and knocking on doors.

I hope you get involved in your district too, even if it's blood red like mine.


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