Friday Reads: Iron Fist in Velvet Glove

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I figured it was apropos to use a phrase applicable at one point to Napoleon and at another to a mob boss in Galveston, Texas to start a discussion on today’s news. I also figured it’s about time to bring out the idea of the “hammer of justice” too. The walls are closing in on the Trump Family Syndicate and rumors about presidential pardons for convicted felon and possible “flipper” Paul Manafort and immunity for David Pecker must be keeping D’oh Hair Furor up at night.  Welcome to film noir in living color!

How bad does it have to be if one of Spiro Agnew’s lawyers tells you to resign?

Mueller can and likely will name Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator on any case he brings going forward, if he abides by Department of Justice guidelines and does not indict a sitting president. And Trump needs to worry about his criminal liability (and that of his son and son-in-law) when he leaves office.

Impeachment aside, given all that the President now faces, does anyone in his camp have the courage to discuss a so-far unmentionable strategy? Do what we did for Spiro Agnew, and the country. Negotiate a deal: You end the Mueller investigation, and I’ll send out of a tweet: “No collusion, I did nothing wrong, rigged witch hunt, but this is bad for the country, and I am a patriot. So I hereby resign. Sad.”

So will a Pecker and a pair of Porn Stars bring him down or will it be Tax Fraud that finally gets him? Catherine Rampell makes the case for Tax Fraud at WAPO.

President Trump’s touchstone mob boss, Al Capone, famously went down for tax evasion when the feds couldn’t nail him on more serious crimes. Has Trump stopped to consider whether he could be headed for the same fate?

Trump and surrogates have argued that his former lawyer’s and his campaign chairman’s near-simultaneous legal losses don’t imperil the president himself. After all, none of the charges that Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort were convicted of this week involved Russian connections to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Quoth the president: “And what’s come out of Manafort? No collusion. What’s come out of Michael Cohen? No collusion.”

As for the Cohen crimes that did directly implicate Trump — the campaign finance violations — the president and his people have argued that these are not actually crimes. After all, they’re so rarely prosecuted!

What about tax crimes, though?

There’s plenty of precedent for prosecuting those. And the Cohen filings this week raise serious new questions about whether Trump has criminal tax-fraud exposure.

To be clear, we don’t know whether Trump has violated any tax laws. But there’s a red flag in prosecutors’ filings against Cohen regarding the fate of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes one would expect to have been paid Uncle Sam.

It’s a little technical, so bear with me. The issue involves payments that the Trump Organization made to Cohen as part of an agreement silencing adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and how the company accounted for them.

Cohen paid Clifford $130,000. Trump’s company ultimately reimbursed him for this payment to the tune of $420,000.

Why so much more than the original hush-money amount?

You can follow the money at the link.  Today would be a great day for Trump to release his taxes!

Trump is itching to keep on interfering with the Justice Department.  Why are key Senate Republicans enabling to remove Jeff Session who is a curse on the office but at least appears to want to keep politics out of the probe? I still will argue that Trump got some Kompromat on these guys.

Donald Trump, who’s long threatened to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may have received a crucial go-ahead signal from two Republican senators with a key condition attached: wait until after the November elections.

Confronted with the criminal convictions this week of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president has only reaffirmed his open resentment that Sessions recused himself from what’s become a wide-ranging investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham told reporters.

But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with the midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to tackle that explosive possibility.

It wasn’t clear, though, whether the senators’ comments were intended to endorse a move on Sessions later, or to coax Trump out of taking precipitous action now. And some senior Republican senators strongly rejected Graham’s seemingly impromptu fire-him-later idea.

The pivotal message on Thursday came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who oscillates between criticizing many of the president’s policies and defending a president who sometimes invites him to go golfing at a Trump-branded resort.

Trump keeps playing the game of saying every one does it and the Dems are worse.  He’s actively asking Sessions why he doesn’t go after pet conspiracy theories instead of actually looking at evidence and finding a crime.  But, her EMAILS!  BUT Benghazi!  It should be evident by now with all those wastes of Congressional hearings that there is no there there. ABC reports on this.

President Donald Trump Friday morning urged Jeff Sessions to “look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’’’ after the U.S. attorney general disputed Trump’s assertion a day earlier that Sessions had failed to take control of the Department of Justice.

Sessions defended his performance Thursday, saying he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.”

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Sessions said in a statement. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

Trump tweeted this morning in response, “Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the “other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr.”

Trump is convinced any one who criticizes him should be prosecuted for thought crimes and has a vendetta against him.  It’s getting to Nixon level paranoia.  Mark Landler, however, says Trumps verbal spews are straight out of “GoodFellas”.  He writes this at the NYT.

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, “the Dapper Don” and “the Donald” vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States.

Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions.

“I know all about flipping,” Mr. Trump told Fox News this week. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”

Mr. Trump was referring to the decision by his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to take a plea deal on fraud charges and admit to prosecutors that he paid off two women to clam up about the sexual affairs that they claimed to have had with Mr. Trump.

But the president was also evoking a bygone world — the outer boroughs of New York City, where he grew up — a place of leafy neighborhoods and working-class families, as well as its share of shady businessmen and mob-linked politicians. From an early age, Mr. Trump encountered these raffish types with their unscrupulous methods, unsavory connections and uncertain loyalties.

Mr. Trump is comfortable with the wiseguys-argot of that time and place, and he defaults to it whether he is describing his faithless lawyer or his fruitless efforts to discourage the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, from investigating one of his senior advisers, Michael T. Flynn, over his connections to Russia.

“When I first heard that Trump said to Comey, ‘Let this go,’ it just rang such a bell with me,” said Nicholas Pileggi, an author who has chronicled the Mafia in books and films like “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” “Trump was surrounded by these people. Being raised in that environment, it was normalized to him.”

Mr. Pileggi traced the president’s language to the Madison Club, a Democratic Party machine in Brooklyn that helped his father, Fred Trump, win his first real estate deals in the 1930s. In those smoke-filled circles, favors were traded like cases of whiskey and loyalty

It’s only fitting then that the Trump family crime syndicate may wind up defending themselves in Manhattan.  First, for the debacle that is their foundation and just for the Trump Organization period.  Trump cannot pardon any one for state crimes.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.

Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.

State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.

The Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense. But Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, said on Tuesday that he paid Ms. Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors have said the reimbursement payments were for sham legal invoices in connection with a nonexistent retainer agreement. Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges, did no legal work in connection with the matter, prosecutors said.

“On its face, it certainly would be problematic,” said one of the officials familiar with the district attorney’s office review, noting that listing the reimbursement as a legal expense could be a felony under state law.

Michael Cohen is now helping New York State pursue the Foundation.  This via Fortune Magazine.

A day after President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court, New York’s state tax agency has subpoenaed Cohen for records relating to the Trump Foundation—at Cohen’s prodding, according to his attorney.

The Department of Taxation and Finance confirmed the subpoena to several news outlets, including CNN.

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told CNN on Tuesday night that his client had information “of interest both in Washington as well as New York state.” The New York Daily News, citing an anonymous source with direct knowledge, reported that Cohen called the tax agency to speak after the subpoena was issued.

Since before the 2016 presidential election, reporters have tracked allegedly illegal and unethical behavior by the non-profit Trump Foundation, once run by Donald Trump and his older children, with David Fahrenthold of theWashington Post leading the pack. Accounts include cases that appear to involve self-dealing, or the act of using charitable funds for the benefit of one’s personal interest; political contributions; using charity money for personal use like allegedly paying Donald Trump, Jr.’s Boy Scout membership fee in 1989 and buying a 6-foot-tall portrait of Trump; and to pay settlements or judgments against the for-profit Trump Organization.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit in June against the Trump Foundation and its officers—the president and three of his children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka—to dissolve the charity, disperse its $1 million in holdings, pay $2.8 million in restitution, and bar its officers from serving on a New York not-for-profit organization for 10 years. Underwood cited Trump campaign staff members directing donations from the foundation, among many other issues. Underwood said she lacks jurisdiction to pursue criminal charges, and sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission about “possible violations.”

This should be interesting.  I don’t know if I should read a few law books or watch some gangster movies to figure out what may happen next.  But, as many in the media said, Mueller and the state of New York know how to unravel a crime family and despite what Republicans in Congress may do, they will likely win in the end.

And from the WSJ today:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Friday Reads: Ace G-Man Stories of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s going to be the usual chaos on steroids as former FBI Director Jim Comey’s tell all comes out.  The media began leaking excerpts yesterday of the book even as the official release date still looms on Tuesday.  KKKremlin Caligula is not a happy Mad King as Comey even appears to have taken  gratuitous pot shots at the size of his hands. Yes, De Hair Fury is in Teapot Tempest mode.  Hide that damn football!

President Donald Trump went into attack mode against James Comey on Friday morning, calling the former FBI director an “untruthful slime ball” and a “liar & leaker” after Comey suggested in an ABC News interview that it is “possible” that salacious allegations about the president and prostitutes in Moscow are true.

“James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” Trump wrote in a statement that stretched across two Twitter posts. “He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Well, this is certainly an adult conversation!  These items are from Politico and the keyboard of Louis Nelson.

Recalling his first meeting with Trump, the former FBI director told Stephanopoulos that the January, 2017, briefing he gave the then-president elect about his alleged rendezvous with prostitutes inside a Moscow hotel was “really weird” and “almost an out-of-body experience.” During their one-on-one briefing in Trump Tower, the former FBI director said Trump responded “very defensively” and “started talking about, you know, ‘do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’”

Comey said that earlier, upon briefing Trump and his transition team about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the then-president elect’s first question was whether or not those efforts had affected the outcome and then discussion turned immediately to a conversation about messaging and drafting a press release. At no point did Trump or any member of his team ask Comey or the other intelligence chiefs present at the briefing what might come next from Russia or how to stop future cyberattacks from Moscow, the former FBI director said.

“The reason that was so striking to me is that that’s just not done, that the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin,” Comey said. “It was all, what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.”

Folks that have read the book say that Comey found a President obsessed with getting the FBI to disprove the existence of the Pee Pee tape.  Evidently Cohen was busy fixing other Trump mishaps and couldn’t see to it.  Can you imagine how he saw the FBI as his personal clean up crew?

Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director. The document claimed that Trump had watched the prostitutes urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had stayed in “as a way of soiling the bed,” Comey writes.

Comey writes that Trump asked him to have the FBI investigate the allegations to prove they were not true, and offered varying explanations to convince him why. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.

Phillip Rucker of WAPO additionally unveils Comey’s real thoughts about Trump’s lack of ethics. This is a description of a sociopath.

In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

Comey narrates in vivid detail, based on his contemporaneous notes, instances in which Trump violated the norms protecting the FBI’s independence in attempts to coerce Comey into being loyal to him — such as during a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence.

Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”

“What is happening now is not normal,” he writes. “It is not fake news. It is not okay.”

But again, Comey makes quite personal remarks.  From David Moye at HuffPo:

You have to hand it to former FBI Director James Comey: He knows a good way to troll Donald Trump is to bring up the president’s reportedly small hands.

Comey touches on Trump’s hands in his new book, A Higher Loyalty, and admits the president’s mitts did appear smaller than he expected when they first met.

According to excerpts from the book posted by ABC News, the 6-foot-8-inch Comey said the 6-foot-3-inch Trump “appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage.”

Comey also wrote that when Trump reached out for a handshake, he couldn’t help but notice that the president’s hand “was smaller than mine” but added, it “did not seem unusually so.”

This is the type of comment liable to inspire a Trump tweet tantrum, as the president has long been sensitive to any suggestion his hands aren’t anything but “yuge.”

Steve Goldstein–DC Bureau Chief for Market Watch–argues that this puts both Mueller and Comey squarely on Trump’s turf.

If there’s any strategy in the world of President Donald Trump, it’s a simple one: Play on my field.

And the Trump playing field is a salacious one. The scandals and affairs are literally too numerous to be chronicled in a single article. Large and small, Trump University to Trump Steaks, bankruptcies and legal judgements, all manner of infidelity and aberrant behavior, real or imagined.

Former FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller were each charged with looking into an allegation of the most serious variety — colluding with a foreign hostile power to alter the presidential election.

This week the headlines emanating from Mueller’s investigation, and Comey’s book, involve a porn stara Playboy bunnya pee tapethe size of Trump’s hands and a doorman with a history of fibbing apparently alleging the existence of an illegitimate child.

That is playing on Trump’s field.

But wait. Isn’t it a violation of campaign law if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels just ahead of the election? If Cohen used a home-equity loan to fund the payment, did he lie to the bank? Doesn’t it speak to Trump’s truthfulness on a variety of a matters — including alleged collusion with Russia — whether his persistent denials of engaging with prostitutes in Moscow are truthful? Doesn’t it have relevance to the question of whether payoffs were legal if Trump bought off a doorman? And didn’t Mueller actually hand off the investigation on Daniels?

Yeah, sure, all of that.

Those are all on the level of the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton’s perjury — legal matters, yes, that aren’t really the stuff of high crimes and misdemeanors. They’re all gotchas reinforcing what we basically knew about Trump and his behavior before the election.

By contrast, the consequences of playing on Trump’s field are enormous.

For Comey, baiting Trump into a reaction, which sure as water is wet came on Friday morning, will result in better book sales. But it will come at the expense of holding any future higher office. His legacy as FBI director — already tarnished for the ridiculous, torturous inconsistencies in how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — is forever tarnished. Who in Washington could hire this guy? “Untruthful,” as Trump called him? No. “Slime ball?” Hmm.

Mueller, too, looks set to emerge damaged, if perhaps not as fatally. The question of whether Trump can, or should, fire him has returned. Mueller, also a former FBI director, does still have the support of both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finish his investigation, and a few key Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, have expressed willingness to support legislation to protect him. But the idea of his dismissal is definitely more plausible — and, for that matter, the outrage it would generate a good bit lessened.

It is clear is that Trump and his band of slimy hucksters in the West Wing have made for the low ground.   Comey has revealed some eye poppers on many of them.  However, he’s teary eyed about Obama.

Comey apologizes to Hillary Clinton, nodding to her own takedown of him in her book What Happened. “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that,” he writes. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”

Comey also says President Barack Obama reassured him after the election about his decision to send the letter about Clinton, according to the Post:

Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”

On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”

You surely know that I am no Comey fan after this particular interlude that undoubtedly helped brought us the Orange plague.  I just hope Trump doesn’t wag any dogs to relieve his marital problems. his popularity problems, and his multiple personality disorders.  He still may be plotting to fire Rosenstein or Mueller and who knows what else?

So, one more Trump’s latest weirdness: “President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, sources say.”

President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.

The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.

Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.

Unlike your average Presidential Pardon, Trump’s pardons focus on pardoning law breaking white government officials.  Is this a harbinger of more mercy for predatory slime balls?

So, now I need a shower.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?