Friday, June 8, 2018

Last Call For Pardon The Interruption, Con't

Huffington Post's Capitol Hill team asked House Republicans if they would vote to impeach Trump should he move to pardon himself for any federal crimes, and a grand total of one Republican said that they would.

Four days before Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, the Justice Department told the 37th president that he couldn’t pardon himself. Three days ago, President Donald Trump tweeted that he knows better.

Because it has the power to impeach the president, Congress might be the final backstop if Trump did pardon himself ― the U.S. Constitution says the president has full power to pardon “except in cases of impeachment.”

So after Trump’s tweet, HuffPost attempted to get comment from the offices of all 235 Republicans in the House, where the impeachment process would start. We asked a simple question: If the president pardoned himself, would they support impeachment?

We didn’t get many yes or no responses to our survey question ― just three, in fact ― so we sought out Republicans in hallways and asked them the question directly. Still, only one Republican said definitively he would support impeachment if the president pardoned himself: the libertarian-minded Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

In interviews with more than two dozen Republican members on Capitol Hill, most avoided the question.

“I don’t wanna talk about hypotheticals,” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told HuffPost. Conaway helmed the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government, ultimately asserting that it had not.

“I’m not a constitutional scholar, so I don’t know if he’s got the authority to do it or not,” Conaway said. “That seems to be a red herring to foment unrest, trouble and nonsense.”

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) also hid behind his ignorance. “I don’t want to brag, but I’m not a lawyer,” he said, noting he couldn’t answer whether the president had the power to pardon himself, and therefore couldn’t answer whether it was an impeachable offense.

A number of members delivered a variation of this line, saying they hadn’t looked into the matter seriously and therefore didn’t know if the president had that authority.

Three Republicans — Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) — all said they didn’t think the president had the authority to pardon himself, but all of them avoided the question of impeachment. Lance and Jones said the issue would go to the Supreme Court relatively quickly, and Fitzpatrick just repeated that “he’s not going to pardon himself.”

Although almost all 235 Republicans either declined to answer, or said they couldn’t answer, only one Republican said the president did have the authority to pardon himself: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

Profiles in courage from the Trump party, including from "libertarian" Justin Amash, who of course is really nothing more than a Republican who thinks he's Rand Paul with a fraction of the actual attention-grabbing power.

In other words, nobody really cares to stop Trump.  And nobody in the party that enabled and elevated him will lift a finger to do so.  The real villains in America right now?  Not Trump, as I've said time and again, he's just the metastasized tumor.  The cancer is the Republican party.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Earlier this week the story broke that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was caught pressuring witnesses to lie in his Ukrainian lobbyist money laundering case and that Robert Mueller was recommending charges be filed as a result, as if somehow Manafort wasn't already facing a couple decades in prison.  Today Mueller made those charges official for Manafort and his chief Ukrainian lobbyist sidekick Konstantin Kilimnik.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, brought new obstruction charges on Friday against President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and added allegations against a close associate, who prosecutors suspect has ties to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors said the obstruction charge relates to Mr. Manafort’s efforts to coach the stories of witnesses against him. He remains charged with money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying and lying to federal officials.

Mr. Manafort’s longtime associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, was added to the case, and was charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The charges are related to an effort by him, Mr. Manafort and other associates to have prominent European politicians vouch publicly for Viktor F. Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine, who was Mr. Manafort’s client.

Prosecutors allege that Mr. Kilimnik and Mr. Manafort tried to convince two associates who worked on the campaign involving the Europeans, whom they referred to as the “Hapsburg group,” to lie about its scope.

The new charges against Manafort are a direct result of his business associates giving up information on him to avoid prosecution.

The special counsel’s accusation this week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, tried to tamper with potential witnesses originated with two veteran journalists who turned on Mr. Manafort after working closely with him to prop up the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, interviews and documents show.

The two journalists, who helped lead a project to which prosecutors say Mr. Manafort funneled more than $2 million from overseas accounts, are the latest in a series of onetime Manafort business partners who have provided damaging evidence to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Their cooperation with the government has increasingly isolated Mr. Manafort as he awaits trial on charges of violating financial, tax and federal lobbying disclosure laws.

Mr. Manafort’s associates say he feels betrayed by the former business partners, to whom he collectively steered millions of dollars over the years for consulting, lobbying and legal work intended to bolster the reputation of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine. Mr. Manafort has told associates that he believes Mr. Mueller’s team is using the business partners to pressure him to flip on Mr. Trump in a manner similar to the one used to prosecute the energy giant Enron in the early 2000s by a Justice Department task force that included some lawyers now serving on Mr. Mueller’s team.

“Anybody who is a student of the Enron prosecution sees a very close parallel,” said Michael R. Caputo, a former Trump campaign operative, who has known Mr. Manafort for three decades and spoke with him on Wednesday. Another associate said Mr. Manafort and some of his close allies were reading a book by the conservative lawyer and commentator Sidney Powell that claims misconduct in the Enron prosecution. And Mr. Caputo, who was interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s team last month, said that “when Paul decided to fight, he knew the lay of the land.”

Prosecutors assert that Mr. Manafort’s fight included trying to shape the accounts that former business partners offered prosecutors. In court filings this week, they said that starting in late February, Mr. Manafort repeatedly tried to reach the two journalists — with whom he had fallen out of contact until recently — to coordinate their accounts about their work to tamp down international criticism of Mr. Yanukovych for corruption, persecuting rivals and pivoting toward Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. The prosecutors did not name the journalists, but three people familiar with the project identified them as Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager.

Both men fended off the overtures, which included phone calls and encrypted text messages from Mr. Manafort and a longtime associate, whom prosecutors have not named but was identified by people close to Mr. Manafort as Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a former Russian Army linguist who prosecutors claim has ties to Russian intelligence.

Instead of engaging, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Sager informed Mr. Mueller’s team of the efforts to reach them, according to prosecutors. Mr. Friedman accused Mr. Manafort of trying to “suborn perjury” by persuading him to lie to investigators, according to a declaration by an F.B.I. agent on the case.
Neither Mr. Friedman nor Mr. Sager could be reached for comment.

The prosecutors are arguing that because of these allegations, a federal judge should revise the terms of Mr. Manafort’s bail or even send him to jail while he awaits trial. Mr. Manafort, who posted a $10 million bond and has been confined to his home since October, has until Friday at midnight to respond to the prosecutors’ accusations. His spokesman brushed aside prosecutors’ allegations of witness tampering, but declined to comment on Mr. Manafort’s relationship with Mr. Friedman and Mr. Sager.

They join a growing list of lobbyists, consultants and lawyers who worked on various contracts related to Mr. Yanukovych’s government, political party or supporters and are now cooperating with the government’s prosecution of Mr. Manafort. His associates say he was most stung by the decision of his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, who served as Mr. Trump’s former deputy presidential campaign manager, to cooperate as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators

Remember, these are former Trump campaign employees saying Mueller is trying to flip Manafort, which immediately leads to the question "What did Trump do that Manafort can testify on?"

My guess is we're going to find out.

Trump Trading Blows, Con't

Donald Trump's trip Thursday to the G-7 summit in Quebec -- or as French President Emmanuel Macron called it "the G-6 plus 1" -- was such an unmitigated disaster that Trump is picking up his ball and leaving early.

President Donald Trump continued to criticize Canada early Friday morning after the White House announced he will leave the G-7 summit before its conclusion following a day of back-and-forth with fellow world leaders that foreshadowed confrontations during the meeting of the world's largest advanced economies.

Trump will be depart the summit in Quebec at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and head directly to Singapore, the site of his June 12 meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. The G-7 summit is scheduled to wrap up later on Saturday.

Before the Thursday night announcement, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada both promised to confront Trump over his recent decision to impose tariffs on U.S. allies.

Trump, in response, laid into the two leaders on Thursday evening and Friday morning over those plans.

“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”

On Friday a little after 6 a.m., he tweeted, “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!” and “Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries. If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!”

By pulling out early, Trump will skip sessions focused on climate change, the oceans and clean energy. He will also miss the traditional group-photo opportunity among fellow heads of state. The president may also miss the opportunity to host a summit-ending news conference, something world leaders traditionally do. The leader of the host nation, in this case Trudeau, also takes questions and gives closing remarks. Trump chose not to hold a news conference last year, becoming the only G-7 leader not to do so before leaving Italy, according to The Hill. He opted instead for a speech at a nearby naval air station.

The summit traditionally concludes with a joint statement spelling out the areas of agreement on the wide range of policy issues discussed. But before Trump's announcement, Macron urged the other five nations to hold strong and not let potential U.S. opposition water down their communiqué.

The 2017 statement, for example was notable for its explicit mention that the U.S. did not share its allies‘ support of the Paris Climate Accord. Less than a week later, Trump announced in the White House Rose Garden that the U.S. would be exiting the climate agreement.

Maybe the American president doesn’t care about being isolated today, but we don’t mind being six, if needs be,” Macron said, part of his plea to confront Trump head-on.

Trump is such a petulant child, and his utter failure to even remain on the same continent with the G-7 leaders, our closest economic and military allies, proves beyond a doubt that the North Korean "summit" he's heading to next week in Singapore will be one of the most comical crash-and-burn cockups in US diplomatic history.

Our isolation from the world is proceeding at a brisk pace, and clearly the rest of the planet is willing to and prepared to operate without our "leadership" anymore.  It's probably the best option given the circumstances.

Oh, and Trump's biggest complaint?

Russia wasn't invited.  They haven't been since they, you know, invaded the Ukraine and took the Crimea region.

I wonder when we get kicked out?

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