Thursday Reads: Trump Has Left the U.S. and All Hell is Breaking Loose.

Good Morning!!

I’ve been having another one of those mornings when I’m so shocked that I feel almost paralyzed. I realize now that I was becoming accustomed to the daily jolts of breaking news about Traitor Trump. How much worse can it get? I think it’s going to get a whole hell of a lot worse. Last night a story broke that knocked me back into that overwhelming feeling of unbelief.

Business Insider: House Democrats want to know why a major Russian money-laundering case was abruptly settled.

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday asking why the Department of Justice settled a major money-laundering case involving a real-estate company owned by the son of a powerful Russian government official whose lawyer met with Donald Trump Jr. last year….

That attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, represents the family of Pyotr Katsyv, the former vice governor of the Moscow region, whose son, Denis, owns the real-estate company Prevezon. The DOJ had been investigating whether Prevezon laundered millions of dollars through New York City real estate when the case was unexpectedly settled two days before going to trial in May.

“Last summer, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to obtain information ‘that would incriminate Hillary,'” the Democrats wrote, citing the emails he published. “Earlier this year, on May 12, 2017, the Department of Justice made an abrupt decision to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney in the Southern District of New York.

“We write with some concern that the two events may be connected — and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts.”

The case was settled for only $6 million, and here’s how the lawyers for the Russians reacted.

“We reluctantly agreed to accept the government’s offer when it became clear that the fine proposed was no more than we would have spent fully litigating the case, and that no admission of guilt, forfeiture, or continued seizure of any assets was required,” Dillard added. “Essentially, the offer was too good to refuse.”

Sergei Magnitsky

This was a case that Preet Bharara was prosecuting at the time he was fired. I’ve long suspected that when Jeff Sessions fired all of the U.S. Attorneys it was really a cover for the Trump administration’s desired to get rid of Bharara and hush up this case and possibly other investigations of the Trump organization. Foreign Policy reports:

The civil forfeiture case was filed in 2013 by Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — who was fired by Trump in March. The case alleged that 11 companies were involved in a tax fraud in Russia and then laundered a portion of the $230 million they got into Manhattan real estate.

The forfeiture case was heralded at the time as “a significant step towards uncovering and unwinding a complex money laundering scheme arising from a notorious foreign fraud,” Bharara said. “As alleged, a Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase of pricey Manhattan real estate.”

But Instead of proceeding with the trial as scheduled, the Trump Justice Department settled the case two days before it was due to begin. By then, Bharara had already been axed by the president. Bharara’s assistant did not immediately respond to request for comment.in

The case stemmed from the work of Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who was likely murdered in prison in an effort to hush up the fraud. After Magnitsky’s death, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which personally sanctioned certain named Russian oligharchs. One of the attorneys in the case is the woman who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June, 2016. Vladimir Putin then retaliated by ending American adoptions of Russian orphans.

Also the attorney representing the Russian companies in the DOJ case, [Natalia] Veselnitskaya, is the same one who organized a meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and top Trump campaign officials in June 2016 to offer material that could “incriminate” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “Love it,” responded Trump, Jr. to an intermediary.

Donald J. Trump with the Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov, left, and his father, Aras Agalarov, on the red carpet at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

This sets up a very troubling timeline if you combine what was happening with this case and in the Trump Campaign at the same time. That link goes to a NYT timeline of campaign events published last night. A brief excerpt:

At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”

Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his victory speech, Mr. Trump promised to deliver a major address detailing Mrs. Clinton’s “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to foreign governments, including “the Russians.” ….

The meeting with the Russian lawyer came at a crucial stage in the elder Mr. Trump’s against-the-odds campaign as he pivoted toward taking on Mrs. Clinton, who was widely seen as the front-runner for the presidency. With Mr. Trump’s party still divided, his team was eager for information that could be used against his Democratic opponent, just as any nominee would be at that stage. The difference was that the Kremlin, according to intelligence reports, was eager to play a role in the campaign, and was in the midst of unleashing an operation to damage Mrs. Clinton.

Please read the rest at the NYT. I can’t tie all this together in a blog post, but it all seems very suspicious. A couple other relevant reads:

Josh Rogin at The Washington Post: Inside the link between the Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump dossier. You’ll need to read the whole thing to make the connections. The Trump gang is trying to twist this story in such a way as to blame Democrats.

This week’s revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyerhave shined a new spotlight on a small Washington opposition research firm that worked with her on a legal case for years and then subsequently commissioned a dossier full of salacious allegations of the Russian government’s attempts to collude with the Trump presidential campaign.

The firm, Fusion GPS, will be one subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next week that was planned well before the story broke of Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Fusion GPS says it had no involvement in the meeting although it did work on a lawsuit that involved Veselnitskaya for more than two years. The firm’s work on the Trump dossier was on a different timeline. Nevertheless, Trump’s legal team is already conflating the two issues as part of their defense of the president’s son.

Natalia Veselnitskaya

The Trumpies are suggesting that evil Democrats somehow set up poor, innocent Don Jr. But Fusion GPS was also representing Prevezon, the “holding company” involved in the Russian money laundering case.

Fusion GPS has said that it was working for the law firm BakerHostetler, which was representing Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus, in its defense against Justice Department allegations that Prevezon laundered money stolen in the fraud Magnitsky uncovered. Veselnitskaya was Prevezon’s lawyer. Fusion GPS started working on the case in 2013 and the case settled in May with no admission of guilt by Prevezon.

Fusion GPS told me its work on the Prevezon case had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election and they were not involved in the outreach to the Trump campaign.

“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it,” the company told me in a statement. “Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is false.”

As a subcontractor for BakerHostetler, Fusion GPS would not have been required to register under FARA. Senators may want to know why BakerHostetler decided that it did not need to register. Neither Veselnitskaya nor Mark Cymrot of Baker Hostetler, who handled the Prevezon case, responded to requests for comment.

Sam Thielman at TPM: Inside The Russian Lawyer’s And An Accused Spy’s ‘Adoption’ Crusade.

…that June 2016 meeting, which the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended, served another purpose for the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskya, and her wealthy client Denys Katsyv: It was a stop on a major PR tour against a sanctions bill.Katsyv had retained

Pytor Katsyv

Veselnitskaya had been accused of lobbying U.S. officials on behalf of the foundation before. The foundation had just two registered lobbyists, one of whom, Rinat Akhmetshin, had worked for Russian counterintelligence. And the foundation wasn’t asking for the reinstatement of an adoption program; it was, at least by implication, offering it. The group sought the alteration of a U.S. sanctions program that was about to become law, the Global Magnitsky Act, which was named after a dead Russian whistleblower. The original Magnitsky Act, enacted in 2012, had annoyed Russian President Vladimir Putin so much that he banned American adoptions of Russian children in retaliation; the expanded version had him enraged.

“What’s happening around the time of her meeting with Don, Jr. is the most serious-resourced and aggressive counterattack ever that the Kremlin has mounted on the Magnitsky Act,” one congressional aide told TPM. “They have learned over the years in their attempts to fight and derail this and they have gotten better at it. They’ve involved less ham-handed folks, and less people who might be out of central casting.”

Read the rest at the link. I’m sorry I can’t tie this all together, but I’m sure Bob Mueller is working on it with his dream team of federal prosecutors.

That’s not the only big story that broke last night. The Wall Street Journal was kind enough to leave this one outside the paywall: Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began.

Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump, according to current and former U.S. officials, a move prompted by revelations that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer last year.

In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said….

The Devil Incarnate

The 2015 conversations were detected several months before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for the White House. The conversations have been in investigators’ possession for some time, but officials said the Donald Trump Jr. news this week prompted them to look at them again.

In 2015, intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the surveillance reports, which they viewed as vague and inconclusive, the current and former officials said. But the volume of the mentions of Trump associates by the Russians did have officials asking each other, “What’s going on?” one former official said….

Now, in light of the release of emails Tuesday by the president’s eldest son, describing a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, investigators are going back to those early reports. They are seeking new leads as they probe whether the Trump campaign colluded in what several U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Russian government-sponsored effort to meddle in the election to benefit Mr. Trump.

Did the collusion between Trump and Russian begin before anyone even knew Trump would run for president?

And what the hell is going on in the Department of Justice. From NPR this morning: Justice Department Defies Court Deadline To Release Sessions’ Contacts With Russians.

In defiance of a court order, the Justice Department is refusing to release part of a security form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ contacts with the Russian government.

On June 12, a judge had ordered the agency to provide the information within 30 days, a deadline that passed on Wednesday.

A recently launched ethics watchdog group called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March for sections of the Standard Form 86 relating to Sessions’ contact “with any official of the Russian government.”

The group then filed a lawsuit in April after it said the government didn’t provide the documents.

“Jeff Sessions is our nation’s top law enforcement officer, and it is shocking one of his first acts after being named Attorney General was to mislead his own agency about a matter of national security,” the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement.

He continued: “The court gave DOJ thirty days to produce Attorney General Sessions’s security clearance form, DOJ has already confirmed its contents to the press and Sessions has testified about it to Congress, so there is no good reason to withhold this document from the public.”

The DOJ has now released a heavily redacted document.

I hope this post isn’t too confusing. I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day trying to sort out all this madness.

So . . .what stories are you following today?

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48 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Trump Has Left the U.S. and All Hell is Breaking Loose.”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Big story at The New Republic:

    Trump’s Russian Laundromat

    “How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.”

    • dakinikat says:

      whoa … sessions settling that law suit is a bfd. No wonder there are so many money laundering specialists in the special investigator’s retinue.

    • Enheduanna says:

      I can’t wait to read this one! (Have to bookmark for now.)

      Great post BB – it is very helpful. tRump & Co. have spun quite a tangled web. I just hope it doesn’t take years to sort it out.

    • quixote says:

      I have to say I disagree with a lot of Lister’s article.

      He says by accepting Assad the US allows the core cause of extremism to survive. Sorry, but bad as Assad is, and as much of a *contributing* cause as he is, the core cause is poverty. Which requires a rather different approach than Assad.

      His second point, that local control of the post-Daesh situation is somehow bad strikes me as just plain stupid. His main argument there is that one of the big Kurdish fighting groups has blots on its human rights record and are not Good People. Go and find me one single group with any power in the Middle East without such blots. I’ll wait. On second thought, I won’t. It’d take forever. And the Kurds, who are ethnically in the same group as Persians and Armenians, not Arabs, and are linguistically and culturally as different from their neighbors are, say, the French are from the Russians, were done out of a country by the way the colonial powers carved up the Middle East. So he’s also arguing against self-determination for a large and distinct group of people. That’s not exactly a recipe for peace either.

      His third point, that there’s no point trusting Russia to do anything good or useful in Syria, is probably right.

      And his fourth point, about handing Iran a strategic victory is also weak. So far, the Trumpalos have been handing the store to the Saudis. Double-plus ungood. Handing a victory to Iran might actually be a good idea in that context. Balance out their earlier BS a bit. Although it’s all a question of which version of short-term hell is more hellish. The real solution is to go to renewable energy and reduce the power of all the despots in the region.

      • NW Luna says:

        I agree that poverty is an overlooked factor and far more important than most comfortably fed pundits realize.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    I don’t know about you but I am getting nothing done in my house as I keep tuning into the t.v.or surfing the net as daily revelations about this traitorous and criminal administration unfolds.

    Afraid of missing something that promises to destroy Trump and all who “serve” him I find myself almost in a state of both anticipation and disbelief.

    The question is how much of these revelations will finally cause the GOP leadership to act.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That has been the story of my life for the past 6 months.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m drained. I have trouble concentrating. I’m frightened about my social security coming or not and I’m on Medicaid expansion until the Medicare comes through for me. I’m a wreck frankly and it makes it difficult to teach anything. I’m also frightened to say anything that will set off potential Trumpies that might be in my class. In short, my PTSD of being a victim of abuse is triggered daily.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        We all seem to be living in fear.

        Fear that we will lose our healthcare. Fear that this idiot will start a war. Fear that his lies will go unchallenged. Fear of his supporters. Fear that nothing will happen despite what they uncover. Fear that this the new norm. Fear that we will be let down by our institutions. Fear that this insanity may not end.

        This is what this illegitimate administration has given us. Fear.

        • Fannie says:

          Every day he just piles on more and more bullshitt, and all the republicans keep loving the stupidoo.

          • Enheduanna says:

            I know – wth?? Over 80% of Republicans love him. He can’t do any wrong in their eyes.

            I read earlier that there are more Dems registered to vote than GOPers but only about 50% show up whereas the GOPers come out at a rate of nearly 75%. We have GOT to get our act together in 2020.

      • NW Luna says:

        Yes, yes, and yes. Yes again.

    • quixote says:

      Honestly. The Givernment Accounting Office could corral all the numbers to tell us how big a hit to productivity and the GDP the whole Trumpanzee trauma has been.

      • NW Luna says:

        It’s a huge hit to most healthcare providers, at least all the ones who aren’t doing boutique private clinics. An internist told me a few months ago that close to half of her patients come in voicing worries about access to healthcare and the whole disaster that Trump has and is bringing. I’m sure that number is even higher now. Another problem is that we (the healthcare clinicians) are having nightmares too. It’s extra hard to empathize and stay professional without yelling “Damn that racist sexist idiot and the GOP sadists and all their Russian thugs!” at full lung capacity.

    • Riverbird says:

      I’m glad I’m retired, because my productivity would be zero if I were still working.

  3. dakinikat says:

    CRIMINAL TRAGEDY?
    The Real Hillary Clinton Conspiracy Is What Stuck Us With President Donald Trump
    The most royally screwed-over person in the history of American politics should be in the White House, right now.

    Michael Tomasky
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/the-real-hillary-clinton-conspiracy-is-what-stuck-us-with-president-donald-trump?source=facebook&via=desktop

    I’m sure that like me, you wake up some mornings and don’t know whether to be enraged or depressed or amused, or you hear the words “President Trump” on the radio and still sometimes wonder how the $@&# did that happen? Well imagine how Hillary feels. She was the target of the biggest coordinated campaign attack, stretching from the Kremlin to Julian Assange’s sitting room, in the history of American politics. She got zonked by Jim Comey 11 days before the election in a move that was totally without precedent in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And both of these after a quarter-century smear campaign that alleged everything up to and including murder but that never actually proved—and I mean proved, not “proved” to the satisfaction of millions of people who’d been worked into a state of rage against her over two decades—a single thing of importance that she did that was wrong or unethical. And still she got 3 million more votes.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Oooo another one to bookmark! And AMEN brother! I hope he mentions the misogyny aspect.

      • NW Luna says:

        Nope, he doesn’t. He’s clueless about the misogyny. Oh, most of it is good, especially that Hillary was targeted by so many powerful interests and still won the popular vote. And would be a far better POTUS than the jerk sitting in the WH today.

        But sigh:

        And in the press at least, outside of a few columnists, Clinton won’t have many defenders, because the fashionable thing is always to bash her, too. Fashionable? It’s the sexism, dude. And of course, she and Bill have made their mistakes. Both Clintons were way too insensitive to the appearances of their actions, like how much money they were making. Like Trump wasn’t supposed to be rich many times over? And as I’ve written many times, I think she decided to use a private server because she put her distrust of those out to get her (like Judicial Watch) ahead of her obligation to public transparency. Obligation? Her server never got hacked, unlike the State Department’s. It doesn’t matter that Colin Powell used a private server, too. The press loved Colin Powell. They didn’t love her. because she was a woman, you numbskull

        So yes. A person of flawed judgment. “flawed,” the typical insult for a woman candidate And the whole thing about not having a strong enough economic message turns out to have been true, too. Wrong — voters concerned about economic issues were more likely to vote for her. And journalist never read her policy ideas. And did Trump have any economic message? Hell no.

  4. dakinikat says:

    George W. Bush on Trump’s Ties to Russia: ‘We All Need Answers’

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-27/george-w-bush-takes-on-trump-on-russia-immigration-and-media?

    Former President George W. Bush, in his first interview since the start of Donald Trump’s administration, said he sees a need for an investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia and voiced skepticism about his successor’s approach to immigration and the media.

    “We all need answers,” Bush told NBC’s “Today” on Monday regarding the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia prior to the November election. He declined to say whether he thinks a special prosecutor should be named and said he trusted congressional committees to make that call. “You’re talking to the wrong guy,” he said, quipping that he’s “never been a lawyer.”

    Bush voiced skepticism about his successor’s approach to immigration when pressed on Trump’s policy placing travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries under greater scrutiny when they try to enter the country.

    “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and that upholds the law,” he said.

    What’s it say when Dubya comes off as thoughtful and law abiding?

  5. dakinikat says:

    What a prick!
    Trump shakes-and-yanks French First Lady’s hand

    http://americablog.com/2017/07/trump-shakes-yanks-french-first-lady.html

    He also puts his arm around her waist. Total dick prick power move!

  6. RonStill4Hills says:

    Venus Williamsis in the Wimbledon final at age 37. She is my hero of the day. I saw a book title earlier this week.

    “Strong is the new Pretty.” I don’t know if the book is any good but I approve of he title!!

  7. bostonboomer says:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  8. bostonboomer says:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Holy Shit!! Remember the guy who was trying to get Hillary’s emails to give to Mike Flynn? He killed himself.

    Peter W. Smith, GOP operative who sought Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, committed suicide, records show.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-peter-smith-death-met-0713-20170713-story.html

  10. quixote says:

    Okay, BB. This is all your fault. I’m finding myself understanding at least one small part of the tRump: This whole post needs to turn into a flashcard with three bullet points and one easy chart.

    My poor addled brain! I can’t process this shit!

    (Seriously: amazing post, tying so many threads together into one psychedelic macrame.)

  11. Minkoff Minx says:

    I just read your post now BB and it is shocking the amount if shit going on…I would have never known about it, if all I watched was cbsnews via the internet. Because the didn’t mention any of this shit. Nope. I only heard about the iceberg, the dead boy in Pennsylvania and Paul Ryan with his Capital dress code. What the fuckity fuck? When are these assholes going to get out of Dodge? Eclipse day is coming on soon.

  12. bostonboomer says:

    NBC reporting this morning that there was a 5th person in Don Jr.’s meeting. He was Russian-born and a former intelligence officer. After this came out, Jr.’s attorney said there may have been a 6th person in the meeting.

    Former Soviet Counter Intelligence Officer at Meeting With Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russian-lawyer-brought-ex-soviet-counter-intelligence-officer-trump-team-n782851?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma

    • NW Luna says:

      “Former.” “Ex.” Uh-huh. Somehow I don’t think there is such a thing with anyone Russian.

      And at this rate, the next news to drop will be that Putin was there by conference call.