1 year into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and we’ve seen 75 charges filed against 22 people or companies, 5 guilty pleas, 1 person sentenced, and countless attempts by President Trump to obstruct it.
69 weeks into the Trump presidency and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with this administration’s tangled web of corruption, lies, scandals, investigations, and erosion of democratic norms. From the Russia investigation to the probe into Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen, there are so many lines of inquiries some details can fall through the cracks.
This is why Rantt Media documents it all.
Each week brings a torrent of new developments, but the patterns remain the same:
New reports on the state of the investigations that seem to increase Trump and his associates’ likelihood of legal exposure.
New reports on the Trump campaign’s eagerness to accept assistance from foreign nationals offering to help push Donald Trump into the Oval Office.
New schemes in President Trump and House Republicans’ coordinated effort to undermine the investigations plaguing the White House.
New foreign policy blunders due to President Trump’s bluster and new moves that appear to be motivated by the interests of the Trump Organization, not the interests of the United States.
New immigration policy proposals and rhetoric that seek to dehumanize immigrants.
New heightened authoritarian rhetoric and attacks on the media.
New acts of gun violence that rob young people of their future.
Different news. Same patterns.
69th Weekend (May 12-13)
In typical Trump administration fashion, the White House is more concerned about the leak exposing their indecency than the indecency itself.
NEW: At yesterday’s meeting of the White House comms team, a visibly upset and furious Sarah Sanders told the group: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.” Here’s what happened next, per 5 sources in the room: https://t.co/RWVqgtXqpL
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) May 12, 2018
At one point, per a source in the room, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp interjected with a word of support for Sadler:
“You can put this on the record… I stand with Kelly Sadler.”https://t.co/cM6WZbhyJl
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) May 12, 2018
* White House won’t apologize for @kellysadler45 “joking” about @SenJohnMcCain dying of brain cancer;
* Is seemingly more offended by the leak of the comment than by the comment itself;
* Is officially and affirmatively standing with @kellysadler45 https://t.co/XbdzXjwWOS
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 12, 2018
On Sunday, Trump sent out a tweet that took many by surprise.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 13, 2018
The message of Trump’s ZTE tweet at the same time he is re-imposing Iran sanctions is that US companies who violate sanctions with Iran will be punished. Chinese companies who do will be let off the hook. America first!
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 13, 2018
This wasn’t the end of that story…
Day 480: Monday, May 14
On Monday, Palestinian protestors were violently killed and injured on the Gaza strip…all while the Trump administration celebrated the opening of the U.S embassy in Jerusalem merely miles away. The New York Times reported:
More than 2,700 Palestinian demonstrators were injured on Monday — at least 1,350 by gunfire — along the border fence with Gaza, the Health Ministry reported. The mass protests began on March 30 and had already left dozens dead.
The latest protests took place as the United States Embassy was formally relocated to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, on the 70th anniversary of the formation of Israel. The formality and celebration created an almost surreal contrast to the violence raging barely 40 miles away.
The images were striking.
BREAKING: Death toll rises to at least 37 as Israeli forces open fire on rock-slinging Palestinians during border clashes ahead of US Embassy opening in Jerusalem, Gaza Health Ministry says. pic.twitter.com/XTEXub7jPQ
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 14, 2018
VIDEO: Israel has developed drones that deploy tear gas. In mid-March Israeli military officials said they had experimented with them in Gaza. They now seem operational. pic.twitter.com/9RxUUB7XAS
— Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) May 14, 2018
(credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Anadolu Agency) pic.twitter.com/3cCX1ntg1s
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 14, 2018
I just want to know where I can buy Ivanka’s delightful ensemble? And the optics of this are amazing if amazing is really very bad and kleptocratic. pic.twitter.com/CQP3L8PaNu
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) May 14, 2018
- Politico reported:
National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday carefully doubled down on President Donald Trump’s threat that European countries could be sanctioned by the United States if they continue to be involved with Iran.
“It’s possible,” Bolton said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Bolton’s statement came as he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to amplify the reasons behind the Trump administration’s deal to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and explain how it will work, given that the international community, other than Israel and some Arab nations, has not jumped on board with the president. Both Bolton and Pompeo suggested they believed the major European powers might eventually see the light.
- Politico reported:
Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.
The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.
- CNN reported:
A former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month.
Bryan Lanza, who is in regular contact with White House officials, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm presently controlled by Oleg Deripaska, according to several sources. Deripaska is a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. Lanza was a CNN political contributor but is no longer with the network.
Day 481: Tuesday, May 15
Trump First, America Last
On Sunday, Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed MAGA/America First President, sent out a tweet that took many by surprise. Trump signaled that he was going to help Chinese tech company ZTE “get back in business.” Yes, that’s the same company who was banned from doing business in the US for violating sanctions and the NSA, FBI, and CIA believes tried to use their technology to spy on American consumers.
It was a mystery to many, but recent revelations reveal more about what may be one of the factors driving his decision…
A mere 72 hours after the Chinese government agreed to put a half-billion dollars into an Indonesian project that will personally enrich Donald Trump, the president ordered a bailout for a Chinese-government-owned cellphone maker.
“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump announced on Twitter Sunday morning. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”
Trump did not mention in that tweet or its follow-ups that on Thursday, the developer of a theme park resort outside of Jakarta had signed a deal to receive as much as $500 million in Chinese government loans, as well as another $500 million from Chinese banks, according to Agence France-Presse. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, has a deal to license the Trump name to the resort, which includes a golf course and hotels.
As Heather Long of The Washington Post notes, this was an odd move, even if you try and rationalize it in the context of trade negotiations and upcoming North Korea talks, all it does is give China unnecessary leverage. This raises the question of whether or not these loans influenced President Trump’s decision-making. If that’s the case, this fits a pattern.
The Trump presidency is plagued with unethical behavior of this nature, sparking numerous lawsuits and condemnation from ethics watchdogs.
What makes these moves so concerning is the foreign emoluments clause of the constitution, which prohibits gifts from foreign nations. The Founding Fathers foresaw a scenario where a President’s business interests might influence the manner in which they conduct foreign policy. Which is why past Presidents have placed their businesses in blind trusts so that they would not be swayed by their business entanglements. Even Jimmy Carter placed his peanut farm in a blind trust. Trump did not.
Despite calls for President Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, to place his business interests in a blind trust, Trump decided to place his interest in a trust that is run by his sons. Worse yet, the trust allows for President Trump to tap into profits whenever he sees fit and he’s still reportedly received regular updates on the performance of the Trump Organization. Long story short: Donald Trump has been able to profit from his actions as President of the United States.
This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump https://t.co/JuSmCYChyh
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 14, 2018
Rep. Adam Schiff on President Trump’s attempt at a deal with Chinese company ZTE: “I certainly view this as a violation of the Emoluments Clause, yes” https://t.co/AvakVRNzYd pic.twitter.com/eMAfNLjzFv
— New Day (@NewDay) May 15, 2018
If only we had a functioning Congress with Republican lawmakers willing to hold hearings on this unprecedented corruption.
In the meantime, keep an eye on this:
Today, the President filed his annual financial disclosure report with OGE and it is currently under review.
— U.S. OGE (@OfficeGovEthics) May 15, 2018
- After Michael Avenatti teased news about Michael Cohen, CNN reported that Qatari investor attended meetings at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016, including one with Michael Cohen. Then,The Daily Mail reported this:
Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, is facing claims he asked a Middle Eastern official for millions of dollars to give to ‘Trump family members’ in a meeting at Trump Tower weeks after the president’s election victory, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Cohen is alleged to have asked Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a former diplomat in charge of a $100bn Qatari investment fund, to send ‘millions’ through him to Trump family members. A source told DailyMail.com that the Qatari said he refused.
- North Korea threatened to call off Kim Jong Un’s summit with President Trump over joint military drills with the US and South Korea. And then, came this:
MORE: North Korea says will need to reconsider summit with U.S. if Washington insists on North giving up nuclear program. For the latest on #NorthKorea, follow our live blog https://t.co/kLGdETPJo2 pic.twitter.com/ANd3flyZrQ
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 16, 2018
They went on to say they reject a “Libya-style denuclearization.” That was in response to National Security Adviser John Bolton’s rhetoric, which said the administration was going for the “Libya model” with North Korea. Libya’s dictator ended up murdered by his own people.
- The Trump administration is preparing to implement an inhumane immigration policy. The Washington Post reported:
The Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.
According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children.
The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody.
- After CIA nominee Gina Haspel sent a letter to Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) stating that she believes “the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” Warner backed her nomination. Alabama Senator Doug Jones (D) on the other hand, is a no.
- The cybersecurity role that John Bolton was trying to eliminate last week was eliminated. Politico reported:
The Trump administration has eliminated the White House’s top cyber policy role, jettisoning a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government’s overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare.
- The White House tried to blame the deaths of over 50 Palestinians on propaganda. HuffPost reported:
Britain, France and Germany have all called for Israel to exercise restraint after Monday’s bloodshed near the Gaza border. But the Trump administration has declined to hold Israel accountable for the violence, saying that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas was to blame.
“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters at a press briefing on Monday, referring to the 58 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces.
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” Shah added, suggesting the clashes were “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” orchestrated by Hamas’ leaders.
Day 482: Wednesday, May 16
To say that Wednesday was a wild news day would be an understatement. We have a lot to cover, but we’ll start with President Trump’s potentially criminal financial disclosure.
As we mentioned in Tuesday’s coverage, the Office of Government Ethics received President Trump’s annual financial disclosure form, and the details won’t surprise you if you’ve been listening to Trump’s legal counsel Rudy Giuliani.
The disclosure admitted that President Trump reimbursed his fixer Michael Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 for costs associated with his $130,000 hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels).
This was a fact that was omitted from Trump’s initial disclosure. That’s against the law. NBC News reported:
The acting director of the ethics office, David J. Apol, concluded that Trump’s report “meets the disclosure requirements,” but noted that making that debt public “is required.” The outside group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint that Trump’s 2017 form had improperly omitted a “loan” from Cohen.
Federal law requires White House officials, including the president, to “report liabilities owed to any creditor that exceeded $10,000 at any time during the reporting period.” It is illegal to “knowingly and willfully” omit or falsify information on disclosure forms, a crime punishable by a fine and up to one year in prison.
Last year, Trump did not disclose any debts to Cohen…
This was referred to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Judging by this letter from the OGE to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, it appears Donald Trump has just effectively received his first criminal referral as President. pic.twitter.com/1P3wm6aMzy
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 16, 2018
Whether or not this will yield any consequences is yet to be seen. But one thing is very clear: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Southern District of New York’s Cohen corruption investigation, and the countless ethical issues beleaguering this administration are beginning to pile up.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of testimony that gave more insight into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. It revealed just how eager Donald Trump Jr. was about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, and quite a few other revelations as well. Not only did Donald Trump Jr. allegedly open up the meeting with the words “I believe you have some information for us,” he told the Committee that he was disappointed that he didn’t receive the information he was looking for. Federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such information. But that wasn’t all that was revealed.
Question: “What was the ‘it’ that you loved in that e-mail?”
Trump Jr: “Potential information about an opponent.” pic.twitter.com/495f2Xnm49
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 16, 2018
Trump Jr. admitted that Trump shaped his statement about the Trump Tower meeting through Hope Hicks, and said that she asked him if he wanted to speak directly with Trump. He declined because he “didn’t want to bring” his father into “something he had nothing to do with.” pic.twitter.com/WVJNQ3kGnq
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 16, 2018
Manafort’s Trump Tower meeting notes seem on the level and not shady or corrupt at all.
“Offshore – Cyprus”
“133m shares” of what?
“Not invest[ment?] – loans”
“Value in Cyprus as inter[mediary?]”
“Active sponsors of RNC” 👀 pic.twitter.com/Jfe70j8VlD
— Adam (@aalali44) May 16, 2018
Always believed the Trump Tower meeting was a dangle to see how receptive the Trump campaign would be to Russian help. This shows they were VERY receptive: https://t.co/kW35F4AaP7
— Adam (@aalali44) May 16, 2018
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee released a statement.
Senate Judiciary Democrats: “In its investigation so far, the Committee has found evidence of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin.” pic.twitter.com/fXPsBjzypl
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 16, 2018
- The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee broke with their sycophantic counterparts in the House. CNN reported:
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s leaders said Wednesday they believed that the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment of election meddling was correct, breaking with Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who questioned the conclusion that the Russians were trying to help President Donald Trump get elected.
“There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 election,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said in a statement. “Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.”
- In a win for internet freedom, the Senate passed a bill that would reinstate net neutrality. Now, on to the House.
- The Daily Beast reported on a new line of inquiry into the NRA.
“The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign.” https://t.co/U9CuxUHFTa
— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 16, 2018
- Reuters reported:
U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
According to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation, Mueller also has been probing whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign may have helped Assange or the Russians time or target the release of hacked emails and other social media promoting Trump or critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
- The New York Times published an in-depth look at the early days of the Russia investigation and also, for the first time, acknowledged their botched reporting.
Big NYT piece on FBI handling of Trump campaign investigation notes that law enforcement officials expressed caution to NYT reporters in Oct 2016 and their resulting story “significantly played down the case.” https://t.co/BespudJorE pic.twitter.com/3gTPm3ZAd3
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) May 16, 2018
- Ronan Farrow published an insightful report in the New Yorker:
Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.
The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The whistleblower who leaked Michael Cohen’s financial records is stepping forward to say why: records of bigger, potentially more sensitive, swaths of suspicious transactions appeared to be missing from a government database. My @newyorker investigation: https://t.co/5nR2CHNOUc
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) May 16, 2018
- President Trump made an objectively disgusting comment about immigrants.
Here is the President of the United States dehumanizing immigrants who, in many cases, are either seeking refuge from violence or seeking opportunity in America:
“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” pic.twitter.com/gpCFvAAzBc
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 16, 2018
- CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel made it through Committee.
- We’ll end today’s Rundown on a reassuring note…
— Sam Jacobs (@sampjacobs) May 16, 2018
- Ok, this time for real, here’s a reassuring note from FiveThirtyEight on yesterday’s primary elections.
The Democratic Party woke up this morning with a clear signal from Tuesday’s primary elections: The #Resistance means business. The more progressive candidate won in Democratic primaries around the country. The question, however, is whether those more liberal candidates will hurt the party’s chances in November.
The biggest — and most surprising — news of the night was nonprofit executive Kara Eastman’s nomination in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Although former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford had both the money and the backing of national Democrats, Eastman defeated him 51 percent to 49 percent. Like many of Tuesday’s victorious Democrats, Eastman won by throwing red (blue?) meat to the liberal base: Where Ashford touted his ability to build consensus in Congress, Eastman promised confrontation and, well, resistance to President Trump.
Day 483: Thursday, May 17
One Year In
Over the last several decades, President Trump has pursued multiple Trump Tower deals in Moscow. One of those pursuits has drawn the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
According to questions drafted by Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow, Mueller is seeking to ask the following question:
“What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?”
While Donald Trump was running for president, the Trump Organization sought to develop a huge Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump signed a letter of intent in October 2015, a few months into his presidential campaign, to pursue this venture. Trump’s longtime mob-connected associate, and at times FBI informant, Felix Sater was working closely with Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen (at the time he played the role of Trump Organization Executive Vice President) towards this deal.
Cohen has publicly stated that the deal fell through in January 2016. Documents obtained by Buzzfeed News indicate that the deal was still actively being pursued well into June of the 2016 campaign. It didn’t stop there. Plans were reportedly being discussed for then-candidate Donald Trump to meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir after the Republican Convention:
This is, assuming it’s true, a holy shit story: While Trump was preparing for the Republican convention in spring 2016, Michael Cohen was still negotiating Trump Tower Moscow and was working on a Trump-Putin meeting to take place after the convention to finalize the deal. pic.twitter.com/MheCbmdUor
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) May 17, 2018
Let’s put the timing of this in perspective. This deal was still being pursued while Donald Trump’s family and campaign chairman sought dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian operatives who were seeking sanctions relief in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. This deal was still being pursued right as Wikileaks prepared to release DNC emails that were DNC emails obtained through a Russian intelligence operation (leaks that Trump and his family relentlessly helped disseminate).
From what we know about the way President Trump conducts himself, he treats countries who appeal to his business needs with preferential treatment. That was certainly the case here.
- After North Korea threatened to pull out of the upcoming summit, President Donald Trump threw a wrench in the talks.
New: Trump says the Libya “model would take place if we don’t make a deal” with North Korea but if a deal is made “Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy”: pic.twitter.com/aiD1iF8ltV
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) May 17, 2018
Ignorance has consequences.
Trump threatened to “decimate” North Korea if he doesn’t get the deal he wants mere weeks before the scheduled summit.
The threat was made because Trump didn’t know what John Bolton meant by “Libya model.”
The art of the deal?https://t.co/SgxfkzWlBc
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 18, 2018
- On the one year anniversary, since Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel, President Trump disparaged the investigation.
Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History…and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018
Despite the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt, we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history – by far! Sorry to the Fake News Media and “Haters,” but that’s the way it is!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018
Not only did President Trump’s clearly misrepresent his first months in office, he painted a false picture of the Russia investigation.
One year ago, Robert Mueller was appointed to lead the important, lawful & warranted Russia investigation.
Since then, the probe has:
Indicted 22 people or companies.
Brought 75 charges.
Yielded 5 guilty pleas.
And rattled one very nervous president. https://t.co/Mtk4OR3V9C
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 17, 2018
- It appears we need to add another number to the list of plea deals. Reuters reported:
The former son-in-law of Paul Manafort, the one-time chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, has cut a plea deal with the Justice Department that requires him to cooperate with other criminal probes, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
The guilty plea agreement, which is under seal and has not been previously reported, could add to the legal pressure on Manafort, who is facing two indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
When it comes to the case of Manafort, there was more news: Mueller filed an unredacted memo outlining the scope of his probe to Judge T.S. Ellis.
- President Trump is now just as eager to expose the US intelligence source as the House Republicans are. The Washington Post reported:
President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!”
The extraordinary push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media — and, as of Thursday, the first anniversary of Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel, bears the imprimatur of the president.
The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.
- The right tried to claim that President Trump’s comments about immigrants being “animals” was specifically about MS-13. If you look at not only the context of his conversation but his worldview as a whole, it’s not that simple.
The context missing here isn’t the question @realDonaldTrump was asked
It’s the fact the President has a long history of conflating immigrants with criminals like MS-13 in order to further discriminatory policy
Ignoring this paints an incomplete picture https://t.co/IydADXuUjx
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 17, 2018
- A very troubling report on what ICE did to a DACA recipient:
ICE arrested a dreamer, revoked his DACA status, placed him in detention, and attempted to deport him, claiming he was a gang member. A federal judge just ruled that ICE was lying—brazenly, intentionally, repeatedly, and illegally. https://t.co/U2u25mzUqQ @Slate
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 17, 2018
- The New York Times reported:
The company controlled by the family of the White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its troubled flagship building by a company with financial ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal.
Charles Kushner, head of the Kushner Companies, is in advanced talks with Brookfield Asset Management over a partnership to take control of the 41-story aluminum-clad tower in Midtown Manhattan, 666 Fifth Avenue, according to two real estate executives who have been briefed on the pending deal but were not authorized to discuss it. Brookfield is a publicly traded company, and its real estate arm, Brookfield Property Partners, is partly owned by the Qatari government, through the Qatar Investment Authority.
- Gina Haspel was confirmed by the Senate as CIA Director.
- Michael Avenatti, Stephanie Clifford’s (Stormy Daniels) lawyer, left us on the edge of our seats once again.
.@MichaelAvenatti just said on MSNBC that he’s vetting two other women who claim they signed NDAs and got hush money payments from Trump after having affairs with him. “May create additional exposure,” he says. #BigWhoaIfTrue
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) May 17, 2018
Day 484: Friday, May 18
This Is America
On Friday, tragedy struck.
It feels like just yesterday the nation was reeling from the loss of life in Parkland, Florida and subsequently looked to the future with hope as the March For Our Lives leaders proclaimed #NeverAgain.
But here we are…again.
In the 22nd school shooting so far this year, 9 students and 1 teacher were shot and killed at Santa Fe High School in Texas.
The killer was a 17-year-old white male who was a student at the school. He was reportedly wearing a trench coat and was armed with a shotgun and a revolver that he obtained from his father. Explosives were later found near the school. Some info about the shooter was discovered:
New: Facebook confirmed to me it deleted Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ Instagram account shortly after the shooting.
The account followed 13 pages.
Eight were gun fan pages. The first four were Donald Trump, Ivanka, Melania and The White House.https://t.co/vGek4IeBi7
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) May 18, 2018
NEW: The Santa Fe High School gunman killed a classmate, Shana Fisher, who had turned down his advances, her mother tells us. Shana finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, and “a week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like.” https://t.co/clHL0gO6zP
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) May 20, 2018
Another boy feeling like he has a right to this young girl’s consent
This is common among sexual assaulters, male supremacist groups, & incels
We have a problem with misogyny and toxic masculinity driving men to violence
No gun access & some therapy would’ve been helpful here https://t.co/adGlbqE05p
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 20, 2018
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump put this in perspective:
More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.
This is the country we live in. Month after month, we watch as our children are gunned down in the hallways they are supposed to be seeking knowledge in, with their whole lives ahead of them. Instead, our classrooms are war zones with children living in fear.
Escaping the shooting at #SantaFeHighSchool
“I shouldn’t be going through this. It’s my school. This is my daily life.” pic.twitter.com/R0yEOcaIbY
— Antonio Arellano (@AntonioArellano) May 18, 2018
Interviewer: “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This could not happen at my school?’”
Santa Fe High School student: “No. It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here, too.”pic.twitter.com/MPxVScd3QE
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) May 18, 2018
The GOP consistently advocates against gun control measures at the behest of the NRA. Instead, they claim mental health is the issue. Let’s say we let them have that argument. Well, in that case, why do they roll back access to affordable health care every chance they get, endeavor to cut Medicaid, etc. If they really wanted to solve this problem at its core and not pass any meaningful gun reform, wouldn’t they want more access to healthcare so that every child in America would have access to a therapist?
Welcome to America. A country where Republican leaders who are in control of all branches of government refuse to do anything about the gun epidemic plaguing our nation.
- The Washington Post reported:
The Trump administration is proposing a far-reaching change in the distribution of Title X family-planning funds that would make clinics that provide abortion services or referrals ineligible for the federal funding. The move would potentially defund Planned Parenthood by millions of dollars.
Under the proposal filed Thursday and announced Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the $260 million program would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between Title X services and providers that perform or support abortion services or refer to abortion as a method of family planning.
- Buzzfeed News reported:
Records pertaining to the financial activities of President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen are not missing from a government database; rather, Treasury Department officials have taken the highly unusual step of restricting access to them even from certain law enforcement agencies, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The New Yorker magazine this week reported that a law enforcement official — worried the information about Cohen’s banking records had been removed from government databases and therefore might be covered up — had admitted to leaking some of what was still accessible.
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly subpoenaed another associate of Roger Stone, this time a key assistant.
- Rudy Giuliani made a series of claims. Like everything he says, take it with a grain of salt. Giuliani claimed that Mueller has agreed to narrow the scope of questions he wants to ask and that the President cannot obstruct justice (tell that to Richard Nixon).
- Zak Ali of Rantt reported:
On Friday, the historically bipartisan farm bill was voted down in the House, 198-213. What ultimately led to the bill’s downfall was not only the unanimous opposition by the Democrats, but the GOP leadership’s inability to muster up the support it needed from the House Freedom Caucus. The notoriously difficult group of Conservatives were intent on holding the bill hostage until a highly controversial immigration bill was brought to the floor.
The farm bill was struck down today because the @HouseGOP couldn’t decide whether or not it wanted to devastate food stamp recipients or pursue an aggressive immigration policy first. https://t.co/thgxPWkzq0
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 19, 2018
- Robert Wilkie was tapped to be the Veterans Affairs Affairs Secretary.
- In more “Trump is using his position of power to target whoever he sees as an enemy” news:
— Damian Paletta (@damianpaletta) May 18, 2018
- President Donald Trump went on a tweet storm trying to claim that an informant spied on his campaign. Like much of what Trump says, that is not exactly true. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa explains how the informant was not spying on the Trump campaign, but as part of the counterintelligence operation may have been trying to protect the campaign.
But Trump and his backers are wrong about what it means that the FBI reportedly was using a confidential source to gather information early in its investigation of possible campaign ties to Russia. The investigation started out as a counterintelligence probe, not a criminal one. And relying on a covert source rather than a more intrusive method of gathering information suggests that the FBI may have been acting cautiously — perhaps too cautiously — to protect the campaign, not undermine it.
I love it when the @nytimes verifies my op-ed theory. The idea that the FBI was trying to “do in” Trump is hogwash. They were being cautious and slow (perhaps too much so, IMO) so as not to draw attention to their investigation. pic.twitter.com/pTmNwqOqBa
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) May 19, 2018
Just to be clear, the big NYT and WaPo pieces explaining the real story with the FBI informant have reduced the narrative being pushed by Trump, Nunes and their loyal propagandists to a pile of smoking rubble. https://t.co/6wfNUydHrz
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) May 19, 2018
This didn’t stop the President and House Republicans efforts to expose the individual, and on Friday night, members of the media effectively did their work for them.
While it doesn’t name him, this @nytimes piece essentially outs the alleged informant, as have several right-wing accounts. And that’s precisely what Nunes and his conspirators set out to do. https://t.co/aG3YAxk49m
— Ned Price (@nedprice) May 19, 2018
Secret FBI source for Russia investigation met with three Trump advisers during campaign. Great and well-considered story by my Post colleagues to come: https://t.co/JqMPKFB5QZ
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) May 19, 2018
“The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment.” https://t.co/8Jdu8XqtbI
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) May 19, 2018
Let’s be clear about what’s happening:
NYT, WaPo, & NBC all received confirmation about the identity of the source. It’s a full court press. If POTUS didn’t declassify the name, the leaker committed a felony, these outlets are carrying water for the GOP, & are endangering NatSec
— Adam (@aalali44) May 19, 2018
Over the weekend…
On Saturday, a bombshell story from The New York Times broke. It revealed that in August 2016 (three months before the election) Donald Trump Jr. held a meeting at Trump Tower that indicates the campaign was willing to accept help from more foreign nations than just Russia…
Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.
The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.
Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.
The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.
The piece goes on to say that Donald Trump Jr. “responded approvingly” to the offer but it wasn’t clear whether it was acted on. But it does indicate one of Zamel’s companies was paid after the election.
After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Nader paid Mr. Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million. There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.
Zamel’s companies also have ties to two Russian Oligarchs that we are all too familiar with.
Companies connected to Mr. Zamel also have ties to Russia. One of his firms had previously worked for oligarchs linked to Mr. Putin, including Oleg V. Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev, who hired the firm for online campaigns against their business rivals.
Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate, was once in business with the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty in the special counsel investigation to charges of financial crimes and failing to disclose the lobbying work he did on behalf of a former president of Ukraine, an ally of Mr. Putin. Mr. Rybolovlev once purchased a Florida mansion from Mr. Trump.
The Trump family has paid their way around the law their entire lives
I’m unsurprised at the lengths they are willing to go to win—no matter how illegal or unethical
Thus far they’ve bailed themselves out of consequences, so they believe they’re above the law
They are mistaken
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 19, 2018
It appears that the President has since taken a very friendly stance with all of the nations who have reportedly offered to help his campaign.
The weekend wasn’t over yet…
President Trump sent out a tweet that marked a serious escalation.
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The President of the United States just demanded the Justice Department investigate his political opponents in an effort to undermine the Justice Department’s Russia investigation–a probe he is a subject of
Trump backs his autocratic rhetoric with actionhttps://t.co/ODaFtMNsbf
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 20, 2018
I normally ignore presidential tweets. This one requires attention, because it could genuinely produce a crisis with the Justice Department and the FBI. Here’s an explanatory thread that may (or may not) be useful. /1/ https://t.co/uB62J45TwK
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) May 20, 2018