Friday, September 7, 2018

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

Three for the Friday Night Mueller News Dump™ file, first up, George Papadopoulos got a light sentence plea deal for his role in the Trump collusion mess for lying to the FBI.

A once low-profile foreign policy campaign adviser whose offhand remark in a London bar in May 2016 helped trigger an FBI counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign was sentenced to 14 days incarceration Friday by a federal judge in Washington.

George Papadopoulos, 31, pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about key details of his conversations with a London-based professor who had told him the Russians held dirt, in the form of thousands of emails, on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos tried futilely for months to arrange a meeting between top campaign aides and Russian officials.

In asking the court for leniency, Papadopoulos said he made “a terrible mistake, for which I have paid a terrible price, and am deeply ashamed,” and that he was motivated to lie to the FBI try to “create distance between the issue, myself, and the president.”

In hindsight, he said in court, he recognizes that was wrong and “might have harmed the investigation.”

Papadopoulos’s attorney, Thomas M. Breen, went further, saying “the President of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” by calling the investigation fake news and a witch hunt.

It seems like small potatoes, but in reality George was a small potato.  Like it or not, Mueller has bigger fish to deal with, like Paul Manafort.

Paul Manafort’s lawyers have talked to U.S. prosecutors about a possible guilty plea to avert a second criminal trial set to begin in Washington this month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted of bank and tax fraud last month in a Virginia federal court. He’s accused in Washington of financial crimes including conspiring to launder money, as well as acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and obstructing justice.

The negotiations over a potential plea deal have centered on which charges Manafort might admit and the length of the sentence to be recommended by prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person familiar with the matter said. Manafort, 69, already faces as long as 10 years in prison under advisory sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case.

By pleading guilty, Manafort could avoid the risk of a longer prison term if he’s convicted at a second trial, as well as the threat of forfeiting several properties and financial accounts. He could also save the cost of paying lawyers to defend him at trial. Such white-collar criminal cases can cost defendants millions of dollars.

The talks may break down without a deal, but if they succeed, they could prompt Mueller to request a reduced sentence in both the Washington and Virginia cases. It’s not clear whether Manafort might cooperate in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the person. Trump, who said he was “very sad” after Manafort’s conviction, could still pardon him.

This could be Manafort fishing for a pardon now, but it's a dangerous game, ask Michael Cohen, who's going to be in jail for quite some time, about that.  Still, Republicans probably want the Manafort trial to go away ASAP rather than a long drawn out trial smack in the middle of midterm campaigns, and Manafort knows it.

We'll see if the deal happens soon.

And speaking of Cohen, the campaign finance probe is apparently far from over.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether anyone in the Trump Organization violated campaign-finance laws, in a follow-up to their conviction last month of Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The inquiry, not previously reported, shows that the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office doesn’t intend to stand down following the guilty plea from Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. Manhattan prosecutors are working on a parallel track to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with examining Russian interference in the presidential election and who is referring other matters as they arise to appropriate sections of the Justice Department.

Representatives of the prosecutors in New York declined to comment, while officials for the Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to several requests for comment.

Among other crimes, Cohen admitted to violating campaign finance laws. He acknowledged that he paid off a woman who claimed to have had an affair with the president, saying he did it at the direction of the candidate himself and that Trump’s company then repaid him. Notably, the president said the next day that Cohen’s acts weren’t a crime. Whether others in Trump’s orbit were complicit -- steering money to benefit his campaign without making proper disclosures or by exceeding federal limits -- is not yet clear. No one else has been charged.

Again, more charges ill be coming from this, and it won't be Mueller running the probe.  Trump can't shut down everything without proving his guilt and causing a massive headache for Republicans going forward.

Stay tuned.  This is all far, far from over.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Earlier this week I talked about Denmark's Danske Bank, facing a massive scandal involving Russian money laundering through its tiny Estonian branch.  It turns out however that the $30 billion in rotten rubles was really more like $150 billion or more, as the scandal has exploded into a full-blown international incident.

Investigators at Denmark’s largest bank are studying around $150 billion of transactions that flowed through its Estonian outpost between 2007 and 2015 as part of an internal money-laundering probe, according to people familiar with the matter.

Much of that figure, which dwarfs Estonia’s total deposits, came from companies with ties to Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Danske Bank A/S has been criticized by its regulator for lax oversight of illicit money flows. The bank’s investigators haven’t determined if all $150 billion handled by non-Estonian entities should be deemed suspicious. But such a large flow of money suggests that roughly $8 billion of suspected money-laundering transactions previously reported by a Danish newspaper could grow higher.

Shares in the bank traded down more than 7% on Friday after The Wall Street Journal reported on the scope of the investigation.

The $150 billion figure, which has been presented to the bank’s board of directors, is a substantial sum considering Estonia’s entire banking system reports total deposits of €17 billion ($19 billion). Even in the context of Russia, the suspected source of some of the funds, the figure would represent more than a year’s worth of the country’s corporate profits. The flows would have stayed in the branch for only a short time before leaving Estonia, according to a person familiar with the investigation, so wouldn’t fully show up in official statistics.

“Any conclusions should be drawn on the basis of verified facts and not fragmented pieces of information taken out of context,” Danske Bank Chairman Ole Andersen said in a statement. “As we have previously communicated, it is clear that the issues related to the portfolio were bigger than we had previously anticipated.” The bank says the results of its probe are being finalized.

Danske’s Estonian branch is the subject of criminal investigations in Denmark and Estonia, prosecutors in the countries said. The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority reprimanded the bank for weak controls in May and ordered Danske to hold about $800 million more in capital, but didn’t issue a fine.

The problems at Danske highlight the growing concern among authorities about how illicit money flows—especially from Russia—are channeled through European-regulated banks to the West.

Shell companies, including many registered in the U.K., controlled most of the accounts in question, and many of the accounts had links to people in Russia and former Soviet Union countries, people familiar with the matter said. The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority isn’t probing the bank, according to a person familiar with the matter.

I bet that's going to change.  And again, I bet Robert Mueller is taking a long, hard look at that 2007-2015 period too, especially the last three years.

Don't be surprised if some familiar names come up in this investigation.

Deportation Nation, Con't

The Trump regime is now officially pursuing permanent detainment of undocumented minors, so as the country wrestles with Trump's fitness for office and phantom op-eds, America's official policy will soon be kids in cages, all day, every day.

The Trump administration took the first official step Thursday toward withdrawing from a court agreement limiting the government’s ability to hold minors in immigration jails, a move that could lead to the rapid expansion of detention facilities and more time in custody for children.

The changes proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would attempt to terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement, the federal consent decree that has shaped detention standards for underage migrants since 1997.

The maneuver is almost certain to land the administration back in court, while raising the odds that the government eventually could petition the Supreme Court to grant the expanded detention authority lower courts have denied.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee, who oversees the Flores agreement, has rejected the government’s requests to extend the amount of time migrant children can be held in immigration jails beyond the limit of 20 days. The administration’s new proposal does not set limits on the amount of time children could be held in detention. Rather, it seeks the authority to hold migrant children and their parents until their cases have been adjudicated, a process that could take months.

DHS officials said the change would not undermine the protections mandated by the court agreement, but would instead fully implement them as a set of formal policies to ensure migrant children are treated “with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,” according to a statement.

“Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “This rule addresses one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration and allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress.”

Because permanent detainment of children as immigration criminals is "in their best interest".


There is cartoonishly evil, and there is locking up kids for the crime of existing in America.  Will the rest of the world continue to overlook our obvious human rights crimes, or will somebody finally stand up to America and take action?


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