Daily Check-In 09/10/2018

Monday, September 10, 2018

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

A missing Maltese professor who promised the Trump campaign “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the presidential election may be dead, a US court has been told.

Joseph Mifsud, a former teaching fellow at Stirling University, held meetings in 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a former Trump administration foreign policy adviser who was jailed last week for lying to the FBI, including over his connections to the 57-year-old professor.

Prosecutors in the Papadopoulos case allege Mr Mifsud touted his “substantial connections with Russian government officials”, who could deliver “thousands of emails” featuring incriminating information against Ms Clinton.

But in unrelated court filings last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) claimed Mr Mifsud, who has not been seen since November last year, “may be deceased”.

The DNC is suing Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over alleged interference in the 2016 election. Lawyers for the committee said it believed all defendants in the case were served with complaints, “with the exception of Mifsud (who is missing and may be deceased),” according to Bloomberg. They did not elaborate.

Court documents relating to the Papadopoulos case revealed the young foreign policy adviser initially tried to downplay Mr Mifsud as “a nothing” and “just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something”.

Mifsud has gone to ground.  Either’s he’s dead, he’s in such a deep hole that he hasn’t seen sunlight in over a year, or he’s already changed his name, appearance, profession, and favorite sports teams.

I hate to say this, but he’s probably dead.  Daily Check-In 02/27/2018 had a report about how his baby momma hasn’t heard from him for months, and that was 7 months ago.  Not even a peep asking how his child is doing.  It’s possible that he’s the Hide and Seek World Champion, but he’s a loose end with the Russian Spy Mob.

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, wife of former Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos, said in an exclusive live interview with her husband on “This Week” Sunday that her international political background raised “a red flag” for U.S. investigators.

She was responding to a question from ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos about her interactions with the special counsel’s team, asking, “You were questioned, as well, by Robert Mueller’s team and from the start, they suspected you were a Russian agent. How did that manifest itself?”

Mangiante Papadopoulos responded, “I come from a political background myself. I used to work as a diplomat at the European Parliament for a few years and this could be a red flag because many officials at European Union actually — it’s a cover-up for spy jobs.”

She added that she understands their concern about her role as it relates to her husband, but has denied that she has any ties to Russia.

“Of course this connection was highly suspicious. I respect the, I always said I respect Mueller’s interest in my profile because clearly it’s quite alarming, the fact that I marry George Papadopoulos in the middle of this storm,” Mangiante Papadopoulos said.

The couple married in March of this year. They met through Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious Maltese professor who is believed to be an operative for the Russian government and who attempted during the campaign to introduce George Papadopoulos to people purportedly connected to Russia.

No shit.  Really?  A good looking European woman who happens to be a diplomat for the European Parliament starts dating and eventually marries George?  Either she’s a spy, or he’s the most charming mother fucker who’s also got a magic penis.  I mean, it’s not like there’s news of a honeypot in the news already.

Did someone say honeypot?  Must be time for Maria…

 

Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who stands accused of developing a covert influence operation in the United States, boasted of connections to high-ranking Kremlin officials and was even paid to pursue access to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a television show, ABC News has learned.

Dozens of pages of email correspondence between August 2015 and November 2016, obtained exclusively by ABC News, reveal Butina’s hand in a pair of potentially explosive projects: appearing to arrange a meeting for a delegation of high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and working with the Outdoor Channel to develop a television show highlighting Putin’s “love of the outdoors” that would feature the Russian President himself.

In one exchange, a pair of NRA insiders discuss their upcoming trip to Russia and appear to copy and paste a previous note from the trip’s organizer Butina — describing the note as “In Maria’s own words” — that makes explicit reference to Lavrov, one of Putin’s closest advisers.

“Almost all your schedule is done,” Butina wrote. “We are waiting [sic] a response from The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs — Mr. Lavrov wants to meet you and we are working to make it real.”

And in another exchange between Butina and a senior executive at the Outdoor Channel, Butina claimed her “contacts directly within the President’s office” were “VERY happy (and excited)” about the proposed program and its political potential.

“I have also just arranged for an official delegation of Russian Kremlin cabinet ministers to travel the U.S. to observe your presidential election in the fall,” Butina wrote in June 2016. “This matters to your project because THEY have already lobbied President Putin to do this show as an example of the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.”

JFC, the Outdoor Channel?  What’s next, a hunting show with Ted Nugent?

Wait, they already have that?  Shit.

How long have the Russians been trying to get into the NRA?

 

As Siberian gun rights activist Maria Butinafaces a hearing in Washington, here is a look at the unusual path that led to her arrest.

She’s accused of working as an undeclared foreign agent, based on FBI suspicions that she and patron Alexander Torshin sought to infiltrate the NRA and build a long-term influence campaign with the American right. She has pleaded not guilty.

2001

Torshin is elected to serve in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. He makes his first contact with the NRA.

2011

Butina moves to Moscow, funded by an oligarch couple, and forms gun rights group Right to Bear Arms. Torshin and Butina meet at Moscow gun rally.

2012

Torshin presents draft bill on liberalizing gun sales, crafted in part by Butina. It fails miserably, lacking support from President Vladimir Putin.

Torshin attends NRA convention in St. Louis, and goes to Nashville to observe the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

2013

Torshin attends NRA convention in Houston in May. Three months later, Spanish police try and fail to arrest Torshin for alleged connections to organized crime; Torshin denies wrongdoing.

In October, an NRA delegation including then-chief David Keene visits Russia for a conference organized by Butina’s group Right to Bear Arms. Butina meets Torshin’s NRA contacts.

2014

Butina goes to the U.S. for the first time, and she and Torshin attend an NRA convention in Indianapolis. She resigns as leader of Right to Bear Arms.

2015

Torshin leaves parliament to become deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank; Butina becomes his assistant.

Butina and Torshin attend an NRA convention in Nashville; Torshin says he met Donald Trump there. Butina questions Trump at Freedomfest gun show in Las Vegas.

NRA delegation visits Moscow on Butina’s invitation, meets Torshin, oligarchs, top officials.

2016

Butina and Torshin attend National Prayer Breakfast, and Torshin attends NRA convention in Louisville where he says he met Donald Trump Jr.

Butina starts masters program at AU. She and Torshin exchange messages about contacts with Russian intelligence, and a “back channel” to U.S. right wing, according to the FBI.

2017

Butina, in Washington, joins celebrations of Trump’s inauguration. She and Torshin attend National Prayer Breakfast.

2018

Senate questions Butina in April, and her apartment is searched by FBI. Torshin is hit with US sanctions. Butina is arrested July 15.

Most of this activity kicks into high gear following 2012, which lines up with the Magnitsky Act becoming law.  Everything from that point on could be considered part of their operation.  The earlier activities would have been laying the groundwork, but things got hot and heavy when it became clear that Magnitsky was going to become law.

 

A series of mystery court documents that were filed under seal last week were made public Monday, in the litigation surrounding special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury subpoena of Andrew Miller, a former aide to Roger Stone.

The mystery filings were a joint motion to unseal a previously sealed contempt order against Miller, who had been continuing to resist testifying in front of the grand jury, even after U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled against his request to quash the subpoena.

Howell, last month, ordered Miller to jail until he testified, but paused the order to give Miller time to either come to an alternative agreement with the prosecutors or to appeal her order. Miller appealed, so the contempt order continues to be on pause.

Miller’s attorneys, after a hearing behind closed doors last month, told reporters that their client had been held in contempt but that the judge was pausing the order for him to appeal it.

Miller is expected to file a brief in the appeals case on Monday…

Miller, currently working as a house painter in St. Louis, is having his legal bills paid by a group with close ties to Trump, hoping to get this case before a friendly SCOTUS.

 

COHEN, NEW YORK, AND THE OTHER LAWSUITS

Going forward, I’m going to put all of the Michael Cohen/Stormy Daniels/Summer Zervos/Trump Foundation/New York State/Emoluments/Corruption stuff in this section.  I feel that these things deal more immediate danger to Trump than Mueller’s investigation into Russia.  While Mueller poses the greatest overall danger, New York can really screw him and his family, and there is nothing he can do to stop them.

 

WOODWARD AND THE ANONYMOUS OP-ED

The Woodward book and the Op-Ed have everyone in the White House on edge.  And it’s a major distraction, pulling resources away from the day-to-day job of…whatever the fuck it is they’re supposed to be doing.

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

 

IMMIGRATION

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

ICC

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

POLLS

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

SCOTUS

 

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS

With Bob Woodward’s new book climbing the best-seller charts ahead of its official release this week and all of Washington still obsessing over that anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, it’s possible Omarosa Manigault Newman is starting to feel a little left out.

The author of Unhinged returned to The View on Monday morning armed with yet another secret audio recording that she says was made inside the White House. Introduced by Whoopi Goldberg as someone who went from one of Trump’s “biggest defenders to one of his biggest nightmares,” Manigault-Newman came out swinging against the president.

“You cannot silence someone when they’re coming forward to expose corruption,” she said of the Trump team’s arbitration action against her. “I’m going to keep on fighting.”

And yet as eager as Manigault Newman has been to trash her former boss now that she’s out of the White House, The View’s co-hosts did not let her off the hook for being his staunch defender in the past. Abby Huntsman asked why she stayed in her job so long if she was so “miserable” and Sunny Hostin called out her hypocrisy of praising Trump’s supposed inclusiveness in the past and now labeling him a “racist.”

In reference to the alleged “N-word” tape, Manigault Newman said, “I don’t hold the tape. I’ve heard the tape. They’ve been talking about releasing it. I suspect they’re going to release it around the midterms.” She did not disclose who she meant by “they.”

“I was in a toxic relationship with Donald Trump and I regret that I was so complicit,” she added. “You know, Hillary Clinton was robbed and I was a co-conspirator in that robbery. And I will regret that for the rest of my life, that I was a co-conspirator along with the rest of the folks who helped this con man get into office.”

It wasn’t until later in the show, after Manigault Newman reiterated who she believes wrote the Times op-ed (Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers) and shared the code texts she and her White House colleagues would use to mock the president (#TFA for “25th Amendment” and the orange emoji), that she brought out the new tape.

Manigault Newman said the audio recording, which was first released on ABC’s “The View” and later aired on MSNBC, was made in October 2017 during a meeting between senior communications staffers about tax reform that Trump crashed to talk about a dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks can be heard on the recording talking to Trump:

Trump: I think Hillary is getting killed with Russia. The real Russia story is Hillary and collusion. Somebody told me, Hope, you told me it was $9 million they spent on the phony report.

Sanders: Closer to six.

Hope Hicks: Yeah, someone just said, “She’s far worse for the country than we thought if she didn’t know her own campaign was spending $9 million.”

Trump: Did you see? Nobody knows who spent it. No, I heard it was nine. I heard it was 5.7 but now they say it was nine. It was spent through a law firm that way they can’t trace it. But they traced it. One thing in this business is they trace it. And, yeah, close to $9 million. I can’t even believe it. The reason a law firm is because this way you don’t have to give any papers. But they found out, it’s definitely illegal and it’s illegal from a campaign standpoint, from a campaign financing standpoint. So the whole Russia thing, I think seems to have turned around. What do you think, Sarah?

Sanders: Absolutely.

Manigault Newman later released another previously unaired tape on MSNBC on Monday, in which Trump can be heard discussing the deadly Niger ambush that claimed the lives of four U.S. servicemen in early October 2017.

She said the recording is from a meeting of the White House communications team that Trump walked into on Oct. 27, 2017:

Trump: We had 3.2 last quarter before this, so it’s really, it’s really going good. And we have a lot of things happening on the economic front. I think the military’s doing good. And now, on Niger. So, what happens is we’re decimated — You know, it’s a rough business. They’re rough too, they wanna kill us.

We’ve let the military do what they have to do. And whether you call it rules of engagement or any way you want to say it, but we’ve let them do. And in the Middle East, there’s very few left. We really — we’ve done a very good job. We’ve done more in 7 months, because really it’s 7 months that we’ve started — we’ve done more in 7 months than they’ve done in 8 years, okay? And so we’re — But what happens, is now they flee, and they flee to Africa, and they flee to Niger, and countries around there. And that’s how these [inaudible] people get attacked, and they got attacked by 50 real fighters.

These were people in many cases, that were in the Middle East, that now go to Africa to try and, you know, cause problems there. And ultimately they wanna come back here, because this is where they really wanna be. So it’s a rough uh, business. I wouldn’t, I don’t think I’d want to be a terrorist right now. [laughter] It’s not a good life, but it’s uh, the only thing that — What else is there? But um, but that is — You know, people don’t say that. The reason they’re there, is because we forced them out, and it’s not nearly as many, it’s not nearly as intense, but it’s pretty intense, you see that happening. So that’s that.

Manigault Newman characterized the remarks as “mocking” the deaths of soldiers,” particularly the laughter from Trump and staffers heard on the tape. She also claimed that none of the attendees had security clearance to discuss the topic of Niger.

“They were laughing because he’s like making light of the situation, he’s saying, “Well I wouldn’t want to be a terrorist,” she said, “but it’s not a laughing matter we lost four American soldiers and four of our allies, the Nigerien troops that we were fighting alongside.”

Trump caused a firestorm after he allegedly told the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who died in the ambush, during a phone call that the serviceman “must’ve known what he signed up for.” The president denied the allegation at the time.

Well, shit.  Not only do we get tape of SHS being a sycophant, which we already knew, but Trump telling the staff HOW to commit campaign fund fraud AND him cracking jokes at dead soldiers.

Remind me again, which party is the one that brags about how much they love the troops?  That’s right, the same party that voted this asshole into office, cut funding to the Veteran’s Affairs department, and continuously refuse to expand the G.I. Bill, increase military pay, and only use these young men and women as props when it suits them.

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

#METOO

 

ELECTION 2018

For now, most of the preparation is just talk rather than concrete moves like hiring staff or organizing support networks, let alone raising money. But, say Republicans of all stripes, the preparation for any kind of challenge likely needs to get real with in a matter of a few months — specifically, before 2019.

“If anyone wants to do this, they need to start talking to people in New Hampshire pretty soon, they need to start getting organized,” said Horn. “But there are a number of very strong networks here that were built for people like John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, in previous cycles that might be accessible to the right candidate.”

Such prep just needs to strike a delicate balance, stealthily measuring the environment before going public: it likely can’t afford to risk drawing Trump’s dangerous ire before that kind of campaign is ready for prime time.

“If you’re going to shoot at the king, you have to hit the king. And if you’re going to shoot, you have to be sure. So waiting is wise. Look at the midterm elections: Republicans need to see if they’re going to get their clock cleaned,” and if the nationwide anti-Trump fervor is as significant as many expect, said Ari Fleischer, the George W. Bush White House press secretary who’s become a more-often-than-not Trump defender. “Here’s what’s known that will shake up the environment: midterm elections, government shutdown possibilities and government rancor that creates discontentment — or contentment — and Bob Mueller.”

The next three months will be crucial in determining what happens in the next couple years.  There are five scenarios I see playing out.

The first scenario is that there is no blue wave, the GOP keeps the House, and things stay relatively sane.  In that situation, Trump/Pence go to the 2020 unopposed, or with only the smallest of battles, like a token run from someone on the fringes of the party.

The second scenario starts the same, but a Never-Trumper like Jeff Flake or John Kasich runs as a protest campaign against the Fascist policies of Trump/Pence.

The third scenario is that the Democrats win the House, and somehow Trump/Pence are still in office by the end of 2019.  In that case, they run against at least one or two others like Kasich, Flake, Marco Rubio, or Ben Sasse.  While Trump/Pence might have an advantage, they could become the first incumbent President to get primaried.

The fourth scenario is Pence vs. Trump.  For some reason, Pence decides that now is his time to act, and he openly campaigns against Trump.  A VP hasn’t run against their former boss since John Gardner ran against FDR in 1940.

The last scenario is GOP Armageddon Free-For-All.  Trump/Pence is no longer a thing.  The GOP field is wide open, and it’s anyone’s game to lose.

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

IN OTHER NEWS…

 

RUMOR MILL

Check out Eric’s thread on Thomas Daffron.  He’s a lobbyist who has represented Russian churches in Alaska on behalf of a Free Alaskan movement. That’s right, a secessionist movement with ties to Russia that wants the state of Alaska to “decide it’s own future.”

By the way, anytime a secessionist movement arises, there’s a Russian agent behind it.

Sometimes Eric comes up with some crazy connections, but he’s been right more often than not.  Remember all of the stuff that led to the Governor of Missouri resigning?  Eric was on the frontline for that.

 

That’s it for Monday.  As we’re getting closer to the election, we’re gonna see more polls come out on Tuesdays going forward.  Polls are interesting, but they only tell one part of the story, and are usually a week behind on the daily news, if not more.  But, they can create a feedback loop.  If enough crap hits at a time, and for long enough, the polls dip down further and further.

For polls, keep an eye out for an aggregate 30% approval rating and 60% support in his party.  That is about as far down as Trump can go before he becomes a political cancer.  Even if he has a majority in his party, that doesn’t mean much when most of the party has left.  30/60 is his core base.  Once that starts eroding, there’s nothing left to keep him afloat.  If he dips below both of those numbers, talk of impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment might become commonplace.  Remember, Nixon still had an approval rating in the mid-20’s when he left office.

Also, on Tuesday, “Fear” gets released.  It’s probably next on my Audible queue.  Currently, I’m listening to Russian Roulette, which came out a few months ago.  I think I might start a book club page, with all of the related books I’ve read and listened too since this clusterfuck began.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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