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A wonderful, marvelous day today in America…


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Author Topic: A wonderful, marvelous day today in America…  (Read 24 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: October 31, 2017, 11:30:27 pm »


…the first of many such wonderful, marveous days as Robert Mueller gradually works his way through the whole rotten mess towards the Trump family.

A truly wonderful day for a wonderful world…






• See: As “metal bracelet day” for Donald Trump edges closer…
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2017, 11:31:44 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Three former Trump campaign officials charged by special counsel

One-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates pleaded not guilty;
and George Papadopoulos, former Trump foreign policy adviser, pleaded guilty earlier this month
to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner
claiming to have high-level Russian connection.


By MATT ZAPOTOSKY, ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN, CAROL D. LEONNIG and SPENCER S. HSU | 2:02PM EDT - Monday, October 30, 2017

The U.S. Capitol, seen at dawn on Monday, October 30th, 2017; the first Indictment Day of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. — Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press.
The U.S. Capitol, seen at dawn on Monday, October 30th, 2017; the first Indictment Day of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
 — Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press.


SPECIAL COUNSEL Robert S. Mueller III on Monday revealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials — including onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort — marking the first criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs.

The charges are striking for their breadth, touching all levels of the Trump campaign and exploring possible personal financial wrongdoing by those involved, as well as what appeared to be a concerted effort by one campaign official to arrange a meeting with Russian officials.

One of the three charged, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, admitted to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with foreigners claiming to have high-level Russian connections.

Manafort and longtime business partner Rick Gates, meanwhile, were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

The investigation, which the FBI began last year but escalated significantly with Mueller's appointment in May, has taken a heavy toll on the Trump administration, repeatedly putting the president on the defensive as reports have emerged about the work the special counsel's team is doing. With Monday's revelations, a week that otherwise might have been spent with Washington focused on the Republican tax plan will have talking heads dissecting the criminal counts against former Trump campaign officials — and speculating about the next shoe to drop.

Papadopoulos's plea agreement, signed earlier this month and unsealed Monday, described his extensive efforts to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign. Emails show that his offers were sometimes looked at warily, though more-senior campaign officials at least entertained them.

Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in a brief appearance in D.C. federal court on Monday afternoon. A federal magistrate judge put the men on home confinement, and set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and a $5 million unsecured bond for Gates.

That means the men would be in debt to the government if they failed to show up for court, though they do not have to put any money down. Both surrendered their passports to the FBI. The next hearing in the case was scheduled for November 2nd before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a 2011 President Barack Obama appointee who previously worked as a federal prosecutor in the District.

For their part, Trump, his spokeswoman and his lawyer sought to cast the charges as having nothing to do with the president.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asserted that Papadopoulos had an “extremely limited,” volunteer role in the campaign and said that “no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard.”

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer overseeing the administration's handling of the Mueller probe, said, “The one thing that's clear is there's no reference to collusion, no reference to the president.”

The president himself took to Twitter to declare: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus??!!??”

“… Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” he said in a follow-up tweet.

Sanders said that Trump had “no intention or plan to make any changes with regard to the special counsel,” and Cobb said there had been no talk of possible pardons for Manafort or Gates.

“No, no, no. That's never come up and won't come up,” Cobb said in an interview.

Outside the D.C. courthouse, Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Manafort, said: “President Donald Trump was correct. There is no evidence that Mr. Manafort and the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.”

Glenn Selig, a Gates spokesman, said that Gates “welcomes the opportunity to confront these charges in court.”

“This fight is just beginning,” Selig said.

The charges are a major step in the investigation, but they do not represent a conclusion. Court documents revealed that Papadopoulos, for example, has been cooperating with investigators for three months — having been arrested and charged in July after landing at Dulles International Airport on a flight from Germany.

The information he provides could be key to furthering Mueller's investigation into others, legal analysts said.

Papadopoulos admitted that he had lied to the FBI about his interactions with people he thought had connections with the Russian government — essentially understating the conversations and claiming falsely that they had occurred before he joined Trump's campaign.

In a January 2017 interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos told agents that a London-based professor claimed to him that he had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails”. But Papadopoulos said that initially he viewed the professor as a “nothing”.

In reality, according to his plea, Papadopoulos understood that the professor had connections to Russian government officials, and he treated him seriously. An email quoted in court filings appears to match one described to The Washington Post in August in which Papadopoulos identified the professor with whom he met as Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy.

After a March 2016 meeting with the professor, who was not identified in court records, Papadopoulos emailed a campaign supervisor and other members of the campaign's foreign policy team. He claimed that the professor had introduced him to “Putin's niece” and the Russian ambassador in London, and that the purpose was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” court documents say.

The government noted that the woman was not Russian President Vladi­mir Putin's niece, and while Papadopoulos expected the professor to introduce him to the Russian ambassador, that never happened. But in the months that followed, Papadopoulos continued to correspond with the woman and the professor about a meeting between the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, and Russian officials.

“The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Papadopoulos wrote to a senior policy adviser for the campaign on April 25th.

At one point, a campaign official forwarded one of Papadopoulos's emails to another campaign official, saying: “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” “DT” would appear to be a reference to Donald Trump.

Papadopoulos's effort continued into the summer of 2016, and in August 2016, a campaign supervisor told Papadopoulos and another foreign policy adviser that they should meet with Russian officials. That ultimately did not take place, according to the plea.

According to documents and interviews, the supervisor was national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, whose lawyer said he actually opposed the trip and was just being polite. Other officials who received emails from Papadopoulos were campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Manafort.

Lawyers for Papadopoulos said in a statement: “We will have the opportunity to comment on George's involvement when called upon by the Court at a later date. We look forward to telling all of the details of George's story at that time.”

In a separate indictment, the special counsel alleged that Manafort and Gates laundered money for nearly a decade through scores of U.S. and foreign corporations and accounts, and gave false statements to the Justice Department and others when asked about their work on behalf of a foreign entity. The time period stretched into at least 2016, though it did not seem to involve the Trump campaign.

According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates arranged to hire two Washington-based lobbying firms to work on behalf of their Ukrainian clients, arranging meetings with U.S. officials and boosting their public image in the United States.

Though it was not named, one of the firms referenced in the indictment is the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta, the head of the firm, announced to colleagues on Monday that he was stepping down. The other firm is Mercury Public Affairs, according to people familiar with the matter. A partner at Mercury said the firm “believed our work was intended to serve an important and proper purpose.”

Prosecutors say Manafort and Gates arranged for a Brussels-based nonprofit to nominally hire the Washington companies to hide the fact that the two men were working for Ukrainian government officials; otherwise they would have been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

In fact, prosecutors allege, Manafort was communicating directly with then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych about the effort, promising in 2012 to provide him weekly updates.

Prosecutors say that when the Justice Department approached Manafort and Gates in 2016 and 2017 about whether they should have registered as foreign agents for the work, they responded with false and misleading letters, according to the indictment.

Manafort and Gates also were accused of trying to hide money kept in foreign bank accounts — Manafort from 2011 to 2014 and Gates from 2012 to 2014. And Manafort was accused of filing fraudulent tax returns, stating on tax forms he filed from 2008 to 2014 that he controlled no foreign bank accounts.

All told, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts, the special counsel alleged.

From 2008 to 2014, according to the indictment, Manafort arranged to wire $12 million from offshore accounts to pay for personal expenses, including $5 million to a home renovation contractor in the Hamptons, more than $1.3 million to a home entertainment and lighting vendor based in Florida, $934,000 to an antique-rug dealer in Alexandria, and $849,000 to a men's clothier in New York.

Law enforcement's interest in Manafort dates back to at least 2014, according to a person familiar with the case.

While Mueller's probe has focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, investigators have shown interest in a broad array of other topics.

Those include meetings that the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow in December, and a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower involving the president's son Donald Jr. and a Russian lawyer. Mueller's team has requested extensive records from the White House, covering areas including the president's private discussions about firing James B. Comey as FBI director and his response to news that Flynn was under investigation, according to two people briefed on the requests.

Mueller is also investigating whether Trump obstructed justice leading up to Comey's firing.


Devlin Barrett, Alice Crites, Sari Horwitz, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Adam Entous contributed to this report.

• Matt Zapotosky covers the Justice Department for The Washington Post's National Security team.

• Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post.

• Carol Leonnig is an investigative reporter at The Washington Post.

• Spencer S. Hsu is an investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer finalist and national Emmy award nominee.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: What we know about the first charges from the special counsel probe

 • VIDEO: Untangling the web of Paul Manafort

 • GRAPHIC: Team Trump's ties to Russian interests

 • Who's who in Mueller's investigation into Russia ties

 • The Fix: How conservative media reacted to the Mueller indictments

 • Paul Manafort's ‘lavish lifestyle’ highlighted in indictment

 • Congressional Republicans tiptoe carefully around charges leveled by Mueller

 • Anne Applebaum: Did Russia teach Paul Manafort all its dirty tricks?

 • Washington prepares for the unexpected as Russia investigation unfolds

 • Seems like everyone’s colluding with Russia now

 • Ukrainians cheered by news of Manafort's indictment

 • Washington Post Editorial: What a presidential president would have said about Mueller's indictments

 • Who did Manafort and Gates work for in Ukraine and Russia?

 • The Fix: The 12-count Manafort and Gates indictment, annotated

 • The Fix: With money laundering charges against Paul Manafort, Trump’s ‘fake news’ claim is harder to defend

 • Paul Manafort: An FAQ about Trump's indicted former campaign chairman

 • As Russia case unfolds, Trump and Republicans go to battle with Clinton and Democrats

 • How Trump adviser Manafort revived his career — and business fortunes — in Ukraine

 • ‘Anyone … with a pulse’: How a Russia-friendly adviser found his way into the Trump campaign


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/manafort-and-former-business-partner-asked-to-surrender-in-connection-with-special-counsel-probe/2017/10/30/6fe051f0-bd67-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2017, 11:33:03 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

White House pushes a two-front defense:
Blaming indicted aides and Hillary Clinton


By CATHLEEN DECKER | 4:40PM PDT - Monday, October 30, 2017

Then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
Then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016.
 — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.


HIS PRESIDENCY facing fresh peril, President Trump and his loyalists have adopted a twofold strategy to protect him against the indictment of two senior campaign aides and a guilty plea on the part of a third, more junior aide: distancing Trump from alleged wrongdoers and leveling new attacks on an old nemesis, Hillary Clinton.

Shortly after the announcement that indictments had been issued for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort's long-term colleague Rick Gates, Trump outlined his strategy succinctly, if not entirely accurately.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary and the Dems the focus??!!??” he wrote on Twitter.

“Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Monday's indictments opened a new phase of the investigation headed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. For the first time, the case has shifted from generalized accusations to specific charges against named individuals.

What neither the president's backers nor his opponents know for sure is how many Americans in this highly polarized political era may still be out there who have withheld judgment until now and how they may be affected by the sight on their televisions of men in suits walking into court to enter criminal pleas.

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who has conducted surveys in contested congressional districts, said many voters have been awaiting the outcome of the investigation before judging Trump.

“I think that this is a real issue for him, despite the divisions in our country,” she said. “This is clearly the beginning of finding out what happened.”

Some Trump supporters, however, discounted that, saying the absence of any charges directly against Trump will minimize the impact.

“They've gotten some fringe players … but there's still no smoking gun as to Russian collusion,” former Trump campaign advisor Barry Bennett said.

The White House sought to emphasize that point as much as possible on Monday.

In a briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered no defense of Manafort, who ran the president's campaign for key months last year and wrangled delegates to ensure Trump's nomination at the Republican National Convention in July.

Instead, she pointed repeatedly to the fact that the charges in the indictments focused on activities that largely took place before Manafort and Gates joined the campaign — although despite Trump's tweeted assertion, the financial crimes alleged in Manafort’s case did extend into his time as campaign manager and beyond.

“Look, today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity,” Sanders said.


Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort leaves his home in Alexandria, Virginia, on Monday, October 30th, 2017, enroute to turning himself in to the FBI in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.
Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort leaves his home in Alexandria, Virginia, on Monday, October 30th, 2017,
enroute to turning himself in to the FBI in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.


She used the same sentiments to distance Trump from George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy aide whose guilty plea was made public on Monday.

The charges to which he pleaded guilty — false statements to FBI investigators — have “nothing to do with the activities of the campaign. It has to do with his failure to tell the truth,” Sanders said. She said Trump had reacted to the indictments “the same way the rest of us in the White House have, and that's without a lot of reaction because it doesn't have anything to do with us.”

Sanders also said “the real collusion” was between Clinton and Russians who sought to “smear the president.” She was referring to the Clinton campaign's financing of opposition research that a former British intelligence officer collected on Trump's alleged involvement with Russians. The Republican argument is that because the dossier Christopher Steele produced included information from some Russian sources, it showed collusion by Clinton.

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Russia was working against Clinton in the election, and the Papadopoulos plea agreement includes fresh examples of people tied to the Russian government seeking to deliver information about Clinton to the Trump team.

The White House arguments were amplified by conservative news outlets, including Fox News' opinion programs, which the president regularly watches. Multiple Fox hosts on Monday called into question Mueller's integrity and cited the Clinton campaign's involvement in the dossier.

“What we see in politics now is that you win by any means necessary,” said Lisa Kennedy Montgomery of the Fox show “Outnumbered”. Other guests debated what one called increased questions about Mueller's “conflicts of interest” and referred to a largely debunked claim that Clinton had sold uranium to Russia.

The conflicting narrative lines speak to the deep political divisions in America that will inevitably shape public reaction to the indictments and any further legal actions by Mueller.

The Trump strategy has been long in the making, since a Manafort indictment has been signaled as early as last summer, when FBI agents used a search warrant to enter his home before dawn.

In August, the day after that search, Trump told reporters that “he was with the campaign, as you know, for a very short period of time — relatively short period of time. But I've always known him to be a good man."

For even longer than that, Trump has used allegations of misconduct by Clinton as a tool for uniting Republicans who disdain the former secretary of State. For days, he and other Republicans have called for investigations of her presidential campaign and State Department tenure. The increased volume of those calls last week may have suggested that Trump and his advisors sensed a looming need for diversion.

By bringing Clinton up once again on Monday, Trump was framing the indictments as just another battle in continuing partisan wars. In so doing he was leaning on a political truth: Supporters typically rally around a president in crisis, at least initially.

Democrats initially defended Bill Clinton when his affair with an intern became public, and most remained politically loyal even in the throes of impeachment, in which they saw Republicans trying to drive him from office as a greater threat.

During the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, Republican leaders ultimately convinced President Nixon that he needed to resign, but the party and its voters continued to support him for most of the two-year saga.

Almost 7 in 10 Americans supported Nixon at his second inauguration in 1973, seven months after the bungled effort to bug Democratic headquarters that launched the scandal. Only when White House tape recordings showed Nixon had lied about coordinating a cover-up did a majority of Americans say he should be removed from office. Even then, 1 in 4 Americans opposed his departure.

Trump, however, has far less distance to slide. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday found that even in advance of Monday's charges, only 38% of Americans approved of how Trump was doing his job, the lowest level yet hit in the poll.


Cathleen Decker reported from Washington D.C.

• Cathleen Decker analyzes politics for the Los Angeles Times, writing about the Trump administration and the themes, demographics and personalities central to national and state contests. In 2016 she covered her 10th presidential campaign; she has also covered seven races for governor and a host of U.S. Senate and local elections. She directed the L.A. Times' 2012 presidential campaign coverage.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Three of Trump's former top campaign aides face criminal charges in dramatic expansion of Mueller probe


http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-manafort-analysis-20171030-story.html
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2017, 11:42:29 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Upstairs at home, with the TV on,
Trump fumes over Russia indictments


Inside the White House, the president and his aides vented frustration over
Manafort and Gates indictments, fearing the unknown about Mueller probe.


By ROBERT COSTA, PHILIP RUCKER and ASHLEY PARKER | 8:04PM EDT - Monday, October 30, 2017

President Donald J. Trump. — Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
President Donald J. Trump. — Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

PRESIDENT TRUMP woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.

Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.

The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.

Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”

But the president's celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump's campaign and Russian officials.

For a president who revels in chaos — and in orchestrating it himself — Monday brought a political storm that Trump could not control. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, along with lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, advised Trump to be cautious with his public responses, but they were a private sounding board for his grievances, advisers said.

“This has not been a cause of great agita or angst or activity at the White House,” said Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing Russia matters. He added that Trump is “spending all of his time on presidential work.”

But Trump's anger on Monday was visible to those who interacted with him, and the mood in the corridors of the White House was one of weariness and fear of the unknown. As the president groused upstairs, many staffers — some of whom have hired lawyers to help them navigate Mueller's investigation — privately speculated about where the special counsel might turn next.

“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”

Trump is also increasingly agitated by the expansion of Mueller's probe into financial issues beyond the 2016 campaign and about the potential damage to him and his family.

This portrait of Trump and his White House on a day of crisis is based on interviews with 20 senior administration officials, Trump friends and key outside allies, many of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

Trump and his aides were frustrated that, yet again, Russia steamrolled the start of a carefully planned week of policy news. Trump is preparing to nominate a new chairman of the Federal Reserve and is scheduled to depart on Friday for a high-stakes, 12-day trip across Asia, and House Republicans are planning to unveil their tax overhaul bill.

“I'd like to start the briefing today by addressing a topic that I know all of you are preparing to ask me about, and that's tax reform,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Monday afternoon's news briefing. It was a lighthearted prelude to a question-and-answer session immediately overtaken by queries about the indictments.

Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller's team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort, and continued to be involved in Trump's political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in.

Some White House advisers are unhappy with Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump's longtime friend and chair of his inauguration, whom they hold responsible for keeping Gates in the Trump orbit long after Manafort resigned as campaign chairman in August 2016, according to people familiar with the situation. Barrack has been Gates's patron of late, steering political work to him and, until Monday, employing him as director of the Washington office of his real estate investment company.

Trump and his aides tried to shrug off the ominous headlines, decorating the South Portico of the White House in black bats and faux spider webs to welcome costumed children for Halloween trick-or-treating. As the sun set on Monday, the president and first lady Melania Trump handed out goody bags to little princesses and pirates.




The Russia drama has been distracting and damaging for Trump — from a public relations perspective if not, eventually, a legal one. The president's inner circle on Russia matters has tightened in recent months. In addition to his lawyers, Trump has been talking mostly with Kelly and members of his family, including Melania, as well as daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers. Trump also leans on two senior aides, counselor Kellyanne Conway and communications director Hope Hicks, as well as some outside friends for advice.

Still, Trump has little ability to influence the ongoing Russia probe save for firing Mueller — the sort of rash decision that his lawyers insisted on Monday he is not considering.

“Nothing about today's events alters anything related to our engagement with the special counsel, with whom we continue to cooperate,” Cobb said. “There are no discussions and there is no consideration being given to terminating Mueller.”

Sekulow, one of Trump's outside lawyers, said: “There's no firing-Robert-Mueller discussions.”

Asked whether Trump is considering pardons for Manafort or Gates, Cobb said, “No, no, no. That's never come up and won't come up.”

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, some of Trump's allies are privately revving up their own version of a counterattack against Mueller. Several top Republican legislators plan to raise questions in the coming days about the FBI's handling of a “dossier” detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russian interests. They intend to argue that Mueller's team has become overly reliant on a document that was funded in part by Democrats, according to two people involved in the discussions. Mueller does not appear to have relied on the dossier for the cases revealed on Monday, however.

For Trump and his team, the bad news began as disconcerting drips last Friday, when CNN first reported that indictments were probably coming on Monday. The only question: of whom?

The White House had no inside information beyond what was public in news reports, officials said, and were left to scramble and speculate as to what might happen. Reliable information was hard to come by, as Trump's team was scattered. Cobb was at his home in South Carolina until Monday afternoon, while Trump spent much of Saturday at his private golf club in Virginia and went out to dinner with Melania and their son, Barron, at the Trump International Hotel's steakhouse in Washington.

Among the many unknowns, the Trump team arrived at an educated guess that Manafort was likely to be indicted — in part, according to one White House aide, because they heard that television news crews were preparing to stake out Manafort's Virginia home.

“This wasn't a shocking development,” Sekulow said.

When the first pair of indictments came naming Manafort and Gates, there was palpable relief inside the West Wing. The 31-page document did not name Trump, nor did it address any possible collusion between Russia and the president's campaign.

Moreover, aides were simply happy that the initial batch of indictments did not include Michael Flynn, Trump's former and controversial national security adviser, who was fired from his top White House perch after misleading Vice President Pence about his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn had been intimately involved in both the campaign and the early days of the administration, and a Flynn indictment, most staff believed, would have been far more damaging.

The indictment of Gates — who had played a quiet, behind-the-scenes role in Trump's orbit — was more of a surprise, though he had served as Manafort's campaign deputy and protege. Trump's team quickly settled on a messaging plan: The duo's alleged misdeeds, the White House argued, had nothing to do with the president or his campaign.

Privately, aides and allies acknowledged that the campaign had perhaps not sufficiently vetted the two men before bringing them on board.

Michael Caputo, a former campaign adviser whom Trump praised on Twitter during Monday morning for his appearance on Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends”, later called the indictments “one big, huge fail.”

“Rick and Paul, I would consider them friends of the president because they worked so closely with him,” Caputo said. “The president's watching closely and he should be concerned for his friends' welfare, but he has absolutely no concern about collusion with Russia because there was none.”

On Sunday, Trump had attempted to seek refuge from the political squall with another round of golf at his Virginia club. Senators Lindsey O. Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and Ron Johnson (Republican-Wisconsin) were set to join him, according to two people briefed on the plans — an afternoon of camaraderie and talk about his tax proposal.

It was not to be. Rainy weather forced the White House to cancel the outing — yet another disappointment, beyond the president's control.


John Wagner contributed to this report.

• Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.

• Philip Rucker is the White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. He previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. He joined The Post in 2005 as a local news reporter.

• Ashley Parker is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2017, after 11 years at The New York Times, where she covered the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns and Congress, among other things.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • COURT DOCUMENT: George Papadopoulos charges and plea deal

 • Who's who in the George Papadopoulos court documents

 • The Fix: 4 big things we still don't know about the Papadopoulos-Russia plea deal — and 3 things we do

 • Randall D. Eliason: The bombshell in Robert Mueller's indictments

 • Today is a bad day on the Internet to be named ‘George Papadopoulos’

 • Top campaign officials knew of Trump adviser's outreach to Russia

 • Who is George Papadopoulos, the Trump adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators?

 • Mueller's moves send message to other potential targets: Beware, I'm coming

 • Timeline: How a Trump adviser tried to work with the Russian government

 • Trump campaign emails show aide's repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/upstairs-at-home-with-the-tv-on-trump-fumes-over-russia-indictments/2017/10/30/fd0d0b16-bd87-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2017, 02:09:56 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

EDITORIAL: Despite what you may have read on Trump's
Twitter feed, Manafort's indictment is a big deal


“A wiser, more experienced and less defensive president
would remain silent at this point in the investigation.”


By the LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD  | 4:00AM PDT - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

President Donald J. Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House on October 26th. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
President Donald J. Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House on October 26th. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.

NEARLY SIX MONTHS after he was appointed special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia — as well as other matters that “may arise” — produced criminal charges on Monday. Despite what you may have read on President Trump's Twitter feed, this is a big deal.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on charges of money-laundering and conspiracy in connection with his role in an alleged scheme to use offshore accounts to hide tens of millions of dollars he received for representing a pro-Russia political faction in Ukraine. Richard W. Gates III, Manafort's deputy campaign chairman and longtime associate, was also named in the indictment.

Like any defendants, the two are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the charges are serious, carrying years of potential prison time — and they raise questions about Trump's decision to place these particular men at the helm of his campaign. What's more, as everyone knows who has watched a complicated criminal investigation like this one unfold, early indictments are often brought against lower-level individuals who are peripheral to the investigation as prosecutors work their way toward the more central figures — a process that is made easier if and when the lower-level people begin to cooperate in order to protect themselves.

Separately, it was announced on Monday that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a professor he believed had “substantial connections” to Kremlin officials. The professor told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” about Hillary Clinton and “thousands” of emails. Papadopoulos was arrested in July and has been cooperating with authorities.

Predictably, Trump and his administration were quick to discount the importance of all these charges. The president tweeted: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus??!!??”

In a subsequent tweet, he added: “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” Yet one definition of collusion is soliciting “dirt” about a political opponent from a foreign government that is actively seeking to interfere in U.S. elections, then incorporating it into one's campaign. Such dirt was what was promised in the now-famous meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 attended by Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. (The ultimate act of collusion, of course, would be complicity by the Trump campaign in Russia's hacking of Democratic email accounts and the dissemination of their contents by WikiLeaks. So far there is no proof of that sort of collusion.)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday tried to minimize Papadopoulos' role in the Trump campaign, saying he served in an “extremely limited … volunteer position.” Yet, according to court documents, Papadopoulos corresponded with campaign officials about the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He even broached the idea at a campaign meeting Trump attended.

Also, Papadopoulos' guilty plea should be worrisome to Trump and his lieutenants because it stems from his decision to mislead the FBI — and as most Washington-watchers know, it is often the cover-up rather than the underlying crime that leads to trouble for politicians under investigation. Mueller's inquiry encompasses the question of whether members of the Trump administration, including Trump himself, sought to shut down the investigations — and whether they engaged in obstruction of justice along the way. Just as Mueller is looking into Papadopoulos today, he will undoubtedly be looking at Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey tomorrow.

Sanders and Trump yesterday tried to deflect attention by arguing that the real collusion with Russia was on the part of the Clinton campaign. By paying for a “dossier” about Trump, Sanders suggested, the Clinton campaign conspired with Russian intelligence to smear Trump — a far-fetched idea.

A wiser, more experienced and less defensive president would remain silent at this point in the investigation, or confine himself to expressing confidence that the system of justice would prevail. That's probably too much to expect from Trump. What matters is that he doesn't attempt to interfere with or short-circuit the judicial process or Mueller's further investigations. Sanders said on Monday that the president had no intention of firing Mueller, and she indicated that he would let the “process play through” before considering pardons for Manafort or Gates. Pardons — for anyone — and firing the special counsel must be off the table.


__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Trump aide who pleaded guilty went from an ‘excellent guy’ to a ‘low-level volunteer’

 • Indicted aide sought major role in Trump campaign, offered to broker Putin meeting

 • Trump is ‘very intelligent’. Just ask him.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-mueller-indictments-20171031-story.html
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2017, 05:57:27 pm »


from The Washington Post....

The Daily 202: 10 takeaways from Mueller's shock-and-awe gambit

The political and legal significance of the special counsel's moves.

By JAMES HOHMANN | 7:45AM EDT - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. — Photograph: Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. — Photograph: Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

THE BIG IDEA: The ghost of Paul Manafort haunts the White House this Halloween.

Since President Trump likes alliterative nicknames, maybe the special counsel's should be Methodical Mueller.

Unveiling the first batch of criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in the American political system, Robert S. Mueller III proved on Monday that he is not messing around. The former FBI director has played his cards carefully since his appointment in May. He's clearly turning over every rock to see what crawls out from underneath. Unafraid to play hardball, he's being strategic in showing his hand.

You surely know the news by now: Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and his long-time business partner, Rick Gates, were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

But the biggest bombshell of Monday — the real October Surprise — is that former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos agreed to a plea deal and admitted to making a false statement to FBI investigators about his contacts with foreigners claiming to have high-level Russian connections.

“The charges are striking for their breadth, touching all levels of the Trump campaign and exploring the possible personal, financial wrong-doing of those involved, as well as what appeared to be a concerted effort by one campaign official to arrange a meeting with Russian officials,” Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu write in our lead story.

“[Mueller's] opening bid is a remarkable show of strength,” Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes explain on their Lawfare blog. “He has a cooperating witness from inside the campaign's interactions with the Russians. And he is alleging not mere technical infractions of law but astonishing criminality on the part of Trump's campaign manager, a man who also attended the Trump Tower meeting. Any hope the White House may have had that the Mueller investigation might be fading away vanished…. Things are only going to get worse from here.”


Here are 10 takeaways from Mueller's opening gambit:

1. We now know that multiple members of the Trump campaign at least entertained the idea of getting help from the Russians.

Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails were apparently hacked by the Russians in March 2016. That same month, Papadopoulos began communicating with someone he believed to be linked to the Kremlin. By July, Trump was publicly encouraging the Kremlin to release Clinton's emails. “The White House can no longer claim honestly (if it ever could) that the investigation into Russian collusion is non-existent,” Jennifer Rubin notes.

This comes against the backdrop of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that we already knew about, which came after Donald Trump Jr. emailed that he loved the idea of getting dirt from Russia about Hillary Clinton.

“At this point, it would be a truly remarkable coincidence if two entities that had so many ties to each other, that had so much information about what the other was doing, and that were working so hard toward the same goal never found a way to coordinate,” Vox's Ezra Klein writes.

2. Sam Clovis is about to be in the hot seat.

The former Iowa radio host and social conservative activist is awaiting Senate confirmation to serve in the Agriculture Department's top scientific post. His confirmation hearing is expected next month.

Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Clovis, confirmed to our Rosalind Helderman that several references in court filings to “the campaign supervisor” refer to the former radio host from Iowa, who served as Trump's national campaign co-chairman.

“At one point, Papadopoulos emailed Clovis and other campaign officials about a March 24th, 2016, meeting he had in London with a professor, who had introduced him to the Russian ambassador and a Russian woman he described as ‘Putin's niece’,” Helderman reports. “The group had talked about arranging a meeting ‘between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” Papadopoulos wrote. (Papadopoulos later learned that the woman was not Putin's niece, and while he expected to meet the ambassador, he never did, according to filings.) Clovis responded that he would “work it through the campaign,” adding, “great work,” according to court documents.

“In August 2016, Clovis responded to efforts by Papadopoulos to organize an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials. “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” Clovis wrote. Toensing said Clovis “always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign.” She said his responses to Papadopoulos were courtesy by “a polite gentleman from Iowa.”

Will Trump stand by him?

3. Papadopoulos is helping the government, but we still don’t know how much.

Papadopoulos has been working with Mueller's team for three months now, and he is described in court documents as a “proactive cooperator.”

Former public defender and professor Seth Abramson explains why that term is probably bad news for others in Trump's orbit: “Prosecutors often require a defendant to perform cooperative services for the government well in *advance* of his or her formal plea,” he tweeted. “The reason for this is that — via both ‘proffer’ and sometimes actual performance — a defendant must show they're of value to the government. So there is *every* reason to think that Papadopoulos was wired for sound not long after his arrest on July 27th, 2017 at Dulles airport. For Papadopoulos to get his October 5th plea, one of two things had to be true: (a) the feds had already got good sound from him; or… (b) he'd made a sufficient proffer establishing that he *could* get good sound for them — valuable evidence — shortly after October 5th.”

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who Trump fired earlier this year, told Politico Magazine: “Hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously. That should be of concern to some people.”

From the Toronto Star's Washington reporter: Papadopoulos is described as “proactive cooperator”. Former prosecutor tells me that sometimes means “wore a wire”.

4. The updated timeline raises a host of new questions about what Trump knew and when he knew it.

First, was Trump present when Papadopoulos said that he could set up a Trump-Putin meeting? “The indictment says Papadopoulos attended a ‘national security meeting’ about March 31st with ‘Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the campaign’,” Aaron Blake notes. “It says Papadopoulos told ‘the group’ that he had connections and could arrange a Trump-Putin meeting. The text doesn't technically say whether Trump was present when this claim was made. But if he was, it would render Trump's own denials of his campaign's contact with Russia pretty dishonest.”

Second, did Trump know Papadopoulos had been interviewed by the FBI when he called James Comey in January to allegedly ask for the FBI director's loyalty?

From an alumnus of Obama's Justice Department: “The FBI interview where Papadopolous lied about his Russia contacts came on the same day, Jan. 27, Trump asked Comey for a loyalty pledge”.

5. Mueller is playing hardball as he tries to flip Manafort and Gates.

Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in D.C. federal court. A judge set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and a $5 million unsecured bond for Gates. They will be on home confinement.

“The criminal charge of being an unregistered foreign agent — a so-called ‘FARA violation’ — against Paul Manafort is a rare crime, used just four times (all successfully) in the last decade. Normally, it's allowed to be just a civil penalty, so the fact that Mueller has deployed it as a criminal one means he's going for maximum leverage,” Garrett M. Graff explains on Wired.

A former Watergate assistant special prosecutor, Nick Akerman, said the court filings “all spell bad news for Trump” because he cannot see any strong defense to the Manafort indictment. “The only defense that you've got is to go in there and start singing like a canary to avoid jail time,” he told our colleagues. “And once he starts singing, one of the tunes is bound to be Donald Trump.”

“Manafort may now be facing the prospect of years in prison, and the indictment seems meticulously rooted in facts and evidence that Robert Mueller accumulated; if I were Manafort, I'd be very worried,” adds New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Presumably that was the intention, and one purpose of the indictment is to gain leverage to persuade Manafort to testify against others in exchange for leniency. If Manafort pursues his self-interest, my bet is that he'll sing. That then can become a cascade: He testifies against others, who in turn are pressured to testify against still others. And all this makes it more difficult to protect the man at the center if indeed he has violated the law.”


Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs Capitol Hill after a closed-door meeting. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departs Capitol Hill after a closed-door meeting. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.

6. Mueller's moves are designed to send a message to everyone else entangled in the probe that he's not messing around.

Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima explain why in a story that quotes several legal experts: “This is the way you kick off a big case,” said white-collar defense lawyer Patrick Cotter, who formerly worked alongside the man spearheading the prosecution of Manafort and Gates. “Oh, man, they couldn't have sent a message any clearer if they'd rented a revolving neon sign in Times Square. And the message isn't just about Manafort. It's a message to the next five guys they talk to. And the message is: ‘We are coming, and we are not playing, and we are not bluffing’.”

“Mueller's team controlled the selection of facts in the Papadoupolous plea. Three messages, at least, shaped their choice,” author and former Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman‏ explained in a series of tweets: “One: Mueller knows things, some of them about Russia, and has proof. He's warning other campaign witnesses against perjury. Two: He's not saying exactly what he knows or how. Uncertainty there inspires dread, may flush out evidence he doesn't even know about. Three: Early cooperation will save you from the worst. Mueller could have taken a lot harsher approach to the Papadopoulos facts. Classic leverage … He may know what you're hiding. He'll scorch you & yours if you lie. Spill and he'll go easier. Don't wait too long.”

7. Unsealing the guilty plea was an insurance policy that makes it politically untenable for Trump to fire Mueller.

Most congressional Republicans stayed silent in the face of the news (more on that below), but a handful of key lawmakers on the right telegraphed that firing Mueller would cross an unacceptable red line. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa) said in a statement said “it's important to let our legal system run its course”: “It's good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce [FARA].”

“He's not going to be fired by the president,” Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican-Utah) said of Mueller. “Because I know him. He knows that'd be a stupid move.”

Trump lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, who have each advised the president to use caution in his public response to the mounting investigation, all sought on Monday to tamp speculation that Trump is even considering firing Mueller. “Nothing about today's events alters anything related to our engagement with the special counsel, with whom we continue to cooperate,” Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing Russia matters, told reporters. “There are no discussions and there is no consideration being given to terminating Mueller.” Sekulow, one of Trump's outside lawyers, also echoed that response: “There's no firing-Robert-Mueller discussions,” he said. Asked whether Trump is considering pardons for Manafort or Gates, Cobb said: “No, no, no. That's never come up and won't come up.”

To be sure, that does not mean he won't be tempted. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon “is pushing Trump to take action against Mueller, urging him in particular to defund the investigation … a move that would defang Mueller without the president formally firing him,” Politico's Eliana Johnson reports. “Long-time Trump confidant Roger Stone told the Daily Caller that for the president appointing another special counsel — this one to investigate [the Obama-era uranium deal] — was his ‘only chance for survival’.”

8. Yesterday's indictments will contribute to a climate of fear in the White House that makes it harder for Trump and his staff to be effective.

“Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller's team damaging information about other colleagues,” Robert Costa, Philip Rucker, and Ashley Parker report. “They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort and continued to be involved in Trump's political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in. ‘The walls are closing in,’ said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers … ‘Everyone is freaking out’.”

9. Mueller has proven that his investigation is not partisan.

Democratic uber-lobbyist Tony Podesta abruptly quit his post atop the Podesta Group, the capital's eighth highest-grossing lobbying firm, just hours after the first indictments were unsealed. The indictments of Manafort and Gates raised questions about the work Podesta's firm did with Manafort to improve the image of the Ukrainian government.

“Tony's Podesta Group is one of two firms described in Monday's indictment as having been recruited by Manafort and Gates to lobby on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who fled to Moscow in 2014,” Marc Fisher and Carol Leonnig report. “Federal prosecutors have accused Manafort of creating a scheme to mislead the government about his secret work for a Ukrainian political leader. Both the Podesta Group and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, have said they were hired to lobby for a European nonprofit based in Brussels trying to polish Ukraine's image in the West. But behind the scenes, prosecutors allege, the real client was a political party led by the former Ukraine president, who was friendly with Russia.”

10. The indictments cast fresh doubts on Trump's judgment and his discernment in surrounding himself with good people.

It was widely and publicly known that Manafort was one sketchy hombre when Trump hired him to run his campaign last year. BuzzFeed's Ben Smith has a good primer on “the open secrets of the Russia story,” detailing the long and well-known history of Manafort and Gates's work abroad.

Manafort joined the campaign with his own reasons to help the Russians, separate from Trump's agenda. While the current charges against Manafort do not focus on attempts to collude with the Russian government, his interests and Russian interests overlapped on several occasions while serving on the campaign. (Philip Bump lists some.)

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Mike Pence is only vice president today because Manafort persuaded Trump to pick him. It was very clear last summer that the then-Indiana governor would not have gotten tapped for the ticket if Manafort hadn't prodded the GOP nominee.


To read more from this article …… CLICK HERE, and scroll down.

With contribution from Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

• James Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post.



https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/10/31/daily-202-10-takeaways-from-mueller-s-shock-and-awe-gambit/59f778d330fb0468e7653ee5
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2017, 05:58:51 pm »


from the Los Angeles Times....

First charges against former Trump aides
reveal an aggressive strategy by Mueller


By JOSEPH TANFANI and DAVID WILLMAN | 4:55PM PDT - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.

THE first criminal charges filed in the investigation of President Trump's campaign aides and Russia's meddling in the 2016 election come straight from a well-thumbed playbook of white-collar crime prosecutions — reward defendants who cooperate, drop the hammer on those who won't, and scare others into talking.

The harsh indictments of Trump's former campaign manager and his deputy — and news that a third former campaign aide has been secretly cooperating with investigators since July — are a clear sign that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has adopted a bare-knuckle strategy and that more indictments are almost certain, according to former prosecutors.

“I think this sends a message to people in the crosshairs that this is serious, and they should govern themselves accordingly,” said Robert Capers, the former top federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, a traditional clearing house for organized-crime prosecutions and complex terrorism cases.

Peter Zeidenberg, a former public corruption prosecutor at the Justice Department, said he thought more charges were coming soon. “They've got all kinds of irons in the fire, I am quite sure,” he said.

Mueller, a former FBI director and federal prosecutor, has led the investigation since May to determine whether anyone in the Trump campaign actively cooperated with a Russian intelligence scheme to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Hillary Clinton's chances last fall. But Mueller also has the authority to prosecute other crimes he finds.

Paul Manafort, a wealthy Washington lobbyist and power broker who ran the Trump campaign for several crucial months last year, and his top business and political aide, Richard W. Gates III, were the first to take the hit.

They were arraigned on Monday in federal court on a dozen charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in an alleged scheme to conceal more than $75 million overseas without paying taxes, and using millions to buy luxury cars, expensive suits and fancy homes. Both pleaded not guilty.

But just as the White House was celebrating that the arrests were not linked to Russian meddling, Mueller's team dropped a bombshell: a 30-year-old foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, had already pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russians offering “dirt” on Clinton — and had been secretly assisting prosecutors for months.

Papadopoulos cut a plea deal that means he will probably serve no more than six months in prison. In court papers, he was described as a “proactive” cooperator, a term that veteran prosecutors say sometimes signals that a defendant has been wearing a hidden recording device to gather evidence on others.

“The signal [Mueller] sends to every other potential witness is pretty clear,” said Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor in Washington and a law professor at George Washington University. “Be like George, come in and cooperate and cut a deal. If you stonewall us, you'll end up like Manafort.”

Manafort and, to lesser extent, Gates, risk significant prison sentences if they are convicted and do not assist Mueller's investigation, perhaps by implicating others, according to a former senior Justice Department prosecutor who asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing case.

“We'll see how strong they are when they're facing prison,” he said.

Lawyers and others familiar with the investigation said Mueller's dramatic one-two roundhouse punches should instill dread among individuals and professional services firms who might be implicated by Manafort, Gates, Papadopoulos or others caught up in the investigation.

Like Manafort, some of those at risk, they said, are part of Washington's distinct business culture — derided by Trump as denizens of “the swamp” — high-priced firms that specialize in legal representation, lobbying and public relations in the political sphere.

The investigation already has spread across party lines. Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta stepped down from his lobbying firm on Monday. His firm, the Podesta Group, had worked with Manafort to represent a pro-Kremlin faction in the Ukraine.

And Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign co-chairman and radio host who sent emails to Papadopoulos encouraging his efforts to set up meetings with Russian officials during the campaign, has hired a lawyer and, according to NBC News, appeared before the grand jury Mueller is using.

Clovis' lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said Clovis “vigorously opposed” any trips to Russia by Trump or his staff and, as “a polite gentleman from Iowa,” was only trying to be courteous to Papadopoulos. She said in a statement that Clovis hasn't communicated with Papadopoulous since the election.

One key question is whether Papadopoulos' outreach efforts to Moscow were approved by the campaign, and whether he briefed then-candidate Trump, who had praised the aide as an “excellent guy” to The Washington Post editorial board.

Starting in March 2016, Papadopoulos pursued meetings with people who claimed to be intermediaries of the Kremlin, including someone he thought was Russian President Vladimir Putin's niece, and a London-based professor who told him that Moscow had obtained “thousands of emails” that would embarrass Clinton.

That was two months before the first pilfered Democratic emails were published on WikiLeaks and other sites. Whether the Russian contacts were pretenders, or Russian intelligence agents, isn't clear. The woman was not related to Putin and the meetings never happened.

After Papadopoulos sent one email boasting of his Russian contacts, Manafort forwarded it to another campaign official with the message: “We need to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

As the dust settled from Mueller's first public salvo, several lawyers said on Tuesday they were not yet persuaded that Mueller's team is close to establishing complicity or coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia's intelligence operation.

The gravity of Mueller's evidence remains unclear, said John C. Gibbons, a former assistant U.S. attorney who once headed a federal organized crime and racketeering strike force in Los Angeles.

“They're trying to work their way up the chain,” Gibbons said. “But what's the chain?”

Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman who represented Trump's legal team this year, also was skeptical.

“At first glance I would say these are charges meant to pressure actors into cooperating. It absolutely has that feel about it,” Corallo said.

But he said the special counsel could be overstepping his role if there's no real evidence of collusion.

“What if there's nothing?” he said.


• Joseph Tanfani covers the Justice Department and Homeland Security for the Los Angeles Times in in the Washington, D.C., bureau. Before joining the L.A. Times in 2012, he worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was a reporter and investigations editor, and at the Miami Herald, the Press of Atlantic City and the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

• David Willman is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times based in Washington, D.C. He won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2001 for work that prompted the market withdrawal of Rezulin, a widely sold diabetes drug. His subsequent reports on pharmaceutical industry payments to federal researchers triggered a ban of such compensation at the National Institutes of Health. His other national honors include Sigma Delta Chi's top award in 2009 for Washington-based reporting.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Bill shielding Mueller from Trump unlikely soon in Senate

 • Why Facebook, Twitter and Google are suddenly taking Russian meddling very seriously

 • OPINION: There's no smoking gun in the Manafort indictment, but it's still very bad news for Trump


http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-mueller-strategy-20171031-story.html
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2017, 07:49:19 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Trump must be wondering who else is talking to Mueller

News of a “proactive cooperator” cannot have been received well within the White House.

By EUGENE ROBINSON | 5:02PM EDT - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. — Photograph: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. — Photograph: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images.

AFTER Monday's legal shock and awe, one thing is certain: The Mueller investigation poses a serious and perhaps existential threat to the Trump administration.

Apologists for the president can yell “nothing burger” until they're blue in the face. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates — now under home confinement and charged with offenses that carry long prison terms — would likely disagree. Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, whom special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has “flipped” into cooperating with the probe, also might attest that Monday's acts and revelations are a very big deal.

President Trump had good reason to spend that morning upstairs in the White House residence, brooding and fuming. Regarding Manafort and Gates, Trump perhaps could argue that Mueller has made no allegation — thus far — of collusion with the Russians to boost Trump's prospects in the election. But the Papadopoulos case, according to court documents, is all about Russian mischief — and what the Trump campaign may have known about it.

Perhaps the nastiest surprise for Trump and those close to him is that Papadopoulos, who was on the campaign's foreign policy team, was arrested on July 27th and became a “proactive cooperator” with the Mueller probe. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on October 5th to making false statements, in an interview with the FBI earlier this year, regarding his contacts with foreigners about obtaining Russian help for the campaign.

That is ominous news on every level. First, while there had been speculation that Mueller might go after Manafort and Gates, no one outside of Mueller's team appears to have known anything about Papadopoulos. How long has he been cooperating with the investigation? And what might that cooperation have entailed?

Anyone who had a conversation with Papadopoulos since his July arrest has to wonder whether he was wearing a wire. That's what a “proactive cooperator” often does. Gulp.

Equally unsettling for the White House is the fact that Mueller and his all-star squad of prosecutors managed to keep their engagement with Papadopoulos secret for so long. That took real discipline and sense of purpose. It also signals to Trump and his attorneys that they don't have anything close to a full picture of what Mueller is up to.

Have others connected with the Trump campaign been squeezed for information in a similar way? Is more proactive cooperating presently taking place? Speak clearly into my tie pin, please.

So what, exactly, did Papadopoulos do? He had a series of meetings with a London-based professor who has connections with the Russian government, and in an April 2016 encounter this professor claimed the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that included “thousands of emails”.

This was after Russian hackers had broken into the email system of the Democratic National Committee and also managed to steal the private emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. It is reasonable to assume that these are the emails that the professor was talking about to Papadopoulos, who made repeated attempts to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials — even suggesting, at one point, a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin.

No such get-together took place. But in June 2016, there was that meeting at Trump Tower at which senior figures in the Trump campaign — Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law — met with a well-connected Russian lawyer in hopes of receiving “dirt” on Clinton.

Were the Russians exploring various avenues that might lead to a meaningful connection with the Trump campaign? Did they find one? As it happened, the DNC and Podesta emails were eventually released through WikiLeaks in a manner clearly designed to do maximum damage to the Clinton campaign.

We also know that the Russians flooded social media with pro-Trump fake news. In many instances, this propaganda campaign targeted voters at such a granular level that one has to wonder where the Russians got such sophisticated and detailed data. Mueller will be wondering the same thing.

Trump must have noticed that one important name was not prominently mentioned on Monday: that of Michael Flynn, his short-lived national security adviser. Flynn faces potential legal jeopardy for his alleged representation of foreign interests without properly registering to do so. Trump has consistently gone out of his way to protect and defend Flynn, even to the point of asking then-FBI Director James B. Comey to go easy on him. Why such uncharacteristic compassion?

If I were Trump, I'd have to wonder if Flynn could be cooperating with Mueller. I'd worry about what he might say. And if I spoke with Flynn, I'd choose my words very carefully.


• Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture for The Washington Post, contributes to the PostPartisan blog, and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's Style section.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Greg Sargent: Trump and his allies are laying the groundwork for a Saturday Night Massacre

 • Kathleen Parker: Manafort, Gates, Papadopolous. Who's next?

 • Trump resists mounting pressure from Bannon and others to fight Mueller

 • Russia probe marked by contrasting styles of Trump and Mueller

 • Senate Republicans pledge to let Mueller's investigation proceed

 • For a ‘low level volunteer,’ Papadopoulos sought a high profile as Trump adviser

 • Russia investigation charges complicate Trump's Asia trip, ability to sell tax cuts

 • Mueller got Manafort's attorney to speak against him once. He may try the tactic again.

 • Special counsel: Manafort's stated wealth fluctuated wildly; he keeps 3 passports

 • Collusion is not a crime by itself. Here are the charges Mueller could be exploring.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-must-be-wondering-who-else-is-talking-to-mueller/2017/10/31/3b9d8ea4-be74-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2017, 08:02:18 pm »


from The Washington Post....

The Papadopoulos plea has blindsided Republicans

So many Russian contacts, and not merely by low-level campaign aides.

By JENNIFER RUBIN | 5:47PM EDT - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

George Papadopoulos, left, pleaded guilty back in July to making false statements to the FBI. — Photograph: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post.
George Papadopoulos, left, pleaded guilty back in July to making false statements to the FBI. — Photograph: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post.

THE WASHINGTON POST reports that George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, acted with the encouragement of the top policy person, Sam Clovis, on the campaign in the search for dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russians:

Quote
At one point, Papadopoulos emailed Clovis and other campaign officials about a March 24th, 2016, meeting he had in London with a professor, who had introduced him to the Russian ambassador and a Russian woman he described as “Putin's niece”. The group had talked about arranging a meeting “between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” Papadopoulos wrote. (Papadopoulos later learned that the woman was not Putin's niece, and while he expected to meet the ambassador, he never did, according to filings.)

Clovis responded that he would “work it through the campaign,” adding, “great work,” according to court documents.

In August 2016, Clovis responded to efforts by Papadopoulos to organize an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials. “I would encourage you” and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to “make the trip, if it is feasible,” Clovis wrote.

Clovis is now reportedly cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. As my colleague Aaron Blake points out, Clovis's excuse, provided by his lawyer, that he was “being polite,” makes no sense:

Quote
So basically, Clovis told someone to do something he opposed and was against campaign rules because he was only being a polite Midwesterner and he couldn't technically prevent him from doing it. (As a Minnesotan, I'll gladly try to use this excuse going forward.)

The strained explanation speaks to just how problematic this could be for Clovis. The campaign and the Trump transition team claimed over and over again that it had no contact with Russians during the campaign. Here we have a former Trump foreign policy aide actively setting up a potential meeting with the Russians, and Clovis giving him the thumbs-up. At one point, Papadopoulos specified that the meeting was requested by the Russian MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), so there was no mistaking who was requesting the meeting.

Plainly, Papadopoulos doesn't fit the Trump talking point that Mueller is somehow “proving” no connection between the campaign and the Russians, and Clovis's involvement makes the entire talking point irrelevant. No matter how many times Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists there is no connection between the campaign and the Russians and that there is some unbridgeable gap between the actions of Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the facts say otherwise. Trump insists Papadopoulos is “low level” and a “liar”, but he was on the campaign, as was Clovis, who was very high level.

In addition to Clovis, now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, we noted, appears in the photo of the March 2016 meeting with Papadopoulos and Trump. “A picture is worth a thousand words, and it may take the attorney general that many to explain this one,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat-Rhode Island) tells me. “Not only can't Sessions get his story straight about contacts with Russia, but it is becoming harder for him to claim these contacts were inconsequential.”

Sessions not only was involved in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey (when Trump said he had the Russia investigation in mind), but he also has at various times, when asked about his contact with or knowledge of Russian contacts, not brought up Papadopoulos. Sessions, in his confirmation hearing, denied having any contacts with Russians. When that proved not to be true, he revised his testimony. In June, he told the Judiciary Committee: “The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government, or hurt this country which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”

However, The New York Times reports:


Quote
On March 31st, back in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos met Mr. Trump for the first time at a gathering of his new foreign policy team at the candidate's Washington hotel. According to the former Trump adviser who was there, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid offending former colleagues, Mr. Papadopoulos spoke for a few minutes about his Russian contacts and the prospects for a meeting with the Russian president.

But several people in the room began to raise questions about the wisdom of a meeting with Mr. Putin, noting that Russia was under sanctions from the United States. Jeff Sessions, now attorney general and then a senator from Alabama who was counseling Mr. Trump on national security, “shut George down,” the adviser said. “He said, ‘We're not going to do it’ and he added, ‘I'd prefer that nobody speak about this again’.”

And yet Sessions recalled none of that in testimony under oath — in any of his explanations.

A final point on Russian contacts: Jared Kushner changed his clearance form no less than three times, which might also be viewed as an attempt to distance himself from Russia contacts. The Washington Post in July reported:


Quote
Kushner, one of President Trump's closest advisers, has filed three updates to his national security questionnaire since submitting it in mid-January, according to people familiar with the matter. That is significant because the document — known as an SF-86 — warns that those who submit false information could be charged with a federal crime and face up to five years in prison.

Prosecutions for filing erroneous SF-86 forms are rare — though the Justice Department has brought cases against those with intentional omissions, and people have been denied security clearance for incorrect forms, legal analysts said.

Under the microscope of Mueller's investigation, the analysts said, Kushner's mistakes might be viewed as evidence that Kushner met with Russian officials, then tried to keep anyone from finding out. His representatives contend that the omissions were honest errors that were corrected quickly.

So, you see, it wasn't one low-level person having contact with Russians. It was also more senior advisers who either personally did have contact or had knowledge of others' contacts. And yet they we all so reluctant to come clean. There's plenty for Mueller to ponder.

• Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Who is George Papadopoulos?

 • VIDEO: Opinion | Lessons from the Mueller charges? President Trump should be worried.

 • Washington Post Editorial: Trump pulls another stunt of cynical distraction

 • A thought on the Papadopoulos plea


https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/10/31/the-papadopoulos-plea-has-blindsided-republicans
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