This week began with President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani falsely proclaiming “collusion is not a crime.”
It ended with Trump himself admitting a form of collusion, or in other words, conspiracy.
What we are seeing is a coordinated strategy on the part of President Trump, his administration, and conservative media to try and sure up political support among his supporters ahead of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s reports on a potential conspiracy with the Russian government and obstruction of justice.
The approach President Trump has had towards the investigation has always been a PR strategy, not a legal one. First, Trump claimed his campaign had no contacts with Russians. Then, they lied about the nature of those contacts once they were revealed. Now, the strategy is to claim that no matter what conduct Donald Trump engaged in during the campaign and as President, whether it’s illegally soliciting help from or coordinating with the Russians during the campaign or obstructing the investigation while in office, that none of it is criminal. Their stance went from “the President is above the law” to “well, if he committed crimes, the crimes aren’t illegal.” Furthermore, they appear to be leaking bits of information every week in an effort to soften the blow of Mueller’s findings.
This is not a legally sound strategy. It’s an argument for the base so that in the event of impeachment from a post-2018 Democratic House, GOP Senators won’t vote to remove him from office. And although Trump is shrinking the Republican Party, this strategy is working on his most die-hard supporters. Trump is fully aware of the power he has over his base, and he uses it to distort their reality.
President Trump has told over 4,000 lies, but his base believes he’s honest.
President Trump triggers retaliatory tariffs that target his base while aiming to give even more tax cuts to the rich, but his base believes he’s looking out for them.
President Trump has admitted his campaign sought dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, but his base screams “no collusion.”
President Trump publicly told Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation, but his base screams “no obstruction.”
President Trump dangerously calls the media the enemy of the American people, and his base screams “CNN sucks!”
If Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces a report that shows hard evidence of crimes committed by Donald Trump and his associates, we’ll see whether or not his base stands with dear leader or their country.
Unfortunately, we might already know the answer.
Day 557: Monday, July 30
A License To Hate
Attorney General Jeffs Sessions continued to chip away at the separation of church and state. Rantt’s Managing Editor Remy Carreiro reported:
Monday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a “Religious Liberty Summit” at the Department of Justice Headquarters. At the summit, which was backed by members from Alliance Defending Freedom (a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group), Sessions announced the creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force,” designed to implement guidelines announced by Sessions last October.
The guidelines referenced in this speech were introduced by the Attorney General last fall, as a sweeping memorandum on how to interpret religious liberty protections. Many civil rights activists and critics of the memo were concerned that the broad interpretation it provided would give people of faith loopholes to work around federal bans on certain types of discrimination. The memo covered protections for both individuals and organizations, and came on the heels of legal challenges which had brought the concept of “religious liberty” to the forefront of national discourse.
The task force announced by Sessions Monday morning would be used to help implement these guidelines in response to a negative “cultural climate.” According to his announcement, this force will “ensure all Justice Department components are upholding that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations.”
In other news…
- CNN: Giuliani says he’s not sure collusion is a crime despite Mueller investigation (more on that in a moment)
- President Trump continued his attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and threatened to shut down the government over his border wall funding.
- The New York Times: Trump Administration Mulls a Unilateral Tax Cut for the Rich
- Politico: ‘Eye-popping’ payouts for CEOs follow Trump’s tax cuts
- NBC News: Judge orders Trump administration to help lawyers find ‘missing parents’ of migrant kids
- NBC News: Judge orders many migrant children removed from Texas facility said to use psychotropic drugs
- NBC News: Top Koch leaders vent frustration with GOP in the Trump era
- Bloomberg: Kavanaugh Sided With Trump Casino in 2012 to Thwart Union Drive
- The New York Times: Trump Says He Would Meet With Iranian Leader, but Iran Rules It Out
- Vox: The government is secretly monitoring ordinary US citizens when they fly
- Newsweek: RUSSIA SAYS IT WILL KNOW OF U.S. MILITARY PLANS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN
Day 558: Tuesday, July 31
“Collusion Is Not A Crime”
On Monday morning, President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani hit the press circuit and took on a new strategy: Rather than arguing that his client didn’t commit any crimes, Giuliani appears to be claiming that conspiring with a foreign government to interfere in America’s 2016 election isn’t a crime. President Trump repeated this claim on Tuesday.
Giuliani: “I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack” pic.twitter.com/GTnUxXBeTL
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 30, 2018
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime.” ? pic.twitter.com/fD1MdS6T29
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 30, 2018
“Collusion is not a crime” is a talking point that many conservatives have stated over the last several months. Legal experts have noted that although the word “collusion” itself isn’t a crime, “conspiracy” is indeed a crime. As former U.S. Attorney Renato Mariotti notes, “A conspiracy is just a legal term for an agreement to commit a crime. You aid and abet a crime if you know about criminal activity and actively try to make it succeed.” If someone colluded with the Russian Government in furtherance of their crimes would make them a co-conspirator, according to legal experts and the Justice Department.
When it comes to the word collusion, it appears Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein does indeed perceive it as a crime when it’s in furtherance of other crimes such as conspiracy to defraud the United States or conspiracy to engage in illegal computer hacking. As CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo expanding the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe specifically references collusion as a crime when pointing out what Mueller is permitted to investigate:
Allegations that Paul Manafort:
Committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election for President of the United States, in violation of United States law…
Another indication of how the Justice Department sees collusion and criminal conspiracy comes in Mueller’s indictments. As we know, Mueller has indicted 25 Russians (13 Russian entities were indicted earlier this year for their propaganda campaign, and 12 Russian intelligence officers (GRU) were indicted for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election and leaking through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0).
Mueller’s indictment of the 13 Russian entities for their propaganda (troll farm) operation gives us more insight:
Defendants, together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.
Mueller considers defrauding the United States as including “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission.” That is broad and brings us to potential election law violations. As many legal experts have noted, 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 a contribution. Legal experts have argued that the allegedly Trump-approved June 2016 Trump Tower meeting (where Donald Trump Jr., then-Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner sought dirt from Russian operatives), would qualify as violating federal election law.
When it comes to the hacking indictment, legal experts have argued if there was collusion in furtherance of the hacks, it could qualify as conspiracy to engage in illegal computer hacking. Mueller’s indictment outlines that on July 27, 2016, Russians began spearphishing campaigns targeting Clinton’s personal office emails for the first time and also targeted Clinton’s campaign. This was the same day Donald Trump publicly stated: “Russia if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
When it comes to the dissemination of hacked materials, Mueller’s indictment includes co-conspirators who disseminated that hacked data, including an unnamed “entity” that appears to be Wikileaks. If Americans aided in disseminating this hacked data, then they could be roped in as co-conspirators. Mueller’s indictment also includes multiple excerpts that appear to depict Trump’s campaign advisor Roger Stone, who spoke to Guccifer 2.0 during the campaign. “The conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”
There have been reports of Donald Trump Jr. directly communicated with Wikileaks via Twitter direct message. And there’s arguably no one who cited Wikileaks more than then-Candidate Donald Trump himself.
WATCH: Pres. Trump mentioned Wikileaks 141 times in the month before the election. pic.twitter.com/4Z7fcwrLSm
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 15, 2017
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has established the underlying crimes on the part of the Russians. What’s next appears to be any of the American co-conspirators who are currently unnamed. And after that, obstruction of justice.
Listen to our podcast on the topic!
Donald Trump’s narrative has gone from “no collusion!” to “collusion is not a crime”
Because the walls are closing in
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) July 31, 2018
In other news…
- The Washington Post: Facebook says it has uncovered a coordinated disinformation operation ahead of the 2018 midterm elections
- NPR: Manafort Trial Begins, Ushering In New Phase In Mueller Probe
- The Wall Street Journal: Kelly Agrees to Remain Chief of Staff Through 2020 at Trump’s Request
- Politico: Trump blasts media as ‘unhinged’ and ‘crazy’
- Bloomberg: Trump Calls Kochs a ‘Total Joke’ After Break With GOP Candidate
- The Washington Post: ‘Unprecedented partisan interference:’ Senate escalates bitter fight over Kavanaugh’s record
- Bloomberg: U.S., China Aim to Restart Talks to Defuse Trade War, Sources Say
- The Washington Post: U.S. spy agencies: North Korea is working on new missiles
- CNN’s Jim Acosta was harassed at a Trump rally.
Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy. pic.twitter.com/IhSRw5Ui3R
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 1, 2018
Day 559: Wednesday, August 1
On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump has given what appears to be the closest thing to a public order to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, obstruction of justice, and potential collusion on the part of the Trump campaign.
..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
This tweet reportedly came after Trump was updated on the Russia investigation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation due to his role on the Trump campaign. President Trump has reportedly asked Sessions to un-recuse on multiple occasions. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who President Trump has long considered firing, would have to be the one to shut down the Russia investigation.
After the tape was released revealing President Richard Nixon tried to order the FBI to end their investigation into the Watergate break-in, he lost all support from the Republican Party and was forced to resign. President Trump just did something very similar publicly.
Read this full timeline of President Trump’s endeavor to obstruct justice, including his firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his attempts to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
President Donald Trump is a subject of the Russia investigation.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: QAnon: The Absurd Conspiracy Theory Infecting Trump’s Base
- The Washington Post: Mueller offers to limit investigators’ questions for Trump in special counsel’s latest effort to secure presidential interview
- The New York Times: Mueller Passes 3 Cases Focused on Illicit Foreign Lobbying to Prosecutors in New York
- The New York Times: White House Weighs Another Reduction in Refugees Admitted to U.S.
- The New York Times: Trump Pushes for Interview With Mueller Against Lawyers’ Advice
- Politico: Senate approves release of documents regarding alleged Russian agent
- Associated Press: Court strikes down Trump push to cut ‘sanctuary city’ funds
- Bloomberg: U.S. Sanctions on Turkish Ministers Draw Vows of Retaliation
- The Washington Post: President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days
Day 560: Thursday, August 2
The coverage of Thursday’s conference is from Rantt’s CEO Zak Ali:
On Thursday, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and FBI Director Christopher Wray gave a joint press conference speaking out on election hacking ahead of midterms. In the press conference, each member of the Trump Admin affirmed their commitment to the issue of election hacking by foreign adversaries.
Here are the main takeaways from each:
National Security Advisor, John Bolton:
“Since January 2017, the President has taken decisive action to defend our election systems from meddling and interference.”
Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats:
“In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.”
Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen:
“Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and it has become clear that they are the target of our adversaries.”
FBI Director, Christopher Wray:
“As I have said consistently, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day. This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously & tackle & respond to with fierce determination & focus. But it’s important to understand this is not just an election cycle threat. Our adversaries are trying to undermine our country on a persistent and regular basis, whether it’s election season or not.”
However, it would be negligent to not note that all of these comments are a much stronger display of force than that of our own President, who, on the world stage, denied Russian interference at the Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin. He later walked back that statement in Russian hacking, claiming that what he meant to say was: “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia'” with emphasis on “wouldn’t.”
President Trump then called Russian interference a hoax days later on Twitter.
In other news…
- ABC News: Special counsel Mueller wants to ask Trump about obstruction of justice: Sources
- Los Angeles Times: California vows to fight Trump EPA’s move to freeze fuel economy rules
- The Guardian: Suspected Russian spy found working at US embassy in Moscow
- CNN: Ivanka Trump: Family separations issue ‘was a low point’
- NBC News: Trump’s undermining of Obamacare violates the Constitution, new lawsuit charges
- HuffPo: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Refuses To Say Press Isn’t ‘The Enemy Of The People’
- Rantt Media:If You Like Keeping Up With The Kardashians You’re More Likely To Dislike Welfare, Study Shows
- Rantt Media: Beyond Medicare-For-All: The Inequities Plaguing Women’s Healthcare Today
Day 561, 562, 563: Friday – The Weekend (August 3-5)
On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted out an admission that contradicts over years worth of statements his team has made about the nature of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was held between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. Donald Trump Jr.’s own emails and congressional testimony revealed that he was very eager about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, but his initial story about the meeting was very different.
The Trump administration’s initial response to this, which was dictated on Air Force One by Trump himself with the help of former Communications Director Hope Hicks, was false. Trump Jr.’s first statement after the initial report asserted the meeting was only about adoption. As we now know, Trump Jr. later acknowledged that it clearly wasn’t just about adoption. He clearly states that he anticipated he was going to receive damaging information on his father’s political opponent Hillary Clinton. Even if it was strictly about “adoption,” it would’ve been problematic, given the fact Magnitsky Act was expanded in 2016 and now sanctions 44 people worldwide. If this story wasn’t about Jr. seeking dirt, it would’ve been about Trump campaign officials meeting with a Russian lawyer who is lobbying against US-imposed sanctions on Russia.
President Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen has reportedly claimed that then-candidate Trump approved the meeting ahead of time. This would make sense that Candidate Trump was aware, given the fact on June 7th, Candidate Trump said he was going to do a speech about Hillary Clinton’s wrongdoings (the speech never happened). Also, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed that there was a preparation meeting that occurred between Trump’s campaign team on June 7th, the same day as the speech announcement. One person allegedly in attendance, former Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates, is now a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
These are all significant developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government. If true, it would also mean that Donald Trump Jr. lied about his father’s knowledge of this to congressional investigators. And in spite of Trump Sr.’s assertions that the meeting was not illegal, but legal experts beg to differ.
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 a contribution.
Also, if any Americans aided in disseminating the Russian hacked data, then they could be roped in as co-conspirators in Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers (GRU) for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election and leaking through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.
The Full Meeting Breakdown
- In attendance: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, the Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian interpreter and a representative for Aras Agalarov, Ike Kaveladze were at this June 9th meeting at Trump tower
- Goldstone, publicist, and former British tabloid reporter, was the intermediary for setting up the meeting
- Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Clinton before agreeing to attend
- Veselnitskaya was lobbying against Russian sanctions, and has testified that during the meeting Trump Jr. asked for damning information Hillary Clinton
- Trump Jr. was told it was part of Russia’s effort to support his father’s candidacy (with email confirmation via Trump Jr. himself)
- Goldstone was told to set up the meeting by the son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov
- There seemed to have been a phone call between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. on June 6th
- Trump Jr. didn’t appear surprised by Goldstone’s declaration that the Russian government supports his father
- Trump Sr. was one floor above the meeting at Trump Tower while the meeting took place
In other news…
- The Washington Post: When Trump attacked LeBron James, it had an unintended effect: other athletes speaking out
- Rolling Stone: The NRA Says It’s in Deep Financial Trouble, May Be ‘Unable to Exist’
- Politico: China hits back with tariffs on $60B in U.S. goods
- The Wall Street Journal: Top Trump Donor Agreed to Pay Michael Cohen $10 Million for Nuclear Project Push
- NBC News: Judge calls Trump administration family reunification efforts ‘unacceptable’
- The Washington Post: At President Trump’s hotel in New York, revenue went up this spring — thanks to a visit from big-spending Saudis
- Rantt Media: Social Media Is Making It Harder To Be A Bigot
- Rantt Media: Will The “Real Journalists” At Fox News Please Stand Up?
- Rantt Media: After Four Years Of The Flint Water Crisis, Thousands Of American Communities Still Don’t Have Clean Water