Lazy Saturday Reads

Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, and Carl Reiner in a scene from “If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast.”

Good Morning!!

My mom is visiting from Indiana this weekend–staying with my brother. She will be 93 in June. She’s coming over to visit my apartment pretty soon, so I have to rush around and get ready.  It has been so wonderful to see her for the first time since she moved into assisted living more than a year ago. She was moving at about the same time I moved into this apartment.

Last night we watched a wonderful HBO documentary, If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast. It’s about people in their 90s who are still active and vital. Some of the people featured: Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Betty White, Norman Lear, and Dick Van Dyke. Here’s a piece about it at The Atlantic from about a year ago: A Sunny, Funny View of Old Age.

Carl Reiner, the 95-year-old comedian, writer, actor, and director, has a running gag about life as a nonagenarian. “Every morning … I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section, and see if I’m listed,” he explains. “If I’m not, I have my breakfast.” He stages a version of this routine for the new documentary If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast, airing Monday night on HBO, in which Reiner and a handful of other 90-something personalities mull old age, and the possible reasons for their longevity. “Is it luck? Genes? Modern medicine?” he wonders. “Or are we doing something right?”

The result, directed by Danny Gold, is a documentary that’s loose, unfocused, and utterly charming—much like its subjects. Reiner wants to challenge perceptions about what it means to be living in your 90s (really living, rather than simply alive), and so he chats with friends who, like him, are thriving late in life. Tony Bennett, still swinging at 90, is filmed singing over the opening credits. The filmmaker Mel Brooks (90) and the TV producer Norman Lear (94) converse with Reiner about the impulse to keep working, as do the actress Betty White (95) and the actor Dick Van Dyke (91). The freewheeling, genial nature of the proceedings means the movie often feels like a Hollywood reunion, which perhaps explains why Jerry Seinfeld (a relative baby at 63) also pops up occasionally to ponder the potential of old age….

Perhaps aware of the fact that entertainers are a special breed, Gold also interviews a number of regular Americans who continue to blossom well past their 90s, and who assert the film’s general thesis that physical activity is paramount. These include Tao Porchon-Lynch, a 98-year-old yoga teacher, and Ida Keeling, a 102-year-old runner whose story is so inspiring it demands its own feature-length version. Keeling started running at the age of 67 after both her sons had been murdered. “I felt so different … like I had come out of my shell,” she explains. “Now, I’m chasing myself. There’s nobody to compete with.”

It’s in moments like these that Gold (and Reiner, who acts as a kind of emcee) really challenge perceptions about what growing old has to mean. Their subjects seem to view every day as an opportunity, rather than as another notch on an increasingly long calendar. “People are so worried about getting old,” the 95-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel explains. “I never think about [it]. I think people should just take advantage of being alive.” Reiner, shown signing books for fans, posing for photographs, and doing stand-up shows, maintains that he’s busier and more productive than ever. Though, as he jokes to Betty White, not all aspects of aging can be helped: “You don’t lose interest in sex, but you lose your power.”

Anyway, I found it inspiring. One of the things that all the interviewees talked about was how important it is to do something you love and be busy every day. I’ve often thought that writing for this blog has been important for me psychologically. It gives me something to focus on and a way to share my thoughts–and sometimes people even pay attention! It gives me the motivation to get up every morning and see what’s happening in politics and other news, and politics is something I have loved ever since I was 11 years old. I don’t know what I’d do without my on-line connections and my constant curiosity about what’s going on in the world.

So here’s what’s happening today.

Did Mike Pompeo deliberately allow people to think he served in combat in the Gulf War? The Splinter: The CIA Says Mike Pompeo Didn’t Fight in the Gulf War.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is set to become the next Secretary of State. It’s an ideal time, then, to clarify details of his biography, including a rather major one: did Pompeo, as numerous profiles have stated, fight in the Gulf War? We asked the CIA, who confirmed that he absolutely did not.

Pompeo is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1986 to 1991. But he wasn’t deployed to the Gulf: In an email this morning, a spokesperson for the CIA told us, “Director Pompeo was in the U.S. Army at the time of the Gulf War – serving until 1991. He was not deployed to that theater.”

The question was first raised on Twitter Friday morning by Ned Price, a former CIA officer who served under President Obama, and who very publicly quit the CIA rather than work for President Trump, announcing the decision in a February 2017 op-ed in the Washington Post. Price pointed out that among other places, Pompeo’s Wikipedia page suggests that he was deployed. It currently states that Pompeo “served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the 4th Infantry Division in the Gulf War.”

Pompeo’s nomination to Secretary of State may be in trouble. ABC News: Coons announces opposition to Pompeo, cuts off path to favorable committee vote.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, announced Friday that he will not vote to support the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, officially closing the door on Pompeo’s chances of being favorably recommended out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ahead of a full Senate floor vote.

Coons, the last Democrat on the panel to announce his position, said in a statement that he was encouraged by Pompeo’s commitment to the diplomatic corps that he laid out in his confirmation hearing but concluded that the current CIA director and former congressman would embolden rather than temper President Donald Trump‘s most bellicose instincts.

“I do not make this decision lightly or without reservations,” Coons said in a statement. “I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the President in critical moments. On vital decisions facing our country, Director Pompeo seems less concerned with rule of law and partnership with our allies and more inclined to emphasize unilateral action and the use of force.”

This surprising story broke last night at The Washington Post: Sessions told White House that Rosenstein’s firing could prompt his departure, too.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the White House he might have to leave his job if President Trump fired his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Sessions made his position known in a phone call to White House counsel Donald McGahn last weekend, as Trump’s fury at Rosenstein peaked after the deputy attorney general approved the FBI’s raid April 9 on the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Sessions’s message to the White House, which has not previously been reported, underscores the political firestorm that Trump would invite should he attempt to remove the deputy attorney general. While Trump also has railed against Sessions at times, the protest resignation of an attorney general — which would be likely to incite other departures within the administration — would create a moment of profound crisis for the White House.

In the phone call with McGahn, Sessions wanted details of a meeting Trump and Rosenstein held at the White House on April 12, according to a person with knowledge of the call. Sessions expressed relief to learn that their meeting was largely cordial. Sessions said he would have had to consider leaving as the attorney general had Trump ousted Rosenstein, this person said.

The Intercept has a new story about Elliott Broidy, the guy that paid hush money to a Playboy model whom he impregnated with the assistance of Trump attorney Michael Cohen: Trump Fundraiser Offered Russian Gas Company Plan to Get Sanctions Lifted for $26 Million.

Elliott Broidy

SHORTLY AFTER PRESIDENT Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board….

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

The Daily Beast reports on Michael Avenatti’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show: Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Tells Bill Maher That Sean Hannity Is Screwed. About Hannity, Avenatti said:

“Here’s what I think: I think that when the documents actually come out, and there are documents—there’s no question in my mind, there are documents wBaith Sean Hannity’s name on them—the extent of that relationship, I think, will be very embarrassing to Sean Hannity,” he said.

Back home in Indiana, Mike Pence suffered a setback in his endless war on women. The Indy Star: Indiana abortion law signed by former Gov. Mike Pence is ruled unconstitutional.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a district court ruling striking down a Pence-era abortion law.

House Enrolled Act 1337 was signed by former Gov. Mike Pence in March 2016. Among other “non-discrimination provisions,” the law prohibited abortions sought because a fetus had been potentially diagnosed with a disability.

In an opinion filed Thursday, 7th Circuit Judge William J. Bauer called those provisions unconstitutional.

“The non-discrimination provisions clearly violate well-established Supreme Court precedent holding that a woman may terminate her pregnancy prior to viability, and that the State may not prohibit a woman from exercising that right for any reason,” he wrote for the three-judge panel that ruled on the case.

Jane Henegar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said in a written statement that Thursday’s decision “affirmed a woman’s fundamental right to make her own personal medical decisions.”

So . . . what stories have you been following?

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Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

As usual, there’s a massive amount of news this morning. To provide a bit of distraction, I’m illustrating this post with one of my favorite things in Boston: Back Bay doors.

There are stories about various Trump advisers who are involved in scandal or at odds with the “president.” Yesterday voter suppression advocate Kris Kobach was found in contempt of court by a federal judge. It looks like EPA chief Scott Pruitt may soon be buried by his multiple scandals. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has angered Senators with his refusal to brief them on his contacts with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Will that affect the committee vote on his appointment as Secretary of State? Nikki Haley is standing up to Trump, but can he fire here when there are rumors she could run against him in 2020? Finally, Ronan Farrow has a piece about Rex Tillerson’s “last days and chaotic tenure as Secretary of State.”

James Comey continues his book tour, and his former colleague Andrew McCabe calls him a liar. Awkward.

And in the wake of the raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen, various lawsuits are being dropped. Former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougall was freed yesterday from her contract with The National Enquirer and can now talk publicly about her relationship with Trump. In addition, Michael Cohen has dropped his libel suits against Fusion GPS and Buzzfeed. Will Trump and Cohen give up their fights with Stormy Daniels soon as well? They have to be living in fear that discovery in these civil cases could reveal embarrassing information related to the FBI searches of Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.

The biggest story of course is Michael Cohen, his likely criminal indictment, and the danger he poses for Trump.

You probably heard about that Wall Street Journal story (behind paywall) about a former Trump lawyer, Jay Goldberg, warning him about Cohen. Not behind paywalls:

Gloria Borger at CNN: Former Trump lawyer says he warned the President that Cohen could turn against him.

Jay Goldberg, a longtime lawyer for Donald Trump — who negotiated Trump’s divorces from Ivana Trump and Marla Maples decades ago — says he received a call from the President last Friday seeking advice and warned the President to be careful about his longtime friend Michael Cohen, who he predicted could end up cooperating with prosecutors.

‘Anybody who is facing 30 years never stands up,” Goldberg says he told the President. “Without exception, a person facing a prison term cooperates.”
Goldberg also added that in addition to cooperation, the person “may also wear a wire.”
Goldberg was adamant that anyone facing a long prison term “will testify because they need the government’s affection,” he said. “That way, the government can say they have testified in a truthful manner.”
Goldberg said the President had no response.

Gloat over more details at CNN.

Politico: Trump allies worry Cohen will flip.

Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen — long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies — might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

“That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.” [….]

“When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out,” said one Trump ally who knows Cohen.

Since the raid, the president and his advisers have been singularly focused on the risk of a potential federal prosecution of Cohen, which they view as a much bigger existential threat to the presidency than former FBI Director James Comey, whose book “A Higher Loyalty” has dominated headlines and even Trump’s Twitter feed even before its Tuesday release.

Trump has regularly ranted to friends and advisers about the investigation into Cohen, according to two other people familiar with the conversations. He believes strongly that the FBI raid has pushed the boundaries of attorney-client privilege, telling friends that he and his associates are being unfairly targeted.

“He’s not happy about it,” said one White House official.

Well isn’t that just too bad.

Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Lawyer Forgets to Pretend He’s Innocent, Also Compares Him to Mobster.

In a conversation with Trump last Friday, Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s lawyers, warned the president, “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, according to TheWall Street Journal. But why would Trump have anything to worry about, unless … Trump committed a crime that Cohen knows about?

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen’s loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.

At this point, I think just about everyone knows that Trump’s business was a crime syndicate and he’s busy using our government to rake in more profits for his crime family.

Two big investigative stories about Michael Cohen and his criminal background were published yesterday.

Trump, Inc.: The Company Michael Cohen Kept.

If you’ve seen video or images of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, they’ve probably been set in locations that exude power and importance: Cohen berating a CNN anchor in a TV studio, for example, or striding across the sleek marbled interior of Trump Tower, or more recently, smoking cigars in front of Cohen’s temporary residence, the Loews Regency Hotel on Manhattan’s Park Avenue.

But to understand how Michael Cohen arrived in those precincts, you need to venture across New York City’s East River. There, in a Queens warehouse district in the shadows of an elevated No. 7 subway line, is a taxi garage that used to house his law practice. The office area in the front is painted a garish taxi-cab-yellow, with posters of hockey players on the wall and a framed photo of the late Hasidic rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. Cohen practiced law there and invested in the once-lucrative medallions that grant New York cabs the right to operate.

Or you could drive 45 minutes deep into Brooklyn, near where Gravesend turns into Brighton Beach. There, in a desolate stretch near a shuttered podiatrist’s office, you’d find a medical office. According to previously unexamined records, Cohen incorporated a business there in 2002 that was involved in large quantities of medical claims. Separately, he represented more than 100 plaintiffs who claimed they were injured in auto collisions.

At the same time, in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York prosecutors were investigating what Fortune magazine called possibly “the largest organized insurance-fraud ring in U.S. history.” That fraud resulted in hundreds of criminal prosecutions for staging car accidents to collect insurance payments. Cohen was not implicated in the fraud.

A distinctive pattern emerged early in Cohen’s career, according to an examination by WNYC and ProPublica for the Trump, Inc. podcast: Many of the people who crossed paths with Cohen when he worked in Queens and Brooklyn were disciplined, disbarred, accused or convicted of crimes.

It appears that Cohen was Trump’s liason to the Russian mafia and to sleazy deals involving Russian and Ukrainian mobsters. Read all about it at the link.

At Rolling Stone, Seth Hettena offers an excerpt from his upcoming book Trump / Russia, A Definitive HistoryA Brief History of Michael Cohen’s Criminal Ties.

Cohen joined the Trump Organization in 2006, and eventually became Trump’s personal lawyer, a role once occupied by Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s heavy-lidded hatchet man during the Red Scare who advised Trump in the 1980s. Michael Cohen’s bare-knuckled tactics earned him the nickname of “Tom,” a reference to Tom Hagen, the consigliore to Mafia Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. He grew up on Long Island, the son of a physician who survived the Holocaust in Poland, and like Tom Hagen spent a childhood around organized crime, specifically the Russian Mafiya. Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, was a wealthy Brooklyn doctor who owned the El Caribe Country Club, a Brooklyn catering hall and event space that was a well-known hangout for Russian gangsters. Cohen and his siblings all had ownership stakes in the club, which rented for years to the first Mafiya boss of Brighton Beach, Evsei Agron, along with his successors, Marat Balagula and Boris Nayfeld. (Cohen’s uncle said his nephew gave up his stake in the club after Trump’s election.)

I spoke to two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Donald Trump by his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who arrived in the U.S. in 1975. Shusterman was in the garment business and owned a fleet of taxicabs with his partners, Shalva Botier and Edward Zubok – all three men were convicted of a money-laundering related offense in 1993. “Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures,” a former federal investigator told me. “Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.” (“Untrue,” Cohen told me. “Your source is creating fake news.”)

Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, also set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the “taxi king” Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously in 2012. Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was independently hired to examine Trump’s Russia connections during the real estate mogul’s presidential run, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Cohen “had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida – Russian organized crime figures,” including Garber.

Read the rest at Rolling Stone.

If you don’t want to read long exposes, you can check out Josh Marshall’s coverage of Cohen at Talking Points Memo. Marshall has been researching Cohen for a long time too. Here’s his latest: More on the Michael Cohen Money Trail. Marshall provides links to his previous posts on Cohen.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

 


Tuesday Open Thread

Marc Chagall: Over the Town, 1918

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

This will be a short post, because I got hit with a severe migraine this morning for the first time in ages. I’m feeling too woozy to write much, so here are some links to check out:

NBC News: Desiree Linden, first U.S. woman to win Boston Marathon in 33 years, is ‘on cloud nine.’

Great long read at The New Yorker: A Voyage Along Trump’s Wall. Canoeing the Rio Grande reveals how life and a landscape would be changed along the border.

The Washington Post: Pruitt upgraded to a larger, customized SUV with bullet-resistant seat covers,

The Verge: Broadband adviser picked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai arrested on fraud charges.

The Guardian: Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles.

Politico: Trump Administration Wants to Shut Door on Abused Women.

Politico: Cambridge Analytica created own quizzes to harvest Facebook data.

Not just in Philly. USA Today: Black man videotapes Starbucks’ refusal to let him use restroom.

Axios: Trump and Abe’s scandal-stained summit.

The Washington Post: Why President Trump can’t get the best people.

AP: Defending Trump in Russia probe? It’s hardly a dream job.

So sorry for the brief post. I will check back later on if I’m feeling better.

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: A Friday the Thirteenth to Remember

Good Afternoon!!

I’m still in shock after yesterday. Was there another blockbuster story breaking every couple of hours or am I imagining it? The chaos just keeps increasing. How much worse can it get? I’m guessing a lot worse.

I’m not even going to try to recap all of the sordid messes that Trump’s past and present behavior created yesterday. Suffice it to say that Friday, April 13, 2018 consisted of breaking story after breaking story about Trump’s and his lawyer Michael Cohen’s corruption and criminality, ending with Trump pardoning Scooter Libby and then wagging the dog with another ineffectual strike against Syria.

Friday began with Trump raging  against James Comey and his soon-to-be-release book. Politico: ‘The possibility of Trump exploding has gone up.’

President Donald Trump decided to skip an international summit to stay close to home amid a swirling debate about launching airstrikes in Syria — but instead spent Friday tweeting angrily about former senior FBI officials.

“He LIED! LIED! LIED!” Trump wrote of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, a career official who was fired hours before his official retirement in March amid an ongoing inspector-general review.

Trump went on to attack former FBI director James Comey and the broader Russia probe Comey once oversaw: “McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”

The presidential missives were triggered by the release of a Justice Department inspector general report to the Hill critical of McCabe’s conduct. The report seemed only to further irritate the already amped-up president, who began the day tweeting about Comey, calling the longtime civil servant “a weak and untruthful slime ball.”

So dignified. So presidential.

Yet the main preoccupation of the president and the people closest to him remained Comey. The White House offensive is only expected to intensify in the coming days as the former FBI director embarks on a series of media interviews ahead of the book’s Tuesday release.

White House officials were scouring news reports and reaching out to allies who have copies of the book, hoping to identify passages that they believe undercut Comey’s credibility or make him seem sympathetic to Democrats.

Trump’s allies are keen to avoid a repeat of the fallout from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the hard-edged insider account of life in Trump’s White House that caught many in the West Wing by surprise and dominated headlines for weeks.

But so far, the White House’s strategy, or lack thereof, is doing little to stop the barrage of news stories about the book.

There’s much more at the link.

Much of the breaking news yesterday involved Trump’s personal “fixer” Michael Cohen. It appears that Mr. Cohen is in very deep trouble. Some links in case you missed them:

CNN: DOJ: Michael Cohen ‘under criminal investigation.’

WaPo: Criminal investigation into Trump lawyer’s business dealings began months ago.

NYT: Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater ThreWat Than Mueller.

HuffPost: FBI Seized Recordings Between Michael Cohen And Stormy Daniels’ Former Lawyer: Report.

NYMag: Report: Feds Seized Recordings From Michael Cohen.

NBC News: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen negotiated settlement between top GOP fundraiser, former Playmate.

CNN: Exclusive: FBI raid sought information on taxi owners linked to Trump’s lawyer.

Here’s the big one from McClatchy: Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier.

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing….

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post this morning: Michael Cohen’s visiting Prague would be a huge development in the Russia investigation.

A trip to Prague by Cohen was included in the dossier of reports written by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Those reports, paid for by an attorney working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, included a broad array of raw intelligence, much of which has not been corroborated and much of which would probably defy easy corroboration, focusing on internal political discussions in the Kremlin.

Cohen’s visiting Prague, though, is concrete. Over the course of three of the dossier’s 17 reports, the claim is outlined — but we hasten to note that these allegations have not been confirmed by The Washington Post.

It suggests that Cohen took over management of the relationship with Russia after campaign chairman Paul Manafort was fired from the campaign in August (because of questions about his relationship with a political party in Ukraine). Cohen is said to have met secretly with people in Prague — possibly at the Russian Center for Science and Culture — in the last week of August or the first of September. He allegedly met with representatives of the Russian government, possibly including officials of the Presidential Administration Legal Department; Oleg Solodukhin (who works with the Russian Center for Science and Culture); or Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of parliament. A planned meeting in Moscow, the dossier alleges, was considered too risky, given that a topic of conversation was how to divert attention from Manafort’s links to Russia and a trip to Moscow by Carter Page in July. Another topic of conversation, according to the dossier: allegedly paying off “Romanian hackers” who had been targeting the Clinton campaign.

There is a lot there — but it hinged on Cohen’s having traveled to Prague. If he was not in Prague, none of this happened. If he visited Prague? Well, then we go a level deeper.

There’s your collusion, Trump. Read the rest at the WaPo.

Right before Trump announced strikes in Syria by the U.S., France, and Great Britain, he pardoned Scooter Libby, the only Bush official convicted in the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. It’s pretty obvious that Trump did this to send a message to Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and the rest of his gang that he could pardon them too. But there are problems with that.

Here’s the best article I’ve read on the pardon by Marcy Wheeler at The New York Times: Trump Pardoned Libby to Protect Himself From Mueller.

…we never learned the real story about whether Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered Mr. Libby, his chief of staff, to leak the identity of Valerie Plame to the press in retaliation for a Times Op-Ed by her husband, Joseph Wilson, calling out the president’s lies. We never learned whether Mr. Cheney gave those orders with the approval of the president or on his own. That’s because President George W. Bush added to the obstruction by commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence, ensuring that nothing would happen to the firewall that protected his own White House. Mr. Libby wouldn’t go to prison, but neither would he lose his Fifth Amendment privilege, which could make it easy to compel further testimony about his bosses.

On Friday another president with a special counsel investigation raging around him pardoned Mr. Libby. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” President Trump said in the pardon announcement. “But for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

Mr. Trump’s action does nothing to change the past.

But it might change the lives or convictions of people whom President Trump does know: his own personal firewall. By pardoning Mr. Libby, Mr. Trump sends a message to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and any of his other close aides who are facing or may face potential prosecution pursuant to the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

But Trump may have waited too long to pardon his thugs.

The thing is, Mr. Trump is unlikely to be able to use his pardon power to get out of his legal jam. That’s because several of his potential firewalls — Mr. Manafort, Mr. Cohen and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — could be charged at the state level for the financial crimes they’re suspected of. A federal pardon would simply move their prosecution beyond Mr. Trump’s control.

And there are many more people who can incriminate the president, whereas in the investigation into Ms. Plame’s exposure, Mr. Libby was one of the only people who could say whether the president had authorized the leak of a C.I.A. officer’s identity. Already, three key witnesses have agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller against the president, so it’s probably too late to start silencing witnesses.

Finally, neither Mr. Trump nor his thoroughly outmatched legal team knows the full exposure he or potential witnesses face. Given the involvement of Russians trying to undermine the United States, the evidence Mr. Mueller may already have collected could well be even uglier than deliberately burning a C.I.A. spy for political gain.

That makes it a lot harder to pull off what George Bush did — protect his firewall.

After yesterday, it’s looking much more likely that Trump will not be able to use pardons to weasel out of the mess he’s in.

Some stories on the Syria situation:

NYT: U.S., Britain and France Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack.

The Wrap: Rachel Maddow Raises ‘Wag the Dog’ Possibility as Trump Orders Syria Strikes.

NYT: President Trump Talked Tough. But His Strike on Syria Was Restrained.

The Hill: Trump supporters slam decision to launch strikes against Syria.

Reuters: Pro-Assad official says targeted bases were evacuated on Russian warning.

WaPo: Damascus defiant as U.S. strikes prove more limited than feared.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Another day, another embarrassing Trump cover-up. It turns out Trump’s buddies at The National Enquirer paid off a former doorman who claimed Trump had fathered a child with one of his employees in the late ’90s. The Enquirer then refused to publish the story.

AP:  $30,000 rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip.

Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid’s parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul’s New York City buildings.

As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump’s campaign for president….

The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn’t been told until now.

The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.

Dino Sajudin

Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.

The parallel between the ex-Playmate’s and the ex-doorman’s dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump’s image during a hard-fought presidential election. Prosecutors are probing whether Cohen broke banking or campaign laws in connection with AMI’s payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket.

At The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow offers many more details. The most troubling aspect of the story is that Trump’s loyal fixer Michael Cohen was involved in the Enquirer’s negotiations. Two legal opinions from the Farrow story:

Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said of the payment to Sajudin, “As with the payment to Stormy Daniels and the McDougal matter, there’s certainly enough smoke here to merit further investigation. However, there are questions of both fact and law that would be relevant before concluding that there’s a likely campaign-finance violation.” One question would be whether the intent was to help the campaign. The timing, months after Trump announced his Presidential candidacy, could be “good circumstantial evidence” of that. Hasen added that the cases involving A.M.I. raised difficult legal questions, because media companies have various exemptions from campaign-finance law. However, he said, “If a corporation that has a press function is being used for non-press purposes to help a candidate win an election, then the press exemption would not apply to that activity.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Michael Cohen walks along a sidewalk in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Stephen Braga, a white-collar-criminal-defense professor at the University of Virginia’s law school, told me that the payment had potential ramifications for ongoing criminal probes of Trump, particularly given the claims of Cohen’s involvement. “Now with this third event it looks more and more like there’s a pattern developing. That may be one of the things that the F.B.I. was trying to find evidence of with the search warrant,” he said. “The pattern seems to be ‘We use third-party intermediaries to pay off individuals with adverse information that may harm the President.’ That is just a shade away from what the special counsel will be looking for in terms of intent on the obstruction-of-justice investigation.”

The New York Times has a long article on investigators’ interest in Trump’s relationship with The National Enquirer.

President Trump has long had ties to the nation’s major media players. But his connections with the country’s largest tabloid publisher, American Media Inc., run deeper than most.

A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors, and an adviser joined the media company after the election. The company’s chairman, David J. Pecker, is a close friend of the president’s.

Donald J. Trump in 2014 with his close friend David J. Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes The Enquirer. Credit Patrick McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com

And in the Trump era, A.M.I.’s flagship tabloid, The National Enquirer, has taken a decidedly political turn, regularly devoting covers to the president’s triumphs and travails with articles headlined “Trump’s Plan For World Peace!” and “Proof! FBI Plot to Impeach Trump!”

Since the early stages of his campaign in 2015, Mr. Trump, his lawyer Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies.

Now the tabloid company has been drawn into a sweeping federal investigation of Mr. Cohen’s activities, including efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about Mr. Trump during his run for the White House. In one instance, The Enquirer bought but did not publish a story about an alleged extramarital relationship years earlier with the presidential candidate, an unusual decision for a scandal sheet.

The federal inquiry could pose serious legal implications for the president and his campaign committee. It also presents thorny questions about A.M.I.’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Mr. Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Pompeo is undergoing grilling before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over his nomination for Secretary of State. I tried watching some of it, but I found Pompeo’s manner of speaking so annoying that I couldn’t take much of it. The man also has a permanent smirk on his face. He’s refusing to answer questions about anything to do with Trump and Russia; and when I was watching, he generally refused to answer direct questions from Democrats. A few stories on his testimony so far:

Mike Pompeo

NBC News: Mike Pompeo pushes back on ‘hawk’ label at confirmation hearing.

CBS News: Mike Pompeo did not disclose connection to company owned by Chinese government.

The Sacramento Bee: The Latest: Pompeo wouldn’t resign if Trump fired Mueller.

USA Today: Mike Pompeo said publicly for first time he’s been questioned by Mueller.

The Hill: Pompeo supports Trump plan to ‘fix’ Iran deal.

Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he plans to remain as Speaker of the House until the end of his term, but apparently Trump and his supporters want Ryan out very soon.

Axios: Ryan may be forced to leave speakership by summer.

What we’re hearing: One source close to leadership told us: “Scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from speakership soon. Members won’t follow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is 6 months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back.”

  • A senior GOP House member predicted this about Ryan’s future: “He will be gone by the end of July.”
  • Some big donors, who have given millions to Ryan this cycle, may not want him to stay on as speaker if the entire party is taking on water.
  • This is not because he’ll struggle to raise money. Enough donors from the old Romney-Ryan world will write checks to Ryan to try to save the majority.
  • It’s more about certainty and stability. Members need certainty and they don’t want to operate until November in a climate where every move from every member of leadership is viewed through the prism of jostling for the speakership.
  • Our sources say that could pull an already divided conference even further apart.

So we wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan reverses himself before August, setting an early election for the next speaker.

There’s more at the link. A couple more stories to check out at The Daily Beast:

Trump Allies and House Republicans to Paul Ryan: Get Out Now.

Rick Wilson: Donald Trump Takes Out Paul Ryan, and ‘It’s Going to Be a Civil War.’

FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2016 file photo, FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

James Comey’s book comes out next Tuesday, and a few tidbits are beginning to leak out. Comey compared Trump to a mob boss in an interview with George Stephanopoulos that will be broadcast on Sunday. Today, The Daily Beast reveals that Comey claims John Kelly Called Trump ‘Dishonorable’ For Firing Me.

Within minutes of his firing in May, former FBI director James Comey received a call from John Kelly, then the head of the Department of Homeland Security and now the White House chief of staff.

According to Comey’s account, which is set to appear in his highly-anticipated forthcoming memoir, Kelly was “emotional” over the manner in which Comey was let go. The then-FBI Director had reportedly been in California at the time, speaking to FBI agents in Los Angeles, and only found out that he was out of a job when he saw the news break on TV.

Kelly, Comey recalls, said he was “sick” about the situation and “intended to quit” in protest. Kelly “said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people,” referring specifically to President Donald Trump, who appeared to be upset at the FBI’s persistent investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian officials.

According to sources, Comey writes in his book that he encouraged Kelly to remain in his post, saying “this president,” more than his predecessors, needed people of principle and integrity around him.

If Trump hears about that story, maybe he’ll dump Kelly today. We’re also waiting for news on what Trump plans to do in Syria and whether he’ll fire someone–or maybe everyone–in the Department of Justice.

You probably heard about the WaPo story last night about how Steve Bannon plans to “cripple” Mueller and his investigation. The plan is pretty ridiculous, but Trump is probably stupid enough to buy into it.

The first step, these people say, would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the work of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and in recent days signed off on a search warrant of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trump’s legal team to provide information to the special counsel’s team and to allow staff members to sit for interviews.

And he is telling associates inside and outside the administration that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege — and arguing that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void.

This morning CNN published an account of how Republicans plan to smear Comey to offset his book tour: Exclusive: Inside the GOP plan to discredit Comey.

The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.
“Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to CNN. “If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we’ll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility.”

While it’s an open question how successful Republicans will be in making their case against Comey, given that Trump unceremoniously dismissed him last May 9, there is no doubt that many Democrats remain furious at how the former FBI director treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Republicans hope to remind Democrats why they disliked Comey by assailing his credibility, shining a new light on his conduct and pointing out his contradictions — or the three Cs.
An old quotation from Clinton is prominently displayed on the “Lyin’Comey” website, with Trump’s former Democratic rival saying that Comey “badly overstepped his bounds.”

I’m dithering about whether or not to read the Comey book. I guess I’ll wait and see how interesting it sounds after some reviews and interviews. Rachel Maddow said she is going to have him on her show Tuesday night; that should be interesting.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Another Day of Information Overload

Good Morning!!

I’m illustrating this post with some relaxing photos that you can focus on when it all gets to be too much. Personally, I have a pounding headache after surveying the news this morning, and I need something to help me relax.

Information overload has become the new normal. But can it get even worse? Honestly, I believe it will. Yesterday was a shocking day, but today could easily bring more shocks.

Yesterday the FBI executed no-knock raids on the office, home, and hotel room of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen; and Trump threw a public tantrum about it.

The Washington Post: Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations.

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.

FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.

Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, that person said.

In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Some background on Cohen from Trump biographer Michael Kranish at The Washington Post: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen: The loyal ‘fixer’ now under federal scrutiny.

After setting up a committee in 2011 designed to boost the possibility of a Trump presidential bid, he described his role as “fixer” in this way: “It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”

Loyalty, he has said, spurred him to regularly threaten lawsuits against those he perceived as threats to Trump. Loyalty, he said, prompted him to use a home equity line of credit to finance a payment of $130,000 to adult-film star Stormy Daniels for her silence.

He even compared himself on Twitter to Ray Donovan, the fictional television character who goes to whatever lengths necessary to fix problems for the moguls he serves.

Basically, Cohen is a mafia-type lawyer with one big client, Donald Trump.

Axios describes the Trump tantrum over yesterdays FBI raids: Inside the West Wing with Trump enraged.

What we’re hearing: One of the sources said: “Mueller’s investigation has been drip, drip. This was a giant leap forward … a personal hit. … They were moving in inches. Today, they moved a mile.”

  • Until now, when storms hit, Trump could turn to Hope Hicks to explain things to him, suggest wording, simmer him down. With her departure from the White House, we saw the president working out his fury in real time.
  • The source continued: “This is the first crisis post-Hope Hicks. … This was different: I’ve never seen him like this before. … This is the president you’re going to see more of from here on out: unvarnished, untethered.”
  • Another source close to Trump said: “He takes the Russia stuff as a political hit job. This was a personal affront. This was the red line” of intrusion into personal financial matters.

The president — arms crossed defiantly — held a stunning on-camera venting session during an appearance with his senior military leadership where a potential strike on Syria took second billing to Michael Cohen (“With all of that being said, we are here to discuss Syria tonight”).

Some reactions to the Cohen raids and the possible repercussions for Trump:

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Michael Cohen Has a Big Problem.

Harry Litman at The New York Times: Trump’s One-Night Stand Turns Into a Legal Nightmare.

Rick Wilson at The Daily Beast: FBI Raid on Michael Cohen Is the Most Dangerous Day of Donald Trump’s Life.

Yesterday was also the first day on the job for Trump’s new National Security Adviser John Bolton, who arrived in the midst of a crisis over a gas attack in Syria. This morning, Bolton fired Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. Business Insider reports:

President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, has been fired from his White House position, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reported on Tuesday.

“The president is grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement confirming Bossert’s departure. “President Trump thanks him for his patriotic service and wishes him well.”

This comes the day after Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, took over as the president’s third national security adviser. Jacobs reported that Bolton asked for Bossert’s resignation, which was reportedly unexpected.

A former deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, Bossert has been a stalwart defender of the president’s since he joined the administration during the presidential transition, serving as a trusted adviser on terrorism, cybersecurity issues, and natural disasters.

The Cohen raids, obliterated other stories that would have been stunning if they involved a normal president.

AP: Trump’s company asked Panama president to help in hotel spat.

PANAMA CITY (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s company appealed directly to Panama’s president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump’s business and government interests.

That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful — an emergency arbitrator made days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of exactly the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests in more than 20 countries….

In the March 22 letter to Varela, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, lawyers for the Trump Organization “URGENTLY” request the Panamanian leader’s influence to help reverse the company’s acrimonious eviction as managers of the 70-story luxury high-rise once known as the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower.

While never mentioning Trump or his role as president, the letter says lawyers representing the Trump Organization were aware of “the separation of powers” in Panama but essentially asks the country’s president to intervene in the judicial process anyway. It goes on to say that the eviction violates an investment treaty signed by the two countries and suggests that the Panamanian government, not the hotel’s new management team, could be blamed for any wrongdoing.

So basically, the Trump Organization threatened that the U.S. government could retaliate against a foreign government over the president’s business interests!

The New York Times: Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s $150,000 Payment for a Trump Appearance.

The special counsel is investigating a payment made to President Trump’s foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate for a talk during the campaign, according to three people briefed on the matter, as part of a broader examination of streams of foreign money to Mr. Trump and his associates in the years leading up to the election.

Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearanceby Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev.

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer whose office and hotel room were raided on Monday in an apparently unrelated case, solicited the donation. The contribution from Mr. Pinchuk, who has sought closer ties for Ukraine to the West, was the largest the foundation received in 2015 from anyone besides Mr. Trump himself.

The subpoena is among signs in recent months that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is interested in interactions that Mr. Trump or his associates had with countries beyond Russia, though it is not clear what other payments he is scrutinizing.

Mr. Mueller also ordered the Trump Organization to turn over documents, emails and other communications about several Russians, including some whose names have not been publicly tied to Mr. Trump, according to the three people, who would not be named discussing the ongoing investigation. The identities of the Russians were unclear.

The payment from Mr. Pinchuk “is curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence,” said Marcus S. Owens, a former head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. He called the donation “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”

Betsy Woodruff reported at The Daily Beast on more legal trouble for Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort: A Second Paul Manafort Associate Has Turned on Him.

According to court documents, one of Manafort’s former employees led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort’s businesses and finances. The person’s name is redacted from the filings. But he’s now at the center of a fight over evidence that could play a significant role in the government’s case against Manafort….

This makes the second Manafort associate known to have aided the government in the sprawling investigation into foreign influence in U.S. politics. Rick Gates, Manafort’s long-time right hand, began cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in February.

Manafort’s attorneys revealed the information about the second former employee in an April 6, 2018, court filing. In the filing, Manafort’s attorneys asked the federal judge overseeing the prosecution to block documents found in a storage unit in Alexandria, Virginia, from being used as evidence against him. They argue the employee did not have the authority to let the FBI agent look into the storage unit, and that, therefore, the FBI violated Manafort’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Read the details at the link.

More news on the Russia investigation broke this morning at CNN: Roger Stone said in July 2016 Russians were ‘most likely’ behind WikiLeaks emails and doing it to help Trump.

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone said several times in July 2016 that Russia was most likely the source for hacked emails released during the Democratic National Convention and that it was not far-fetched to say the purpose was to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to a CNN KFile review of Stone’s interviews and appearances.

The comments, made by Stone from late July through August 1, 2016, show Stone stated at the time that Russia was the source of the emails — a sharp contrast to his more recent posture that Russia was not the source for hacked documents released by WikiLeaks throughout the campaign.By August 4, 2016, the same day Stone claimed in an email to have dined with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the night prior, Stone abruptly changed his tune. In a conference call along with an interview with radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone said that Russia had nothing to do with the hacked emails and they were the sole work of hacker Guccifer 2.0….

The 2016 comments raise more questions and add to an already murky picture about what Stone knew about WikiLeaks and why he subsequently — and seemingly suddenly — began to rule out the Russians as the source of the emails.

“The reason that the Russians are probably leaking this information is because they don’t want a nuclear war either. (Hillary Clinton) is bent on a war that benefits her donors and the multinational corporations and the defense contractors,” Stone told Jones on a July 27, 2016, edition of Jones’ program.
Several days later, on July 31, 2016, Stone said again the Russians were the most likely source for the material.

“The fact that the Russians will — or whoever — are going to continue to drop bombs on the American people in the form of their own documents. Alex, these are like the Watergate tapes. The Clintons have cut their own throat because they assume that no one would ever see all of their secret illegal maneuverings,” Stone told Jones. “This is why they used the unsecured server to hide the very things that I suspect someone — most likely the Russians — is going to drop on the American people like truthbombs throughout this election. She can raise a billion dollars and it may not matter. Trump may beat her like a drum as he pounces on and helps further public knowledge of every one of the bombshells that is coming.”

Read more 2016 direct quotes from Stone at the link.

I’ll have a few more links in the comment thread below. What stories are you following today? And when it comes to storage units, you can rely on and get help from boat storage units redmond wa, they have best service and brandnew storage facility. Go check it now.


Sunday Reads: The end of the world? It’s no nightmare.

Les amoureux du Quai du Louvre, Paris, 1955, photo by Frank Horvat

Les amoureux du Quai du Louvre, Paris, 1955, photo by Frank Horvat

 

Today’s images come from the blog, We Had Faces Then. This is a fantastic photo blog, where the tagline proclaims:

A gay man of a certain age and a certain sensibility searching for meaning in the flickering images of classic Hollywood.

I have decided to feature photos of Merle Oberon, I hope you enjoy them.

 

Paul Lukas and Merle Oberon in Berlin Express  (Jacques Tourneur, 1948)

 

 

So, late last night…I am saving images for this morning’s post, and the two above are the last things I see before I go to sleep. I don’t know if that had something to do with influencing my dreams? It could also be the fact that we have a disaster leading the country, and no one serving as National Security Adviser…technically…the Bolton Beast starts his reign on Monday.

 

Many of you might have already seen that clip on Friday’s Maddow, if you haven’t take a look.

But, my dream from last night was this…

The end of the world, I am sitting with my family in Florida, my aunt Celeste and the rest of the circus. We are all drinking and laughing outside while we await the apocalyptic explosion that is to commence shortly, when… “Mother Earth collides with Mars.”

The joke being, “HaHa…Wait, there was no collusion!”

“Hey, the end of the world is not brought on by tRump?”

Yeah, our last words to each other were not I love you, but we were astounded by the reason the Earth was being annihilated…and that tRump was not the actual direct cause of the destruction of the planet.

Now that is some fucked up dream. Is it because in the back of my mind…Mueller is taking so damn long…the earth would be colliding with some other celestial body before tRump gets charged or impeached?

tRump has been on the Twit box a lot this morning and last night. I was only going to share today’s tweets but might as well give you a few from last night, so you can have a perspective on the links throughout the rest of the thread.

 

I want to throw up every time I see or hear any direct communications or commands from this asshole.

Here are a few responses to the Hair Loser’s tweets. (Dak, I love that nickname.)

I wonder how long before Hair Loser walks back the Syria tweet?

 

 

Onward, with a few other responses to the fire at tRump Tower from last night:

Then there was this tweet:

Not sure on the veracity of that statement…Just putting that out there.

*Edited to add this link:

Trump Tower fire is second 2018 blaze in sprinkler-free residential tower – CBS News

The fire on the 50th floor New York City’s Trump Tower that left 67-year-old Todd Brassner dead and six firefighters injured was the second fire in the building in 2018. President Trump’s centerpiece Manhattan skyscraper opened in 1984, but does not have sprinklers on its residential floors, a measure required in new buildings since 1999. President Trump, then a private citizen and property developer, lobbied to try and prevent the mandate at the time.

New York City in 1999 became last big city in the nation to require sprinklers, according to the New York Daily News. Under the 1999 legislation, buildings constructed before then were only required to have sprinklers if they underwent gut renovations.

According to The New York Times, Mr. Trump was one of the developers in the late 1990s who lobbied against sprinklers in buildings. He then recanted once the legislation passed with grandfathering provisions that meant existing buildings did not need to install them, saying that he understood they made residents “feel safer.” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said on Saturday that there is extra fire protection at Trump Tower when Mr. Trump is there.

Then-New York city mayor and now staunch Trump ally Rudy Giuliani signed the bill requiring sprinklers into force on March 24, 1999, having opposed it when it was first proposed in 1997. The legislation was spurred on by a major fire in a so-called “fireproof” apartment block with no sprinklers on New York’s Upper West Side the previous December, and another in a Brooklyn housing project the same month in which hallway sprinklers failed. Survivors wanted all buildings to have sprinklers, but the legislation that was passed was not retroactive, much to the delight of existing property owners who cited cost as a major reason not to be compelled to retrofit their buildings. At the time the legislation was being discussed, Mr. Trump had just started construction on a 72-story tower near the United Nations, and he subsequently said he would install sprinklers there at a cost of $3 million.

Saturday’s fire is the second fire in Mr. Trump’s Fifth Avenue building this year: Two civilians suffered minor injuries and a firefighter was hurt by debris in a fire on Jan. 8 on the top of the building. That blaze was sparked by an electrical issue, Mr. Trump’s son, Eric, said at the time. Eric Trump said the fire had been in a cooling tower.

Well, there is that.

 

In other news this weekend:

 

 

And hey, let’s not forget this little nugget:

That is huge…and I don’t think enough people are talking about it.

Meanwhile, in Gaza:

 

 

 

Here, add Tony Robbins to the list of assholes. (Granted, I personally had him on the list to start with, but this truly confirms my suspicions.)

Robbins actually pushes back on this woman, forcing her to step backwards. It is a physical intimidation…and it is disgusting.

 

So much of this post is disturbing, as the reality of our world today. This last tweet can put everything into focus. This was a mock headline that The Boston Globe published in April 2016:

Boston Globe Trump front page: The GOP must stop Trump – The Boston Globe

PDF: A front page in Trump’s America

Donald J. Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American.

It is easy to find historical antecedents. The rise of demagogic strongmen is an all too common phenomenon on our small planet. And what marks each of those dark episodes is a failure to fathom where a leader’s vision leads, to carry rhetoric to its logical conclusion. The satirical front page of this section attempts to do just that, to envision what America looks like with Trump in the White House.

I’d say they were spot on…

This is an open thread. Have at it.