Friday Reads With Baby Animals

Baby alpacas

Good Afternoon!!

Dakinikat isn’t feeling well today, so I’m filling in. It has been one hell of a crazy week–thank goodness the weekend is almost here. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t blow up the world before he heads to one of his golf courses. Some stories to check out:

Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker: A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia Revelations.

…this week was a good one for Trump-Russia-conspiracy theorists. TheTimesreported major developments about the seriousness with which Mueller is pursuing a potential obstruction-of-justice case against the President. And the possibility that Russian entities had help in targeting voters using Facebook ads became a major part of the congressional investigation. But it was news about Manafort this week that gave a boost to two theories that close watchers of the Russia investigation have been hyping as potentially earth-shattering.

You don’t have to be Louise Mensch, the much-mocked amateur sleuth and Russia-conspiracy theorist, to wonder why, after years of working closely with a Russian oligarch and pro-Russia parties in Ukraine, Paul Manafort suddenly reëmerged in American politics as the head of the Presidential campaign that Vladimir Putin wanted to win. One theory, which has been floating around for months, is that after Manafort fell out with Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who accused Manafort of essentially stealing millions of dollars from him, he seized on Trump’s rise as a way of currying favor with Deripaska and Putin, who is Deripaska’s close ally.

This always seemed a bit too John le Carré to believe, but, on Wednesday, the Washington Postreported the first morsels that give the theory some credence. “Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin,” the Post said. In another e-mail, according to the Post, Manafort seemed to suggest that he could leverage his new role running Trump’s campaign to settle old debts. “How do we use to get whole?” Manafort wrote to an employee based in Kiev, referring to his prominent new role in Trump’s campaign. The link between Manafort’s sketchy work in Ukraine and Russia, and his interest in running Trump’s campaign, became a lot stronger after the Post piece.

Baby hippo

The second Russia theory that was bolstered this week also involves Manafort, whose home in Virginia was raided by the F.B.I. in July and who was reportedly told by Mueller’s team that he is likely to be indicted. CNN reported this week that Manafort was the subject of a fisa warrant that gave the F.B.I. permission to spy on his electronic communications at some point last year and into this year. The report offers some of the most tantalizing evidence of the white whale of Russia investigators: outright collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. “Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation,” CNN noted. “Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.” The CNN report added that the “FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.”

I have to say that North Korea’s dictator seems a lot more credible and stable these days than the insane moron the Electoral College selected. You really need to read the full text of the statement by Kim Jong Un:

The speech made by the US Chief Executive in his maiden appearance on the UN arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.

A certain degree of my guess was that he would make stereotyped, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world’s largest official diplomatic stage.

But, far from making somewhat plausible remarks that can be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors.

A frightened dog barks louder.

I would like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.

Baby prairie dogs

The mentally deranged behaviour of the US president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty reconsider discretion and composure.

His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.

After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of the military forces of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.

His remarks which described the US option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.

Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness taking a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.
Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.

Two-week-old baby rhino

As a man representing the DPRK and upon the dignity and honour of my state and people and upon all my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of supreme command of the US pay dearly for his rude nonsense calling for totally destroying the DPRK.

This is not a rhetorical expression loved by Trump.

I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected from us when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue.

Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.

I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.

Naturally Trump replied on Twitter. He’d never be able to compose a lengthy statement like the one above.

It sure seems as if Trump is one being tested and failing badly.

This morning Trump also addressed the Russia investigation on Twitter.

It’s such a “hoax” that there’s a special prosecutor investigating and demanding records of White House meetings and Air Force One phone records. Trump really is a dotard. Maybe he simply can’t remember anything that happened yesterday.

Kim Jong Un isn’t the only world leader who spoke harshly about Trump at the UN: WATCH | Mugabe at UN stands up to ‘Giant Gold Goliath’ Trump.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe did not mince words at the United Nations Thursday about Donald Trump, mocking the US president as the “Giant Gold Goliath.”

Addressing the UN General Assembly, where reproaches of other leaders are generally less personal in tone, the 93-year-old veteran leader took Trump to task both on policy and appearance.

Baby owls with big stuffed owl

“And may I say to the United States president, Mr. Trump, please blow your trumpet — blow your trumpet in a musical way towards the values of unity, peace, cooperation, togetherness, dialogue, which we have always stood for and which are well-writ in our very sacred document, the Charter of the United Nations.”

LOL

Of course GOP Senators continue onward with their latest effort to take health care away from millions of Americans. At the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri has reached then end of her rope: Sorry I can’t go to your thing. I must call my senator to plead for my life.

I am sorry I cannot make it to your event, but I have to call Congress every eight minutes to plead for my life.

Would I like to go to your wedding/bar mitzvah/coffee date/movie/quiet place where sleep is possible? You bet. But you know that if I don’t call my senator and register my opposition, the new Terrible Health-Care-Ending Bill to Unleash Boils Across the Land, Replace the Rivers with Blood and Slay All the Firstborn will go through, and the time between those bills is getting shorter and shorter.

It is not that I don’t want to be there for your life milestone. I do! I am just really concerned that my senator might prefer for this state to have six costly nowhere bridges studded with diamonds than to prevent millions of people from being flung off their insurance, and I am not willing to take that chance, not even for the six minutes that will pass between the inception of this bill and its introduction on the Senate floor for a vote.

(Just a minute; in the course of typing this response they have already introduced another bill and I have to call again.)

Click on the link to read the rest.

Baby veiled chameleon

More stories to check out:

NBC News: Study: 21 Million More Uninsured Under Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill.

The Washington Post: Flint’s lead-poisoned water had a ‘horrifyingly large’ effect on fetal deaths, study finds.

Politico: Obama-era school sexual assault policy rescinded.

Buzzfeed: Sebastian Gorka Gave A Classified “Tirade” About Radical Islam.

Brian Stelter at CNN: Trump says this is all a hoax. Mueller, Congress and Facebook disagree.

Axios: The insane news cycle of Trump’s presidency in 1 chart.

The New York Times: Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment.

 

 

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Thursday Reads: Russia News and Natural Disasters

Goldie Hawn reading a newspaper

Good Morning!!

Naegeli court reporters investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump. Here are the stories that broke just last night, with brief excerpts:

The New York Times: Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President.

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 areas in which investigators are seeking information. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller’s requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son,Th to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton.

Jane Fonda

The Washington Post: Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign.

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Interesting Twitter posts on this subject:

Isn’t that fascinating? Trump and Putin are obviously still collaborating.

One more from the NYT last night: Manafort Working on Kurdish Referendum Opposed by U.S.

Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.

The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.

In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.

Catherine Deneuve

Manafort is in serious trouble. It’s hard to believe he’s still refusing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. It also looks like Trump is royally f**cked at least in terms of obstruction of justice, thanks to his own loose lips in the Lester Holt interview and his chummy Oval Office meeting with the Russians.

More Russia-related stories from this morning:

Politico: Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative.

Former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to correspond with a Ukrainian political operative with suspected Russian ties, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort sent emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine and to discuss potential new opportunities in the country, even as he chaired Trump’s presidential campaign, these people said….

In the emails to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort protégé who has previously been reported to have suspected ties to Russian intelligence, the longtime GOP operative made clear his significant sway in Trump’s campaign, one of the people familiar with the communications said. He and Kilimnik also met in the United States while Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, which he chaired until an August 2016 shake-up.

Mike Allen at Axios: Another potential Mueller honey pot: Spicer’s notebooks.

Now we can tell you about another potential honey pot for Mueller. Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled “notebook after notebook” during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

When Spicer worked at the RNC, he was said to have filled black books emblazoned with the party’s seal. Spicer was so well-known for his copious notes that underlings joked about him writing a tell-all.
  • One source familiar with the matter said that the records were just to help him do his job.
  • “Sean documented everything,” the source said.
  • That surprised some officials of previous White Houses, who said that because of past investigations, they intentionally took as few notes as possible when they worked in the West Wing.

Allen texted Spicer about this story and Spicer flipped out, telling Allen to stop contacting him or he would “report to the appropriate authorities.” What authorities? Spicer thinks it’s illegal to text another private citizen–Allen says he has been on friendly terms with Spicer for “more than a dozen years.”

Marlon Brando

Axios also has a terrific timeline of Manfort’s activities beginning in 2006: How the Russia probe closed in on Paul Manafort.

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Littman at the LA Times: Trump will fire Robert Mueller eventually. What will happen next?

Here’s predicting flat out that yes, at some point Trump will try to oust Mueller.

As the probe advances, the likelihood increases that Mueller will uncover evidence of a serious offense by Trump. With the recent search of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home, Mueller has shown his willingness to follow the money trail aggressively. (The latest reports suggest that Mueller’s team is planning to indict Manafort for possible tax and financial crimes.) And Mueller has begun to negotiate interviews with up to a dozen White House aides as well as former White House officials. Trump likely fears that Mueller will zero in on something sleazy or criminal whose revelation could cripple his presidency. Each turn of the screw of the Mueller investigation — and there will be many — increases the pressure on Trump to act preemptively.

The odds also seem great that the erratic, power-consumed and thin-skinned Trump, who every week launches a new Twitter attack on a real or imagined enemy, will be unable to stay his hand month after month as the Mueller investigation unfolds. Like the fabled scorpion who stings the frog even though it dooms him, Trump, being Trump, won’t be able to endure domination by Mueller over the long term. Of course, Trump likely fails to appreciate that it is not Mueller personally, but the law, that is asserting its dominance.

Let’s say Trump snaps.

Angelina Jolie

To fire Mueller, Trump would need to order Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to remove him. But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor with a strong dedication to the values of the Department of Justice, would likely resign his office rather than comply with the order, as would the department’s third-ranking official, Rachel Brand.

Eventually Trump, moving down the hierarchy, would find someone willing to fire Mueller (as Nixon found Robert Bork, the then-solicitor general, to fire Archibald Cox).

From there, Mueller could launch a legal challenge to the ouster (potentially with the support of the Department of Justice). It’s by no means clear that Mueller, an ex-Marine of legendary rectitude, would choose to sue. Assuming he did, though, he would need to overcome a series of constitutional arguments by the president’s lawyers that any restrictions on the president’s ability to terminate him would impinge on presidential power under Article II.

Click on the link to read the rest.

The natural disasters continue as Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico and moves on the fresh destruction and Mexico City struggles to recover from the recent earthquake.

NBC News: Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Facing Months Without Power.

Millions of people across Puerto Rico woke up Thursday to a grim new reality.

Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. territory in almost a century, ravaged the island, demolishing homes and knocking out all electricity. It could take half a year to restore power to the nearly 3.5 million people who live there.

The eye of the storm moved offshore overnight, but the danger remained Thursday: Intense flooding was reported, particularly in San Juan, where many residential streets looked like rushing rivers.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the devastation in the capital city was unlike any she had ever seen.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” Cruz told MSNBC. “We’re looking at 4 to 6 months without electricity.”

Elizabeth Taylor

The Washington Post: Mexico anxiously awaits the fate of a 12-year-old schoolgirl after deadly earthquake.

 A sprawling earthquake recovery effort spanning several states turned intensely personal Thursday as Mexicans were riveted by an effort to save a 12-year-old girl who was pinned in the rubble of her elementary school.

The drama played out live late Wednesday and early Thursday on the major news channels here, with television cameras tracking every movement of the Mexican marines and others who sought to rescue the girl now known as “Frida Sofia.” Under a soft rain, the work was delicate and painstaking, relying on thermal cameras and other technology to try to locate and remove young children trapped for more than 30 hours after their school collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

At one dramatic point in Wednesday night’s broadcast, Televisa reporter Danielle Dithurbide learned from the marine admiral leading the recovery effort that Frida Sofia — which may not be her real name — was able to tell rescuers that five other students were possibly trapped with her. It was unclear whether they were alive.

I’ll end with this from Grist, via Mother Jones: This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About.

There is evidence that we are emerging from an era of messy meteorological data, where we were blind to warming seas strengthening hurricanes because the really damaging ones were rare. If that’s true, weather historians may look to this year as the beginning of a frightening new phase of superstorms.

About 85 percent of all damage done by hurricanes is attributable to “major” storms—those stronger than Category 3, so roughly one-quarter of all storms. While relatively infrequent, they are by far the most destructive—a Category-5 cyclone has 500 times the power of a Category 1. Globally, major hurricanes have become slightly more common in recent decades, even as overall numbers have held steady.

Haley Mills

Further, there’s nothing in recorded history that resembles what Irma and Maria have inflicted on Caribbean islands in recent days. Since Sept. 6, the two hurricanes have made six separate landfalls at Category-5 strength. Before this month, just 18 such landfalls had happened in the previous 165 years (and never more than three in a single year). Clearly there’s something happening here—and there’s a developing consensus among scientists about what factors are responsible.

There have been only 33 Category 5 storms in the Atlantic since hurricane records began in 1851. Twenty-three of them have formed since 1961; 11 in only the last 14 years. Part of that uptick comes from better weather monitoring equipment, like satellites that help us spot hurricanes before they make landfall. But even since we developed satellite technology, there’s been a measurable increase in major storms.

The strongest hurricanes require an exceptionally warm ocean to intensify, and with water temperatures currently near record highs in the Caribbean, it’s providing conditions ripe for Category 5s. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since 1970, the oceans have retained more than 90 percent of the excess energy generated from global warming. That’s a lot of extra fuel for stronger storms.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Madman and Rocket Man

Hey, I don’t usually like or retweet David Corn…but those two tweets above made me laugh out loud.

Going straight to cartoons, since I’m writing this outside in a very dark and dangerous state park that is surrounded by national forest.

#GeneralKelly reflects the feelings of most Americans. This was his reaction during Trump's speech at the #UnitedNations this morning.

A post shared by Shannon Fisher (@msshannonfisher) on

Day 243: In which GOP wins are measured by the millions that will lose their insurance. #magaisformorons #healthcareforall #notmypresident #TheDailyDon #dumptrump #dailydrawing

A post shared by The Daily Don (@the.daily.don) on

Please note that many of those cartoons are from the foreign press.

This is an open thread.

https://instagram.com/p/BZPr0G5j7J3/


Tuesday Reads: After A Quiet Weekend, Back to Non-Stop News

Sofia Loren playing pool, circa 1950s

Good Morning!!

The news has been overwhelming since Monday morning dawned. I’m feeling overwhelmed and I was going to go with baby animals, but then I found some great historical photos on Twitter.

Trump just finished his insane speech to the UN. I couldn’t stand to listen to him, but I watched with the sound off and closed captions.

The headline from the speech was that Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and again called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man.” He also called for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That obviously will not happen. So should we prepare for nuclear war?

In addition, Trump ranted about “America first” and said every nation should put itself first–except when he was ranting about Syria, Afghanistan, ISIS, and North Korea. He also threatened to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. According to the talking heads on MSNBC, there were audible gasps from the audience during at some points in the speech.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria has already devastated Dominica and is headed for Puerto Rico. The Washington Post: ‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Maria churns toward Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; Jose to scrape Northeast coast.

The wicked 2017 hurricane season began delivering more punishing blows Tuesday as Hurricane Maria raked across the Caribbean with “potentially catastrophic” winds of 160 mph. To the north, Hurricane Jose churned on a path to brush the Northeast coast with raging surf and potentially damaging gusts.

Maria strengthened to the highest-level Category 5 on Tuesday after making landfall on the island of Dominica. The storm carries the potential to cause widespread destruction along its path from the central Lesser Antilles through Puerto Rico, including some areas battered earlier this month by the huge Hurricane Irma.

James Dean signing autographs

“Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.

Jose is capable of producing coastal flooding and pockets of damaging wind from eastern Long Island to coastal Massachusetts, its effects are most likely to resemble those of a strong nor’easter — rather than a devastating hurricane.

It’s already pouring rain here, and I guess that’s going to continue through tomorrow. We haven’t seem much of the sun here lately, but that’s not a big deal. I just hope Maria slows down before she gets to you all down South.

We got big news in the Russia investigation last night. We learned that Paul Manafort was under surveillance under a FISA warrant beginning in 2014 and again before and after the inauguration while Trump was still talking to him on the phone.  If you haven’t read the NYT and CNN stories, be sure to check them out. We also learned that the FBI raid on Manafort’s home was a “no-knock” warrant and agents surprised him in his bedroom.

NYT: With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone.

CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman.

Three reactions to these stories:

Lawfare: The Latest Scoops from CNN and the New York Times: A Quick and Dirty Analysis.

As Jim Comey might put it: Lordy, there appear to be tapes….

The Times’ revelation that Manafort has been informed that he will be indicted involves a pretty spare set of reported facts. In fact, there’s really only one fact: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.” The language here is not legally precise. It could mean that Manafort has been formally informed that he is an investigative “target”—a designation that means that prosecutors intend to ask a grand jury to indict him. It could, instead, suggest something less than that—a kind of verbal aggressiveness designed to put pressure on him to cooperate.

Helen Keller meets Charlie Chaplin 1919

The significance of this is that it means that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has reached a critical stage—the point at which he may soon start making allegations in public. Those allegations may involve conduct unrelated to L’Affaire Russe—that is, alleged bad behavior by Manafort and maybe others that does not involve the Trump campaign—but which may nonetheless serve to pressure Manafort to cooperate on matters more central. Or they may involve conduct that involves his behavior with respect to the campaign itself. Note that if Manafort cooperates, we may not see anything public for a long time to come. Delay, that is, may be a sign of success. But in the absence of cooperation, the fireworks may be about to begin.

This is not the first indication in recent weeks that the Mueller investigation is nearing the litigation stage. The fact that Mueller’s staff executed a search warrant against Manafort in July—which was first reported Aug. 9 by the Washington Post—was telling, implying that the special counsel had shown a court probable cause of criminal activity.

That’s just a taste. Head over to Lawfare to read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry.

Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: Raids, warrants, and wiretaps: The Trump-Russia probe ‘has reached a critical stage.’

Recent revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign team indicate that the case has reached the point where Mueller may soon start announcing criminal charges.

Washing day in NYC, 1934

The Wall Street Journal and CNN reported on Friday that Mueller had obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

Legal experts said the warrant meant Mueller had been able to convince a federal judge that there was good reason to believe a foreign entity had committed a crime by making campaign contributions in the form of ads and the spread of fake news and that evidence of that crime would be found on Facebook.

Three days later, The New York Times reported that Mueller told Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, he was going to be formally charged with a crime following a raid on his Virginia home over the summer.

Mueller has also issued subpoenas to a Manafort spokesman, Jason Maloni, and former attorney, Melissa Laurenza, to testify before a federal grand jury.

Bertrand’s piece is partially a summary of the longer Lawfare article.

The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Mueller tightening the screws on Manafort. This one is useful summary of the stories that broke yesterday.

Mueller is also “turning up the heat on Facebook.” Vanity Fair:

Facebook is facing an unusual degree of scrutiny as Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors makes the social network a central focus of the Justice Department’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including how the platform was used to disseminate foreign propaganda and misleading news stories. Earlier this month, Facebook told congressional investigators that it sold about $100,000 worth of ads to a pro-Kremlin Russian troll farm that targeted U.S. voters. But while some lawmakers appeared frustrated by Facebook’s overly general answers to their inquiries, Mueller isn’t asking nicely.

The latest revelation could mark a turning point in Mueller’s investigation. In order to obtain a search warrant, the former F.B.I. director would have had to prove that he has evidence suggesting a crime occurred and that it occurred on Facebook. “He would have to sort of lay out evidence showing that this crime had occurred, not just merely say so, but records that he had obtained, testimony that had been given, or interviews that people gave to the F.B.I.,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CBS News on Sunday. “It’s a very serious and significant move forward for the Mueller investigation.” Anyone who was part of that effort could be criminally liable, he added. Because Mueller has been looking at relatively specific, narrow crimes, Mariotti said he believes the special counsel’s office is “closing in on charging foreign individuals.” As Chris Smithwrote for Vanity Fair on Friday, some lawmakers believe that investigation could include a closer look at the election data operation run by Jared Kushner and Trump’s digital campaign chief, Brad Parscale, as well as their work with the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

More at the link.

Finally, long-time Trump toady Michael Cohen [was scheduled to appear] before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning. NBC News:

Cohen, who served as executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization and continues to serve as the president’s personal attorney, is perhaps the closest associate to Trump outside of his immediate family. He will speak with professional staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday weeks after the president’s son and son-in-law spoke with it and other congressional panels looking into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections.

Miles Davis defining cool in 1947.

According to congressional sources, the committee intends to pursue several lines of questioning with Cohen, with the goal of putting him on the record on key topics that have drawn scrutiny during the investigation, including potential direct contacts between Trump associates and people with close ties to the Kremlin.

Cohen had been mentioned by name in a dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, alleging he attended a secret meeting in Prague in August 2016 to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets. Cohen has adamantly denied such a meeting, and his own attorney called the allegations “wholly unsubstantiated” and even “libelous” in a letter to leaders of the House Intelligence Committee in August.

Committee staff will also likely ask Cohen about emails he received in 2015 from Felix Sater, a former Trump associate with a criminal past, about a potential deal to open a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. Some of the emails were published by the New York Times in August.

UPDATE: Cohen’s appearance was cancelled because he violated an agreement not to speak to the media. He will now be subpoenaed.

As you know, the Republicans are making a last ditch effort to take health care away from Americans. Margaret Sanger-Katz at the NYT The Upshot: One Reason to Take the Latest Obamacare Repeal Seriously, and Three Reasons It Could Fail.

How seriously should Americans take the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act?

The party has until the end of the month to repeal the health law without needing 60 Senate votes. That’s why the latest proposal, by Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is getting so much attention.

Pablo Picasso & Brigitte Bardot, 1956

Their bill would eliminate the two big coverage programs created by Obamacare, and instead give blocks of money to state governments, with few limitations on how they can distribute them to provide health coverage to their residents. States would be free to eliminate Obamacare rules requiring that insurance cover a minimum package of benefits, and they could charge sick customers more than healthy customers.

It would also make major changes to Medicaid, reducing federal funding even for populations that were covered before Obamacare. The results would most likely be substantial reductions in the number of Americans with health coverage, and new challenges for Americans with pre-existing health conditions in some states.

There are elements of the bill that are likely to attract support from Republican lawmakers, and from some Republican governors. The policy is in line with many Republican lawmakers’ views that states are better able to manage their health programs than the federal government.

But the bill faces substantial challenges, both political and procedural. Here are three reasons the effort may not succeed — and one very important reason it might.

Read the reasons at the NYT link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Monday Reads: Oops! He’s done it again!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s difficult to continually bear witness to  a man holding our highest office prove himself unfit to be in the company of grown ups let alone the shadows of other Americans who’ve held and aspired to the job. You just know that most of us are embarrassed and appalled. The last two days have been an ongoing study in personality disorders.

First, there was the usual twitter vomit. Yesterday’s batch was particularly juvenile and offensive. Kremlin Caligula still can’t get over anything about Hillary Clinton and demonstrated it in his particularly heinous and misogynist way.

On the eve of a critical week of foreign policy challenges, Donald Trump started his Sunday by retweeting an edited video of him hitting a golf ball into Hillary Clinton’s back — and her falling over from the impact.
That message — a trollish attempt at humor with overtones of violence against women — went out to Trump’s 38.5 million Twitter followers and turned a Sunday expected to be focused on the President’s preparations for the United Nations General Assembly meetings this week into a now-familiar White House circus.

The simple fact is this: With every passing day, it becomes more and more clear that Trump not only will never act “presidential” but also seems to revel in taking the very word — and concept — and dragging it through the mud.

Trump has been fixated on the idea of “acting presidential” (or not) for some time.

“At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that,'” Trump told Fox News personality Sean Hannity back in March 2016. The following month, in an interview on the “Today” show, Trump made a similar promise: “I will be so presidential, you will be so bored. You’ll say, ‘Can’t he have a little more energy?’

And, at times in the campaign, he would go a day or even a few days in which gave a speech entirely from a teleprompter or didn’t personally attack another politician on Twitter or avoided savaging the reporters covering his campaign as some of the most dishonest people in the world.

But those periods were the exception, not the rule. Trump would always return to who he really is: a coarse provocateur — happiest when he is in the midst of some spat or another. While he bills himself as a counterpuncher, Trump is more accurately understood as a street brawler: He looks for fights and, when he finds them, he does anything and everything to win. The only goal is survival.

Since winning the White House, Trump’s promises of a presidential pivot have become fewer and farther between as he appears to have more fully embraced his Internet troll persona.

His internet troll persona also tweeted some nastiness at the only other leader in the world with nuclear weapons and about as many personality disorders as Trump.  Plus, we got a double bonus hit on our good ally South Korea. Trolling has become Trump’s signature act of diplomacy.

For just under half an hour Saturday night, President Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, tackled the missile threat looming from Pyongyang. The pair of leaders condemned North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test — and once more vowed to strengthen their joint defenses and ratchet up economic pressure on Kim Jong Un still further.

Trump asked Moon “how Rocket Man is doing” — as the U.S. president put it in a Sunday morning tweet — and took note of the “long gas lines forming in North Korea,” presumably as a result of the stricter sanctions recently implemented.

There are no long gas lines in North Korea.

Residents in the North Korean capital are scratching their heads. Although there are reports of price increases, they’ve seen no queues at the few service stations in Pyongyang, a city of about 2 million people that has more cars than it used to but is still far from congested.

“We are not aware of any long queues at the gas stations,” one foreign resident of Pyongyang said. “At least, I haven’t noticed anything. I asked a few Koreans, and they haven’t seen anything either.”

Another said there had been no obvious change since the last sanctions resolution was passed by the U.N. Security Council. “Traffic on Friday was as heavy here as I’ve seen it. Normal on Saturday. Quieter on Sunday.” In other words, the same as every week.

Trump was in peak troll form as he addressed the U.N.  I knew this was likely to be a train wreck but as with all things Trumpvian you can’t speculate on the extent of the disaster. We got the usual Trump merchandising and branding activities along with a sickening, patronizing lunatic rant.

President Trump on Monday spent his first United Nations address trashing the United Nations — while touting one of his properties that sits across the street from its Manhattan headquarters.

“In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement,” Trump said at a forum about reforming the U.N.

“While the United Nations on a regular budget has increased by 140% and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

Trump urged the U.N. to focus “more on people and less on bureaucracy” and to change its “business as usual,” though he laid out few specifics for reforms he would like to see. Even so, Trump gave no indication that he will weaken the U.S. support for the 193-nation organization.

Trump began his debut address with a plug for his nearby Trump World Tower.

“I actually saw great potential across the street, to be honest with you, and it’s only for the reason that the United Nations was here that that turned out to be such a successful project,” he said.

Trump completed the residential building in 2001, and its 45th floor has been purchased by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which uses it for part of the Saudi Mission to the United Nations.

Trump will spend most of this week in meetings and reception with the U.N., an organization he fiercely criticized before taking office.

As a candidate and President-elect, Trump said the U.N. was “not a friend of democracy” and dismissed it “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” He promised major change to come once he was sworn in.

Trump on Tuesday will give a speech to the entire 193-member General Assembly.

I have no idea why none of them stood up and walked out. Also, what’s the status of the emoluments lawsuit?

How about what’s Bob Mueller up to?

The other aspect of Mueller’s investigation that appears to be fairly advanced is his obstruction investigation. We know Mueller is looking at obstruction related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey for many reasons—most recently, the Justice Department refused to permit a Senate committee to interview two FBI officials who were witnesses on this issue, and when asked about the matter, referred questions to Mueller. This indicates that Mueller believes the FBI officials are potential witnesses. (If Mueller thinks he might use their testimony later, he would want to reduce the risk that potential defendants and their counsel can learn about it in advance. He also doesn’t want to generate inconsistent accounts from witnesses that can be used to undermine them at trial.)

Mueller also has set up interviews with White House officials who were reportedly involved in the decision to fire Comey, and Trump lawyers reportedly sent a memo to Mueller making legal arguments about obstruction and claiming that Comey is not a credible witness. This suggests Trump’s legal team believes Mueller is focused on obstruction. They wouldn’t waste their time otherwise.

The strength of the obstruction case against the president is still an open question, however. On the day Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, I told the New York Times that “a prudent prosecutor would want more facts before bringing this case against a president.” Since then, many more facts have been disclosed, including Thursday’s revelation that the president erupted at Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he learned of Mueller’s appointment, calling him an “idiot” and demanding his resignation.

The intensity of Trump’s reaction to the appointment is unusual and will prompt questions about why he cared so deeply about losing control over the Russia investigation. Moreover, former White House aides Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence will likely be questioned about what they told the president to persuade him not to fire Sessions, and what he said in response. The president’s words could be used by Mueller as evidence of his “corrupt” intent, which he would need to prove obstruction of justice.

The most significant testimony could come from White House Counsel Don McGahn, who reportedly looked at a letter justifying Comey’s firing that was drafted by White House aide Stephen Miller at Trump’s direction. McGahn made numerous deletions and comments in the draft and also discussed his concerns verbally, according to the New York Times, but it was never published. Mueller has that letter, the Justice Department has confirmed.

Which leads us to this interesting development: “Trump lawyers spill beans, thanks to terrible choice of restaurant — next door to the New York Times”. No one around Trump can be accused of being a rocket scientist, ‘Rocket man’, however, appears to be surrounded by them.

It is every Washington reporter’s dream to sit down at a restaurant, overhear secret stuff and get a scoop. It rarely happens.

Still, everyone in town important enough to have secrets worth keeping knows that secrets are not safe on the Acela train and in Washington restaurants.

This is especially true in eateries next door to a major newspaper.

Yes, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, lawyers for President Trump, we’re talking to you.

But it’s too late now.

Dowd represents Trump but does not work at the White House. Cobb is a White House employee who is instantly recognizable to many because of his handlebar mustache.

Together, they went for what appears to have been a working lunch at BLT Steak, 1625 I St. NW in Washington. It’s close to the White House and very convenient.

It’s also next door to 1627 I St. NW, which happens to house the Washington bureau of the New York Times.

Sitting at the next table, according to the Times, was Kenneth Vogel, one of Washington’s most skillful investigative reporters. Vogel is a former reporter for Politico, which is based in Virginia, who arrived at the Times just in time for the Russia investigation and, as it turned out, just in time for lunch.

Vogel overheard the lawyers talking about White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and Jared Kushner, president Trump’s son-in-law, as well as the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Here’s a sample from the article bearing the bylines of Vogel and Peter Baker:

Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out …”

The White House Counsel’s Office is being very conservative with this stuff,” Mr. Cobb told Mr. Dowd. “Our view is we’re not hiding anything.” Referring to Mr. McGahn, he added, “He’s got a couple documents locked in a safe.”

… Mr. Cobb also discussed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — and the White House’s response to it — saying that “there was no perception that there was an exchange.”

You can only imagine what the entire Trump Criminal Syndicate could get away with if they only knew what they were doing.  Here’s the link to the actual NYT piece.  You have to read it to believe it.

So, I can’t decide if Trump is being particularly peevish because Hillary Clinton and her book tour are getting lots of air time or if it’s simply because Mueller has got the goods on the Flynns and Manafort,  Undoubtedly, the grand juries’ sites are on Don Jr or Jared who are next on deck. But, he’s being the usual troll extraordinaire which he tends to be when Russia heats up and his on camera time cools down.  Ratings!!  Winning!! Hugely!!!  Biggly!!!

I want to end with a tweet I read last night from a St Louis Reporter.

He posted a video and interviewed other witnesses and some police on the scene. This is appalling. These racist acts are the direct result of an enabling president.

Police officers in St. Louis, Mo., reportedly chanted “whose streets, our streets” as protesters took to the streets early Monday to demonstrate against the acquittal of a white former police officer in a black motorist’s shooting death.

Officers wearing riot gear employed the phrase, according to The Associated Press. The phrase is a mantra typically used by protesters in recent years.

A photojournalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reported hearing police chanting the phrase after making arrests. He added that a commander he spoke with said police officers using the phrase is not acceptable.

Protests have occurred after judge last week acquitted a former St. Louis police officer on murder charges in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.  The state of civil rights in this country is as bad as I’ve seen it for quite some time. Unfortunately, it’s in the hands of the White Supremacist in Chief and his little sidekick the Oldest Living Confederate Widow.

Resist. Peacefully.

Oh, and better start calling to save Obama care. Lady Lindsay and Dr Frankenstein on the Bayou are coming for your healthcare.

An activist’s work is never done.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: Broflake

Fuck Irma.

I don’t think it will replace my usual phrase, that being: Fuck Bernie Sanders. (I mean my iPhone knows that is what I’m typing once I get to the fuc…because it begins to suggest the ending…zip and easy, 1,2,3…Fuck Bernie Sanders.

We have been staying at Vogel State Park…my daughter works for the DNR…there at Vogel, and I really do not know what we would do without the park’s generosity. My mom’s biopsy is tomorrow…and on Friday we find out if she needs to resume her chemotherapy.

Internet and cell service is not strong here, in fact…we barely have a connection on either service. So the post is going to be a quick one.

I thought this Instagram picture below would get your attention. It sure got mine. And it introduced me to the term “broflake.”

“On the radar: broflake” by @OxfordWords

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2017/07/on-the-radar-broflake/

Check that entry out…it gives the source of the word snowflake and more on the term, broflake.

All you need is LOVE. By Michael Owen in Baltimore. Follow: @theblonde

A post shared by StreetArtGlobe (@streetartglobe) on

Well, we have moved into the other cabin…this one has zero wifi and cell. I will have to end the post here. It is going to be a rough time ahead.

This is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Big Steps Forward in Russia Investigation

Coffee and Donuts, Scott Moore

Good Morning!!

It appears that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is getting closer to finding crimes committed foreign persons and by Trump’s closest advisers; and Jared Kushner may be at the center of it all. For Trump, the shit is about to get real.

It all centers around Facebook and microtargeting. As I’m sure you know, Mueller recently obtained a warrant for the content of ads that Facebook sold to a Russian source. CNN has the latest this morning: Facebook handed Russia-linked ads over to Mueller under search warrant.

Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.

Facebook did not give copies of the ads to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees when it met with them last week on the grounds that doing so would violate their privacy policy, sources with knowledge of the briefings said. Facebook’s policy states that, in accordance with the federal Stored Communications Act, it can only turn over the stored contents of an account in response to a search warrant.

Clark Kent Breakfast, Dave Seguin

“We continue to work with the appropriate investigative authorities,” Facebook said in a statement to CNN.

Facebook informed Congress last week that it had identified 3,000 ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 that were linked to fake accounts. Those accounts, in turn, were linked to the pro-Kremlin troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

This is significant, because it indicates that Mueller has evidence of crimes related to the Facebook data. Business Insider: Mueller just obtained a warrant that could change the entire nature of the Russia investigation.

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

The warrant was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on Friday night and the news was later confirmed by CNN.

Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump’s campaign team.

“This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers,'” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent.

Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, explained that to obtain a search warrant a prosecutor needs to prove to a judge that there is reason to believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor then has to show that the information being sought will provide evidence of that crime….

by Victor Ostrovsky

“The key here…is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” she said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”

It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia’s election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint — rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime.

Read more in this Twitter thread–click to read the rest:

And who was in charge of the data operation for the Trump campaign? Jared Kushner. He revealed a lot about how he did it in a Forbes article back in May 2017: Jared Kushner In His Own Words On The Trump Data Operation The FBI Is Reportedly Probing. A couple of excerpts:

— “We found that Facebook and digital targeting were the most effective ways to reach the audiences. After the primary, we started ramping up because we knew that doing a national campaign is different than doing a primary campaign. That was when we formalized the system because we had to ramp up for digital fundraising. We brought in Cambridge Analytica. I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley who were some of the best digital marketers in the world. And I asked them how to scale this stuff. Doing it state by state is not that hard. But scaling is a very, very hard thing. They gave me a lot of their subcontractors and I built in Austin a data hub that would complement the RNC’s data hub. We had about 100 people in that office, which nobody knew about, until towards the end. We used that as the nerve center that drove a lot of the deployment of our ground game resources….

Fabio Hurtado Spanish, b. 1960

— “We played Moneyball, where we were asking, ‘Which states are will be the most cost effective—ROI per electoral vote.’ We used a lot things to get much more bang for the buck… We got rid of a lot of the political people. That’s not who we hired. Our best people were mostly people who volunteered pro bono, people from the business world, people from nontraditional fields. We could squeeze the margin so that nobody was getting rich on it. And we only had people who were doing it for the right reasons, not because they wanted to go onto the next campaign, but because they felt passionately about getting Donald Trump elected.”

Yesterday Vanity Fair published a piece by Chris Smith that connects a lot of dots: Did Jared Kushner’s Data Operation Help Select Facebook Targets for the Russians?

Kushner’s chat with Forbes has provided a veritable bakery’s worth of investigatory bread crumbs to follow. Brad Parscale, who Kushner hired to run the campaign’s San Antonio-based Internet operation, has agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee.

Bigger questions, however, revolve around Cambridge Analytica. It is unclear how Kushner first became aware of the data-mining firm, but one of its major investors is billionaire Trump backer Robert Mercer. Mercer was also a principal patron of Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, who was a vice president of Cambridge Analytica until he joined the Trump campaign. “I think the Russians had help,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “I’ve always wondered if Cambridge Analytica was part of that.” (Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a request for comment.) ….

by PJ Crook

No evidence has emerged to link Kushner, Cambridge Analytica, or Manafort to the Russian election-meddling enterprise; all have denied colluding with foreign agents. (Kushner’s representatives declined to comment for this article. Manafort’s spokesman could not be reached.) Yet analysts scoff at the notion that the Russians figured out how to target African-Americans and women in decisive precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan all by themselves. “Could they have hired a warehouse full of people in Moscow and had them read Nate Silver’s blog every morning and determine what messages to post to what demographics? Sure, theoretically that’s possible,” said Mike Carpenter, an Obama administration assistant defense secretary who specialized in Russia and Eastern Europe. “But that’s not how they do this. And it’s not surprising that it took Facebook this long to figure out the ad buys. The Russians are excellent at covering their tracks. They’ll subcontract people in Macedonia or Albania or Cyprus and pay them via the dark Web. They always use locals to craft the campaign appropriately. My only question about 2016 is who exactly was helping them here.”

Click on the Vanity Fair link to read the rest.

More on the Cambridge Analytica piece of this at CNBC:

Darren Bolding, chief technology officer of Cambridge Analytica, told the crowd at the third annual Internet Summit in San Francisco on Thursday that “algorithms will find the worst in us if you let them go nuts.”

His comments came during an interview onstage with Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig in front of several hundred people gathered to hear him discuss the campaign. The interview was led by Matthew Prince, the CEO of internet service provider Cloudflare, which removed a white supremacist website from its network in the wake of Trump’s comments after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Arjona, Rafael-Lectora

Bolding — who worked at the Republican National Committee before joining Cambridge in January of 2017 — said that the RNC used 15 “issue models” to target political ads at Facebook users during the 2016 U.S. election campaign….The event came as Facebook faces growing criticism to release more details on the ads it sent to users that it says were bought by Russians looking to influence U.S. voters.

The ads were targeted using the same automated Facebook system used by Cambridge Analytica, and for the same purpose — to influence the U.S. presidential election.

And that’s not the only Russia Investigation story that broke yesterday.

Bloomberg: Russia Laundering Probe Puts Trump Tower Meeting in New Light. The Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr., Kushner and Paul Manafort in June 2016 was also involved in a huge money laundering case–could getting rid of that case have been the quid pro quo for Russian help in getting Trump elected?

when she stepped into Trump Tower, [Natalia] Veselnitskaya was also representing a client ensnared in a long-running U.S. investigation into an alleged web of Russian money-laundering. That criminal inquiry, opened by federal prosecutors in New York in 2013 and previously unreported, is still active, according to people familiar with the probe. There was no mention of an ongoing criminal inquiry when the U.S. settled a related civil lawsuit against Veselnitskaya’s client in May.

The outline of the criminal investigation, stretching from Switzerland to Cyprus, is laid out deep within the 734 filings in the civil case. Several countries have supplied documents to the U.S., as have Deutsche Bank AGCitigroup Inc. and other global banks that aren’t targets. U.S. prosecutors in the case are seeking to track parts of more than $200 million they say left Russia after a massive fraud, and to identify who was involved in the scheme.

The revelation adds a new element to the Trump Tower meeting, which has emerged as a focus of congressional investigators and a U.S. special counsel inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Recall that Trump fired former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had brought the case in 2013 and later the Justice Department settle the case for peanuts:

After years of court wrangling over the civil case, the Prevezon matter was set for trial in May 2017, promising a public view of prosecutors’ full allegations about the Russian money flows. But just days before opening arguments, the U.S. announced it had settled the case for $5.9 million.

Ana Maria Leão

The prosecutors called it a victory. So did Prevezon lawyer Gay, who called the U.S. settlement “almost an apology by the government.”

Several Democratic lawmakers looked at the Prevezon settlement in a new light two months later, when news emerged about the Veselnitskaya meeting in Trump Tower. In a letter, they asked whether the Russian lawyer, or members of the Trump team, may have put pressure on prosecutors in the matter.

Natasha Bertrand has more at Business Insider: New details about major Russian money-laundering investigation raise the stakes of Trump Tower meeting.

The criminal investigation had not yet been disclosed when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Bharara in March, and there was no mention of it when the civil case was settled in May for $5.9 million.

Veselnitskaya has staunchly denied discussing the Prevezon case during the Trump Tower meeting. But the developments suggest the stakes for her client were higher than previously known.

In September 2016, Bharara had issued a grand-jury subpoena to Andrei Alekseevich Pavlov — a person “central to the Government’s case against Prevezon,” according to an emergency appeal filed at the time by Prevezon counsel Michael Mukasey, who wanted to depose him.

Citigroup, Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, and TD Bank were also issued grand-jury subpoenas, according to Bloomberg, which did not provide further details.

Grand-jury testimonies are a key stage in a federal criminal investigation. The subpoena issued by Bharara to Pavlov, and provided to Business Insider on Friday, ordered him to hand over documents related to a series of cases connected to the Prevezon investigation.

The subpoena also asked Pavlov to provide “all non-privileged correspondence” with Veselnitskaya and others relevant to the case.

This was all short-circuited when the DOJ settled the case. Read more details at BI.

In the days leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, when his soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn was reportedly pushing a multibillion-dollar deal to build nuclear reactors in Jordan and other Middle East nations, Flynn and two other top Trump advisers held a secret meeting with the king of Jordan.

Karin Jurick

meeting — details of which have never been reported — is the latest in a series of secret, high-stakes contacts between Trump advisers and foreign governments that have raised concerns about how, in particular, Flynn and senior adviser Jared Kushner handled their personal business interests as they entered key positions of power. And the nuclear project raised additional security concerns about expanding nuclear technology in a tinderbox region of the world. One expert compared it to providing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”

On the morning of Jan. 5, Flynn, Kushner, and former chief strategist Steve Bannon greeted Mi at the Four Seasons hotel in lower Manhattan, then took off in a fleet of SUVs and a sedan to a different location.

People close to the three Trump advisers say that the nuclear deal was not discussed. But a federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency about the meeting said that the nuclear proposal, known as the Marshall Plan, was one of the topics the group talked about.

Read the rest at the link. It sure looks like Mueller is getting closer to nailing Trump and his gang.

What stories are you following today?