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  • The Trump Show, season two
    What to expect from the second half of Donald Trumps first term
    Thus far the president has been lucky. It may not last
    THE ECONOMIST Jan 5th 2019

    Donald trumps nerve-jangling presidential term began its second half with a federal-government shut down, seesawing markets and the ejection of reassuring cabinet members like Generals John Kelly and James Mattis. As Mr Trumps opponents called this a disaster, his supporters lambasted their criticism as hystericalwasnt everybody saying a year ago that it was sinister to have so many generals in the cabinet?

    A calm assessment of the Trump era requires those who admire America to unplug themselves from the news cycle for a minute. As the next phase of the presidents four-year term begins, three questions need answering. How bad is it really? How bad could it get? And how should Americans, and foreign governments, prepare for the Trump Shows second season?

    Mr Trump is so polarising that his critics brush off anything that might count as an achievement. Shortly before Christmas he signed a useful, bipartisan criminal-justice reform into law. Some of the regulatory changes to schools and companies have been helpful. In foreign affairs the attempt to change the terms of Americas economic relations with China is welcome, too. But any orthodox Republican president enjoying the backing of both houses of Congress might have achieved as muchor more.

    What marks out Mr Trumps first two years is his irrepressible instinct to act as a wrecker. His destructive tactics were supposed to topple a self-serving Washington elite, but the presidents bullying, lying and sleaze have filled the swamp faster than it has drained. Where he has been at his most Trumpishon immigration, North Korea, natothe knocking down has yet to lead to much renewal. Mr Trump came to office with a mandate to rewrite Americas immigration rules and make them merit-based, as in Canada. Yet because he and his staff are ham-fisted with Congress, that chance is now gone. Kim Jong Un still has his weapons programme and, having conceded nothing, now demands a reward from America. Europeans may pay more into their defence budgets at the presidents urging. But America has spent half a century and billions of dollars building its relations with Europe. In just two years Mr Trump has taken a sledgehammer to them.

    The next two years could be worse. For a start, Mr Trumps luck may be about to turn. In the first half of his term he has been fortunate. He was not faced by any shock of the sort his two predecessors had to deal with: 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the financial crisis, Syria. Electoral triumph, a roaring economy and surging financial markets gave him an air of invulnerability.

    Even without a shock, the weather has changed. Although the economy is still fairly strong, the sugar-high from the tax cut is fading and growth is slowing in China and Europe. Markets, which Mr Trump heralds as a proxy for economic success, are volatile (see article). Republicans were trounced in the House in the mid-terms. The new Democratic majority will investigate the presidents conduct, and at some point Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will complete his report on links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    Over the past two years, Mr Trump has shown that he reacts to any adversity by lashing out without regard to the consequences. Neither the magnitude nor target of his response need bear on the provocation. In the past few weeks he has announced troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan. Seemingly, this was partly because he was being criticised by pundits for failing to build a southern border-wall. The Afghanistan withdrawal was later walked back and the Syrian one blurred, with the result that nobody can say what Americas policy is (though the harm will remain). Now that his cabinet has lost its steadying generals, expect even more such destructive ambiguity.

    Moreover, when Mr Trump acts, he does not recognise boundaries, legal or ethical. He has already been implicated in two felonies and several of his former advisers are in or heading for prison. As his troubles mount, he will become less bound by institutional machinery. If Mr Mueller indicts a member of Mr Trumps family, the president may instruct his attorney-general to end the whole thing and then make egregious use of his pardon powers. House Democrats might unearth documents suggesting that the Trump Organisation was used to launder Russian money. What then?

    Confusion, chaos and norm-breaking are how Mr Trump operates. If the federal government really were a business, the turnover of senior jobs in the White House would have investors dumping the stock. Mr Trumps interventions often accomplish the opposite of what he intends. His criticism of the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, for being too hawkish will, if anything, only make an independent-minded Fed more hawkish still. His own negotiators fear that he might undermine them if the mood takes him. Most of the senior staff who have left the administration have said that he is selfabsorbed, distracted and ill-informed. He demands absolute loyalty and, when he gets it, offers none in return.

    How should Congress and the world prepare for what is coming? Foreign allies should engage and hedge; work with Mr Trump when they can, but have a plan B in case he lets them down. Democrats in control of the House have a fine line to tread. Some are calling for Mr Trump to be impeached but, as of now, the Republican-controlled Senate will not convict him. As things stand, it would be better if the verdict comes at the ballot box. Instead, they must hold him to account, but not play into his desire that they serve as props in his permanent campaign.

    Many Republicans in the Senate find themselves in a now familiar dilemma. Speak out and risk losing their seats in a primary; stay silent and risk losing their party and their consciences. More should follow Mitt Romney, who marked his arrival in the Senate this week by criticising Mr Trumps conduct. His return to politics is welcome, as is the vibrant opposition to Mr Trump by activists and civil society evident in the mid-terms. Assailed by his presidency, American democracy is fighting back.

    After two chaotic years, it is clear that the Trump Show is something to be endured. Perhaps the luck will hold and America and the world will muddle through. But luck is a slender hope on which to build prosperity and peace.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Manafort accused of sharing 2016 election data with Russians

      WASHINGTON (AP) Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data during the 2016 presidential campaign with a business associate accused of having ties to Russian intelligence, and prosecutors say he lied to them about it, according to a court filing .

      The allegation marks the first time prosecutors with special counsel Robert Muellers office have accused Trumps chief campaign aide of sharing election-related information with his Russian contacts. Although the filing does not say whether the polling information was public or what was done with it, it raises the possibility that Russia might have used inside information from the campaign as part of its effort to interfere with the election on Trumps behalf.

      The accusation could be important evidence in Muellers ongoing probe into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

      The information was accidentally revealed in a defense filing Tuesday and was meant to be redacted. The Associated Press was able to review the material because it wasnt properly blacked out.

      Manafort was among the first Americans charged in Muellers investigation and has been among the central characters in the case, having led the campaign during the Republican convention and as, U.S intelligence officials say, Russia was working to sway the election in Trumps favor. Manafort has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in Washington and faces sentencing in a separate case in Virginia.

      The defense filing was aimed at rebutting allegations that Manafort intentionally lied to Muellers team after agreeing to plead guilty last September. Prosecutors say Manafort breached their plea agreement by lying, but defense lawyers argued that any misstatements were simple mistakes made by a man coping with illness, exhaustion and extensive questioning from investigators.

      The defense lawyers said Manafort suffers from depression and anxiety, has had little contact with his family and, on days when he met with investigators, was awakened before dawn to have hourslong interviews with little time to prepare for the questioning.

      These circumstances weighed heavily on Mr. Manaforts state of mind and on his memory as he was questioned at length, the lawyers wrote.

      Tuesdays filing revealed the first extensive details of what he is accused of having lied about. A spokesman for Manaforts defense team declined to comment on the incomplete redactions or on Muellers allegations, but lawyers later filed a corrected version of the document.

      The filing contains new information about Manaforts connections to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian business associate who was indicted last year on charges he tampered with potential witnesses. The U.S. believes he is connected to Russian intelligence, but Kilimnik, who is not in U.S. custody, has denied those ties.

      The latest allegations further detail how Manaforts work on the campaign intersected with his past international work with Kilimnik.

      Emails previously reported by the AP and other news outlets show that in July 2016, Manafort told Kilimnik he was willing to provide private briefings about the Trump campaign to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort dangled the briefings as he was mired in a dispute with Deripaska over a multimillion-dollar deal involving a Ukrainian cable company.

      Through his spokesman, Manafort has acknowledged discussing the briefings but said they never occurred.

      In addition, the defense document discloses a meeting in Madrid between Manafort and Kilimnik. Prosecutors say Manafort acknowledged the meeting only after being told that they were in the same city on the same day. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said Tuesday the Madrid trip mentioned in the filing occurred in January or February 2017 months after Manafort was ousted from the campaign and as Trump was taking office.

      Manafort also did not initially disclose having earlier discussed a Ukraine peace plan with Kilimnik on more than one occasion during the campaign, according to the filing. Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a conflict since 2014 over Russias annexation of Crimea. The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over that move as well as the countrys support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

      Manaforts attorneys dont specify the details of the peace plan but they write that Manafort told prosecutors in September that he would have given the Ukrainian peace plan more thought, had the issue not been raised during the period he was engaged with work related to the presidential campaign.

      Issues and communications related to Ukrainian political events simply were not at the time forefront of Mr. Manaforts mind during the period at issue and it is not surprising at all that Manafort was unable to recall specific details prior to having his recollection refreshed, they said.

      They say the same about his recollection of sharing polling data with Kilimnik related to the campaign.

      Prosecutors have also accused Manafort of lying about his contacts with Trump administration officials, which defense lawyers deny.

      The filing says that a May 26, 2018, text message exchange with Manafort involved an unidentified third-party who was asking permission to name-drop Manafort if the person met with Trump. The request to use Manafort as an introduction to Trump came while Manafort was under indictment in two federal cases.

      The defense lawyers say Muellers team has indicated they will not pursue additional charges against Manafort. The lawyers say they dont want a separate hearing before a judge on the lying allegations but will address them instead during the sentencing process.

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      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Trumps immigration speech was an insult to the nations intelligence
        Trumps speech failed fact-checks. It misinformed and persuaded no one. Why was it aired?
        VOX Zack Beauchamp Jan 8, 2019, 10:20pm EST

        After watching President Trumps primetime immigration speech, my overwhelming impression was this: Why, oh why, did anyone think it was a good idea to air this on national television?

        The most memorable portion of the address came when the president listed off a series of gruesome crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. He went into graphic detail, discussing the use of a hammer on one victim and the dismemberment of another. This, he argued, is why America needs a border wall: Undocumented immigrants are dangerous, and their entry must be blocked at all costs.

        Except this is false. The data shows that undocumented immigrants are actually considerably less likely to commit crimes; states with more undocumented immigrants actually tend to have lower crime rates.

        So the most striking part of the whole presentation was a lie, a recitation of anecdotes designed to mislead Americans about immigration and gin up anti-immigrant sentiment to score political points.

        There was no reason this should have been nationally televised. The president was not announcing news of grave national import, like an attack on American soil or a declaration of war. Theres no rule that networks have to air a presidential primetime address. President Obama once tried to deliver a similar immigration address, but the networks turned him down, saying it was overtly political.

        Yet they let Trump deliver a propaganda speech, one that likely persuaded very few people and left at least some Americans marginally less informed than when it began.

        The networks could have chosen not to air this. They did not. The result was a national embarrassment.

        Trumps speech: just, why?
        Political scientists generally believe that presidential speeches are not actually very good at persuading the public. The people who are paying attention have already made up their minds, typically siding with whatever their party says. A speech by a Republican president may get Republicans interested in whatever the president is talking about but anger an equal number of Democrats. The net effect is pretty much a wash.

        If you watched this speech, youll understand why this almost certainly isnt an exception. Trump delivered his words in a relentless monotone, boring even those of us who had to pay close attention for professional reasons. Trump, a dynamic speaker off the cuff, just seems to be really bad at reading teleprompters. The only exception was the graphic description of murders, which also happened to be the most manipulative part of the address.

        And the content was totally unsurprising. Everybody paying attention knows that Trump wants to build a wall, that he thinks undocumented immigration is bad, and thats why he was willing to shut down the government. That was the entire speech, minus some details. There was no news value in hearing those things reiterated.

        And the details ranged from banal to misleading to outright false. At one point, Trump implied that cracking down on undocumented immigration would end the opioid crisis. This is absurd for any number of reasons: Prescription drugs are a big part of the problem, most heroin comes in through ports of entry rather than being smuggled over the border, and a border wall (Trumps biggest demand) would be particularly useless in stopping mass drug smuggling.

        So in broad strokes, the speech likely persuaded nobody and made no new or particularly compelling arguments. The networks decision to air it, if it had any effect on the public, probably on net made the viewing audience less informed.

        And the Democratic response was also somewhat pointless. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were about as boring as Trump was, simply reiterating their position that the government should be reopened and the status of the border wall should be determined later. Again, everybody knew that, and likely nobody was persuaded by their monotonous delivery.

        There was no point in any of this. It was a waste of our time as a nation at best, and at worst made us a little bit more ignorant and a little bit more bigoted. Network executives need to ask themselves some hard questions about why they chose to air this, and just how complicit they are in the presidents ability to spread lies about immigrants with ease.

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • Coast Guard Suggests Its Workers Not Getting Paychecks During Shutdown Try Dog Walking, Babysitting, and Garage Sales
          SLATE ELLIOT HANNON JAN 09, 20197:28 PM

          The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, unlike the other branches of the military that are under the Department of Defense, and therefore its funding is impacted by the government closure. Of the Coast Guards 8,500-person civilian workforce that last received a paycheck Dec. 22nd, 6,400 are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 others that have been deemed essential workers are still on the job working without pay, the Washington Post reports. On top of those workers, there are 41,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen working without pay as a result of the shutdown.

          The Coast Guard took the tip sheet down from its Coast Guard Support Program website after it was reported on by the Post, telling the paper the tips do not reflect the Coast Guards current efforts to support our workforce during this lapse in appropriations. Across the federal government there are 350,000 workers currently at home on furlough and 420,000 working unpaid with assurances theyll be paid retroactively.

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          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • White House Considers Using Storm Aid Funds as a Way to Pay for the Border Wall
            NY TIMES By Michael Tackett and Julie Hirschfeld Davis Jan. 10, 2019

            McALLEN, Tex. President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to warn of crime and chaos on the frontier, as White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration.

            In a sign of growing unease about the partial government shutdown, some Senate Republicans came off the sidelines to hash out a deal that would reopen the government as Congress worked toward a broader agreement tying wall funds to protection for some undocumented immigrants and other migrants.

            But before those negotiations could gain momentum, they collapsed. Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Mr. Trumps team let it be known privately that the president would not back such a deal.

            It kind of fell apart, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was among those Republicans seeking a deal.

            It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier, he said later in a brief statement. He added, I hope it works.

            The administration appeared to be looking into just such a solution: using extraordinary emergency powers to get around Congress in funding the wall. Among the options, the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether it can divert for wall construction $13.9 billion allocated last year after devastating hurricanes and wildfires, according to congressional and Defense Department officials with knowledge of the matter, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the possibility.

            Administration officials are debating whether they could make such a move without the president declaring a national emergency, an action the White House counsels office has explored.

            But Mr. Trumps advisers, including his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, have urged him to try to find other approaches than declaring a national emergency. Mr. Kushners role was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

            The advisers have warned him of a range of possible negative outcomes, particularly the risk of losing in court, people familiar with the discussions said.

            Aides have suggested that Mr. Trump would be giving a dysfunctional Congress a pass from fulfilling its duties if he makes an aggressive move. And some of his more conservative advisers have suggested a national emergency declaration is a form of government overreach that is antithetical to conservative principles.

            As the shutdown neared Day 21 the second longest in history Mr. Trump used a visit to a border facility in McAllen, Tex., to blame the protracted shutdown on Democrats, charging that their opposition to a wall was responsible for brutal crime and violence.

            Youll have crime in Iowa, youll have crime in New Hampshire, youll have crime in New York without a wall, he warned.

            We could stop that cold, he added.

            Mr. Trump also repeated his demand for the money from Congress while saying that Mexico would somehow provide funds indirectly for the wall, a contradiction of what he said in December when he wrote in a Twitter post, I often stated, One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.

            I didnt say theyre going to write me a check for $10 billion or $20 billion, Mr. Trump said on Thursday. If Congress approves this trade bill, theyll pay for the wall many times over. When I say Mexicos going to pay for the wall, thats what I mean.

            It was among the bewildering statements that underscored his often contradictory attempts to force Democrats to capitulate. Mr. Trump renewed his threat to declare a national emergency and build his wall without congressional approval.

            We can declare a national emergency, Mr. Trump said. We shouldnt have to.

            Later, standing just by the Rio Grande with military vehicles and border agents as his backdrop, he said he would consider a compromise that would allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, often known as Dreamers, to maintain legal status they lost when he ended the Obama-era program that protected them.

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            • Using Storm Aid Funds as a Way to Pay for the Border Wall Pt 2
              I would like to do a much broader form of immigration, Mr. Trump said. We could help the Dreamers.

              Only hours earlier, Mr. Pence had rejected such a deal, saying the president wanted to wait until the Supreme Court ruled this spring on whether the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was constitutional. No wall, no deal, Mr. Pence declared in a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill. Were going to keep standing strong, keep standing firm.

              The vice president faulted the Democrats, but he has essentially blocked potential solutions for the impasse. He has made it clear that Mr. Trump would not drop his insistence on funding for a wall on the southwestern border, which Democrats have branded a nonstarter.

              Mr. Pence also indicated that the president was disinclined to accept the idea behind a bipartisan plan that had been under discussion in the Senate that would trade wall funding for legal status for undocumented immigrants facing the threat of deportation, including the Dreamers and people who previously held Temporary Protected Status.

              Privately, he told Mr. Grahams group that the president also would not support a proposal that would reopen the government for three weeks while Republicans and Democrats work to hash out a broader legislative deal on the wall and temporary grants of legal status for the two groups.

              Were kind of stuck, Mr. Graham conceded.

              Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, also showed no signs of budging, urging the Republican-controlled Senate to take up a measure that the House passed on Wednesday to reopen part of the government. The House passed two more measures on Thursday, this time funding the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Agriculture, as well as the Food and Drug Administration.

              A dozen Republicans crossed party lines to support one of the measures slightly more than in previous votes, but no indicator that the patience of Mr. Trumps own party was wearing thin.

              We say to them: Take yes for an answer. This is what you had proposed, Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. Why are you rejecting it at the expense of the health, safety and well-being of the American people? Do you take an oath to the American people, or to Donald Trump?

              The showdown has forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay and placed federal benefits for millions more in jeopardy, with the fallout being felt across the United States. Without debate on Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to ensure that workers who go without salaries receive back pay when the government reopens. Senator Mitch McConnell Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Mr. Trump had assured him he would sign the bill.

              The partial shutdown will almost certainly become the longest in American history on Saturday, eclipsing a 21-day lapse that began in December 1995. Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday that he would skip a planned trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, slated to begin Jan. 22, because of the impasse.

              The implosion of the congressional deal left lawmakers bracing for Mr. Trump to declare a national emergency. Senior Democrats were exploring both legislative and legal options to challenge the move.

              The president is allowed to divert unspent money from projects under a national emergency. But a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential discussions, questioned the legality of using Army Corps funding, saying it would be subject to restrictions under the Stafford Act, which governs disaster relief. The official said the process was as much a political exercise intended to threaten projects Democrats valued as a pragmatic one.

              That would be a travesty, Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in an interview.

              Its all speculative at this point, he said, alluding wryly to Mr. Trumps penchant for abrupt announcements at all hours of the day and night. Until we get a tweet at 2:30 tomorrow morning, we wont know.

              Still, Republican senators who had called for reopening the government while the debate over border security continues said they were disappointed.

              Its very difficult when were dealing with people who do not want to budge at all with their positions, and thats the president and Speaker Pelosi, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said. Theyre each very dug in on their position, and thats made this very difficult to resolve. Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Glenn Thrush, Thomas Kaplan, Eric Schmitt and Maggie Haberman.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, to testify publicly before Congress
                CNN Jeremy Herb 6:49 PM ET, Thu January 10, 2019

                President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen will testify before the House Oversight Committee, the first major move by House Democrats to haul in a member of Trump's team connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, according to a schedule published by the committee.

                Cohen has agreed to testify publicly before the panel on February 7, according to a statement from Cohen.

                Cohen is coming to Capitol Hill after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December to three years in prison on multiple charges, including two campaign finance crimes tied to illicit payments made to silence women during the presidential campaign crimes that prosecutors say Trump directed Cohen to commit.

                Cohen cooperated with Mueller's investigation after his August guilty plea, and his congressional testimony could thrust some of those still-private details he provided into the public sphere. Mueller's team in court filings wrote that Cohen provided "useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation."

                In a statement to CNN, Cohen said he agreed to testify "in furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers."

                "I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired," Cohen said.

                House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said that Mueller cleared Cohen's testimony before it was agreed to.

                "He'll have a chance to tell his side of the story, and we'll have a chance to question him. The American people deserve that," Cummings said. "We don't want to do anything to interfere with the Mueller investigation."

                There may be some topics at the hearing that are off limits. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who has also been seeking testimony from Cohen, told CNN that Cohen's lawyers indicated Cohen could not discuss the Russia investigation publicly, and his panel wants Cohen to testify behind closed doors.

                "He is going to need to answer questions about it," Schiff said. "He hasn't agreed but I think there's a good likelihood. ... At the end of the day, there are questions he needs to answer."

                Cohen's cooperation with Mueller prompted a falling out with his former client, with Trump attacking Cohen on Twitter, including accusing him of lying to try to lessen his jail sentence. Trump has denied directing Cohen to pay women who alleged affairs with Trump.

                Cohen addressed his relationship with Trump at his sentencing, saying he had "blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light."

                "Recently, the President tweeted a statement calling me 'weak,' and he was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying," Cohen said at the time. "It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass."

                Republicans may point to Cohen's credibility problems, given he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.

                "I think that his trustworthiness is somewhat suspect by even those who love what he says," said Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican.

                Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said that the Cohen hearing suggested that Cummings "will be using the committee as a venue for political theater rather than legitimate oversight."

                "The Democrats' star witness has admitted to providing intentionally false and misleading testimony to Congress. He is also a witness in ongoing law-enforcement matters, including Special Counsel Mueller's probe," Jordan said in a statement. "When in the minority, Chairman Cummings and the Democrats have often cautioned against such actions. Now that Chairman Cummings is in charge, the same standards don't seem to apply. This makes clear that Chairman Cummings and the Democrats will do whatever it takes to attack this President."

                As Trump's longtime lawyer and "fixer," Cohen had connections to a number of the key questions surrounding the President, the Mueller probe and now the Democratic congressional investigations.

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                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, to testify publicly before Congress Pt 2

                  One issue is Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen worked on the Moscow project during the 2016 presidential campaign, which included outreach to Russian officials. Cohen initially lied and said the Trump Tower Moscow talks ended in January 2016, but he admitted last month those conversations extended through June 2016 when he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project.

                  Mueller's court filings revealed that Cohen had spoken to a Russian in 2015 who had offered "political synergy" with the Trump campaign while discussing Trump Tower Moscow.

                  The payments made or orchestrated to women during the campaign -- to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal -- to stay silent about alleged sexual encounters with Trump are also sure to be a hot topic at the congressional hearing.'

                  Cohen is likely to face questions about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer as well.

                  The announcement of Cohen's testimony is the latest sign that House Democrats plan to make oversight of every aspect of Trump's life a key part of their control of the House.

                  It's not yet clear whether Cohen will agree to speak to any other committees. Cohen spoke in 2017 to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow timeline and both Schiff and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr say they want to speak to him again before he begins his jail sentence in March.

                  "Mr. Cohen has had in his possession for months a request to return to the Senate Intelligence Committee for additional closed-door testimony, made all the more necessary by Mr. Cohen's indictment and guilty plea for making false statements to Committee investigators," Burr said in a statement. "The request still stands, regardless of any public testimony Mr. Cohen may give on other issues."

                  Others in Trump's personal orbit are also facing scrutiny, and House Democrats, having retaken the majority earlier this month, now have subpoena power. On the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff has said he will issue a subpoena if necessary to obtain Donald Trump Jr.'s phone records to find out who Trump's son called when Trump Jr. called a number blocked in phone records while setting up the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

                  Trump's administration officials are likely to be summoned to Capitol Hill, too. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York is demanding acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker testify this month, and he's threatening a subpoena if Whitaker won't voluntarily appear.

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                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Special counsel Mueller examining Ukrainians who attended Trump inaugural in 2017
                    There were at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who made their way to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, several of whom attended the Liberty Ball.
                    UNIAN: 09:00, 11 January 2019

                    United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller is currently examining Ukrainians who attended U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration in January 2017, as part of his Russia probe.

                    "Evidence of the Ukrainians' presence eventually prompted interest from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and has spawned a number of related inquiries by federal prosecutors," The New York Times said in its article titled "Prosecutors Examining Ukrainians Who Flocked to Trump Inaugural," which was published on January 10. "The investigations are playing out against growing indications that some of the Ukrainians who came to Washington for the inaugural, or their allies, were promoting grand bargains, or 'peace' plans, that aligned with Russia's interests, including by lifting sanctions."

                    Such a deal would not just have given the new administration additional flexibility to bring Moscow into American diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, but could also have eased the way for a cast of characters with ties to Mr. Trump some of whom in turn had ties to the Ukrainians who came to Washington to move ahead on business deals that had been complicated by the sanctions.
                    According to The New York Times, there were at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures who made their way to Washington for the inauguration, several of whom attended the Liberty Ball. "Most had more on their dance cards than just parties," it said.

                    They attended meetings and orchestrated encounters at Trump International Hotel with influential Republican members of Congress and close allies of President Trump. Representing a range of views, including a contingent seen as sympathetic to Moscow, they positioned themselves as brokers who could help solve one of the thorniest foreign policy problems facing the new administration the ugly military stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and the tough sanctions imposed on Moscow following its seizure of Crimea.

                    Federal prosecutors have asked witnesses about how some of the Ukrainians gained access to inauguration events, whom they met with while they were in the United States, and what they discussed including questions about various peace plan proposals according to people with direct knowledge of the questions and others who were briefed on the interviews.

                    As recently as last month, prosecutors were asking witnesses about illegal foreign lobbying related to Ukraine. Another subject of questions has been whether foreigners from Ukraine and other countries used straw donors to disguise donations to the inaugural committee. Federal law prohibits foreigners from contributing to an inaugural committee, although they can attend events if Americans buy the tickets.

                    Elements of the investigations have gotten new visibility in recent weeks.

                    Lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was paid tens of millions of dollars over the last dozen years by Russia-aligned Ukrainian interests, inadvertently revealed on Tuesday that he had communicated about a Ukraine-Russia peace plan with a business associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

                    The associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, is a Russian citizen who has been charged by Mr. Mueller with obstruction of justice for trying to shape the testimony of witnesses to the events that led to charges of illegal foreign lobbying against Mr. Manafort.

                    Mr. Kilimnik was said in the inadvertently disclosed portions of the court filing to have received political polling data from Mr. Manafort in 2016. Mr. Manafort relayed a request to have Mr. Kilimnik pass the polling data to two Ukrainian oligarchs who had arranged or provided financing for Russia-aligned Ukrainian political parties for which Mr. Manafort had worked. One of the oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin, attended the Liberty Ball, according to one person familiar with the guest list and another who saw him there.

                    Last month, prosecutors made a move that was seen as signaling the continuing cooperation of Sam Patten, an American consultant who had worked with Mr. Kilimnik and Russia-aligned Ukrainians looking to build ties to the Trump administration.

                    Mr. Patten had pleaded guilty in late August to charges including funneling $50,000 in money from an unnamed foreigner who matched the description of Mr. Lyovochkin but was described in court papers only as "a prominent Ukraine oligarch" to buy tickets to exclusive Trump inauguration events for the oligarch, Mr. Kilimnik and someone described only as "another Ukrainian."

                    Other Ukrainians who came to Washington during the inauguration said prosecutors had been asking wide-ranging questions.

                    "I have been interrogated twice by the F.B.I. and Mr. Mueller," said Andrii V. Artemenko, who came to the inauguration as a Ukrainian member of Parliament bearing a peace proposal that was later criticized as pro-Russian.

                    Mr. Artemenko said he had testified before Mr. Mueller's grand jury last summer and had answered questions from the Mueller team "about what is my purpose of this trip, how I can get there, and what I did, how I got invitations and tickets and stuff."

                    Serhiy Kivalov, a Ukrainian lawmaker known for pro-Russian initiatives, also attended the inaugural: he took photos as President Trump danced with his wife, Melania, during inaugural festivities in January 2017. He also took photos of his coveted tickets and passes to the soiree where it took place, the Liberty Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, posting them on Facebook and declaring that "it was an honor" to attend. UNIAN:

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                    • F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia
                      NY TIMES Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt & Nicholas Fandos Jan. 11, 2019

                      WASHINGTON In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the presidents behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

                      The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the presidents own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscows influence.

                      The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

                      Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trumps ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the presidents activities before and after Mr. Comeys firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

                      The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Muellers broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

                      The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

                      If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureaus effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

                      Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security, Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

                      No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsels office both declined to comment.

                      Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing, Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.

                      The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry, revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation.

                      The decision to investigate Mr. Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Mr. Comey and enduring the presidents verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a witch hunt.

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                      • F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia Pt 2
                        A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.

                        The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counterintelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counterintelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.

                        Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

                        Other factors fueled the F.B.I.s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.

                        In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trumps associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russias campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

                        In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, Americas ability and the Wests ability to spread our democratic ideals, Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.

                        Thats the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values, she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.

                        And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the presidents national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.

                        But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counterintelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russias meddling in the election.

                        After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trumps actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

                        The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.s Russia investigation.

                        Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation Mr. Comeys poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

                        He disregarded the presidents order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

                        The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comeys firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

                        I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it, he said. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. Its an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they shouldve won.

                        Mr. Trumps aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people, Mr. Trump added. Hes the wrong man for that position.

                        As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russias interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

                        With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life, Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscows election interference.

                        F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

                        I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job, Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. I faced great pressure because of Russia. Thats taken off.

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                        • How the big new New York Times scoop changes our understanding of the Trump-Russia probe
                          In May 2017, the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Trump was working on Russias behalf.
                          VOX Andrew Prokop Jan 12, 2019, 11:30am EST

                          The FBI officially opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether President Donald Trump was compromised by Russia in May 2017, according to a new report from the New York Times.

                          Per the Times, this investigation was meant to determine whether the president himself was either working on behalf of Russia against American interests or had unwittingly fallen under Moscows influence in a way that placed national security at risk.

                          Weve known for some time that the FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaigns Russia links in July 2016, and that they began investigating the president himself for obstruction of justice in May 2017.

                          But this is the first outright confirmation that at a certain moment, the FBI explicitly began investigating Donald Trumps Russia ties including whether, as president, he was acting on Russias behalf.

                          In one sense, the new story by the New York Times Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt, and Nicholas Fandos is completely unsurprising. Of course the Trump / Russia investigation has been about getting to the bottom of Trumps links to Russia your head would have to have been in the sand for years for you to think otherwise. (My concern with this story is that it felt, to some extent, like it was a duh story, Goldman told the New Yorkers Isaac Chotiner.)

                          Still, if we take a step back, its rather incredible that the FBI officially opened an investigation into whether the president of the United States was compromised by Russia, as Natasha Bertrand of the Atlantic points out:

                          Natasha Bertrand @NatashaBertrand
                          Stepping back for a minute: If no other reporting existed on Trump/Russia, the fact that the FBI started a CI investigation to determine whether or not the sitting president of the US was either comprised by or an agent of Russia, it would be the biggest political story...ever.

                          Scott Stedman @ScottMStedman
                          NYT reports that law enforcement officials were so concerned by Trump's actions after firing Comey that the FBI began investigating whether Trump was a Russian agent:
                          8:52 PM - Jan 11, 2019

                          Now, this news is about an event that occurred a year and eight months ago, before Robert Mueller was even appointed special counsel so it gives us little insight into what the investigation has found since that point.

                          Yet the report does suggest that Mueller will be tasked with answering the question of whether Trump was working on Russias behalf by the time his work concludes.

                          Mueller inherited this, and he will have to end it, Goldman told the New Yorker. And it seems to me he will have to articulate, if he hasnt already, why there wasnt evidence to support this idea or maybe there was.

                          New information about the Russia investigations timeline

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                          • NY TIMES SCOOP Pt 2
                            To understand how the information in the new Times report fits into what we knew about the probe, its helpful to keep the timeline of the investigation in mind:

                            Back in July 2016, the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into whether various Trump campaign officials were linked to Russia. This probe would focus particularly on four campaign advisers: George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page.

                            In late 2016 and early 2017, the FBI was suspicious of Trumps own Russia links as well, per the Times. But they did not yet choose to explicitly name the president as a focus of their investigation, alongside those four advisers perhaps out of fear of political controversy.

                            In May 2017, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, that changed. The bureau then quickly approved an investigation into not only whether Trump had criminally obstructed justice (which we learned of long ago), but also into whether Trump had been acting on Russias behalf. Shortly afterward, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to take charge of the probe.

                            So, why did the FBI suddenly move to open this investigation into Trump?

                            Partly, it may have been because events that the FBI had long been aware of now appeared more suspicious. The Times report says investigators were also influenced by two new developments: that Trump urged Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation in his letter recommending Comeys firing, and that Trump publicly tied Comeys firing to the Russia probe in an interview with NBCs Lester Holt. (Trumps lawyers have since claimed his interview with Holt has been misintepreted.)

                            Unmentioned in the new Times report but potentially relevant is that Trump met with two top Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey. In that meeting, the president disclosed classified information. He also told the Russian officials that by firing the nut job Comey, the great pressure hed faced about Russia had been taken off, according to notes of the meeting that later leaked. (Its not clear if the FBI was aware of Trumps Oval Office comments when they opened the investigation into him.)

                            My understanding is that people felt the evidence to open this was quite strong, Goldman told Chotiner. I know some of the thinking; I havent seen the full predication. This is a highly classified document. They would have had to lay out in detail their reasons for opening this.

                            People are now rethinking what the obstruction investigation into Trump has been about
                            Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to take over the Russia investigation in May 2017.

                            Then, about a month later, the Washington Post reported Mueller was investigating Trump for obstruction of justice, related to Comeys firing and other matters.

                            After that, the conventional wisdom in Washington quickly formed: The true interest of Muellers probe, at least as it related to President Trump, was obstruction of justice not Russian collusion.

                            This judgment was somewhat understandable. After all, no reporting had explicitly confirmed Trump was under investigation for his Russia ties. FBI director James Comey had even confirmed Trump wasnt under investigation before he was fired.

                            But as Lawfares Benjamin Wittes writes, the new Times report certainly appears to suggest that the obstruction probe of Trump was closely connected to interest in his Russia ties all along.

                            Observers of the Russia investigation have generally understood Special Counsel Robert Muellers work as focusing on at least two separate tracks, Wittes writes: collusion and obstruction. But, he says, he now believes those two are far more integrated with one another than I previously understood.

                            What if the obstruction was the collusion or at least a part of it? Wittes asks.

                            That is: Many have long wondered whether some of Trumps actions like him asking Comey to let a Russia-related investigation into Michael Flynn go, and eventually firing the FBI director when he didnt were part of an effort to obstruct justice.

                            But the FBI seems to have also been wondering whether they were part of an effort to obstruct justice to Russias benefit.

                            The Times reporting, Wittes writes, suggests the FBI did not think of the Comey firing simply as a possible obstruction of justice. Officials thought of it, rather, in the context of the underlying counterintelligence purpose of the Russia investigation.

                            In his interview with the New Yorker, the Times Adam Goldman suggested another implication that the counterintelligence probe into the president was central to Muellers appointment in the first place, and will likely be central to whatever findings the special counsel puts together at the conclusion of this investigation.

                            I think Mueller is going to have to address this, Goldman said. Which, by the way, is the question the American public expects him to answer. You dont need me to tell you that the American public expects an answer to Is Trump working with Russia? Its the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.

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                            • Obstruction Is Collusion
                              Heres how prosecutors think about the latest Russiagate revelations.
                              POLITICO RENATO MARIOTTI January 14, 2019

                              The revelation that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether President Donald Trump is compromised by or working forthe Russian government is beyond disturbing. To deepen the unease, another report disclosed that Trump went toextraordinary lengths to conceal what he discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

                              The unsettling news should concern all Americans. But, as we await the discoveries of special counsel Robert Mueller, we must distinguish between a counterintelligence nightmare and a criminal violation.

                              It is possible that Trump was compromised by the Russians but that there is insufficient evidence to prove that he committed a crime resembling what the public has been calling collusion. The recent revelations, moreover, may have changed our understanding of collusion as well as another wordwere heard a lot of since Mueller started his investigation: obstruction.

                              To put it mildly, it is highly unusual to be discussing a sitting presidents possibly being compromised by a country commonly seen as an enemy. Being compromised by the Russians is not a crime in and of itself, though it could cause someone to commit any number of crimes. Trumps being compromised might, for instance, have caused him to lie under penaltyof perjury, to trade official acts in exchange for something of value, or to accept foreign contributions in connection with an election.

                              Its true, though, that we appear to be closer to prosecutors making a case that a key Trump associate committed a crime resembling collusion. The recent revelation that formerTrump campaign chair Paul Manafort shared the Trump campaigns private polling data with alleged Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik was the most important evidence of potential collusion revealed publicly thus far.

                              This evidence strongly suggests that Manafort sought aid from the Kremlin. Why else would the campaign chair of a major party presidential candidate provide internal polling data to a Russian intelligence operative? While it is not illegal in and of itself to prove internal polling data to a Russian operative, neither is wearing a ski mask while walking into a bank.

                              Both actions strongly suggest a crime was committed.

                              The most obvious potential liability for Manafort stems from Muellers indictment of Russian operatives for defrauding the United States by interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016. To prove that Manafort committed a crime, as in any conspiracy charge, Mueller would need to prove that Manafort knew of the criminal conspiracy and helped make it succeed. So far, theres no public evidence that proves Manaforts knowledge.

                              Still, Mueller knows far more than we do, and its very possible he can prove that Manafort committed a crime when he provided polling data to Kilimnik. Yet even proof that Manafort committed a crime resembling collusion would not prove that Trump was implicated in the crime.

                              But with the new revelations about Trump, that matters much less than it did even last week. We now know that the FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump began with events surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

                              In that context, obstruction takes on a different, graver meaning. You might say it takes on the same meaning as collusion. And if Mueller can prove that Trump obstructed justice, does it even matter whether he can prove that Trump committed other crimes? After all, the FBI saw Trumps attempt to obstruct the FBI investigation by firing Comey as evidence that Trump was trying to aid Russia by undermining the investigation of Russian efforts to interfere with our election. The FBI saw Trumps obstruction as a form of collusion, aiding the Russian government by undermining our own.

                              Even based on public knowledge, the obstruction case against the president is very strong. Its so strong, in fact, that even a year ago, I concluded that Mueller would find that Trump obstructed justice. Since then, the evidence against Trump has grown, as Trump has publicly revealed his desire to obstruct justice on multiple occasions. On its own, the evidence will establish that Trump obstructed justice. Even Trumps ardent defenders, like Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani or Professor Alan Dershowitz, argue that Trump couldnt obstruct justice as a technical legal matter. They dont argue that the facts wont show he tried to do so, because they cant.

                              But Mueller is extremely unlikely to indict Trump for obstructing justice, because the Justice Department has determined that a sitting president cant be indicted. What really matters, then, is whether Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors worthy of impeachment. If Mueller proves that Trump obstructed the FBI and Justice Department investigation into the Russian attack on our democracy because he was compromised by the Kremlin, would that be worthy of impeachment? It should be, but thats a question for the American peoplethrough their elected representatives in Congressto decide.

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                              • Law firm that worked with Manafort in Ukraine admits to misleading DOJ
                                POLITICO THEODORIC MEYER Updated 01/17/2019 07:38 PM EST

                                A prestigious New York law firm admitted to misleading the Justice Department about its work with Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian government and agreed to hand over nearly $4.7 million in a settlement made public Thursday.

                                Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chief, who pleaded guilty last year to charges related to his work in Ukraine helped the Ukrainian government hire Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2012.

                                The law firm produced a report on the prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Her imprisonment had led to international condemnation of Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president at the time and Manaforts patron. When the report was finished, a Skadden partner reached out to a national newspaper to set up a call with a lobbyist for Ukraine, according to the settlement.

                                But when the Justice Department sought to determine whether the firm needed to register as a foreign agent under U.S. law, Skadden, relying on the partners representations, misled the Justice Department about the partners contact with the media and submitted false documents, according to the settlement.

                                John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement that Skaddens failure to register with the Justice Department hid from the public that its report was part of a Ukrainian foreign influence campaign.

                                The settlement doesnt name the Skadden partner, but it appears to be Greg Craig, a former White House counsel under President Barack Obama who led the Ukraine work.

                                The Skadden partner was quoted in the national newspaper discussing the report on Dec. 12, 2012, according to the settlement. Craig was quoted in The New York Times on that date in an article that noted the report seemed to side heavily with Yanukovychs government.

                                Craig retired from Skadden last year. A lawyer for Craig declined to comment.

                                Skadden agreed to register retroactively as a foreign agent as part of the settlement.

                                We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again, the firm said in a statement.

                                Skadden had already been roped into the investigation into Manaforts activities in Ukraine, part of special counsel Robert Muellers broader probe. Lawyer Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about the firms work for Ukraine and spent nearly a month in prison.

                                Muellers investigation has thrown a spotlight on the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires lobbying and public relations firms working for foreign governments and political parties to register with Justice Department but hadnt been aggressively enforced in the past.

                                Dan Pickard, a lawyer at Wiley Rein who has advised clients on complying with FARA, called the settlement with Skadden very unusual.

                                The Justice Department had sought to make lobbyists comply with the law voluntarily in the past, Pickard noted. But were living in a period of heightened enforcement, he wrote in an email.

                                Emails quoted in the settlement make clear that Skadden went to great lengths to avoid doing public relations work that would require it to register.

                                At one point, another Skadden partner wrote to Craig to tell him the Ukraine work should not include PR advice because Skadden was in this as lawyers, not spin doctors.

                                Good advice, Craig replied.

                                But Craig actively worked to help promote the report, according to the settlement, reaching out to a reporter at The New York Times to offer the report as an exclusive before it was released publicly. He even offered to drop off a copy of the report at the reporters home.

                                When the Justice Department started asking questions after the Times story appeared to figure out whether Skadden needed to register as a foreign agent, the firm told the Justice Department that Craig only provided brief clarifying statements about the report to reporters at the Times and two other publications.

                                The Justice Department presented evidence in the settlement that he disseminated the report to the news media. But in a 2013 email cited by prosecutors, Craig told another Skadden partner the firm did not disseminate the report to news media.

                                At no time did [Skadden] attorneys contact the media, Craig wrote. Quite the contrary, we were approached by the media asked for interviews, asked for background commentary, etc. and we did not respond. The only time we responded was to correct misinformation.

                                Its not clear why Skadden went to such lengths to avoid registering as a foreign agent, although the settlement hints at one possible reason.

                                The Ukrainian government agreed to pay an ostensible fee of only 95,000 Ukrainian hryvnias less than $12,000 for Skadden to produce the report, with the understanding that an unnamed Ukrainian businessman would pay millions more to cover the firms fees and the cost of the work. Skadden refused to reveal the identity of the businessman when Justice Department lawyers inquired about it in 2013.

                                Registration under FARA would have required [Skadden] to disclose, among other things, accurate and complete information related to the compensation that it received for preparing the Report on behalf of the [Ukrainian government], and the identity of the businessman who paid for it, the settlement states.

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