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fraurosena

The Russian Connection

620 posts in this topic

"The case for Trump-Russia collusion: We’re getting very, very close"

Spoiler

We now know the motives. In backing Donald Trump, Russia’s oligarchical class sought not only to disrupt U.S. politics but also to reverse sanctions, both those applied in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and those connected to the Magnitsky Act, which targeted officials involved in human rights violations. In seeking Russian support, Trump sought not only to become president but also to make money: Even as he launched his presidential campaign, he hoped to receive a major influx of money from a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

Along with the motives, we know the methods. As the New York Times has just graphically demonstrated, professional Russian Internet trolls, probably operating out of St. Petersburg, set up hundreds of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts during the election campaign. The trolls then posted thousands of fake stories, memes and slogans, supported anti-Clinton hashtags and narratives, and linked back to DCLeaks, the website that posted emails that Russian hackers stole from the Clinton campaign.  The emails “revealed” by that hack were utterly banal. But the fake operatives said they contained “hidden truths,” hinted that they were part of a secret “Soros” operation, after liberal financier George Soros, and persuaded people to click. This is a method Russian operatives had used before. Previous elections, in Poland and Ukraine, demonstrated that stolen material — any stolen material — can be used to foment conspiracy theories that never die.

We know what happened next: The fake stories, memes and slogans moved from the network of Russian-sponsored “American” accounts into the networks of real Americans. Some, such as “pizzagate,” the theory that Hillary Clinton was part of a pedophile ring being run out of Washington pizza parlor, got a lot of attention. Others, such as the theory that Barack Obama founded the Islamic State, or the theory that the Google search engine was working on Clinton’s behalf, got less attention but were notable for another reason: They were not only promoted on the fake Russian network, which bought advertising in order to push them further, but also were promoted on open Russian news networks, including the Sputnik English-language news services. Afterwards, they were repeated, also openly, by candidate Trump.

Now here is a piece of the story that we don’t know: How did the Russians behind the fake “American” accounts know which real Americans would be most excited to read conspiracy theories on Facebook? How did they know how to target their ads? Perhaps they just got lucky. Perhaps they just happened upon broad networks of people who were willing to click on their conspiracy theories and pass them on. Or perhaps they had some help. Certainly the Trump campaign had this kind of information — recently, one of Trump’s online campaign managers bragged to the BBC about their ability to “target” on Facebook and elsewhere.

Here is another piece we don’t know: How did Trump happen to use the same conspiracy theories that were proliferating on Russian media, both real and fake? Again, this could be coincidence. Or, again, there could have been coordination. Messages tested by Russian trolls might have been passed on to the Trump campaign — or vice versa.

I still believe, as I’ve been writing for months, that Trump’s sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a cynicial and vicious dictator, should, by itself, have eliminated him from U.S. politics. Nothing else that we will ever learn about him makes him more unqualified to be president of the United States.

But for those who want something more, do be aware that circumstantial evidence of Russian collusion with his campaign is already available. And direct evidence is getting very, very close.

I'm with you, @onekidanddone, I'm tired of being patient. How much smoke does there have to be for the Repugs to finally shout "FIRE"?

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"Why Donald Trump Jr. is in Robert Mueller’s cross hairs"

Spoiler

The discovery of Donald Trump Jr.’s controversial meeting with Russians in June 2016 has turned up the existence of interesting phone calls the president’s son had with a Russian go-between after getting an invitation to meet on opposition research they supposedly had on Hillary Clinton. The Post reports:

The emails that originated the meeting came to Trump Jr. from a publicist named Rob Goldstone. One of Goldstone’s clients was a performer named Emin Agalarov, who is also the vice president of a development company in Moscow that partnered with the Trump Organization in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant in that city. . . .

We know that Trump Jr. has proven to be consistently uninterested in offering a full explanation of the events surrounding that meeting until it has become unavoidable for him to do so. We know that perhaps the only record of the phone calls with Agalarov that might exist are records of the calls’ duration, which Trump Jr. has now included in his statement before those records are subpoenaed. We know that Trump Jr. only agreed to the meeting after those calls occurred.

The evidence at hand strongly suggests that Agalarov and Trump Jr. spoke. If they did, that call almost certainly involved Agalarov explaining to Trump Jr. why the meeting was worth his time. Agalarov, to some extent, sold the president’s son on taking the meeting.

Donald Trump Jr. and his attorney — echoed by some credulous reporting — insist he did not “collude” with Russians. “Colluding” is not a crime or even a legal term. If you consider consulting with a Russian go-between, agreeing to take a meeting offered with the promise to get dirt on Clinton, and a series of misleading and incomplete statements explaining the meeting to be evidence of “collusion” and a guilty mindset, you are not alone.

The June meeting has become the point at which two strands of the special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller’s investigation came together.

First, we have whether Trump’s team was cooperating — “colluding,” if you will — with Russians in order to obtain help in defeating Clinton. With the reports this week that Facebook sold $100,000 worth of advertising to a “Russian bot farm” that spread anti-Clinton propaganda, one wonders if they were able to pull all that off and time the WikiLeaks disclosure with no help whatsoever from anyone on the Trump team. That’s possible, but it would be remarkable. (The Post reports, “Even though the ad spending from Russia is tiny relative to overall campaign costs, the report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States — a question some Democrats have been asking for months.”)

The second strand of Mueller’s investigation concerns the possible obstruction of justice. Trump asking former FBI director James B. Comey to lay off Michael T. Flynn; subsequently firing Comey; cooking up a false story to explain Comey’s firing; leaving out meetings with Russians from testimony (in the case of Attorney General Jeff Sessions) and submissions for a security clearance (in the case of Jared Kushner); sending out people like VP Mike Pence to vouch for the phony reason for Comey’s firing; trying to affect Comey’s testimony by lying about the existence of tapes; cooking up a fake story about President Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower (to throw investigators off the trail); and creating a misleading narrative to explain the June 2016 meeting all go into the “obstruction” box. And once again, we see Mueller hot on the trail. CNN reports:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has approached the White House about interviewing staffers who were aboard Air Force One when the initial misleading statement about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower was crafted, three sources familiar with the conversations said.

The special counsel’s discussions with the White House are the latest indication that Mueller’s investigators are interested in the response to the Trump Tower meeting. Mueller wants to know how the statement aboard Air Force One was put together, whether information was intentionally left out and who was involved, two of the sources said.

Oddly, Donald Trump Jr. in his Thursday interview under oath with staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee reportedly could not remember the details of how that statement was put together. That’s hard to take at face value given the importance of the issue, the reported intervention of the president and how recent were the events in question (May of this year). Saying “I don’t remember” when one does remember would be false testimony under oath.

In sum, the June 2016 meeting has become the focal point, at least for now, of investigation into possible cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign and into obstruction of that investigation, which if Donald Trump Jr. testified falsely, continues to the present. And let’s not forget that both of those lines of inquiry require investigation of Trump’s finances. (As a former U.S. attorney explained, “These financial relationships are relevant to the Russia investigation because they may speak to Trump or his associates’ motive or opportunity to collude, or else provide evidence of collusion.”) The American people need not worry that Mueller will leave any stone unturned.

I hope there is lots of squirming going on behind the scenes in Drumpflandia.

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Donald Trump, Jr., everyone's favorite upper class twit, hasn't realized he's completely out of his depth and is floundering badly.  I wonder if his pathetic attempts to pretend he's in control of the narrative are a source of amusement to Mueller, et al. 

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18 hours ago, fraurosena said:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall during those interviews...

Spicer, Priebus, Hicks among six current and former Trump aides Mueller has expressed interest in interviewing for Russia probe

  Reveal hidden contents

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has alerted the White House that his team will likely seek to interview six top current and former advisers to President Trump who were witnesses to several episodes relevant to the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the request.

Mueller’s interest in the aides, including trusted adviser Hope Hicks, ex-press secretary Sean Spicer and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, reflects how the probe that has dogged Trump’s presidency is starting to penetrate a closer circle of aides around the president.

Each of the six advisers was privy to important internal discussions that have drawn the interest of Mueller’s investigators, including his decision in May to fire FBI Director James B. Comey and the White House’s initial inaction following warnings that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had withheld information from the public about his private discussions in December with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, according to people familiar with the probe.

The advisers are also connected to a series of internal documents that Mueller’s investigators have asked the White House to produce, according to people familiar with the special counsel’s inquiry.

Roughly four weeks ago, the special counsel’s team provided the White House with the names of the first group of current and former Trump advisers and aides that investigators expect to question.

In addition to Priebus, Spicer and Hicks, Mueller has notified the White House he will likely seek to question White House counsel Don McGahn, and one of his deputies, James Burnham. Mueller’s office has also told the White House that investigators may want to interview Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman who works closely with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

White House officials are expecting that Mueller will seek additional interviews, possibly with family members, including Kushner, who is a West Wing senior adviser, according to the people familiar with Mueller’s inquiry.

Spicer declined to comment, while Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer focused on the probe, declined to comment on behalf of current White House aides McGahn, Burnham, Hicks and Raffel. Cobb also declined to discuss the details of Mueller’s requests.

“Out of respect for the special counsel and his process and so we don’t interfere with that in any way, the White House doesn’t comment on specific requests for documents and potential witnesses,” Cobb said.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.

No interviews have been scheduled, people familiar with the requests said. Mueller’s team is waiting to first review the documents, which the White House has been working to turn over for the last three weeks.

But people familiar with the probe said the documents Mueller has requested strongly suggest the topics that he and his investigators would broach with the aides.

McGahn and Burnham were briefed by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on Jan. 26, days after Trump’s inauguration, about the department and FBI’s concerns that Flynn could be compromised by the Russians. She warned that the FBI knew he wasn’t telling the whole truth — to Vice President Pence and the public — about his December conversations about U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Courts have held that the president does not enjoy attorney-client privilege with lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office and their testimony about their Oval Office dealings can be sought in investigations.

Spicer had been drawn into the White House’s handling of the Flynn matter before the inauguration. After The Washington Post reported that Flynn had talked with Kislyak about sanctions, Spicer told reporters that Flynn had “reached out to” Kislyak on Christmas Day to extend holiday greetings — effectively rejecting claims that they had talked about U.S. sanctions against Moscow. A few days later, President Barack Obama had announced he was expelling Russian diplomats in response to the Kremlin’s meddling in the U.S. election.

After Obama’s announcement, Spicer said Kislyak had sent a message requesting that Flynn call him.

“Flynn took that call,” Spicer said. But he stressed that the call “centered on the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and [Trump] after the election.”

As chief of staff, Priebus was involved in many of Trump’s decisions, including the situations involving Flynn and Comey. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in June that Priebus was among a group of White House aides whom Trump instructed to leave the Oval Office before he asked the FBI director to drop the inquiry into Flynn.

Hicks, who is now White House communications director, and Raffel were both involved in internal discussions in July over how to respond to questions about a Trump Tower meeting that Donald Trump Jr. organized with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign in the summer of 2016. The two communications staffers advocated being transparent about the purpose of the meeting, which Trump Jr. had accepted after he was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton that he was told was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

Ultimately, the president dictated language for the statement that his son would release to the New York Times, which was preparing a story about the meeting. The response omitted important details about the meeting and presented it as “primarily” devoted to a discussion of the adoption of Russian children.

CNN first reported on Thursday that Mueller has sought interviews with White House staff related to the preparation of that statement but did not name them.

 

I think Preibus may be the fly on the wall here. Before he was shunned he probably heard a lot. I think early on, Dumpy looked right through him so he made have more intel than Dumpy realized. Then he gets fired by Scary Mooch. He may be carrying a huge grudge. Not just against the current disaster in the White House but against the party itself. It seems they've always used him as a lightening rod.

Cobb appears to be the legal goatherd now. "No comment, no comment no comment."

I will continue to be patient with Mueller, don't expect the Repubs to actually try to save themselves at this point because they don't appear to know how. But I want the case against Dumpy and his cronies to be bullet-proof.

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Trump’s Congressional Allies Are Trying to Manipulate the Steele Dossier to Undercut the Russia Investigation

Spoiler

As the Trump-Russia scandal expands, Republicans responsible for leading investigations into the matter have consistently pursued angles that critics say are designed to undermine the investigation and distract attention from the main issue: Russia’s covert interference in the 2016 election and interactions between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) joined in a key component of that GOP effort: attempts to deflect attention by focusing on what’s known as the Steele dossier. These are the memos written during the campaign by a veteran British intelligence official that included allegations that the Kremlin had sought to cultivate and co-opt Trump, in part by collecting compromising information on him, and that his campaign secretly exchanged information with Moscow.

Nunes, who was forced to step aside from the Trump-Russia probe in March, returned to the fray by subpoenaing the Justice Department and FBI to demand information on the FBI’s interactions with Steele, who began sharing his memos with the bureau in the summer of 2016. The subpoenas seek material on whether the FBI paid Steele or used his information to apply for secret warrants (presumably to eavesdrop on Trump-related targets).

Trump and GOP lawmakers “tried to conflate two things so that they could create the false narrative that the Russians were meddling on both sides,” Sen. Whitehouse says.

Democrats say the request appears to be the latest example of committee Republicans attempting to furnish the White House with talking points to diminish the Russia scandal. “They seem to want to do the president’s bidding and parrot the president’s misguided beliefs,” says Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee.

It may seem odd that Republicans believe going after the Steele memos, which included salacious allegations about Trump, is a way to help the president. But they appear to have two goals: to suggest the Steele memos were actually cooked up by the Russian government—and thus are proof that Moscow did not favor Trump in 2016—and to undercut the FBI’s Russia investigation by linking its origins to the Steele memos.  

Nunes’ demands mirror prior requests from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to the Justice Department and FBI. Grassley’s letters demanded information while also implying misconduct by the FBI related to the Steele dossier, an effort that hit some political pay dirt. A hearing Grassley convened in July covered the previously reported fact that Fusion GPS, the firm that retained Steele to dig up information on Trump’s Russia ties, also worked for a law firm representing Prevezon Holdings, a company owned by the son of a senior Russian official that faced a federal lawsuit over fraud and money laundering.

The White House has seized on the Grassley-publicized connection between Fusion GPS and Prevezon to suggest that the Steele dossier was actually the result of a Russian operation—which would suggest Trump is not a Kremlin favorite but a victim. “The Democrat-linked firm Fusion GPS actually took money from the Russian government while it created the phony dossier that’s been the basis for all of the Russia scandal fake news,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said after Grassley’s hearing.

Trump, in a July 29 tweet, went further. Citing a breathless Fox News report on the committee hearing, the president asserted, contrary to the consensus of the US intelligence community, that “Russia was against Trump in the 2016 Election.”

Democrats see an effort to gin up controversy over of the Steele memos to protect Trump. “They tried to conflate two things so that they could create the false narrative that the Russians were meddling on both sides,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a Judiciary Committee member, told Mother Jones.

Swalwell and other Intelligence Committee Democrats note that Nunes decided to issue the subpoenas to the FBI and Justice Department without first asking if these agencies would voluntarily provide the information. They suggest Nunes did this to create the appearance that the FBI and Justice Department were not cooperating, cooking up another distraction. 

“If this is an honest pursuit,” says Swalwell, “why not seek it from those agencies in voluntary fashion?”

The subpoenas were issued over objections from Democrats, according to Swalwell and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. “Whenever we go outside of doing things collaboratively, I am immediately suspicious about what the intent is,” adds Swalwell.

Nunes’ latest action is a red flag: In March, after he was exposed collaborating with White House officials in a ham-handed effort to support Trump’s false claim that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower, Nunes announced he would “step aside” from the Russia probe. His renewed role, Democrats say, suggests committee Republicans are resuming the more partisan approach they softened when Nunes was sidelined.

“He should not be involved,” Swalwell argues. “Every time he does that he adds an asterisk to the integrity and credibility of the investigation.”

Schiff notes that committee Republicans have been less eager to issue other subpoenas. For instance, they have not agreed to demand the White House hand over material on conversations between Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired after Comey resisted his requests related to the bureau’s Russia investigation.

“There we should subpoena the White House,” Schiff said Tuesday on MSNBC, “but they have not been willing.”

I don't think anything that comes from this House Intelligence Committee should be taken seriously. Unless it is that they are desperately trying to cover up detrimental information and protect the White House at any cost.

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin could destroy each other

Spoiler

If Vladimir Putin did help to put Donald Trump in the White House, it would be the ultimate intelligence coup. Yet, it might also prove to be the ultimate own goal. An operation designed to ease the pressure on Mr Putin’s government by installing a friendly face in the White House has instead led to a tightening of sanctions on Russia, and a dangerous increase in the domestic political pressure on the Russian president.

As for Mr Trump, his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia may have aided his electoral victory at the risk of destroying his presidency. It would be a strange irony if the intimacy of the Putin and Trump camps ultimately ended both presidents’ political careers.

Of course, the Russian government and Mr Trump’s diehard defenders still deny that any such collusion took place. But the US intelligence services are certain that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic party emails.

It seems likely that the hack influenced the course of a tight election. I was in Philadelphia on the eve of the Democratic convention in July 2016 when the first leaked emails were released. The revelation that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, had been privately disparaging the Bernie Sanders campaign forced her resignation, and ensured that the convention got off to a chaotic start. Mr Sanders’ supporters were convinced that their man had been robbed. And Sanders voters who switched to the Republicans, were crucial to Mr Trump’s victories in the vital states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. We now also know that Russian operators used Facebook and Twitter to spread anti-Clinton messages.

Throughout the campaign, Mr Trump was consistently sympathetic to the Kremlin. Whether he was motivated by ideology, investment or some embarrassing secret has yet to emerge.

But the Russian connection set off the chain of events that may ultimately unravel his presidency. Alarmed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into his Russian contacts, Mr Trump sacked James Comey, the head of the FBI. The backlash against the Comey sacking led to the appointment of Robert Mueller, a former head of the Bureau, as a special prosecutor to look into the Trump-Russia connection. And the remorseless progress of the Mueller inquiry is likely to spark indictments and resignations. That, in turn, could lead to the impeachment of Mr Trump — and the destruction of his presidency.

As for Mr Putin, the moment it became clear that his gamble might backfire was when Mr Trump was forced to sack General Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser, for not disclosing contacts with the Russian government. From that point on, it became politically impossible for Mr Trump to help Russia by easing sanctions. On the contrary, the backlash against Russian interference in the US election has led to the intensification of sanctions, with a distrustful Congress ensuring that Mr Trump cannot lift these measures unilaterally.

Indeed, for the Republican Congress getting tough on Russia seems to have become a surrogate for getting tough on Mr Trump. The sanctions added over the summer were aimed specifically at the Russian mining and oil industries, In response, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, accused the US of “a declaration of full-fledged economic warfare on Russia”.

So far from improving under Mr Trump, US-Russian relations are now as bitter as at any time since the height of the cold war. Realising that the Trump administration will not be able to lift sanctions, the Kremlin resorted to a mass expulsion of US diplomats in response to an earlier expulsion of Russians by the Obama administration. The prospect that the US might supply arms to Ukraine has become much more real. And Russia is about to embark on some major military exercises in eastern Europe, which will heighten US fears.

The irony for Mr Putin is that, if he had simply let events take their course, sanctions on Russia could have been eased in the natural run of events — even with Hillary Clinton in the White House. Mrs Clinton had already tried one “reset” with Russia as secretary of state, and might have been prepared to try another. Many in Europe were also tiring of sanctions on Russia.

When the Mueller inquiry reports, there is likely to be a renewed spike in American outrage towards Russia. The most obvious threat is posed to Mr Trump. But the Mueller inquiry also poses an indirect threat to Mr Putin. He will contest a presidential election in March and faces a re-energised opposition, led by the popular and daring Alexei Navalny, and a deteriorating economy that has hit Russian consumers hard. Even though very few people expect Mr Putin to lose the election, the pro-Putin euphoria of a couple of years ago is clearly fading. Articles about the post-Putin era have begun to appear in the Russian media.

Above all, the most powerful economic interests in Russia now know that there is no longer any light at the end of the sanctions tunnel. In fact, things are likely to get worse. Something radical will have to change to get sanctions lifted. And that change might be the removal of Mr Putin from the Kremlin. Indeed, it is only when Mr Trump and Mr Putin both go that it may truly be possible to reset US-Russian relations.

While we're all hoping for the desired results of Mueller's investigation being an ousting of the presidunce and his aiding and abetting enourage, I hadn't realized that his investigation could also have far-reaching ramifications for Putin. 

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I mean, I've been thinking for some time now on what to say about this. But words fail me...

They DO NOT want to investigate Russia, because it is so very much more important to investigate Hillary Clinton. 

59b6d9a8f1faf_eyeroll.gif.ce1fe525510bd4019b46b96282b7d046.gif

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*sniggers gleefully* :56247976a36a8_Gigglespatgiggle:

 

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They don't care about how our democracy is under constant threat.  Like this is going into textbooks and they don't care on being on the absolute wrong side of history.  Gahhhh fuck them.

*sorry it's just exhausting that they so complicit about this.*

Edited by Coconut Flan
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"Russia probes pose loyalty test for Team Trump"

Spoiler

Lawyers representing Donald Trump’s current and former aides are giving their clients one simple piece of advice: don’t lie to protect the president.

As special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators prepare to question high-ranking aides — including Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer — in the coming weeks, Trump’s long history of demanding his employees’ complete loyalty are being put to the test.

But Trump stalwarts know the president is closely following the media coverage of the Russia case – and the last thing they want is to be deemed a turncoat whose answers end up becoming further fuel for investigators.

Several of the lawyers representing current and former aides told POLITICO they’re actively warning their clients that any bonds connecting them to Trump won’t protect them from criminal charges if federal prosecutors can nail them for perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice.

“What I always tell clients is you can’t protect anybody. You can only hurt yourself,” said a lawyer representing a client involved in the Russia probe. The attorney added that any overt attempts to protect Trump will raise wider suspicions of a cover-up, making matters “worse for everybody.”

“Efforts to concoct a story to protect somebody are almost inevitably doomed to failure,” the attorney explained. “All you do is create liability to yourself that didn’t exist before.”

Mueller’s investigation and multiple probes on Capitol Hill have expanded to include the Trump family’s interactions with Russians as well as business deals involving the Trump Organization. The federal prosecutors and congressional investigators are doing their homework as they build substantive factual records through document requests, subpoenas and interviews.

That’s something the lawyers representing Trump officials say they can’t impress enough on their clients, especially when one of the most potent weapons Mueller and his team have to gain leverage centers around anyone who makes misleading statements or other trip-ups.

“The lesson to be always learned is loyalty is one thing, but are you prepared to go to jail for it?” said former Whitewater special counsel Robert Ray. “The answer to that question should be no.”

Recent history is littered with examples of loyal staffers who chose to shield their superiors. Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief-of-staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted in 2007 for lying to federal officials probing who leaked the name of a covert CIA officer, and even President George W. Bush believed Libby was guilty of trying to protect his boss.

Webster Hubbell, a former Clinton Justice Department official, served an 18-month federal sentence on fraud and tax evasion charges tied to his Whitewater work as a former law partner with the president and first lady Hillary Clinton. But Hubbell maintained his loyalty to the first couple while in jail and even as he faced additional charges tied to independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s probe.

Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence, but the Republican president did not heed Cheney’s request for a complete pardon. Clinton also declined to grant Hubbell a pardon.

Ray, who succeeded Starr as the special counsel investigating the Clinton White House, called political loyalty a “good thing” that “makes the system work” for elected officials and their staff. But he noted it also “presents some problems when it comes to criminal investigations. These have real-life consequences to people beyond what they even imagined.”

“Loyalty is not a two-way street,” Ray said. “A lot of young people go to the White House and they’re going to be loyal to the president and the president is going to be loyal to me. Bullshit. If it’s expedient, you’re going to be thrown under the bus. The loyalty isn’t necessarily going to be returned. Even if it were, I’m not sure the promise or prospect of a pardon is all that comforting.”

As the Trump associates face questioning, they know that loyalty is a treasured commodity in the president’s orbit.

Comey testified to this before the Senate in June, explaining how Trump told him during one of their initial White House meetings, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” While the ousted FBI chief rejected Trump’s overtures, Trump’s inner circle is packed with loyalists. Cohen, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, described how he sees himself as an extension of the president’s family and will stick by Trump no matter the legal bills or criticism that his own relatives face. “I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president,” Cohen told the magazine.

Trump’s most dedicated supporters even have a nickname for their club: the “October 8 coalition,” which White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told the Washington Examiner represents the people who stuck by Trump after the vulgar “Access Hollywood” videotape emerged during the heat of the 2016 campaign.

Calls for testimony have reportedly gone out to Priebus and Spicer, the former top White House aides who played roles in many of the critical early Trump decisions that have become pertinent to the Russia case, including the firings of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey.

Also of interest for Mueller and lawmakers are a pair of longtime Trump Organization hands who have had front-row seats to the president’s political rise: Hicks, one of Trump’s most trusted aides now serving as White House interim communications director, and Rhona Graff, the personal secretary who is named in an email chain arranging a controversial Trump Tower meeting last summer between senior Trump campaign aides and a Russian attorney promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Investigators have also been pressing for answers from the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who spent five hours last week meeting with Senate staff to discuss that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower; Michael Cohen, a personal Trump attorney under a subpoena for documents from the House Intelligence Committee; and Paul Manafort, the embattled former Trump campaign chairman.

John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel whose public testimony before Congress played a major role in exposing the Watergate cover-up, said a president’s loyalty will only matter so much when the staff starts talking to federal investigators.

“It’s very interesting the way that works,” he said. “I felt that loyalty to Nixon until he started trying to destroy me. That somehow drains loyalty.”

Many of the Trump aides being pulled into the investigations are readying for the legal scrutiny. Hicks hired Robert Trout, a former U.S. attorney in Baltimore, as her personal counsel, while Priebus and White House counsel Don McGahn both have tapped William Burck, a former deputy counsel in the George W. Bush White House.

Others insist questions about maintaining loyalty to Trump in the Russia case is really a moot point. “There’s nothing to cover up or have his back on,” said a former Trump White House aide. “By all accounts, he’s not involved in this.”

White House attorney Ty Cobb said Trump has instructed his staff to cooperate with Mueller and congressional investigators. “The message goes out to all his people. They have to listen to their own lawyers but the White House wants them to fully cooperate and tell the truth and we expect they will and to the best of our knowledge that’ll be the case.”

Cobb also pushed back on the notion that loyalty to Trump would supersede a person telling the truth. “You can be loyal and be honorable at the same time and that’s what the president wants,” he added. “Candor and honesty and anything that paints a complete picture here is in the interest of justice, the White House and the country.”

A spokesman for Mueller declined comment.

As the current and former Trump associates head into congressional hearing rooms and before Mueller’s grand jury, former federal prosecutors say the witnesses are likely to be mindful of how their former colleagues – Trump included – interpret their moves.

“They don’t want to be seen as the John Dean among Republicans, to be the traitor who brought down the party,” said a former federal law enforcement official who has worked on special counsel cases. “They also have to be concerned if they appear to be cooperating then they’re the target of the White House attack machine.”

Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor and Harvard Law professor, said that Mueller may have more luck getting cooperation from recently ousted Trump officials – like Priebus and Spicer, though he noted the two men also may end up being overly cautious too.

“These guys they have their careers and reputations to be concerned about,” he said.

Barbara Res, a former construction executive at the Trump Organization who worked directly under Trump, countered that loyalty is likely to matter little for anyone who has gotten such a public boot from Trump’s inner circle. “Why should they be loyal to him?” she asked of aides like Spicer and Priebus. “He treated them like crap.”

I wouldn't mind seeing the "October 8 coalition" going down in flames.

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4 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

“They don’t want to be seen as the John Dean among Republicans, to be the traitor who brought down the party,” said a former federal law enforcement official who has worked on special counsel cases.

This part made me roll my eyes. The traitor? Excuse me? The whole bloody party is traitorous by propping up this Russia-colluding, alt-right loving, racist, misogynistic and kleptocratic administration.

So it seems to me being a traitor to the traitors isn't such a bad thing to be...

 

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And personally, I have more respect for John Dean than anyone else in Nixon's inner circle. And I believe history will too.

Edited by sawasdee
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Seth Abramson has a tiny 10-tweet thread up. But the age old addage of 'size does not matter' is applicable here too. The contents are explosive, as is Seth's wont.

I recommend reading the Hill report linked in the first tweet. 

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On 9/11/2017 at 2:45 PM, fraurosena said:

I mean, I've been thinking for some time now on what to say about this. But words fail me...

Jamie Raskin! Gotta love Jamie.

I never expected Congress or the Senate to do a damn thing against Trump.  Even when Trump trashes and threatens McTurtle and Ryan, they will still roll over and show their jugulars. Muller just needs to keep on keeping on, and we have to get out and VOTE next November.

Edited by onekidanddone
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"Flynn refusing new request to speak to Hill committee"

Spoiler

(CNN)President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has refused a new request to appear as a witness before the Senate intelligence committee, a congressional source tells CNN.

Flynn first declined to comply with a Senate subpoena in May, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. More recently, the committee has reiterated its request and Flynn has declined again, the source said.

The Senate intelligence committee has sought testimony from Flynn as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, as well as whether Trump associates had any involvement. Flynn resigned from the White House in February amid controversy over his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US.

Reached by CNN, Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner declined to comment.

Flynn has also been subpoenaed by the House intelligence committee, which is conducting a separate probe into Russia's election meddling. Flynn had offered to testify before both the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but neither committee accepted the offer.

A committee source tells CNN that since the public subpoena for his business records, the House intelligence committee has not made additional requests for documents or testimony, but that does not preclude future requests.

In June, CNN reported that Flynn handed over more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence committee, including business records and personal documents "based on the narrowed requests from the committee." The documents were in response to two subpoenas that the committee sent to Flynn businesses after he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has said the committee has ruled out considering Flynn's request for immunity to testify before the committee.

Geez, he won't testify without immunity. How much more guilty could he sound?

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Get ready for some big revelations, this sorry attempt at deflection isn't fooling anyone. They're getting more and more desperate as Mueller gets closer and closer.

 

Sorry, Sarah, the legality of Comey's conduct has nothing to do with your boss's collusion with the Russians. Mueller's investigation won't be influenced by it in the slightest, because it's not about the rightfulness of Comey's firing. It's about if the firing was an attempt at obstructing justice.

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I'm sorry, this is completely beside the point, but what is SHS wearing in that Reuters clip? It's like a man's dress shirt, but there's that big X across the chest like a "Can't touch this!"sign, and it's just not flattering on her.

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And Flynn's caught in yet more lies.

Dems to Mueller: Flynn failed to disclose trip to broker Saudi-Russian business deal

Spoiler

House Democrats sent special counsel Robert Mueller what they say is evidence that former national security adviser Michael Flynn failed to disclose a trip he took to the Middle East to explore a business deal with the Saudi government and a Russian government agency.

The Democrats allege the retired Army lieutenant general broke the law by omitting the trip, according to the letter they sent to Flynn's former business partners requesting more information about his overseas travels and contacts.

The letter was sent by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight committee, and New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. No Republicans from the two GOP-led committees signed onto the letter, a copy of which was also sent to Mueller.

Democrats sought information from three American companies in June after Newsweek reported that Flynn traveled to the Middle East in the summer of 2015 to broker a $100 billion deal between the companies, Saudi Arabia and Russia's nuclear power agency. In response, officials from the US companies provided statements to the Democrats, confirming Flynn's trip in 2015.

When Flynn returned to the US several months later and reapplied for his security clearance, he never disclosed the trip or the contacts he had with foreign nationals as part of the trip, the Democrats say.

It is illegal under federal law to knowingly falsify or conceal relevant information from a security clearance form. The Democrats reviewed Flynn's paperwork and subsequent interview with the FBI -- routine practice to get a security clearance -- and said that Flynn never disclosed the summer 2015 trip.

"It appears that General Flynn violated federal law by omitting this trip and these foreign contacts from his security clearance renewal application in 2016 and concealing them from security clearance investigators who interviewed him as part of the background check process," according to the letter from the House Democrats to Flynn's business partners.

Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment for this story. But the former national security adviser's attorneys told the House Democrats that they would not respond to their inquiries, saying it would only do so under a "compulsory process," which would require support from House Republicans, according to the Democrats' letter.

Flynn traveled to Egypt and Israel in June 2015 to lobby officials there about the benefits of the proposal, according to a statement given to the Democrats by Dr. Thomas Cochran, a physicist who advised ACU Strategic Partners, one of the American companies involved in the deal.

"I joined General Flynn in Israel," Cochran said in his statement. "The primary purpose of the Israeli leg of the trip was to ensure that the ACU project architecture would be in the best interests of Israel. Because General Flynn firmly believed in the necessity of the project from a U.S. National Security perspective, he traveled to Egypt and Israel to explain the ACU project's importance."

An attorney for ACU Strategic Partners, one of the companies Cummings and Engel have reached out to, provided CNN with a copy of its letter explaining the virtues of the energy project, saying it would bolster national security and provide stability in the Mideast while improving "relations with Russia." A representative for the other company listed, X-Co Dynamics Inc./IronBridge Group, did not respond to a request for comment.

Flynn never disclosed these trips, and any conversations he might have had with government officials, on his security clearance forms when he reapplied in January 2016, the Democrats said.

The short-lived national security adviser also didn't initially disclose that he was paid for the trips, the Democrats say.

ACU's managing director Alex Copson said in a statement to the Democrats that they sent Flynn a check worth $25,000 "to compensate him for the loss of income and business opportunities resulting from this trip." Copson said Flynn never cashed the check, but Flynn accepted payment for travel expenses from ACU.

White House employees are required to publicly disclose details of their personal finances when they take government roles. Flynn submitted his first financial disclosure on February 11, and updated it on March 31, several weeks after he was fired. When he updated the form once more on August 3, Flynn indicated that he was paid more than $5,000 by ACU, according to the Democrats' letter.

Under the proposed deal, American consulting companies would partner with the Saudi government and Rosatom, Russia's government-run nuclear energy agency, to build 16 nuclear energy plants in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis would then sell that energy to eight other Sunni Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan. As part of the deal, these countries would also buy military hardware from Russia, according to the companies' letters provided to Democrats.

Those arms sales would have likely been facilitated by Rosoboron, a Russian state-run weapons exporter, according to an internal presentation, published by Newsweek, from one of the companies involved in the deal. The Treasury Department sanctioned the Russian state-run company in September 2015 for violating US laws prohibiting weapons sales to Iran, Syria and North Korea.

The Democrats say the responses from the companies suggest they may have pursued the deal while Flynn was still national security adviser and with the Trump administration after he left the White House.

"Your responses suggest that you and other officials at your companies continue to strongly believe in the desirability of this project and that you may have discussed it with Trump administration officials during and after General Flynn's tenure at the White House," the Democrats said. Asked whether there were talks with the White House, an attorney for ACU referred CNN to a letter the firm sent to the Democrats earlier this summer, which does not address the topic.

In his initial February filing, Flynn also omitted thousands of dollars in payments he took from three Russian companies. One of those payments came from RT, the Kremlin-controlled TV network that US intelligence says pushed propaganda and was involved in Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Cummings and Engel first raised the issue in June when they requested documents from Flynn's business partners. In that letter, they noted that Flynn did disclose a trip to Saudi Arabia that he took in October 2015, but they said he withheld key details and misled the FBI. For instance, Flynn said he went to speak at a conference, but the speakers' bureaus he worked for had no records of the trip.

A spokesperson for House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, declined to comment on the Democrats' letter. But a Gowdy aide said that the chairman wants his panel to steer clear of questions about violations of security clearances, saying that's a question for Mueller to explore. A committee spokesman for House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, said the Republicans had not received the letter as of Tuesday evening.

Flynn's company received subpoenas from the Senate and House intelligence committees earlier this year, as part of their investigation into Russian meddling. Flynn did provide documents to the House and Senate panels, but declined to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.

Flynn is under scrutiny by Mueller on several fronts, including his links to Russia, his calls to the Russian ambassador during the transition period, and the undisclosed lobbying he did for Turkey last year. Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in the spring as part of his investigation into Flynn's dealings.

Of course Draco Trey Gowdy wants to steer clear of questions about violations of security clearances. Unless it concerns someone named Clinton.

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16 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

"Flynn refusing new request to speak to Hill committee"

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(CNN)President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has refused a new request to appear as a witness before the Senate intelligence committee, a congressional source tells CNN.

Flynn first declined to comply with a Senate subpoena in May, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. More recently, the committee has reiterated its request and Flynn has declined again, the source said.

The Senate intelligence committee has sought testimony from Flynn as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, as well as whether Trump associates had any involvement. Flynn resigned from the White House in February amid controversy over his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US.

Reached by CNN, Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner declined to comment.

Flynn has also been subpoenaed by the House intelligence committee, which is conducting a separate probe into Russia's election meddling. Flynn had offered to testify before both the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but neither committee accepted the offer.

A committee source tells CNN that since the public subpoena for his business records, the House intelligence committee has not made additional requests for documents or testimony, but that does not preclude future requests.

In June, CNN reported that Flynn handed over more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate intelligence committee, including business records and personal documents "based on the narrowed requests from the committee." The documents were in response to two subpoenas that the committee sent to Flynn businesses after he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has said the committee has ruled out considering Flynn's request for immunity to testify before the committee.

Geez, he won't testify without immunity. How much more guilty could he sound?

Yeah, he looks about as guilty as you can look. I sort of wish they would just give him the immunity. Not sure how much Flynn himself understands about the law but he has an attorney and if his attorney is telling him not to talk without immunity, he must have broken some serious laws. At the very least that makes Trump look stupid for having a criminal engaged in nefarious business with a foreign country on his campaign staff.

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