By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (9/21/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Trump. Russia. Collusion. Start working on the definition of ‘collusion’, and be ready for political hair-splitting because we are that close. You decide which of these events make the stronger case but let’s consider frmer Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s status and the sale of ads to Russia by Facebook supporting the Trump campaign.
Talking Points Memo reporter Allegra Kirtland writes on How The FISA Order Against Manafort Could Spell Big Trouble For Trumpworld
TPM has done a good job of bringing together two important breaking news stories from CNN and the New York Times about Paul Manafort. Manafort conversations have been monitored on two different occasions and he’s been a target of investigation for a long time, noting…
“Two bombshell reports that dropped Monday dispelled any lingering doubts about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s First CNN reported that the FBI was prior to and after the election, and, within the hour, the New York Times reported that federal prosecutors him that they planned to indict him.
“Legal experts told TPM that these reports also have significant implications for Trump campaign and administration officials, including President Donald Trump himself, as any communications between Manafort and the President, or Manafort and other campaign aides, about sensitive matters would have been recorded and stored while the order was in effect.
“You can always use that information,” Robert Deitz, former senior councillor to the director of the CIA and general counsel at the National Security Administration, told TPM. “Manafort could easily have been picked up in any of these communications citing the President for something: ‘The President told me X or I told the President Y.’ That doesn’t make it admissible evidence per se, but that’s the kind of thing that I think would scare the hell out of a principal in the investigation.”
People that should be worried include Trump himself – he very likely is recorded talking to Manafort. Right-wing media like Fox News cheerleader Tucker Carlson represent this news as confirmation that Trump was right, that Trump had his “wires tapped”. There will be a lot of noise around such claims just like former Obama National Security adviser Susan Rice was accused of unmasking. But even Congressman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC of ‘Benghazi hearings infamy) won’t be able to get much traction with this as deflection.
As useful as the TPM story is, for some reasons they missed an important element.
Over at The Hill we learn that US Officials Intercepted Conversations Between Manafort And Russians.
Obviously, Manafort as Trump campaign head talking to Russians is a big deal. On the heals of Donnie Jr.’s meeting with Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016 (attended by Manafort and Jared Kushner) much happened.
U.S. government officials picked up conversations between former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort and Russian individuals about the 2016 campaign. On Surveillance Of Paul Manafort Occurred During 2016 Campaign.
I include this because of the added detail and some fascinating events. We know the FBI raided Manafort’s home the morning after he testified before the Senate Judiciary committee. And we know that many of Manafort’s associates are also being interviewed or called before a grand jury.
“Just last week, Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni appeared before a grand jury. In July, agents raided Manafort’s condominium in Virginia by reportedly picking the locks to get in while he was asleep.”
The FBI woke Manafort by knocking on his door. His bedroom door – they’d already let themselves into the house by picking the lock.
This brought a smile to my face:
“In a statement, a spokesman for Manafort called on the Department of Justice to “release any intercepts involving [Manafort] and any non-Americans,” claiming that there is “nothing there.””
Sure, let’s get the Manafort intercepts, Trump’s Oval Office recording of former FBI head James Comey and Trump’s tax returns. The thing is – Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller already has two of the three and the third (Oval Office tapes) likely doesn’t exist, which is a shame.
Before we change gears and look at Facebook-Trump-Russia news, let’s look at other Trump-Russia denials offered this week.
On Monday I noted that Trump’s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen was to appear in a closed session before the Senate intelligence committee – wonder how that went? Well it didn’t, which may not be good news for Cohen.
Dan Friedman, over at Mother Jones, outlined just How Trump’s Top Lawyer Angered Senate Investigators
Cohen and his lawyers decided to get ahead of the news by issuing a prepared statement disavowing any collusion between himself and Russians on behalf of Trump. The committee demand and the agreed upon rules were for no public statements.
Here’s the view of Trump’s lawyer’s lawyer:
“Cohen’s lawyer, Steven Ryan, said Cohen issued the statement because the timing of the interview leaked to the press. But committee chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (Va.), the panel’s top Democrat, blasted the move in their own statement.”
The result of all this – the committee chose to not move forward with the meeting and instead Cohen has earned a public hearing before the committee on Octboer 25.
Cohen offered up a notable fig leaf:
“If we really are concerned about a Russian attempt to divide our country and discredit our political system then the best thing we can do is put aside our infighting, stop presuming guilt rather than innocence of American citizens, and address this national security threat as a united people at its source.”
Hard to imagine given Trump’s refusal to even acknowledge Russian election interference on his behalf.
On to the next bubbling pot of intrigue – Facebook!
On Monday’s edition of The Resistance, Keith Olbermann Explains The Dots Mueller Had To Connect To Convince A Judge Trump Associates ‘aided and abetted’ Russia
Olbermann does not mince words:
“Of all the incriminating evidence against President Donald Trump in the investigation into his alleged collusion, one tech mega-company stands to provide the “smoking gun,” Keith Olbermann argued on Monday’s episode of “The Resistance.”
“The ceiling will soon or late(r) cave in on Donald Trump,” Olbermann began, “and in large it will do so because of Facebook.”
The key here is that Olbermann points out a crime was committed – if any Trump associate knowingly stood by while Russia bought advertising to influence a US election – it’s a crime.
“Mueller convinced a judge not merely that the Facebook ads included a crime or crimes, but he had to have convinced that judge that evidence supporting prosecution of the alleged perpetrators could still possibly be found in Facebook’s files,” the host argued. “It would be the computer equivalent of a paper trail.”
“It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed. That’s aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller’s search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote in a tweet thread Olbermann quoted.”
Watch the imbedded video; Olbermann passionately, and factually, leads us to the doorstep of Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and the multi-billionaire Robert Mercer and sequinned glasses wearing daughter Rebecca. I touched on this in the last column and we’ll hear much more about this.
Facebook meanwhile has been slow to cooperate and bring forward information. Facebook has proffered “gee, we didn’t know” – but some of the ads were paid for in Russian rubles. Have no fear, this is the equivalent of knocking on Manafort’s door, the bedroom door:
“Facebook shared copies of the ads and details about the buyers, as well as targeting criteria, after the special counsel’s office obtained a search warrant, according to The Wall Street Journal, which . This information is more detailed than that Facebook gave to the Senate and House intelligence committees last week, , which like the Journal quoted persons with knowledge of the matter.”
You might think Facebook would do everything possible to keep clear of further damning business practices – but you’d be wrong.
On Thursday The Daily Beast ran an exclusive: Russians Appear to Use Facebook To Push Trump Rallies In 17 U.S. Cities
“The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of .”
Facebook and their reluctance to cooperate reminds me of the $500M fine imposed on Google in 2011. Google was making a lot of money selling ads to fake pharmas. A worst case scenario here is someone orders prescription meds online to get a great price but the drugs are not real and potentially harmful even beyond the obvious of not being ‘on’ your meds. Does $500M sound like a lot of money? The reason Google was fined so much – they knowingly sold the ads over a three-year span with much internal debate about how much money they were making while knowingly breaking the law. And of course putting people at risk.
Check out Kushner’s smiling face from a November 2016 Forbes article about how his data operation won Trump the election. Read it or not, but at least scroll down far enough to see Kushner’s Forbes cover mug: Exclusive Interview: How Jared Kushner Won Trump The White House
Robert Mueller and his team. Scan any of these articles and you’ll quickly see that Mueller is playing hardball. White collar criminal investigations like this can take a long time and are usually conducted with a country club decorum. Money laundering is really hard to crack. Trump’s tax returns won’t provide an obvious ‘gotcha’, it’s the hidden sources of money and income with complex business relationships and licensing arrangements that have to be sorted out.
Mueller’s aggressive approach is being compared to how an investigation of mafia or organized crime is approached – you kick in a lot of doors and ‘turn’ people by quickly convincing them they are better off helping versus taking the full rap for all charges that can be brought against them.
And this is where we’ll end as The Washington Post takes a look at one of the doors Mueller is kicking in:
“The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering everything from the president’s private discussions about firing his FBI director to his White House’s handling of a warning that the Trump national security adviser was under investigation, according to two people briefed on the requests.”
Michael Moore says Trump will be reelected. Keith Olbermann says we’ll wake up one day and the world will turn upside down and Trump will be gone. What do you think? Still think Trump-Russia collusion is mythology? We’re miles past “No Russians”.
Miles and miles … and miles.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )