Daily Check-In 09/20/2018

Thursday, September 20, 2018

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has participated over the last month in multiple interview sessions lasting for hours with investigators from the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller, sources tell ABC News.

The special counsel’s questioning of Cohen, one of the president’s closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump’s dealings with Russia — including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen.

Over the 16 months that Mueller has been investigating, the president has repeatedly bashed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt, insisting there has been no collusion and no obstruction of justice.

The interviews with Cohen took place in Washington, D.C., and New York City. They were also attended in part by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

Cohen’s participation in the meetings has been voluntary — without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors, according to several people familiar with the situation.

ABC News has also learned that Cohen is also cooperating with a separate probe by New York state authorities into the inner workings of the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as an executive vice president and special counsel to Trump for 10 years.

The news of Cohen’s dealings with federal and state investigators comes close on the heels of another potentially perilous legal development for the president: the guilty pleas last week from Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who struck a deal with Mueller’s prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

As the Manafort deal was taking shape — Mueller’s team had already been talking to Cohen.

And given Cohen’s prolonged time spent in proximity to Trump, his family and the inner-workings of the Trump Organization, some insiders consider his cooperation with authorities to be one of most serious potential legal threats to confront the president.

At a plea hearing in August, Cohen told a federal judge that he had arranged for the payments to two women “in coordination with, and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” referring to then-candidate Trump, and added that he participated in the transactions with the principal purpose of influencing the election.

Those statements, under oath, were an about-face from Cohen’s public comments about his role in the deals with Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels. Cohen had previously insisted that he’d paid Clifford with his own money, on his own initiative and without the knowledge of Trump.

The president has long denied the allegations of the affairs with McDougal and Clifford and has claimed he did not know in advance about the deals Cohen secured. On the day of Cohen’s court appearance, the president openly mocked him on Twitter.

Since entering his guilty pleas last month — Cohen has also been in contact with the New York Attorney General’s office, according to multiple people close to the matter.

In June, the acting New York Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, filed a civil lawsuit accusing Trump’s charitable foundation and its directors of having “operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities” for more than a decade by paying off legal bills with charitable funds, promoting Trump hotels, and purchasing personal items.

The lawsuit names Trump, his sons Don Jr. and Eric, and his daughter, Ivanka, as defendants.

A representative of the Trump Foundation called the lawsuit, “politics at its very worst.”

Underwood’s office has not ruled out launching a state criminal investigation into the foundation if evidence warrants it. And she has also asked the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission to look into the charity’s operations.

Oh, shit.  While Manafort was negotiating his plea deal and starting his proffer, Cohen was already talking to Robert Mueller’s team.  (Daily Check-In 09/14/2018)  That means Mueller’s team met with both Trump’s Consigliere  and his Campaign Chairman in the same week.

Cohen can put Trump in the pre-meeting meeting for the June 9 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.  He also implicated him Campaign Finance violations, and admitted to bank fraud to further those violations.  That’s just a couple of the thousands of shady things he’s been accused of participating in.

According to the Steele Dossier at AnnotatedDossier.com, Cohen was involved with previous attempts to open a Trump Tower in Moscow, met with Kremlin agents in Prague, served as a liaison between the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin, and tried to cover up Manafort’s Ukrainian scandal and Carter Page’s meetings with Rosneft.

Now, Mueller has verbal confirmation from Cohen on all of it.

Mueller almost certainly had this information for a long time, but now he’s got the confession.  One rumor I’m hearing that will be in Friday’s post is that Cohen had his personal phone with him on the Prague trip.  I feel like I’ve mentioned this before, but I wanted to say this again.  If Cohen had his normal, personal, not a burner phone with him on this trip to Prague, then it wouldn’t take much to track his movements.  Hell, even a burner or international phone could be tracked, if they knew what to look for.

How?  Tower triangulation, to start.  Every active cell phone is looking for a connection, and the companies running those towers have to keep track of them, so that they can route calls from one tower to the next.  If Cohen is on a train or driving, the phone will ping multiple towers, looking for the one with the best signal, and the network will route the call.  The carrier will have it in their logs that Cohen’s phone pinged the following towers at the following times with the following response times.  Using a little bit of math, his location can be pinpointed within a dozen or so meters for the entire trip.  If he made calls or texts to other numbers when he was up to some shady shit, then the investigators will do the same with those numbers, and if they’re within a few meters of each other at any point, Bingo.  This is also assuming they didn’t hotmic his phone, or have surveillance on him or the people he communicated with.

More importantly, Cohen is working with the New York State Attorney General’s Office on the several state investigations into Trump Organization and Trump Foundation.  As much as Mueller is the largest threat to Trump, New York is the dangerous for different reasons.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, state charges cannot be pardoned by the Federal government.  If Cohen delivers Trump and his family to New York State, he’s toast.  His only hope then would be to never leave office and hope that he can’t be removed due to state criminal charges.

Something of note, there is no public cooperation agreement between Cohen.  Not saying that there isn’t a private one, but I find that part interesting.  That tells me that either Cohen is hoping for a deal, they have a private one, the prosecutors want to see what he knows first, or Cohen doesn’t care and just wants to bury Trump.  There’s probably some combination of factors, but I really like the last idea the most.  Remember when Trump leaked the information about the McDougal payoff after the Special Master in the case decided that it was privileged information? (Daily Check-In 07/20/2018)  Cohen talking to Muells is payback for Trump fucking Cohen.  At least in part.  There’s probably the whole not-dying-in-prison-or-tried-for-treason thing too, but the fact that revenge is a motivator makes me feel all warm inside.

 

 

COHEN, NEW YORK, AND THE OTHER LAWSUITS

See above.  I try to keep these separate, but pretty soon the crossovers will look like one of those CW Superhero specials with 38 shows working together for a very complicated theme.

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

Agency officials aren’t assenting to Trump’s demand for “immediate declassification” of some materials related to the Russia investigation, and are likely to push for redactions, according to people with knowledge of the matter. At the same time, the FBI is willing to probe sexual assault allegations that have jeopardized Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court — despite Trump’s claims otherwise — but it can’t do so without a formal White House request.

The tension adds to an already fraught relationship between the president and the law enforcement agencies he oversees. Trump has repeatedly attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for failing to quash Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 elections, and he’s accused the Justice Department and FBI of targeting him and Republicans because of political bias.

The controversies are seen as a test for FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has repeatedly vowed to defend the agency’s work from political manipulation. While Sessions has taken the brunt of the president’s ire, the FBI was on the receiving end last month when Trump said he’d “get involved” if the Justice Department and FBI didn’t “start doing their job.” He accused the agencies of turning a blind eye to possible ties between Democrats and Russia, and instead focusing on him and his campaign.

 

 

IMMIGRATION

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

SCOTUS & #METOO – THE KAVANAUGH RAPEYTIME ADVENTURE SERIES

Ford might choose to appear on Monday, and make a powerful opening statement accusing Republicans of running a sham investigation. Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has figured out it would be a good idea to interview her in advance of Monday’s hearings, but the staffers conducting the interview would be unlikely to have the ability or the will to follow up on investigative leads. Ford can and should refuse to give her inquisitors two bites at the apple. When she gets in front of the cameras, she should remind the country:

• This concerns attempted rape, something far more serious than the allegations raised by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 confirmation hearings.

•  The FBI investigated Hill’s claims within three days (Republicans could have sent the FBI and gotten a report back by now if they hadn’t been stalling).

• Mark Judge allegedly witnessed the attack, but Republicans refuse to call him as a witness, so we can assume that they regard him as a person who would harm Kavanaugh’s defense.

• Republicans’ insistence that Ford provide even more detail is hypocritical (since they don’t want an FBI investigation) and misguided, given the large body of research concerning memories of victims of sexual assault (e.g., gaps in memory are common).

• If Kavanaugh was an excessive drinker in high school, as has been alleged, he’s in no position to testify accurately as to what he did and didn’t do.

• The unsubstantiated attacks on Ford by members such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reveal that they have predetermined the outcome of the hearing. (“She had plenty of chances to bring it up, she did not,” Graham said. “We’re not going to play this game anymore. We [want] Miss Ford to be heard but clearly to me, in August, she hired a lawyer who’s a very activist lawyer, who does not like President Trump and paid for a polygraph.”) But this is no “game,” and Ford has every right to seek counsel to fend off attacks like the very ones that Republican senators are making.

• There is no need to rush to a vote in the next few days. None. Republicans have set an artificial deadline for fear that more damaging information might come out.

In short, Ford can use the hearing to put the senators, who have behaved shabbily, on defense.

Ford has another option: Hold a news conference with her own experts and make the case directly to the American people. She can sit down for an interview with a respected TV journalist. She can say whatever she wants, make certain that experts are heard and even recount the much more extensive investigative efforts undertaken when Hill stepped forward. To make her case to the American people and convince them that she is sincere, honest and credible, Ford doesn’t need the Senate.

Ford also might have the ability to go to local police to investigate if the White House refuses to activate the FBI. The Hill reports: “Can Brett Kavanaugh be investigated for an attempted rape he allegedly committed over three decades ago? In Maryland, it’s entirely possible under the law, according to some experts. Now members of the American public are calling for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to open an investigation, especially if the FBI doesn’t.” That would be a process over which neither the Senate nor the Trump administration would have any control.

At least he’s got the approval Kiddie Diddler Crowd.

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

Nothing will change for the better in their home market, they and other D.C. vendors say, until the sellers form a union to take on Levy, EMS, and Skins management. A group of peeved vendors showed up at FedExField on Sunday to hand out union cards and information sheets about the pay discrepancies between their hometown and others.

There was also a movement to get vendors to boycott FedExField this coming Sunday, when the Skins will play the Packers. The Eagles and Ravens will also have home games, and vendor organizers advised those that weren’t already planning on staying away from FedExField to do so.

“I will not work there,” Harol said. “I will not contribute to what they’re doing.”

Skins spokesman Tony Wyllie told Deadspin that while the team is responsible for bringing the new concessionaire, Levy, into the stadium, vendor issues are not the team’s problem. “Our deal is with Levy,” Wyllie said. “[Beer sellers] are not Redskins employees. We have no insight on what they pay. We don’t make the deals.”

 

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

It’s not 2Pac, but at least he’ll spend most of, if not the rest of his life in jail.

 

PRIESTS

 

ENVIRONMENT, HURRICANES, AND SCIENCE

 

ELECTION 2018

 

PUERTO RICO

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

RUMOR MILL

 

That’s it for Thursday.  If history is any clue, Friday will be nuts.

One of these days, I’m going to go through all of these posts to find the posts I’ve talked about doing.  I keep saying I want to write this or that, but then I get distracted by the next shiny object or ball of twine.

I wonder what Friday’s Ball of Twine will be.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

 

 

 

 

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