This Is a Federal Republic, Not a Banana Republic, The President Is Not Above The Law

The president certainly needed the reminder: this is a federal republic, not a banana republic. Nobody, including the president, is above the law.

There’s a reason Robert Mueller’s enente with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is in the news. It stands as a stark reminder to President Trump that the president is not above the law.

Certainly, Trump had the power and the prerogative to pardon Joe Arpaio. He might also pardon anyone he pleases if a federal grand jury returns an indictment in Mueller’s Russia probe. This removes a big lever prosecutors have to “roll up” witnesses by making immunity deals.

But what Trump cannot do is pardon individuals accused or convicted of state crimes. That’s a feature of our federal republic. We have more than one body of law, more than one body of lawmakers, and more than one constitution governing our nation.

We hear about high profile SCOTUS cases that overturn large swaths of state and federal law–Obergefell v. Hodges overturned many provisions in state constitutions recognizing only marriage between one man and one woman, for example. But in criminal prosecutions, there is no overriding federal jurisdiction.

In fact, federal prosecution has been used as a backstop in various cases for civil rights violations and hate crimes, when state law does not fulfill what’s perceived to be justice. Politics is upstream of most justice in these cases, but in Trump’s case, this move is a well-timed message to remind him that any pardons he grants give prosecutors at the state level an advantage.

If a federal case is never tried, then there’s no “double jeopardy”–being tried for the same crime twice–which is prohibited by the Bill of Rights (5th Amendment). Trump would have to allow a trial at the federal level to take place, including whatever discovery and evidence goes along with it, then issue a pardon after a conviction.

He may very well do that with Paul Manafort, who seems to be the calf ready for sacrifice for any potential scandal to make Trump’s Russia headaches disappear. He could be the Scooter Libby, prison-bound. Or Trump could pardon him.

Or–and this is the worry for Trump and his family–prosecutors could cut a deal with Manafort. Trump can’t pardon for state crimes. The deal may be with Schneiderman, not Meuller. Then state prosecutors can begin their “rollup” of witnesses. Since the entire Trump family lives (officially) in New York, this could spell trouble.

So far, there’s nothing concrete tying Trump himself or even his close family to any crimes, at least nothing public.

This investigation is a chess match right now. Trump made his move, and Mueller has made a better one, putting Trump and his lawyers in check.

The president certainly needed the reminder: this is a federal republic, not a banana republic. Nobody, including the president, is above the law.

This post also appears in The New Americana.

This Confirms What I’m Hearing




The pre-dawn raid of Paul Manafort’s condo confirms what I have been hearing. Mueller’s investigators have moved beyond the President and his family to his campaign team. In fact, I continue to hear that the investigators and the grand jury are far more interested in Manafort, Carter Page, and Mike Flynn, than the Trump family.

This, of course, gives the Trump family some plausible deniability if it all pans out, though until the investigation concludes the black clouds will linger.



What would be funny is if this does not pan out like the left hopes. They have largely built their entire 2018 campaign around Russia stealing the election. If Manafort et al are rounded up for ancillary shenanigans and there is no proof of an electoral theft, there won’t be much of a message left for the left.

BREAKING: FBI Conducted Raid on Paul Manafort’s Home




That escalated quickly…

The Washington Post has learned that the FBI conducted a predawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home on July 26th. The search warrant was given to “seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election”.



From The Washingtin Post:

Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

 

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records.

 

The raid came as Manafort has been voluntarily producing documents to congressional committees investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The search warrant indicates investigators may have argued to a federal judge they had reason to believe Manafort could not be trusted to turn over all records in response to a grand jury subpoena.

Comparing Timeline to Emails Creates Big Problems for Trump

The text of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails detailing the meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya is troubling enough, but the way the emails fit into the overall timeline of the presidential campaign and the unfolding Russia scandal are even more problematic for the Trump Administration. The emails, released by Donald Trump, Jr., provide confirmation that members of the Trump campaign were open to accepting “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” and actions taken by the Trump campaign may indicate that Donald Trump himself was aware of the offer and intended to use the Russian government’s intelligence information.

The email chain began on June 3, 2016, about a week after Donald Trump had officially secured a majority of Republican delegates to become the presumptive nominee. At this point, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the theft of the emails was not public knowledge.

On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Donald Trump announced, “I am going to give a major speech on… probably Monday of next week [June13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons and I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

The next day, June 8, the @DCLeaks_ Twitter account posted the first links to stolen emails on the DC Leaks website. The DC Leaks website and Facebook accounts apparently debuted the same day.

On Thursday, June 9, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, “The [sic] Russian government attorney” referred to in the emails, in New York’s Trump Tower.

On Sunday, June 12, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on British television that more leaked emails relating to the Clinton campaign would be coming out soon.

Donald Trump did not make his promised “very interesting” speech on June 13, but on June 14, the Washington Post broke the news that hackers had penetrated the DNC network and “gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.” The report, which identified the culprits as “Russian government hackers” even at that early date, also said that “the intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic.” The Post also reported the hackers had targeted Republicans as well. Trump’s speeches from that week did not contain any new and notable information about Hillary.

The next day, June 15, a hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0” contacted The Smoking Gun to claim credit for the hack of the Democratic National Committee. Guccifer 2.0  claimed to be a Romanian, but is widely suspected to be a creation of Russian intelligence.

On June 18, the Washington Post reported that the Trump campaign had removed a pledge to provide weapons to the Ukrainian forces fighting the Putin-backed invasion of their country. The report says that the changes were made “last week,” which would mean the platform changes immediately followed the meeting of Trump’s campaign advisors with Veselnitskaya.

On June 27, the first stolen DNC emails were published on the DC Leaks website.

A month later, on July 22, WikiLeaks released a second batch of DNC emails. The FBI announced that it was opening an investigation into the hack shortly after.

It was at this point that Donald Trump publicly asked Russia for help in finding the emails that were deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server. “I will tell you this,” Trump said on July 27 at a press conference, “Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

A few months later, just before the final release of stolen emails by WikiLeaks, Roger Stone, a Trump advisor, seemed to hint that something big was coming. “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel,” Stone tweeted on August 21. In the week before the final email dump on Oct. 7, Stone posted three tweets hinting that something was coming according to Business Insider, including one on Oct. 3 that read “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon.”

While Donald Trump, Jr. claims that nothing of substance emerged from the meeting with the Russian lawyer, his response to the emails and the subsequent actions of the Trump campaign clearly show an intent to use information obtained from a foreign government to discredit a political rival. Such coordination is possibly illegal and certainly unethical.

While there is currently no paper trail that leads directly to Donald Trump, Sr., Trump’s speech on June 7 suggests that he was aware that something was in the wind. Additionally, his July 27 appeal to Russia looks starkly different in view of the revelation that the Russian government had offered its assistance to his campaign a month before.

In addition to the fact that none of the Trump advisors disclosed the meeting and that Donald Trump, Jr. initially lied about what was discussed, the emails create another problem for the Trump Administration.  The timing of the meeting and the platform change raise the possibility of a quid pro quo with the Russians. The fact that the Trump campaign changed the Republican Party platform in a way that benefitted the Russian government immediately after the Russians offered dirt on Hillary is something that will be difficult to explain away. It is also a decision that can likely be traced to Donald Trump himself.

Although the Donald Trump, Jr. emails are not a smoking gun to prove that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but they are close to it.

Spies Don’t Trust Trump with Intelligence

In what may be an unprecedented move, America’s intelligence community is reportedly keeping the country’s most sensitive intelligence information from its president. A Wall Street Journal report cited both current and former intelligence officials who said that concerns that the information might be leaked or compromised had prompted the agencies to withhold certain information.

Even before the forced resignation of Gen. Flynn due to his lack of forthrightness about his contacts with Russia, the Trump Administration was at odds with the intelligence community. President Trump was one of the few to deny the findings of the FBI and the CIA that Russia interfered in the presidential election. In January, Trump hinted at a restructuring of the intelligence community in what some thought was retribution for the investigation into Russia’s role in the election. Also in January, Russia was rumored to have compromising information on Donald Trump himself.

Flynn was also not the only member of the Trump camp to have suspicious ties to Russia. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was fired during the campaign for his connections to Russia. CNN reported that “high-level advisors” to the Trump camp were in “constant communication during the election with Russians known to US intelligence” according to “multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials.” Manafort was named by CNN in the article, but it may also refer to Carter Page, Roger Stone and others.

Manafort denied the accusation. “I have knowingly never talked to any intelligence official or anyone in Russia regarding anything of what’s under investigation,” he said. “I have never had any connection to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or the Russian government before, during or after the campaign.”

According to the Journal, intelligence information is sometimes sanitized to protect sources before it is given to government officials, but there is no known precedent for restricting the president’s access due to fears about “trustworthiness and discretion.” The report said that there was no known instance in which vital information relating to security threats or plots had been restricted.

The Journal’s sources cited two specific reasons for restricting Mr. Trump’s access. The first is the general statements of admiration that Trump made for Vladimir Putin at numerous times. The second is the specific request that Mr. Trump made for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

Officially, the intelligence community denies the Journal report. ““Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true,” said a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Likewise, the White House also disputes the account. “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”

Regardless of whether information is being withheld, there is clearly a strained relationship between the Trump Administration and the intelligence community. “It’s probably unprecedented to have this difficult a relationship between a president and the intelligence agencies,” said Mark Lowenthal, a retired senior intelligence official. “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And it’s just not good for the country.”

Another Trump Campaign Shake-Up Is Right On Schedule

Campaign shakeups are more the rule than the exception for Donald Trump. “I’m the strategist,” he told Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine back in April when Trump was barreling toward the GOP nomination.

The coffee klatch that makes up Trump’s inner circle consists of himself, his kids, and his in-laws. The others in the Trump orbit: Corey Lewandowski, Lewandowski’s former Citizens United boss David Bossie, media crossovers Roger Ailes and Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and political warhorse Paul Manafort, seem to drift in and out of positions, but never really leave the “organization.”

In fact, management shakeups seem to be baked-in, part of the Trump campaign culture.

trump-turnoverIn the military, specialists pulled from various permanent units to form a temporary group for a specific purpose is called a “tiger team.” I was on one in the 90’s (a Site Activation Task Force, or SATAF). Trump’s entire campaign is really a tiger team.

But it’s not the kind of team designed for a political campaign. It’s a media show, spin control, keep Donald in the headlines operation. If this was the military, Trump’s unit would be the Dirty Dozen, complete with Telly Savalas as the insane woman-hating killer ready to blow the entire operation.

If you look at the timeline, you see how changes at the “top” (if there really is a top to speak of) of Trump’s campaign follow sort of a rhythm. From June 2015 through the end of March 2016, Trump stuck with Corey Lewandowski, who was more of a body man than a campaign manager. Only when it became likely that Trump could be the nominee did Paul Manafort come on board to wrangle delegates and appease the GOP powers-that-be (read: Reince Priebus).

After standing behind Lewandowski out of loyalty, about a month before the GOP convention, Trump fired him. It was said to be due to complaints from the rank-and-file (such as there is one) and from Trump’s true decision-makers: his kids. But Lewandowski never truly left. He picked up a lucrative gig at CNN and from there continued to pump for his old boss. Now he’s listening in on campaign conference calls and offering advice–but he’s not with the boss 24/7 like before.

After the convention, Paul Manafort was no longer an asset, as he was vulnerable to Clinton attacks on his Russian connections. So Roger Ailes–after being booted from Fox News in a sexual harassment scandal–was brought on as a formal advisor (he had been an informal advisor for months). Stephen Bannon, chairman of pro-Trump Breitbart News, was hired as campaign chair, leaving Manafort no role, and Manafort resigned on August 19. On the same day, pollster Kellyanne Conway, who came on board in early July, was elevated to campaign manager (Lewandowski’s old title).

Confusing? It’s supposed to be.

Then on September 1, David Bossie, who originally recommended Lewandowski, joined as deputy campaign manager. That brings us to today.

Various media reports are starting to emerge that after Monday’s debate “disaster,” that Trump’s kids are ready to play another round of campaign roulette.

katy_tur_nbc

Not everything is “very happy” according to Tur’s sources.

This seems to have struck a nerve in the media-obsessed world of Trump.

Words like “fabricated lie”–as opposed to repeated lie, or true lie perhaps?–generally surface when the report in question is closer to the truth than Trump and his family would like.

With Trump’s businesses and brand reportedly suffering due to his negatives, another shake-up is probably inevitable. Once daddy Trump gets in his mind that things are rather stable, or stagnant, his compulsion to create news kicks in.

Since the pair Conway/Bossie seems to be in favor, look for them to survive the next purge. Ailes and Bannon may find themselves with a pink slip, however. Bannon encourages the more inflammatory side of Trump that plays great to his base, but repels swing voters. The next debate is Sunday, October 9. Somewhere between today and then, look for another Trump management musical chair session.

The campaign strategist-in-chief does not suffer being out of the news cycle for long.

Trump Intelligence Adviser’s Moscow Pilgrimage Raises FBI Concerns

#TrumpLovesPutin could be the hashtag.

First there was Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired from his job as the military’s top spy, leading the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn went to Moscow in December 2015 to “five star treatment” at the hands of Russia Today. Then there was Paul Manafort, whose Russian business ties and boot-stomping dictator client list raised plenty of eyebrows.

And let’s not forget that Trump graciously accepted Putin’s calling him “brilliant.”

Now a Trump adviser has actually met with “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow, according to a report by Yahoo News’ investigative journalist Michael Isikoff. Not just “high ranking,” but in fact people in charge of gathering intelligence about the U.S. election.

The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.

Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.”

Trump named page among five advisers “that we are dealing with,” Isikoff reported.

Democrats in the House and Senate are jumping all over this. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking minority members of their respective intelligence committees, released a joint statement accusing Russia of tampering with our election.

“Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” they said. “At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election.” They added that “orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government.”

Page was a Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow before turning to his own consulting firm, Global Energy Capital, “ocated around the corner from Trump Tower, that specializes in oil and gas deals in Russia and other Central Asian countries.” Not one bit suspicious, there.

Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time.

While in Moscow, U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Page met with a top Putin aide, Igor Diveykin, who serves as deputy chief for internal policy. Intelligence officials believe Diveykin is responsible for Russian agencies collecting intelligence about the U.S. election.

Nice. Now Trump will have to say something racist or sexist or start a flame war with a news anchor to draw attention from this latest installment of “To Russia With Love.”

Paul Manafort to John Kasich: F.U.

This is the way to unite the party.

Paul Manafort is unhappy that John Kasich will not show up at the convention. Actually, Kasich would have showed up to welcome everyone, but the Trump campaign insisted on an endorsement first, which Kasich will not do.

Interestingly, Manafort says, “people who are part of the future of the Republican Party are, frankly, going to be here participating in the program.” That is demonstrably untrue.

Most all the people who came out aggressively in support of Trump are Republicans at the end of their career with nothing to lose, unless Paul Manafort is implying that the GOP is really going to become the party of old white guys and purge from its ranks the Nikki Haleys and Marco Rubios and Tim Scotts of the world.