The schadenfreude is strong this morning, as the world watches the aftermath of yesterday’s special counsel indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as the guilty plea and cooperation by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. It’s easy to envision Trump melting down yesterday as the revelations poured out.
Fallout from Mueller Monday
The Washington Post: Upstairs at home, with the TV on, Trump fumes over Russia indictments.
President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.
Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.
The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his Albuquerque lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.
Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”
But Robert Mueller had a surprise up his sleeve.
But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
For a president who revels in chaos — and in orchestrating it himself — Monday brought a political storm that Trump could not control. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, along with lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, advised Trump to be cautious with his public responses, but they were a private sounding board for his grievances, advisers said….
“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”
Many more details at the WaPo link.
Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast: Why the Mueller Indictments Should Terrify Trump.
…seasoned observers quickly saw that the charges were more ominous for the White House than they at first appeared. The Manafort and Gates indictments made clear that Mueller is perfectly comfortable bringing charges related to activity that happened years before Trump took his historic escalator ride.
For special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors, not much is off limits. And that could spell all kinds of trouble for a president who has sought to keep his finances private, surrounded by top aides who have all kinds of interesting financial entanglements of their own.
Mueller “certainly is acting as if, in fact, he has jurisdiction to investigate any and all offenses in the statute of limitations, of all the people who he is investigating in the first place,” said David Rivkin, an attorney who formerly worked in the George H. W. Bush and Reagan administrations.
In other words, if someone in Trump’s orbit committed a crime and the statute of limitations for that crime isn’t up—well, watch out.
It’s highly likely that Trump himself is guilty of money laundering. Woodruff:
The Monday indictments show what Mueller is willing to do with that mandate. Sol Wisenberg, a longtime Washington white-collar defense attorney, said it’s safe to expect Mueller to investigate any crime committed by a Trump campaign associate as long as the statute of limitations isn’t up and the crime could “shed light” on the probe’s broad focus.
“For example, if Trump himself was engaged in tax fraud and money laundering involving the Russians, that obviously could be relevant to whether or not he had a motive to facilitate any quote ‘collusion’ that may have happened,” Wisenberg added.
It is widely telegraphed that the White House’s most acute concerns about Mueller aren’t regarding potential collusion, but rather about all the other information his team could find in that process.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How bad will Mueller probe get for Trump? The Papadopoulos plea may be a big tell.
I spoke this morning with Barbara McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan law school who is a former U.S. Kendall County attorney and who has worked extensively in criminal and national security cases. I asked: If Papadopoulos was just some low-level nobody tossing around ideas that were rejected by the campaign’s higher-ups, why would Mueller offer him a plea deal that is contingent on his cooperation? Doesn’t that suggest that he has information that can be used to build a case against someone more important than him?
“I think it’s a fair conclusion to think that he has information that is valuable in the prosecution of others,” McQuade says. “You would only offer that cooperation if you’ve sat down with him and learned that he has information that is of value.”
And that appears to be what is happening: in return for what will likely be a reduced sentence, Papadopoulos has agreed to sing. As the letter laying out the terms of the plea agreement says,
“The Government agrees to bring to the Court’s attention at sentencing the defendant’s efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition that your client continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”
Who does Papadopoulos have information on? We don’t know. The plea document mentions his discussions (his efforts to set up a meeting with the Russians) with people who are referred to as “Senior Policy Adviser,” “Campaign Supervisor,” and “High-Ranking Campaign Official,” but we don’t know who those are. Then there’s this:
On or about May 4, 2016, the Russian MFA Connection sent an email (the “May 4 MFA Email”) to defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Professor that stated: ” I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS responded that he was “[g]lad the MFA is interested.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to the High-Ranking Campaign Official, adding: “What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?” The next day, on or about May 5, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS had a phone call with the Campaign Supervisor, and then forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to him, adding to the top of the email: “Russia updates.”
This exchange happened not long before Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had their infamous meeting with representatives of the Russian government who purportedly had damaging information on Clinton to offer.
Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos‘ guilty plea Monday appears to hint toward even more threads of the ongoing Russia collusion investigation than what the court revealed.
Lawyers from the Justice Department’s special counsel office have repeatedly hinted at how Papadopoulos would contribute to a larger, sensitive investigation.“The criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron Zelinsky of the special counsel’s office said during Papadopoulos’ October 5 plea agreement hearing, records of which were unsealed Monday.
I wonder what new stories will break by tonight? I’m sure hundreds of journalists are eagerly looking for more scoops.
John Kelly’s Shameful Fox News Appearance
Last night White House Chief of Staff John Kelly outed himself as a Trump-style racist who is as ignorant of history as his boss.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waded into the long-simmering dispute over the removal of memorials to Confederate leaders saying in a televised interview on Monday night that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
In the interview on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” host Laura Ingraham asked Kelly about the decision by Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, to remove plaques honoring President George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the commander of Confederate forces during the Civil War.
“Well, history’s history,” said Kelly, whom President Donald Trump moved from secretary of homeland security to be his chief of staff in July. “You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then. I think it’s just very, very dangerous. I think it shows you just how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.” [….]
Kelly on Monday night explained the Civil War’s genesis by saying “men and women of good faith on both sides” took a stand based on their conscience.
“Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said, adding: “The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
“Men and women of good faith on both sides?” So continuing and expanding slavery (the position of Confederate states) was an honorable point of view according to Kelly. According to Kelly the Civil War was not sparked by slavery, but by a failure to “compromise.”
On his lies about Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson:
Kelly during the interview was also asked about whether he would apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for making inaccurate statements about her after she criticized Trump’s condolence call this month with a fallen soldier’s wife.
Kelly accused her of grandstanding during a 2015 ceremony to dedicate a new FBI field office in Miami and said she wrongly took credit for securing federal funding for the building. She did not take credit for it.
Still, Kelly held his ground Monday.
“Oh, no,” Kelly said. “No. Never. Well, I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”
Read the full transcript of Kelly’s remarks at the link. Kelly is not an honorable man. If he ever had a soul, he sold it to Trump.
So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!