Over 3,000 lies told.
Over 470 days as President.
At least 2 attempts to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Countless efforts to undermine the independence of the Justice Department.
Even after all of this, the lengths Donald Trump and his administration are willing to go to deceive the public and abuse their power still leave me stunned.
This week, it appears President Trump engineered the leak of questions that were drafted by his own lawyer Jay Sekulow based on info from Mueller, and then tried to use the leak as a method from which to undermine the Russia probe.
Donald Trump’s former doctor claimed that then-candidate Donald Trump personally fabricated a note claiming his health was “extraordinary” and as President, ordered a raid of his office for medical records.
President Trump threatened to force the Justice Department to hand over unredacted documents related to the scope of a criminal investigation that he is a subject of.
After President Trump lied about not being aware of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels), his new legal representation Rudy Giuliani admitted that Trump was not only aware of it, he reimbursed Cohen. Giuliani went on to say it was related to the campaign. They both tried to roll back their claims. Then, Giuliani contradicted himself and again claimed it was related to the campaign. Now, they try and spin their lies and confidently act as if their self-incriminating comments will yield no consequences in the Cohen criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, House Republicans and propagandists on Fox News continued their unrelenting defenses of President Trump and, in some cases, made arguments that appear to place the presidency above the law…the Special Counsel’s office and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York beg to differ.
Decency, truth, and the rule of law are all at stake.
None of this is normal. None of this is acceptable. All of this should be remembered at the ballot box this November.
It was an important week. Let’s dive in.
A quick note: We know the news gets hectic. The Trump-era has brought with it dizzying news cycles that get overwhelming. So, Rantt has started delivering Unpresidented-style breakdowns daily! You no longer have to wait until the end of the week to get context-rich analysis that puts all the latest news into perspective.
67th Weekend (April 28–29)
President Trump awoke on Saturday and vented his frustration with Senator Tester.
Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false. The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phony Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign. The…..
great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered. Not fair, Tester!
Trump, who spent years intimating that Barack Obama’s birthplace was actually Kenya and who threatens “tapes” against others, condemns people like Tester who “destroy people with innuendo.
Later in the day, he would pick up on this thread. Instead of attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, President Trump held a rally in Michigan and attacked what he deems “fake news.”
One of the most noteworthy moments was when he appeared to threaten Tester.
Trump ups the ante on Tester in Michigan this evening: “I know things about Tester that I could say too. And if I said them, he would never be elected again.
Also, Trump hit his usual talking points.
In Michigan, Trump claims the EU was created to take advantage of the US Then says he doesn’t blame Xi Jinping or Shinzo Abe for “taking advantage of our country,” he blames past US leaders-to an uproar of applause Trump has turned insults of his own country into applause lines
Trump in Michigan: “Nobody knows what a community college is.” #TrumpRally #MichiganRally https://t.co/nQwk85pRS8
TRUMP: Are there any Hispanics in the room? [crowd boos] TRUMP: Not so many? That’s okay… and in fairness, Kanye West gets it! https://t.co/CegLcNzDXy
Trump inaccurately claims pre-election rally in Michigan was 8 times bigger than building’s capacity https://t.co/1yZNYlUHcJ
This Michigan #TrumpRally is filled with fear-mongering, lies, and misrepresentations-like all his rallies are. Given the way @realDonaldTrump speaks to his supporters, it’s clear how little he thinks of them.
- The White House Correspondents dinner ruffled some conservative feathers, as well as some in the media.
Michelle Wolf destroys Sarah Huckabee Sanders at #WHCD https://t.co/pKGSSOCu8d
That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.
Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted ny Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clinton’s
Tonight’s #WHCD was a disgrace
Trump supporters are holding Michelle Wolf-a comedian-to a higher standard than they hold the President of the United States. #WHCD
My problem with last night’s dinner is not that we had a comedian who told some nasty jokes. It’s that we did not really address the nearly constant attacks on the press from the president. The dinner should change with the times so we send a strong message to the world.
This was a far more important line.
Michelle Wolf ended her speech by reminding everyone that Flint still doesn’t have clean water.
The prioritization of a border wall over giving clean drinking water back to Flint MI, in my opinion, is way more egregious than any insult a comedian could have hurled at Sarah Huckabee Sanders
- There was a Saturday night questioning.
Big: WaPo is reporting that the Russian MMA fighter with connections to Trump and Cohen was questioned by FBI agents on Saturday: https://t.co/F1vP0a3hhA
- And a development from North Korea…
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he will close his main nuclear test site in May and invite experts and journalists from the US and South Korea into the country soon, a senior spokesman for Moon said https://t.co/wFFKGReJ5e
- Dr. Ronny Jackson was out.
- On Sunday, the defenses of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and apologizing continued on all sides…including the White House Correspondents Association.
Apology is owed to @PressSec and others grossly insulted ny Michelle Wolf at White House Correspondents Assoc dinner which started with uplifting heartfelt speech by @margarettalev – comedian was worst since Imus insulted Clinton’s
Where were the demands that President Trump apologize to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, and James Comey for repeatedly calling for them to be jailed? Are jokes from a comedian more offensive than authoritarian rhetoric from a President? #WHCD https://t.co/j5T2gcyiDl
Things Republicans hold to a higher standard than President Trump: Comedians Rappers Athletes Teenage survivors of school shootings Past Democratic Presidents Current Democratic Lawmakers Tan suits Journalists Everyone whose name isn’t Donald Trump https://t.co/cZIbaHs6kE
WHCA Statement to Members on Annual Dinner
The media is supposed to represent the interests of the American people, not their White House sources. Speak truth to power, don’t appease it. Especially when that power degrades democratic norms, calls you the “enemy of the American people,” and talks about jailing you.
And while this was transpiring, Buzzfeed News reported:
The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual
The media contacts policy was updated in the manual in November. A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed entirely. That section, which was included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988, according to DOJ archives, read as follows:
“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”
New sections were added to the media contacts policy. One states that it is illegal to share classified information with someone who isn’t authorized to receive it. Another directs DOJ employees to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” And another outlines protections for government whistleblowers, detailing the protections in place for prosecutors if they report concerns internally.
Day 466: Monday, April 30
Robert Mueller’s Sights Are Set
On Monday, The New York Times published nearly 50 questions that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to ask President Trump. It was reported that these questions were relayed to President Trump’s lawyers, but we later found out that’s not exactly the case. The questions cover 4 main points of inquiry: questions related to former National Security Adviser, now-felon, Michael Flynn, former FBI Director James Comey (obstruction of justice), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (interference in the independence of the Justice Department, including attempts to fire Mueller), and the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia.
Michael Flynn: Mueller is seeking to explicitly ask Trump whether or not he was aware of Flynn’s December 2016 phone calls with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The very same calls where sanctions were discussed (Flynn later lied to the FBI about it, leading to his guilty plea.) Mueller also seeks to essentially ask if he dangled a pardon in front of Flynn:
After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
Jeff Sessions And DOJ Independence: Mueller has a particular interest in Trump’s frustration with Sessions’ recusal and efforts to interfere in the DOJ. Mueller wants to ask if Trump has discussed whether or not Sessions would protect him. And most damning of all, Mueller is interested in Trump’s efforts to fire him:
What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?
The largest area of interest is pertaining to Comey and potential obstruction of justice with 18 questions total, followed by about 13 questions related to potential collusion with Russia.
James Comey And Obstruction Of Justice: As has been widely reported, Mueller has quite the case for obstruction of justice. These questions further bolster that reporting. Mueller is probing how Trump felt about Comey and the rationale behind his firing. Aside from asking about Trump’s infamous admission he fired Comey because of the Russia probe to NBC’s Lester Holt, Mueller is seeking info about the Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kislyak the day after Trump fired Comey:
What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
Remember, that was the day Trump reportedly said “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Collusion: Mueller is probing Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s subsequent efforts to conceal the nature of the meeting, the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, Trump Tower Moscow, knowledge of DNC hacking and Wikileaks, the Ukraine-Peace deal Felix Sater and Michael Cohen worked on, etc.
It is quite the list.
One question, in particular, stood out regarding former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort:
What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
Will Robert Mueller get the opportunity to ask President Trump these questions? At the moment it seems unlikely.
The more important question is, will it matter? Politico reported:
Prosecutors have already questioned at least two dozen current and former Trump White House aides, plus several more who worked on the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller also has access to myriad pieces of evidence surrounding the president thanks to wiretaps, congressional testimony and documents submitted both voluntarily and through subpoena.
Also helpful to Mueller as he investigates: Trump’s own comments about the Russia probe gleaned from media reports, the president’s public interviews and his tweets.
- NBC News reported:
White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.
Kelly called the allegations “total BS.
- Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee prepared their latest attempt to interfere in the Russia probe.
Conservative House allies of President Trump have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the ongoing special counsel probe, setting up a possible GOP showdown over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The document, which was obtained by The Washington Post, underscores the growing chasm between congressional Republican leaders, who have maintained for months that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should be allowed to proceed, and rank-and-file GOP lawmakers who have repeatedly battled the Justice Department during the past year.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a thinly veiled, last-ditch effort to pitch the White House to leave the Iran Deal. The White House responded.
This statement is a lie. Even Netanyahu’s own presentation repeatedly concedes the evidence that Iranian work on its nuclear weapons program ended years ago. I can’t be clearer: the Trump administration is lying. https://t.co/ppd6wOYEy9
The White House tells me it has corrected its statement: #Iran had, not has, a “robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.
- As ABC News reported that “The Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 to cover some of the legal expenses for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen,” Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer Michael Avenatii predicted Cohen will flip. Daniels also filed a defamation lawsuit over a Trump tweet.
- President Trump and Vice President Pence are expected to speak at the NRA’s annual meeting in Dallas this week. It’s also pretty ironic the event is a gun free zone but the NRA advocates for gun free zones to be eliminated at schools.
Day 467: Tuesday, May 1
Robert Mueller’s Warning
Another day. Another string of Trump tweets detached from reality. Another report on Mueller’s moves.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post (The Post) dropped a report that signaled Special Counsel Robert Mueller is done playing games:
In a tense meeting in early March with the special counsel, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
But special counsel Robert S. Mueller III responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.
The report went on to clarify who wrote the 49 questions that The New York Times (The Times) reported Special Counsel Robert Mueller is seeking to ask President Trump. The Times reported, “…Mr. Mueller planned to ask, according to questions read by the special counsel investigators to the president’s lawyers, who compiled them into a list. That document was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team.”
According to Tuesday’s report from The Post, it appears that wasn’t the case. The Post reported:
After investigators laid out 16 specific subjects they wanted to review with the president and added a few topics within each one, Sekulow broke the queries down into 49 separate questions…
The Post reported that the questions were not not explicitly read to Sekulow as The Times reported, but the general topics were provided, and Sekulow authored the questions himself.
The Post report goes on:
The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said.
“He wants to hammer that,” according to a person who spoke to Trump on Monday.
“Mueller is in Kenny Starr territory now.”
President Trump already attempted to spin this development in his favor, not so successfully.
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!
@realDonaldTrump President Trump: “No questions on Collusion” *checks notes* Robert Mueller has at least 13 (known) questions on collusion.
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!
This isn’t even true. There can be no underlying crime but still obstruction. https://t.co/hiJFHoYsm3
So, what does this all mean.
- When asked about the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee who drafted articles of impeachment for him, Deputy Attorney General had quite the remark:
Deputy A.G. Rosenstein: “I can tell you that there are people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.” (via CPSAN) https://t.co/bhXVJ4OCd6
- President Trump’s former doctor, Dr. Harold Bornstein, made a stunning claim:
In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.
The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.
In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.
And this may have violated the law:
NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said that patients generally own their medical information, but the original record is the property of the provider. “New York state law requires that a doctor maintain records for at least six years, so a doctor who hands over his original records runs the risk of violating New York state law,” said Cevallos.
@KaciSokoloff just spoke w Dr. Harold Bornstein, who refused an interview but said that NBC’s piece was “a pretty good story.” Bornstein also said that he spoke to the NBC reporter “in the bathroom” of his office. He signed off with: “Sweetheart, this is watergate, goodbye!
@KaciSokoloff just spoke w Dr. Harold Bornstein, who refused an interview but said that NBC’s piece was “a pretty good story.” Bornstein also said that he spoke to the NBC reporter “in the bathroom” of his office. He signed off with: “Sweetheart, this is watergate, goodbye!
Of course, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to spin it:
WATCH: Sarah Huckabee-Sanders denies that Trump’s personal doctor’s offices were “raided.” “As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House medical unit took possession of the president’s medical records.” https://t.co/Ikp57ItNF3
I can confirm this is indeed normal.
Very true. Every time I switch doctors, I send my personal bodyguard and a second large man to forcibly take all my medical records because I have nothing to hide and I’m healthy af. Standard procedure. https://t.co/8cyLopozg2
Bornstein didn’t stop there. Remember the letter of health that Bornstein “wrote” about President Trump?
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Bornstein said the following of Trump:
“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein told CNN on Tuesday. “I just made it up as I went along.”
- Politico reported on something worth watching:
Read about the Baby Breitbarts, “a growing trend of opaque, locally focused, ideological outlets, dressed up as traditional newspapers… with names and layouts designed to echo those of nonpartisan publications.” https://t.co/UM6p6H3j94 The key word is opaque.
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants a 2-month delay on former National Security Adviser, current-felon, Michael Flynn’s sentencing:
“Due to the status of the special counsel’s investigation, the parties do not believe that this matter is ready to be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at this time,” Robert Mueller’s prosecutors and Flynn’s lawyers told the DC federal court on Tuesday.
This seems to indicate that Michael Flynn is not done talking.
Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 election — when Moscow hacked both Democrats and Republicans — has spurred fears of a recurrence in 2018. But although congressional Democrats are pledging not to use stolen or hacked materials in their campaigns this fall, their Republican counterparts have so far declined to match that commitment. That partisan split could leave the November elections open to malicious interference.
Vice President Mike Pence’s physician privately raised alarms within the White House last fall that President Donald Trump’s doctor may have violated federal privacy protections for a key patient — Pence’s wife, Karen — and intimidated the vice president’s doctor during angry confrontations over the episode.
The previously unreported incident is the first sign that serious concerns about Ronny Jackson’s conduct had reached the highest levels of the White House as far back as September — months before White House aides furiously defended Jackson’s professionalism, insisted he had been thoroughly vetted and argued allegations of misconduct amounted to unsubstantiated rumors.
- Kanye West disappointed the black community once again, but this time was told a thing or two.
I want nothing more than to see see a reporter at a press conference do to Donald Trump what Van Lathan just did to Kanye West. https://t.co/tIlq3Rff7c
Even in the midst of disappointment and dehumanization, Black people are told to cope, to get over it. And we often use humor to deal with trauma. A Black man with a huge platform saying the violation of our ancestors was a choice, while he stands on their shoulders…painful.
Day 468: Wednesday, May 2
Going On The Offensive
As we know, President Trump has been more than eager to interfere in the Russia investigation again. From his efforts to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller to his confrontational rhetoric against his own DOJ, the tensions have been rising. And today, Trump’s tweets and a string of reports signaled that Trump’s legal strategy may soon match the confrontational nature of his rhetoric.
President Trump started the day off with one of his usual “witch hunt” tweets.
There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap). What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea over Nuclear War, Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits, Negotiations on NAFTA, and much more. Witch Hunt!
He sent a few others, but the most notable one was this one.
A Rigged System – They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!
@realDonaldTrump Donald Trump appears to think he’s an autocrat. Here is the President of the United States threatening to force the Justice Department to hand over unredacted documents related to the scope of a criminal investigation that he is a subject of.https://t.co/n1YxjzCJ4O
Trump was referencing the House Republican’s efforts to obtain an unredacted copy of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo that expanded the scope of Mueller’s probe, and the DOJ’s subsequent denial of the request.
A denial that makes sense, given this report:
A former federal law enforcement official familiar with the department’s views said that Mr. Rosenstein and top F.B.I. officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about that investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.
President Trump plans to hire Emmet T. Flood, the veteran Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, to replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who has taken the lead in dealing with the special counsel investigation, who is retiring, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach to the investigation than Mr. Cobb, who had pushed Mr. Trump to strike a cooperative tone. Mr. Flood initially spoke with the White House last summer about working for the president, but the talks ultimately fell apart because Mr. Flood did not want to deal with Mr. Trump’s longtime New York lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who was overseeing the president’s dealings with the special counsel at the time.
Ty Cobb was the main facilitator of cooperation between Robert Mueller’s team and the White House (turning over records, etc.). It appears with Cobb gone and Flood in, President Trump will get the more aggressive strategy he’s hungered for. The Daily Beast bolsters this point, reporting:
A longtime Washington lawyer who’s known Flood for quite some time and who spoke anonymously because of client sensitivities said there’s no chance Flood will let the president sit for an interview with Mueller.
“Mueller finally has somebody who’s his match,” that person said. “You’ve got a fair fight now.”
The person also said White House Counsel Don McGahn played a significant role in bringing Flood onto the president’s legal team — pushing for him to be offered Ty Cobb’s job and working to convince him to take the position. McGahn and Cobb reportedly had frequent clashes about how to handle the president’s legal woes, and Cobb was overheard complaining about McGahn at the BLT Steak restaurant a few blocks from the White House. With Flood, the president’s lawyers are likely to be more unified in an aggressive posture toward Mueller.
As was reported yesterday, Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena if Trump declined an interview. We’ll see how this plays out. One thing is for certain: this is not going to go smoothly.
And also, might not go as well as they planned either…
Rudy Giuliani, who just joined Trump’s legal team, told Hannity: -Trump funneled the $130k Stormy Daniels hush money payment back to Cohen, undercutting Trump’s denials -Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn’t tell Trump he wasn’t a target of the FBI’s investigation Genius
More on that later.
- Cambridge Analytica, the data/dirty tricks firm that misused Facebook data and consulted with the Trump campaign, and its parent company are shutting down.
- The New York Times reported on a development that raises the question of whether or not the Trump administration possibly made a threat to Ukraine. If so, the President of the United States would be conducting foreign policy with the intention of obstructing a criminal investigation into himself:
Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation
In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.
The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.
The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.
- CNN reported:
After being interviewed by special counsel investigators on Wednesday, former aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign Michael Caputo told CNN that Robert Mueller’s team is “focused on Russia collusion.”
“It’s clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion,” Caputo said, adding, “They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.”
“The Senate and the House are net fishing,” Caputo said. “The special counsel is spearfishing. They know what they are aiming at and are deadly accurate.”
- Iowa passed America’s most restrictive abortion ban.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who accused President Trump of sexual assault, is seeking records to prove that he defamed her by calling her a liar.
A lawyer for Ms. Zervos, who is suing Mr. Trump for defamation in New York, said on Wednesday that subpoenas had been issued both to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns archives of the reality show, and to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Ms. Zervos says he groped her in 2007.
Day 469: Thursday, May 3
Rudy Giuliani deployed Trump’s new legal strategy which appears to be “self-incriminate and contradict your past statements.”
On Tuesday night, Giuliani went on Fox News’ Hannity and made damning admissions:
A reminder: these statements didn’t come from a mere Trump surrogate — they’re coming from a member of Trump’s legal team. They further validate what we already know about the President. He is a liar. Although much of the media attention was paid to the statement regarding Stormy Daniels, the admission about the reasoning behind the firing of former FBI Director James Comey further bolsters Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice case.
Rudy Giuliani’s Hannity interview adds to Mueller’s obstruction case. 5/9/17-Comey fired 5/10/17-Trump says Russia pressure is off 5/11/17-Trump says he fired Comey because of Russia probe 5/2/18-Giuliani says Trump fired Comey because of Russia probe https://t.co/0BNcrygfeC
During the interview with Hannity, Giuliani claimed that the Stormy Daniels reimbursement wasn’t related to the campaign. President Trump continued that line of argument the following morning.
Kellyanne Conway’s husband appeared to subtweet the President and Giuliani’s claims.
Looks like Rudy didn’t get the memo. Giuliani went on Fox & Friends later Thursday morning and directly tied it to the campaign, bolstering the election law violation case against Michael Cohen.
Aaaand he did it again. Explaining why Cohen paid the hush money to Stormy Daniels, #RudyGiuliani says: “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.” So… yea, he just tied the payment directly to the campaign. https://t.co/yiu3Zg7ZYO
He may have had a strategy, but Rudolph W. Giuliani hatched it almost entirely in secret.
The White House counsel had no idea. Neither did the White House chief of staff, nor the White House press secretary, nor the new White House lawyer overseeing its handling of the Russia investigation.
They watched, agog, as Giuliani, the president’s recently installed personal attorney, freestyled on live television Wednesday night about the president’s legal troubles and unveiled an explosive new fact: that Trump reimbursed his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.
Giuliani’s attempt to defuse a ticking time bomb exposed Trump’s failure to divulge the full story about the Daniels hush money by contradictory public statements from him and White House spokesmen. One month ago, Trump told reporters that he did not know about the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, or where Cohen got the money to make it.
In the remainder of Rudy Giuliani’s interview with Hannity, he attacked the Mueller probe and fantasized about prosecuting Clinton and Comey.
Propaganda. The last half of the Hannity interview is filled with so many lies it’s ridiculous. Rudy Giuliani talks so loosely about how the DOJ should drop the investigations into Trump and prosecute Comey and Clinton. You are gaslighting Americans @FoxNews. It’s truly sick.
We’ll see how this pays off for them, but at the moment, it doesn’t seem like a winning strategy.
As The Washington Post reports, legal analysts are seeing what we’re seeing: This created further incriminating evidence.
Rudolph W. Giuliani’s media blitz to convince the public that neither Donald Trump nor his lawyer had violated the law by paying a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair might have backfired, giving investigators new leads to chase and new evidence of potential crimes, legal analysts said.
Giuliani made statements that speak to Trump and lawyer Michael Cohen’s intent — an important aspect of some crimes — and he made assertions that investigators can now check against what they have already learned from documents and witnesses, legal analysts said. His comments to media outlets underscore a growing tension for the White House: The FBI investigation of Cohen presents a legal problem for the president that his own lawyer might have exacerbated.
“I’m sure his strategy was damage control,” said Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at the University of Michigan, “but I’m not sure he controlled much.”
- After first incorrectly reporting that federal investigators wiretapped Michael Cohen’s phone lines, NBC News reported that his communications have been monitored in recent weeks but not wiretapped.
- Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort appears to be under even more scrutiny. The Washington Examiner reported:
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday filed a request for 70 blank subpoenas in the Eastern District of Virginia, where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lives.
The two-page filing reveals little, but says that that each subpoena recipient must appear in the Alexandria, Va., courthouse on July 10 to testify in the case.
The 70 blank subpoenas amount to 35 total possible subpoenas — in each case, a subpoena is needed for the witness and another is needed for the defense. Court documents filed in April show that Mueller’s team was pushing to subpoena 35 witnesses in the trial.
- CNBC reported:
Special counsel Robert Mueller is focusing intensely on alleged interactions between former top Trump campaign official Rick Gates and political operative Roger Stone, one of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Stone, a longtime advisor to Trump, is apparently one of the top subjects of the Mueller investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, sources told CNBC on condition of anonymity.
The questions have been largely about what was discussed at meetings, including dinners, between Stone and Gates, before and during the campaign, said the sources, who have knowledge of the substance of the recent interviews.
- After just yesterday announcing they are shutting down, the players involved in Cambridge Analytica look set to pursue their new venture:
The power players behind Cambridge Analytica set up a mysterious new data firm last year — and there is speculation that it could be used a rebrand vehicle after Cambridge Analytica was shut down.
Business Insider reported earlier this year that Emerdata was incorporated in August 2017 by executives at Cambridge Analytica, which was abruptly shuttered on Wednesday.
Citing two sources familiar with the plans, The New York Times reported that Emerdata could be used to rebrand both Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan reinstated the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy as the chaplain of the House of Representatives on Thursday, after the chaplain sent him a letter rescinding his forced resignation and daring the speaker to fire him.
“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as chaplain of the House,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. He added, “It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”
Day 470: Friday, May 4
Michael Cohen’s Fixer Fund
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal (The WSJ) published a report that indicates we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to President Trump’s personal lawyer (and fixer) Michael Cohen:
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, gained access to as much as $774,000 through two financial transactions during the 2016 presidential campaign as he sought to fix problems for his boss, public records show.
Those transactions could factor into a broad investigation of Mr. Cohen’s business affairs being conducted by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are examining whether Mr. Cohen violated any laws in his efforts to raise cash and conceal negative information about Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. Those include transactions tied to his credit line and his ownership of real estate and taxi medallions, the people said.
Cohen reportedly obtained the $774,000 through a home-equity line of credit. As we know, Cohen paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in October, 2016 to keep her quiet about her 2006 affair with Donald Trump. As part of the criminal investigation being conducted by federal investigators in the Southern District of New York, Cohen is being probed for potential bank fraud and potentially violating election law by trying to suppress damning information about then-candidate Donald Trump. The WSJ reports:
As part of a broad effort to determine how Mr. Cohen got access to cash and what he did with it, federal prosecutors and the FBI are examining whether Mr. Cohen committed bank fraud by making false statements inflating the value of his assets to obtain loans or by misstating the intended purpose of the loans, these people said.
Investigators also are examining whether he violated federal election law by making unreported campaign contributions exceeding the federal limit of $5,400 to Mr. Trump in that election cycle, as well as possible other crimes stemming from his payments to cover up problems, the people said.
Prosecutors will want to document “every penny” flowing through Mr. Cohen’s accounts during the presidential campaign, said Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor in Washington who is now a defense lawyer and has no firsthand knowledge of the Cohen investigation.
As we saw this week, one of President Trump’s newest legal representatives, Rudy Giuliani told Hannity that this payment was reimbursed and that President Trump knew about it. The following morning, Giuliani claimed that the payment was related to the campaign. Giuliani tried to roll that back in interviews and a statement today. He denied campaign violations and claimed that the President did not know about the payment at the time. President Trump claimed that Giuliani just started this job and would get his facts straight.
Let’s be clear here: President Trump never had his facts straight. The President lied about not being aware of this payment. Then Giuliani admitted he was aware. Now, they’re trying to spin their lies.
Deception is a fragile foundation for a house of cards.
One claim of this is that has remained consistent with Giuliani and Trump is that Cohen was reimbursed through his $35k monthly retainer. Giuliani went as far as to say Cohen was reimbursed up to $470,000 (later revising it down to $420,000).
This is important because Giuliani did mention that the retainer was used to reimburse Cohen for other matters, as The WSJ notes:
Mr. Giuliani this week said the president had reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the Clifford payment through a $35,000-a-month retainer, and indicated Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen for other matters as well.
What this looks like: Cohen may have obtained this money to essentially serve as a fixer account to draw from and pay off various issues for Donald Trump. So what was the rest of the money used for? Did Cohen reimburse the National Enquirer for paying former Playboy Model Karen McDougal $150,000 to suppress a story about her affair with Trump? Was more hush money paid out? What other things did Michael Cohen “fix?”
A federal judge expressed deep skepticism Friday in the bank fraud case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, at one point saying he believes that Mueller’s motivation is to oust President Donald Trump from office.
Although Mueller’s authority has been tested in court before, Friday’s hearing was notable for District Judge T.S. Ellis’ decision to wade into the divisive political debate around the investigation.
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Ellis said to prosecutor Michael Dreeben, at times losing his temper. Ellis said prosecutors were interested in Manafort because of his potential to provide material that would lead to Trump’s “prosecution or impeachment,” Ellis said.
But some claimed this is not what it seems.
Also, Mueller’s mandate was expanded in scope lawfully by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Speaking of Rosenstein…
- Rosenstein delivered remarks at the Bar Association of Montgomery County’s Law Day Celebration and made a strong argument for why he isn’t complying with the House Republican’s efforts to obtain an unredacted copy of Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo that expanded the scope of Mueller’s probe.
- As House Republicans make their “demands” for more documents, CNN reported that Nunes didn’t even bother to read the documents he yelled for last time around.
President Trump has ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for drawing down American troops in South Korea, just weeks before he holds a landmark meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, according to several people briefed on the deliberations.
Reduced troop levels are not intended to be a bargaining chip in Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim about his weapons program, these officials said. But they acknowledged that a peace treaty between the two Koreas could diminish the need for the 28,500 soldiers currently stationed on the peninsula.
This came as President Trump told reporters, without giving specifics, a date and location are set for the upcoming summit with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un. (I highly suggest you read this excellent piece from The New Yorker’s Robin Wright on Un’s trip to South Korea, his motivations, and what’s behind his latest pivot.)
- The Trump administration is ending temporary protected status for 57,000 immigrants from Honduras who have been here since 1999.
- The Guardian reported:
The government of Qatar bought a $6.5m apartment in one of Donald Trump’s New York towers soon after the dismissal of a lawsuit that tried to stop the president benefiting from such deals.
Qatar’s mission to the United Nations signed a deal for the condominium at Trump World Tower on 17 January, according to city records. The purchase means that the Middle Eastern state now owns four units in the building, for which it paid $16.5m.
- CBS News reported:
Less than two months ago the State Department hosted members of the White Helmets at Foggy Bottom. At the time, the humanitarian group was showered with praise for saving lives in Syria.
“Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020. There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support,” Raed Saleh, the group’s leader, told CBS News.
Now they are not getting any U.S funding as the State Department says the support is “under active review.” The U.S had accounted for about a third of the group’s overall funding.
- President Trump spoke at the NRA’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.
- The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, the lowest rate it’s been at since 2000. But, as with all things, it’s not that simple.
- The news of EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s swampy behavior continued to mount. CNN reported:
A CNN analysis has found that embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt paid himself nearly $65,000 in reimbursements from his two campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general, a move at least one election watchdog has sharply criticized as being recorded so vaguely that there was no way to tell if such payments were lawful.
One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of IIsrael who arranged parts of Pruitt’s visit.
The Israel trip was canceled days before Pruitt’s planned departure, after The Washington Post revealed his penchant for first-class travel on the taxpayers’ dime. But federal documents obtained by The Post and interviews with individuals familiar with the trip reveal that it fit a pattern by Pruitt of planning foreign travel with significant help from outside interests, including lobbyists, Republican donors and conservative activists.
After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel, according to four people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations. Pruitt then enlisted well-connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen.
Over the weekend…
The New York Times published a must read report about Michael Cohen’s background, including his business dealings with Russians and Ukrainians, taxi medallions, and some behavior that sounds like textbook money laundering:
Like many of Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, the transactions were unconventional. His companies would buy a building, often in cash. Soon after, they would flip the building in another all-cash deal for four or five times the previous purchase price. The buyer was generally another limited liability company.
In October 2011, for example, a limited liability company listing as its address Mr. Cohen’s apartment at Trump Park Avenue purchased a building on Rivington Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for $2.1 million. In 2014, Mr. Cohen sold the building for $10 million in cash — nearly five times what he paid three years earlier.
That same day, Mr. Cohen sold three other Manhattan buildings, also entirely for cash. In total, the four buildings sold for $32 million — nearly triple what Mr. Cohen had paid for them in the span of no more than three years.
- Gina Haspel’s CIA Director nomination appears to be up in the air.
NEWS: Gina Haspel sought to withdraw as CIA nominee Friday after a White House meeting on her nomination & torture. It led to an extraordinary scene: Top Trump aides rushed to CIA HQ later Friday to convince her to stay. w/@CarolLeonnig & @shaneharris: https://t.co/0zR5KD3LnD
- The Washington Post published a deep dive into some President Trump’s business dealings.
In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties…how did Trump-who had money tied up in golf courses and buildings-raise enough liquid assets to go on this cash buying spree?” https://t.co/q5oiRiS7bW
Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observercan reveal.
People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.
The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.
Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”
- Rudy Giuliani said some startling things about Iran.
Giuliani: Trump is ‘committed to’ regime change in Iran https://t.co/lgfOdtMKR8
This is incredibly dangerous. This would be terrifying if it were Pompeo saying it, but why is Trump’s lawyer saying it? Why is Trump discussing this with him? What else is he telling him? https://t.co/F5VLfTTYnX
This all but assures that any “deal” Trump manages to secure with North Korea won’t be a nuclear deal. Couple this statement with Bolton’s comments that Libya is the model and you have all the ingredients for disaster. https://t.co/yPPx4sw19h
Giuliani went on Fox News’ Judge Jeanine and made claims that once again tied the Stormy Daniels payment to the campaign…
6. “Even if it was a campaign donation, the President reimbursed it fully with the $35,000 a month.” Yes, that deals with one possible crime. But doesn’t explain not listing it on his FEC disclosures..
- After a week filled with Kanye West disappointing the black community, Donald Glover did the opposite with a hilarious appearance on SNL and an impactful new song.
Real artists communicate complex messages with simplicity Donald Glover did that While some obtain economic freedom; systemic racism, police brutality, & gun violence plague black communities & America distracts us-selling materialism > self-realization https://t.co/Hm5d3ChL7v