Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mueller Trumps Russiagate

Of course, there's only one really big story today. The FBI acting on behalf of the New York office of the U.S. Attorneys acting on a referral from Robert Mueller, raided the office, house, and vacation house of Donald Trumps personal attorney: ACTING ON MUELLER'S CRIMINAL REFERRAL, FBI RAIDS OFFICES OF TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER MICHAEL COHEN screams Ace:
They're really going to do this, aren't they?

Gird your loins. This feels like the beginning of the end, one way or the other.
The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen's lawyer, who called the search "completely inappropriate and unnecessary." The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller's investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.
The payments to Ms. Clifford are only one of many topics being investigated, according to a person briefed on the search. The F.B.I. also seized emails, tax documents and business records, the person said.
Paying someone to keep her mouth shut is not a crime, or else everyone who pays a blackmailer is himself committing a criminal act. Not saying this woman is a blackmailer, but it's not illegal to pay off a blackmailer.

The only crime I can imagine is being investigated -- pretextually -- is the claim by this porno actress and admitted liar that a thug approached her and recommended she stay silent about Trump, making a vague threat against her and her child.
. . .
I can't declare this is all a set-up, though. It's hard for me to believe that Mueller would make a criminal referral based only on an admitted liar and fame-chaser's vague word, and I can't believe the FBI would dare to seek a warrant based only on that, and I can't believe a judge would issue a warrant based only on that.

But it's not as hard for me to believe as it might have been two years ago.
UPDATE: WaPo reports: "Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations, according to a person familiar with the case."
Red State gives a fairly neutral rundown: Trump’s Lawyer Raided By The FBI: Here’s What We Know, Former Federal Prosecutor Ken White: Feds Raid Office of Trump Lawyer Who Paid Off Stormy Daniels. This Is a Big Deal.
The feds are only supposed to raid a law firm if less intrusive measures won't work. As the USAM puts it:
In order to avoid impinging on valid attorney-client relationships, prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach consistent with vigorous and effective law enforcement when evidence is sought from an attorney actively engaged in the practice of law. Consideration should be given to obtaining information from other sources or through the use of a subpoena, unless such efforts could compromise the criminal investigation or prosecution, or could result in the obstruction or destruction of evidence, or would otherwise be ineffective.
Such a search requires high-level approval. The USAM requires such a search warrant to be approved by the U.S. attorney—the head of the office, a presidential appointee—and requires "consultation" with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not a couple of rogue AUSAs sneaking in a warrant.
Scott Johnson at Powerline:  Cohen in the Crosshairs
We don’t know what yet what it all means, although it becomes clearer every day that President Trump is in a political death struggle with the authorities operating under his nominal control.
His colleague John Hinderacker: The FBI Escalates Its War on the Trump Administration
So here’s the situation: the Special Democratic Party Prosecutor and the Department of Justice, in the person of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, have nothing better to do than investigate a 12-year-old, one-night consensual encounter involving Donald Trump. Apparently, actual crime in New York is a thing of the past. Organized crime is extinct; political corruption is non-existent; illegal immigration has ceased; violent crime is unknown. Stormy Daniels is the most pressing item on the law enforcement agenda.

It is blindingly obvious that this whole story, and the leak thereof, is a political attack on President Trump by the Democratic Party. There is only one serious question: Didn’t President Trump appoint the current Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray? And the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions? Yes, he did. So why is DOJ making war on the president?

The answer is that Trump and his appointees do not control the departments they ostensibly run. Liberals tell us that at DOJ, it is critically important that political appointees not interfere with the “career professionals” who do all the work. I say, bullshit. The “career professionals” are just Democratic Party lifers who have risen to the top of the bureaucracy, often by avoiding any actual, risky work. I’m not talking about FBI agents on the street, or the majority of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. (U.S. Attorneys, of course, are political appointees.) I’m talking about career bureaucrats like James Comey, Bob Mueller, Andy McCabe, and so on.
Hot Air: Michael Cohen’s Office, Seize Material Related To Payments To Stormy Daniels, Other Matters; Update: Mueller Consulted Rosenstein; Update: Bank Fraud And Campaign Finance Violations?
Two things about this. One: It surely has to do with more than Stormygate. The FBI wouldn’t make a move this explosive because they’re worried about an undeclared two-year-old campaign contribution.

Two: Trump is going to blow a gasket, above and beyond his usual Russiagate indignation. With the possible exception of Keith Schiller, there may be no one in TrumpWorld who knows as many secrets about the president as Michael Cohen. If he’s done anything criminal in the past, Cohen not only would probably know about it, he might have the paperwork to prove it. I wonder who’s getting fired — Sessions, Rosenstein, or Mueller himself.
Trump lawyer gets Manafort-ed
One thing is curious: Mr. Cohen was cooperating with the authorities, so why were the jack-boots brought in? A special team of agents will need to go through the material in order to identify communications that are protected under attorney-client relationship. If the New York agents just happen to find something relevant to Mueller's investigation they can turn it over to the special counsel, The New York Times reports.
"I think when push comes to shove, he is going to fold like a cheap deck of cards. I really do."
"With that said, I don’t, I’m not applauding or high-fiving anybody’s offices being raided by the FBI. It’s a very, very serious matter. And I think that this is the first significant domino to fall."

Said Michael Avenatti — the lawyer for Stormy Daniels — about Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer.
There's lots of speculation about what criminal activity on behalf of Cohen the proesecutors are aiming at. The payoff to Stormy Daniels is obvious, but the crime is not. A payoff to a porn star to keep quiet could be about a number of things, separately or combined. It would be a fairly novel approach to allege that the payoff was an illegal campaign contribution, but Mueller is known for using novel interpretations of existing laws to indict his ham sandwiches.This was litigated in the John Edwards prosecution, and the Feds lost. But that was a Democrat. The Stormy Daniels Catch-22.

Another possible thread is that Mueller is investigating a $150,000 payment a pro-Russian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation during the campaign
The special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a large donation a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015 after then-candidate Donald Trump gave a video talk at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, The New York Times reported.

At the time, Trump was one of several Republicans vying for the 2016 presidential nomination. In August 2015, Doug Schoen, a political consultant who works for the Ukrainian billionaire and steel magnate Victor Pinchuk, personally contacted Trump to set up the speech, according to the report.

Trump accepted the request but reportedly did not broach the subject of any payment. However, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is said to have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk.
Hey, remember all those Russian (and Ukrainian/Russian) donations to the Clinton Foundation? The Daily Caller sure does: Mueller Investigating Trump Over $150K Donation From Ukrainian Who Gave Clintons $13 Million
Pinchuk appears to have had a much closer relationship to The Clintons. In June 2012, the billionaire attended a dinner at the Clintons’ residence. And through Schoen, Pinchuk lobbied the State Department in 2011 and 2013. Documents filed with the Justice Department show Schoen and Pinchuk met on several occasions in 2012 with Melanne Verveer, a close Clinton associate who then served as an ambassador at large for global women’s issues.

Bill Clinton attended Pinchuk’s annual Yalta conference, The New York Times reported on Feb. 13, 2014. Pinchuk also attended the former president’s 65th birthday party in Los Angeles.

The FBI reportedly investigated the Clinton Foundation over its foreign donations. The status of that investigation is unclear.
Not shockingly, Trump Calls FBI Raid On Personal Lawyer's Office 'A Whole New Level Of Unfairness', also not shockingly, Mark Levin says ‘Police state tactics’ used against Trump make me ‘SICK’ “If you think this sort of thing can’t happen to you, you are dead wrong.” Even Alan Dershowitz: Today is a 'very dangerous day for lawyer-client relations'
"I tell [clients] on my word of honor that what you tell me is sacrosanct," he said. "And now they say, just based on probable cause ... they can burst into the office, grab all the computers, and then give it to another FBI agent and say, 'You're the firewall. We want you now to read all these confidential communications, tell us which ones we can get and which ones we can't get.'"

"If this were Hillary Clinton being investigated and they went into her lawyer's office, the ACLU would be on every television station in America, jumping up and down," he added.

"The deafening silence from the ACLU and civil libertarians about the intrusion into the lawyer-client confidentiality is really appalling," Dershowitz said.
. . .
Dershowitz recommended that Trump make a motion in court to take Cohen's materials away from the FBI and make a judge decide what evidence can be used and which cannot..
At the American Spectator: Now’s the Time — Fire Mueller
If the Donald ever had any inclination to fire Robert Mueller, now is the time. The totally unnecessary and Gestapo-like raid on Trump’s private attorney’s office has put Mueller on a tee. This kind of stuff happens all too often in banana republics. But we can’t stand by and allow it to happen in America. If most Americans can’t see why we can’t allow it, then we need to get that stuff about “land of the free and home of the brave” out of the anthem.
Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, says "At this point President Trump has my full support to fire everybody"

But it's not all Cohngate: Ex-AG Loretta Lynch alleges James Comey gave conflicting testimony about Hillary Clinton email probe
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch says fired FBI Director James Comey didn't raise any concerns when she directed him in 2015 to label the bureau's probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server a "matter" as opposed to an "investigation."

But, nearly two years later, Comey gave a different recollection of events during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling lawmakers that Lynch's directive "confused and concerned" him.

Lynch drew attention to Comey's apparent conflicting remarks during an NBC News interview set to air in full Monday night.

"It was a meeting like any other that we had had where we talked about the issues. We had a full and open discussion about it and concerns were not raised," Lynch said.
Comey talks, but doesn't walk, a big ethics game. White House has no plan for countering Comey. To be fair, he's doing a pretty good job of countering himself. Never interfere with your enemy when he's destroying himself.

DOJ Continues Slow-Walking Document Subpoenaed by Congress, Ignoring April 5th Deadline and Risking Contempt Charges: Contempt -- well-named.

Linked by Evi L. Bloggerlady in "Stormy Mueller Monday".

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