Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia — and has directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.
The revelation came in a response by the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.
In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and that those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
Last night I was thinking about when Obama was president and we would have days when there was nothing earth shattering in politics to talk about. There would be quiet Fridays and weekends with no significant news about the government. Now there are terrifying crises in the government every single day, including weekends. If only we could go back to those relatively peaceful times! Instead we have Trump.
This morning, there are so many significant stories, that I can’t possibly get to all of them, so I’ll begin with this stunning headline from Wired: Trump Must Be a Russian Agent; The Alternative is Too Awful, by Garrett Graff.
The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.
In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.
At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragic farce for everyone involved.
We’re left here—in a place unprecedented in American political history, wondering how much worse the truth is than we already know—after four days of fresh revelations in the public drip-drip-drip of the Russia investigation. The past two months have seen the public understanding of the case advance into almost unthinkable territory. Now we’re simply trying to figure out how bad things really are.
That’s about it. And will be eventually learn that a large proportion of Republicans in Congress are also either compromised by Russia or too stupid to see that their president is? After all, they did vote yesterday to lift sanctions on Paul Manafort’s buddy Oleg Derapaska’s businesses.
And did you see Rudy Giuliani’s meltdown on CNN last night? In case you missed it:
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denials.
President Trump’s legal spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani on Wednesday night appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump’s campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, before getting cut off.
“Yes, you have,” Cuomo said.
Giuliani shot back: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’”
But while Giuliani himself might not have assured that nobody on the campaign colluded, others including Trump sure have. In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with “foreign entities.” Trump has said dozens of times that there was “no collusion,” full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump’s knowledge.
Read the rest for a list of Rudy’s successive walkbacks on whether there was collusion with Russia in the Trump campaign. Is this just a response to the many revelations about Paul Manafort or is Trump getting ready to throw Don Jr. under the bus? From Raw Story:
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s stunning interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night is still making waves, and a CNN panel agreed on Thursday morning that it could spell big trouble for Donald Trump Jr.
While discussing Giuliani’s latest admission that there may have been some collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian government agents, host John Berman asked whether Trump Jr. should be worried that his father is preparing to throw him under the bus for potentially conspiring with a hostile foreign power.
“Would you be nervous if you’re Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner?” Berman asked. “Did Giuliani just send a signal that… the president’s legal defense team isn’t here for you?”
“That’s what I heard,” replied New York Times reporter Astead Herndon. “Everyone under [Trump’s] level can now be considered fair game, if we’re talking about the political signaling.”
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent discussed Giuliani’s meltdown with attorney Neal Kayal.
Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal told me that this appears to be a tacit admission of serious vulnerability — as well as an effort to lay the groundwork for a last-ditch defense of Trump, should more come out. It also makes the nonstop claims that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is leading a “witch hunt” look ridiculous.
“They’ve been saying for two years that this is a witch hunt,” Katyal told me. “As a lawyer, given the recent revelations, Giuliani now has to pivot and outline the next line of defense.”
“This is straight out of the organized-crime playbook,” Katyal continued. “The boss says, ‘There was no conspiracy.’ Then prosecutors prove there was a conspiracy between your subordinates and a criminal organization. Then the defense shifts to, ‘Okay, there was a conspiracy, but the boss didn’t know anything about it.’”
Sargent also asked Obama’s white house counsel Bob Bauer about Giuliani’s statements.
Bob Bauer, the White House counsel under former president Barack Obama, told me that Giuliani “must have some continuing hope” that Mueller cannot prove Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort attended in the expectation of gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton produced by the Russian government.
That seems unlikely, given the latest from The New York Times on Trump’s black box meetings with Vladimir Putin: Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. The story recounts the meetings and phone calls Trump has had with Putin, beginning right after he was elected. But here’s the highlight of the story:
The inaugural meeting [in Hamburg, Germany] came at a sensitive time. Mr. Trump’s team learned that day that one of the biggest secrets of his presidential bid was about to become public: At the height of the campaign, his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman had met at Trump Tower with Russians on the promise of obtaining dirt on Mrs. Clinton from the Russian government. Mr. Trump’s team was scrambling to respond to a request for comment by The Times.
Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin that day lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Mr. Trump took his interpreter’s notes and instructed the interpreter not to brief anyone. Mr. Tillerson told reporters that the leaders discussed everything from Syria to Ukraine, but he also described “a very robust and lengthy exchange” on the election hacking.
A few hours later, Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.
Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin’s interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.
Here’s the shocker:
The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. While he insisted most of the conversation be off the record, he later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides.
He said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement. But he said Mr. Putin also told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Mr. Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world” at hacking.
Asked how he weighed Mr. Putin’s denials against the evidence that had been presented to him by Mr. Comey; John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director; and James R. Clapper Jr., then director of national intelligence, he said that Mr. Clapper and Mr. Brennan were the “most political” intelligence chiefs he knew and that Mr. Comey was “a leaker.”
Later on the same flight Trump dictated a statement to the NYT about Don Jr.’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump huddled with aides to decide how to respond to the emerging story by other Times reporters about the Trump Tower meeting. He personally dictated a misleading statement, saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions without admitting that it was actually intended to accept Moscow’s aid for his campaign, as emails obtained by The Times later documented.
You may have seen this footage from the dinner in Hamburg, in which Trump signals to Putin and then clenches his fist. Was he signaling that he needed to talk to Putin about the NYT story?
More stories to check out:
Michael McFaul at The Washington Post: Sorry, but Trump is not ‘tough on Russia’
The Wall Street Journal: Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order.
The Epoch Times: EXCLUSIVE: In Closed-Door Testimony, Papadopoulos Identified Alleged Spy in Trump Campaign.
The Washington Post: North Korean spy chief’s visit to Washington shrouded in mystery.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
We’re having an incredible heat wave in Boston, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hot just about everywhere. Today it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees here. Anyone who believes the climate isn’t changing is delusional.
Maybe the sharks are affected too, because we’ve had some Great White close encounters here in Massachusetts lately. The Boston Globe: Shark sightings force swimmers out of the water in Plymouth, Cape Cod.
Swimmers at Plymouth and Wellfleet beaches looking to catch a break from the oppressive heat were forced out of the water Monday afternoon after sharks were spotted lurking nearby.
Plymouth beaches were closed after a great white shark was seen off Manomet Point. Red flags were flying at the beaches as crews investigated, the Plymouth harbormaster tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were about a quarter-mile from Marconi Beach in Wellfleet when they saw a great white shark at around 1:45 p.m. They reported it to beach officials, and lifeguards promptly pulled everyone out of the water, Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore, said. The beach was closed for an hour as a standard precautionary measure.
Also from the Globe: ‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat.
State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.
“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”
In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.
“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”
Here’s the video. Be sure to put it on full screen and wait for the close-up.
Seriously though, have we already lost the fight to reverse climate change? That’s the argument put forth by Nathaniel Rich in last week’s New York Times Magazine: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.
Check out the full story at the NYT.
Today there are some interesting primary elections and one special election to watch. Will we see portents of a blue wave in November?
Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday to test whether Democrats will get their “blue wave” on Election Day this fall.
The most heated race to watch is a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where a Democrat hasn’t won since the 1980s. Despite big spending by Republicans, a huge ground push, and even campaign appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, polls show the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, might actually beat Republican Troy Balderson.
Washington state’s top-two primary will be a similar test of how Democrats might perform in historically conservative districts.
In a governor’s race in Michigan and a House race in Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats will test whether the future of the party is rooted in its progressive wing.
To win back a House majority in November, Democrats will have to triumph in historically red districts, as they did in Pennsylvania earlier this year when Conor Lamb pulled off a surprise victory. Some big wins on Tuesday night could be another sign that a wave year is possible.
Read the details at Vox.
On Sunday, we watched Trump incriminate himself and throw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Will Don Jr. be indicted? Charles Savage at The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr.’s Potential Legal Troubles, Explained.
“I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. But his participation in the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, as well as another meeting, has put that claim under scrutiny.
Ahead of the meeting with Russians, an intermediary promised Donald Trump Jr. that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He wrote back, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
In a meeting three months before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with another small group offering to help his father win the election. It included an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes who run Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. The younger Mr. Trump responded approvingly, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The New York Times.
Of course we all know by now that “collusion” is just another word for “conspiracy,” which can be a crime.
….lawyers instead talk about conspiracy: an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they end up doing so. A powerful tool for prosecutors, conspiracy charges allow them to hold each conspirator responsible for illegal acts committed by others in the circle as part of the arrangement. To convict someone of such a conspiracy, prosecutors would need to obtain evidence of an agreement to commit a specific crime….
A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a “thing of value” by any foreigner in connection with an American election — or even an express or implied promise to take such action, directly or indirectly.
Depending on how a grand jury interprets the facts the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has gathered about the two Trump Tower meetings, it could find that the foreigners violated that law — and that Donald Trump Jr. conspired in that offense.
Another provision of the same statute makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help — again, even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence about Donald Trump Jr.’s words and actions as a solicitation, he could also be vulnerable to direct charges under that law, experts said.
Notably, the statute can be violated even if the promised or requested help is never provided.
Read the rest at the NYT.
At The Washington Post, William Ruckleshaus, who served as deputy attorney general under Nixon writes about Trump’s behavior: Only one other president has ever acted this desperate.
President Trump is acting with a desperation I’ve seen only once before in Washington: 45 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon was fixated on ending the Watergate investigation, just as Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.
In fact, in some ways, Trump is conducting himself more frantically than Nixon, all the while protesting his innocence. Nixon fought to the end because he knew that what was on the tape recordings that the prosecutor wanted would incriminate him. We don’t know what Trump is hiding, if anything. But if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, why not let Robert S. Mueller III do his job and prove it?
On the way Trump and his minions are attacking the investigation:
…the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake.
The vehemence and irresponsibility of the rhetoric attacking the Mueller investigation tear at the very structure of our governance. Men who have sworn to use and protect our institutions of justice are steadily weakening them. Should the president finally decide to fire Mueller and put in place someone who will do his bidding, the country could be thrown into a political crisis that would scar our democracy and further erode the trust of our people in our governmental institutions.
We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.
Read the whole thing at the WaPo.
There are a lot more interesting reads out there today. Some to check out:
Rolling Stone: Rick Wilson: Trump’s Tweets May Actually Be His Undoing.
The Washington Post: Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: How Trump Radicalized ICE.
What stories are you following today?
I’m tired . . . so tired. Life in Trump world is exhausting. We’ve reached the point where it’s obvious that Trump’s family and campaign conspired witIh Russia to win the White House, and yet we still have to listen to Trump rant “no collusion” in his ugly, blaring voice. Have you noticed his Queens accent really comes out when he’s apoplectic like he was on Fox and Friends on Thursday? It seems his rosacea gets worse when he’s angry too. If only I never had to hear that honking voice or see his ugly orange face ever again!
I think maybe Angela Merkel agrees with me. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: All the Times Angela Merkel’s Face Said “STFU You Dumkopf Orange Oaf.”
On Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at the White House for a three-hour “working session” with Donald Trump, the goal of which was to convince the American to resist his impulses and not do anything stupid on a host of issues ranging from trade to Iran to the environment. Picking up where French president Emmanuel Macron left off—which is to say, at square one—Merkel’s visit was expected to be much less of a lovefest, meaning no hugging, kissing, hand-holding, fancy dinners, 21-gun salutes, or animal-kingdom mating rituals. The best anyone could hope for, experts warned, was that through small words and simple sentence construction, the chancellor could make Trump understand that so many of his threats—particularly the ones on trade—would hurt not only the targets for which they were intended, but the U.S. as well.
Even then, expectations were extremely low, given the 45th president’s inability to understand complex, nuanced issues, or the freaking difference between a trade deficit and a surplus. Still, when the two took to a pair of podiums to hold a joint press conference on Friday afternoon, the vibe seemed slightly better than expected. For one thing, Trump was neither foaming at the mouth nor actively refusing to shake Merkel’s hand. For another, Merkel dug deep and paid Trump some compliments using words and phrases you know he just ate up, mentioning the “strength” of his sanctions on North Korea, and claiming that last year’s tax legislation has made the U.S. a “very interesting place for our companies” to invest. Still, one need only take a gander at Merkel’s notoriously weak poker face to understand that inside, she was screaming I can’t believe I have to occupy the same airspace as this knuckle-dragger.
Watch videos and read more snark at Vanity Fair. I can’t even begin to imagine how Macron could bear to have Trump’s hands all over him during their visit. Just the thought of it makes me gag.
On the “no collusion” front . . .
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: The new House GOP report on Russia is revealing. But not in a good way for Trump.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a report on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Although it is meant to exonerate President Trump and everyone around him, what it actually does is bring the utter degradation and disgrace of that committee to its fullest expression.
By contrast, there may be real news in the Democrats’ response to the report. In particular, the Democrats detailed new information that appears to shed light on what Republicans would not do in their investigation.
The response by Democrats makes this important charge: That Republicans refused to follow up on a lead that could have demonstrated whether, despite his denials, Trump had advance knowledge of the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a group of Russians and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.
Specifically, it appears very likely that Trump talked to Don Jr. on the phone while Jr. was setting up the meeting.
According to the Democratic response, right after Trump Jr. set up the specifics of the meeting, he had two calls with a number in Russia belonging to Emin Agalarov. Between those two calls, the Democratic response recounts, Trump Jr. received a third call from a blocked number. Who might it have been? [….]
“We sought to determine whether that number belonged to the president, because we also ascertained that then-candidate Trump used a blocked number,” Schiff said during our interview. “That would tell us whether Don Jr. sought his father’s permission to take the meeting, and [whether] that was the purpose of that call.”
Schiff added that Democrats asked Republicans to subpoena phone records to determine whose number it was, but Republicans “refused,” Schiff said. “They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians.”
Raise your hand if you think the call from the blocked number was from someone other than Daddy Trump. I’m sure Robert Mueller and his team already know whose number that was.
A direct line of communication between the Kremlin-connected Agalarov family and the Trump family was open during the transition after President Donald Trump’s presidential election, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The “first of a series” of text messages was sent between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. two days after the 2016 election, a source familiar with the communications told BuzzFeed News.
The communications continued through at least mid-December 2016, according to information made public Friday.
It is not clear how many messages were sent, whether Trump Jr. sent any of them, or how many were sent by either party — although BuzzFeed News confirmed that multiple messages were sent.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee revealed one of the text messages, from Dec. 13, 2016, in their “minority views” report on Friday — one of several new pieces of information that suggest that the Trumps’ relationship with the Agalarovs was much closer than the president and his family have said.
Many more details at the Buzzfeed link.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Friday that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election with a request to follow up on efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 Russian sanctions the US enacted over human rights abuses.
Veselnitskaya was the Russian lawyer at the center of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton but instead Veselnitskaya focused on the repeal of the sanctions.
“Clearly, there’s an expectation there on the Russian side that they may now have success with the Magnitsky Act, given that the prior meeting and communications dealt with the offer of help,” Schiff said. “It certainly seems like the Russians were ready for payback.”
In addition, another effort to reach out to Trump’s team after the election came from Aras Agalarov, the Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch who also has ties to the Trump Tower meeting. Agalarov, along with his pop-star son, Emin Agalarov, also worked with Trump to bring the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow….
Democrats cite a November 28, 2016, email from publicist Rob Goldstone to Trump’s assistant, Rhona Graff, which said that “Aras Agalarov has asked me to pass on this document in the hope it can be passed on to the appropriate team.”
“Later that day, Graff forwarded to Steve Bannon the email with Agalarov’s document regarding the Magnitsky Act as an attachment, explaining, ‘The PE [President Elect] knows Aras well. Rob is his rep in the US and sent this on. Not sure how to proceed, if at all.'”
Trump’s team has denied there was any follow up after the Trump Tower meeting.
While Trump claims credit for the meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jon Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Max Boot points out at The Washington Post that this has happened before: Don’t let the Korea summit hype fool you. We’ve been here before.
The meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea was acclaimed as “historic.” The two leaders hugged, “smiled broadly, shook each other’s hand vigorously and toasted each other with glasses of champagne.” Reporters noted that the “opening formalities seemed surprisingly relaxed, exceeding the expectations of many people, including perhaps those of the principals themselves. The South Korean leader said we must “proceed together on a path of reconciliation and cooperation.” The North Korean leader replied that “you will not be disappointed.”
Sound familiar? It should, because the news coverage of the 2000 meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang parallels the euphoria over Friday’s meeting in Panmunjom between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son. If anything, the 2000 meeting produced more tangible results: Not only declarations about ending the Korean War and uniting the two countries, but also concrete steps toward creating a joint South Korean-North Korean industrial park in Kaesong , allow South Korean tourists to visit the North, and to reunify families long divided by the demilitarized zone. Between 1998 and 2008, South Korea provided some $8 billion in economic assistance to North Korea in the hope that all of this aid would create a kinder, gentler regime. Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts.
And yet the Sunshine Policy, so widely heralded at the time, is now widely judged a failure. Despite North Korea’s promises, it did nothing to ease the repression of its populace or to end its nuclear and missile programs. It turned out Kim Dae-jung only achieved that “historic” 2000 summit by offering Kim Jong Il a $500 million bribe. Another summit was held in 2007, arranged by Moon Jae-in, then an aide to President Roh Moo-hyun, and it too was rapturously acclaimed. But the next year, a conservative government took power in Seoul and ended the Sunshine Policy.
Read the rest at the link.
Finally, a little schadenfreude. The Independent reports that there was a fire in the Trump Tower in Azerbaijan. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
A skyscraper that was slated to become a Trump International Hotel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku has caught fire.
The Azadliq newspaper reported that the blaze broke out on the middle floors of the 33-storey building, which is locally known as Trump Tower, and spread.
Etibar Mirzoev, deputy head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said there were no injuries and authorities were working to establish the cause of the of the fire.
What stories are you following today?
Once again, there is so much news breaking that it’s difficult to decide what to focus on. So I’ll begin with what’s happening right now, and take it from there.
Right now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Guess what? He doesn’t remember the meeting where he is pictured with George Papadopoulos and at which Papadopoulos discussed setting up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That’s really strange, because just a short time ago, he claimed to remember objecting to the proposal.
Vanity Fair on Nov. 2: Sessions Suddenly Remembers Russia Conversation He Said Didn’t Happen.
Back in June, there was some cause for concern that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was having memory problems. When questioned from multiple angles during multiple appearances before Congressional investigators about the Trump campaign‘s relationship to Russia, Sessions‘s consistent refrain was: “I don’t recall.”
He gave an equally evasive response when Minnesota Senator Al Franken specifically asked whether surrogates from the Trump campaign had communicated with Russians during the 2016 election in October. “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath. (He made similar statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee.)
Now, however, Sessions has reportedly changed his tune. Citing a source familiar with Sessions’s thinking, NBC News reported on Thursday that the attorney general—who served as a top Trump surrogate and headed the then-presidential hopeful’s national security team—does in fact recall rejecting George Papadopoulos’s offer to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, after the Republican candidate stopped short of ruling out the idea.
“The March 31 comments by this Papadopoulos person did not leave a lasting impression,” the source told NBC News. “As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it and he moved the meeting along to other issues.” The source added that Papadopoulos was viewed by those in attendance “as someone who didn’t have a lot of credibility.”
The Washington Post, among other news outlets is reporting that Jeff Sessions is thinking about appointing a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton.
In today’s hearing, Sessions said he can’t confirm or deny any investigation involving the DOJ. It’s important to note that during his confirmation hearing, Sessions pledged to recuse himself from any matters involving Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times has published some direct quotes from Sessions’ testimony this morning: Jeff Sessions Displays Unsteady Recall on Trump-Russia Matters.
Mr. Sessions denied that he lied in October when he testified that he knew of nobody in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign. “And I don’t believe it happened,” he said.
Court records later revealed that Mr. Sessions led a March 2016 meeting in which George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide, discussed his Russian ties and suggested setting up a meeting between Mr. Trump. and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president.
“I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” Mr. Sessions said.
Mr. Sessions testified Tuesday that was still hazy on the details about what Mr. Papadopoulos had proposed.
But on one matter, he said his memory is clear: he said he shot down Mr. Papadopoulos’ idea of a Trump-Putin meet-up. And he said he told Mr. Papadopoulos that he was not authorized to represent the campaign in such discussions.
To sum up: Mr. Sessions said he could not remember much about Russian influence on the Trump campaign, except when he could block such influence.
In other news, Don Jr. is in more trouble. You’ve probably read the article by Julia Ioffe in The Atlantic: The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks.
Just before the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2016, at the height of last year’s presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a private direct message to Donald Trump Jr., the Republican nominee’s oldest son and campaign surrogate. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” (The site, which has since become a joint project with Mother Jones, was founded by Rob Glaser, a tech entrepreneur, and was funded by Progress for USA Political Action Committee.)
The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks. “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” he wrote on September 21, 2016. “Thanks.”
The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017.
Read the rest at the link if you haven’t already. Julian Assange, who controls the Wikileaks Twitter account has responded by claiming he was just “Trying to ‘Beguile’ Donald Trump Jr. Into Leaking.”
There’s another hearing going on simultaneously with the Sessions hearing on Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons. Quartz: Watch live: Should Trump have control of US nuclear weapons?
Today (Nov. 14), expert witnesses will testify before senators on US national “authority and process” over its nuclear arsenal. The hearing follows a tense few months, in which North Korea has continued nuclear testing, and Donald Trump has responded with belligerent improvisational statements, threatening “fire and fury” and warning that a military response was “locked and loaded.”
Could the US president start a nuclear war with North Korea? That’s what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing aims to figure out. The hearing will be broadcast on public-service network C-SPAN at 10am US Eastern Time. You can watch it online here.
There’s also the ongoing Roy Moore scandal. Some links to check out if you haven’t already:
CBS News: New accuser steps forward in Roy Moore case.
AL.com also posted an editorial yesterday: Our view: Roy Moore grossly unfit for office.
Roy Moore simply cannot be a U.S. Senator. Even if his party and many of its adherents still think it possible, it is unthinkable — for his state, and his country.
Last week, four women described Moore’s unseemly taste for dating high school girls when he was a single man in his 30s. Another described what can only be seen as a sexual assault on her when she was 14. In a radio interview last week, Moore himself suggested that he may have dated teenage women during his 30s, though he vehemently denied the claims made by these women.
Today, even as those women face disgusting attacks on their motives and credibility, a fifth brave Alabama woman stepped forward and described how when she was 16, Moore violently sexually assaulted her in his car. She said she felt it to be an attempted rape, and that it ended with her bruised from either falling from or being pushed from the car, with Moore warning her he was a powerful man and that no one would believe her if she told anyone.
The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated. They should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof exists. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters….
We believe these women.
As a news organization, we have independently investigated as many of these claims as possible and have found no reason to doubt the accounts outlined in the Washington Post. If anything, the stories we’ve heard in Etowah County have only further corroborated them.
In our view, Moore has already revealed himself as grossly unfit to be a U.S. Senator before these revelations.
At The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg suggests that past accusations against Bill Clinton should be reevaluated in the light of recent revelations about powerful men harassing and assaulting women: I Believe Juanita. The title is explosive, but Goldberg’s only reason for believing Juanita Broaddrick’s accusations is that they are similar to recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It’s true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones’s lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn’t want to go public but couldn’t lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.
What to do with that belief? Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton. Broaddrick sees her as complicit, interpreting something Hillary once said to her at a political event — “I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill” — as a veiled threat instead of a rote greeting. This seems wildly unlikely; Broaddrick was decades away from going public, and most reporting about the Clinton marriage shows Bill going to great lengths to hide his betrayals. Nevertheless, one of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions.
And now they’re being trotted out again. It’s fair to conclude that because of Broaddrick’s allegations, Bill Clinton no longer has a place in decent society. But we should remember that it’s not simply partisan tribalism that led liberals to doubt her. Discerning what might be true in a blizzard of lies isn’t easy, and the people who spread those lies don’t get to claim the moral high ground. We should err on the side of believing women, but sometimes, that belief will be used against us.
To say that Bill Clinton “no longer has a place in decent society” is a bit much at this point, IMHO. I don’t know much about Broaddrick’s claims; but apparently these old accusations are going to be recycled. Will Jeff Sessions appoint another special prosecutor?
It is mandatory for all EB-5 applicants to provide or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs. When an investor doesn’t actually invest into a new business, a preserve piece comes in since they may be investing in an already existing business. You can checkout reviews and articles for more information.
So much news happening–what will today bring? What stories are you following?
Every day I wake up to find that Trump has topped himself in terms of cruelty, ignorance, and selfishness. I guess if Hitler were alive, he’d be a worse person than Trump, but Trump is just beginning his attack on human decency from his powerful position.
The Washington Post: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort.
President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”
Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.
Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”
He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
It has been three weeks, and the Federal Government response has been pathetic and incompetent. People in Puerto Rico have been for help, and Trump has interpreted their pleas as criticism of him personally. This is a very sick man, and he must be removed from power before he destroys our country.
Death tolls are the primary way we understand the impact of a disaster. And for nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as a humanitarian crisis was intensifying, the death toll was frozen at 16.
“Sixteen people certified,” Trump said on October 3 during his visit to the island, repeating a figure confirmed by the territory’s governor. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s taken place in Puerto Rico.” ….
The death toll from the hurricane is now up to 45, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. But 90 percent of the 3.4 million American citizens on the island still don’t have power, and 35 percent still don’t have water to drink or bathe in. And given how deadly power outages can be, 45 deaths seems low, according to disaster experts.
At Vox, we decided to compare what the government has been saying with other reports of deaths from the ground. We searched Google News for reports of deaths in English and Spanish media from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We found reports of a total of 81 deaths linked directly or indirectly to the hurricane. Of those, 45 were the deaths certified by the government. The remaining 36 deaths were confirmed by local public officials or funeral directors, according to the reports. We also found another 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and reports of at least 69 people still missing.
Please go read the rest if you can.
In case you imagined Trump ever had any human decency, here’s a little about what he did to his eldest son Donald Jr.
At The New York Times: Gail Collins discusses some revelations from Ivana Trump’s new book: The Trumps, the Poodle, the Sex Scandal.
The book is supposed to be about good parenting. But the most important thing you learn is that we can never say another mean thing about Donald Jr. again. Really, it sounds like the worst childhood ever. His story begins with Dad resisting the idea of naming the baby after him, in case his first born turned out to be “a loser.”
As a toddler, Don Jr. broke his leg due to a negligent babysitter. Then one day when Ivana was out of town, he and Eric called hysterically to report they had found their nanny unconscious in the basement. (She died.)
Wait, there’s more: During their infamous divorce, Dad sent a bodyguard from his office to get Junior, announcing: “You’re not getting him back. I’m going to bring him up myself.”
Ivana says she responded: “O.K., keep him. I have two other kids to raise.” Silence and 10 minutes later the bodyguard returned her son.
It was, Trump’s ex-wife concluded, “a tactic to upset me.” However for some reason, at around this time Don Jr. stopped speaking to his father and wound up getting shipped to boarding school.
After several more years of being the namesake of a man who was then famous for starring in the most sensational tabloid stories of the era, Don Jr. graduated from college, moved to Colorado and got a job bartending. Ivana said she made her disapproval clear by “cutting him off” until he gave up, returned to New York and joined the Trump Organization.
People Magazine recounts the stories told by a college classmate–I wrote about this when it first came out.
Vanity Fair reported that Scott Melker, a Penn classmate, wrote on Facebook, “Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around on campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking. He absolutely despised his father, and hated the attention that his last name afforded him.”
Melker also described an alleged incident in which Trump showed up to his son’s dorm room to take him to a Yankees game. Trump Jr. was dressed in a Yankees jersey and when he opened the door to his father, “without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates. He simply said, ‘Put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.” A spokesperson for the Trump family told Vanity Fair this story is “completely false.”
The man in the White House is pure evil. There is so much horrifying news about him that it’s impossible to pay attention to all of it. Here’s more proof that Trump is not only evil, but he is a moron, just as Rex Tillerson said last summer.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that, “in a sense,” gains made by private financial markets reduce the national debt. The claim is incorrect on its face, but it does point to how the president views the economic interplay between the federal government and Wall Street.
“The country — we took it over and owed over $20 trillion,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News, referring to the total national debt, which has hovered near $20 trillion since early 2016.
“As you know, the last eight years, [the federal government] borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country,” Trump said. “So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months, in terms of value.”
“So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it,” Trump said.
For evidence that the two metrics have little to no bearing on one another, look no further than the eight years of the Obama presidency: Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared.
And while Trump likes to talk about “reducing debt,” the economic policy proposals he’s unveiled so far, especially his tax reform plan, could easily add another trillion dollars to the debt, according to economists.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal continues as more women come forward every day. Oh, and have you heard that the whole thing is Hillary Clinton’s fault? I wonder was it also her fault when Trump said he liked to “grab them by the pussy?”
Sady Doyle at Elle: Harvey Weinstein and the Crisis of Complicity.
When giants fall, they fall fast. We haven’t even been living with the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment history for a week, yet the news has gotten worse every day. From the New York Times’ initial report — which specified the now-familiar details of hotel meetings, ulterior motives, and “massages” that were less than optional — the accusations have escalated to include masturbating in front of an actress, forced oral sex, and vaginal rape. (Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, says ““Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”) Weinstein’s accusers now include Gwyneth Paltrow, Asia Argento, Patricia Arquette, and Angelina Jolie. Meanwhile, a former New York Times reporter has now alleged that a story she was working on in 2004 related to Weinstein’s behavior was “gutted” after she received phone calls from Russell Crowe and Matt Damon vouching for a former Weinstein colleague. (Damon vigorously denies he knew anything about Weinstein’s behavior). Weinstein himself has been forced out of the Weinstein Company.
As always, with such a disturbing story, people are looking to assign blame. Whose fault is Harvey Weinstein?
Harvey Weinstein, apparently, is Hillary Clinton’s fault.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Actress Rose McGowan was suspended from Twitter after she accused actor Ben Affleck of having “prior knowledge of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct, including toward her”.
From the New York Times:
In a sign that the controversy over the producer Harvey Weinstein could engulf other people in the film industry, the actress Rose McGowan accused Ben Affleck of lying on Tuesday about his knowledge of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.
Ms. McGowan, in a tweet and a subsequent email exchange with The New York Times on Tuesday night, said she had told Mr. Affleck that Mr. Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her.
Mr. Affleck, who rose to stardom with help from Mr. Weinstein on the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” had said earlier Tuesday that he was “angry” over Mr. Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, but he gave no indication of whether he knew about it. “I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” Mr. Affleck said in a statement.
From Shakesville: This is Rape Culture.
Two things I’ve seen this morning are perfect, terrible illustrations of how the rape culture works.
First, there was the news that Twitter has suspended Rose McGowan for publicly stating that Ben Affleck had lied about what he knew regarding Harvey Weinstein.
Yesterday, Ben Affleck has to apologize for actually sexually assaulting someone, which trended on Twitter all day, but he isn’t suspended. Who is suspended is Rose McGowan, who merely contradicted Affleck’s claim not to have known about Weinstein’s sexual abuse, which she knows because she’s the one who told him.
This, as I shouldn’t have to point out, couldn’t be a clearer case of the way institutions work to protect abusers and their abettors, while silencing survivors.
The second thing Melissa wrote about is this excerpt from a piece by Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed: What To Do With “Shitty Media Men”?
I’ve never been assaulted or harassed by someone I worked with, and it’s only been lately that I’ve realized how messed up it is that I feel fortunate that’s the case. There have been a few uncomfortable incidents for me personally, like the editor who Gchatted me late at night, seemingly drunk, and propositioned me, or the art director who was way too interested in my intern experience and put his hand on my thigh at a party. But people whispered about the guys who were really bad, the ones who coerced young women into sex, the ones who were physically abusive. The ones to stay away from.
Back to Melissa’s piece:
Shafrir begins by saying she’s “never been assaulted or harassed,” only to then describe two instances of harassment. To be clear, I’m not auditing the way she feels about or identifies those experiences, but simply noting they meet the definition of workplace harassment.
The instinct to mitigate manifests in different ways: Here, Shafrir straightforwardly discounts her own experiences as harassment. My go-to strategy as a younger woman was always to turn incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault into “humorous” anecdotes, which allowed me to talk about what happened without really talking about what happened.
I hope you’ll go to Shakesville to read the rest.
I have so many more links saved up, but I’m out of time and space. Please post your thoughts and recommended links in the comment thread below.
It appears that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is getting closer to finding crimes committed foreign persons and by Trump’s closest advisers; and Jared Kushner may be at the center of it all. For Trump, the shit is about to get real.
It all centers around Facebook and microtargeting. As I’m sure you know, Mueller recently obtained a warrant for the content of ads that Facebook sold to a Russian source. CNN has the latest this morning: Facebook handed Russia-linked ads over to Mueller under search warrant.
Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN.The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.
“We continue to work with the appropriate investigative authorities,” Facebook said in a statement to CNN.
Facebook informed Congress last week that it had identified 3,000 ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 that were linked to fake accounts. Those accounts, in turn, were linked to the pro-Kremlin troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.
This is significant, because it indicates that Mueller has evidence of crimes related to the Facebook data. Business Insider: Mueller just obtained a warrant that could change the entire nature of the Russia investigation.
FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.
Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump’s campaign team.
“This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers,'” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent.
Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, explained that to obtain a search warrant a prosecutor needs to prove to a judge that there is reason to believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor then has to show that the information being sought will provide evidence of that crime….
“The key here…is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” she said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”
It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia’s election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint — rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime.
Read more in this Twitter thread–click to read the rest:
And who was in charge of the data operation for the Trump campaign? Jared Kushner. He revealed a lot about how he did it in a Forbes article back in May 2017: Jared Kushner In His Own Words On The Trump Data Operation The FBI Is Reportedly Probing. A couple of excerpts:
— “We found that Facebook and digital targeting were the most effective ways to reach the audiences. After the primary, we started ramping up because we knew that doing a national campaign is different than doing a primary campaign. That was when we formalized the system because we had to ramp up for digital fundraising. We brought in Cambridge Analytica. I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley who were some of the best digital marketers in the world. And I asked them how to scale this stuff. Doing it state by state is not that hard. But scaling is a very, very hard thing. They gave me a lot of their subcontractors and I built in Austin a data hub that would complement the RNC’s data hub. We had about 100 people in that office, which nobody knew about, until towards the end. We used that as the nerve center that drove a lot of the deployment of our ground game resources….
— “We played Moneyball, where we were asking, ‘Which states are will be the most cost effective—ROI per electoral vote.’ We used a lot things to get much more bang for the buck… We got rid of a lot of the political people. That’s not who we hired. Our best people were mostly people who volunteered pro bono, people from the business world, people from nontraditional fields. We could squeeze the margin so that nobody was getting rich on it. And we only had people who were doing it for the right reasons, not because they wanted to go onto the next campaign, but because they felt passionately about getting Donald Trump elected.”
Yesterday Vanity Fair published a piece by Chris Smith that connects a lot of dots: Did Jared Kushner’s Data Operation Help Select Facebook Targets for the Russians?
Kushner’s chat with Forbes has provided a veritable bakery’s worth of investigatory bread crumbs to follow. Brad Parscale, who Kushner hired to run the campaign’s San Antonio-based Internet operation, has agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee.
Bigger questions, however, revolve around Cambridge Analytica. It is unclear how Kushner first became aware of the data-mining firm, but one of its major investors is billionaire Trump backer Robert Mercer. Mercer was also a principal patron of Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, who was a vice president of Cambridge Analytica until he joined the Trump campaign. “I think the Russians had help,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “I’ve always wondered if Cambridge Analytica was part of that.” (Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a request for comment.) ….
No evidence has emerged to link Kushner, Cambridge Analytica, or Manafort to the Russian election-meddling enterprise; all have denied colluding with foreign agents. (Kushner’s representatives declined to comment for this article. Manafort’s spokesman could not be reached.) Yet analysts scoff at the notion that the Russians figured out how to target African-Americans and women in decisive precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan all by themselves. “Could they have hired a warehouse full of people in Moscow and had them read Nate Silver’s blog every morning and determine what messages to post to what demographics? Sure, theoretically that’s possible,” said Mike Carpenter, an Obama administration assistant defense secretary who specialized in Russia and Eastern Europe. “But that’s not how they do this. And it’s not surprising that it took Facebook this long to figure out the ad buys. The Russians are excellent at covering their tracks. They’ll subcontract people in Macedonia or Albania or Cyprus and pay them via the dark Web. They always use locals to craft the campaign appropriately. My only question about 2016 is who exactly was helping them here.”
Click on the Vanity Fair link to read the rest.
Darren Bolding, chief technology officer of Cambridge Analytica, told the crowd at the third annual Internet Summit in San Francisco on Thursday that “algorithms will find the worst in us if you let them go nuts.”
His comments came during an interview onstage with Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig in front of several hundred people gathered to hear him discuss the campaign. The interview was led by Matthew Prince, the CEO of internet service provider Cloudflare, which removed a white supremacist website from its network in the wake of Trump’s comments after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bolding — who worked at the Republican National Committee before joining Cambridge in January of 2017 — said that the RNC used 15 “issue models” to target political ads at Facebook users during the 2016 U.S. election campaign….The event came as Facebook faces growing criticism to release more details on the ads it sent to users that it says were bought by Russians looking to influence U.S. voters.
The ads were targeted using the same automated Facebook system used by Cambridge Analytica, and for the same purpose — to influence the U.S. presidential election.
And that’s not the only Russia Investigation story that broke yesterday.
Bloomberg: Russia Laundering Probe Puts Trump Tower Meeting in New Light. The Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr., Kushner and Paul Manafort in June 2016 was also involved in a huge money laundering case–could getting rid of that case have been the quid pro quo for Russian help in getting Trump elected?
when she stepped into Trump Tower, [Natalia] Veselnitskaya was also representing a client ensnared in a long-running U.S. investigation into an alleged web of Russian money-laundering. That criminal inquiry, opened by federal prosecutors in New York in 2013 and previously unreported, is still active, according to people familiar with the probe. There was no mention of an ongoing criminal inquiry when the U.S. settled a related civil lawsuit against Veselnitskaya’s client in May.
The outline of the criminal investigation, stretching from Switzerland to Cyprus, is laid out deep within the 734 filings in the civil case. Several countries have supplied documents to the U.S., as have Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Inc. and other global banks that aren’t targets. U.S. prosecutors in the case are seeking to track parts of more than $200 million they say left Russia after a massive fraud, and to identify who was involved in the scheme.
The revelation adds a new element to the Trump Tower meeting, which has emerged as a focus of congressional investigators and a U.S. special counsel inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Recall that Trump fired former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had brought the case in 2013 and later the Justice Department settle the case for peanuts:
After years of court wrangling over the civil case, the Prevezon matter was set for trial in May 2017, promising a public view of prosecutors’ full allegations about the Russian money flows. But just days before opening arguments, the U.S. announced it had settled the case for $5.9 million.
The prosecutors called it a victory. So did Prevezon lawyer Gay, who called the U.S. settlement “almost an apology by the government.”
Several Democratic lawmakers looked at the Prevezon settlement in a new light two months later, when news emerged about the Veselnitskaya meeting in Trump Tower. In a letter, they asked whether the Russian lawyer, or members of the Trump team, may have put pressure on prosecutors in the matter.
Natasha Bertrand has more at Business Insider: New details about major Russian money-laundering investigation raise the stakes of Trump Tower meeting.
The criminal investigation had not yet been disclosed when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Bharara in March, and there was no mention of it when the civil case was settled in May for $5.9 million.
Veselnitskaya has staunchly denied discussing the Prevezon case during the Trump Tower meeting. But the developments suggest the stakes for her client were higher than previously known.
In September 2016, Bharara had issued a grand-jury subpoena to Andrei Alekseevich Pavlov — a person “central to the Government’s case against Prevezon,” according to an emergency appeal filed at the time by Prevezon counsel Michael Mukasey, who wanted to depose him.
Citigroup, Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, and TD Bank were also issued grand-jury subpoenas, according to Bloomberg, which did not provide further details.
Grand-jury testimonies are a key stage in a federal criminal investigation. The subpoena issued by Bharara to Pavlov, and provided to Business Insider on Friday, ordered him to hand over documents related to a series of cases connected to the Prevezon investigation.
The subpoena also asked Pavlov to provide “all non-privileged correspondence” with Veselnitskaya and others relevant to the case.
This was all short-circuited when the DOJ settled the case. Read more details at BI.
In the days leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, when his soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn was reportedly pushing a multibillion-dollar deal to build nuclear reactors in Jordan and other Middle East nations, Flynn and two other top Trump advisers held a secret meeting with the king of Jordan.
meeting — details of which have never been reported — is the latest in a series of secret, high-stakes contacts between Trump advisers and foreign governments that have raised concerns about how, in particular, Flynn and senior adviser Jared Kushner handled their personal business interests as they entered key positions of power. And the nuclear project raised additional security concerns about expanding nuclear technology in a tinderbox region of the world. One expert compared it to providing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”
On the morning of Jan. 5, Flynn, Kushner, and former chief strategist Steve Bannon greeted Mi at the Four Seasons hotel in lower Manhattan, then took off in a fleet of SUVs and a sedan to a different location.
People close to the three Trump advisers say that the nuclear deal was not discussed. But a federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency about the meeting said that the nuclear proposal, known as the Marshall Plan, was one of the topics the group talked about.
Read the rest at the link. It sure looks like Mueller is getting closer to nailing Trump and his gang.
What stories are you following today?
Hurricane Irma is still headed for Florida and then will move up the coast. The Weather Channel: States of Emergency Issued, Evacuations Ordered as Florida, Georgia, Carolinas Prepare for Irma.
As the dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma barrels toward southeast of Florida, officials in the Sunshine State, Georgia and the Carolinas have declared disasters and ordered evacuations.
The storm, which has undergone rapid intensification in the past several days is now the strongest Atlantic hurricane in the last 10 years, a dangerous Category 5, which made landfall overnight packing winds of 185 mph on the Caribbean island of Barbuda.
“The storm is massive and the storm surge is predicted to go for miles. In some instances, it could cover homes and go very far inland,” Scott said.
He urged urgent preparation:
- “Every family needs to have a plan. …Do not sit and wait. Prepare right now.”
- “Do not ignore evacuation orders.”
- “Take what you need to evacuate. Don’t take extra.”
Read more about Florida’s preparations at the link.
The Miami Herald: South Florida comes under hurricane watch with weekend strike likely.
South Florida came under hurricane and storm surge watches Thursday morning as powerful Hurricane Irma steamed toward the peninsula on track for a weekend strike.
Tropical storm force winds could begin battering the Keys and South Florida Saturday afternoon, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their latest advisory. The fierce center of the Cat 5 storm is also increasingly likely to plow across the state’s crowded east coast, and it’s more than 6 million residents, in three to four days.
The hurricane and storm surge watches cover much of the South Florida coast, from Jupiter Inlet south and up the west coast to Bonita Beach, including the Keys. Water levels could reach from between five and 10 feet above ground level in the storm surge watch area, forecasters said.
Because Irma is such a large hurricane, the storm surge could be widespread and life-threatening, said senior hurricane specialist Mike Brennan, with waters moving further inland along the Gulf.
Presumably, the storm will keep moving on up the coast. It’s not clear yet how it will impact us up here in New England, but environmental experts are trying to prepare Boston for future storms as the sea level rises from climate change. The Boston Globe: What a future sea barrier in Boston would look like.
According a city-sponsored report published last December, sea levels are forecasted to rise eight inches from 2000 to 2030 due to climate change. By 2050, they are expected to increase up to 1.5 feet — and by 2070, up to three feet.
The chances of a Harvey-esque 50 inches of rain are minuscule in Boston. But with the expected sea level rise, a one-in-100- or one-in-10-year storm (Harvey was a one-in-1,000-year storm) would put many Boston neighborhoods underwater, according to the report, Climate Ready Boston. Even monthly high tides would flood 5 percent of the city’s real estate market value toward the end of the century, officials said.
With the sea level rise expected within roughly 30 to 50 years, major storms could make neighborhoods including East Boston, the South End, and the Seaport “unviable.” This interactive map shows what exact places could be threatened (and it doesn’t look great for Faneuil Hall).
“You’re not going to escape it,” Curt Spalding, New England’s regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, told Boston.com last year regarding sea level rise, after Boston’s waterfront was inundated by simple king tides.
According to a 2013 report by the World Bank, Boston ranked eighth out of 136 coastal cities for risk of flood damage.
Local officials are thus faced with a dilemma: how to manage the characteristic that historically made Boston a thriving commercial hub — its favorable port location — when that same asset now contributes to a potentially existential threat?
Head to the Globe to read the rest. I imagine many coastal cities are looking at possible protections from future flooding.
Donald Trump Jr. is being interviewed by investigators from the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. MSNBC reports that he has changed his story again–now claiming he took a June 2016 meeting with Russians to get information that would help him assess Hillary Clinton’s “fitness for office.” From The New York Times:
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is set to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators behind closed doors on Thursday to answer questions about his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, committee officials said.
Committee aides said the interview, Mr. Trump’s first with congressional investigators, will be transcribed and could last for much of the day. It will largely focus on the meeting in Trump Tower, which appears to have been set up to deliver harmful information about Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign, according to emails disclosed in June.
Democrats, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, said on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had also agreed to testify at a public hearing before the committee and that he would probably be subpoenaed if he did not follow through on that agreement. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s chairman, declined to discuss the committee’s dealings with Mr. Trump. Lawyers for Mr. Trump could not be reached for comment.
The closed-door interview is the clearest indication yet that the Senate Judiciary Committee — after months of being eclipsed by the Senate and House intelligence committees — is emerging into a higher-profile role in investigating the president, his family and his associates in the coming months.
The committee is trying to get answers about the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director this spring and has staked out a broad investigation that aims to look at everything from the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia to the Obama Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email case last year.
More Russia news broke last night in The Washington Post: Russian firm tied to pro-Kremlin propaganda advertised on Facebook during election.
Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that the social network has discovered that it sold ads during the U.S. presidential campaign to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.
Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.
A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said, although they declined to say which candidate the ads favored.
Most of the ads, according to a blog post published late Wednesday by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
The acknowledgment by Facebook comes as congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are probing Russian interference in the U.S. election, including allegations that the Kremlin may have coordinated with the Trump campaign.
Read more at the WaPo.
The other big story from last night is that Trump suddenly aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on raising the debt ceiling and threw Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell under the bus. Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker: How Democrats Rolled Trump on the Debt Ceiling.
For weeks, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, had been plotting a strategy to use the debt-ceiling vote to extract concessions from Donald Trump and his fellow-Republicans. Over the weekend, the White House and Senate Republicans indicated that they wanted a debt-ceiling increase attached to a bill to provide immediate aid for areas of Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey. The plan was perfect for the G.O.P. The House would pass a “clean” debt ceiling that most Republicans would probably support. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, would add the Harvey money and pass the two bills together with the help of Democrats. The plan was to raise the debt ceiling for eighteen months, which would kick the next difficult vote past the 2018 midterm elections. In the House, such a bill likely would have lost some votes from both parties, but, given the urgency of the hurricane aid, it was a decent bet to pass. Best of all, for G.O.P. leaders, the bill would have taken away the Democrats’ debt-ceiling leverage from the coming debates on immigration, government spending, and health care.
But, when conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items.
At his morning press conference, Ryan had been withering about this idea. “Let’s just think about this,” he said. “We’ve got all this devastation in Texas. We’ve got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida. And they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? That will strand the aid that we need to bring to these victims of these storms that have occurred or are about to occur. And then they also want to threaten default on our debt? I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment.”
He added that the idea was “unworkable,” and, speaking for Trump, noted, “What the President doesn’t want to do is to give more leverage where it shouldn’t occur on the debt ceiling.”
But Ryan spoke too soon.
An hour later, in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Lots of media people are outraged that Hillary Clinton dared to write a book detailing the challenges she faced during the 2016 election. Never mind that Clinton won the popular vote and her book has been number 1 on Amazon for months. Those of us who voted for her are still invisible to the media. Politico: Democrats dread Hillary’s book tour.
President Donald Trump may be the only person in politics truly excited about Hillary Clinton’s book tour.
Democratic operatives can’t stand the thought of her picking the scabs of 2016, again — the Bernie Sanders divide, the Jim Comey complaints, the casting blame on Barack Obama for not speaking out more on Russia. Alums of her Brooklyn headquarters who were miserable even when they thought she was winning tend to greet the topic with, “Oh, God,” “I can’t handle it,” and “the final torture.”
Political reporters gripe privately (and on Twitter) about yet another return to the campaign that will never end. Campaign operatives don’t want the distraction, just as they head into another election season. And members of Congress from both parties want the focus on an agenda that’s getting more complicated by the week.
But with a new NBC News poll showing her approval rating at 30 percent, the lowest recorded for her, Clinton kicks it off on Tuesday with a signing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York. She’ll keep it going all the way through December, all across the country.
Do the Democrats really think they can win elections without Hillary’s hard core supporters? They seem to be going all in with Bernie, who lost to Hillary in the primaries by 4 million votes. Do these people know anything about math?
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?