About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).

THE “DIRTY DOZEN RUSSIANS” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JULY 15, 2018

Where are the kids?

Thousands of children await reunification with their families. Meanwhile, many of those kids languish in prison-like conditions. Is this really America?

Before answering, turn to the latest facts that suggest a troubling answer to an unthinkable question: Did the person responsible for implementing the child-separation policy — the President of the United States — win through unlawful means the power he now exercises in the name of every US citizen?

Mueller’s Latest Indictment: Who’s Next?

Last week, the 18-month investment in creating and maintaining the Trump-Russia Timeline paid off again by providing context. (Next week’s update will continue that trend. When considered with surrounding events, the factual allegations in the affidavit supporting the recent criminal complaint against Russian national Maria Butina become far more significant.)

Many of the newest entries in this update come from special counsel Robert Mueller’s July 13, 2018 indictment, which reveals startling details about previous events. Some occurred more than two years ago. The Timeline provides their damning context.

The indictment brought the total number of known defendants in the Trump-Russia scandal to 35. It charges 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking into the Hillary Clinton, DNC, and DCCC computer systems, stealing information, and disseminating the stolen material through various means, including Wikileaks (although it doesn’t disclose WikiLeaks’ identity). The indictment contains many clues that more criminal charges are coming. It also hints at the identity of those who may have the most to fear in Mueller’s next round of indictments.

That round is coming. Now that Mueller has exposed the Russian actors at the center of the Trump-Russia scandal, Americans on the other side of the transaction will be next.

And Trump knows it.

Here are four episodes for which the Trump-Russia Timeline offers context and insight.

EPISODE #1: THE ART OF A DEAL/STEAL

Background: Russians first hacked the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, on Mar. 19, 2016.

— Starting in late March, Trump adviser George Papadopoulos meets in London with an intermediary — and then with a woman claiming to be Putin’s niece — who claim that Russia has thousands of stolen Clinton emails and wants to help Trump use them to win the election. (In November 2017, the intermediary — Joseph Mifsud — disappears after his role in the Trump-Russia scandal surfaces. Last week, he failed to show up for a court appearance in Italy.)

Mar. 31, 2016: Meeting with his campaign’s national security team, Trump says he wants a softer approach to Russia. Papadopoulos tells Trump that he could arrange a personal meeting between Trump and Putin.

Apr. 27, 2016: In his first major foreign policy address, Trump discusses easing relations between Russia and the US. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is sitting near the front of the room and attends a VIP reception.

— Apr. 29, 2016: The DNC first notices suspicious activity on its computer systems. By May, its outside team of experts determines that the hacking had come from Russia.

— June 3, 2016, Dontald Trump Jr. receives word that Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton want to meet with him. “I love it,” Don Jr. replies.

— June 7, 2016: The meeting date with the Russians is set with Don Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner attending. That evening, Trump tells the crowd celebrating his New Jersey primary victory: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.

Indictment revelation: On June 8, 2016, the Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) launches “DCLeaks.com” and starts releasing stolen DNC emails. Before long, WikiLeaks disseminates them, too.

Who’s in big trouble?

Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Trump’s national security team, and Julian Assange (WikiLeaks). The indictment doesn’t state whether the Russian hacking and dissemination operation was part of larger conspiracy with American citizens to install a president who had affirmed his warmth toward Russia. But Trump knows.

And so does Mueller.

***

EPISODE #2: “RUSSIA, IF YOU’RE LISTENING…”

— July 27, 2016: In the morning, Trump says, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Indictment revelation: “After hours”, Russian hackers attempt to infiltrate “for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”

Who’s in big trouble?

Trump. The indictment doesn’t disclose whether that particular Russian hack was a direct response to Trump’s earlier invitation. But Trump knows.

And so does Mueller.

***

EPISODE #3: GOP SEEKS RUSSIAN HELP

— Aug. 4, 2016: Roger Stone says that Guccifer 2.0 is not “the Russians” (spoiler alert: it is) and that WikiLeaks has devastating information on Clinton that Julian Assange will release to the public soon. Throughout August and September, Stone communicates directly with Guccifer 2.0 and discusses publicly anticipated WikiLeaks’ disclosures that will damage Clinton. Stone also boasts that, even though he left the campaign formally, he speaks regularly to Trump (which he does through the election and beyond).

— Aug. 12, 2016: Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins reaches out to Guccifer 2.0, who had invited journalists to send questions via Twitter direct messages relating to information that Guccifer 2.0 had hacked from the DNC and the DCCC.

Indictment revelation: On August 15, 2016, a congressional candidate asks Guccifer 2.0 for documents that the Russians had stolen from the DNC and the DCCC.  

— Aug. 22, 2016: Responding to Nevins’ Aug. 12 request, Guccifer 2.0 uploads almost 2.5 gigabytes of stolen documents — including the Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote strategy for Florida — to Nevins’ Dropbox. Guccifer 2.0 then sends Roger Stone a link to Nevins’ blog. Nevins continues posting hacked documents through the end of August, culminating in the Sept. 8, 2016, release of the DCCC’s “Democrats Turnout Model” for Florida.

Who’s in big trouble?

Stone, Nevins, Assange (WikiLeaks), and the unnamed congressional candidate who asked Guccifer 2.0 for hacked documents. The indictment doesn’t reveal candidate’s identity. But that person knows who he or she is.

And so does Mueller.

***

EPISODE #4: THEFT OF THE DEMOCRATS’ ANALYTICS

A political party’s voter “analytics” are among any campaign’s most valuable tools. For an opponent who acquires them, it’s the equivalent of obtaining an adversary’s strategic plan for winning a war. Mueller’s indictment charges that in September 2016, the Russian hackers gathered “test applications relating to DNC’s analytics”, which they copied and moved to cloud-based accounts. The indictment doesn’t reveal what happened to the information thereafter or how it was used during the final two months of the campaign.

But those who benefited from the theft do.

And so does Mueller.

Who could be in big trouble? 

Anyone who knew that the campaign was using the DNC’s analytics to help Trump win the election. That could include Jared Kushner (who oversaw Trump’s digital operation), Brad Parscale (Trump’s digital campaign director), and Trump himself.

More is Coming

One more thing: Last week, Trump’s former national security Michael Flynn appeared in court and confirmed that he is still cooperating with Mueller. But the facts underlying the latest indictment of Russian intelligence officers didn’t come from Flynn. He’s supplying different information about wrongdoing by US citizens.

Mueller started with the Russian side of the transaction. Coming soon: The US side of a story that will live in infamy.

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

JUNE 8, 2016: Russian Hackers Launch DCLeaks.com

JULY 27, 2016: Trump Exhorts Russia to Hack Clinton’s Email Server; Russians Attempt New Hack of Clinton Accounts (revision of pf previous entry) 

AUG. 15, 2016: Congressional Candidate Requests Stolen DNC/DCCC Emails from Guccifer 2.0

JULY 9, 2017: Trump Tweets About His Conversations with Putin

MAR. 20, 2018: Trump Congratulates Putin on Election Victory  (revision of pf previous entry) 

JULY 7, 2018: Sen. Johnson: Questions Russian Sanctions and Significance of Russia’s Election Interference

JULY 9, 2018: Trump Lies About NATO Costs

JULY 10, 2018: Flynn Still Cooperating With Mueller

JULY 10, 2018: Trump Continues Assault on NATO; Remains Soft on Putin

JULY 10, 2018: Trump Tweets About Strzok and Page

JULY 10, 2018: Britain Fines Facebook over Cambridge Analytica Scandal

JULY 10, 2018: Page Refuses to Appear Before House Committees

JULY 11, 2018: Misfud is Still Missing

JULY 11-12, 2018: Trump Attacks NATO Allies With Lies, Backs Off, Then Renews Assault

JULY 11, 2018: Trump Tweets About Strzok and Page

JULY 12, 2018: Strzok Testifies before House Committees

JULY 12, 2018: Trump Overrules Intelligence and Law Enforcement Advice; Orders Release of Investigative Files to Congress

JULY 12, 2018: Trump Blasts Theresa May in London

JULY 13, 2018: Trump Says He Supports May

JULY 13, 2018: Rosenstein Announces New Mueller Indictment

JULY 13, 2018: Coats Says Russian Cyberattack Warning Lights ‘Blinking Red’

JULY 13, 2018: House GOP Preparing New Push to Impeach Rosenstein

JULY 14, 2018: In Wake of Mueller Indictment, Trump Tweets About Obama and ‘Deep State’ 

JULY 15, 2018: En Route to Meeting with Putin, Trump Tweets ‘Witch Hunt’; Russia Agrees

WHERE ARE THE KIDS? BURIED IN CREATIVE ARITHMETIC

Where are the kids?

The question remains largely unanswered by the US government that stripped them from their parents. The complicit GOP members of Congress remain conspicuously silent.

A federal court has required the reunification of approximately 3,000 children separated from their families at the border under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. The deadline is July 26. Based on its track record with a tiny subset of this group — children under the age of five — there is a zero percent chance that the Trump administration will meet that deadline. But there’s a 100 percent chance that it will manipulate the numbers to create a false narrative obscuring its failure.

Fun with Numbers — Except It’s Not Funny to Toddlers

Trump will blow the July 26 deadline because his administration couldn’t comply with a similar order to reunite only 103 kids under age five by July 10. As of July 12 — two days late — it had reunited only 57 of the children. Even more remarkably, it treated the remaining 46 as a creative solution to an arithmetic problem.

Specifically, on July 10, Justice Department attorneys told the court that 27 of the remaining 46 children were “determined to be ineligible” for reunification. Less than 48 hours later, that number had risen to — you guessed it — 46.

Voila!

Fifty-seven reunifications plus 46 “ineligibles” equals 103. Reunification problem solved.

Behind the Numbers

The government claims to be relying on “court-approved criteria” in making the “ineligibility” determinations. If so, the criteria are suspect:

— For 12 of the kids, ineligibility resulted because the US government deported their parents without them. Seriously? That’s an escape hatch for kidnapping children?

— For another 11, parents are in state or federal custody for unspecified (to the public) offenses. What are those offenses, exactly? I sure hope the misdemeanor of attempted illegal entry at the border isn’t among them.

— Another 11 parents have what the government describes as “a serious criminal history (charges or convictions for child cruelty, kidnapping, murder, human smuggling, domestic violence, etc.)” “Charges”? “Etc.”? Presumably, the court will ask for more information about this catch-all.

The Human Face of Tragedy

Behind the numbers are tragic individual chapters in one of America’s darkest stories. Read this front-page article in The New York Times, which describes innocent children housed and treated as prisoners, and then weep for those children, their families, and our country: “Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention.”

July 26, 2018 is the next court-ordered date by which more than 2,000 kids are to be reunited with their families.

Creative arithmetic is not an answer; it’s an insult.

Never let Trump and the Complicit GOP forget what they have done — and continue to do — in the name of the United States of America.

Never.

The whole world is watching. It won’t forget, either.

THE “JUXTAPOSITION” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JULY 8, 2018

“WHERE ARE THE KIDS?”

Still asking.

Juxtaposition #1:

Twelve teenagers trapped with their adult coach in a Thai cave riveted the world for three weeks until the last of them is rescued on July 10.

Thousands of minor children whom the US government separated from their families under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy remain separated. For some of those kids, the separation is permanent. Last week, the Justice Department told a federal court that the Department of Homeland Security had 19 children under age five whose parents it had already deported. On July 9, DOJ said the number was nine — with another nine released into the US. And there’s one child for whom HHS has no information about the parent(s). None. Still to be revealed: Of the approximately 3,000 minors separated from their parents, how many have been reunited? And for how many others has government malfeasance made reunification impossible? Don’t all of these kids deserve at least as much international media attention as the teenagers trapped in a Thai cave?

Juxtaposition #2:

— The July 4th holiday celebrated American independence.

— Simultaneous Trump-Russia Timeline events demonstrate how Trump and his minions are imperiling American democracy:

June 28: Trump repeats, yet again, Putin’s lie that Russia didn’t meddle in the election:

(The capitalization of “Meddling” and “Election” is a mystery.)

July 1, 2018: Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, appears on Face the Nation. Asked about his recent conversation in Moscow with Vladimir Putin regarding Russia’s 2016 and 2018 election interference, Bolton says, “[W]hat President Putin said, through a translator of course, but what he said was there was no meddling in 2016 by the Russian state… Well I think that’s that’s an interesting statement.”

Bolton is a Yale-educated attorney who has now become another Trump lawyer-enabler. In an effort to defend the indefensible, he’s parsing words. Bolton’s attempt to distinguish “Russian state” from the fact that Putin himself directed Russia’s 2016 election interference operation is worse than sophistry. What is Bolton really doing? Rolling out Trump’s newest defense of Putin. Welcome to another iteration of Trumpworld “doublespeak.”

July 3: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) leads a Republican-only congressional delegation to Moscow where he and seven others members of Congress meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (who is now member of Russia’s upper parliament), and other Russian officials. To appreciate the significance of Kislyak’s presence, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on hs name.

The four-hour session is closed to public view. But in opening remarks, Shelby tells Lavrov and his entourage: “We could be competitors — we are competitors — but we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.”

Likewise, Shelby tells Vyacheslav Volodin, a close Putin ally and speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament (Duma), “I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth. I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”

In a plenary session of Russia’s lower parliament, members greet Shelby and his fellow Republicans with applause.

Following the meeting, Russian state television presenters and guests mock the US delegation for putting a weak foot forward. “The message of tough talk they promised in Washington ‘changed a bit’ by the time they got to Moscow,” according to reporting by The Washington Post.

Juxtaposition #2A:

Next to the Republicans’ Moscow trip, juxtapose this underreported Independence Day item:

July 3: While senior GOP members of Congress receive accolades from Putin’s proxies, the US Senate Intelligence Committee issues a bipartisan summary of its findings, which include:

  • The January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) that Russia interfered with the 2016 election is a “sound intelligence product.”
  • “The Committee concurs” that Russia’s “influence campaign was approved by President Putin.”
  • Moscow “sought to denigrate Secretary Clinton.”
  • “The ICA relies on public Russian leadership commentary, Russian state media reports, public examples of where Russian interests would have aligned with candidates’ policy statements, and a body of intelligence reporting to support the assessment that Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for Trump.”

What Lies Beneath

Once upon a time, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) stood alone among fellow congressional representatives in his outspoken defense of Russia. (Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Rohrabacher’s name, and see the entries that enmesh him deeply in the Trump-Russia scandal.) Rohrabacher’s infection is spreading and now the epidemic pervades the GOP.

When Trump and Putin meet privately in Helsinki on July 16 — without any US diplomats or aides in the room — this much is certain: Some outcomes will become obvious immediately. If Trump accepts Russia’s annexation of Crimea, lifts US sanctions, or cedes Syria to Putin’s chosen leader, the world will see it and weep.

But it will take a longer time for the public to learn the whole truth about everything that happens in the private session between Trump and Putin. Someday, future historians will evaluate the pieces of American greatness that Trump gave away — and the magnitude of personal gain that he received in return.

Here’s the complete list of entries for this week’s update of the Trump-Russia Timeline:

LATE MARCH 2016: British Intelligence Alerts NSA to Russian Hack of DNC

JULY 1, 2018: Bolton Says Putin Denied Meddling by ‘Russian State

JULY 3, 2018: Trump Tweets “Witch Hunt”

JULY 3, 2018: GOP Congressional Delegation Meets Lavrov, Kislyak  and Others in Moscow; Russian Legislature Applauds

JULY 3, 2018: Senate Intelligence Committee Confirms Russian Meddling in US Election

JULY 5, 2018: Cohen Hires Former Clinton Aide

JULY 6, 2018: Giuliani Sets New Conditions for Mueller Interview

NEW: JULY 7, 2018: Trump Tweets “Witch Hunt” as Strzok Agrees to Testify Publicly

NEW: JULY 8, 2018: Giuliani Revises Trump-Comey Conversation About Flynn; Renews Assault on Mueller Probe

ALEX AZAR: WHERE ARE THE KIDS?

“Where are the kids?”

The federal court’s June 26 ruling was blunt: “The facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.”

A week later, the US Department of Health and Human Services upped its estimate: the number of children separated from their parents went from 2,300 to “under 3,000” — “about 100” are under the age of five. FIVE.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar (JD, Yale ’91) offered this tone-deaf insight on the family separations: “It’s important to remember that information from children can at times be unreliable.”

He could have added that it’s especially difficult when they’re too young to speak — much less know their parents’ full names — and were separated from their families by an incompetent government that didn’t have readily available the information required to reunite them.

Azar: It’s Not Trump’s Fault — or His

Alex Azar is yet another Trump enabler with a law degree. The cycle is always the same: Refuse to admit that Trump is to blame for anything; lie as necessary to deflect responsibility from the Trump administration to someone or something else.

“Any confusion is due to a broken immigration system and court orders,” Azar told reporters on July 5. “It’s not here.”

The exit of Scott Pruitt (JD, Univ. of Tulsa, ’93) proves that, in the long run, it’s a losing strategy. Eventually, the truth come out, the enablers’ reputations lie in tatters, and the harsh judgment of history awaits.

The Clock Ticks

For Azar, that judgment is imminent. On Thursday, July 5 — the same day he said that the government would meet court deadlines (July 10 for kids under five; July 26 for all other minors) and the reunification “mission would be accomplished” — the Trump administration asked the court for an extension of those deadlines. At a July 6 hearing, more ugly facts emerged about the kids under five:

— 83 children have been mapped with 86 parents; 16 kids have not been mapped with parents. Why not?

— Of the 86 parents, 46 are in ICE custody; 19 have been deported without their kids. How and why?

— Of the 86 parents, another 19 were released from ICE custody. How and why?

— Two of the 86 parents “have been determined to have a criminal history that would make them unfit or a danger, criminal convictions related to child cruelty and kidnapping or rape.” Says who?

How many reunifications have occurred? No one is saying, but if the number was significant, Azar and Trump would be touting it. Bigly.

For too many children, America’s Independence Day 2018 will forever have a special personal meaning: involuntary separation from their parents at the hands of the US government. Some of those kids and their parents will never see each other again. While contemplating the nation’s devolution under Trump and his enablers, let that one sink in.

An Unfortunate List

Meanwhile, add Alex Azar (JD, Yale, ’91)to the growing list of Trump enablers with a law degree.  Here are some of the others:

Jared Kushner (JD/MBA, NYU, ’07)

Mike Pence (JD, Indiana – Robert McKinney School of Law, ’86)

Jeff Sessions (JD, Alabama, ’73)

Don McGahn III (JD, Widener, ’94)

Kellyanne Conway (JD, George Washington, ’92)

Jay Sekulow (JD, Mercer, ’80)

Rudy Giuliani (JD, NYU, ’68)

Emmet Flood (JD, Yale, ’91)

Paul Manafort (JD, Georgetown, ’74)

Reince Priebus (JD, Miami, ’98)

Scott Pruitt (JD, Tulsa, ’93)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (JD, Kentucky, ’67)

Rep.Trey Gowdy (JD, South Carolina, ’89)

Rep. Jim Jordan (JD, Capital, ’01)

…And every other Republican member of Congress who graduated from law school and defers to Trump.

Upon admission to the bar, all lawyers swear an oath to defend the Constitution, uphold the rule of law, and encourage public confidence in the integrity of the legal system. Through acts of omission and commission, Trump’s cadre of enablers with JD’s are helping him undermine these fundamental principles that truly make America great.

Someday, America will be great again.

THE “SUPREME COURT” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JULY 1, 2018

Editors’ Note: Until the government operating in the name of every American provides straight answers and solves a problem that Trump alone created, the following question will precede my posts:

“Where are the 2,000 kids and when will they be reunited with their families?”

Note to the press: At every daily White House briefing, ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders that question. When she dodges, says “Next question”, and calls on someone else, that reporter should pose it again.

Repeat the process as needed.

2,000 kids.

***

When future historians write about the Trump-Russia scandal, the retirement of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could loom large in the tale. His departure from the bench now assumes a prominent place in the Trump-Russia Timeline.

The Supreme Court and Trump-Russia

On the Court, Kennedy has been an occasional swing vote creating 5-4 majorities in favor of protecting Roe v. Wade, affirming same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, and upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse cases. But the implications of Kennedy’s retirement for the Trump-Russia investigation could become equally momentous.

Trump is the subject of a serious criminal investigation into whether he (or his campaign) conspired with a hostile foreign power to win a US presidential election. Since then, he has engaged in what sure looks like a separate crime: systematically obstructing that investigation. Now he is poised to select the Supreme Court justice who could cast a final and deciding vote in his case.

Here’s just a partial list of the Trump-Russia issues that could land in the Supreme Court’s lap for a final determination — with Kennedy’s successor providing the decisive vote:

  1. Does Mueller’s entire investigation violate the Constitution?
  2. What is the proper scope of various privileges that Trump and witnesses have invoked to block congressional and special counsel inquiries?
  3. Can a President obstruct justice?
  4. Can a President be compelled to testify before a grand jury?
  5. Can a President be indicted?
  6. Can a President be tried?
  7. Can a President pardon himself?
  8. Can a presidential pardon extinguish the recipient’s exposure to separate charges under state law?

Forget the rhetoric about a “constitutional crisis” involving a showdown between the executive and judicial branches. Trump is now positioned to achieve a bloodless victory and conquer the judiciary. The complicit Republicans in the Senate won’t stop him. Until Democrats gain control of the House or Senate, Congress is Trump’s host species.

For the rule of law in America, it can’t get much worse. Apart from an unlikely electoral tidal wave that gives Democrats the House majority required to impeach Trump and the 67 senators required to convict him, only one escape hatch would remain: The new swing vote in the US Supreme Court — Chief Justice John Roberts. If and when the time comes for Roberts to vote in the Trump-Russia case, he’ll define the “Roberts Court” forever — for good or ill.

Kennedy’s Connections to Trump

Although far less significant, another aspect of Justice Kennedy’s retirement prompted the return to a story that first surfaced more than a year ago: Kennedy’s son, Justin, has longstanding family connections to the Trumps and the Kushners.

No one is accusing Justice Kennedy of wrongdoing. But judges are required to avoid even the “appearance of impropriety,” lest it undermine public confidence in the integrity of the justice system. More fundamentally, pursuing questions about connections among the nation’s most powerful leaders is simply investigative journalism. It keeps those leaders accountable, as any democracy should.

Justin, Trump, and Kushner

Justin Kennedy worked at Deutsche Bank and, according to The Financial Times, “was one of Trump’s most trusted associates” during a time that the bank loaned Trump $1 billion and no other major financial institution would touch the bankruptcy recidivist.

When Justin left Deutsche Bank in 2010, he co-founded LNR Property, a real estate firm that became involved in Kushner Companies’ troubled 666 Fifth Avenue building.

The story of the Kennedy-Trump-Kushner connections first appeared in an April 11, 2017 Medium.com article that attracted little attention. Reviewing the Trump-Russia Timeline during that period reveals an understandable reason why: There was a lot happening during the two weeks preceding former FBI Director James Comey’s firing. Since then, even more has happened.

There may be nothing nefarious in any of this. If so, the story will die. But it’s unwise to close the file before reading it.

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

JUNE 2005: Manafort Pitches Himself to Russian Oligarch (revision of previous entry)

MAY 4, 2018: Judge Asks Mueller Team Tough Questions

JUNE 25, 2018: Trump Tweets About Warner, Mueller, FBI

JUNE 25, 2018: House Republicans Ask Mueller to Name Everyone Involved in His Investigation

JUNE 25, 2018: DOJ Responds to Nunes’ Ultimatum

JUNE 25-26, 2018: Trump Tweets About Stzok

JUNE 26, 2018: Nunes Demands More Information from DOJ

JUNE 26, 2018: Judge Who Had Asked Tough Questions Upholds Mueller’s Authority

JUNE 27, 2018: Trump-Putin Meeting Set

JUNE 27, 2018: Strzok Testifies for 11 Hours; Democrats Demand Release of His Transcript

JUNE 27, 2018: Justice Kennedy Announces Retirement

JUNE 28, 2018: Trump Defends Russia; Attacks Strzok, Mueller, Comey, McCabe

JUNE 28, 2018: Rosenstein and Wray Appear Before House

 

 

“SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATES THROUGH JUNE 24, 2018

Before turning to a key development in the Trump-Russia Timeline, this week’s update pauses to ask a simple question about the border crisis:

If Americans allow Trump to get away with this, what have we become?

At protests around the country on June 30, we’ll learn the answer.

In the aftermath of Trump’s executive order purporting to solve the family separation crisis that his zero tolerance policy alone created, a lot has happened — none of it good.

The Rule of Law Under Assault Again

It’s critical to note that most undocumented immigrants arrive at the border seeking asylum — a right afforded them under international law. US judges have been granting about half of those requests.

It’s also important to realize that the US Supreme Court has reaffirmed repeatedly the constitutional due process rights of such individuals: “[T]he Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence here is lawful or unlawful.” Zadvydas v. David, 533 US 678 (2001). See also, Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982) (illegal aliens entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment).

On June 24, Trump tweeted that he wants the power to demand the immediate and summary deportation of immigrants (“no Judges or Court Cases”). That violates the US Constitution.

If Trump thinks he can use extortion to circumvent the Constitution, he’s wrong about that, too. Nevertheless, apparently he’s now offering immigrants a deal: waive your constitutional rights, agree to deportation, get your kid back, and leave the United States. Some incompetent attorney-enabler probably told Trump that kidnapping immigrant minors, using them as hostages, and asking their parents for ransom in return for their release would be permissible. It’s not.

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe observes, “That’s flatly unconstitutional extortion under Speiser v. Randall (1958), Sherbert v. Verner (1963), and Agency for Int’l Dvlp v. Alliance for Open Society (2013).”

Trump’s Distraction

Meanwhile on June 22, Trump used another of his circus acts to divert attention from his devastating policy. Into the national spotlight he paraded representatives of family members who had been killed by illegal immigrants. Trump said they had suffered “permanent separation” from loved ones. I guess that meant we shouldn’t weep for the children Trump has damaged.

Trump’s false moral equivalences are always striking, but this one is especially absurd. To state the obvious, none of the 2,500 children separated from their parents since May 5 has killed anyone.

But the more important point is that Trump still hasn’t admitted that his zero tolerance was a mistake. Rather, his executive order doubled-down on it. Since then, he hasn’t taken his foot off the accelerator.

How Many Kids and Where Are They?

On June 20, the Department of Homeland Security said it had separated 2,342 children from their parents along the border between May 5 and June 9. Three days later, DHS said that, as of June 20, the number was up to 2,575. Of that group:

522 kids had been reunited with their families,

2,053 remained in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS),

The frightening possibility is that many of those 2,053 children will never see their families again. As The Washington Post reports: “Further complicating matters are bureaucratic errors that could leave government officials unaware that a child’s parent is detained in the United States. Attorneys also worry that some toddlers, or children who speak indigenous languages, might not have been able to give officials their parents’ complete names.”

The Post continues:

“In the case of one Guatemalan family, the Border Patrol failed to note in its apprehension report that a mother and daughter crossed the border together…. Without that information, government officials might not be aware that the child’s parent is detained in the United States.

“In other cases,…children arrive at shelters without the facility knowing that they have been separated from their parents, meaning they could be considered unaccompanied minors rather than children in need of reunification.”

To borrow Trump’s phrase from his June 22 parade of victims, “permanent separation” from their families is now a likely outcome for some of the 2,053 children awaiting reunification. Whatever the number, it’s too big. And the damage done — even to those kids eventually reunited — is too great.

Coming Soon: Worse

Conspicuous silence from Republicans in Congress proves that it will take a Democratic majority there to unearth the whole truth about this tragedy. Meanwhile, lest anyone doubt that Trump is doubling down on this ignominious episode, the US Navy is reportedly planning tent cities to house tens of thousands of families pursuant to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

If you’re hearing echoes from the darkest chapters in world history, you’re not alone. And if you’re wondering whether family internment camps are incubators for radicalization against America, time will tell.

Is this really America?

On June 30, find a protest location near you and show up.

Just show up.

Future generations will ask if you did.

Back to Trump-Russia: Aretmenko

As it should, the border crisis dominated the week’s news. But the Trump-Russia Timeline rolled on. The week’s biggest revelation came from a pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker who has now earned the latest spot on the Trump-Russia Timeline’s name filter: Andrey Artemenko. Click on his name and take a look at the resulting entries.

Recently, Artemenko told McClatchy that back in February 2016, he had begun developing a Ukrainian “peace plan” with Ukrainian-American billionaire Alexander Rovt and former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) (he had known the latter “for almost a decade”).

Artemenko took the plan to Moscow, where the ideas got a “positive” response. A few weeks before the election, he spoke with Felix Sater about it.

Now go to the Timeline and click on Sater’s name. Here are just a few highlights:

2002: Sater enters Trump’s life and becomes a business associate for the next 15 years. He concentrates on helping Trump develop a Trump Tower in Moscow — an effort that continues well into the 2016 election campaign and includes Michael Cohen.

July 2016: Sater visits Trump Tower on “confidential business.”

Election Day 2016; Sater reportedly attends a VIP election celebration.

Late January 2017: At a Manhattan hotel, Artemenko and Sater give Michael Cohen a Ukrainian “peace plan” for delivery to Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn. The plan would cede Crimea to Russia and lift US sanctions.

Bringing It All Together

Now superimpose another storyline that the Timeline depicts in detail.  Throughout the campaign and thereafter, Trump has denied that there were contacts between his campaign and Russia. But more than a dozen Trump people had more than 50 such contacts. Throughout the campaign and thereafter, Trump has refused to criticize Vladimir Putin. Throughout the campaign and thereafter, Trump has been a leading critic of US sanctions against Russia.

And since special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation began, Trump has been doing everything he can to undermine it.

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

FEB. 1, 2016: Artemenko, Ukrainian Billionaire, and former US Congressman Work on “Ukrainian Peace Plan”

JULY 2016: Sater Says He Visits Trump Tower (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 28, 2018: FBI Interviews Giuliani

JUNE 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Strzok, Comey and Mueller

JUNE 18, 2018: DOJ Inspector General Horowitz and FBI Director Wray Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee

JUNE 19, 2018: Cohen Hires New Lawyer; Complains About Legal Fees; Resigns RNC Finance Committee Post

JUNE 19, 2018: Trump Tweets About IG Report

JUNE 19, 2018: Parscale Calls for Firing Sessions, Ending Mueller Probe

JUNE 19, 2018: Strzok Escorted from FBI Building; House GOP Grills Horowitz; Strzok Wants to Tell His Story

JUNE 20, 2018: Trump Tweets About IG Report

JUNE 22, 2018: DOJ Provides Internal Investigative Documents to Congress

JUNE 23, 2018: Trump Tweets “Witch Hunt”

 

Trump’s Family Internment Plan

Trump’s executive order purports to solve a problem that he alone created: separating families at the nation’s southern border. Worse than a scam, his order presages a chapter in American history that could make World War II Japanese internment camps look like the good old days.

1.  Trump Creates Crisis

Most undocumented immigrants who survive the trek to the US-Mexico border seek asylum – a right afforded them under Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol to which the US is a party. Asylum claims are civil – not criminal – matters. Since 2012, the federal judicial denial rate for asylum claims has increased from 45 percent to 60 percent. But that means almost half are accepted. Unfortunately, it can take months to adjudicate a claim, and resulting deportation and related proceedings can take years.

A federal court order (the consent decree in the 1997 Flores v. Reno case) prohibits the government from detaining children in such families for more than 20 days. Until April, the practical implementation of Flores was to keep families together for a few weeks and then release the entire family during the pendency of ongoing civil asylum proceedings. In general, prosecutors faced with limited resources exercised permissible discretion not to pursue criminal charges for illegal entry – a misdemeanor for first-time offenders.

All of that changed when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy to prosecute criminally as many border-crossing offenses as possible. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security began separating families at the border, placing adults and children on different tracks. DHS referred adults to the Justice Department for prosecution and potential deportation. It sent children to the Department of Health and Human Services for eventual placement with family members or suitable sponsors.

No law changed; no court issued a new ruling; Trump alone created the separations.

2.  Trump Transforms Family Separation Into Family Detention

Trump’s executive order requires Sessions to seek a modification of the Flores decree so that the government can detain children for more than 20 days – that is, until the conclusion of their parents’ legal proceedings – and thereby keep those families together, albeit in a prison-like environment.

Now you know why another provision of the executive order requires the Defense Department to work with the Department of Homeland Security on housing for the anticipated deluge of new detainees, including the construction of new facilities on military bases. Trump’s plan would place thousands of families in confinement for years.

3.  Trump Blames the Courts and Congress

The starting point for all things Trump: If anything bad happens, it’s not his fault. However, he created this mess. With a phone call, can fix it all by himself. But that wouldn’t suit his larger agenda or his personality.

If, as seems likely, courts balk at the prospect of detaining children indefinitely, Trump will blame two of his favorite foils: Congress and the courts. The title of Trump’s executive order is telling (“Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation”). But the following sentence – remarkable for such a document – is the real giveaway:

“It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.” (Emphasis supplied)

AG Sessions’ counsel, Gene Hamilton, previewed Trump’s coming attack on the judge in the Flores case:

“The result of this decision and this ruling has placed the executive branch in an untenable position. Do we catch and release every alien who comes with a child across our southwest border, or do we release (them)? It’s on the judge, it’s on Judge Gee to render a decision here …The simple fact of the matter is Judge Gee has put the executive branch into an untenable position, that’s why we’re seeking for Congress to make a permanent fix.” (Emphasis supplied)

4.  Trump Leaves 2,300 Children Behind

What happens to the 2,300 children whom Trump has already separated from their parents? His people don’t know the answer because Trump himself doesn’t care about any of them.

“There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” said Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, citing the White House as his source on Wednesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, Brian Marriott, senior director of communications for the agency, was equivocating: Wolfe “misspoke” and “it is still very early, and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter.” Marriott said that “reunification is always the goal” and that the agency “is working toward that.”

There are other problems with Trump’s order, including loopholes that could render it largely illusory and position Trump to blame Congress. (Examples: “It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” (Sec. 1); “Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary), shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, maintain custody of alien families during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings involving their members.” (Sec. 3(a))

5.  Trump Lulls Public Into Complacency

Absent congressional and/or court action, 20 days from the date that Trump signed the executive order, the situation could revert back to square one. Trump could make the phone call that would end the latest presidential nightmare to produce international condemnation. Making that call would require him to admit a mistake and take responsibility for a vile act. That is why it won’t happen.

Trump may hope that his executive order will dampen enthusiasm for the nationwide protests planned for June 30. I hope he’s wrong. Now more than ever, resistance to Trump must stay on message. Trump is staying on his.

This is not a drill.