Friday, December 7, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Liar Liar Edition

So turns out Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are a really, really, really bad liars.  And now, we know what the two of them were lying about.

Federal prosecutors on Friday accused Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, of lying to them about his contacts with Trump administration officials and other issues, including his interactions with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Russian tied to Moscow’s intelligence services.

After signing a plea agreement in September, Mr. Manafort “stated he had no direct or indirect communications with anyone in the administration while they were in the administration and that he never asked anyone to try to communicate a message to anyone in the administration on any subject matter,” prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, wrote in a memo to Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

But, they said, Mr. Manafort hid information from them about his contacts with Trump administration officials, telling “multiple discernible lies — these were not instances of mere memory lapses.”

They also accused Mr. Manafort of lying about a $125,000 transfer of funds.

Mr. Mueller’s team has left open the possibility that it could file new charges for lying against Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers say he believes he was honest during his interviews with them.

Mr. Mueller’s office also filed a recommendation for the sentencing of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, alongside a scathing attack from prosecutors in Manhattan who rejected Mr. Cohen’s request to avoid a prison term and accused him of using his power and influence “for deceptive ends.”

The prosecutors sought about four years in prison for Mr. Cohen when he is sentenced next week for lying to Congress about the extent of Mr. Trump’s business dealings in Moscow, as well as for campaign finance violations and other charges.

The Manafort stuff is bad enough, but the real fun is Cohen. The Cohen filing by federal prosecutors in New York, also out today, is of particular interest because once again, it indicates that Donald Trump committed a felony.

Mr. Cohen, 52, is to be sentenced in Manhattan next week for two separate guilty pleas: one for campaign finance violations and financial crimes charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and the other for lying to Congress in the Russia inquiry, filed by the Office of the Special Counsel in Washington.

Prosecutors in Manhattan said the crimes Mr. Cohen had committed marked “a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” and though he was seeking a sentence of no jail time for providing assistance to the government, he did not deserve much leniency.

In a lengthy memo to the judge, William H. Pauley III, prosecutors wrote that Mr. Cohen was motivated by “personal greed” and had a “rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes.”

They once again emphasized that Mr. Cohen had implicated the president in his guilty plea, writing that Mr. Cohen “played a central role” in a scheme to purchase the silence of two women who claimed to have affairs with Mr. Trump, so they would not speak publicly during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the prosecutors wrote. “Individual-1” is how Mr. Trump is referred to in the document

Mr. Cohen’s actions “struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency,” the prosecutors wrote, adding that he “sought to influence the election from the shadows.”

Cohen also copped to dealing with the Russians on Trump's behalf to arrange a meeting with Putin as early as November 2015.

In November 2015, as discussions about a possible Trump Tower Moscow project were gaining momentum, Mr. Cohen told prosecutors he was approached by a Russian claiming to be a “‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation,” who offered “synergy on a government level” with the Trump campaign

The individual, who was not named, pushed for a meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such a meeting, he said, could have a “‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well.’”

BuzzFeed News reports the unnamed Russian individual is Russian bodybuilder Dmitri Klokov, who was introduced to Cohen by Ivanka Trump in a story they broke back in June.

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump's inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump's name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US’s adversaries — in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

These interactions also shed new light on Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, who is under criminal investigation and who played a key role in many of Donald Trump’s biggest deals — including the audacious effort to build Europe’s tallest tower in the Russian capital.

Ahh, but now we know from today's filing that the Klokov meeting absolutely did have to do with the election, and of course the Trump Tower Moscow project, which Cohen has now admitted to lying about.  And from the Cohen filing by Mueller, we know Cohen cooperated on matters involving "discrete Russia-related matters" and the Trump Organization, namely Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. and how they relate to the Russia mess.

This is far from over, of course.  Again, the big takeaway is Cohen in the filing saying he committed major campaign finance violations by paying hush money to two of Trump's mistresses, and that he did it with and at the direction of "individual-1" who of course is Donald Trump, and that the Trump Organization issued fraudulent invoices to Cohen for the payments.

That's conspiracy to commit a felony, guys.

Stay tuned.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

While we're waiting on the big Mueller info dump this evening involving Michael Cohen's plea deal and Paul Manafort's non-compliance in his deal, we now have a pretty good idea of what Donald Trump's last straw moment was with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, as it appears Kelly is singing along with Mueller's tune as well.

White House chief of staff John Kelly was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team in recent months
, three people with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Kelly responded to a narrow set of questions from special counsel investigators after White House lawyers initially objected to Mueller's request to do the interview earlier this summer, the sources said. Kelly is widely expected to leave his position in the coming days and is no longer on speaking terms with President Donald Trump, CNN reported earlier Friday
Kelly is the latest high-ranking White House official known to provide information for Mueller's investigation, though his interview marks a departure of sorts since Kelly didn't join the White House until July 2017. Most of the dozens of other interviews have been with people who were associated with the Trump campaign, were part of the transition or served in the early part of the administration.

The Mueller questions to Kelly centered on a narrow set of issues in the investigation of potential obstruction of justice, chiefly Kelly's recollection of an episode that took place after new reporting emerged about how the President had tried to fire Mueller. The President was angry at then-White House counsel Don McGahn about what had been reported by The New York Times. McGahn had refused to publicly deny the reporting. The special counsel wanted to try to corroborate McGahn's version of events. 
The White House counsel's office had initially fought the Mueller request. One source familiar with the matter said that Emmett Flood wanted to make sure "ground rules" were negotiated.

If Kelly is answering questions about the attempted firing of Robert Mueller as an obstruction of justice issue, then Trump knows he's dead meat, and Kelly is a fired man walking, and everyone knows it.

Stay tuned.  More on the Mueller info dump later.

The Adults In The Room Are Grounded

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is out of time and Donald Trump is out of patience as it appears Kelly is the next regime staffer staked out on the tracks for the careening Trump train to run over on the way off the cliff.

John Kelly is expected to resign as White House chief of staff in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation unfolding in the West Wing tell CNN. 
Seventeen months in, Kelly and President Donald Trump have reached a stalemate in their relationship and it is no longer seen as tenable by either party. Though Trump asked Kelly over the summer to stay on as chief of staff for two more years, the two have stopped speaking in recent days. 
Trump is actively discussing a replacement plan, though a person involved in the process said nothing is final right now and ultimately nothing is final until Trump announces it. Potential replacements include Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, who is still seen as a leading contender
The expected departure would end a tumultuous tenure for Kelly, who was brought on to bring order to the White House but whose time as chief of staff has often been marked by the same infighting and controversy that has largely defined Trump's presidency from its beginning. Many of the storms in which Kelly became embroiled were by his own making. 
CNN reported last month that Trump was considering potential replacements for several senior positions in his administration as part of a post-midterms staff shakeup. 
News of Kelly's imminent departure was first reported by Axios.

Yes, Kelly has been "fired" before, so many times it feels like he should be managing the Yankees in the 80's, so who knows if this one actually sticks.  Still, it feels like this time is the one where Trump actually does tell Kelly to hit the bricks.

Of course, Trump is also expected to announce replacements for UN Ambassador and Attorney General today as well, along with new WH legal counsel Pat Cipollone replacing Don McGahn starting Monday, so we'll see if the new "adults" fare better than the old ones.

Spoilers: they won't.


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