“People have normalcy bias. They thought: ‘If Manafort is really such a criminal, clearly someone would do something.’ Well guess what? No one did anything and now we have a Russian asset as POTUS backed up by a transnational crime syndicate!”
— Sarah Kendzior, writer, co-host Gaslit Nation podcast expert on authoritarian states. Tweet following MSNBC appearance (2/23/19)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/25/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Late on Friday [2/22] evening special counsel Robert Mueller’s office filed a sentencing memo regarding convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with the DC District Court. Manafort has already been sentenced but has earned a second sentencing hearing on March 13 because of “bold crimes… some of which were committed while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign manager chairman and later, while he was on bail from this Court”: Paul Manafort A ‘hardened’ And ‘bold’ Criminal, Mueller Prosecutors Tell Judge.
Manafort may face additional sentencing “that runs after any prison time Manafort is given for related crimes in Virginia federal court.” Manafort, 69, could well be in federal prison for the rest of his life.
““Manafort chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law,” prosecutors said, from “garden-variety crimes such as tax fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and bank fraud” to “more esoteric laws” involving foreign lobbying.
“He lied, they noted, “to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government.””
Manafort represents one of the well-troden proven paths of Trump-Russia collusion. While serving as Trump’s campaign chairman Manafort’s Russian intelligence partner — also indicted by Mueller — Konstantin Kilimnik, was the go-between for communicating the crown-jewel campaign data to Russia. This is but one set of lies told by Manafort. Manafort’s ongoing lies have voided his plea agreement. Should Manafort ever manage to leave federal prison, including by a Trump pardon, he faces the added legal problems as “the Manhattan district attorney is preparing to charge Manafort with violating state tax laws and committing other financial crimes”.
Manafort was one of the early triggers of concerns over Trump’s links to Russia. The Sarah Kendzior tweet at the beginning of this column has a 1-minute version of her quote and explanation with the failure of media to properly cover Manafort given his recent history in Ukraine politics. Link here to the full version of the panel discussion in which she made her comments.
But it’s hard to imagine Mueller’s efforts end here. In fact, there are new developments regarding timing of Mueller’s delivery of a report to the Department of Justice: Robert Mueller Won’t Submit Report To Attorney General Next Week, DOJ Official Tells NBC News.
Investigation rolls on
The recent report that Mueller could deliver his report as “early as next week” was reported by CNN and confirmed by other news outlets.
While this has happened in some form or other the timing is unknown. Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been predicting and demanding an end date for months, even claiming Mueller “has known since “May or June” that there is no evidence to support the allegation that members of Trump’s campaign knowingly worked with Russians during the 2016 election.”
While the prediction was wrong, the reactions have been valuable. Here’s a sample recent headline as the discussion of impeachment of Trump gains traction: How The Impeachment Process Works.
“The speculation over Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings against President has been swirling with varying levels of seriousness, and their new control of the House of Representatives means that there will be more calls to come.
“Democrats aren’t the only ones talking about the prospect of impeachment, as Trump has made multiple comments about the issue in the past month.”
Another useful discussion is around the ‘knowns’ and remaining ‘unknowns’ regarding Trump-Russia collusion: What We Learned About Trumpworld Outreach To Russia Since Mueller’s Investigation Began … And What We Still Don’t Know.
The Washington Post lays out a timeline from 2015 until now with headings of “What We Know” and “What We Don’t Know?”. As an example, Trump’s convicted lawyer Michael Cohen has testified that he lied to Congress and had briefed Trump about a Trump Moscow hotel deal leading up the 2016 election. The unknown:
Did Trump or other White House officials know that Cohen’s congressional testimony was inaccurate?
“Cohen’s lawyers have said he was in “regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel” to Trump before testifying. Trump’s lawyers have denied that the two spoke about his testimony.”
AP News offers a similar review with a lengthy summary of Trump-Russia collusion starting with Russian preparations for interference as early as 2014 ending by highlighting one of the oft-cited unfinished pieces of business: (“Court records reveal a Mueller report right in plain view” )
Mueller’s grand jury heard testimony from several participants of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting arranged by Trump Jr., but no charges have been filed.
Meanwhile, Democrats appear to be ready for the fight to make sure the Mueller report is made public: All of Mueller’s Files Will Be Handed Over To Congress Whether The Justice Department Likes It Or Not: Ex-DOJ Official.
“Speaking with Mike Allen, Matt Miller, a former Justice Department official under Obama who now works as a legal analyst for MSNBC, said that Mueller’s files will contain a treasure trove of information.
““[It’s] not just the Mueller report, whatever that is, that’s relevant. It’s also all the underlying evidence he collected,” Miller explained.”
Or this, “Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday that House Democrats will subpoena special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to testify before Congress if his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election is not made public”.
So, good news. There is more discussion of impeachment as the end of Mueller’s investigation is anticipated. There is more review of what is ‘known’ and the ‘unknowns’ including potential unfinished business of additional indictments.
Most important, there is open discussion of how a final Mueller report of Trump-Russia collusion is made public.