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Russian Connection 4: Do Not Congratulate


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"‘You should do it’: Trump officials encouraged George Papadopoulos’s foreign outreach, documents show."


When a Russian news agency reached out to George Papadopoulos to request an interview shortly before the 2016 election, the young adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump made sure to seek approval from campaign headquarters.

“You should do it,” deputy communications director Bryan Lanza urged Papadopoulos in a September 2016 email, emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. “partnership with Russia.”

The exchange was a sign that Papadopoulos — who pushed the Trump operation to meet with Russian officials — had the campaign’s blessing for some of his foreign outreach.

Since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump officials have sought to paint the 30-year old energy consultant as a low level volunteer whose outreach to Russia was not authorized by the campaign — and in some cases, was actively discouraged.

Emails described to The Washington Post, which are among thousands of documents turned over to investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, show Papadopoulos had more extensive contact with key Trump campaign and presidential transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged.

Among those who communicated with Papadopoulos were senior campaign figures such as chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and adviser Michael Flynn, who corresponded with him about his efforts to broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials, the emails show.

As late as December 2016, as President-elect Trump was preparing to take office, Papadopoulos tried to serve as a conduit for the defense minister of Greece, transmitting what he said was a proposal for a strategic alliance from the Russian-allied Greek official that was reviewed by both Bannon and Flynn, then in line to be national security adviser.

The previously undisclosed emails paint a portrait of a young researcher who demonstrated an early and intense interest in joining Trump’s presidential bid, beginning in July 2015, just weeks after the celebrity mogul announced his candidacy — eight months before his name first publicly surfaced.

Thomas Breen, an attorney for Papadopoulos, declined to comment. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

In a tweet after Papadopoulos pleaded guilty, President Trump wrote “few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar.” Another Trump campaign staffer dismissed Papadopoulos as a mere “coffee boy” during the campaign.

Papadopoulos is the only Trump associate known to have told prosecutors he had advance warning the Russians held emails that could be damaging to Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. A London-based professor told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, according to his plea agreement.

It is not known if Papadopoulos relayed that information to other campaign officials.

The young aide was not a central player in Trump’s inner circle. At times, he appeared as a supplicant to his superiors on the campaign, who occasionally ignored his notes or appeared to rebuff him, the emails show. Shortly after joining the campaign, Papadopoulos was rebuked by campaign officials for giving an unauthorized interview to a British newspaper, The Post previously reported.

The documents also indicate that amid Papadopoulos’s advocacy of closer ties to Russia, he retained access to top officials — even after Trump’s victory.

A former intern and researcher at the conservative Hudson Institute, Papadopoulos was living in London when the 2016 presidential race kicked off. Less than a decade out of college, he had never worked for a campaign before.

In July 2015, Papadopoulos contacted then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about his interest in joining Trump’s campaign, according to an email he sent the following month to deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner, now executive director of Trump’s reelection effort.

“The reason for my message is because I have been in touch with Mr. Corey Lewandowski since early last month about obtaining an advisory role to Mr. Trump on matters of energy security and U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediteranean,” he wrote to Glassner.

He corresponded for months with both Lewandowski and Glassner, according to the emails. The two campaign officials responded politely, but initially told him no job was available.

Glassner and Lewandowski did not respond to requests for comment.

In December 2015, Papadopoulos went to work for the campaign of neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who was then challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.

After several months, Papadopoulos reached out again to the Trump campaign to inform them he would be leaving the flagging Carson campaign.

“I wanted to let you know that I stopped working as Ben Carson’s principal foreign policy adviser. I’d be interested in getting on board with the Trump team. Is the team looking to expand?” Papadopoulos wrote to Glassner early in March 2016.

At the time, Trump was surging in the polls, and the real estate developer was under increasing pressure to name foreign policy advisers to his team.

Glassner quickly connected Papadopouloswith campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis.

Clovis and Papadopoulos spoke by phone four days later, a conversation in which Clovis said improving relations with Russia was a top campaign foreign policy goal, according to what Papadopoulos later told prosecutors. Clovis, who did not respond to a request for comment, has previously denied that account.

Later that month, Trump himself named Papadopoulos among a list of five people advising his campaign on foreign policy during a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board. “Excellent guy,” the candidate said.

At the end of March, Papadopoulos attended a meeting of Trump’s newly named national security advisory group at Trump’s not-yet-opened hotel in Washington. After introducing himself, the young adviser announced he could organize a meeting between Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and Trump, according to court documents.

The following month, he intensified his outreach to new Russian contacts he had met through the London professor, Joseph Mifsud. They included a woman who had been introduced to him as a Putin relative and Ivan Timofeev, a director of a Moscow think tank. Papadopoulos highlighted these contacts in numerous emails to campaign officials disclosed by prosecutors and described previously to the Post.

In May, Papadopoulos forwarded to campaign officials a note he received from Timofeev informing him that Russian foreign ministry officials were open to a Trump visit. That idea was batted down by campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who emailed his associate Rick Gates: “We need to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”

Still, Papadopoulos persisted and was encouraged by Clovis in August to pursue meetings on his own “if feasible,” according to court documents. A lawyer for Clovis has said he was merely being polite and did not authorize Papadopoulos to represent the campaign abroad.

That spring, Papadopoulos spoke to a group of researchers in Israel, where he announced Trump believed Putin was a “responsible actor and potential partner,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

Several months later, Papadopoulos alerted the campaign that he had an opportunity to speak to the Russian news outlet Interfax.

“Received a request from Interfax Russian News Agency with Ksenia Baygarova on U.S.-Russia ties under a President Trump. What do you think?” he wrote to Lanza on September 9, 2016. “If the campaign wants me to do it, can answer similar to the answers I gave in April while in Israel.”

Lanza gave the go-ahead, citing the conflict in Syria as a reason to work the Russians. Papadopoulos then offered to send the campaign a copy of the interview after it was published.

“You’re the best. Thank you!” Lanza responded.

Lanza declined to comment.

In the interview, published Sept. 30, 2016, Papadopoulos told the Russian media outlet Trump had been “open about his willingness to usher in a new chapter in U.S.-Russia ties,” specifically citing the need for cooperation in Syria.

According to prosecutors, Papadopoulos also sent the Interfax story to Mifsud after its publication.

Baygarova, the Interfax reporter who interviewed Papadopoulos, said in an email to The Post that she reached out to Papadopoulos after being assigned to interview a representative of both presidential campaigns. She said she sent messages to each person on a list of Trump foreign policy advisers. Only Papadopoulos responded.

She said he insisted on answering questions in writing, resisting edits even after they met in person in New York. During their meeting, she said Papadopoulos was “very nice and friendly.”

“I got the impression that he was not very experienced. However, he did seem to be very ambitious and sincere a Trump supporter,” she said.

Around the same time, Papadopoulos began communicating with Bannon about messages he was receiving from a contact at the Egyptian embassy about that country’s interest in organizing a meeting between President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Trump.

The emails show Papadopoulos was the first to alert the campaign to al-Sissi’s interest in meeting and then connected top campaign leadership to the Egyptian embassy.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Egyptian embassy confirmed that an embassy official contacted Papadopoulos as a way to reach the Trump campaign.

Bannon requested talking points from Papadopoulos for the meeting, sought a phone call with him to discuss it and ultimately asked Papadopoulos to contact the embassy to alert an official when a time was finalized, the emails show. Papadopoulos’s role in the meeting was first reported by the New York Times.

“This is a great move on our side. A home run,” Papadopoulos wrote to Bannon, in an email that has not previously been reported.

“Agree,” Bannon responded. “But very hard sell to DJT.”

Trump and al-Sissi met the next night at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The session put the GOP nominee on a par with Clinton, who had previously announced she would be meeting with the Egyptian leader while he was in town. Sessions and Flynn also attended the Trump meeting.

“We met for a long time, actually. There was a good chemistry there,” Trump told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs the next day.

William Burck, an attorney for Bannon, declined to comment.

Papadopoulos continued to position himself as a go-between for Trump’s top staff and key foreign officials after Trump’s victory.

In December 2016, Papadopoulos alerted Bannon that he had recently been in contact with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, a pro-Russian Greek nationalist who has met with Putin.

“They want to sign a government-to-government agreement with the USA for all rights to all energy fields offshore, strategic foothold in the Mediterranean and Balkans,” Papadopoulos wrote in an email.

Bannon forwarded the message to Flynn and Flynn’s deputy, KT McFarland.

“Will work this one,” Flynn responded.

It is not clear if Flynn pursued the Greek offer. In late December, Flynn wrote in an email to Papadopoulos that he believed the young adviser’s suggestions presented “great opportunities.”

“We will examine these and determine if this is something we should take on early. Stay in touch and, at some point, we should get together.”

He signed the email, “Mike.”

Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. An attorney for McFarland did not respond to a request for comment.

In an interview, Kammenos said he did not seek Papadopoulos’s help in reaching Trump’s aides. He said that before the election, Papadopoulos sent him an energy proposal he thought had merit.

By Trump’s election, he said he had concluded Papadopoulos was not a major figure in Trump’s world and established his own contact with the presidential transition.

Kammenos added: “I think Mr. Papadopoulos is a very young person with dreams.”


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I'll have to wait until his show is posted to see what this is all about, but if this teaser is anything to go by, it's going to be a doozy.


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Seconds ago I realized that I DO believe in the Deep State, the one where everything has some link to Russia.  every. damn. thing. 

What the heck?

Go, Ari Melber!!!!!

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"Trump administration expels 60 Russian officers, shuts Seattle consulate in response to attack on former spy in Britain"


The Trump administration joined more than 20 other countries in expelling more than 100 Russian spies and diplomats Monday in what British Prime Minister Theresa May called the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.”

Sixty Russians were expelled from the United States alone in retaliation for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. Twelve Russian diplomats at the United Nations in New York and 48 at the Russian Embassy in Washington face expulsion within seven days. The United States also ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the March 4 attack in Britain was the latest in Russia’s “ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world.”

“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” she said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the expulsions an “unfriendly step” that “will not pass unnoticed.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Russia’s position that it was not involved in poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“We already stated and reconfirm that Russia has never had any relation to this case,” Peskov said, adding that after an analysis, the Foreign Ministry would propose retaliatory measures for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s consideration.

Monday’s move marked the most sweeping U.S. purge since the Reagan administration ordered 55 diplomats out of the country in 1986.

It underscored the Trump administration’s mixed dynamic toward Russia, involving increasingly tough actions by various agencies paired with the president’s markedly more conciliatory language.

Only last week, President Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his reelection but did not condemn the poisoning.

Referring to the call, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said the expulsions go against the “telephone conversation between our two presidents.”

State Department officials said Trump signed off on the recommendation to expel the diplomats but was not heavily engaged in the discussion leading up to Monday’s announcement. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal processes.

The administration last week began considering expulsions of a minimum of 20 diplomats, and State Department and White House officials recommended the higher number, officials said.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah did not directly address why Trump has not said anything publicly about the expulsions. Shah noted that while Trump did not raise either the poisoning or potential U.S. retaliation in his call with Putin last week, the president did “secure with Putin on that call some positive interaction when it comes to nuclear arms.”

“Our relationship with Russia is, frankly, up to the Russian government, and up to Vladimir Putin and others in senior leadership in Russia,” Shah said. “We want to have a cooperative relationship. The president wants to work with Russia. But their actions sometimes don’t allow that to happen.”

The close consultation with European allies was particularly striking given the wedge that Trump has driven between the United States and Europe. In the end, European countries ordered 50 Russians to leave.

“It was powerful as a statement had they done it unilaterally, but it was even more powerful in close coordination with our allies,” said Evelyn Farkas, a fellow specializing in national security at the Atlantic Council.

The coordinated expulsions followed a frenetic weekend of calls among the United States and 20 allies that all announced the expulsions almost simultaneously in a broad attempt to disrupt the Kremlin’s intelligence network across Europe. Larger countries such as Canada, France, Germany and Poland ordered four Russian diplomats to leave. Most of the rest ousted only one or two Russians in a largely symbolic gesture of solidarity.

European Council President Donald Tusk said additional measures, including more expulsions, could be coming.

Senior U.S. officials said they believe that the consulate in Seattle, which was ordered to close by April 2, has served as a key outpost in Russia’s intelligence operations, in part because of its proximity to a U.S. submarine base as well as Boeing manufacturing facilities.

The expulsions reflect the downward trajectory of Russia’s relations with the West, already battered by accusations of election interference in the United States and other democracies. The rupture, along with the anticipated Russian tit-for-tat, is the most severe diplomatic crisis between the Kremlin and the West since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, ushering in a punishing set of U.S. and European sanctions.

In Russia, where many people had hoped Trump’s 2016 election would bring a thaw in the chilly relationship, there has been a sharp reevaluation of Trump.

“Many Russians now see no substantial difference between Obama and Trump Administration policies toward their country,” said William Courtney, a retired U.S. diplomat who served in Moscow, writing in an email from his plane shortly after leaving Russia. “This has disappointed many Russians, who had thought that Trump would be more favorable toward Russia than Obama had been.”

Peskov did not answer a question about how the expulsions would affect “the outlook for a Russia-U.S. summit,” the Tass news agency reported. The Kremlin said last week that Putin and Trump had discussed an upcoming meeting in their call, and Trump said they would get together “soon.” But senior administration officials have said there are no plans for a summit.

Antonov said he was called to the State Department at 8 a.m. Monday and informed of the expulsions by Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for Europe. In response, Antonov said, he “stressed that what the United States of America is doing today is they are destroying whatever little is still left in Russia-U.S. relations,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, “We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom, and to impose serious consequences on Russia for its continued violations of international norms.”

The cascade of expulsions drew expressions of gratitude from Britain, which has sought a stiff response to the attack.

“Today’s extraordinary international response by our allies stands in history as the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers ever & will help defend our shared security,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “Russia cannot break international rules with impunity.”

Russia typically responds to such moves with tit-for-tat measures that expel an equal number of diplomats, sometimes after a delay of several days as the country’s policymakers consider countermeasures. For that reason, small nations that have only a handful of diplomats posted to Russia may refrain from more extensive expulsions.

Russian embassies around the world sometimes use their Twitter accounts to troll their host nations, and Monday was no exception. The Russian Embassy in Washington took to Twitter to crowdsource its response: “US administration ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle @GK_Seattle. What US Consulate General would you close in @Russia, if it was up to you to decide”? The tweet included a poll with three options: U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg.

I can't believe Agent Orange willingly moved against his overlord.

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6 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

I can't believe Agent Orange willingly moved against his overlord.

I don't think it was willingly at all. Instead, I believe it was unwittingly.

6 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

State Department officials said Trump signed off on the recommendation to expel the diplomats but was not heavily engaged in the discussion leading up to Monday’s announcement.

"Mr. Presidunce, we're having some talks now. Don't worry, you don't have to stop watching Faux News and we won't take away your phone. Just stay in bed, we'll give you a call when we're done. Have a coke and a cheeseburger. Afterwards, we'll have something nice for you to sign."

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"Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort escalates challenge to Mueller indictment"


Former Trump campaign chairman Paul J. Manafort asked a federal court Tuesday to toss out 18 criminal charges against him in Virginia, sharpening his challenge to the legitimacy of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The pretrial motions to dismiss an indictment intensified a legal attack mounted by Manafort in a lawsuit in January. In that lawsuit, Manafort contends Mueller has exceeded his legal authority and is asking to void the Justice Department’s appointment of him.

Manafort’s attorneys in January and again in a longer, 38-page filing Tuesday argued that acting attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein improperly ordered Mueller to investigate “links and/or coordination” between the Russian government and Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from” that investigation.

The order gave Mueller “a blank check” that “the Special Counsel has cashed, repeatedly” to prosecute Manafort for alleged conduct that did not arise from the investigation and predates the campaign and which, Manafort’s attorneys argue, prosecutors knew about and declined to pursue in 2014.

The filings were made by Manafort attorneys Kevin M. Downing and Thomas E. Zehnle.

The Justice Department has defended Mueller’s appointment, and said the proper forum for Manafort to challenge his charges is his criminal case

Manafort, 68, and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, 45, pleaded not guilty in October to a 12-count indictment in federal court in the District of Columbia accusing them of conspiring to defraud the United States by laundering $30 million since 2006 from their work for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Gates pleaded guilty to reduced charges in a cooperation deal last month, while Mueller’s team added tax evasion and bank fraud charges against Manafort in Alexandria federal court. Prosecutors also transferred other charges — that Manafort failed to follow lobbying disclosure laws and worked as an unregistered foreign agent — from the District case.

Tuesday’s filing presses an argument similar to the one Manafort’s defense raised March 16 when they asked to have five remaining D.C. charges dismissed. Manafort’s lawyers contend the special counsel’s “sprawling” investigation and “unbounded exercise of prosecutorial authority is wholly incompatible with our constitutional tradition.”

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and said his Ukraine work ended in 2014.

He joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and chaired it from June to August.

“None of the alleged conduct has any connection to coordination between the Trump presidential campaign [in 2016] and the Russian government,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote. The Justice Department was already aware of Manafort’s work because he disclosed it to them in 2014 and had decided not to prosecute, his lawyers argued, and so discoveries of his conduct did not “arise” in the Mueller probe.

They added, Manafort “faces a game of criminal-procedure whack-a-mole against a Special Counsel whose massive resources he cannot possibly hope to match.”

A Justice department motion to toss out Manafort’s lawsuit is set t be heard in Washington April 4.

Prosecutors are set to respond next week in federal court in the District to his criminal case filings ahead of a scheduled September trial date in Washington. A July 10 trial date is scheduled in federal court in Alexandria.

Earlier this month, joined by attorney Richard Westling, Manafort’s defense also asked to have a forfeiture claim against Manafort — a potential $30 million penalty if convicted — and a money laundering charge dismissed, arguing the incidents in the accusations did not result from illegal activity because Manafort’s alleged crime was not his foreign lobbying work, but his failure to register as a foreign agent.

Manafort also asked to drop one of two charges in the District that his lawyers argued stemmed from the same alleged false statement submitted in Foreign Agent Registration Act filings.

Yeah, give it up. I have little doubt that Mueller's team has been quite careful and not filed charges without oodles of evidence.

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1 hour ago, AmazonGrace said:

Wonder If Trump is up to something . 

I saw that on Tillis's page and wondered where in the world this came from. Something is brewing and it looks like some of the Republicans are growing a spine. 

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5 minutes ago, formergothardite said:

I saw that on Tillis's page and wondered where in the world this came from. Something is brewing and it looks like some of the Republicans are growing a spine. 

Feels like '74 when the Republicans were looking down the barrel of the midterms and knew they had to do something about Nixon 

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Some additional insight: "Mueller just drew his most direct line to date between the Trump campaign and Russia"


Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation just drew what appears to be its most direct line to date between President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

That line is drawn in a new court filing related to the upcoming sentencing of London attorney Alex van der Zwaan. Van der Zwaan has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates and a person not identified in the document only as "Person A." Person A appears to be a former Ukraine-based aide to Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort named Konstantin Kilimnik.

Here's the paragraph:

Fourth, the lies and withholding of documents were material to the Special Counsel’s Office’s investigation. That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.

That Person A has had ties to Russian intelligence is not terribly surprising. Kilimnik's personal history has been examined extensively by the media, including The Washington Post. He has denied being involved in Russian intelligence, but he served in the Russian military and attended a Russian military foreign language university that is seen as a breeding ground for intelligence agents.

What's particularly significant in the Mueller filing, though, are six words: “and had such ties in 2016.” Prosecutors have said previously that a longtime Manafort and Gates associate had ties to Russian intelligence, but they have never said those ties remained during the 2016 campaign. In December, they said this associate was “a longtime Russian colleague . . . who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.” Why those six words were added in this filing when they didn't appear in the previous filing is the $64,000 question.

As Philip Bump details here, this is hardly the first public indication of a link between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it is the closest connection Mueller has made in a filing to this point. Mueller hasn't weighed in on the alleged Kremlin ties of the Russian lawyer Donald Trump Jr. met with, for instance, nor has he filed anything involving Roger Stone's contacts with hackers who have been linked to Russia.

The other new piece here is that Mueller's team says Gates described Person A (again, apparently Kilimnik) as “a former Russian Intelligence Officer with GRU.” (GRU is Russia's military intelligence organization.) So according to van der Zwaan, Gates talked openly about Person A's ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik told The Post in June that he has “no relation to the Russian or any other intelligence service.” Mueller is now apparently directly disputing that using Gates's own words, via van der Zwaan.

Ever since his guilty plea last month, van der Zwaan's relation to the case has been unclear. We know he is the son-in-law of a prominent Russian Ukrainian banker, but as with other figures in this case, we have no idea why he lied to investigators. Was it an honest mistake, or was he covering something up?

The new van der Zwaan filing doesn't shed a whole bunch of new light on that, but it does suggest that Mueller views Kilimnik as a possible link between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that he believes Kilimnik hasn't been forthcoming about his ties to Russian intelligence. We also know that Manafort had been in contact with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign, meeting him at least twice and asking him to provide private briefings about the 2016 election to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is closely tied to Vladimir Putin.

Whether that's pertinent to the broader collusion investigation is something we'll have to wait to find out. There is so much Mueller knows that we simply don't; this could be the tip of an iceberg or an extraneous fact. But those six words do seem at least a little conspicuous.


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Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort as Special Counsel Closed In




WASHINGTON — A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.

The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.

Mr. Dowd’s conversation with Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, occurred sometime after Mr. Dowd took over last summer as the president’s personal lawyer, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes. Mr. Flynn, who served as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, agreed in late November to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation. He pleaded guilty in December to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and received favorable sentencing terms.

Mr. Dowd has said privately that he did not know why Mr. Flynn had accepted a plea, according to one of the people. He said he had told Mr. Kelner that the president had long believed that the case against Mr. Flynn was flimsy and was prepared to pardon him, the person said.


The pardon discussion with Mr. Manafort’s attorney, Reginald J. Brown, came before his client was indicted in October on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. Mr. Manafort, the former chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, has pleaded not guilty and has told others he is not interested in a pardon because he believes he has done nothing wrong and the government overstepped its authority. Mr. Brown is no longer his lawyer.

It is unclear whether Mr. Dowd, who resigned last week as the head of the president’s legal team, discussed the pardons with Mr. Trump before bringing them up with the other lawyers.

Mr. Dowd, who was hired last year to defend the president during the Mueller inquiry, took the lead in dealing directly with Mr. Flynn’s and Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, according to two people familiar with how the legal team operated.

He denied on Wednesday that he discussed pardons with lawyers for the president’s former advisers.

“There were no discussions. Period,” Mr. Dowd said. “As far as I know, no discussions.”

Contacted repeatedly over several weeks, the president’s lawyers representing him in the special counsel’s investigation maintained that they knew of no


“Never during the course of my representation of the president have I had any discussions of pardons of any individual involved in this inquiry,” Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said on Wednesday.

Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer dealing with the investigation, added, “I have only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House.”


Mr. Kelner and Mr. Brown declined to comment.

During interviews with Mr. Mueller’s investigators in recent months, current and former administration officials have recounted conversations they had with the president about potential pardons for former aides under investigation by the special counsel, according to two people briefed on the interviews.

In one meeting with lawyers from the White House Counsel’s Office last year, Mr. Trump asked about the extent of his pardon power, according to a person briefed on the conversation. The lawyers explained that the president’s powers were broad, the person said.

Legal experts are divided about whether a pardon offer, even if given in exchange for continued loyalty, can be considered obstruction of justice. Presidents have constitutional authority to pardon people who face or were convicted of federal charges.

But even if a pardon were ultimately aimed at hindering an investigation, it might still pass legal muster, said Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and a professor at Harvard Law School.

“There are few powers in the Constitution as absolute as the pardon power — it is exclusively the president’s and cannot be burdened by the courts or the legislature,” he said. “It would be very difficult to look at the president’s motives in issuing a pardon to make an obstruction case.”

The remedy for such interference would more likely be found in elections or impeachment than in prosecuting the president, Mr. Goldsmith added.

But pardon power is not unlimited, said Samuel W. Buell, a professor of law at Duke University.

“The framers did not create the power to pardon as a way for the president to protect himself and his associates” from being prosecuted for their own criminal behavior, he said.

Under Mr. Buell’s interpretation, Mr. Dowd’s efforts could be used against the president in an obstruction case if prosecutors want to demonstrate that it was part of larger conspiracy to impede the special counsel investigation.


Mr. Dowd is said to believe that the president has nearly unlimited pardon authority, but he and others have repeatedly insisted that no pardon offers have been made.


A lawyer for Paul Manafort was broached about a possible presidential pardon before his client was indicted in October on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

In July, amid reports that Mr. Trump was considering granting pardons to his associates under investigation, Mr. Dowd told BuzzFeed that “there is nothing going on on pardons, research — nothing.”

And about two weeks after Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea, Mr. Trump said that such talk was premature.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Dec. 15 on the South Lawn of the White House. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the F.B.I. and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”

Mr. Trump has been preoccupied with the investigation into Mr. Flynn since at least early last year. In February 2017, alone in the Oval Office with the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, the president asked him to end the investigation, Mr. Comey told lawmakers. After that episode became public, Mr. Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to be the special counsel.

On the day after Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty, the president wrote in a Twitter post said to be composed by Mr. Dowd that he fired Mr. Flynn for, among other things, lying to the F.B.I. But Mr. Trump continued to publicly defendhis former national security adviser, saying two days later that he felt “very badly” for Mr. Flynn and that the F.B.I. had “destroyed his life.”

It is not clear what Mr. Flynn has told the special counsel as part of his cooperation agreement. During interviews with other witnesses, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have focused on what Mr. Flynn told the president about his calls during the transition with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak. The calls came soon after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russia for its role in disrupting the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Manafort, who ran Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign for several months, has been indicted on dozens of counts of money laundering and other financial crimes connected to his work as a lobbyist and former consultant for Viktor F. Yanukovych, who at the time was president of Ukraine. The charges are not connected to any work that Mr. Manafort did for Mr. Trump.

Rick Gates, who was Mr. Manafort’s business partner for years and also served as deputy chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, pleaded guilty last month as part of a cooperation agreement with Mr. Mueller’s team. On the day the plea agreement was announced, Mr. Manafort vowed to continue to fight the charges against him.


In total, 19 people have been charged with crimes by Mr. Mueller. Five of them, including Mr. Flynn and two other Trump associates, have pleaded guilty and have agreed to cooperate.

In August, Mr. Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff from Arizona who had been found guilty of federal criminal contempt for refusing to stop targeting Latinos in traffic stops and other law enforcement efforts. The pardon prompted an outcry because Mr. Arpaio, whose crackdown on illegal immigration made him a national symbol for both conservatives and liberals, had supported Mr. Trump’s run for president.

Mr. Trump’s only other pardon came this month, for a sailor who had pleaded guilty to unlawfully retaining national defense information and obstruction of justice after he took cellphone photos on a nuclear submarine and then destroyed the photos when he learned he was under investigation.

When announcing the pardon, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Trump appreciated the sailor’s “service to the country.”



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The 2016 Republican Convention is under scrutiny by Mueller. 

That change in the Republican platform did not happen without knowledge or oversight of the Rs' leadership.

With any luck, this will ensnare McConnell, Ryan, & all of the other R fucks who've enabled these traitors.



The special counsel’s investigators have also interviewed attendees of the committee meetings that drafted the Republican Party platform in Cleveland.

At one committee meeting, according to people in attendance, Diana Denman, a member of the platform committee’s national security subcommittee, proposed language calling for the United States to supply “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces and greater coordination with NATO on defense planning.”

But the final platform language deleted the reference to “lethal defensive weapons,” a change that made the platform less hostile to Russia, whose troops had invaded the Crimean peninsula and eastern Ukraine.

After the convention, Denman told Reuters in 2016, J.D. Gordon, a Trump foreign policy adviser, told her he was going to speak to Trump about the language on Ukraine, and that Trump’s campaign team played a direct role in softening the platform language.



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After the convention, Denman told Reuters in 2016, J.D. Gordon, a Trump foreign policy adviser, told her he was going to speak to Trump about the language on Ukraine, and that Trump’s campaign team played a direct role in softening the platform language.

I'm trying to work this out in my mind.  Trump did not then and does not now have the geopolitical knowledge to be aware of the specifics about Ukraine or anything else in that part of the world.  He does understand on a visceral level he cannot ever piss off Putin or cause Putin to lose face.  

The question then is, who understands why this is and who is the fixer/implementer that takes care of this part of the WH's foreign policy?  We know there were efforts to create a secure back channel to Russia -- the now notorious meeting in the Seychelles and some other ham handed efforts by one or the other of the Fredos.  We need to know if a successful back channel was set up, and if so, is it currently operating?  And does Mueller know?  

Or does this happen through diplomatic pouches?  John Huntsman is the current US  ambassador to Russia, and he's certainly a graduate of the Mittens  Mormon school of business and politics. 

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2 hours ago, Howl said:

I'm trying to work this out in my mind.  Trump did not then and does not now have the geopolitical knowledge to be aware of the specifics about Ukraine or anything else in that part of the world.  He does understand on a visceral level he cannot ever piss off Putin or cause Putin to lose face.  

The question then is, who understands why this is and who is the fixer/implementer that takes care of this part of the WH's foreign policy?  We know there were efforts to create a secure back channel to Russia -- the now notorious meeting in the Seychelles and some other ham handed efforts by one or the other of the Fredos.  We need to know if a successful back channel was set up, and if so, is it currently operating?  And does Mueller know?  

Or does this happen through diplomatic pouches?  John Huntsman is the current US  ambassador to Russia, and he's certainly a graduate of the Mittens  Mormon school of business and politics. 

I agree with you that the stable genius is simply Russia's useful idiot.

As to your questions, here are a couple of my ideas:

  • Manafort and Gates were the experts on Ukraine, and both were on his campaign. Gates stayed on the campaign even after Manafort was replaced by Bannon until well after the election. They're probably the fixers/implementers on the foreign policy changes. 
  • Jared was the one that spoke to (I believe) Kislyak and one of the Russian bank managers about a secret back channel. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I know it was found out that there was a computer/server in Trump Tower that was communicating with a Russian server during the campaign. This might have been the first set-up of a backchannel, but that's only theory.
  • It's also true that Erik Prince spoke with Saudi's and Russians in the Seychelles, but I'm not sure that this was about a backchannel. Rather, I think it was an attempt to communicate with Putin about the reversal of Russian sanctions and possibly additional remuneration for Russian aid in winning the election.
  • I'm not sure if there still is a backchannel up and running at this time, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if there were. The diplomatic angle is certainly a plausible alternative, and I wouldn't put it passed them.
  • Does Mueller know? Well, if random people on an internet forum can formulate these questions, you can bet that the professionals at the FBI certainly have. If there is any there there, you can be assured they know about it and are investigating it to the fullest of their extent.


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"Why Robert Mueller could be considering bribery charges"


Randall D. Eliason teaches white-collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School. He blogs at Sidebarsblog.com. Follow @rdeliason.

President Trump’s now-former attorney John Dowd allegedly told lawyers representing Paul J. Manafort and Michael Flynn last year that the president would consider pardoning the two men if they got into legal trouble. (Dowd has denied the reports.) Much of the news coverage has focused on whether offering pardons to induce a witness not to cooperate in the special counsel’s investigation could constitute obstruction of justice. But there is another potential charge that could apply more directly and that prosecutors might have reason to favor: conspiracy to commit bribery.

Federal bribery requires that a public official agree to receive and accept something of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance of an official act. In this scenario, the official act would be granting a pardon. While the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in the case of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell dramatically narrowed the definition of “official act,” there’s no question that a president granting a pardon would be an exercise of government power under the McDonnell v. United States standard.

“Thing of value” is also fairly easily met: It would be the agreement not to cooperate against the president. The thing of value in bribery law is not limited to envelopes stuffed with cash. It can include anything of subjective value to the public official, whether tangible or intangible. Such intangibles as offers of future employment and personal companionship have been found to be things of value for purposes of bribery. A promise not to cooperate in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe could readily serve as the quid in this quid pro quo.

The public official, of course, is the president. Dowd is not a public official and cannot be bribed himself, but he could conspire with a public official to arrange bribes on the official’s behalf. The theory would be that Dowd and the president engaged in a conspiracy to accept bribes by agreeing that Dowd would make the offer. This, of course, would require proof that Dowd was acting with the president’s approval and not merely freelancing.

Neither bribery nor conspiracy requires that the underlying scheme be successful. The crime is the agreement itself, coupled with at least some steps to carry it out. If Dowd and the president agreed Dowd would offer an exchange of pardons for silence and he did so, that is a conspiracy to commit bribery. Whether the offer was accepted would not matter.

Thanks to the unusual circumstances in this case, bribery has a significant legal advantage over obstruction of justice. There has been considerable academic debate regarding whether a president can be charged with obstruction for a constitutionally authorized act, such as firing the FBI director or granting a pardon. Some argue that such an act, standing alone, can never be charged as obstruction regardless of the president’s intent because that would unconstitutionally impinge on the president’s executive authority. (I disagree with this view.)

But even those who make that argument agree that if the president engaged in independently criminal conduct, such as accepting a bribe or instructing witnesses to lie, he would not be shielded from criminal prosecution — even if those actions were related to a constitutionally authorized act such as granting a pardon.

In other words, even scholars who think that merely granting a pardon could never amount to obstruction agree that a president who took a bribe in exchange for granting a pardon could be charged with bribery. Of course no pardons have actually been granted — at least not yet. But regardless, the bribery theory avoids all of the legal uncertainty swirling around obstruction-of-justice charges and pardons. Nobody argues that bribery is constitutionally authorized.

I’m certainly not saying that we know any of this happened. Nor am I discounting the evidentiary hurdles prosecutors would face in proving a conspiracy and that a corrupt deal was offered; bribery is notoriously difficult to prove. But as a legal theory, I think it’s sound. If Mueller is examining these alleged events, I’d be surprised if a possible conspiracy to commit bribery were not in the mix.

Interesting analysis

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