Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reciprocating Russiagate

As you might expect, the world has lined up on the two sides of Russiagate. Starting for the Right side, Stacy McCain: Anti-Trump Witch-Hunt Update
The key question: Is “catch-and-kill” actually illegal?

A couple of bimbos want to cash in on Trump’s success by telling tales of their past affairs with the candidate, so Cohen strikes a deal with the publisher of the National Enquirer, and we’re told that this was a violation of federal campaign finance laws. If Cohen believed this was illegal, did he tell Trump it was illegal? If a lawyers is willing to do something shady on his client’s behalf, is this the client’s fault?

All this looks very bad for Trump, of course, but it looked very bad for him in October 2016 when the Access Hollywood tapes leaked. Anyone who wants to bet against Trump defeating his enemies should keep in mind that Trump has a habit of defying the odds against him.
The Dersh says no impeachable offense:

And whoever thought the Donald was capable of such sly understatement?:

Levin on Cohen guilty plea: ‘Donald Trump’s in the clear’
“Just because a prosecutor says that somebody violated a campaign law doesn’t make it so. He’s not the judge; he’s not the jury,” Levin said. “We didn’t adjudicate anything. It never went to court.”.
Kathryn Blackhurst at LifZette agrees: Cohen Needs ‘Something Other Than His Own Word’ to Hurt Trump "Tom Dupree said lawyer's plea deal alleging campaign finance violations 'doesn't mean that other people are automatically deemed guilty.'" Byron York: Manafort split verdict says nothing on Trump, Russia, and the 2016 election. But we knew that. Without the filler, Mollie Hemingway: 6 Takeaways About Paul Manafort And Michael Cohen’s Legal Woes 1. Nothing To Do With Russia, 2. Fraud Is Bad, 3. Infidelity Is Destructive, 4. Targeted For Political Connections, 5. Campaign Finance Violations Might Implicate Trump, But Might Not and 6. A Trap For The Resistance? Red State: Cohen’s Guilty Plea, What It Means, And What It Doesn’t Mean.  Salena Zito: Why Trump’s supporters won’t care about Cohen and Manafort’s convictions.
These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate-dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat. They were willing to look past all of that because of how institutions had failed their communities for three consecutive presidencies.
George Neumaur: Ignore the Noise, Mueller Still Has Nothing "Let him keep indicting and convicting ham sandwiches. Most Americans won’t care."
Mueller is expert at finding flaky witnesses. Cohen is his latest. His memories of conversations and meetings with Trump are no more reliable than Jim Comey’s. Cohen has given baldly contradictory accounts of his payments to Stormy Daniels. The notion that Trump could lose the presidency owing to the testimony of a sleazy casino lawyer strains all plausibility.

Mueller’s report will culminate in nothing more than an epic political food fight — a mode of combat Trump has perfected. Through his relentless tweeting, Trump has thoroughly educated the American people on the raw politics of Mueller’s probe — that he inherited a hopelessly tainted investigation from Trump haters ensconced in the Obama administration, that Mueller assembled a team of Hillary supporters to continue the probe, and that he has abandoned his DOJ mandate for a partisan fishing expedition of staggering proportions. The unfairness of it all has not been lost on the American people.
By way of Wombat-socho's "In The Mailbox: 08.22.18" Prof. William A. Jacobson says Manafort and Cohen convictions don’t change much politically
The Michael Cohen plea deal is potentially more problematic. Cohen said he made the payments to buy the silence of two women with the knowledge and at the direction of a federal candidate (Trump). That contradicts Cohen prior versions. But assuming it’s provable, it’s not clear that the payments were illegal. The issue is whether they constituted unreported campaign contributions, which is not a slam dunk for prosecutors. In the plea deal the issue was not litigated – Cohen agreed to it because the prosecution had him on more serious tax and fraud charges, so adding in the campaign finance issues was at no cost to Cohen.

John Hinderaker summed it up well:
It is not illegal to pay someone to remain silent. The theory here is that the money paid to Clifford was an illegal campaign contribution. Since Cohen says he made the payment to Clifford at Trump’s direction, Mueller is trying to ensnare Trump in that “crime.” To my knowledge, there is no legal authority on whether paying a woman to keep her mouth shut constitutes a campaign contribution. It strikes me as a foolish interpretation of the law, and forcing Cohen to plead guilty to the “crime” of paying off Ms. Clifford doesn’t transform it into a crime.
The reason none of this will hurt Trump is that it’s all baked into the cake.
Media Hypes Alleged Trump Campaign Violations, Largely Ignores Obama Campaign Infringements
When the Federal Election Commission audited the ‘Obama for America’ 2008 campaign the agency found several serious issues. Among the violations were 1,300 large donations totaling $1.9 million that were not disclosed within the prescribed 20-days before election day. The Obama campaign also accepted additional contributions from individuals who already donated the maximum legal amount of $46,000 and failed to refund the excess contributions within the legal time frame.After the agency audit was released in 2012, the campaign was fined $375,000, which is one of the largest fines ever charged against a presidential campaign.

In the wake of the devastating guilt of Paul Manafort
 and Michael Cohen, President Trump cleans out his desk
 in the Oval Office.
Scrappleface: Cohen, Manafort Felony Guilt Spurs Trump Departure

And on the Wrong side? Editorial of The New York Sun: The President in a Vise. Breitbart: Tom Steyer Renews Call for Impeachment After Manafort Verdict, Cohen Plea. So nothing has changed there. Another surprise:  NYT's Bret Stephens: Trump should resign or be impeached after Cohen guilty plea. Da Caller: Dem. Congressman Calls for Judiciary Investigation to Examine Trump’s Possible Criminal Action
“For years Michael Cohen was Donald Trump‘s fixer. And today he became America’s fixer, by letting us know in court that we have an unindicted co-conspirator of a federal crime sitting in the Oval Office. And now the question is what will the US Congress do about that. “I believe that the judiciary committee in both the House and the Senate should open an investigation tomorrow morning.”
Also at Da Caller: Lanny Davis Suggests Michael Cohen Has Information About Campaign-Related Hacking  But then, Lanny Davis is well known for representing liars. CNN Two courtroom dramas leave Trump's presidency on a cliffhanger. Red State: Robert Mueller May Not Have Won Big Today, But Donald Trump Definitely Lost. WaPo: Trump’s company approved $420,000 in payments to Cohen, relying on ‘sham’ invoices, prosecutors say. Kinda like the sham invoices the DNC and Hillary campaign used to pay for the "Steele Dossier?" NYT (quoted at Hot Air): Cohen Implicates Trump. What Do Prosecutors Do Now?. You might be able imagine what the NYT thinks they should do. Pete Kasperowicz, WaEx: Dems use Manafort, Cohen as weapon against Brett Kavanaugh. But Chuck Grassely told them politely where to stick it.
"Justice Breyer’s confirmation occurred when President Clinton’s records had been subpoenaed by a grand jury," he said, referring to Justice Stephen Breyer, who was nominated in 1994. "Obviously, we are nowhere close to that situation today. Calls to delay the hearing are just the latest tactic from opponents who decided to vote ‘no’ weeks ago frantically looking for anything that sticks."
But other Russiagate tentacles continue to slither along: Mueller seeks to push back Flynn sentencing again. Still trying to squeeze something useful out of the General? But what happens when an FBI agent bends the rules? DOJ Declines to Prosecute FBI Agent IG Says Received Money from Former Source, Protected Source’s Illegal Business, Provided False Info to Police, and Misused FBI Assets for Personal Gain. For those wondering, no it's not Peter Strzok.

Judge throws out defamation lawsuit against Christopher Steele over dossier
A judge in Washington, D.C., has thrown out a lawsuit against former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who had been sued by Russian oligarchs claiming he defamed them in his dossier about the Trump campaign’s alleged links with Russia.

German Khan, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, all Russian billionaires with stakes in the Russian Alfa Banking Group, claimed that allegations in Steele's dossier, published by media outlets in early 2017, were libelous.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein cited the plaintiffs' failure to provide any evidence that the information in the dossier was knowingly falsified, that Steele knew anything was false or that he had any reason to doubt the sources.
. . .
A lawyer representing the Russian plaintiffs said the judge was mistaken.

“We strongly disagree with the Court’s decision which we will almost certainly appeal," Alan S. Lewis said.

"We are, however, pleased that the Court agreed that we have adequately proved Mr. Steele’s negligence in making unsupported accusations that our clients had something to do with alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election – which they did not. We respectfully disagree with Judge Epstein on a number of points and are confident that the appellate court will reinstate the Plaintiffs’ claims,” Lewis said.
Victor Davis Hanson: The Reexamimation of Security Clearances Was Long Overdue
Much has been written about former CIA and FBI official Philip Mudd’s recent unhinged outburst on CNN against Paris Dennard for the latter’s credible suggestion that many ex-officials have monetized the fact that they have retained their security clearances.

Dennard was suggesting that those with security clearances, with a wink and nod, sometimes bolster their partisan expertise by alluding to shadowy knowledge not supposedly known to the rest of us.

Oddly, Mudd himself seemed to have already proven that point, a year earlier, when he sounded “in the know” in expressing his confidence that President Trump was in some sort of physical danger from the intelligence community.

In August 2017, Mudd warned a stunned Jake Tapper on CNN that “the government is going to kill this guy [President Trump].” And the reason Mudd adduced? “Because [Trump] doesn’t support them.”

His full warning was: “Let me give you one bottom line as a former government official. The government is going to kill this guy. The government is going to kill this guy because he doesn’t support them.”

Mudd further preened about his assassination allusions as “a former government official”: “What I’m saying is government — people talk about the deep state — when you disrespect government officials who’ve done 30 years, they’re going to say, ‘Really?’”

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