Thursday, February 28, 2019

Last Call For Kim's Inconvenience

Donald Trump's dog and pony show in Vietnam collapsed completely as he walked away from the summit table with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un having earned nothing.

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

He said Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility if the United States lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation — but would not commit to do the same for other elements of its weapons program. That, Mr. Trump said, was a dealbreaker.

“It was about the sanctions,” Mr. Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”

The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock, with the North retaining both its nuclear arsenal and facilities believed to be producing additional fissile material for warheads.

It also represents a major setback at a difficult political moment for Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as a tough negotiator capable of bringing adversaries into a deal and had made North Korea the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency.

Even as the talks began, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, was delivering dramatic and damaging testimony in Congress, accusing him of an expansive pattern of lies and criminality.

There's that.  Trump ran away because he had to get back to Washington and deal with the absolute disaster that the Cohen testimony was for him and his family.  They are all going to prison and for a very long time.

Trump will still spin this as a victory, his rabid fanbase will call him brilliant for being "brave" and walking away from a summit that he never could have made an agreement on, but even Trump appeared deflated on this.

He knows he has a much, much bigger problem to deal with back home.

Bibi Busted Big Time, Con't

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing three major bribery and corruption cases, and with early national elections that he called for just 40 days away, Bibi figured any possible indictments for a sitting PM would never come as he could say they were a direct effort to interfere in an election.  He figured he had another term as Prime Minister in the bag.

Today he found out just how wrong he was.

Israel's attorney general announced Thursday that his office had indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges after a two-year investigation.

The prime minister faces one count of bribery and two counts of fraud and breach of trust.

Police have previously recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases.

Police recommended an indictment in the case based on evidence collected that confidants of Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Elovitch to receive positive press coverage on Bezeq's popular subsidiary news site, Walla. Police have said their investigation concluded that Netanyahu and Elovitch engaged in a "bribe-based relationship."

Police also recommended charges be brought against Elovitch, members of his family and members of his Bezeq management team.

Police have previously recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. One involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends, and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.

Netanyahu, 69, who is serving his third consecutive term as prime minister and his fourth overall, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and called the various allegations against him a witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.

The attorney general's decision to publish his conclusions 39 days prior to the general election on April 9 is raising questions about what impact it can have on the outcome of the vote.

Israeli media reported Thursday that with just hours to go before Mandelblit's anticipated decision to indict Netanyahu, his Likud Party filed a petition to the Supreme Court to stop the announcement from happening before the election on the grounds that it would unfairly impact on Netanyahu's prospects of re-election. However, the court's spokesperson confirmed later in the afternoon that the petition was rejected.

The indictment marks the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime

It'll be years before the case will be heard, of course.  But an indicted politician running for leader of Israel is probably not going to be very successful.  This puts the future of Israel very much up in the air.  There's no way Bibi resigns, he's too much of an ass.

Where does Israel go from here?  We'll see.  Uncharted territory for sure.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Michel Cohen show on Wednesday delivered all that was promised and then some, as Donald Trump's former fixer implicated him in multiple criminal activities while in the White House, activities that are definitely being investigated by the Southern District of New York federal investigation into the Trump Organization.

Even if those watching didn't believe anything else he said, Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, left no doubt that he is working closely with prosecutors in Manhattan's Southern District in criminal investigations that could end up roiling the Trump presidency. Unlike the special counsel, those prosecutors have no specific mandate — they can investigate any crime that comes to their attention.

"Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?" Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois asked Cohen, in the middle of the seven-and-and-a-half hour hearing full of stunning, ugly allegations.

Cohen replied: "Yes and again those are a part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York." 
It wasn't even the day's biggest headline. Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, attacked his former boss in deeply personal terms, painting a picture of racism, deceit and immorality. He spoke about hush money payments, lies about a real estate project in Russia, an overheard phone call between Trump and Roger Stone, and potential tax and bank fraud.

But Cohen's comments about the Southern District investigations may be what figure as the most important of the hearing a year from now.

In an answer sure to be seized on by the president and his allies, Cohen said he knew of no evidence that Trump or anyone around him colluded with the Russian election interference effort. He also testified he had never been to Prague or met with Russians in Europe, refuting a key allegation by a former British intelligence officer whose dossier sketched out a Trump-Russian conspiracy.

But even as Cohen poured water on the Russia collusion narrative, he fueled the idea that Trump's biggest legal problems have to do with his real estate business, his taxes, his bank statements, and the secret payments he made to women.

The disbarred lawyer, scheduled to report for a three-year prison sentence in May, came to the hearing with a $35,000 check written to him by Trump, dated Aug. 2017, seven months into the Trump presidency. That was part of the payback, Cohen said, for the illegal campaign contribution he made by paying $130,000 to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels.

Cohen had already testified Trump ordered him to commit a felony; now he was showing that Trump participated in the alleged scheme while occupying the Oval Office.

Asked after the hearing if he believed Cohen established that the president had committed a crime while in office, House oversight chairman Elijah Cummings answered, "It appears that he did

I don't know very much about Cohen in Prague, that seemed a bit too neat to me, but there still more than enough here to have Trump and his kids sweating.  They're going to prison.  It may not be Mueller that lowers the hammer, but the SDNY folks aren't screwing around and there's nothing Trump can do to stop them.


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