Tag Archives: spying

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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Team Trump to attack Justice Department investigators, explore pardons

As I posted yesterday, the Trump administration is seeking to discredit anyone in the chain of investigators investigating the Trump campaign and his financial connections to Russia in order to provide grist to the conservative media entertainment complex to wage a propaganda campaign against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators, for the purpose of laying the groundwork for Trump’s eventual move to a “Saturday Night Massacre” and finding someone at the Justice Department to “Bork” (fire) Robert Mueller.

Trump is also working on a “get out of jail free” card by having his lawyers explore the parameters of his issuing a presidential pardon to his ne’er-do-well family of grifters and con men, and more importantly, to himself.

If Trump is as innocent as he claims, he would be cooperating with Congress and the Justice Department to resolve this matter as quickly as possible to clear his name. He would not be going to war with his own Department of Justice. Trump is plainly behaving as a man who has something to hide.

The Washington Post reports, Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

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In Times interview, Trump foreshadows the Attorney General resigning and firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller

President Donald Trump gave a remarkable interview to the New York Times yesterday in which he signaled time bombs that will go off in the days and weeks ahead. Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions:

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

OK, two things. Sen. Sessions meetings with the Russian ambassador were not discovered and reported until after his Senate confirmation hearing, making him a potential fact witness and creating a potential conflict of interest which triggered his ethical obligation to recuse himself from the investigation. He could not have told Trump before he took the job that he would recuse himself under this timeline.

Second, Jeff Sessions serves at the pleasure of the president and has previously offered his resignation when the president expressed a lack of confidence in him. In an unprecedented move, Sessions now has been publicly undermined by the president who says he regrets hiring him. Session must resign, and he should do so today if he has any self-respect.

Actually there is a third point, Trump is expressing his view that he wanted an attorney general who would block and deflect any inquiries into his campaign’s coordination with the Russians, signaling that he believes the attorney general is loyal to him personally, and thus rejecting the independence of the Justice Department. See, Trump shows disdain for rule of law with new attacks on Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller. Update, President Trump’s Contempt for the Rule of Law.

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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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