“This has been the most consequential day of the Mueller investigation.”
— NBC News investigator Ken Dilanian (12/7/18)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (12/10/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, guilty of a federal crime of violating campaign finance law and there is proof of collusion between Trump and Russia.
There were three different court filings by federal prosecutors on Friday. Though they were procedural there were enough facts and clues to make it clear that the Trump-Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has the goods on Trump – there is more than one smoking gun. The three court filings were a sentencing guideline for Trump lawyer Michael Cohen by federal prosecutors with Southern District of New York, sentencing guidelines for Michael Cohen by the special counsel and a filing against already convicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for lying in spite of his cooperation agreement. Cohen’s lawyer also filed a document stating a case for sentencing leniency.
Let’s be clear, this is not a smoking gun that will over night result in impeachment. Feel free to stop reading here should you choose. The news is sweeping, consequential and damning, but do you believe you can convince your neighbor that Trump’s violation of federal campaign finance law is a true smoking gun? It’s too many syllables without a clear picture – it’s like a Rohrshach test or a color blindness test to someone who is color blind; can you see the gun in this picture?
If you prefer to dive into the weeds, here are two simple ways to do this. Bloomberg has links to all filing documents as well as some important take-aways here. Or you can let MSNBC host Rachel Maddow do a stellar job of walking you through the documents as well as the importance here. The title of her show gives a good flavor of the day:‘Mueller: Manafort lying and lying about lying; SDNY rips Cohen’.
A few of the more significant points damning of Trump.
Aaron Blake, writing for the Washington Post: 5 Big Takeaways From The New Michael Cohen & Paul Manafort Filings.
“We knew from his plea deal, in which he admitted to eight crimes, that Cohen had involving the payment to Stormy Daniels. But, as the Post’s Philip Bump details, here the SDNY prosecutors also .”
The news here is Cohen’s disclosure that Trump directed Cohen’s steps to make the payments. Bump shows how you get to Trump’s federal crime of campaign finance violation:
“Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were meant to influence the election and that they came at the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told The Post, “there is little question Cohen, the campaign and the candidate are liable for the campaign finance violations.””
If you want a bit of legal color, the documents refer to Trump as “Individual-1” as is the practice when there is no charge as yet.
More Contacts With Russians And Earlier; Trump’s Moscow Project Worth $$$$’s; And Yes, There is Trump-Russia Collusion
There are multiple damning facts under this heading. But most important, here’s the making of Mueller’s case for Trump-Russia collusion; from the filing document:
“The defendant’s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government. If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. Similarly, it was material that Cohen, during the campaign, had a substantive telephone call about the project with an assistant to the press secretary for the President of Russia.”
Cohen’s guilty plea from November already made the case that the Trump Moscow deal was still alive as late as June 2016 in spite of Trump’s claims of “nothing to do with Russia”: 4 Key Takeaways From Michael Cohen’s New Plea Deal.
We also have confirmation that Trump and Trump Organization executives were involved through “regular contact”:
“Second, Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [The Trump Organization] executives during the campaign,” Mueller’s team says.”
Note this is “Russia-related matters” – plural.
Cohen also offered this damning statement about his congressional testimony:
“Also intriguing was the report that Cohen told Mueller about the “circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries.” This raises the possibility that Cohen did not act alone when lying to Congress about the Moscow tower project; his answers may have been vetted by others. Anyone else involved would potentially be implicated in a coverup conspiracy.”
“Circulating his response” will certainly cause a number of Trumpsters to lose sleep if their own testimony aligned with Cohen’s lies. If this helps confirm Donnie Jr. lied to Congress does he become Individual 1a?
Trump made no effort to separate Trump business from campaign business. Based on the emolument suits we reported on in the last edition of The Russia Monitor, he refuses to separate Trump business from his role as president.
To be convinced of Trump-Russian collusion you have to believe the reward is worth the risk. Is “hundreds of millions of dollars” convincing?
Why Do Manafort’s Lies Matter?
There are likely more questions than answers here but a critical question, “What was worth lying about for a man whose cooperation was required for the leniency he apparently sought?” (Same Aaron Blake article.)
Much of Manafort’s lies are about his relationship with his business partner Konstantin Kilimnik “whom the U.S. government has said has ties to Russian intelligence”.
“Much of the document is redacted, but the sheer volume of Kilimnik in it leads to an obvious question: Why was Manafort trying to protect him? And could this link somehow play in the broader collusion probe? Was Manafort really worried about a foreign national being in trouble, or was he worried about Mueller connecting some dots that he didn’t want connected?”
Putting the ‘sin’ in synergy
There are enticing details. Here’s a following article from the Bloomberg article: Cohen Said Russian Vowed ‘Political Synergy’ for Trump in 2015.
Earlier than previously understood, in November 2015 there is this:
“Michael Cohen spoke with a Russian national who repeatedly proposed a meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early months of Trump’s presidential bid, and offered “political synergy” for the campaign, according to a filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office.”
A more careful reading of Mueller’s filing regarding Cohen’s sentencing by Scott Stedman highlights not only “political synergy” for the Trump campaign, but “synergy on a government level”.
Stedman credits BuzzFeed for IDing the “Russian individual… in 2015 as Dmitry Klokov”. We’ll take a bit of a tangent to yet again credit the repeated break-through reporting of Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, but it’s also worth looking back to note that if Trump Organization executive Ivanka Trump that is implicated:
“Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump’s inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump’s name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.”
There’s one final big possible connection based on the 2015 timing of Trump-Russia communication. Did Russian interference help Trump defeat his GOP opponents and win the GOP primary?
He may not like details but the details are coming for him
Cohen will is scheduled for sentencing next week and SDNY prosecutors are suggesting “about 4 years”, but this is for crimes not related to Trump-Russia collusion. Mueller’s office is happy, noting he “has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
As soon as the filings were released on Friday evening Trump immediately tweeted, “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” We suspect Trump’s statement is a disingenuous dismissal of his own guilt given former Trump secretary of state Rex Tillerson says, “Trump doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things”.
We’ll leave this here with a final thought…
Trump is guilty and we are starting to see how Mueller is fitting the pieces together.