Discussion in 'Politics and the Topics of the day' started by QueEx, Dec 6, 2018 at 7:32 AM.
A Size 16 Shoe About to Fall in Trump/Russia Investigation
Obama Warned Trump About Hiring Flynn . . .
Michael T. Flynn at Trump Tower in Manhattan in January.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times
The New York Times
By Michael D. Shear
May 8, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama warned Donald J. Trump against hiring Michael T. Flynn to be part of his national security team when Mr. Obama met with his successor in the Oval Office two days after the November election, two former Obama administration officials said on Monday.
Mr. Obama, who had fired Mr. Flynn as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Mr. Trump that he would have profound concerns about Mr. Flynn becoming a top national security aide, said the administration officials, who were briefed on the Oval Office conversation. Mr. Trump later ignored the advice, naming Mr. Flynn to be his national security adviser.
Mr. Flynn was forced out of that position after it was revealed that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, amid a continuing investigation into connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump met for the first time in the Oval Office on Nov. 10 in what both men later described as a cordial, 90-minute session in which the outgoing president pledged to do everything he could to support the transition to a new administration.
Mr. Flynn’s name came up during a broader discussion about personnel issues, the former administration officials said. Mr. Obama’s concerns about Mr. Flynn, which were first reported by NBC News, were largely about his management of the D.I.A. and predated the later concerns about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.
But one of the former administration officials said that Mr. Obama was also aware of Mr. Flynn’s well-publicized trip in 2015 to Moscow and other contacts with Russia.
The revelation on Monday about Mr. Obama’s warning came hours before Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, was scheduled to testify in the afternoon in front of a Senate committee that she later raised her own concerns about Mr. Flynn’s Russia contacts with the incoming Trump administration.
Mr. Trump blamed Obama officials on Monday, saying in two Twitter messages that it was his predecessor’s administration that gave Mr. Flynn a security clearance.
“General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration — but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that,” Mr. Trump said.
In a second Twitter message, Mr. Trump added: “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.” An early version of the message misspelled “counsel.”
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters Monday afternoon that it should not come as a surprise that Mr. Obama “wasn’t exactly a fan of General Flynn’s,” since Mr. Obama fired Mr. Flynn in 2014.
And Mr. Spicer sought to cast doubt on Mr. Obama’s warning about Mr. Flynn, noting that the Obama administration had renewed Mr. Flynn’s security clearance in April 2016, well after Mr. Flynn’s departure from the D.I.A.
“If President Obama was truly concerned about General Flynn, why didn’t they suspend his security clearance, which they approved just months earlier?” Mr. Spicer said during his daily press briefing.
“Not only did they reaffirm it, but they took no steps to suspend it,” Mr. Spicer said. He said that decision casts doubt on how vigorous Mr. Obama’s warning to Mr. Trump was during their meeting in November.
But Mr. Spicer’s answers also called into question the Trump transition team’s own assessment of Mr. Flynn. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who led the transition in the days after the election, did not recommend that Mr. Flynn be appointed national security adviser, preferring instead that he be slotted as director of national intelligence, a Cabinet-level job but one with narrower responsibilities. Mr. Christie had reservations about Mr. Flynn that he shared with Mr. Trump, according to three people close to the transition.
After Mr. Christie left the transition team, Mr. Pence, then the vice president-elect, took over, with Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, in prominent roles. Mr. Flynn told the team there were three appointments he was interested in: secretary of state or defense and national security adviser, according to one of the people. He was given the job of national security adviser, which does not require Senate confirmation, and was the first high-level appointment of the incoming administration.
Manafort, Cohen, and Individual 1 Are in Grave Danger
Robert Mueller is closing in on the president and all his men.
5:00 AM ET
Attorney and former
A protest in Los Angeles, CaliforniaKYLE GRILLOT / REUTERS
Federal prosecutors filed three briefs late on Friday portending grave danger for three men:
former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort,
former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and
President Donald J. Trump.
In an age when Americans usually get mere squibs of breaking news from Twitter and Facebook and red-faced cable shouters, many started their weekends poring over complex legal filings and peering suspiciously at blacked-out paragraphs. The documents were stunning, even for 2018.
In brief no. 1, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office argues that Paul Manafort breached his cooperation agreement with the government by lying to the FBI and the Special Counsel’s office in the course of 12 meetings. The brief oozes a level of confidence notable even among professionally hubristic prosecutors: Mueller says he’s ready to present witnesses and documents, and that he gave Manafort’s lawyers an opportunity to refute the evidence but they could not. Mueller is sure he has the receipts.
According to the brief, Manafort lied about his communications with reputed Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik, whom Mueller has scrutinized as a possible conduit between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Although Mueller’s brief is heavily redacted, it’s clear that Manafort minimized the frequency, duration, and subject of his meetings with Kilimnik. Mueller has emails contradicting Manafort’s description of those meetings, which—we can infer from the unredacted snippets— related to the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian interests. Mueller also asserts that Manafort lied about some of the payments he received and about an investigation in another district—possibly, based on the context, the Southern District of New York investigation of Michael Cohen and the president. Finally, and of great concern to the White House, Mueller claims that Manafort lied about his contacts with the Trump administration before his guilty plea, and that text messages, documents, and witnesses prove that he was in contact with administration officials.
Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes: Mueller is laying siege to the Trump presidency
In brief no. 2, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York asks a federal judge to sentence former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to a “substantial term of imprisonment” – meaning between three and four years. Last week, Cohen’s lawyers filed a brief lauding their client’s cooperation with the Special Counsel’s office, the Southern District of New York, and the New York Attorney General, downplaying the significance of his crimes, and asking the court to sentence Cohen to probation. Such gambits are tricky: defense lawyers must thread the needle between praising their client’s cooperation and seeking leniency enough to sway the judge, but not so effusively that they trigger a prosecutorial rebuttal. Here, Cohen’s lawyers’ pirouette turned into a disastrous face-plant.
The prosecutors’ rebuttal of Cohen’s sentencing brief is one of the more livid denunciations I’ve seen in more than two decades of federal criminal practice. The Southern District concedes that Cohen provided some information to it, to the Special Counsel, and to the New York Attorney General. But Cohen refused to cooperate fully; he declined to engage in a full debriefing about everything he knew or commit to ongoing meetings, and he only spilled about the things he’d already admitted in his plea. That’s not how cooperation works. In this game, you either cooperate fully or you shut up; there is no middle ground. It’s not surprising that Cohen’s stance angered the notoriously proud Southern District prosecutors.
The New York prosecutors blast Cohen’s “rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes,” accusing him of a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” Prosecutors portray Cohen as stubbornly obstructing his own accountant to cheat at taxes, even refusing to pay for accounting work that raised inconvenient issues he wanted suppressed. When it comes to Cohen’s campaign finance violations, the prosecutors’ fury leaps off the page. Cohen, they say, schemed to pay for two women’s stories (Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, we now know) in violation of campaign finance laws to influence the 2016 election, and did so “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – that is, the president of the United States. As the brief puts it:
While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.
If the Southern District’s fury at Cohen is notable, its explicit accusation that President Trump directed and coordinated campaign finance violations is simply stunning. The prosecutors’ openness suggests they are sure of their evidence and have mostly finished collecting it. It’s a sign of a fully-developed, late-game investigation of the president’s role, one that may soon make its way to Congress.
And that brings us to brief no. 3: Special Counsel Mueller’s separate sentencing brief in Cohen’s lying-to-Congress case. He does not recommend a sentence but informs the court about the nature of his assistance to his office. Mueller discloses that Cohen has “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct” by pleading guilty to lying to Congress and meeting with the Special Counsel seven times to discuss his own conduct and other “core topics under investigation.” That includes information about multiple contacts between other Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and about Cohen’s contact with the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice. Most significant, the Special Counsel indicates Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements within it.” That statement suggests that the Special Counsel believes that someone in the Trump administration knew of, and approved in advance, Cohen’s lies to Congress. That’s explosive, and potentially impeachable if Trump himself is implicated.
The president said on Twitter that Friday’s news “totally clears the President.
Thank you!” It does not.
Manafort and Cohen are in trouble, and so is Trump.
The Special Counsel’s confidence in his ability to prove Manafort a liar appears justified, which leaves Manafort facing what amounts to a life sentence without any cooperation credit.
The Southern District’s brief suggests that Cohen’s dreams of probation are not likely to come true.
All three briefs show the Special Counsel and the Southern District closing in on President Trump and his administration.
They’re looking into campaign contact with Russia, and campaign finance fraud in connection with paying off an adult actress, and participation in lying to Congress.
A Democratic House of Representatives, just days away, strains at the leash to help.
The game’s afoot.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s Ex-Lawyer
Who Implicated Him in Hush-Money Scandal,
Sentenced to 3 Years
© Chang W. Lee/The New York Times Michael D. Cohen, right, President Trump’s former lawyer, arrived in federal court in
Manhattan on Wednesday morning.
By BENJAMIN WEISER
and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
Michael D. Cohen, the former lawyer for President Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday morning for his role in a hush-money scandal that could threaten Mr. Trump’s presidency by implicating him in a scheme to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with him.
The sentencing in federal court in Manhattan capped a startling fall for Mr. Cohen, 52, who had once hoped to work by Mr. Trump’s side in the White House but ended up a central figure in the inquiry into payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model before the 2016 election.
Judge William H. Pauley III said Mr. Cohen had committed a “smorgasbord” of crimes involving “deception” and motivated by “personal greed and ambition.” “As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better,” he said.
Federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office and home in April, and he later turned on Mr. Trump, making the remarkable admission in court that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange the payments.
Mr. Trump at first denied knowing anything about the payments, but then acknowledged that he had known about them. This week, he insisted that the payments were “a simple private transaction” — not election-related spending subject to campaign-finance laws.
He also maintained that even if the hush-money payments were campaign transactions in violation of election regulations, that should be considered only a civil offense, not a criminal one.
Since Mr. Cohen came under investigation, Mr. Trump has mocked him as a “weak person” who was giving information to prosecutors in an effort to obtain leniency when he is sentenced.
In fact, Mr. Cohen did not formally cooperate with prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. In addition to the campaign-finance violations, the sentence covered Mr. Cohen’s guilty pleas to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and making false statements to Congress.
He took a calculated gamble in pleading guilty to this litany of federal crimes without first entering into a cooperation agreement with the government. He offered to help prosecutors, but only on his terms, and there were some subjects he declined to discuss.
His lawyers argued he should not serve time in prison. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said he deserved around four years.
Judge Pauley III had the final say.
Mr. Cohen’s sentencing was unusual because it involved guilty pleas he made in two separate cases, one filed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and a later one by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In the case brought by Mr. Mueller’s office, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the duration of negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as well as about the extent of the involvement of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Cohen revealed that Mr. Trump was more involved in discussions over the potential deal during the election campaign than previously known.
The investigation of Mr. Cohen by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan burst into public view in April when the F.B.I. raided his office, apartment and hotel room. Agents hauled off eight boxes of documents, about 30 cellphones, iPads and computers, even the contents of a shredder.
Four months later, on Aug. 21, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and making false statements to a financial institution.
Mr. Cohen admitted in court that he had arranged the payments “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.
The payments included $130,000 to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, which the government considers an illegal donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign since it was intended to improve Mr. Trump’s election chances. (The legal limit for individual contributions is $2,700 in a general election.)
Mr. Cohen also admitted he had arranged for an illegal corporate donation to be made to Mr. Trump when he orchestrated a $150,000 payment by American Media Inc. to a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, in late summer 2016
LOL and . . . : National Enquirer Parent Cooperates on Trump Hush-Money Probe