THE “WRAP IT UP” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH MAY 14, 2018

The drumbeat is underway. Trump’s enablers are using the one-year anniversary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment to call for an end of the Trump-Russia investigation, As the Trump-Russia Timeline demonstrates, the chorus is the culmination of a systematic effort that began within days of Mueller’s appointment. For a sample, consider these entry titles from the Timeline:

MAY 18, 2017: Trump Denounces Special Counsel

MAY 19, 2017: Reuters Reports White House Lawyers Reviewing Ways to Undermine Mueller

SOMETIME IN JUNE 2017: Trump Wants Mueller Fired; McGahn Threatens To Resign

JUNE 12, 2017: Trump Is Rumored to Consider Firing Mueller

JULY 20, 2017: Reports About White House Efforts to Limit or Block Mueller Investigation

JULY 25, 2017: Trump Says Mueller’s Job Is Not ‘Safe’

AUG. 7, 2017: Trump Asks GOP Senators To End Trump-Russia Investigation

OCT. 27, 2017: Trump Tweets About Russia Investigation Costs

SHORTLY AFTER DEC. 5, 2017: Trump Considers Firing Mueller, Again

JAN. 24, 2018: Trump Says He Was Only “Fighting Back”; Hopes Mueller Will Be Fair

And so on, and so on, and so on…

That doesn’t count Trump’s tweets, or the complicit GOP team members of Congress — especially Rep. Devin Nunes — who have pursued diversionary attacks aimed at undermining the investigation, the Justice Department, and the FBI.

What Worries Pence?

Until last week, Mike Pence had refrained from critical commentary about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But as three prisoners were returning from North Korea, Pence urged Mueller to shut it down:

“It’s been about a year since this investigation began… In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.”

For perspective, the special counsel’s investigation in Iran-Contra took more than six years; Whitewater consumed more than four. And in their first year, neither had yielded as many indictments and guilty pleas as Mueller’s investigation has.

If you wonder why Pence wants the investigation over, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on his name. Pence has plenty to fear from a thorough understanding of his involvement in the Trump-Russia story. After all, he was head of the Trump transition team. Running Pence’s name through the Timeline filter reveals that he has a big “Flynn problem” and was a central player in the Comey firing cover-up. As a potential disinfectant, sunlight is not Pence’s friend.

Russians Penetrated Voter Registration Systems

Meanwhile, Trump dithers as a hostile foreign power continues its massive cyberattack on American democracy.

Remember the Election Day reports of citizens who couldn’t vote because of confusion in voter rolls and problems with voting machines? The Senate Intelligence Committee released a preliminary report confirming that from “at least as early as 2014 through Election Day 2016,” Russian government-affiliated actors engaged in cyberattacks on at least 21 state election systems. And to some unknown degree, they succeeded:

“In a small number of states, Russian-affiliated cyber actors were able to gain access to restricted elements of election infrastructure. In a small number of states, these cyber actors were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data….”

Long ago, the media should have stopped saying that Trump won the election “fair and square.” He didn’t, and that’s why Trump keeps obsessing about Hillary Clinton and the election. He’s using every weapon at his disposable to block the investigation aimed at uncovering the whole truth.

Here’s a complete list of the week’s updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

2014 to Nov. 8, 2016: Russian Cyber-Actors Target 2016 Election Cycle

DEC. 10, 2015: Flynn Receives Money From RT (revision of previous entry)

MAR. 29, 2016: Trump Hires Manafort

OCT. 17, 2016: Cohen Creates Shell Company

OCT. 26, 2016: Cohen Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement With Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) (revision of previous entry)

BETWEEN JANUARY 2017 AND AUGUST 2017: Oligarch-Linked Firm Pays Cohen $500,000

JAN. 20, 2017: Vekselberg, Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin and Butina Attend Trump Inauguration Festivities (revision of previous entry)

APR. 3, 2017: Cohen and Broidy Become RNC National Deputy Finance Co-Chairs

APR. 4, 2018: Mueller Quizzing Oligarchs (revision of previous entry)

AROUND APR. 28, 2018: Giuliani Meets With Mueller; Mueller Rejects Written Responses in Lieu of Trump Testimony

MAY 8, 2018: Emerdata Shutting Down, Too

MAY 9, 2018: Pence Says Mueller Should “Wrap It Up.”

THE “RUSSIA SANCTIONS” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH MAY 7, 2018

[NOTE: My May 1, 2018 interview on “Background Briefing with Ian Masters” discusses the latest Trump-Russia developments. The Trump-Russia Timeline also appears at investigaterussia.org.] 

Last week, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and Rudy Giuliani occupied the center ring of Donald Trump’s scandal circus. But important things were happening in the Trump-Russia ring, too. They’re less sensational and, therefore, relegated to the media’s back burner. But they are a useful reminder of the central theme that is easily lost in Trump’s continuing chaos:

Russia helped Trump win the election. He wants desperately to end the resulting investigation into how and why.

Sanctions

A key strand of the story involves Russian sanctions. For years, Putin has wanted them lifted. From the beginning of the presidential campaign, Trump made clear his desire to accommodate him.

After the election, Trump resisted a unified Congress that wanted tougher Russian sanctions for interfering with the 2016 election. Eventually, he signed the bill into law, but not before legislators made clear that they had veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. Undeterred, Trump then dragged his feet in implementing the sanctions. Now he’s softening them.

The latest example involves Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Apr. 6, 2018: Great fanfare surrounds the list of newly sanctioned Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, who is Manafort’s former business associate.

Apr. 20, 2018: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discusses the new sanctions with the Russian Finance Minister.

May 1, 2018: The Trump administration amends its “blacklist” to pave the way for Deripaska’s company to escape the new sanctions.

Obstruction

Likewise, the supposedly tough stance that the Trump administration adopted in permitting the sale of antitank missiles to Ukrainian resistance fighters against Russia may have produced a benefit to Trump after all. In early April 2018, as the Pentagon prepared to finalize the sale, the Ukrainian government ordered its chief anticorruption prosecutor to freeze ongoing investigations into Paul Manafort. The prosecutor’s previous offer to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe became moot. The US completed the shipment of the missiles on Apr. 30, 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump’s obstruction efforts — with the active assistance of complicit congressional Republicans — continue to hide in plain sight. On Apr. 30, 2018, the public learned that “Freedom Caucus” members had drafted articles of impeachment directed at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. At the same time, Giuliani’s botched rollout of the latest pretext for firing FBI Director James Comey — that Comey refused to say Trump wasn’t a “target” of the FBI’s investigation — overshadowed a more ominous development: FBI lawyers James Baker and Lisa Page resigned.

Baker and Page are corroborating witnesses for Comey’s statement that Trump had spoken to him about “letting [Mike Flynn] go.” That made them Trump’s enemies. He subjected them to relentless attacks, and now they have left the bureau.

When it comes to undermining the investigation into Trump-Russia, Trump will do whatever it takes to save himself. Unfortunately, he has no shortage of eager accomplices. And Trump is still tweeting that what the law calls obstruction of justice, he regards as “fighting back.”

Here’s a complete list of entries in the latest Trump-Russia Timeline update:

2006: Trump Begins Decade-Long Cash Spending Spree

OCT. 28, 2016: Cohen Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement With Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels)

BETWEEN OCTOBER 2017 and JANUARY 2018: Trump Campaign Pays More Than $200,000 Toward Cohen’s Legal Expenses

FEB. 13 2018: Cohen Issues Statement on Stormy Daniels Scandal

MAR. 5, 2018:  Mueller Confirms Trump Is ‘Subject’ of Probe; Raises Possibility of Trump Subpoena; Reports Underway

MAR. 6, 2018: Stephanie Clifford (aka “Stormy Daniels”) Sues Trump and Cohen

MAR. 16, 2018: Cambridge Analytica Backers and Executives Form New Group: Emerdata

APR. 4, 2018: Mueller Quizzing Oligarchs (revision of previous entry)

APR. 5, 2018: Trump Deflects Questions About Stormy Daniels Payoff to Cohen

APR. 6, 2018: Treasury Dept. Sanctions Oligarchs and Putin Cronies (revision of previous entry)

EARLY APRIL 2018: Ukraine Freezes Its Manafort Investigations, Gets US Missiles

APR. 23, 2018: Trump Softens Sanctions on Deripaska’s Company (revision of previous entry)

APR. 25, 2018: Cohen Asserts Fifth Amendment Concerning Payment to Stephanie Clifford (revision of previous entry)

APR. 30, 2018: House Republicans Draft Impeachment Articles Against Rosenstein; Rosenstein Responds

APRIL 30, 2018: Mueller’s 49 Questions For Trump

MAY 1, 2018: Not Really Mueller’s 49 Questions

MAY 2, 2018: Trump Tweets: “No Collusion” – “Hoax” – Threatens To “Get Involved” With Justice Department

MAY 2, 2018: Cambridge Analytica File For Bankruptcy, But Executives Might Continue Business Under New Name: Emerdata

MAY 2, 2018: Cobb Steps Down; Emmet T. Flood Steps In

MAY 2, 2018: DOJ Denies House Request For Mueller Memo

MAY 2, 2018: Trump Tweet Implies No Time For Mueller Interview

MAY 2, 2018: Giuliani Offers New Defense To Comey Firing

MAY 2, 2018: Giuliani Undercuts Cohen’s Payoff Story

MAY 3, 2018: Trump Tweets After Giuliani Speaks About Daniels Payoff

MAY 3, 2018: Giuliani Digs Deeper Hole On $130,000 Payoff

MAY 4, 2018: Trump: Rudy Will “Get His Facts Straight”

MAY 4, 2018: Baker and Page Resign From FBI

MAY 5, 2018: Guiliani Says Trump Could Ignore Subpoena and/or Take the Fifth Amendment

MAY 6, 2018: Trump Tweets About “Witch Hunt” and Mueller’s Team

 

 

 

THE “MICHAEL COHEN” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH APRIL 30, 2018

[NOTE: In case you missed it, here’s the link to my Apr. 27, 2018 appearance on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (MSNBC).]

Last week, Trump threw out plenty of shiny objects to divert attention from the story he wants to avoid: Michael Cohen. It now appears that Trump is throwing Cohen under the bus.

Cohen’s background is interesting. Admittedly a poor student, he graduated from one of the worst law schools in the country and then amassed great wealth relatively quickly. As Cohen and his family members purchased multiple units in Trump buildings, he came to Trump’s attention and accepted a job for the organization in 2006.

He became known as Trump’s “Fixer.” Now he’s in a fix.

Unwanted Attention

Occasionally, Cohen appeared as a Trump surrogate during the campaign. But his more important contributions to the cause were happening behind the scenes. Cohen’s most recent notoriety arises from his role in allegedly orchestrating a $130,000 payoff to porn star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) less than two weeks before the 2016 election. In return, Clifford claims, she agreed not to disclose her prior affair with Trump.

But there’s much more to the Trump-Cohen story. For a sense of its depth and breadth, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Cohen’s name. Here’s a sample:

May 2013: Cohen confirms that Trump has commissioned research on a potential run for the presidency.

October 2015 – January 2016: Trump and a childhood friend, Felix Sater — another name worthy of a click on the Trump-Russia Timeline name filter — work together on a project. As Trump claims repeatedly on the campaign trail that he has “no business deals” with Russia, he signs a letter of intent that Cohen and Sater have developed for a Trump Tower-Moscow.

January 2016: When the Trump Tower-Moscow project sputters, Cohen seeks help from Putin’s spokesperson and right hand man to get it moving.

January 2017: Sater and a pro-Putin Ukrainian politician meet with Cohen at a midtown Manhattan hotel where they give him a proposed Ukrainian peace plan. Cohen is supposed to deliver the plan to then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. It would eliminate US sanctions against Russia.

Under the Bus

Cohen has denied wrongdoing. But the recent FBI raid on his home, office, and apartment sent Trump into orbit — in person and on Twitter.

April 13: Jay Goldberg–one of Trump’s longtime legal advisers–warns Trump that Cohen will “flip” and cooperate with federal prosecutors, rather than face criminal prosecution and the risk of a lengthy prison term.

Also on April 13: Trump calls Cohen to “check-in.” We don’t know whether Trump’s conversation with Cohen occurs before or after Goldberg’s warning. Also unknown is whether Cohen gets the equivalent of the “stay strong” admonition that Trump reportedly gave Mike Flynn months before Flynn pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

April 24: A reporter asks if Trump is considering a pardon for Cohen. “Stupid question,” Trump says without answering.

April 26: A day after Cohen asserts his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the Stephanie Clifford/Stormy Daniels case, Trump phones into a Fox & Friends interview and rails against former FBI Director James Comey and Mueller’s investigation. At times, he threatens to take control of the Justice Department and end the “nonsense of collusion with Russia.”

Meanwhile, as the initial smiles on the faces of the Fox & Friends hosts morph into more worrisome expressions, Trump tries to distance himself from Cohen. But after Trump tries to minimize the amount of legal work that Cohen did for him, out tumbles this admission: “Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”

Like all Trump loyalists who outlive their usefulness to the boss, Michael Cohen is headed toward his place under the Trump bus.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

2006: Cohen Joins Trump Organization

OCT. 12, 2015: Sater Email To Cohen Re: Trump Tower Project

OCT. 28, 2015: Trump Signs Letter of Intent for Trump Tower in Moscow (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 2, 2015: Mike Flynn and His Son Meet with Russian Ambassador

JAN. 14, 2016: Cohen Contacts Peskov to Move Trump Tower Deal Forward

JUNE 6 AND 7, 2016: Don Jr.’s Phone Calls With Emin Agalarov (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 10, 2016: Agalarov Delivers Birthday Gift to Trump

JUNE 14, 2016: Goldstone Emails Emin Agalarov and Ike Kaveladze (revision of previous entry)

JULY 15, 2016: Flynn Predicts Cyber-actions Against DNC

SEPT. 26, 2016: “It Could Be Someone Sitting On Their Bed That Weighs 400 pounds”

NOV. 28, 2016: Goldstone Contacts Graff

JULY 8, 2017: White House Scrambles to Deal with Forthcoming NYT Story; Trump Supervises Media Response (revision of previous entry)

JULY 26, 2017: FBI Raids Manafort’s Home (revision of previous entry)

APR. 23, 2018: Flynn’s Son Implies Pence Lied

APR. 23, 2018: Trump Softens Sanctions on Deripaska’s Company

APR. 24, 2018: House Democrats Interview Wylie; Republicans Boycott

APR. 24, 2018: Trump Response to Question About Possible Pardon For Cohen: “Stupid question”

APR. 25, 2018: Cohen Asserts Fifth Amendment

APR. 26, 2018: Trump Complains about FBI; Threatens Involvement in Justice Department

APR. 26, 2018: Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Bill to Protect Mueller

APR. 27, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey, Again

APR. 27, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Issues Report; Trump Claims Exoneration

 

THE “HE’S B-A-A-A-A-C-K” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH APRIL 23, 2018

[NOTE: Great news! Starting this week, in addition to BillMoyers.com, the complete Trump-Russia Timeline will also appear at the website for the Committee to Investigate Russia. Expanding the group of concerned citizens seeking to remain informed is always healthy for democracy. At this moment in the great American experiment, it’s essential.]

He’s b-a-a-a-a-c-k.

Rudy Giuliani earns the newest Trump-Russia Timeline “pop-up” bubble and name filter.

On Thursday, April 19, Giuliani joined Trump’s legal defense team. It’s a curious choice. For more than a year, he served as Trump’s most faithful campaign surrogate — defending Trump’s crudest and cruelest words and deeds. But after the election, Giuliani couldn’t land a job in the new administration. Now he’s Trump’s lawyer. Go figure.

Lawyer as Witness?

What makes Rudy a truly special selection is that he is (or should be) a witness in various investigations relating to Trump and the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller has informed Trump’s lawyers that their client is a “subject” of the Trump-Russia probe — a status no citizen wants. A cynic might suggest that retaining Giuliani allows both men to rely on the attorney-client privilege to get their stories’ straight. At times, the privilege comes in handy, provided the crime-fraud exception doesn’t kick in.

And if you doubt that Giuliani is destined to be a witness, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on his name. Of particular note is a sequence of events shortly before the election:

— Oct. 25-26, 2016: Giuliani says that a “big surprise” is coming.

— Oct. 28: Then-FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress says the FBI is taking another look at new materials relating to its previously closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. (The revelation provides a big boost to Trump and, arguably, puts him in the White House.)

— Oct. 28: Giuliani boasts publicly about how former and acting FBI agents have been telling him about a “revolution inside the FBI” over Comey’s failure in July to recommend the prosecution of Clinton. If Giuliani is telling the truth about his sources, such FBI leaks would be crimes.

— Nov. 4: Giuliani tries to walk back his earlier bravado about receiving inside information from present and former FBI agents. But it’s too late. Comey has already initiated an internal investigation of FBI leaks. The Justice Department’s Inspector General is on the case.

“Trumpland”

Giuliani has a long, deep history with the FBI, especially its New York office. During the 1980s, he served as US Attorney in Manhattan before becoming New York City’s mayor from 1994 to 2001. In 2014, Giuliani was the keynote speaker at the FBI Agents Association’s (FBIAA) First Annual “G-Man Honors Gala” where he received a distinguished service award named after him. His former law firm — then called Bracewell Giuliani — has long been general counsel to the FBIAA, which represents more than 13,000 active and retired FBI special agents.

During the 2016 election, the FBI’s New York office had such widespread animosity toward Hillary Clinton that it earned a nickname: Trumpland.

A Busy Week

Giuliani’s new assignment highlights this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update. But Trump’s lawyers come and go, so in the long run of the Trump-Russia scandal, other developments will prove more enduring. Last week, every day produced a new bombshell that reinforced the larger narrative arc.

Sunday. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley announces new sanctions against Russia. But after Trump watches her revelation on national television, he erupts — and then kills the sanctions. Trump’s effort to minimize US sanctions against Russia remains an enduring theme that helps explain why Putin wanted Trump to win the election.

Monday. Michael Cohen’s attorney tells a federal judge that Cohen has had only three law clients since January 2017, one of whom is Trump’s most vocal media supporter: Fox News’ Sean Hannity. But of greater legal significance that day is Trump’s call to “check in” on Cohen. No competent attorney would advise the subject of an ongoing investigation — Trump — to communicate with a witness and thereby create evidence supporting an obstruction of justice charge. Why would Trump take that risk? As a key operator in Trump’s business dealings for the past decade, Cohen knows where bodies are buried — and probably helped to bury them.

Tuesday. Senate Republicans are preparing to move forward with bipartisan legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from Trump. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pronounces it DOA. The Complicit GOP never rests.

Wednesday. Former FBI Director James Comey begins national television appearances promoting his new book. Trump tweets complaints. By midweek, Trump’s comments at a joint press conference (with Japan’s prime minister) demonstrate that he is unglued over the Russia investigation.

Thursday. At the urging of Trump’s defenders in the House, the Justice Department releases redacted copies of Comey’s contemporaneous memos on his early 2017 conversations with Trump. This time, the Complicit GOP missile becomes a boomerang because it corroborates everything Comey has said about those conversations. They’re more evidence that Trump is a liar, not Comey.

Friday. The Democratic National Committee sues the Russian government, WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign, and several top Trump campaign advisers over claims relating to the hacking, theft, and dissemination of DNC and Clinton campaign emails.

Saturday-Sunday. Read Trump’s manic tweets and decide for yourself what to make of them. Eleven relate to Trump-Russia.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

NEW: JULY 28, 2016: Giuliani Says Russians Have Had Clinton Email “For Some Time”

NEW: NOV. 4, 2016: Giuliani Says He Expected Action on Clinton

NEW: NOV. 4, 2016: Senior House Democrats Ask DOJ To Investigate FBI Leaks

NEW: NOV. 4, 2016: Giuliani Walks Back Comments Predicting Action on Clinton

REVISED: JAN. 27, 2017: Trump to Comey: ‘I Need Loyalty’

REVISED: FEB. 8, 2017: Priebus Asks Comey About Flynn; Trump Returns to “Golden Showers Thing”

REVISED: JUNE 8, 2017: Comey Testifies Before Senate Intelligence Committee

NEW: JAN. 22-23, 2018: Trump Pressures Wray and Sessions to Fire Page and Strzok

NEW: APR. 12, 2018: Rosenstein Tells Trump He’s Not a Target of Russia Probe; Sessions Warns Trump

REVISED: APR. 13, 2018: DOJ Inspector General Issues Report on McCabe; Trump Issues Bizarre Tweet

NEW: APR. 13, 2018: Warning to Trump: Cohen Will “Flip”

NEW: APR. 15, 2018: Trump Halts New Russian Sanctions

NEW: APR. 16, 2018: Sean Hannity Is Cohen’s Client

NEW: APR. 16, 2018: Trump Tweets

NEW: APR. 17, 2018: McConnell Kills Legislation to Protect Mueller

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Stormy Daniels

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey, Again

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Eleven Congressmen Seek Investigations of Clinton, Comey, and Others

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Trump Dodges Question on Firing Rosenstein or Mueller

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Trump Says Nobody’s as Tough on Russia as Donald Trump

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Cohen Drops Lawsuits Against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: NY State Attorney General Seeks Curb on Presidential Pardon Impact

NEW: APR. 18, 2018: Schiff Seeks to Limit Presidential Pardon Power

NEW: APR. 19, 2018: Giuliani Joins Trump Legal Team; DOJ To Issue Report on FBI Leaks

NEW: APR. 19, 2018: Rosenstein Provides Comey Memos to Congress

NEW: APR. 19, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey Memos and McCabe

NEW: APR. 20, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey and Flynn

NEW: APR. 20, 2018: DNC Sues Russia, Trump Campaign, and WikiLeaks

NEW: APR. 20, 2018: Trump Tweets About DNC Lawsuit, Comey, and Mueller

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Tweets About Cohen 

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Tweets About DNC Lawsuit, Again

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey, Again

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Tweets About Sessions and Rosenstein

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Retweets About Comey Memos and Collusion

NEW: APR. 21, 2018: Trump Keeps Tweeting About Comey

NEW: APR. 22, 2018: Trump Tweets About Sessions and Comey

NEW: APR. 22, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey Memos and Mueller Investigation, Again

 

THE “FIGHTING BACK” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH APRIL 16, 2018

Trump calls it “fighting back.” His lawyers should be telling him it fits neatly into the narrative that Trump is obstructing justice.

As this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update depicts, Trump and the GOP — with Fox News as their reliable delivery vehicle — are orchestrating a public relations assault on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Director James Comey. As Trump and his defenders flood the airwaves with chaos and confusion, it’s worth remembering the line that Gen. George S. Patton wrote in 1944 and legendary football coach Vince Lombardi repeated twenty years later: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Comey’s new book is a vivid reminder to a tired nation that he is a central witness against Trump in any obstruction of justice case that special counsel Robert Mueller might bring. Trump’s aggressive turn toward Rosenstein sure looks like a prelude to firing the deputy attorney general who supervises Mueller’s investigation. That would allow Trump to install a lackey who could limit or terminate the probe.

These are perilous times for American democracy and the rule of law.

Here are the latest Trump-Russia Timeline updates:

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015: Ukrainian Billionaire Contributes $150,000 to Trump Foundation

JULY 27, 2016: Stone Says Russians Leaking Hacked Clinton Emails

OCT. 7, 2016: Intelligence Community Publishes Statement on Russian Interference

JAN. 11, 2017: Trump To Comey: “Golden Shower” Claim Cannot Be True

MARCH 22, 2017: Trump Asks Senior Intelligence Officials to Get Comey to Back Off

MARCH 30, 2017: Nunes’ Sources Are Members of the Trump Administration

MARCH 30, 2017: Trump Asks Comey to ‘Lift the Cloud’ of the Russia Investigation

AUG. 30, 2017: Cohen Rebuts ‘Steele Dossier’ and REPLACED with: AUG. 14, 2017: Cohen’s Attorney Rebuts ‘Steele Dossier’

SHORTLY AFTER DEC. 5, 2017: Trump Considers Firing Mueller, Again

APRIL 9, 2018: FBI Raids Michael Cohen

APRIL 9, 2018: Trump Lashes Out After FBI Raid on Cohen

APRIL 10, 2018: Trump Tweets About Cohen Raid and the Russia Investigation 

APRIL 10, 2018: Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress

APRIL 10, 2018: Trump Believes He Can Fire Mueller

APRIL 10, 2018: NRA Shuts Down Wyden

APRIL 11, 2018: Trump Tweets About $150,000 Payment to His Foundation

APRIL 11, 2018: Trump Tweets: “No Obstruction, (Other Than I Fight Back)”

APRIL 11, 2018: Trump Tweets About Mueller and Rosenstein Conflicts

APRIL 11, 2018: Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Mueller; Fate Uncertain

APRIL 11-12, 2018: White House Approves GOP Attack on Comey and Rosenstein

APRIL 12, 2018: Trump Won’t Sit for Mueller Interview

APRIL 12, 2018: Trump Tweets About Mueller

APRIL 13, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey

APRIL 13, 2018: DOJ Inspector General Issues Report on McCabe; Trump Issues Bizarre Tweet

APRIL 13, 2018: Trump Calls Cohen, Pardons Libby

APRIL 13, 2018: Nunes, Gowdy & Goodlatte Demand Comey’s Memos from Rosenstein

APRIL 15, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey, Mueller, and Clinton

APRIL 16, 2018: Trump Tweets About Clinton, Comey, and McCabe

APRIL 16, 2018: Cohen-Watnick Joins DOJ

THE “SUBJECT OF INVESTIGATION” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH APRIL 9, 2018

Under Justice Department guidelines, “A ‘subject’ of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is formally the subject of a criminal investigation into unlawful foreign influence in the 2016 presidential election that he won.

Let that sink in.

Consistent with its prior practice, special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team isn’t talking about any of this. That leaves Trump’s team as the “leakers” behind the story about Trump’s status. And they’re trying to spin it as inconsequential because Mueller hasn’t yet designated Trump as a “target.”

Here’s the thing: Some targets don’t know they’re targets until they’re indicted. As the DOJ guidelines state, “A ‘target’ is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” [Emphasis supplied]

Moreover, whether a sitting president can ever be indicted is the subject of scholarly debate. Until Mueller determines with reasonable certainty that Trump can be indicted, Trump can’t become a “target” — even for provable crimes.

In other words, Trump — as a “subject” — may already occupy the worst possible status he could possess in the Trump-Russia probe, namely, a criminal who is immune from prosecution until he leaves office.

Let that sink in, too.

Pruitt: Trump’s Ace-In-The-Hole

Since early March, Trump’s lawyers have known about their client’s unfortunate status. The timing now provides a context within which to evaluate Trump’s words and deeds over the past month. In particular, keep an eye on his vigorous defense of embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Here’s why.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to restrict or terminate Mueller’s investigation. One approach he might attempt is to replace Mueller’s immediate supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein assumed control of the Trump-Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. If Sessions resigns, Trump can appoint an interim Attorney General replacement, provided that the Senate has previously confirmed that individual.

Enter Scott Pruitt. As interim Attorney General, Pruitt would become Mueller’s supervisor.

There are important qualifications. For example, if Trump fires Sessions (rather than forcing his resignation), Trump’s ability to appoint an interim successor AG becomes murkier. Likewise, Pruitt’s “political relationship” with Trump should require Pruitt to recuse himself from any investigation involving Trump. But given Pruitt’s behavior to date, it’s reasonable to assume that he would ignore ethical and legal restraints in gutting Mueller’s investigation.

Trump doesn’t care about Pruitt’s newsworthy ethical lapses or extravagant expenditures of taxpayer monies. Trump views the world through the prism of Trump-Russia. Whatever he does to survive the investigation is collateral damage of no concern to him. Scott Pruitt has demonstrated unwavering fealty to Trump, coupled with a blindness toward legal and ethical norms that apply to everyone else. For him, clipping Mueller’s wings in the service of Trump would be a pleasure.

The Week Wasn’t As Quiet As It Seemed

Two other noteworthy names in this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline Update: Roger Stone keeps moving himself from barrel to barrel; and every day, Erik Prince seems to develop new exposure to charges that he made false statements to Congressional investigators. Click on the Timeline name filter for each of them and see what pops up now.

Here’s a complete list of the new entries in this week’s Timeline Update:

REVISED: JUNE 2014: Massive Facebook Data Leak Underway; Cambridge Analytica in Contact With Russians

NEW: SUMMER 2016: Trump Adviser Goes to FBI With Claimed Access to Clinton Emails

NEW: AUG. 4, 2016: Stone Says “Devastating” WikiLeaks Coming

NEW: AUG. 4, 2016: Stone: “I dined with Julian Assange last night”

NEW: AUG. 5, 2016: Stone Tweets About Clinton’s Emails

REVISED: OCT. 2, 2016: Stone Appears to Predict More Damaging WikiLeaks

NEW: OCT. 3, 2016: Stone Tweets About Clinton and WikiLeaks

NEW: OCT. 5, 2016: Stone Tweets About Assange

NEW: AROUND JAN. 4, 2017: Erik Prince Reportedly Meets with George Nader

NEW: AUG. 2, 2017: Rosenstein Confirms Mueller’s Authority to Investigate Manafort’s Possible Collusion with Russia

NEW: EARLY MARCH 2018: Mueller Confirms Trump Is “Subject” of Probe

NEW: MARCH 9, 2018: Mueller Obtains Another Search Warrant Against Manafort

NEW: DURING THE WEEK OF APRIL 2, 2018: Mueller Questions Trump Business Associate About Foreign Deals

NEW: APRIL 2, 2018: Mueller Outlines Potential Scope of Investigation

NEW: APRIL 3, 2018: Van der Zwaan Sentenced

NEW: APRIL 4, 2018: Facebook Finds More Russian Accounts; More Cambridge Analytica Problems

NEW: APRIL 4, 2018: Mueller Quizzing Oligarchs

NEW: APRIL 6, 2018: Trump Reportedly Contemplates Replacing Sessions With Besieged EPA Administrator Pruitt; Trump Tweets

NEW: APRIL 6, 2018: Treasury Dept. Sanctions Oligarchs and Putin Cronies

NEW: APRIL 7, 2018: Trump Tweets About DOJ and FBI, Again

NEW: APRIL 8, 2018: Trump Tweets About Clinton and DOJ, Again

NEW: APRIL 8, 2018: Trump Finally Criticizes Putin

THE “PUZZLED” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH APRIL 2, 2018

[Note: If you’re in the neighborhood… 

On Tuesday, April 3 at 7:00 pm, I’ll be talking about the Trump-Russia Timeline at the Wilmette (IL) Public Library. Free admission and open to the public.]

Spring break, Passover, and Holy Week produced a relatively quiet period for the Trump-Russia Timeline. The line of the week goes to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On Easter Sunday, he said, “The problem is that Russia is running wild, whatever we are doing is not working and the president for some reason has a hard time pushing back against Putin.”

“For some reason…” What could it possibly be?

Meanwhile, This Week’s Update Reveals…

— The burgeoning Cambridge Analytica scandal may reach Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and his unsuccessful presidential bid. After Walker dropped out of the race, several of his staffers became executives for the company.

— Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, apparently knew in August 2016 that he was dealing with a Russian who had continuing ties to Russian intelligence. (That revelation required adding a new pop-up bubble for Manafort-Gates associate Konstantin Kilimnik.)

— When Trump expelled Russian diplomats, it was more for show than for real.

— The complicit GOP-controlled Congress’ diversionary efforts to undermine the FBI and Justice Department (and thereby support Trump’s scorched-earth attack on the world’s premier law enforcement agency) continues.

— And anyone who believes that Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein have job security is not paying attention. In an April 2 tweet attacking the Department of Justice, Trump put quotation marks around “Justice.” Firing Sessions and/or Rosenstein and substituting a Trump puppet to supervise special counsel Robert Mueller remains Trump’s easiest path to gutting the Trump-Russia investigation.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline updates:

LATE 2013: Bannon and the Beginning of Cambridge Analytica (revision of previous entry)

EARLY SUMMER 2014: Peter Thiel’s Palantir Connected to Cambridge Analytica

SEPT. 21, 2015: Walker Drops Out; Staffers Become Cambridge Analytica Execs

EARLY AUGUST 2016: Manafort Meets with Kilimnik

SEPTEMBER 2016: Skadden Attorney Communicates With Gates and “Person A” (revision of previous entry)

SOMETIME BETWEEN JUNE 16, 2017 and OCTOBER 27, 2017: Trump’s Lawyer Reportedly Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort

MARCH 22, 2018: House Judiciary Committee Subpoenas Rosenstein

MAR. 26, 2018: Trump Expels Russian Diplomats, Closes Seattle Consulate, Russia Retaliates; But There’s a Catch (revision of previous entry)

MARCH 27, 2018: NRA Admits Accepting Foreign Contributions; Wyden Presses on Torshin

MARCH 27, 2018: Sens. Coons, Tillis Support Mueller

MARCH 28, 2018: Sessions Rebuffs GOP Request for Another Special Counsel, Says IG Already Investigating

APRIL 1, 2018: Graham Perplexed on Trump-Putin

APRIL 2, 2018: Trump Attacks Justice Department