By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (11/29/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
We’ll open with a conclusion – Trump is in trouble. If you want the short version of ‘why’, jump to the end.
For anyone seeking a simple linear narrative for Trump-Russia corruption the last 48 is not that. Three big stories landed followed by a plethora of refinements, interpretations and cautions. We’ll point out what happened, why it could be important and some reasons for caution. Diving into the deep end: Mueller Has Emails From Stone Pal Corsi About WikiLeaks Dem Email Dump.
Jerome Corsi is a far-right conspiracy theorist best known as the inventor of the ‘birther’ story, that Obama was born in Kenya and thus was never a legitimate president. Specific to Trump-Russia he was part of the communication channel to the publisher of Clinton campaign emails hacked by Russians in advance of the election, WikiLeaks, along with long-time Trump associate Roger Stone and conservative author Ted Malloch.
Special counsel Mueller has Corsi’s emails. We know this because Corsi publicly shared draft court documents that were (purportedly) a proposed plea deal offered by Mueller’s office and rejected by Corsi. While there are a number of email exchanges, here’s an example:
‘The interviews began on Sept. 6 when Corsi told investigators that an associate, identified by Corsi as Stone, asked him in the summer of 2016 to get in touch with an organization, identified by Corsi as WikiLeaks, about unreleased materials relevant to the presidential campaign, the draft court papers say.
“”Get to (Assange) [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails,” read the email to Corsi dated July 25, 2016, according to the draft court documents.”
Corsi said he told Stone this was a bad idea. Mueller’s team says this is a lie and Corsi communicated in turn with Ted Malloch and received a response eight days later, which he forwarded to Stone, reporting WikiLeaks had information damaging to the Clinton campaign and planned a damaging October release.
Corsi’s defense partly hangs on a claim he does not remember the emails. But the court document points out that, “Corsi scrubbed his computer between Jan. 13, 2017, and March 1, 2017, deleting all email correspondence that predated Oct. 11, 2016, including the messages from Stone about WikiLeaks and Corsi’s email to Malloch”. Corsi also coordinated with Stone to mislead Congressional investigations and name radio host and one-time Stone friend Randy Credico as the WikiLeaks intermediary based on assurances that Credico would “take the 5th”.
The headline is clear – Manafort repeatedly lied and violated his plea agreement. The initial reports framed this event as a loss to Mueller’s investigation; he potentially had lost a key witness that could connect all the dots.
Is there more that’s known about this? Absolutely: Manafort’s Lawyer Said To Brief Trump Attorneys On What He Told Mueller.
“A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.”
Should we believe this, who said Manafort was coordinating with the president? Yep, Trump lawyer Giuliani is back again:
“Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.”
Given the impasse, Manafort will now face sentencing. But, as the Guardian reported,we’re still not done with the big news: Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say.
Let’s start with what is being said:
“Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.”
If this is true there is now a direct path between the Trump campaign and Russia by way of former Trump campaign manager Manafort, WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence. Add to this the coordination between Corsi, Stone and WikiLeaks. The accusation is based on internal documents from Ecuador’s intelligence agency which has monitored all visits with Assange.
This would make Trump-Russia corruption case closed. But – many news outlets are offering cautions because they have not been able to corroborate the claims. There are other points to consider here. The author is Luke Harding who has a sound pedigree as a foreign correspondent, including time in Moscow, and is the author of ‘Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House’.
We’ll park this one here – it deserves acknowledgement given the media outlet and the author as well as the significance.
Before we strive for some clarity let’s highlight lesser news unfolding: Russia Inquiry: House Democrats Aim To Unmask Trump Jr.’s Blocked Call.
One benefit of winning elections, you get a say in the workings of government. In this case, after flipping 40 seats in the House, Democrats are assuming chairmanship of House committees. Specifically, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will become House Intelligence Committee Chair.
The prior committee chair was Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who repeatedly embarrassed himself and the committee through naked partisanship to impede the Trump-Russia investigation. Schiff is acknowledging filling in one glaring void that was studiously avoided by Russpublicans:
“Rep. Adam Schiff, who is poised to lead the committee when Democrats take over the House majority, told USA TODAY his committee will have to prioritize the most important witnesses and records that Republicans blocked them from pursuing. The “clearest example” of that obstruction, he said, is phone records that would show whether the blocked phone number – logged as Trump Jr. arranged a meeting in 2016 with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower – belonged to presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Schiff said the committee, under GOP Rep. Devin Nunes‘ leadership, refused to seek records that would unmask the blocked call, leaving a major question unanswered.
““Republicans refused to look at the phone records so that we could find out because they were afraid of what the answer might be,” the California Democrat said.”
Here is a second piece getting serious attention: The Cybersecurity 202: Facebook Is Under Siege Around The Globe. Now What?
While many countries are now demanding answers from Facebook for a variety of reasons, there is one thread that is highly specific to the role of Facebook in enabling Russian influence to benefit Trump in the election. We’ve watched this for a while waiting for a clear description of what is alleged by way of U.K. legislators, the leader of the U.K. parliamentary committee Damian Collins and a 3rd party Facebook app developer Six4Three:
“Six4Three obtained key Facebook documents, including the tech giant’s internal communications, but a California judge placed them under seal. U.K. lawmakers, however, after its founder stepped foot in the country. Damian Collins, the leader of the U.K. parliamentary committee, said Tuesday that lawmakers planned to release the documents “within the next week or so.” (H/T The Post’s Karla Adam, who attended the news conference.)
“One tidbit is out: Collins teased an internal communication from 2014 in which a Facebook employee took note of suspicious activity seeming to emanate from Russia. Collins said the note showed that bad actors may have tried to use special code to pull billions of data points from Facebook.”
Facebook is in trouble and has repeatedly lied about Russian use of the service. And there’s more: Federal Judge Delays Decision On Unsealing ‘interesting’ Julian Assange Case.
Remember the case filed against Assange was inadvertently disclosed through a clerical error. Now Attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom are pushing to have the charges unsealed:
““This is an interesting case, to say the least,” Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said Tuesday. “Obviously, some kind of mistake has been made.” That mistake by the government, she noted, and “the fact that he has been charged” in a filing for an unrelated case. “Given the fact that this statement does appear in a government filing, and given that everybody knows where this man is, what is the rationale for sealing the charge?”
“But Brinkema said she knew of no other case in which the government had been compelled to unseal a charging document before the defendant’s arrest.”
It’s anyone’s guess for when we’ll learn more, but there are charges brought against Assange.
And we’ll acknowledge that Senate Leader McConnell (R-KY) has again blocked a vote on a Mueller protection bill. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to a request for unanimous consent as an attempt to force a vote.
What it all means (maybe)
Those are the main headlines in a very short period of time. What might they mean? Here are a few that are most clear and important.
If the Corsi-Stone emails hold up to scrutiny then Roger Stone committed perjury when he appeared before the House Intelligence committee. Schiff has been saying this for months and vows to make sure the transcripts are shared with Mueller.
Roger Stone is not the only one exposed. Stone’s lies are also a problem for Trump: Exclusive: Two Key Answers From Trump To Mueller.
“President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”
Imagine how angry Trump would be if within days of submitting his written responses to Mueller questions he learns that his lies are undone. Angry enough to rant non-stop equating Mueller and McCarthyism?
How could this happen? Trump had inside information from Manafort and possibly insight from his loyalist, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker. How could this potentially go so horribly wrong so quickly? Here’s an interesting theory forwarded by a Commoner Call reader: This Reporter Argues That Trump Used Manafort As A ‘mole’ Inside Mueller’s Investigation — But It Just Blew Up In Their Faces.
The sub-head reads: Mueller’s team may not have needed Paul Manafort’s testimony at all.
Regardless of the validity of the author’s scenario, it is clear Mueller already knew the answers to the questions and when Manafort was lying. How else could he make a case for withdrawing the plea deal and moving for sentencing.
“But Marcy Wheeler, one of most astute Mueller watchers who once provided as yet undisclosed information to the FBI about the investigation, argued compellingly that Manafort has been acting as a mole within the investigation for President Donald Trump. Even more intriguingly, though, she believes Mueller knew this and may have used Manafort against the president.”
It’s a compelling article and the author offers that Mueller was happy to have Manafort act as a mole. The author even cites Manafort’s plea deal for clues.
Sumner shares much of what is above but ends with this:
“Why did Paul Manafort lie? Because it increasingly looks like the origin of the plan to attack the United States through stolen emails, false media accounts, and social media pressure didn’t originate with Moscow, it came from Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
“Manafort did for Trump what he did for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. And with the same assist from Moscow. That’s worth lying about.”
Many are saying Manafort lied for a Trump pardon; Trump told the NY Post a pardon is “not off the table”. But a Trump pardon is not imminent and not absolute and it would be obstruction if Trump dangles a pardon to influence a witness. And Trump can only pardon for federal crimes, both New York and Virginia can bring their own charges against Manafort.
Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani are no longer even hiding their attempts at obstruction. Giuliani is gloating about having “gamed the system”.
So who won the round?
Manafort seems to believe he can lie to everyone and still come out ahead. Giuliani is gloating about how they used Manafort to get one over on Mueller. Corsi and Stone have lied every step of the way. Stone has repeatedly revised his Congressional testimony after media stories but is still caught out for lying.
It’s the most recent version of Stone’s story that is the problem for Trump. Here are two key events with Stone at the center:
1) “Stone has confirmed the accuracy of the emails between him and Corsi that are revealed in the draft filings. He has also confirmed that Malloch was the individual in London with whom Corsi spoke.”
2) “By August 2, 2016, Corsi was emailing Stone to predict that WikiLeaks had more document dumps in the works. , August 3.”
Worth repeating from above: “President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks”.
Trump, Stone, Corsi, Manafort – they’re all liars. But right now Trump has told Mueller Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks and Stone is saying he did. That is not good for Trump.
Whether Russia reached out to the Trump campaign and a plan was formed, or Manafort brought a plan to Trump honed and tested in Ukraine, either scenario is bad for Trump. Regardless, Stone’s lies are a problem for Trump.
Trump is in trouble.