Tag Archives: Foreign Policy

Manafort indictment leads to Tony Podesta stepping down from the Podesta Group

Hours after former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were indicted on several counts on Monday, Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta announced that he is stepping down from his firm, the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta is stepping down from his lobbying firm, after scrutiny from Mueller investigation:

That’s no coincidence. According to a report last week by Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley of NBC News, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Manafort’s foreign work before the campaign implicated Podesta’s own foreign work.

Specifically, both Podesta’s and Manafort’s firms represented a Ukrainian nonprofit group — the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine — between 2012 and 2014. This group was attempting to improve the image of the Ukrainian regime at the time, which was pro-Russian and under scrutiny for its treatment of their domestic opposition.

The indictment of Manafort and Gates does not mention the Podesta Group by name, but according to a new report by NBC News it is “Company B” here:

A report from CNN earlier this year described how the Podesta Group repeatedly contacted the State Department about Ukraine’s 2012 election, attempting to put a positive spin on the regime’s handling of the elections. However, and crucially, they didn’t disclose the full extent of their work in federal lobbying filings until earlier this year — and per NBC, that failure to disclose has caught Mueller’s attention. (A Podesta group spokesperson emailed me last week to insist that all appropriate legal disclosures were made.)

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Trump campaign adviser pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian dangles of Clinton emails

Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian to Discuss ‘Dirt’ on Clinton:

A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence that the Trump campaign was aware that the Russian government was trying to help Mr. Trump and that the campaign was eager to accept that help.

“They have dirt on her,” the professor told Mr. Papadopoulos, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”

Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested at Washington Dulles Airport on July 27 and has since been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, records show. Mr. Papadopoulos’s conversation in April raises more questions about a subsequent meeting in June at Trump Tower, where Mr. Trump’s eldest son and senior advisers met with Russians who were similarly promising damaging information on Mrs. Clinton.

The documents released on Monday said that several senior campaign officials knew about some of Mr. Papadopoulos’s interactions with the Russians. The documents do not say whether he mentioned the Clinton emails to anyone.

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Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are first indictments in Special Counsel probe (updated)

CNN posted a cryptic report on Friday that Robert Mueller’s grand jury had issued its first sealed indictment(s), and that an arrest could come as early as Monday, or not. Not much more than this to the reporting.

This touched off a weekend of wild media speculation trying to confirm the CNN report, who had been indicted, and what are the charges.

Monday has arrived, and the New York Times reports that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, and his former business associate Rick Gates, were told to surrender to the FBI on Monday. Manafort has reported to the FBI this morning. Paul Manafort, Who Once Ran Trump Campaign, Surrenders to F.B.I.:

Paul Manafort surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning, after a person close to the case said the first charges were filed in a special counsel investigation.

The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office. Also charged was Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said.

Mr. Manafort walked into the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington at about 8:15 a.m. with his lawyer.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

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Niger is Donald Trump’s ‘Benghazi’ scandal

When four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, Republicans moved quickly to politicize their deaths and to pin blame on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration only hours  after the incident in Benghazi of sympathizing with the attackers.

Republicans also accused National Security Advisor Susan Rice of misleading the public by saying on CBS’ Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week that the attack was a direct result of a “heinous and offensive video,” and was spontaneous, not a preplanned terrorist attack.

Congressional Republicans subsequently conducted seven congressional committee investigations and issued nine reports into the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The final probe lasted more than two years and cost more than $7 million, as GOP lawmakers hoped to find misconduct by Obama, or more significantly Secretary Clinton. Those inquiries came up empty, but served Republican’s desired purpose of smearing Obama, Clinton and Rice within the epistemic closure of the conservative media entertainment complex feedback loop.

The Benghazi conspiracy theory, in a nutshell, was that: (1) the Obama administration prematurely claimed victory against al Qaida terrorist groups in Libya; (2) there was an intelligence failure that left U.S. diplomatic personnel vulnerable, and (4) the U.S. military was not in position to conduct a rescue operation.  (5) Republicans, of course, politicized the incident accusing the Obama administration of lying about what happened and what went wrong.

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First emoluments clause case gets a hearing in court

Our Twitter-troll-in-chief successfully manufactured a grand distraction of the media this past week by engaging in outrageus behavior with his “Gold Star family” scandal to stop them from reporting on subjects he does not want them to cover.

A subject the media failed to cover this past week while distracted by bright shiny objects was the first court hearing in one of the first emoluments clause cases filed against Donald Trump for his profiting off of his position as president.

Dahlia Lithwick reports, Would $1 Million in Hot Dogs Violate the Emoluments Clause?

In a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, lawyers for the Department of Justice tried to persuade Federal District Judge George B. Daniels to toss the civil lawsuit accusing the president of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign money while in office. Perhaps the high point of the morning came when a Trump lawyer conceded that if the president were to accept $1 million in hot dogs purchased from an imaginary Trump hot dog business as a gift to sign a foreign treaty, he would probably run afoul of the most obscure constitutional provision you’ve never heard of. Metaphor, meet the president of the United States.

You may recall that back in November everyone was casting about trying to find a name for the phenomenon wherein a presidential candidate who promises to release his tax returns if elected and declines to do so, then promises to divest himself of his foreign business interests from which he would profit as president and fails to do so, and then stands next to a tower of empty folders and tells us ethics rules don’t apply to the White House and he doesn’t care if you’re mad about that. You may also recall that this was around the time the word emoluments became something other than that stuff you use to keep your skin smooth and supple.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause can be found in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, and it bars anyone holding an “office” from accepting presents or emoluments from “any King, Prince or Foreign State” without “the consent of Congress.” (The Constitution actually has three separate emoluments clauses, but only the foreign and domestic clauses came up in oral arguments on Wednesday.) In the simplest possible terms, the Emoluments Clause prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. Here’s the sticky bit: We don’t have a lot of doctrine in this area because it’s never been litigated, chiefly because most presidents haven’t wanted to look like they were cashing in on the office with club fees, Chinese trademarks, and jacked-up hotel drink prices. But this president doesn’t care about any of that.

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(Update) The madness of King Donald – a ‘containment policy’ will not work

Last Thursday, President Trump told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his top generals in a White House meeting that he wanted military options for North Korea at a “much faster pace.” Mattis urges military ‘to be ready’ with options on North Korea.

On Thursday evening, Trump with a group of military families and made a cryptic comment that this was “the calm before the storm.” What Did President Trump Mean by ‘Calm Before the Storm’?

President Trump was clearly looking to make some kind of news, but about what, exactly, was not clear.

* * *

Mr. Trump summoned reporters who were still at work to the State Dining Room, where he was throwing a dinner for military commanders and their spouses.

Gesturing to his guests, he said, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

“What’s the storm?” asked one reporter.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” Mr. Trump repeated, stretching out the phrase, a sly smile playing across his face.

“From Iran?” ventured another reporter. “On ISIS? On what?”

“What storm, Mr. President?” asked a third journalist, a hint of impatience creeping into her voice.

When pressed to explain what he meant, Trump said: “You’ll find out.”

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