Tuesday Reads: Predator and PreyPosted: March 19, 2019
Some interesting news broke from the Justice Department this morning.
I wonder what it means? Check out this Twitter thread from Clint Watts:
Read the whole thing on Twitter. Here’s the conclusion:
Watts thinks it’s possible Barr already has the report, which isn’t going to be long review of everything Mueller found. As Marcy Wheeler long been arguing, Mueller is speaking through his court filings.
Before I get to the rest of today’s news, here’s the back story on the amazing photo at the top of this post.
When Lincoln, Maine-based photographer Roger Stevens Jr. was reviewing photos of a staredown between a squirrel and a bald eagle he took last Monday, he thought they looked “pretty sharp,” so he decided to share one on his Facebook page.
“I didn’t give it much of a thought after that,” Stevens said in an interview with Boston.com on Monday.
But it turns out Stevens had unknowingly struck viral gold.
The shares from the photo began to surge, which he thought was “kind of odd.” He sent the photo on to a contact at the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, which ran a story a couple days later, and to a local news station, as he sometimes does.
Stevens got calls about the photo from around the world. Here the background:
The fateful day began just like any other, Stevens described. He and his dog, Rosie, got up, had breakfast, and then headed out — Stevens says he “always” has his camera.
Stevens was looking for eagles specifically, he said. He’s published photo books on various animals before, and this is his latest project. He saw the eagle sitting in the tree next to the Rite Aid in the middle of Lincoln.
“It was kind of a gray day,” Stevens recalled. “Not a great day to film the eagle.”[….]
“The squirrel literally came from I don’t know where,” he said. “It raced up the tree and started just kind of like playing hide-and-seek with this eagle. And then it got really bold and stuck its neck out there in the picture that everybody sees. And I thought this is kind of odd, but I didn’t really think that much about it at the time.”
What Stevens had captured was an interaction between predator and prey — bald eagles eat squirrels and other small mammals, according to the National Eagle Center in Minnesota.
For those wondering what happened after the photo was taken, things didn’t end badly for the bold squirrel, according to Stevens. The eagle flew away after about 10 minutes.
The other big news this morning is the release of information about the Special Counsel’s investigation of Michael Cohen and the background to the FBI raid on Cohen’s offices.
The New York Times: Michael Cohen’s Emails Were Sought by Special Counsel in July 2017, Documents Show.
Federal authorities began investigating the email accounts of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, as early as July 2017, only months after Mr. Trump took office, according to documents unsealed on Tuesday.
The emails, dating back to January 2016, were sought by the office of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel conducting the Russia investigation, the documents show. The records show that Mr. Cohen’s business dealings had already been the subject of an extensive investigation by the time F.B.I. agents conducted a highly public raid on his home and office last April.
The records, including search warrants and materials related to the April raid, were among hundreds of pages of documents released in response to a request by The New York Times and other news organizations.
The materials that were unsealed on Tuesday came from F.B.I. searches last April on Mr. Cohen’s office, apartment, hotel room and a safe deposit box.
The April 8, 2018, search warrant said that the F.B.I. and Manhattan federal prosecutors were investigating Mr. Cohen for a range of crimes, including defrauding several banks dating back to 2016 and a scheme “to make an illegal campaign contribution in October 2016 to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The warrant also indicated they were investigating him for wire fraud and conspiracy.
More stories on the Cohen documents:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators were allowed by a federal judge to review years of Michael Cohen’s emails and other online data from the time he worked under Donald Trump, according to newly unsealed warrants used in his case in Manhattan federal court.
In all, the prosecutors and FBI received permission from a Washington, DC-based federal judge to execute four search warrants on Cohen’s two Gmail accounts and for stored data in his Apple iCloud account in July, August and November 2017 — long before Cohen’s office was raided in April 2018 and he pleaded guilty in an illegal campaign contribution and tax prosecution led by Manhattan federal prosecutors.
Mueller also received approval on two separate occasions to track the numbers of Cohen’s incoming and outgoing calls.
The revelation gives new illumination to Mueller’s work throughout 2017 — before he had brought the bulk of his open criminal cases against defendants like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a host of Russians for interfering in the election — and shows how extensively Mueller had tracked computer data of those close to then-candidate Trump in the early days of his presidency.
The search warrants released Tuesday say that the special counsel’s office referred “certain aspects” of its investigation into Cohen to the New York-based US Attorney’s Office.
I wonder if this news explains Trump’s Twitter meltdown over the weekend? I’m sure we’ll being learning much more about what’s in these documents in the course of today. Marcy Wheeler has been tweeting about them; I look forward to her detailed analysis when she publishes it.
Interesting Mueller report speculation at Politico: Preet Bharara Expects a ‘Lengthy, Detailed’ Mueller Report.
[Bharara] thinks Robert Mueller, the special counsel brought in to investigate that allegedly tainted election after Trump fired Comey, will want to explain himself, at least privately. Bharara predicts Mueller will deliver a robust report to Attorney General William Barr that will lay out precisely why and how he decided to prosecute — or not — various individuals swept up in the Russia probe, including the president.
“He could give something bare-bones to the AG, because he’s said what he was going to say in publicly filed documents and indictments,” Bharara said in an interview. “Or, I think it’s slightly more likely — a hunch I have — that he’ll write a very lengthy, detailed document that goes into the prosecutions and the declinations at great length, with a lot of supporting exhibits as well.”
Then, he says, Barr will face an excruciating dilemma: how much of the report to reveal to Congress and to the public. Disclose too much, and he’ll anger his boss in the White House. Disclose too little, and Democrats will howl. With stakes this high, Americans’ confidence (or lack thereof) that Mueller’s inquiry has been rigorously impartial has become a proxy for our wheezing collective confidence in the justice system and even democracy itself, a subject that concerns Bharara greatly.
In leaky Washington, the broad outlines of such an explosive report likely wouldn’t stay hidden for long, Bharara predicts. “And once it is known that it’s” — he picks a number out of thin air — “a 480-page document, then let the games begin.”
Bharara argues that, unlike Clinton — or, say, a businessman suspected of defrauding a bank, but not ultimately charged with a crime — the president of the United States isn’t entitled to prosecutors’ silence. So even if Americans never find out why minor Russiagate figures such as Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner weren’t charged, Congress should be told what, if any, role the president played in Russia’s efforts to elect him, along with what he did to cover it up.
At the Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff scored an interview with Ukranian oligarch Dmytro Firtash: Indicted Oligarch Dmytro Firtash Praises Paul Manafort, Says Trump Has Third-Grade Smarts.
VIENNA, Austria—An indicted Ukrainian oligarch who faces years in an American prison joked about President Donald Trump’s intellect and distanced himself from Paul Manafort’s business dealings in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast at his palatial corporate offices in Vienna.
Dmytro Firtash is a Ukrainian oligarch-in-exile who controls much of the country’s natural gas distribution. He also befriended Manafort, did business with Russia’s state-owned gas behemoth, and became a target of Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He’s been a constant presence in the background of the story of Russian influence in the American elections—but now, he says American influence on Ukraine is the real story.
Read the whole article to learn more about Firtash’s background. Here’s the meat of the story:
Because of his work in the gas industry, Firtash also met a man who would become one of the globe’s most notorious thugs: Semion Mogilevich, a Russian mob boss who has spent years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Before he was poisoned in the U.K., ex-Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko claimed Putin and Mogilevich had a “good relationship,” as Business Insiderdetailed.
“Half of the Soviet Union knows him, everyone knows him,” Firtash said. “He’s from Ukraine. Everyone knows him, I’m not the only one who knows him. As I remember, we met in one gas company, but I don’t want to name it.” [….]
Firtash’s acquaintance with Mogilevich drew public interest in 2010, when WikiLeaks posted a tranche of stolen State Department cables. One cable, from the American embassy in Kiev, detailed a conversation Firtash had with then-Ambassador Bill Taylor. According to the cable, Firtash claimed that he’d needed Mogilevich’s approval to get started in the gas trade. According to Firtash, the cable was a lie.
Mogilevich is known as the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mob and he’s on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Read more about him and Firtash at the link above.
One more Russia-related story from Politico: Nadler: ‘Tens of thousands’ of documents delivered in Trump obstruction probe.
The House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it received responses from a “large number” of the 81 individuals and entities who were asked to provide documents as part of the panel’s wide-ranging investigation into obstruction of justice allegations against President Donald Trump — but the committee was mum on details about who complied.
“I am encouraged by the responses we have received since sending these initial letters two weeks ago,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Monday, the deadline for document requests the committee sent on March 4.
“It is my hope that we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list, and will be working to find an appropriate accommodation with any individual who may be reluctant to cooperate with our investigation,” added Nadler.
The broad request for information came as the Judiciary Committee — the panel that has the power to launch impeachment proceedings against the president — kicked off its sweeping probe into allegations of corruption, abuses of power, and obstruction of justice against Trump.
Read the rest at Politico.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories have you been following?