THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH SEPT. 21, 2017

It’s already been a busy week for the Trump-Russia Timeline and a bad week for Paul Manafort. Here are the Updates so far:

Additions to our main Trump-Russia Timeline:

  • July 7, 2016: Manafort Offers to Brief Oligarch Close to Putin
  • Aug. 20, 2016: Russian Trolls Organize Trump Events in Florida
  • June or July 2017: Mueller Interviews Rosenstein
  • Sept. 19, 2017: Manafort’s Lawyer Responds
  • Sept. 19, 2017: Michael Cohen Issues Statement; Senate Intelligence Committee Not Pleased
  • Sept. 19, 2017: RNC Paying Legal Fees for Donald Trump and Don Jr.
  • Sept. 20, 2017: Mueller Seeking White House Documents on Flynn, Comey Firings

Additions to our timeline of the Comey firing:

  • June or July 2017: Mueller Interviews Rosenstein
  • Sept. 20, 2017: Mueller Seeking White House Documents on Flynn, Comey Firings

THE CHARLOTTE SCHOOL OF LAW AND A WHISTLEBLOWER

The latest developments at the Charlotte School of Law are the culmination of regulatory capture. The last significant ABA task force addressing the crisis in legal education kicked the can down the road, as did all of its predecessors. That came as no surprise because the head of the task force was Dennis W. Archer. He also chaired the national policy board of InfiLaw, a consortium of Charlotte and two other marginal for-profit law schools owned by venture capitalists.

The Persistent Problem

Without the ability to exploit vulnerable prospective law students willing to incur six-figure law school debt in return for limited prospects of meaningful JD-required jobs, the InfiLaw schools—Charlotte, Arizona Summit, and Florida Coastal School of Law—probably would have gone out of business long ago. It’s a safe bet that InfiLaw’s owners would not send their kids to any of them.

Only recently did the ABA take steps to revoke Charlotte’s accreditation. The school lost access to student loan money, and now its doors are closed. In March 2017, the ABA put Arizona Summit on probation for reasons that included a 25 percent bar exam passage rate for its July 2016 graduates taking the test for the first time. Florida Coastal’s 2016 graduates are faring so poorly in the job market that its end may be in sight: only 36 percent of graduates obtained full-time long-term JD-required jobs. Meanwhile, Florida Coastal grads have the distinction of obtaining degrees from a school that is among the leaders in law school debt: almost $160,000. Arizona Summit’s grads are right up there with them.

For years, InfiLaw has been a poster child for a persistent problem, but it’s not the only offender. Ten years after the Great Recession decimated the demand for new law school graduates, the ABA has ignored a perverse incentive system arising from a dysfunctional market. Specifically, marginal law schools lack accountability for their graduates’ poor job prospects. Those schools live on student loans—which is to say that they would die without them. But once students make their tuition payments, their schools have no skin in the game.

Even Archer’s task force report acknowledged that 25 percent of law schools derive at least 88 percent of their revenues from tuition. The overriding goal becomes maximizing revenues by filling classroom seats with tuition-paying bodies. At most marginal schools, that has meant lowering admission standards–an action that later reflects itself in declining bar passage rates for graduates. The result: unemployed law school graduates are burdened with enormous non-dischargeable debt for degrees of dubious value.

What Will It Take?

Perhaps a Charlotte whistleblower will bring change to a profession that has shown a consistent unwillingness to police itself. The allegations from former Charlotte School of Law Professor Barbara Bernier, who filed suit in June 2016 under the False Claims Act, prompted a federal investigation. She alleges that the school defrauded taxpayers of more than $285 million over a five-year period. According to the suit, Charlotte used dubious tactics to shore up the school’s performance numbers, protect its accreditation, and keep federal student loan dollars flowing.

Bernier claims that admissions officers had quotas of students they had to accept to keep their jobs. She alleges that over a six-year period beginning in 2010, 1,355 substandard students were enrolled, resulting in improper government payments to the school totaling $285 million. She asserts that the school discouraged some students from taking the bar exam because it thought they were likely to fail. Even so, the school’s pass rate has dropped steadily and its February 2017 results were the worst in the state: 25 percent. For those repeating the exam, the February 2017 news was worse: 18 percent passed.

How could this happen? A better question is, why wouldn’t it? Bernier’s allegations are consistent with revenue-maximizing behavior that the current law school business model incentivizes without regard to graduates’ outcomes.

“At Charlotte, there was constant talk of investors — referring to the school’s owners,” the Charlotte School of Law whistleblower professor told The New York Times, “and the focus was on the number of students. They were bringing them in and setting them up and then failing them out.”

InfiLaw has until Oct. 20 to file a formal answer to the complaint. Perhaps someday its owners and those who run other marginal law schools across the country will answer to their students who leave such institutions with big debt and limited JD-required job prospects. Every year, the ranks of those alumni grow.

USING THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: IDENTIFYING TRUMP’S TELLS

[This article first appeared at Billmoyers.com on Sept. 19, 2017]

Trump dominates the news constantly. But consider the timing of his most stunning words, deeds and tweets in the context of the Trump-Russia Timeline and this question emerges: What happened in the Russia investigation to set him off this time? Sometimes, the public doesn’t learn the answer for months. But eventually, a pattern becomes clear. Some of his worst outbursts are connected to his biggest problem: Russia.

For example, on Jan. 27, Trump issued his first immigration travel ban. Defense Secretary James Mattis saw the executive order only a few hours before Trump arrived at the Pentagon for the signing ceremony. As Trump signed it, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was on the phone receiving his first full briefing on the new policy. Because Customs and Border Protection officials had no advance warning that the ban was coming, the result was worldwide chaos. Airports became scenes of mass demonstrations.

Everyone listening to Trump’s campaign rhetoric knew that some kind of immigration ban was coming. But why rush it out only a week after the inauguration? Observers blamed the debacle on incompetence and inexperience. But perhaps other events — unknown to the public at the time — played a part.

A day before Trump issued the ban, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was telling White House counsel Don McGahn that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. She said that White House statements about Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador in late December 2016 — as President Obama was imposing new sanctions for Putin’s interference with the US election — didn’t line up with what the Justice Department knew to be true. The next day, Trump invited then-FBI Director James Comey to dinner, where he asked for Comey’s personal loyalty and received a cool response.

A single coincidence of three stunning events — Yates’ revelations to McGahn, the Comey loyalty dinner, and the botched rollout of an illegal travel ban — would not alone prove that Trump’s most jaw-dropping comments, accusations and policy pronouncements are reactions to or deflections from bad news about the Russia investigation. But consider the context surrounding some of Trump’s other dramatic presidential moments.

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  • Bad news: Beginning on July 8 and continuing throughout the month, reports about the June 9, 2016 meeting among Trump’s top campaign advisers and the Russians dribbled out. On July 18, 2017, The Washington Post and CNN identified the last of the three Russian attendees — an employee of the Russian real estate company owned by Aras Agalarov and his son, Emin. Trump had prior — and quite profitable for Trump — business dealings with the Agalarovs.
  • Trump outburst: In an expansive interview with The New York Times on July 19 and contemporaneous tweets, Trump launched attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and former FBI Director Comey.

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  • Bad news: On July 25, in advance of his congressional testimony, American financier William Browder released a statement explaining the interconnections between US sanctions, Putin and Russian adoptions — the supposed topic of the June 9, 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign advisers and the Russians. On the morning of July 26, the FBI conducted a surprise raid on the home of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
  • Trump outburst: A few hours after the Manafort raid and without consulting the secretary of defense or the joint chiefs of staff, Trump tweeted a new ban on military service by transgender individuals. Senior military officials immediately distanced themselves from Trump’s tweet.

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  • Bad news: Around Aug. 11 – Mueller told the White House that he wanted to interview numerous Trump staffers.
  • Trump outburst: Aug. 11-12 – Trump refuses to denounce white supremacy in his condemnation of the Charlottesville attacks, instead noting “violence on many sides” of what was clearly an incident of domestic, white supremacist terrorism. He then takes off on a campaign tour during which he continues to draw attention to his earlier comments, stir up controversy, divide Americans, and dominate the news.

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  • Bad news: Sept. 17-18 — The New York Times reported that one of its journalists overheard two of Trump’s personal lawyers — John Dowd and Ty Cobb — at a Washington, DC restaurant publicly discussing internal strategy disagreements over Trump’s defense. The dispute involved Cobb’s and White House counsel Don McGahn’s differing opinions on how to deal with special counsel Mueller’s discovery requests. Reportedly, Cobb wanted to disclose everything; McGahn wanted to hold some materials back. “He’s got a couple documents locked in a safe,” Cobb told Dowd. Then on Sept. 18, The Times reported that when the FBI raided Manafort’s home, special counsel Mueller reportedly informed him that he would be indicted. Later that day, CNN reported that the FBI had obtained a FISA warrant to tape Manafort’s telephone conversations prior to and after the election.
  • Trump outburst: Sept. 17 — Trump retweets several bizarre images, including a video of him hitting a golf ball that strikes Hillary Clinton in the back and causes her to stumble as she boards a plane.

In context, Trump’s dangerous and often divisive outbursts suggest that the country is at the mercy of a president who uses the power of his office to exploit a manipulable press, vulnerable citizens and tragic events in the service of eclipsing the issue that continues to dog his presidency: the Russia investigation. They’re also what poker players call “tells” — inadvertent revelations. When he acts out in ways that are extreme — even for Trump — he could be revealing that something he doesn’t like is unfolding in the story that he wants everyone to ignore: Russia. At those moments, everyone should pay especially close attention to it.

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH SEPT. 18, 2017

Here are the latest additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Billmoyers.com. I’ve also added new names to the Timeline’s filtering function: Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer, Julian Assange, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, Rep. Devin Nunes, and Cambridge Analytica.

Additions to our main Trump-Russia Timeline:

  • Nov. 8-11, 2013: The Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow [revision of previous entry]
  • June 2015 to May 2017: Kremlin-linked Russian Company Buys Ads on Facebook [revision of previous entry]
  • June 2016: Kushner Takes Control of Trump Digital Effort and Hires Cambridge Analytica [revision of previous entry]
  • May 12, 2017: DOJ Settles Civil Russian Money Laundering Case; Criminal Case Continues [revision of previous entry]
  • Sept. 6, 2017: Facebook Reverses Earlier Denials; Admits Russian Trolls Bought Ads During Election
  • During the week of Sept. 11, 2017: McGahn Has “A Couple Documents Locked in a Safe”
  • Sept. 13, 2017: GOP Congressman Seeks Pardon for Assange
  • Sept. 18, 2017: NYT Reports Manafort “to be indicted”; FBI Taped Him

Additions to our Kushner Timeline:

  • June 2015 to May 2017: Kremlin-linked Russian Company Buys Ads on Facebook [revision of previous entry]
  • June 2016: Kushner Takes Control of Trump Digital Effort and Hires Cambridge Analytica [revision of previous entry]
  • May 12, 2017: DOJ Settles Civil Russian Money Laundering Case; Criminal Case Continues [revision of previous entry]
  • Sept. 6, 2017: Facebook Reverses Earlier Denials; Admits Russian Trolls Bought Ads During Election
  • Sept. 13, 2017: GOP Congressman Seeks Pardon for Assange

MIDWEEK UPDATES TO THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE

The plot thickens: Newest Additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Billmoyers.com. Here are the titles of the new or newly revised entries:

  • June 2015: Flynn Promotes Joint US-Russia Nuclear Project in Mideast
  • Late December 2016: Bannon, Flynn and Kushner Meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi [revision of previous entry]
  • During the Week of June 19, 2017: Trump Lawyers Reportedly Learn About Emails Relating to June 9, 2016, Meeting [revision of previous entry]
  • Sept. 2, 2017: DOJ: No Evidence of Wiretapping [revision of previous entry]
  • Sept. 12, 2017: Trump’s Press Secretary Says FBI Should Investigate Comey
  • Sept. 12, 2017: House Democrats Refer Potential Flynn Misconduct to Mueller
  • Sept. 13, 2017: Sarah Sanders Doubles-Down on Comey
  • Sept. 13, 2017: Mueller Investigating Flynn’s Son
  • Sept. 13, 2017: Rice’s Reasons for ‘Unmasking’ Trump’s Associates Satisfies GOP

 

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE: UPDATES THROUGH SEPT. 11, 2017

Here’s a link to the newest additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Billmoyers.com. The summary titles may pique your interest:

  • Oct. 3, 2013: Trump Praises Putin, Again
  • Feb. 10, 2014: Trump Says Putin Contacted Him in November 2013
  • April 12, 2014: Trump Praises Putin, Again
  • May 27, 2014: Trump Boasts about Relationship with Putin
  • June 20, 2014: Trump Embraces Putin’s Criticism of “American Exceptionalism”
  • March 18, 2015: Trump Launches Exploratory Committee for Presidential Bid
  • June 18, 2015: Trump Boasts about Russian Relationships
  • June 29, 2015: Trump Says He Can Get Along with Russians
  • June 2015 to May 2017: Kremlin-linked Russian Company Buys Ads on Facebook
  • Sept. 27, 2015: Trump Praises Putin, Again
  • Oct. 6, 2015: Trumps Says He’s Met Putin
  • Oct. 13, 2015: Sater Sends Michael Cohen Letter of Intent for Trump Tower Moscow
  • Oct. 17, 2015: “Putin Loves Donald Trump”
  • Nov. 10, 2016: Trump: ‘I Got to Know [Putin] Very Well’ [revision of previous entry]
  • April 26, 2016: Trump Embraces Putin, Again
  • June 3, 2016: Trump Repeats Putin’s PraisJune 6 and 7, 2016: Don Jr.’s Phone Calls with Emin Agalarov
  • June 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer [revision of previous entry]
  • July 27, 2016: Trump Embraces Putin, Again
  • Sept. 7, 2016: Trump Embraces Putin, Again
  • Dec. 23, 2016: Trump Quotes Putin
  • March 2017: Don Jr. Denies Any Campaign Contacts with Russians
  • Sometime around Aug. 11, 2017: Mueller Wants to Interview White House Staffers
  • Sept. 5, 2017: Congressman Issues More Subpoenas Relating to Steele Dossier
  • Sept. 7, 2017: Don Jr. Talks to Senate Intelligence Committee