Monday, July 9, 2018

Reheating Russiagate

Paul Manafort dominates today's Russiagate news as it is announced that Mueller WILL NOT Present Collusion Evidence At Manafort Trial (Chuck Ross, Da Caller).
Special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing Friday that his prosecutors will not present evidence regarding Trump campaign collusion with Russia at an upcoming trial for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“The government does not intend to present at trial evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government,” reads a filing submitted by Mueller’s team in federal court in Virginia on Friday.

The filing sheds light on one of the largest questions looming over the Manafort case. Mueller’s prosecutors have indicted Manafort in federal court in Virginia and Washington, D.C., on a slew of charges related to his consulting work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. (RELATED: Manafort Lawyers Say Mueller Team Unable To Provide Evidence Of Collusion)

Manafort ended the work in 2014, and it has been unclear whether Mueller’s team planned to reveal evidence about President Donald Trump or the campaign.

Manafort is accused in the unverified Steele dossier of directing the Trump campaign’s efforts to coordinate with the Kremlin to help Trump in the 2016 election. The dossier, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC, claims that Manafort worked with former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on the effort. Both Page and Manafort have said they have never met each other.
So why did Rosenstein go out of his way to give Mueller the green light to re-open an investigation of Manafort that the DOJ had already closed once for lack of evidence? It sounds an awful lot like they wanted to get him badly, and his association with Trump was sufficient cover. Find me the man and I'll find you the crime.

Also at Da Caller Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Arranged Meeting With Reporters To Discuss Manafort Investigation. Josh Gerstein at Politico: Details emerge on Justice Department meeting with reporters on Manafort
Now, Manafort’s attorneys have fresh evidence they say bolsters their claims: two memos written by FBI agents who attended the meeting and documented their version of what transpired. Manafort’s legal team paints the evidence as confirmation that journalists were given inside information about the investigation in violation of Justice Department policies and, perhaps, legal prohibitions on disclosure of grand jury secrets.

“The meeting raises serious concerns about whether a violation of grand jury secrecy occurred,” Manafort's lawyers wrote in a filing Friday with U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who’s set to oversee an upcoming trial of Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. “Now, based on the FBI’s own notes of the meeting, it is beyond question that a hearing is warranted.”

One of the FBI memos indicates that the AP did get some information at the meeting. At the conclusion of the session, reporters got a vague assurance that they “appeared to have a good understanding of Manafort’s business dealings,” one memo says. The same memo says the meeting was “arranged” by Andrew Weissmann, then the chief of the fraud section of Justice’s Criminal Division and now the top prosecutor on the Manafort case.
If it can be shown that Andew Weismann shared Grand Jury info with the AP, he needs to go directly to solitary confinement before trial.
The memos also show that one of the AP journalists gave the FBI an unusual detail about a storage unit in Alexandria, Virginia, that Manafort used to keep records of his worldwide business dealings. Both memos say the AP revealed a code number to access the unit, although one memo says the reporters declined to share the number or location of the locker. (The memos give two slightly different versions of the code, with one suggesting it was to access a locked parking lot at the storage facility.)
. . .
One journalism expert said he was taken aback by the AP sharing the code with the FBI, but he cautioned that the FBI's accounts are only their perspective on the meeting. “I’m surprised by the access code notation, that does seem rather unorthodox if the FBI memo is accurate in stating or implying that the AP reporters volunteered that information,” said University of Maryland journalism professor Mark Feldstein. “Generally speaking, skepticism is warranted when it comes to self-reporting by both the FBI and news outlets about their interactions. Neither side is supposed to share confidential information with the other, but in fact each often does — perhaps to seek corroboration, perhaps to get other confidential information back in exchange or perhaps to spur on the other side's investigation.”
Yeah, at this point why would anyone believe either the FBI or the AP? Blogger broke a cardinal rule of journalism by revealing source to FBI. Here's why (Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post)
But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source - she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of President Donald Trump's possible connections to Russia.

"On its face, I broke one of the cardinal rules of journalism, but what he was doing should cause a source to lose protection," Wheeler told me in a lengthy phone interview. "It's not a decision I regret," she added.

That she did so, as detailed in a post last week on her Empty Wheel blog, stunned those who have followed her work because she has so frequently criticized American intelligence agencies and their penchant for surveilling U.S. citizens."For her to go to the FBI, that made my jaw drop," said Daniel Drezner, a Tufts University professor of international politics. (He doesn't know her personally but has followed her work.) "It's like Glenn Greenwald calling up the CIA and saying I've discovered a mole," Drezner said. (He was referring to the Pulitzer-winning, anti-surveillance, civil liberties lawyer who is co-founder of the Intercept, which focuses on national security news.)

Wheeler hasn't named the source publicly, though his name may soon be known to all who are following the Mueller investigation. But her dealings with him have brought her around to believing something she initially questioned: that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a very real thing, and that Trump associates played a part. What exactly did the source do to deserve outing to the FBI, in her view? Wheeler is circumspect in describing that.

Her blog post centers on a text message she says she got from the source on Nov. 9, 2016 - about 14 hours after the polls closed - predicting that Michael Flynn, who would be Trump's appointee for national security adviser, would be meeting with "Team Al-Assad" within 48 hours.Russia has been perhaps the Assad regime's staunchest ally. As she noted: "The substance of the text - that the Trump team started focusing on Syria right after the election - has been corroborated and tied to their discussions with Russia at least twice since then."
. . .
But what motivated her recent revelation that she went to the FBI has plenty to do with politics: She is disgusted by the way House Republicans are, in her view, weaponizing their oversight responsibilities and making it all too likely that FBI informants will have their names revealed - and their safety threatened. "It infuriates me," she wrote, to observe the "months-long charade by the House GOP to demand more and more details about those who have shared information with the government . . . all in an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation."
So Mueller is investigating what Flynn did after Trump was elected, and Flynn was the presumptive National Security adviser? Sounds like an attempt to criminalize a policy dispute with the Obama administration, not that I would expect less from WaPo.

Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, Giuliani says Cohen should cooperate with feds: 'We have no reason to believe he did anything wrong'
Rudy Giuliani says he has “no concerns” about the possibility that President Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen will cooperate with federal investigators. “Michael Cohen should cooperate with the government,” Mr. Giuliani said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We have no reason to believe he did anything wrong.”
. . .
Mr. Giuliani, who joined Mr. Trump’s legal team earlier this year, dismissed those concerns, saying there is no indication that the president is involved in the investigation into Mr. Cohen. “I have no concerns that Michael Cohen is going to do anything but tell the truth,” he said.
Guilliani also reiterated his  demand that the Trump legal team wants 'factual basis' for Mueller interview (ABC News). Seems reasonable to require them to have a reasonable basis to interview interrogate the President.

Hmmmm. Brandon Weichert at the American Spectator: The Deep State Finds Its Next Target - Why it’s zeroing in on Jim Jordan.
During a recent public contretemps between himself and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Jordan argued that Rosenstein was a liar who had been misusing his power to redact critical portions of evidence related to the Hillary Clinton investigation. He further humiliated the deputy attorney general by stating that Congress was going to officially denounce Rosenstein as a liar and an obstructionist — all while Rosenstein claimed he was not directly responsible for the redactions (which Jordan, rightly, reminded Rosenstein that he was the boss, and the buck ultimately stopped with him). At one point, Rosenstein kvetched that Jordan’s line of inquiry “fe[lt] personal.”

Congressman Jordan made the grave mistake of essentially telling the emperor that he had no clothes on. In so doing, he painted a massive target on himself. The rolling coup acted swiftly.

Soon thereafter, the “mainstream” media began circulating an unsubstantiated, 30-year old tabloid story about how Jordan — as an assistant wrestling coach at the Ohio State University — ignored reports that the team’s doctor (who is now conveniently deceased) was molesting student athletes. Jordan denies the claims that he ever knew of any such wrongdoing. But that doesn’t matter.
If he had denounced the Dr. he would probably be being accused of homophobia.
The sheer fact that a leading opponent to the coup is wasting precious time responding to such baseless allegations, breathing new life into this “news” story, has served the coup plotters well. Thus, this meaningless distraction has not only potentially removed Jordan as a threat, but it has also given the plotters ample time to continue on with their dastardly deeds in greater secrecy. What’s more, the powerful handful of plotters are also sending a grave warning to others in Congress who believe as Jordan does: if you persist with your investigation, we will destroy you too.
This article in today's WaPo makes it pretty clear that's exactly what they're doing: Rep. Jim Jordan returns to Washington as scrutiny over alleged sexual abuse at Ohio State intensifies
The week will begin as two ethics experts ask an independent congressional watchdog to look at Jordan’s case. Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s ethics czar, and Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, will argue in a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday that it should conduct a preliminary inquiry into whether Jordan’s denials are false. OCE findings are sometimes referred to the House Ethics Committee.

“If Rep. Jordan is lying, he failed to protect student wrestlers under his supervision,” Wertheimer said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This is a very serious matter that goes to the institutional integrity of the House and its Members.”

“The evidence that Rep. Jordan is lying continues to mount,” Eisen stated. “If this were a ‘he said, he said’ matter, that would be one thing. But with seven witnesses already stepping forward and perhaps more in the wings, an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation is needed.”

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