Daily Check-In 07/31/2018

Tuesday, July 31st.

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

Paul Manafort’s Trial

Paul Manafort’s trial began on Tuesday.  The jury was selected and seated before 2:45 PM, opening statements were made, and the first witness was called.

For the prosecution we have Uzo Asonye, (The Justice League), who spent 26 minutes telling the jury about Manafort’s crimes, his lies, and how he thought the law didn’t apply to him, that he gave false information to his bookkeeper, that he lied about how much he made, and used the money he didn’t pay in taxes to buy luxuries like a $21,000 watch and a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich.  On the defense, Thomas Zehnle said it was all Rick Gates’s fault, that Gates was the one who committed the crimes.

I’m not a lawyer, but it’s a pretty shitty defense.  Their entire playbook is trying to establish that Rick Gates was the mastermind of all of the criminality, not Paul Manafort.  They contend that the underling and junior partner, not the boss, that made the decisions on how to launder money and lie on taxes.  The moment that the prosecution shows that Manafort started an email chain, gave an order, or engaged with someone without Rick Gates’s knowledge, he’s fucked.  He’s not just fucked, he’s Manafucked.

Remember the list of witnesses from Daily Check-In 07/27/2018?  Or how about his accountants who were offered immunity from Daily Check-In 07/23/2018?  All one of those accountants has to do is say, under oath, that Manafort told them to report his income as X instead of Y, or that he didn’t have any offshore bank accounts, and it’s game over on those charges.

 

Previously undisclosed evidence in the possession of Special Counsel Robert Mueller—including highly confidential White House records and testimony by some of President Trump’s own top aides—provides some of the strongest evidence to date implicating the president of the United States in an obstruction of justice. Several people who have reviewed a portion of this evidence say that, based on what they know, they believe it is now all but inevitable that the special counsel will complete a confidential report presenting evidence that President Trump violated the law. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work, would then decide on turning over that report to Congress for the House of Representatives to consider whether to instigate impeachment proceedings.

The central incident in the case that the president obstructed justice was provided by former FBI Director James B. Comey, who testified that Trump pressed Comey, in a private Oval Office meeting on February 14, 2017, to shut down an FBI criminal investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey has testified the president told him.

I have learned that a confidential White House memorandum, which is in the special counsel’s possession, explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides—his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn—that Flynn was under criminal investigation. This memo, the existence of which I first disclosed in December in Foreign Policy, was, as one source described it to me, “a timeline of events [in the White House] leading up to Flynn’s resignation.” It was dated February 15, 2017, and was prepared by McGahn two days after Flynn’s forced resignation and one day after Trump’s meeting with Comey. As I reported, research for the memo was “primarily conducted by John Eisenberg, the deputy counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council,” who, in turn, was “assisted by James Burnham, another White House counsel staff member.” 

During my reporting, I was allowed to read the memo in its entirety, as well as other, underlying White House records quoted in the memo, such as notes and memos written by McGahn and other senior administration officials. My reporting for this story is also based on interviews with a dozen former and current White House officials, attorneys who have interacted with Mueller’s team of investigators, and witnesses questioned by Mueller’s investigators.

In arguing in their January 29 letter that Trump did not obstruct justice, the president’s attorneys Dowd and Sekulow quoted selectively from this same memo, relying only on a few small portions of it. They also asserted that even if Trump knew there had been an FBI investigation of Flynn, Trump believed that Flynn had been cleared. Full review of the memo flatly contradicts this story.

The memo’s own statement that Trump was indeed told that Flynn was under FBI investigation was, in turn, based in part on contemporaneous notes written by Reince Priebus after discussing the matter with the president, as well as McGahn’s recollections to his staff about what he personally had told Trump, according to other records I was able to review. Moreover, people familiar with the matter have told me that both Priebus and McGahn have confirmed in separate interviews with the special counsel that they had told Trump that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI before he met with Comey.

A person with first-hand knowledge told me that during interviews with the special counsel, both McGahn and Priebus confirmed that they had informed Trump during this meeting that Flynn was being investigated by the FBI. Further, according to three current and former administration officials, McGahn also relayed to President Trump that Flynn had told the FBI the same false story he’d earlier told Pence (that Flynn had never spoken to Kislyak about sanctions). Because Trump and McGahn knew of Flynn’s misstatements to the FBI, they would have understood the legal jeopardy Flynn was in: it is a felony to lie to the FBI—precisely the federal criminal charge Flynn would later plead guilty to. 

Additionally, my sources say that the special counsel also interviewed the two White House attorneys, John Eisenberg and James Burnham, who helped draft the McGahn memo, in which they, too, concluded that Trump was told that Flynn was under FBI investigation. Both men said that they questioned McGahn while researching the timeline; one of them independently recalled McGahn’s contemporaneously telling the president that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. (In October 2017, Burnham left the White House to go to work as senior counsel in the Justice Department’s Civil Division.)

Aside from McGahn, Eisenberg, and Burnham, the special counsel has interviewed five other attorneys who currently work for the White House counselor or have previously done so, according to administration records. Underscoring just how important these witnesses are, the special counsel has interviewed a total of twenty White House officials; of that number, eight have worked for the White House counsel. Two people familiar with the matter have told me that these witnesses have been asked, among other things: about the McGahn timeline; what McGahn contemporaneously told them regarding his briefings of the president; and more specifically, whether McGahn indicated to them that he had informed the president that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI and was under federal criminal investigation.

Sources have identified for me two other White House attorneys who have been interviewed by the special counsel. One is Uttam Dhillon, who has served the Trump administration as deputy White House counsel and deputy assistant to the president (on July 2, Dhillon was named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration). Dhillon was a central participant in discussions with the president on whether to fire James Comey as FBI director—with Dhillon advising Trump not to do so. The special counsel has also interviewed Ann Donaldson, who is both the chief of staff to the White House counsel and special counsel to the president. Because so many attorneys working for the White House counsel have been witnesses in the special counsel’s investigation, and because their testimony will clearly be crucial in determining whether the president obstructed justice, Don McGahn took the extraordinary step last summer of recusing his entire staff from advising the president further about the Russia investigation.

The February 15 memo, combined with accounts given to the special counsel by Priebus and McGahn, constitutes the most compelling evidence we yet know of that Donald Trump may have obstructed justice. In an effort to persuade the American people that the president has done nothing wrong, Trump and his supporters have blamed those they identify as their political adversaries—from President Barack Obama to Jim Comey, and including entire institutions such as the FBI and CIA, and an ill-defined “Deep State.” But the most compelling evidence that the president may have obstructed justice appears to come from his own most senior and loyal aides. The greatest threat to his presidency is not from his enemies, real or perceived, but from his allies within the White House.

This is big.  More than 20 people from the White House, including 8 from the office of the White House Counsel, have interviewed with Robert Mueller’s team and were asked about when Trump was informed that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI.  If Trump knew that Flynn was under investigation at any point before asking FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation, then Trump broke the law by committing Obstruction of Justice.

SPOILER ALERT:  He knew, and he did.

The defense that Trump’s team is trying to use is that Trump didn’t know that Flynn was under investigation, and that if even if he did, who cares, he’s in charge of the DOJ, and ultimately Comey’s boss.  That first part went out the window when Preibus and McGahn told Trump about Flynn talking to the FBI right before Trump’s meeting with Comey.  That second argument isn’t so much of an argument but an acquiesce into absurdity.

20 witnesses, and almost half of them are lawyers.  That doesn’t bode well for Cheeto Mussolini.

 

(CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller has referred a collection of cases to New York federal prosecutors concerning whether several high-profile American lobbyists and operatives failed to register their work as foreign agents, according to people familiar with the matter.

The transfer of the inquiries marks an escalation of Mueller’s referrals to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in the period since he turned over a case involving President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Since the spring, Mueller has referred matters to SDNY involving longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his work for his former firm, the Podesta Group, and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber and his work for Mercury Public Affairs, the sources said.

It’s also not clear exactly why Mueller referred the matters to federal prosecutors in New York. Both Mercury and Skadden have offices in Manhattan, though Weber and Craig are based in Washington, DC, and performed the work in question while based in offices there. Podesta and his former firm are also based in Washington. SDNY, however, could claim jurisdiction for reasons such as the location of banking transactions associated with the activity under examination.

One of the things we’ll see more of going forward is Mueller outsourcing more of the “lower-level investigations” getting farmed out to other jurisdictions for investigation or criminal prosecution.  Looks like it’s time for the lobbyists to get screwed.

 

Per McClatchy, the interest of investigators at the Treasury Department was first piqued after they received a number of Suspicious Activity Reports related to LLCs linked to the couple, including some funds transfers that “appear to have come from Russia.”

At a July 18 court hearing, both federal prosecutors and Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, suggested that there was a federal fraud investigation ongoing into Erickson in South Dakota. Both parties said Butina offered to assist in that probe.

Driscoll confirmed to McClatchy that some $20,000 passed through Bridges LLC, one of the South Dakota entities that the couple incorporated in 2016. The money consisted of four $5,000 payments that Butina received from the Outdoor Channel for consulting work on a segment about bear hunting in Russia, according to Driscoll.

Once again, SAR’s play a part in this game.

A British IT manager and former hacker launched and ran an international disinformation campaign that has provided US President Donald Trump with fake evidence and false arguments to deny that Russia interfered to help him win the election.

The campaign is being run from the UK by 39-year-old programmer Tim Leonard, who lives in Darlington, using the false name “Adam Carter”. Starting after the 2016 presidential election, Leonard worked with a group of mainly American right-wing activists to spread claims on social media that Democratic “insiders” and non-Russian agents were responsible for hacking the Democratic Party. The hacking attacks had damaged Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Twitter account traced to Leonard revealed his new project – a campaign claiming that the hacking was done by a Democratic Party insider – on 3 February 2017. “What if #Guccifer2 is NOT Russian … NOT even a hacker – but still had access to DCCC [democratic campaign] docs?” it said.

At 1.14am on 5 February 2017, Leonard registered the website g-2.space. He hid his involvement using nominee company Identity Protect Ltd, but was given away by internet records which showed that the site was operated from internet address 213.229.109.154, one of two UK virtual servers he ran for web design company Creative Insomnia.

His g-2.space front page went live 13 hours later, and included the hidden warning: “Contingency plans are in place in case this site or its creator are compromised.” A hidden web page comment warned: “If I die under suspicious circumstances, the primary suspects should be the Clinton cartel.”

G-2.space’s launch page listed five prominent mainstream journalists he had contacted, and who had faced demands to disclose their evidence and sources about Guccifer 2.0. All declined or ignored him.

Leonard’s website was created in and run from the UK, using servers owned by Creative Insomnia of Newport, Gwent. Leonard is listed in company records as a shareholder and director. His activity was not known of or authorised by others in the company (see below).

Leonard admits hosting g-2.space, a website which published numerous articles giving mutually contradictory and often nonsensical theories, each attempting to prove that the pretend Romanian was not a Russian disinformation invention.

Leonard also admits that he secretly built another website inside the servers he was employed to manage. His first hidden site, Defianet (d3f.uk), initially campaigned on piracy and privacy, themes familiar to programmers who had worked with him on unrelated projects and who spoke with Computer Weekly.

Defianet’s front page proclaimed “United in the shadows” when it went online in September 2014. During 2017, he transformed Defianet to make it a focus for US extremist and conspiracy “independent media” groups, many of which are notorious for spreading false news. The site also promoted WikiLeaks and Russia Today (RT), the state-owned media channel.

Leonard has created and managed a library of disinformation manuals and techniquesshared with his supporters, including “Weaponisation of social media”, “Deception techniques” and “Information warfare”. He moved the library to g-2.space after being ordered to close Defianet.

Leonard, who lives in a modest red-brick house in Darlington, is the technical director of Creative Insomnia. He admits that he built websites “making use of Creative Insomnia’s infrastructure”, including g-2.space, without the knowledge of his company, a fellow director and other workers. It was “entirely my responsibility … not a board-approved decision”, he confessed in a letter.

G-2.space claims to be written by an anonymous persona called Adam Carter. The name was copied from a character in Spooks, a BBC spy drama series broadcast from 2002 to 2011.

Don’t be surprised if we hear the name Tim Leonard show up in an indictment before the end of the year.

 

A $45,000 payment to an undisclosed law firm. A cash withdrawal for $14,000. Almost $90,000 sent to or from a Russian bank. These and other bank transactions totaling nearly $300,000, none of which have been made public, offer the first detailed look at how an accused foreign agent and a Republican operative financed what prosecutors say was a Russian campaign to influence American politics.

Anti-fraud investigators at Wells Fargo flagged the transactions — by Paul Erickson, a conservative consultant from South Dakota, and Maria Butina, who is in jail awaiting trial on charges of secretly acting as a Russian agent — as “suspicious,” noting in some cases that they could find no “apparent economic, business, or lawful purpose” to explain them. Now counterintelligence officers say the duo’s banking activity could provide a road map of back channels to powerful American entities such as the National Rifle Association, and information about the Kremlin’s attempt to sway the 2016 US presidential election.

Cash withdrawals, most of them from Erickson’s personal and business accounts, make up $107,000 of the financial transactions now being investigated. The largest of those withdrawals — $14,000 — occurred in December 2015, when Erickson reportedly traveled to Moscow as part of an NRA delegation. The visit was sponsored by a Russian gun rights organization started by Butina, federal authorities say.

The duo also deposited about $90,000 in cash in their accounts, which has made it difficult for investigators to determine the source or purpose of the funds.

Among the suspicious transactions cited by the bank and federal investigators:

• About $89,000 passed between Erickson’s US accounts and one held by Butina at Russia’s Alfa Bank. In 2014, Erickson received $8,000 from Butina’s Alfa account. Between June 2016 and March 2017, Erickson sent a dozen wires to her Alfa account totaling $27,000.

• About $93,000 was sent or received during a single four-month period — from May to August 2017, after Butina had arrived in the US and was attending graduate school at American University in Washington, DC. Bank officials discovered wires, checks, transfers, and cash deposits totaling that amount, including checks made out to cash, between the duo’s accounts last year.

• In June and July 2017, Erickson wired $45,000 to an unidentified law firm in Washington on Butina’s behalf. It is not known why Butina retained an attorney at that point, and her current lawyer, Robert Driscoll, told BuzzFeed News that his firm was not the recipient of the money.

• Last summer, Erickson sent two wires for $15,000 to a California company established by the son and brother of Jack Abramoff, a disgraced former lobbyist who is Erickson’s longtime friend, political ally, and business partner. The company, Landfair Capital Consulting, was incorporated in March 2017. Abramoff’s son, Alex, a recent college graduate, is the CEO and sole director; Abramoff’s brother, Robert, is the registered agent. Because the company was newly established and based out of the home of Alex Abramoff, who does not list it on his public profiles, bank investigators flagged it as a possible shell company established to hide Jack Abramoff’s interests.

The money flows all over.  What I’m waiting for is the explanation of how a grad student managed to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to work with in the first place, and why was she spending it on lobbyists and lawyers.  I’m quite familiar with grad students, and the vast majority didn’t have  two spare nickels to rub together for warmth, let alone $14,000 to give to the NRA.

 

For anyone paying attention, there is more than enough evidence in plain sight of Obstruction of Justice, Witness Tampering, and every other cover-up crime on the books.

Read them at your own discretion.  These texts are from one of Manafort’s daughters, and have been in the public domain for a while, but some of the content is…unsettling.

 

RUSSIAN ATTACKS

Meddling is a stupid, weak word.  Meddling is what your neighbor does to get the lady across the street to think that you’re an asshole, or what your co-worker does to spread gossip.  What the Russians did was an attack and an Act of War.

 

COHEN/STORMYGATE

A lawsuit by an ex-Playboy model against former top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy was unsealed by a judge, revealing new details about the $1.6 million hush payment she accepted to keep quiet about their affair and the pregnancy she terminated late last year.

A California state judge on Tuesday made Shera Bechard’s complaint against Broidy and others public, though parts remain redacted. She accuses Broidy of breaching their contract by stopping installment payments on the deal after details of their affair were leaked by others.

Bechard also sued her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, who arranged for her to be paid as part of a nondisclosure agreement negotiated on Broidy’s behalf by New York attorney Michael Cohen, who at the time was President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. Bechard claims Davidson worked against her interests by secretly coordinating with Cohen behind the scenes and crafting an agreement that was favorable to Broidy.

 

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

 

IMMIGRATION

 

CHRISTIAN FASCISM

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

 

SCOTUS

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

ELECTION 2018

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

RUMOR MILL

 

 

That’s it for Tuesday.  Wednesday will be even crazier.  Why?  Because the Manafort trial continues, Trump knows he’s fucked worse than the little boy in Pence’s closet, and this is only going to get crazier before it gets better.

On a positive, there is a great deal of Schadenfreude to be had.  Imagine knowing that Trump is panicking on Twitter, knowing that a report was just released that at least 20 people in the White House interviewed Mueller’s team, and at least 8 of them were lawyers.  Imagine knowing that these 20 are working around him, but he doesn’t know who they are or what they said.  Imagine that for a mobster who values the loyalty others place in him above all else to not know who is getting ready to stab him in the back to save themselves.  Imagine not knowing who to trust.  Imagine thinking that his world is collapsing around him.

Then realize that he put himself in this situation by betraying his country.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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