Daily Check-In 12/06/2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018



Washington (CNN)In the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment at the time.

They discussed a range of options, including the idea of Rosenstein wearing a wire while speaking with Trump, which Rosenstein later denied. Ultimately, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation even before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, the sources said. The obstruction probe was an idea the FBI had previously considered, but it didn’t start until after Comey was fired. The justification went beyond Trump’s firing of Comey, according to the sources, and also included the President’s conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The new details about the genesis of the obstruction case into Trump that became a key element of the Mueller probe shed light on the chaotic week following Comey’s firing and the scramble to decide how best to respond. They also help to explain the origins of the Mueller investigation that has stretched across 19 months, consumed Trump’s presidency and is building toward a dramatic day of courtroom filings on Friday.

As if we needed any more proof that Andrew McCabe was targeted by Trump for his role in the Russian Investigation, we get this report that in the time between Comey’s firing and Mueller’s hiring that an Obstruction of Justice investigation was officially opened into Donald Trump.

McCabe was fired on Daily Check-In 03/16/2018.


WASHINGTON — The president’s lawyers have resumed discussions with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller in recent days, the first time that’s been acknowledged since President Donald Trump submitted written responses to questions regarding the possibility of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News on Thursday.

The president submitted answers to some questions on Nov 20th. At the time, his lawyers said publicly that he would only answer questions regarding the Russia probe and nothing regarding the possibility of obstruction of justice.

The sources would not characterize the nature of the discussions: whether Mueller is pressing for an in-person interview, or how close the process is to wrapping up.

Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC contributor, told NBC news the next logical step for prosecutors would be to focus on two types of further inquiries. The first would be follow-up questions.

“They may ask for clarification or additional information on some of the answers,” Vance said.

“The second is they will reopen the conversation about whether the president will submit to an in-person-interview,” she added.

When asked about the timing, Vance said: “The timeline makes sense. We’re coming into the holidays, they likely don’t want to let it lag for too long. If they want to follow up before the holidays, then this week would be the time to do that.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here on out on this topic.  Assuming that they’re just asking for clarification, this could wrap up soon.  If Mueller still wants the in-person interview, I’m not sure if that will actually happen or if the delay will keep things busy long enough to wrap everything else up.


A very interesting new development today courtesy of this American Oversight FOIA request. Brian Benczkowski led the “landing team” for the Trump transition at the Dept of Justice. Then, right after the transition, he was hired by Alfa Bank specifically on the controversy over those mysterious computer communications during the campaign between Russia-based servers for Alfa Bank, and servers for the Trump Org. That was a red flag for some Senators when Benczkowski was then nominated by Trump to head the Criminal Division at DOJ.

Benczkowski said at his hearings that he would recuse himself at DOJ from anything involving Alfa Bank, but he would *not* commit to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation more broadly. He was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General. But now today…

American Oversight’s FOIA has turned up this:

In the end, Benczkowski **is** recused… er, “screened off” from everything having to do with Mueller. Three questions. (1) Why the change since his confirmation hearings? (2) Is this related to Alfa? Or is he “screened off” for a different reason? and (3)…

Why is DOJ able to communicate this info about Benczkowski (again, he’s Assistant Attorney General & head of the Criminal Division at DOJ) but they are not able/willing to do the same about Acting AG Matt Whitaker? American Oversight FOIA Materials here:




Check out the #NEVERAGAIN section for more details.



In this crazy, mixed-up timeline, let’s not forget that it was only two days ago that Flynn’s sentencing memo was released, showing exactly how screwed Team Trump really is.  (Daily Check-In 12/04/2018)



Judge is holding a last-minute conference in alleged Russian agent Maria Butina’s case. A brief portion was on the record, Butina’s lawyer said they’re okay cancelling a status conference set for 12/19, anticipate not needing to pursue a subpoena, then asked to seal the hearing

We’ve now left the courtroom as the judge hears from Butina’s lawyer why this part of the hearing should be under seal (govt did not take a position)

(Deleted a previous tweet that referred to serving a subpoena, I’m actually not sure off the top of my head if the subpoena deadline referred to in court was for serving it or the deadline for the subpoena itself)

Recall that on Nov. 28, the lawyers said they were still in the process of negotiating a deal for Butina

And we’re told the judge has left the bench, so it appears she’ll let the latter part of the hearing in Butina’s case today remain sealed and we’re not going to learn anything else right now

To recap: – There was a status conf set for 12/19, but the lawyers asked to have a telephone conference today instead – We learned Butina’s lawyer is okay cancelling the 12/19 hearing and he said they prob won’t need to pursue a subpoena – Butina’s lawyer wanted the rest sealed

NEW: The court has appointed federal public defender AJ Kramer as “advisory counsel” to alleged Russian agent Maria Butina — no other information provided

We don’t have any more info on this right now. This doesn’t necessarily mean AJ Kramer is going to be her lawyer — he’s been brought in before to advise defendants when there are issues related to their lawyers (this happened in the Inauguration Day rioting cases, for instance)

The judge has now given Maria Butina until Dec. 10 at 5pm to explain why the transcript of the sealed part of today’s hearing shouldn’t be made public

Looks like things are accelerating with Butina and a possible plea deal.  We found out yesterday that her “boyfriend” Paul Erickson is fucked. (Daily Check-In 12/05/2018)  If she’s working on a plea deal, or possibly a cooperative deal, shit could get real interesting real fast.



The client says answering the questions was easy.  The lawyer says it was a nightmare.  They’re both deep into writing the report, and haven’t started yet.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a shit show.



This just in: Mouse rejects deal between Cat, Snake.


The House Remembers

I should really make a list of everyone the House Intel Committee under Adam Schiff wants to bring in for questioning.

The Minority Report from Daily Check-In 04/27/2018 and Here is a good place to start.


Under His Thin Skin

By this time next week, I expect every sentence to include “But Mueller…”.



Not gonna lie, I’m nervous about what’s coming.



Trump Organization Employs Illegal Immigrants

Check out the Immigration section for more info.





















NEW: Undocumented workers get the job done at President Trump’s golf club. My story about who makes his bed, waters the greens and more.

A few months ago, an undocumented immigrant named Victorina Morales decided that she wanted to share her story about working for Donald Trump

I met Victorina and another immigrant, who had worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister when she was undocumented, named Sandra Diaz. Both women were hurt by the president’s disparaging comments about unauthorized immigrants. Both said they understood the risks.

I visited both women in their homes in New Jersey, where they have lived for several years, and conducted interviews with them. They liked their work at the beautiful golf club, they said. They described Mr. Trump as a tough taskmaster who was kind and generous w tips.

Ms. Morales, a Guatemalan with little schooling, said she will never forget when he helped her wipe windows she couldn’t reach because she is short. He gave her $50. Ms. Diaz got $100 after Mr. Trump checked the dust in a room and expressed satisfaction with her work.

But they decided that now was the time to tell their stories about the contributions that immigrants make to the Trump business.

So, the ultra-racist immigrant hating xenophobe who bitches about immigrants taking American jobs employs MANY illegal immigrants across his properties.  I’d like to say I’m surprised, but who am I kidding?  Not only have we known about this for a long time, he’s built his businesses off of the backs of illegal labor.  Why?  Because he knows they can’t do shit to protect themselves.






So, here’s the dilly, yo.

It’s legal for an outside group to spend money on a campaign.  They can spend unlimited amounts of money.  But, they’re not allowed to coordinate with the candidate.  If they coordinate, then that becomes an in-kind campaign contribution, and the group is restricted to a maximum of $5,000 in donations.  They can’t coordinate content of ads, placement of ads, or anything like that.

Sometimes what happens is a media buyer will have multiple clients working for different clients on the same campaign.  To make sure they aren’t coordinating ads, they’ll break up into silos and assign different people to the teams.  So, if the candidate and a PAC hire the same buyer, Person A will work with only the candidate and Person B will work only with the PAC.

What happened here with Trump and the NRA was the initial appearance of separation, but only on the surface.  In the background, it was the same 4 people working for both the NRA and the Trump campaign at the same time.  This is illegal AF, and that they used different front companies just screams cover-up.


My God. Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for U.S. children; 35% of child/teen gun deaths are suicides—900+ per year. In 80% of cases, the gun belonged to a parent or relative. Yet she’s telling parents it’s not about responsible storage. The @NRA tried (and failed) to prevent doctors from talking to patients about gun safety. They oppose mandatory training and responsible storage guidelines for gun owners. They tried (and failed) to lower the federal age to buy a handgun to 18. They don’t care if our kids die. This is a uniquely American problem, thanks to the @NRA. Compared to other high-income countries, American children are 14 times more likely to be killed by guns. In part because 4 million American children live in homes with unsecured guns. Get the facts:




















GOP Shenanigans

Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin lost elections on Nov. 6. Rather than respect the will of voters, they’re using their last few weeks in office to pass laws limiting the power of new governors and put roadblocks on voting. It’s not just anti-Democratic. It’s anti-democratic.

Over the last few days, Republicans in Wisconsin’s state legislature have pushed through bills to shift power to their Republican-controlled legislature and away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

In Michigan, voters chose Democrats to be governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Since then, the Republican-controlled legislature has passed bills to gut minimum wage, slash paid sick leave, and limit the new secretary of state’s powers.

This is not in line with American values, and it’s a dangerous path. It’s a fundamental building block of democracy that elected representatives respect the outcome of elections. To ignore those outcomes is to silence voters and endanger the health of our democracy itself.


North Carolina












That’s it for Thursday.  At this point, I’m waiting for Friday’s news to drop.  At the time of this writing, about noonish EST, nothing Mueller related has dropped.  We did get a story about Rex Tillerson talking about his time with Trump, though.  I don’t expect the Manafort and Cohen stuff to come out until much later at night, and a lot of it will probably be redacted to hell.

That being said, I’m looking forward to burning the midnight oil.


Thank you, and have a good one.


“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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