Tuesday Reads: Too Much News!

Good Morning!!

Today is another day when there is so much news that my head is spinning. Even though so much is happening, I’m going to focus on Trump Russia news. I’ll add more news links in the comment thread.

Breaking last night:

Robert Mueller’s team withdrew their support for a bail agreement that had been reached with Paul Manafort:

Federal prosecutors asserted Monday that a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump’s campaign, has been “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence — the first time the special counsel has alleged a Trump official had such contacts.

The statement came as prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III withdrew their support for a joint bail deal filed last week that would have released Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring while he awaits trial on charges including money laundering and fraud.

In the four-page filing Monday, prosecutor Andrew Weissmann urged the judge to reject the bail deal, arguing that Manafort and a Russian colleague have been secretly ghostwriting an English-language editorial that appeared to defend Manafort’s work advising a ­Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

They said Manafort worked on the draft as recently as last week with “a long-time Russian colleague . . . who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.” They indicated they would file further supporting evidence under seal….

The Russian colleague was not identified in court papers. However, Manafort has had a long-standing Russian employee named Konstantin Kilimnik who ran Manafort’s office in Kiev during the 10 years he did consulting work there.

You can read the full court filing here.

K.T. McFarland, who worked closely with Michael Flynn during the Trump transition and became his deputy national security adviser may have lied during her confirmation hearing. The New York Times: McFarland’s Testimony About Russia Contacts Is Questioned.

A leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned on Monday whether a high-ranking official in Donald J. Trump’s transition team had been deceptive over the summer about her knowledge of discussions between Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, and a former Russian ambassador.

K. T. McFarland served on the presidential transition team before becoming the White House deputy national security adviser. In July, she was questioned in writing by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, on whether she had ever spoken to Mr. Flynn about his contacts with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was then the Russian ambassador to Washington, before Mr. Trump took office.

“I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above,” Ms. McFarland wrote in response, sidestepping a direct answer to the question.

An email exchange obtained by The New York Times indicates that Ms. McFarland was aware at the time of a crucial Dec. 29 phone call between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak that was intercepted by American intelligence. During that call, Mr. Flynn urged Moscow to respond cautiously to sanctions just imposed by the Obama administration for Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

Read more at the NYT.

NPR: 2016 RNC Delegate: Trump Directed Change To Party Platform On Ukraine Support.

Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform….

Denman is scheduled to meet this week with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to discuss what she saw, said two sources familiar with the briefings.

Investigators in Congress and elsewhere want to ask the San Antonio-area woman about how her proposal supporting Ukraine changed in the course of last year’s convention….

The revision to Denman’s proposed amendment to the Republican platform scaled back the party’s position on pro-Western elements in Ukraine — from supporting supplying weapons for fighters there to a more general assistance.

The issue is of interest to investigators in Congress and the team working for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller because the idea of arming Ukrainians in the fight against pro-Russian separatist forces was staunchly opposed by the Russian government — and, it seems, the Trump campaign as well.

The fallout from Trump’s weekend tweet about Michael Flynn continues. The Washington Post: Trump lawyer says president knew Flynn had given FBI the same account he gave to vice president.

President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador.

Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official. The vice president said publicly at the time that Flynn had told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian diplomat — a statement disproved by a U.S. intelligence intercept of a phone call between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Trump was aware of the issue a couple of weeks before a conversation with then-FBI Director James B. Comey in which Comey said the president asked him if he could be lenient while investigating Flynn, whom Trump had just fired for misleading Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian.

According to notes kept by Comey, Trump asked if he could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Trump fired Comey in May.

In a pre-dawn tweet Sunday, Trump issued a fresh rebuttal to Comey, writing: “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” The tweet was part of a running commentary from Trump that began Saturday, a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and indicated he would cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Now Dowd is trying to argue that the president cannot commit obstruction of justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer of the government. I don’t think that will fly, since both Nixon and Bill Clinton were charged with obstruction in impeachment hearings.

Breaking this morning:

Bloomberg: Mueller Subpoenas Trump Deutsche Bank Records.

Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.

“Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the lender said in a statement to Bloomberg Tuesday, declining to provide additional information.

Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president. Representative Maxine Waters of California and other Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. The bank previously rejected those demands, saying sharing client data would be illegal unless it received a formal request to do so. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

The Guardian: Trump’s personal banking information handed over to Robert Mueller.

Donald Trump’s banking information has formally been turned over to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating whether the president’s campaign conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.

Deutsche Bank, the German bank that serves as Trump’s biggest lender, was forced to submit documents about its client relationship with the president and some of his family members, who are also Deutsche clients, after Mueller issued the bank with a subpoena for information, according to multiple media reports. The news was first reported by Handelsblatt, the German newspaper.

The revelation makes it clear that Mueller and his team are investigating the president’s finances. Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, is also a client….

Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was “following the money” in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.

Instead, said Ryan Goodman, a New York law professor and former Pentagon counsel, it showed that Mueller was possibly examining whether the president could be compromised by Russian interests.

Jared Kushner is also involved with Deutsche Bank, and he apparently “forgot” to report a huge loan he got from them shortly before the election. Vox: Mueller appears to be looking deep into Trump’s finances.

The real estate company owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, finalized a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank one month before election day as part of a refinancing package for one of Kushner’s company’s properties in Times Square.

The bank has also been linked to criminal activity. In January 2017, Deutsche Bank received $630 million in penalties because it was involved in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme that involved the bank’s Moscow, New York, and London branches, CNN reports.

One last scary story:

It’s from The Intercept, but it was also covered by Buzzfeed recently.

The Intercept: Trump White House Weighing Plan for Private Spies to Counter “Deep State” Enemies.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”

Oliver North, who appears frequently on Trump’s favorite TV network, Fox News, was enlisted to help sell the effort to the administration. He was the “ideological leader” brought in to lend credibility, said the former senior intelligence official.

Some of the individuals involved with the proposals secretly met with major Trump donors asking them to help finance operations before any official contracts were signed.

The proposals would utilize an army of spies with no official cover in several countries deemed “denied areas” for current American intelligence personnel, including North Korea and Iran. The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world, as well as a propaganda campaign in the Middle East and Europe to combat Islamic extremism and Iran.

This is another boondoggle proposed by a company located in Whitefish, Montana. Read the rest at the link.

What stories are you following today?

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45 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Too Much News!”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Excellent long read about Mike Pence by McKay Coppins.

    God’s Plan for Mike Pence. Will the vice president—and the religious right—be rewarded for their embrace of Donald Trump?

    Pence’s wife Karen thinks Trump is “reprehensible–just totally vile.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Observers are saying that Justice Kennedy may come down in favor of letting businesses refuse to serve LGBT customers.

    Op-ed by the owner of the bakery in the suit at USA Today: Here’s why I can’t custom-design cakes for same-sex weddings

    Those cakes are ugly!

    The Daily Beast: The Gay-Wedding Cake Fight Isn’t About Religious Freedom—It’s About Sex.

    Quartz: The Supreme Court wedding cake case shows it’s time to redefine free speech.

    America’s free speech traditions evolved in a country that embraced slavery, displaced native peoples, and denied women the vote. Free speech always meant freedom for certain people at the expense of others. Slave owners demanded the freedom to do what they would with their “property,” while enslaved people who complained of their plight in public could be beaten or murdered outright.

    In that context, the “free speech” tradition has been oddly divorced from “freedom.” Or, to put it another way, free speech in the US has historically been applied only to people who were already considered equal and free. The ACLU argues that free speech helped defend members of the Civil Rights movement. But free speech protections certainly didn’t help Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader murdered by the FBI for political speech and organizing. When US Immigration and Customs Enforcement targets undocumented people who speak out about immigration policy, the goal is to make clear to immigrants that they better keep quiet.

    • NW Luna says:

      Q: Since when is a cake for a private occasion considered free speech?”
      A: December 2017

      *endless screaming*

      • Enheduanna says:

        This guy is being disingenuous and pretending his cakes are his “art”. Why do these religious nuts always have to lie to get what they want?

      • quixote says:

        Well, the Supremes themselves said Megacorps are MegaPersons whose money is an expression covered under freedom of speech. You can see why the baker is confused. You can just see him thinking, “Their money can talk, but my cakes can’t?”

        All they’ve done — Supremes and baker and everybody in between who thinks that way — is demonstrate how wrong they are.

        The only question is whether we’ll still have a country when free speech is finally rationally redefined.

        (I have a pile of rants on this. Most recently, How To Stop Weaponized Speech?)

  3. NW Luna says:

    Well, of course Kushner’s action is understandable. Who amongst us hasn’t forgotten about a $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 loan before?

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Foreign Policy: The Evidence Is Damning: What Team Trump Knew and When, by Gordon Kahl

    The circumstantial evidence suggesting that the Trump campaign collaborated with the Kremlin to get now-President Donald Trump elected continues to mount. But even if it turns out that there was no direct “collusion” to shape the 2016 election, what we have learned so far — including most recently from retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s guilty plea this past week — is incredibly troubling. The evidence is now irrefutable that Trump, his associates, and Republican leadership more broadly conspired to give Moscow a pass despite (or perhaps because of) Russia’s attack on our democracy.

    While much remains unknown about the full extent and nature of the relationship between Team Trump and Russia’s 2016 election activities, we actually know a great deal already. We know that Kremlin intermediaries reached out to Trump foreign-policy advisor George Papadopoulos and then to Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., in the spring of 2016 offering “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (including, in Papadopoulos’s case, an offer of “thousands of emails”). We know that several other senior Trump campaign officials were aware of these approaches, failed to report them to the FBI, and encouraged the outreach. We also know that, in the summer of 2016, then candidate Trump called on Russia to “find” Clinton’s missing emails, and that several campaign surrogates (including Roger Stone and the Trump campaign’s data firm Cambridge Analytica) and at least one prominent Republican operative (Peter W. Smith) reached out to WikiLeaks (which was laundering information for Moscow) and to Russian hackers to get additional dirt on Clinton.

    Yet, despite all of this knowledge of Moscow’s meddling, candidate Trump repeatedly insisted that the Russians were likely not the ones responsible for hacking Democratic National Committee emails or the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Trump’s denials continued throughout the presidential transition and, as president, Trump has consistently suggested that he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assurances that the Kremlin did not interfere in the U.S. election over the consensus judgement of America’s intelligence agencies.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Packed with linky goodness, BB. I’ll be reading for a while.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    The Hill: Conyers ‘retiring today’ amid sexual misconduct allegations.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/house/363282-conyers-announces-retirement-amid-sexual-misconduct-allegations

  7. Sweet Sue says:

    Look at that top photo. So much for the age of chivalry. Remember when chivalry was the supposed reward for our second class citizenship?

    • bostonboomer says:

      That is a famous photo by Stanley Kubrick.

      I rode the MBTA for many years, and I never recall seeing anyone give up a seat for someone else. There’s no chivalry in the subway.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Bloomberg: How the Kremlin Tried to Pose as American News Sites on Twitter

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-05/how-the-kremlin-tried-to-pose-as-american-news-sites-on-twitter

  10. Enheduanna says:

    Great post BB. Things are looking really good in the Mueller probe. Now that he’s got the bank records, I am daring to hope we will see tRump resign very soon.

    Have ya’ll seen this about the tax plan?

    http://susiemadrak.com/2017/12/05/senate-gop-accidentally-killed-corporate-tax-deductions/

    Can they fix that in reconciliation? These guys are just too stupid to believe.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    ‘Death to Democrats’: How the GOP Tax Bill Whacks Liberal Tenets

    President Donald Trump and GOP leaders have promised that the two main goals of a tax code revamp are to benefit middle-class families and to slash the corporate tax rate. But paying for those changes has come in large part at the expense of breaks that are important to residents of high-tax states, which tend to be Democratic.

    Benefits used by universities and graduate students are also on the chopping block. And the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate to buy insurance — a centerpiece of Democrats’ biggest achievement in a generation — is estimated to generate some $300 billion to pay for tax cuts.

    “It’s death to Democrats,” said conservative economist Stephen Moore, who advised Trump’s campaign on tax policy.

    “They go after state and local taxes, which weakens public employee unions. They go after university endowments, and universities have become play pens of the left. And getting rid of the mandate is to eventually dismantle Obamacare,” Moore said in an interview, arguing that it would accelerate “a death spiral” in the health-care law’s marketplaces.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Truth stings.

    • Catscatscats says:

      Can’t remember the name of the show, but i believe that was the first episode. It was years ago, and i am sure those stats on the US have gotten worse along with our arrogance, greed and narcissism. And being uninformed? That also got worse until trumputin and the GOP weaponized it, the media only entertained and agitated us for the money and social networks took hold and inundated us with lies and propaganda. I want that big hearted, creative and courageous country back, but are there enough Americans left to fight for it?

  12. 9dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Hoo boy. The burn, baby, burn part of me is glad because the only way the gov would stay open is if the Dems cave on absolutely everything.

      Mainly lifting that sequester requirement yet again so that all the $$$ the Repubs just gave to MegaCorps wouldn’t mean slashing Medicare and sudden plug pulling on things like cancer therapy.

      Then when the election rolls around, the Repubs will beat up the Dems for throwing money away.

      But, on the other hand, the rational part of me is saying, “Oh hell. If the Dems don’t cave on everything, there goes cancer therapy and national parks and and and,” just like the last time we had this crap.

      • NW Luna says:

        Betcha that if they do shut down the government the senators and congressional reps still get paid later for the days gov’t was closed. But the park rangers and janitors and other “little people” won’t.

  13. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    • Enheduanna says:

      Look at that idiotic face – he hasn’t matured beyond 4 years old.

      This is his play to deflect from the fact Mueller has his financials. If the embassy stays in Tel Aviv for the next 6 months – he could be gone by then.

  14. dakinikat says:

    Even Lawyers And Cops Knew About Roy Moore’s Behavior. Why Didn’t They Do Anything?

    There were stories told around the courthouse, lawyer gossip about Roy Moore. All word-of-mouth, with nothing ever in writing.

    There was small stuff that maybe doesn’t seem as small now. Like the story about Moore supposedly getting thrown out of a Pizitz department store for hanging around the undergarments section. Three people in legal circles said they’d heard that one. This would’ve been in the late 1970s, when Pizitz was still a going concern; a few years later, the Gadsden Mall reportedly banned Moore for chasing teenage girls.

    There wasn’t much anyone could do, one longtime criminal defense lawyer in town said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Certainly there was nothing to be done about the alleged Pizitz ejection. “You’ve got to have some sort of written document that says” what happened, the lawyer said. “Everybody kinda knows that. Him getting kicked out was verbal — it was never in writing.”

    And of course there were the bigger things, of the kind the rest of the country is learning about now. The defense attorney had heard about Moore’s prowling for teenagers. But in that case, too, nothing could’ve been done, the attorney said.

    • quixote says:

      Why do I get the feeling that if he’d been suspected of shoplifting, they would have somehow found it in them to pursue it and get him chucked in the jug?

    • Enheduanna says:

      Wow. Just wow. Now imagine if Moore was a black man and think just how long it would have taken those men to “do something about it”.

      The part about it being the responsibility of the girls themselves (children) to do something about it is especially nice.

    • NW Luna says:

      Nothing that they wanted to do. It was too much trouble, or not that important — no one was getting killed. He was white and well-off. Besides, it’d be a he-said, she-said situation. Which means that what he said weighs more than what she said.

  15. Enheduanna says:

    I don’t know why Daily Beast thinks this is a shock:

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/former-national-enquirer-top-editor-accused-of-sex-misconduct

    I’d be shocked if the guy wasn’t a serial harasser considering their love for tRump.

  16. bostonboomer says:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  17. NW Luna says:

    Can’t teach those who don’t want to learn. Story also goes into the female captain’s policy violations but not those of her manager or the clueless fellow officer.

    An Indiana police force placed a female captain on paid administrative leave after she told a fellow officer that he benefited from “white male privilege.”

    During the presentation, an officer who spent 28 years with the department questioned a statistic presented at the conference, that members of the transgender community are 3.32 times as likely to be the victim of police violence than non-transgender people, according to WRTV. The statistic comes from the 2012 annual report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which describes itself as an advocacy group for “local LGBTQ communities.”

  18. NW Luna says:

    JJ, Cartoon for your collection!