Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump Jr’

Bannon says under White House orders not to answer House committee

January 17, 2018

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon Tuesday refused to answer questions from a congressional committee probing the president’s campaign links to Russia, saying he was under orders from the White House not to.

Bannon was quizzed voluntarily behind closed doors by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, the first time he has testified in the probe investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in its bid to influence the 2016 US elections.

It was unlikely to be Bannon’s last such testimony: the New York Times and the Washington Post reported late Tuesday that Bannon has been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel investigating the same issue.

 

Stephen K. Bannon arrived to testify before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session on Tuesday. CreditJoshua Roberts/Reuters

That made Bannon the first person from Trump’s inner circle to receive a grand jury subpoena from Mueller in the probe, which is also looking at whether Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation.

When appearing before the Intelligence Committee, Bannon refused to answer a number of questions, citing “executive privilege” allowing the president to keep information from the public.

“Steve Bannon and his attorney asserted a remarkably broad definition of executive privilege,” Representative Jim Himes, a Democratic member of the committee, said on CNN.

“Now remember, it’s the president who has the executive privilege and so they went back, conferred with the White House, and the White House said that anything that happened, any communications that happened while Steve Bannon was in the White House or during the transition, any communications were off limits,” Himes said.

– ‘Gag order’ –

“There were an awful lot of questions we weren’t able to answer based on this novel theory of executive privilege,” he said.

The committee itself eventually subpoenaed Bannon for refusing to answer its questions, reports said. Still, he again balked after the White House was consulted, said Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee.

Bannon “got the same instruction back again. Basically, ‘we don’t care whether it’s under compulsory process or a voluntary basis — we’re instructing you, effectively putting in place a gag rule,'” said Schiff.

The unrestricted testimony of Trump’s estranged political strategist could be explosive: he had a front-row seat as chief executive of the 2016 election campaign in its final months, and as a top policy advisor in the first seven months of the administration.

An incendiary book released last week, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, quoted Bannon as saying that a pre-election meeting involving Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer was “treasonous.”

Wolff, who painted a picture of an erratic and poorly informed president, was given substantial access to the White House during Trump’s first year by Bannon.

A hard-line nationalist who sought to shake up US domestic and foreign policy, Bannon, 64, was forced out as Trump’s chief strategist in August.

His actions since then — most notably supporting the failed Senate campaign of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, but also his comments in the Wolff book — have left him increasingly isolated in conservative circles.

Last week he stepped down from Breitbart News, which he had helped make a powerful conservative force, and he lost the support of the Mercer family, wealthy conservative power brokers.

Underscoring the break, Trump said Bannon had “lost his mind” and branded him “Sloppy Steve” via Twitter.

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Steve bannon Being Questioned by House Intelligence Committee

January 16, 2018

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, the onetime close confidant to President Donald Trump, arrived early Tuesday for his interview before the House Intelligence Committee.

His interview follows his spectacular fall from power after being quoted in a book that he sees the president’s son and others as engaging in “treasonous” behavior for taking a meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

In Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of essentially betraying the nation by meeting with a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists who they believed were ready to offer “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

More recently, Bannon has said he was not referring to Trump Jr. but rather to Manafort. Wolff stands by his account.

After the book’s release, Trump quickly disavowed “Sloppy Steve Bannon” and argued extensively there was no evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and operatives tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bannon apologized a few days later, but was stripped of his job leading the pro-Trump news site Breitbart News.

Bannon last year had largely avoided the scrutiny of congressional investigators, who instead focused much of their energy on trying to secure interviews with top witnesses like Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But Bannon played a critical role in the campaign, the presidential transition and the White House — all during times now under scrutiny from congressional investigators looking for possible evidence of a connection between Trump’s operations and Russia.

Bannon recently retained the same lawyer being used by former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House general counsel  Don McGahn . Neither Bannon nor his lawyer immediately responded to a request for comment on Monday.

The House Intelligence Committee is speeding toward a conclusion of its interviews in its Russia investigation. The final result could be marred by partisan infighting, which has some members discussing the probability that Republicans on the panel will issue one set of findings and the Democrats will issue their own report.

Special Counsel Mueller Weighs Seeking Interview With Trump

January 9, 2018

President’s lawyers are said to have discussed written questions instead of a face-to-face meeting

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By Rebecca Ballhaus
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 8, 2018 7:11 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Special counsel Robert Mueller has informed lawyers for President Donald Trump that he may seek an interview with the president early this year, prompting concerns within the Trump legal team over terms of the questioning, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A request would mark a major milepost in the special counsel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump associates’ ties to Russia.

In a December meeting in Washington with Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, Mr. Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, raised the possibility of interviewing Mr. Trump “soon,” but he wasn’t definitive, according to the person familiar with the matter. James Quarles, a Mueller deputy, also attended the meeting, that person said.

Some members of Mr. Trump’s legal team believe a meeting between the president and Mr. Mueller would be “gratuitous,” the person said. The lawyers have discussed accepting written questions from Mr. Mueller and delivering written answers from the president to queries that are “appropriate and respectful of the office,” the person said, adding that the talks with Mr. Mueller are in a “preliminary” stage.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on the possibility of an interview with the president.

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Mr. Dowd, who heads Mr. Trump’s private legal team, said: “The White House does not comment on communications with the Office of the Special Counsel out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”

Mr. Mueller is investigating whether any members of Mr. Trump’s team worked with Russia in what the U.S. intelligence community has said was a wide-ranging effort by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, which Moscow has denied.

As part of his probe, Mr. Mueller’s team also is examining whether the president obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI director in May, while the agency’s Russia investigation was under way.

Mr. Trump has said his campaign didn’t work with Russia, although several people in Mr. Trump’s orbit have admitted to having had contact with Russians during the campaign.

The special counsel has interviewed dozens of top White House officials and campaign aides, including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have anticipated for months that Mr. Mueller may want to interview their client as part of his probe.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains what have we learned after Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled his first two big actions in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Photo: Getty (Originally published Nov. 1, 2017)

Interviewing the president would suggest Mr. Mueller’s probe is fairly advanced, legal experts said, since prosecutors typically question the highest-profile figures in any investigation toward the end of a probe, after they have conducted interviews with other witnesses.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly chafed at any suggestion that he is a target of the special counsel’s probe. “Everybody tells me I’m not under investigation,” he said on Saturday at Camp David in Maryland.

Also on Saturday, Mr. Trump suggested he would be willing to meet with Mr. Mueller in person. Asked whether he was committed to meeting the special counsel’s team “personally” if asked to do so, Mr. Trump said, “Yeah. Just so you understand…there’s been no collusion, there’s been no crime.”

He added: “[W]e have been very open.…But you know, it’s sort of like, when you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s be open and get it over with.”

In June, after Mr. Comey testified to Congress that Mr. Trump had asked him to ease off of investigating former national security adviser Mike Flynn, Mr. Trump said he would be “100%” willing to testify under oath that that didn’t happen, and he also said he would consent to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller.

Two Trump campaign advisers have pleaded guilty to lying to FBI about their contacts with Russia, including Mr. Flynn. The Mueller team has indicted two other campaign officials, including Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, for alleged financial misdeeds in work that predated the campaign.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have met several times with Mr. Mueller’s team in recent months, and last summer submitted memos arguing that Mr. Trump didn’t obstruct justice because the president has the inherent authority under the constitution to hire and fire as he sees fit.

There is precedent for sitting presidents to interview with prosecutors. President Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in 1998 amid independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of sexual harassment by the president.

The discussions about a possible Trump interview with the special counsel were earlier reported by NBC on Monday.

Former prosecutors said they were skeptical that Mr. Mueller’s team would be satisfied by a written question-and-answer with Mr. Trump but said the special counsel would likely seek to reach an agreement with the president’s lawyers rather than trying to force him to sit for an interview.

“There is no chance in the world that any prosecutor would agree” to a written question-and-answer session, said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and an expert in government investigations.

Mr. Mueller can’t compel Mr. Trump to testify, Mr. Zeidenberg said. Since the president’s actions are being investigated in the obstruction-of-justice probe, Mr. Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions that could incriminate him, he said, but most presidents would be reluctant to do so given the appearance issues surrounding such a move.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been urging a speedy conclusion of Mr. Mueller’s probe and have repeatedly asserted that the elements of the investigation that involve the president would conclude quickly. For much of last year, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said the Mueller probe would wrap up by the year’s end, if not sooner. More recently, amid news of indictments and guilty pleas from four Trump campaign aides, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have said the date could stretch to the end of January.

The White House said last month that Mr. Mueller had concluded his interviews with administration officials.

Outside legal experts, meanwhile, have expressed skepticism that Mr. Mueller is nearing the end of his broad investigation. “If this wraps up by the end of 2018, I’d be amazed,” said Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at New York University.

Mr. Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation is also examining Mr. Trump’s decision last year to direct White House counsel Don McGahn to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. Mr. Sessions ultimately did recuse himself from the probe, and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Mr. Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation in May.

Mr. Mueller is also examining Mr. Trump’s role in Donald Trump Jr.’s response to revelations last July about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin. The meeting was arranged by the president’s eldest son and was attended by top campaign aides, including Mr. Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. When news of the meeting first emerged, the younger Mr. Trump said it focused only on adoptions. He later said he took the meeting after being promised damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

—Peter Nicholas contributed to this article.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/special-counsel-mueller-weighs-seeking-interview-with-trump-1515445766

Everyone in Trumpworld Knows He’s an Idiot

January 5, 2018

President Trump is furious about a new book set for release Friday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

One of the more alarming anecdotes in “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s incendiary new book about Donald Trump’s White House, involves the firing of James Comey, former director of the F.B.I. It’s not Trump’s motives that are scary; Wolff reports that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were “increasingly panicked” and “frenzied” about what Comey would find if he looked into the family finances, which is incriminating but unsurprising. The terrifying part is how, in Wolff’s telling, Trump sneaked around his aides, some of whom thought they’d contained him.

“For most of the day, almost no one would know that he had decided to take matters into his own hands,” Wolff writes. “In presidential annals, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey may be the most consequential move ever made by a modern president acting entirely on his own.” Now imagine Trump taking the same approach toward ordering the bombing of North Korea.

Wolff’s scabrous book comes out on Friday — the publication date was moved up amid a media furor — but I was able to get an advance copy. It’s already a consequential work, having precipitated a furious rift between the president and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who told Wolff that the meeting Donald Trump Jr. brokered with Russians in the hope of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” On Thursday the president’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it stop publication, claiming, among other things, defamation and invasion of privacy. This move would be fascistic if it weren’t so farcical. (While some have raised questions about Wolff’s methods, Axios reports that he has many hours of interviews recorded.)

There are lots of arresting details in the book. We learn that the administration holds special animus for what it calls “D.O.J. women,” or women who work in the Justice Department. Wolff writes that after the white supremacist mayhem in Charlottesville, Va., Trump privately rationalized “why someone would be a member of the K.K.K.” The book recounts that after the political purge in Saudi Arabia, Trump boasted that he and Kushner engineered a coup: “We’ve put our man on top!”

But most of all, the book confirms what is already widely understood — not just that Trump is entirely unfit for the presidency, but that everyone around him knows it. One thread running through “Fire and Fury” is the way relatives, opportunists and officials try to manipulate and manage the president, and how they often fail. As Wolff wrote in a Hollywood Reporter essaybased on the book, over the past year, the people around Trump, “all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”

According to Wolff, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, called Trump an “idiot.” (So did the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, though he used an obscenity first.) Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, compares his boss’s intelligence to excrement. The national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, thinks he’s a “dope.” It has already been reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” which he has pointedly refused to deny.

And yet these people continue to either prop up or defend this sick travesty of a presidency. Wolff takes a few stabs at the motives of Trump insiders. Ivanka Trump apparently nurtured the ghastly dream of following her father into the presidency. Others, Wolff writes, told themselves that they could help protect America from the president they serve: The “mess that might do serious damage to the nation, and, by association, to your own brand, might be transcended if you were seen as the person, by dint of competence and professional behavior, taking control of it.”

This is a delusion as wild, in its own way, as Trump’s claim that the “Access Hollywood” tape was faked. Some of the military men trying to steady American foreign policy amid Trump’s whims and tantrums might be doing something quietly decent, sacrificing their reputations for the greater good. But most members of Trump’s campaign and administration are simply traitors. They are willing, out of some complex mix of ambition, resentment, cynicism and rationalization, to endanger all of our lives — all of our children’s lives — by refusing to tell the country what they know about the senescent fool who boasts of the size of his “nuclear button” on Twitter.

Maybe, at the moment, people in the Trump orbit feel complacent because a year has passed without any epic disaster, unless you count an estimated 1,000 or so deaths in Puerto Rico, which they probably don’t. There’s an old joke, recently cited by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, that describes where we are right now: A guy falls from a 50-story building.  As he flies by the 25th floor, someone asks how it’s going. “So far, so good!” he says.

Eventually, we’ll hit the ground, and assuming America survives, there should be a reckoning to dwarf the defenestration of Harvey Weinstein and his fellow ogres. Trump, Wolff’s reporting shows, has no executive function, no ability to process information or weigh consequences. Expecting him to act in the country’s interest is like demanding that your cat do the dishes. His enablers have no such excuse.

Trump Lawyer Demands Book Critical of President Be Shelved

January 4, 2018

Attorney wants publisher Henry Holt to halt publication of book with critical anecdotes of the White House and Trump’s family

Trump Lawyer Demands Book Critical of President to Be Shelved

Michael Wolff

WASHINGTON—A lawyer for President Donald Trump on Thursday demanded the author and publisher of a new book featuring scathing criticism of the White House halt its publication and apologize to the president.

In a letter to author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co., Charles Harder said the book contained “numerous false and/or baseless statements,” though it didn’t specify any. He threatened legal action for defamation, invasion of privacy, and other claims.

Mr. Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”—excerpts of which were published in New York Magazine on Wednesday—features personal criticism of the president and some of his top advisers, including several family members. It extensively quotes former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who called a June 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and aired concerns that missteps by aides could lead to legal jeopardy for the president. The book is set to be published on Jan. 9.

President Trump and his onetime chief strategist Steve Bannon are feuding over revelations from a new book in which Mr. Bannon is quoted as saying that a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and some Russian representatives was “treasonous.” WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains the implications of the rift. Photo: Getty

“Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book, the article, or any excerpts or summaries of either of them,“ Mr. Harder wrote, ”and that you issue a full and complete retraction and apology to my client as to all statements made about him in the book and article that lack competent evidentiary support.”

Mr. Wolff and a spokesman for Henry Holt didn’t immediately return a request for comment. A person familiar with the publishing house’s thinking said it stands by the book.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump issued a statement repudiating Mr. Bannon, who he said had “lost his mind,” and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the book was “filled with false and misleading accounts.”

Later that day, Mr. Harder sent a letter to Mr. Bannon demanding that he “cease and desist”making disparaging statements to the news media about Mr. Trump and his family. The attorney wrote that Mr. Bannon had violated the terms of his employment agreement with the Trump campaign by making the comments. The letter called on Mr. Bannon to confirm within 24 hours that he would comply with the demands. In Thursday’s letter, Mr. Harder said: “Remedies include substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.”

Mr. Bannon declined to comment on the letter.

In Thursday’s letter, Mr. Harder ordered Mr. Wolff and his publisher to provide the full text of the book and to preserve documents related to the book and its publication. He asked that the letter’s recipients confirm by Friday that they would comply with his demands.

Last year, Mr. Harder represented First Lady Melania Trump in a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail, which agreed to pay Ms. Trump unspecified damages after republishing allegations that she “provided services beyond simply modeling” when working as a model in the 1990s. The Daily Mail said it accepted the allegations were “not true.”

In recent years, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have often threatened legal action and not followed through. In 2016, he threatened to sue the New York Times for publishing articles about his tax returns and about accusations of sexual assault against him. He also threatened to sue the women accusing him of sexual assault, whose allegations he has denied.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-demands-book-critical-of-president-to-be-shelved-1515083851

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Revelations in book could damage Trump

January 4, 2018

By Nirmal Ghosh
The Straits Times
January 4, 2018

WASHINGTON – A furious President Donald Trump has plunged into open warfare with his one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon, accusing him of having “lost his mind” after being fired from his White House job.

The cause for the spite was Mr Bannon’s scornful comments in a new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” to the effect that Mr Trump did not really want the presidency, was campaigning for office just for the fame, and was stunned and unprepared when he actually won.

How the fallout from the book will affect Mr Bannon’s role remains to be seen. But amid the blizzard of almost salacious gossip unearthed by the author, Michael Wolff – himself a controversial figure who was apparently given free run of the White House by Mr Trump – one remark by Mr Bannon stands out.

Michael Wolff

He apparently told the author he considered a meeting the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and others had during the 2016 election campaign with a group of Russians, who were ostensibly offering information damaging to his father’s rival, Hillary Clinton, “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Although those descriptions remain Mr Bannon’s opinion, analysts say they erode the White House’s narrative that there was no collusion with any Russians during the campaign – a matter being investigated by a Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump has denounced the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, but Mr Bannon’s opinion of the crucial meeting could be awkward for the president.

The president fired Mr Bannon last August. The 64-year-old had been a cheerleader for Mr Trump’s “America First” agenda – but apparently had a tense relationship with the president’s son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner.

After being fired, however, Mr Bannon continued to champion the president while attacking Republicans he considered too mainstream which led analysts to conclude that he was, in effect, igniting a “civil war” within the party which now controls the White House as well as Congress.

“If I were the president I would be very uncomfortable trashing somebody with whom I worked so closely for so long, because who knows what else Mr Bannon might want to talk about,” independent Senator Angus King told CNN.

Mr Bannon once described himself as a “Leninist” who wanted to “bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.” When Mr Trump won the election, he said the agenda was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Mr Bannon has cultivated an image as a maverick and street fighter. Ideologically he is widely seen as a white nationalist, but he has dismissed this, describing himself, instead, as an economic nationalist. He once referred to Mr Trump as his “blunt instrument.”

His own clout however, took a dent last month when Roy Moore, the Republican candidate he campaigned for in a special election the senate seat in Alabama, lost.

“Trump’s base loves Bannon” a political analyst who asked not to be named, told The Straits Times. “But Bannon is an agitator. He doesn’t care about the party. He just wants chaos.”

The Washington Post, quoting Mr Bannon’s allies, has reported, however, that he considered issuing a statement denouncing the book and denying some of his quotes, but Mr Trump attacked him first.

And, in a sign, that he may still back down, Mr Bannon struck a conciliatory note on his Breitbart News Tonight radio show on Wednesday night, telling a caller “the President of the United States is a great man.”

“You know I support him day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump miracle speech or on the show or on the website,” he said.

How Mr Trump reacts to these feelers is anybody’s guess.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/revelations-in-book-could-damage-trump

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Bannon insists he still backs ‘great man’ Trump

January 4, 2018

AFP

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Steve Bannon described Trump’s eldest son’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is heaping new praise on Donald Trump, after the president scathingly dismissed him as insane and irrelevant for disparaging his family in published remarks.”The president of the United States is a great man,” the executive chairman of right-wing news website Breitbart told SiriusXM late Wednesday.

“You know I support him day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump Miracle speech or on the show or on the website.”

Trump reacted with outrage after the release of explosive excerpts from a new book in which Bannon described Trump’s eldest son’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” the Republican president said in a statement.

Bannon was one of the main architect of Trump’s upset victory in 2016 presidential elections, and the president’s chief White House strategist for six months.

A Trump lawyer, Charles Harder, has sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement by speaking to the author of the book.

Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says — Says look for money laundering — “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

January 3, 2018

David Smith
The Guardian
January 3, 2018

Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City.

Steve Bannon exits an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower on 11 November 2016 in New York City. Other Trump campaign officials met with Russians there in June 2016. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reportedly based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and players in and around the administration, is one of the most eagerly awaited political books of the year. In it, Wolff lifts the lid on a White House lurching from crisis to crisis amid internecine warfare, with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him.

Bannon, who was chief executive of the Trump campaign in its final three months, then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News, is a central figure in the nasty, cutthroat drama, quoted extensively, often in salty language.

He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”

The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last May, following Trump’s dismissal of FBI director James Comey, to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This has led to the indictments of four members of Trump’s inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges; Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In recent weeks Bannon’s Breitbart News and other conservative outlets have accused Mueller’s team of bias against the president.

Trump predicted in an interview with the New York Times last week that the special counsel was “going to be fair”, though he also said the investigation “makes the country look very bad”. The president and his allies deny any collusion with Russia and the Kremlin has denied interfering.

Bannon has criticised Trump’s decision to fire Comey. In Wolff’s book, obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, he suggests White House hopes for a quick end to the Mueller investigation are gravely misplaced.

“You realise where this is going,” he is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Scorning apparent White House insouciance, Bannon reaches for a hurricane metaphor: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

He insists that he knows no Russians, will not be a witness, will not hire a lawyer and will not appear on national television answering questions.

Fire and Fury will be published next week. Wolff is a prominent media critic and columnist who has written for the Guardian and is a biographer of Rupert Murdoch. He previously conducted interviews for the Hollywood Reporter with Trump in June 2016 and Bannon a few months later.

He told the Guardian in November that to research the book, he showed up at the White House with no agenda but wanting to “find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling”. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments of the fledgling presidency.

The rancour between Bannon and “Javanka” – Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump – is a recurring theme of the book. Kushner and Ivanka are Jewish. Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: “It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.”

Trump is not spared. Wolff writes that Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the president’s oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/03/donald-trump-russia-steve-bannon-michael-wolff

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Andrew Weissmann, second from left, and other members of Robert S. Mueller III’s legal team outside the United States Courthouse in Washington in September. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The target was a New York City titan — plain-spoken but Teflon, irresistible to the tabloids and insistent upon loyalty from his associates.

The defendant, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, had accumulated power as the head of the Genovese crime family, feigning insanity to conceal his guilt. A prosecutor in Brooklyn was at last prepared to cut him down, using witnesses the government had flipped.

“He couldn’t stop people from talking about him,” the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, said of Mr. Gigante, addressing jurors at the end of a career-making federal court case in 1997. “When there’s a large organization to run, you cannot erase yourself from the minds, and more important the tongues, of your conspirators.”

Two decades later, Mr. Weissmann has turned his attention to a more prominent set of prospective conspirators: He is a top lieutenant to Robert S. Mueller III on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign. Significantly, Mr. Weissmann is an expert in converting defendants into collaborators — with either tactical brilliance or overzealousness, depending on one’s perspective.

It is not clear if President Trump and his charges fear Mr. Weissmann as they gird for the slog ahead. It is quite clear, former colleagues and opponents say, that they should.

Read the rest:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/us/politics/andrew-weissmann-mueller.html

Bannon called Trump Jr.-Russia meeting ‘treasonous’

January 3, 2018

The Hill
January 3, 2018

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Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly called the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians “treasonous.”

According to a new book seen by the Guardian, Bannon said the meeting that occurred during the 2016 presidential race was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon reportedly told author Michael Wolff, referring to the investigation into the Russian election interference.

After news of the meeting surfaced last year, Bannon reportedly said: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.”

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon said, according to the book.

The quotes were chronicled in the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which is scheduled to be released next week.

News surfaced last year of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included a Russian attorney, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Last month, CNN reported that the British publicist Rob Goldstone, who arranged the June 2016 meeting, sent multiple follow-up emails later that summer to President Trump’s social media director and a Russian who was at the meeting.

Congressional investigators discovered the emails from Goldstone during a hearing behind closed doors with Donald Trump Jr. None of the emails were sent directly to the president’s eldest son, CNN reported last month.

The emails raised new questions for congressional investigators looking into the details of what was discussed at the Trump Tower meeting.

Goldstone helped set up the meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who had promised damaging material on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/367182-bannon-called-trump-jr-russia-meeting-treasonous-report

TAGS DONALD TRUMP JR. HILLARY CLINTON JARED KUSHNER PAUL MANAFORT DONALD TRUMP TRUMP JR. RUSSIA TRUMP TOWER MEETING RUSSIA

CNN Botches Major ‘Bombshell’ Alleging Contacts Between Don Jr. And WikiLeaks

December 9, 2017

By Chuck Ross

CNN misreported key details of an offer made to Donald Trump Jr. last year of a batch of stolen Wikileaks documents.

The story, which CNN published on Friday and covered extensively on TV, was touted as the first evidence that the Trump campaign was given a heads-up about documents stolen from Democrats.

But the story appears to have been riddled with errors, while also lacking key context.

Perhaps the most jarring error in the CNN report is the date on which Trump Jr. was sent the email. The network reported that a person named Mike Erickson emailed Trump Jr. and others on the Trump campaign on Sept. 4, 2016, with a link to Wikileaks documents as well as a decryption key to access them.

The email also offered access to emails that had been stolen from former Sec. of State Colin Powell, according to CNN.

But a copy of the email provided to The Daily Caller shows that Erickson sent the email on Sept. 14.

That date is significant because WikiLeaks had released a batch of stolen documents on Sept. 13. The group touted its release of the DNC documents, which were published by Guccifer 2.0.

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The email shows that Erickson messaged Trump Jr. stating that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC.”

“It is too big for me to send you by e-mail attachments, but you can download it yourselves,” he added, providing a link to the same website cited by Wikileaks the day before.

He also included a link to a decryption key that could be used to access the documents.

Michael Erickson email to Donald Trump Jr., Sept. 14, 2016.

The Washington Post first reported on the true date and wording of the Erickson email.

The site that Erickson linked to leads to a page where a file with the same file name referenced in the Wikileaks tweet could be downloaded.

Screen grab of the website linked to by Michael Erickson.

Powell’s emails were also published online on Sept. 13. DC Leaks, a group that has been affiliated with the Russian government, published the documents online. The group granted access to the documents to several news organizations, including The Daily Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Colin Powell’s Emails Hacked, Published Online)

How CNN got its report so wrong is unclear.

The article states that its information was based on a read-out of the Trump Jr. email provided by multiple sources, none of who are identified. Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, speculated on Friday that the source was on the Democratic side of the House Intelligence Committee, which interviewed Trump Jr. earlier this week.

The spokesman for the committee Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

Erickson also appears not to be a super-secret Kremlin agent. The Post identified him as the president of an aviation management company.

Attempts made by The Daily Caller to contact him were unsuccessful.

Futerfas, the lawyer for Trump Jr., said that the real estate executive received “tons of unsolicited emails” during the campaign.

“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said in a statement.

“This email arrived after published media reports disclosed 12 hours earlier that hacked documents had been posted. The suggestion that this information was not public is false.”

Futerfas blasted the House Intelligence Committee over what he says is its leak of the story.

“It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” he said.

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http://dailycaller.com/2017/12/08/cnn-botches-major-bombshell-alleging-contacts-between-don-jr-and-wikileaks/