Posts Tagged ‘Paul Manafort’

Russian court extends detention of Belarussian model

January 20, 2019

A Belarusian model who claimed she had proof of Russian collusion with the Trump election campaign, had her detention in Moscow extended by three days by a Russian court on Saturday.

Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, has been held for questioning since Thursday after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course.”

Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarusian model and escort who caused a stir last year after she was arrested in Thailand and said she had evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is pictured at the immigration detention center before being deported in Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 2019. (REUTERS)

“The court has decided to extend her detention by 72 hours,” judge Natalya Borissenkova was cited as stating by the Ria Novosti news agency.

She denied the accusation of prostitution, telling the court that “I am not guilty of what I am accused,” Interfax reported.

Model Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, who was deported from Thailand to Russia after her arrest and pleading guilty to charges including conspiracy and soliciting, is escorted before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2019. (REUTERS)

In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre, Vashukevich has said she had traveled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska — a one-time associate of US President Trump’s disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort.

She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

But the material never surfaced and critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt.

Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which the US State Department described as “bizarre.”

She had been in custody in Thailand since a police raid in the sleazy seaside resort of Pattaya early last year.

She was arrested at Moscow airport on Thursday after being deported from Thailand where she had spent a year in prison for participating in a “sex training course.”

During the hearing in Moscow, she said she did not want to “in any way compromise Oleg Deripaska.”

“I have had enough,” she added, according to Interfax.

Her lawyer Dmitry Zatsarinsky, told reporters that his young client “has committed no crime” and had “nothing to do with” Deripaska and “still less with Donald Trump.”

On Friday he denounced her arrest, which happened while she was in transit from Thailand on her way to Belarus.




Needed in the Russia investigation: More skepticism of Manafort and the media (Lynch Mob Doesn’t Need a Rope, At Least Not Yet)

January 11, 2019

Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

The Russia-collusion story manages to be at once frenetic and humdrum. Apparent bombshell revelations arise but without advancing the public’s knowledge beyond a couple of truths we all knew back in 2016: First, when it comes to President Trump, the media can’t control itself. Second, Paul Manafort is no friend.

In perhaps the 1,000th “ bombshell” report on the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported earlier this week that Manafort, as Trump’s campaign chairman, had sent internal polling data to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is “close to the Kremlin.”

Washington Examiner

This revelation perturbed us. Seeing how close Manafort and Michael Flynn were to both Russia and Trump, we have kept an open mind about the investigation into collusion. We don’t know all the facts, and so we try to process all new information on its merits.

Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Yet while many media outlets — see Esquire, Talking Points Memo, and others — took the Times report as conclusive proof of collusion, we held our fire. Why? Because while we have tried to keep cool about this investigation, the largest media outlets have not. We recall ABC reporting that Flynn met with the Kremlin during the campaign. That was a “bombshell” of the first order. Except that it turned out to be false.

And so it was with the latest Times report. Manafort was sending the polling data to Ukranians, it turns out, not to Russians as the Times claimed.

Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, December 18, 2018. - President Donald Trump's former national security chief Michael Flynn received a postponement of his sentencing after an angry judge threatened to give him a stiff sentence. Russia collusion investigation head Robert Mueller had proposed Flynn receive no jail time for lying to investigators about his Moscow ties. But Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn had behaved in a "traitorous" manner and gave the former three-star general the option of receiving a potentially tough prison sentence now -- or wait until Mueller's investigation was closer to being completed to better demonstrate his cooperation with investigators. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP or licensors

Mike Flynn outside the courthouse

This incident confirmed both of our general operating assumptions on the Russia investigation: Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016. Trump wasn’t paying Manafort, which should have been a clear warning sign. Manafort was free to Trump for the same reason Facebook is free to you: You are not the customer; you’re the product. Manafort was working for Ukrainian oligarchs and other shady foreign clients, and part of the value he was delivering was proximity to the Republican presidential nominee and the information, such as internal polling, that proximity allowed him.

We have repeatedly warned Trump about this. “Manafort is not your friend,” we wrote in an editorial addressed to the president. “Manafort is a shady foreign agent who tried to exploit you. And if he had never been involved in the Trump campaign, there may not be a Russia investigation at all.”

Image result for donald Trump, Trump campaign, photos

There’s some worry that Trump has considered pardoning Manafort. At the very least, we’ve seen Trump praise Manafort. This praise is unwarranted.

Trump should turn his back on this double-dealer who has caused him so much trouble. And we all should show more skepticism of the media “bombshells” that have caused commentators and other reporters so much trouble.

Manafort filing reveals ‘collusion’ — Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

January 10, 2019

Democrats and intelligence experts from both political parties believe information that was accidentally revealed in a court filing from Paul Manafort’s lawyers could be the biggest link yet to President Trump and Russia.

Manafort, while serving as the campaign manager for President Trump’s campaign, shared political polling data with a business associate who also had ties to Russian intelligence. The disclosure occurred by accident after the court filing, which was in response to accusations that Manafort lied during his plea deal agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, was not properly formatted to block out information meant to be redacted.

After a year of lobbing accusations against Trump that he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

“Internal polling data is precious. It reveals your strengths — & your weaknesses. Why share such valuable information with a foreign adversary — unless that adversary was really a friend?” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

In this photo from June 15, 2018 Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Mike McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 under President Barack Obama and is now a professor at Stanford University, said on Twitter: “If proven, then call it by whatever c word that you want — collusion, cooperation, conspiracy — but this is serous.”

It is unclear what data Manafort shared, but the failed redactions show he allegedly gave the information to Konstantin Kilimnik, who has also been charged by the special counsel. It is also unclear how Kilimnik might have used the information.

Image result for Robert Mueller, photos

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation

The New York Times reported this week that Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in spring 2016, around the time Trump clinched the presidential nomination.

Most of the data was public, according to the Times report, “but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign,” a person knowledgeable about the situation said.

Manafort wanted the data to be sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the Times reported. Both men had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian parties that had previously hired Manafort as a political consultant.

The court filing also revealed that Manafort has been accused by Mueller of lying about discussing a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign and that Manafort also “acknowledged” that he met with Kilimnik while they were both in Madrid.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said the Madrid meeting took place in January or February 2017, after his work on the presidential campaign was finished.

But others think there’s enough information there to show that Manafort was somehow working with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“The margins the Russians needed to change in key states during the 2016 elections was pretty small. Now we know how they were able to be so precise: Paul Manafort was providing polling data to Russia,” said Steven Hall, the former chief of Russia operations for the CIA, in a tweet.

He later added: “[t]he next logical step is to tie in the fact that we know the Russians wanted to help elect Trump and hurt his opponent. It appears that Manafort and Putin had the same goal, and that Manafort was trying to help the Kremlin.”

John Dean, a White House counsel under President Richard Nixon convicted for his role in Watergate, said: “Big story. New info. Both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, Trump’s top campaign managers, transferred inside polling data to Russian intel guy Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. It’s called COLLUSION!”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee called the revelation about Manafort “one of the most significant activities of this whole investigation.”

“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real live actual collusion. Clearly, Manafort was trying to collude with Russian agents, and the question is, ‘What did the president know?’” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in an interview with CNN that aired Wednesday. “How is that not evidence of an effort to collaborate?”

He added: “If it’s true that Manafort as campaign chair shared internal polling data with Kilimnik, he was giving the Russians information that would have been useful for their intelligence operation.”

Mueller’s team will respond to the Manafort court filing no later than Monday at midnight, and there is a possibility that more details of the allegations will be revealed.

“Manafort’s lawyers’ general characterization of Mueller’s allegations about Manafort’s conduct in the context of a dispute over whether Manafort violated his plea agreement or not offers a highly imperfect window into Mueller’s understanding of that evidence and how it fits into the larger picture of interactions between the Trump campaign and the Russian state. We will not know what these tidbits mean, if anything, until we see both how Mueller characterizes them and, more particularly, how Mueller situates them against that broader pattern of interactions,” wrote Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a blog post Wednesday.


Andrew Napolitano: Mueller can show Trump campaign ‘had a connection to Russian intelligence’

January 10, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that could prove a link between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, according to a Fox News senior legal commentator.

Judge Andrew Napolitano’s remarks come after the defense team for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former 2016 campaign chairman, acknowledged in a new court filing that their client shared polling data before the election with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant to Russian intelligence, who at one point worked for Manafort’s lobbying firm. Kilimnik was indicted by Mueller last June on charges of obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness on behalf of Manafort.

Image result for Andrew Napolitano, pictures

“This shows that Bob Mueller can demonstrate to a court, without the testimony of Paul Manafort, that the campaign had a connection to Russian intelligence, and the connection involved information going from the campaign to the Russians,” Napolitano said during a Fox News segment on Wednesday. “The question is, was this in return for a promise of something from the Russians, and did the candidate, now the president, know about it.”

That could amount to a “conspiracy” if there was an arrangement to exchange “something of value from a foreign person or government during the campaign,” he said.

“Whether or not the thing of value arrives, the agreement is what is the crime,” Napolitano said.

The interactions between Manafort and Kilimnik were uncovered Tuesday when Manafort’s defense team submitted documents that were not properly redacted. The filing was made as Manafort’s lawyers continue to defend their client against allegations by Mueller that Manafort broke the terms of his plea deal.

“The part they forgot to seal was that the FBI accused Paul Manafort of lying about whether or not he gave confidential campaign polling data, at the height of the campaign,” Napolitano said Wednesday.

Manafort in September pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts, and agreed to “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” answer questions about “any and all matters” of interest to Mueller.

Donald Trump will be impeached in 2019, says expert

December 29, 2018

Scholar Allan Lichtman defied mainstream wisdom by forecasting early on that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election. In an interview with DW, he now predicts that the president will be impeached next year.

Donald Trump (Getty Images/C. Somodevilla)

The US president’s basic conduct and politics are unlikely to change in 2019, but the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, coupled with the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, will lead to the impeachment of Donald Trump, predicts Allan Lichtman.

“I think it’s more likely than not he will get impeached,” the American University professor told DW.

After previously predicting 30 years of presidential elections correctly, Lichtman became a media phenomenon when he — against mainstream wisdom — predicted early on that Trump would win in 2016.

Now Lichtman is convinced that as of 2019, and for the remainder of his term, Trump will be engaged in a fight to remain in office — a fight he well may lose.

Image result for Allan Lichtman, pictures

Allan Lichtman

Read morePost-midterm outlook: ‘It’s going to be crazy’

That’s because until now, Trump could rely on a Republican-controlled Congress to shield him from impeachment or removal from office proceedings — essentially a political trial process — which can be triggered by a single majority vote in the House of Representatives. That process has long been a hot topic among the president’s opponents in the Democratic Party and, in the wake of the midterm elections that flipped the House, Democrats will hold a solid a majority in 2019.

Impeachment becomes possible

As soon as the new Democratic-run House convenes on January 3 next year, impeaching Trump moves from theory to reality. And while top Democrats have so far routinely downplayed calls for impeachment by the so-called anti-Trump resistance movement and by lawmakers demanding a more aggressive stance against the president, the pressure to act could force the party’s leaders to pursue it.

USA Washington - Robert Mueller (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Harnik)Mueller’s investigation is going to spell trouble for Trump, says Lichtman

“If Mueller comes up with some devastating findings, the Democratic base will demand impeachment,” said Lichtman. “I think [Trump] is in grave peril from the Mueller probe.”

He added that he believes that Mueller will issue more indictments and reveal even more damaging information linking people from Trump’s inner circle to Russia, thus proving a conspiracy to rig the election and undermine democracy.

Read moreMueller files new details on Trump aides

“I can’t believe [Mueller] has been working all this time just to say: Sorry, nothing to see here,” said Lichtman. “I think there are going to be some very serious findings from Mueller directly tying the Trump campaign to the Russians.”

What’s more, he noted, it is not just the Mueller probe that Trump has to worry about. There are also the various other criminal investigations that extend down to the state level, including one by New York’s aggressive attorney general and another by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Liability for Republicans?

Lichtman is not just convinced that Trump will be impeached. He also sees an increasing likelihood that Trump will actually be ousted from the presidency, which many other political experts still consider unlikely. If the House votes to impeach Trump, removing him from office requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. Republicans still control that body by a 51-49 majority, meaning a substantial number of GOP lawmakers would have to vote to oust a president who is a member of their own party.

Read moreTrump’s ex-campaign manager ‘lied’ to FBI

Such a scenario is less unrealistic than it sounds, said Lichtman, pointing to the steady drip of incriminating information from the Mueller probe and Trump’s conduct in office that is beginning to take its toll on Republicans — a sentiment backed up by the recent midterm results. With presidential and Congressional elections in which Senate Republicans face a much less favorable electoral map than this year just around the corner in 2020, the GOP may be ready to cut Trump loose.

Nancy Pelosi (Reuters/A. Drago)With Democrat Nancy Pelosi set to take over as Speaker of the House, life is going to get much tougher for Trump

Pence, not Pelosi

“The way in which Trump could be impeached and removed would be if Republicans think he is going to drag them down with him,” said Lichtman. “They don’t have any personal loyalty to Trump. They are worried about antagonizing his base and losing Republican primaries. But if they think he is going to be a political liability, they may be willing to abandon him.”

He viewed Senator Marco Rubio’s recent remark that it would be a “terrible mistake” for Trump to pardon his former campaign manager Paul Manafort as an indicator that some influential Republicans may be ready to reconsider their support for the president, should circumstances merit it.

“Republicans supported [Richard] Nixon until the evidence became so overwhelming that he was a tremendous liability to them,” said Lichtman, referring to the former GOP president who resigned in 1974 during the Watergate scandal. “I am not saying he won’t survive, but I am saying it’s unlikely.”

And, he added, “Let’s not forget: If Trump is removed they don’t get Nancy Pelosi as president, they get Mike Pence, someone who most Republicans in Congress vastly prefer to Trump.”

Chris Christie warns Trump, ‘You’re not totally clear’

December 9, 2018

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday that President Trump should be worried about prosecutors linking him to his former attorney Michael Cohen’s criminal activities.

“You’re not totally clear,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Image result for Robert Mueller, photos

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation

On Friday, Trump responded to a pair of sentencing memos from federal prosecutors following Cohen guilty pleas by writing on Twitter, “Totally clears the President. Thank you!

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to financial crimes including a campaign finance violation for his work to pay women alleging affairs with Trump during the 2016 campaign. Trump argues there was no crime, and that silencing the women was not linked to his campaign.

Christie, a Republican who briefly led Trump’s presidential transition team, said the sentencing memo filed against Cohen in New York features surprisingly strong language. Christie said that makes him suspect that special counsel Robert Mueller may have corroborated Cohen’s claim that he violated campaign finance law “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump.

“The language sounds very definite. What I would be concerned about is what corroboration do they have,” Christie said. “Everyone knows Michael Cohen is not going to be the most effective or trustworthy witness on the stand, given some of his past statements. The question is, they sounded very definitive. In my experience, the problem is, when prosecutors are that definitive, they have more usually than just one witness.”

However, Christie added that “the flip side for the prosecutors is, they’d better have more than one witness. Because if you’re shooting at the president of the United States and the only bullet in your gun is Michael Cohen, I think that is a problem.”

A separate sentencing memo was filed Friday in Washington by Mueller, after Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.

“I would say to everybody what I said to the president right from the beginning. There is no way you can make it shorter. but there’s lots of ways you can to make it longer,” Christie said. “And one of the ways to do that is to say you’re in the clear when the prosecutor still has subpoena authority, the ability to indict people, and the ability to keep the investigation going. Until Bob Mueller shuts down, hands in the keys and his credentials back in, nobody’s clear.

Not quite all the president’s men are cooperating with Robert Mueller

December 9, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller filed papers in court over the past week that show he’s getting significant cooperation from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Image result for Robert Mueller, photos

But while some think that bodes poorly for Trump, Mueller also indicated that former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is going against his agreement to help Mueller, and instead appears to be working against him.

Here’s a look at just how much Trump’s former senior staff members are helping Mueller, or not:

Paul Manafort

At first, the former chairman of Trump’s campaign was a cooperator, but Paul Manafort has since slipped up.

In filing Friday night, Mueller’s team said it can pinpoint five things Manafort lied about — even after he accepted a plea agreement in September in Washington to work with authorities.

In the plea deal in September, Manafort pleaded guilty to two felony charges — one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice for tampering with witnesses.

The plea agreement also required him to “fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly” cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation and any other matters in which the government deems his cooperation relevant. That included interviews, handing over documents and testifying before the grand jury in Washington and in any other trials.

But on Friday, Manafort is accused of lying throughout 12 meetings with the special counsel’s office.

Those alleged lies were about things like his contacts with the Trump administration in 2018 and his communications with reputed Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik.

“Manafort told multiple discernible lies — these were not instances of mere memory lapses,” the prosecutors wrote in the memo to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington.

Though he had told prosecutors when he reached his plea deal that he had “no direct or indirect communications” with any Trump administration official while they were in government, Manafort had in fact kept in touch with a senior official through February 2018, prosecutors said. And in May 2018, he authorized someone else to speak with a Trump appointee on his behalf, they alleged.

Mueller’s team has left open the possibility that it could file new charges against Manafort, who has been jailed since June after allegations that he tampered with witnesses.

Manafort has already been convicted on eight charges of bank and tax fraud in Virginia as part of Mueller’s probe.

Michael Flynn

The first court filing on Tuesday dealt with Michael Flynn, who had a short stint as Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn also served Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign and during his presidential transition.

The 13-page document is mostly redacted, but it makes clear that Flynn has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation and has provided “substantial” help. It said Flynn gave 19 interviews that federal prosecutors called “particularly valuable,” and also provided “documents and communications.”

Flynn provided Mueller with “substantial assistance in a criminal investigation” in addition to the special counsel’s probe of “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.”

“While this [document] seeks to provide a comprehensive description of the benefit the government has thus far obtained from the defendant’s substantial assistance, some of that benefit may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing,” Mueller’s office said.

Flynn pleaded guilty to a single felony count of making false statements to the FBI in December 2017. The former U.S. Army Lieutenant General lied about the conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador in December 2016 about sanctions the U.S. was imposing.

According to a statement of offense filed in court, Flynn conducted had three calls with senior officials on the Trump transition team about his discussions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak related to sanctions.

Those senior officials are widely believed to be Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and KT McFarland.

“[I]t seems like Michael Flynn has been providing quite a volume of information. And, you know, in his position as national security adviser, someone involved in the campaign and the transition, it does suggest that he is someone who had potentially quite a bit of information and that he has come through in sharing that information in ways that Mueller and his team have found productive,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told NPR on Wednesday.

Michael Cohen

On Friday, prosecutors for Mueller’s team indicated that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, is also cooperating.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including violating campaign finance laws in a case being investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Last week, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a separate case brought by the special counsel.

Federal prosecutors in New York said Cohen has not cooperated in their investigation and argued he should receive a “substantial” prison sentence of roughly 42 months. But Mueller’s office was more lenient and detailed how Cohen has has helped, noting he has meet with investigators on seven occasions, giving “lengthy” interviews.

And though Cohen lied during their first interview in August, he has since been forthcoming and even corrected former untruthful statements.

“In recent months, however, the defendant has taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct. He chose to accept responsibility for his false statements and admit to his conduct in open court. He also has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation. He has met with the SCO on seven occasions, voluntarily provided the SCO with information about his own conduct and that of others on core topics under investigation by the SCO, and committed to continuing to assist the SCO’s investigation,” wrote Mueller’s team.

Cohen appears to be cooperating specifically on the question of whether Trump pushed Cohen to violate campaign finance laws in 2016.

“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the New York filing said. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” or President Trump.

The document said Cohen recorded conversations with Trump in which the payments Cohen made to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels were discussed. It said those payments, which were aimed at keeping the women quiet about their alleged affairs with Trump, were effectively campaign contributions in excess of federal limits.

Trump’s former lawyer also seems to be cooperating by providing information about the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. Cohen told Mueller’s office that he’d spoken with a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russia Federation and could offer Trump’s campaign “political synergy.”

Mueller’s office said Cohen provided certain Russian-related information that got to the “core” of the special counsel investigation, and that he gave “relevant and useful” information about his contacts with those “connected to the White House” from 2017 to 2018.

Trump assails Mueller probe in tweetstorm, insisting ‘no collusion’ with Russia

December 8, 2018

President Trump launched a tweetstorm Saturday morning to opine on some of his favorite topics — NATO funding and Robert Mueller’s probe into his campaign — and sound off on protests that have put France on edge.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris,” he tweeted at 7:34 am. “Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment.”

Protesters in France were taking to the streets for a fourth Saturday in a row after demonstrations there broke out in violence last week. The previous protests prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to nix a planned fuel-tax hike. But participants continue to accuse Macron of looking out only for the rich.

Trump claimed they were clamoring for him, tweeting, “Chanting ‘We Want Trump!’ Love France.”

Europe remained on his mind in a message posted 20 minutes later.

“The idea of a European Military didn’t work out too well in W.W. I or 2,” he wrote, a reference to Macron’s idea of creating a pan-European army. “But the U.S. was there for you, and always will be. All we ask is that you pay your fair share of NATO … Fairness!”

He then proclaimed his innocence in the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” he wrote.

The post came a day after Mueller produced charging documents against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen saying that both men had lied to prosecutors about contacts with Russians.

Trump heads to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon for the annual Army-Navy football game.


Cohen talked with Trump about meeting Putin during campaign

December 8, 2018

President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen says he “conferred” with Trump about setting up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early part of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to an explosive document filed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller in Manhattan.

Initially, Cohen said his September 2015 comments on Sean Hannity’s radio show predicting a “better than likely chance” that Trump would meet Putin that week at the UN General Assembly were “spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign.”

But he admitted to prosecutors “that his account was false and that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1,” which is how Trump is identified in court papers.

The meeting didn’t take place.

Trump also schemed with his longtime personal lawyer and fixer to make hush-money payments to a porn star and Playboy model, according to a separate 40-page document filed by Manhattan federal prosecutors Friday.

Trump claimed that the feds’ filings vindicated him.

“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” he tweeted shortly after the report’s release.

But prosecutors gave him no such clearance.

In fact, Mueller said Cohen provided substantial assistance to his team in its probe into Russian interference in the presidential race as well as “useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.”

Mueller said Cohen also shared information about his own contacts “with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts.”

In what appeared to be a new disclosure, Mueller said that around November 2015, Cohen spoke with a Russian national who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”

The Russian “repeatedly proposed a meeting between Individual 1 and the president of Russia,” Mueller said in the court papers.

“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well.’ ”

But Cohen didn’t follow up.

Unlike Manhattan prosecutors in their filing, Mueller recommended leniency for Cohen when he is sentenced Wednesday by US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on all of the charges to which he pleaded guilty.

Manhattan prosecutors said in their sentencing filing that Cohen committed campaign-finance crimes “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1.”

It was the first time the feds directly linked Trump to hush- money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — a fact noted by former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

“Just to make it crystal clear, New York federal prosecutors concluded that the President of the United States committed a felony,” he tweeted.

Trump denied the claims and called both Mueller’s team and the federal prosecutors liars.

Manhattan prosecutors said Cohen should serve “a substantial term of imprisonment” despite his cooperation.

Cohen’s crimes “were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” they said.

Prosecutors urged Pauley to hit Cohen with a $500,000 fine and forfeit his assets in addition to the prison sentence.

The Manhattan feds noted Cohen’s cooperation but said it was limited.

“While the office agrees that Cohen should receive credit for his assistance in the [special counsel] investigation, that credit should not approximate the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, given, among other reasons, Cohen’s affirmative decision not to become one,” they wrote.

“For these reasons, the office respectfully requests that this court impose a substantial term of imprisonment,” they said, recommending that he be granted “a modest downward variance” from the 51 to 63 months in prison he is facing.

The documents offered a harsh explanation for Cohen’s crimes, saying he was motivated by greed.

“While Cohen — as his own submission makes clear — already enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct,” they said.

The feds argued that Cohen’s cooperation after his extensive crimes should not make him a hero.

“After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty — rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes — does not make him a hero,” they wrote.

Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes in a federal court in New York in August and last week pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a case brought by Mueller.

The court documents disclosed that Trump hired Cohen in 2007 for $500,000 a year after he ousted the board of a condo that was trying to remove Trump’s name from its building.

Trump had earlier said Cohen became his employee after he did him a “favor,” without specifying what it was.

Also Friday, Mueller filed a report that said former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his contacts with the White House and a pal with ties to Russian intelligence while under investigation.

The heavily redacted report came more than a week after prosecutors accused Manafort of “committing federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subject matters,” violating his plea agreement.

The report was expected to provide more information on Mueller’s probe, but federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the special counsel’s request to file the report under seal and ordered a redacted version to be released.

With Post Wires

FILED UNDER         

Is This the Beginning of the End for Trump?

December 8, 2018

Sentencing memos reveal damning evidence about collusion and campaign finance violations.

By Barry BerkeNoah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen

Mr. Berke is a lawyer specializing in white-collar criminal defense. Mr. Bookbinder is a former federal corruption prosecutor. Mr. Eisen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Commentary: The New York Times

President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office after de-boarding Marine One after visiting first lady Melania Trump at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

On Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, delivered a potentially devastating one-two punch against President Trump. Coming late in the day, they made for bracing end-of-the-week reading.

Calling on the court to impose a sentence of substantial imprisonment against Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York stated that Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization and the campaign were all directly involved in an illegal scheme to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Prosecutors wrote that payments made by Mr. Cohen and other actions were taken “with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election” and pursued “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1” — that is, Mr. Trump.

The Latest: White House says court filings show nothing new

Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York’s Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. In the latest filings Friday, prosecutors will weigh in on whether Cohen deserves prison time and, if so, how much. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Trump Organization’s reimbursements to Mr. Cohen for payments were fraudulently disguised as legal fees — and, according to the memo, were approved by senior executives at the organization. The New York prosecutors also disclosed that they are investigating additional unspecified matters involving Mr. Cohen and, presumably, the Trump Organization. In light of these disclosures, the likelihood that the company and the Trump campaign face charges is now high.

Although President Trump may avoid a similar fate because the Justice Department is unlikely to indict a sitting president, he could be named as an unindicted co-conspirator, as was President Richard Nixon, or charged if he leaves office before the statute of limitations runs out (most likely in 2022).

In crediting Mr. Cohen with providing “substantial and significant efforts” to assist the investigation, Mr. Mueller’s separate sentencing memo details new evidence of collusion with Russia, including a previously unreported phone conversation in November 2015 between Mr. Cohen and an unnamed Russian who claimed to be a “trusted person” in Moscow. The Russian explained to Mr. Cohen how the Russian government could provide the Trump campaign with “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level,” and offered to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

This newly disclosed conversation directly speaks to the question of collusion — the outreach was explicitly political and was focused on how each side would gain from a potential partnership.

Mr. Mueller also notes that Mr. Cohen provided his team with additional information relevant to the “core” of the special counsel investigation.

The special counsel focuses on Mr. Cohen’s contacts with people connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, possibly further implicating the president and others in his orbit in conspiracy to obstruct justice or to suborn perjury. Mr. Mueller specifically mentions that Mr. Cohen provided invaluable insight into the “preparing and circulating” of his testimony to Congress — and if others, including the president, knew about the false testimony or encouraged it in any way, they would be at substantial legal risk.

Mr. Trump’s legal woes do not end there. The special counsel also advanced the president’s potential exposure under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for activities relating to a potential Trump Tower Moscow. Mr. Mueller noted that the Moscow project was a lucrative business opportunity that actively sought Russian government approval, and that the unnamed Russian told Mr. Cohen that there was “no bigger warranty in any project than the consent” of Mr. Putin.

If recent reports that Mr. Cohen floated the idea of giving Mr. Putin a $50 million luxury apartment in a future Trump Tower Moscow prove true, both the president and his company could face substantial jeopardy.

In a second blow to the president, on Friday prosecutors also disclosed a list of false statements that Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, allegedly made to federal investigators in breach of the cooperation agreement he entered into following his conviction for financial fraud and subsequent guilty plea to criminal conspiracy.

Some of the lies that the special counsel spells out in the redacted memorandum appear to implicate the president and those close to him in possible collusion and obstruction crimes. Notably, Mr. Manafort is accused of lying to the special counsel regarding his contacts with the Trump administration.

We don’t know the content of those contacts, but considering public statements about potential pardons, it is not hard to imagine they could implicate the president and others in a conspiracy to obstruct justice or witness tampering if, for example, they suggested a potential pardon if Mr. Manafort protected the president.

Contrary to the president’s claim that all of this “totally clears” him, the danger to Mr. Trump, his business and his campaign has compounded significantly. For all these reasons, the president is unlikely to have a restful, tweet-free weekend — or a calm 2019, for that matter.


Barry Berke is co-chairman of the litigation department at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, where he is a partner specializing in white-collar criminal defense. Noah Bookbinder is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a former federal corruption prosecutor. Norman Eisen is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and author of “The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House.”

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