Monday, February 19, 2018

The Morning Russia Gate Fix

Yes, yes, yes, exactly.

Aptest Trump tweet ever.

'They are laughing their asses off in Moscow': Trump takes on the FBI, Russia probe and 2016 election
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,’” Trump tweeted at 7:33 a.m. Sunday. “The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia — it never did!”
A point I made yesterday. Yes, it's amazing how the WaPo et al put words into his mouth, and then try to choke him with them. NYT (via Hot Air) Trump’s Conspicuous Silence Leaves A Struggle Against Russia Without A Leader. The 1980s want their foreign policy back.

The Russian journalist who helped uncover election interference is confounded by the Mueller indictments
A lot of Russian conservatives were proud. They said: “Look at what Russians can do! Only 90 people with $2 million made America scared! We are strong!” And for conservative people here, they see that Americans have CNN, Radio Free Europe, etc., that cover Russia. They say, “Why can’t we establish groups in America and have our own influence?” That's how conservative people think here. They think this was normal.
Why Mueller Didn't Indict the Russians for Meddling in the Presidential Election 
The Russians obviously violated this statute (52 U.S.C. §30121, which covers “meddling” in U.S. elections by foreign nationals); they spent millions of dollars to promote the candidacies of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Jill Stein, and to oppose the candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. So why weren’t they charged with the most pertinent crime they committed? Because Christopher Steele arguably violated the same law. He is a foreign national, and he contributed a “thing of value” to the Hillary Clinton campaign, namely the fake dossier.

Note, too, Section (2): it is a crime to “solicit, accept, or receive” such a contribution from a foreign national. Isn’t that what the Perkins, Coie law firm, the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and probably Hillary herself, did?

The FEC guidance on contributions by foreign nationals is interesting. There is a “volunteer exception”; i.e., foreign nationals can volunteer their services to a political campaign. But Steele wasn’t a volunteer.

I don’t doubt that election lawyers could come up with defenses for Christopher Steele, were he to be charged with violating §30121. But that is a can of worms that Mueller didn’t want to open. Too many people know the facts behind the Steele dossier, and if he had charged the Russians with meddling in the presidential election under §30121, he soon would have faced questions about why he didn’t indict Steele–and Glenn Simpson, Perkins, Coie, Clinton campaign officials, and perhaps Clinton–for the same offense.

It was in order to avoid that pitfall, I suspect, that Mueller overlooked the most relevant federal offense that the Russians committed, and instead charged them with a vague “conspiracy to defraud,” along with wire fraud, bank fraud and identity theft. The first charge is entirely discretionary on Mueller’s part, and Steele didn’t commit wire fraud, bank fraud or identity theft.

I think that is why Mueller chose not to indict the Russians for meddling in a U.S. presidential election.
. . .
Lowenstein agrees that the charge of “conspiracy to defraud the United States” is goofy:
Like you, I find it hard to understand the charge of intent to defraud the United States. I have not read the indictment, but if there is no better explanation of what they mean than you provided, then I can only imagine it means the Russians intended to mislead the voters in a manner likely to influence voters. I agree with you that that is pretty flaky. But flaky or not, I do not see why it is less applicable to Steele than to the indicted Russians.
My point is not so much that the conspiracy theory is less applicable to Steele than the Russians, but rather that the theory is so vague and so novel that its application is, as I phrased it, “entirely discretionary on Mueller’s part.”
Getting nervous? Dem Sen. ‘warns’ Mueller not to release his findings near the election
Now, we know these Democrats. If they were sure that Mueller’s report was going to spell doom for the Trump administration, they wouldn’t care one bit about the appropriateness of releasing it around an election.
Behind The Sanctimonious Tweets James Comey Has a Very Serious Book Problem…
Not a single Washington beat journalist writing a sentence about any of the crew to include any actual statement or inquisitive question of them. Nothing. Pete, Lisa, Bruce, Nellie, Jim, James, Bill, David, Mike, Andy… nothing. All of them collectively create the silence of an 800lb gorilla sitting ‘over there’ while the incurious media look away.

Think carefully about this. There’s not even a comment to say “no comment”.
. . .
How’s the need to ignore the 800lb gorilla going to work with a simultaneous book tour?
Rick Gates To Change His Plea To Guilty On Fraud Charges
Friday Ed highlighted a story saying Rick Gates was cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation and could soon reach a plea deal with the Special Counsel. Today the LA Times reports the plea deal could take effect this week. Gates will change his plea to guilty on fraud charges but will receive a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation.
. . .
The story suggests Gates decided to flip because he couldn’t afford the $1 million or more it would cost to mount a defense to the charges. “He can’t afford to pay it,” a lawyer involved in the case told the LA Times.
Ah yes, the same tactic as with Michael Flynn. Break 'em financially and force them to plead guilty to a felony.
It seems this deal is not aimed at getting dirt on Trump, at least not directly. However, the Gates plea deal will give Mueller an insider witness in his remaining case against Manafort. So the real goal here is probably to apply enough pressure to Manafort that he also agrees to make a deal rather than fight the case in court. If Manafort rolls over he might potentially have something to offer Mueller about Trump, or at least someone higher up the food chain.

The real question is this: Does Mueller have reason to believe Manafort has a song to sing or is he just fishing for whatever he can get? If the latter, then that would suggest he really doesn’t have much to show in the way of collusion after all these months. But we’ll have to wait and see.

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