Category Archives: Election Integrity

Follow the money: Probable cause Paul Manafort committed a crime

It appears that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing the lesson of Watergate: “follow the money.”

Remember how Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that he would work for free?

Yeah, that probably didn’t happen. He appears to have been paid in ways that may involve money laundering, possibly through Russian oligarchs.

Back in May, federal investigators subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign. Feds Subpoena Records for $3.5M Mystery Mortgage on Manafort’s Home:

On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home in the tony beach enclave of Bridgehampton.

Manafort’s name does not appear on the UCC filing, but Summerbreeze LLC gives his Florida address as a contact, and lists his Bridgehampton home as collateral.

A review of New York state and Suffolk County records shows the loan was made by S C 3, a subsidiary of Spruce Capital, which was co-founded by Joshua Crane, who has partnered with Donald Trump on real estate deals. Spruce is also partially funded by Ukrainian-American real-estate magnate Alexander Rovt, who tried to donate $10,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal maximum of $2,700 returned.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Trump-Putin campaign investigation

The Wall Street Journal is the first to report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has recently impaneled a grand jury in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation (separate from the Gen. Michael Flynn grand jury) indicating that the investigation has entered a new phase. Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe (pay firewall article):

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry will likely continue for months.

The Washington Post picks up the Journal’s report, Special Counsel Mueller using grand jury in federal court in Washington as part of Russia investigation:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller began using a grand jury in federal court in Washington several weeks ago as part of his probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

The development is a sign that investigators continue to aggressively gather evidence in the case.

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The obstruction of justice charges come together

There is a regular pattern to Trump administration lies. First, deny everything. Then when the facts come out that the denial is a lie, deflect and attempt to shift blame to others. Finally, when more facts come out to prove the deflection is a lie, diminish the lie by admitting that “Yeah we did it, but so what? What’s the big deal?” The important fact here is that every step is a lie and an effort to mislead. The truth is never seriously considered.

We have seen this play out with the Trump campaign’s meeting with Russian operatives last June. At first, everyone denied that they ever met with any Russians. Then when the facts came out that they did, they attempted to deflect by claiming they did not know what the meeting was about beforehand and it turned out to be a “nothingburger” about Russian adoptions. Then when the facts revealed that the participants were disclosed and that the subject of the meeting was revealing dirt on Hillary Clinton, the narrative shifted to “Yeah we did it, but so what? What’s the big deal?” Trump sycophants like FAUX News even went so far as to argue that collusion with the Russian government is not a crime (foreign contributions — including “in kind” contributions of opposition research — does, in fact, violate federal campaign laws).

Rinse, lather, repeat.

When the Trump campaign meeting with Russian operatives was revealed, Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement that left out key details (lies by omission) and sought to deflect with the Russian adoption cover story (lies by commission).  The Washington Post reported last week that Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer:

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

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Federal judge gives Trump’s fraudulent ‘voter fraud’ commission the go ahead

A federal judge on Monday cleared the way for President Trump’s fraudulent “voter fraud” commission to proceed in gathering personal data on the nation’s voters. The 35 page order and opinion is HERE (.pdf).

The New York Times reports, Judge Clears Way for Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel to Collect Data:

[Trump’s fraudulent “voter fraud” commission], which was created after the president falsely claimed that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in 2016, has come under siege from many organizations that have filed lawsuits accusing the commission of violating federal privacy laws. The judge’s decision on Monday delivered a setback to the opposition, which has objected to the commission’s expansive request for the personal and public data about the country’s 200 million voters.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed the suit, sought to stop the commission from acquiring the voter data, claiming that the panel should have conducted a privacy impact assessment before asking states for the personal information. But the judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court, said the panel did not qualify as a federal agency, so it was not required to conduct and publish a privacy assessment.

So this is a narrow ruling based on a statutory technicality, not a sweeping endorsement of the commission.

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Jared Kushner a ‘person of interest’ in the Russian digital operation

McClatchy News continues its investigative reporting into the Russian cyber war against the U.S. during the 2016 election. Previous post McClatchy News: Russia uses ‘bots’ and trolls for information war against U.S.

Today McClatchy News reports Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation:

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.

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Latest GOPropaganda talking point (defense) for Trump-Russia collusion falls apart under scrutiny

The Trump administration’s Minister of Propaganda at FAUX News, Sean Hannity, tried to distract his intellectually challenged audience from Donald Trump Jr.’s public admission that he sought to collude with the Russians through the Russian mafia’s lawyer for dirt on Hillary Clinton — look, squirrel! — with their favorite opiate, another unfounded Clinton conspiracy theory.

This latest GOPropaganda talking point falls apart under scrutiny. Philip Bump of the Washington Post reports, Exploring Sean Hannity’s defense of Donald Trump Jr.: Clinton and Ukraine did it, too:

Sean Hannity’s defense of Donald Trump Jr. during his Fox News interview on Tuesday evening began with a lengthy and muddled pastiche of ways in which the Democrats — and Hillary Clinton in particular — had behaved just as badly. Or, maybe, worse.

Trump Jr. was there, you’ll recall, to respond to questions about his having accepted a meeting with an individual who explicitly promised negative information about Clinton offered by the Russian government. That Hannity was his first interlocutor on the subject is hardly surprising; the Fox News host has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to gloss over negative news about the administration. And as the show began, he made that clear.

Hannity revisited one of the points from his introduction later in the show — a point that Trump Jr. himself had made on Twitter on Tuesday morning. What about a Politico report from January, Hannity asked, suggesting that Ukraine was colluding with the Clinton campaign to help her candidacy?

After loosely describing that Politico report, Hannity suggested that the media was ignoring it at their peril. (Was this accompanied by creepy organ music?)

“I pose this question to everybody in the media that’s forced to tune in tonight,” he asked. “Which is worse?”

The Russia-Trump Jr. issue is worse. Allow us to explain.

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