THE “PAUL MANAFORT” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH SEPT. 17, 2018

After Paul Manafort‘s guilty plea, the media’s principal focus was the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting that he attended with Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. But Manafort’s insights into what transpired at that meeting could be among his least significant contributions to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

To understand the breadth and depth of the problems that Manafort’s cooperation could now pose for Trump, Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, Roger Stone and others, use the Trump-Russia Timeline name filter and click on Manafort’s name. In getting Manafort to flip, Mueller has pulled the thread on a sweater that could leave Trump and his closest loyalists naked.

Rudy Strikes Again

Among this week’s entries relating to Manafort’s deal, my personal favorite is Rudy Giuliani’s statement, followed immediately by his effort to walk it back:

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign. The reason: the president did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

Minutes later, Trump’s legal team issued a revised statement, saying, “The President did noting wrong”, deleting the phrase “and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

Second place goes to Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated.”

Earlier in the week, Giuliani said that the Trump and Manafort legal teams had a joint defense agreement whereby they shared information about Mueller’s probe. If Rudy used that communication line to dangle the prospect of pardoning Manafort, things could get far more interesting for Giuliani — and not in a good way.

In Watergate, more than two dozen lawyers learned the hard way that obstruction of justice laws apply to them, too.

Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

JULY 9, 2015: Butina Tries to Meet Trump

JULY 11, 2015: Butina Asks Trump About Sanctions at Rally (revision of previous entry)

 JULY 14, 2015: Torshin Asks Butina for Info about ‘Political Candidate 1’ (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 22, 2016: ‘US Person 1’ Suggests Language for Butina Report to Torshin

SEPT. 11 2018: Trump Tweets ‘Zero’ Collusion (Except For Clinton’s Collusion With Russia, ‘Foreign Spies’, FBI, and DOJ); Attacks Strzok, Page, Comey, DOJ, Russia Investigation

SEPT. 11-12, 2018: Judge Postpones Manafort Pretrial Hearing; Trump Lawyers Talking to Manafort Lawyers

SEPT. 12, 2018: Trump Tweets He Engaged in No Wrongdoing, No Collusion

SEPT. 12, 2018: Trump Signs Executive Order on Sanctions; Generates Immediate Bipartisan Criticism

SEPT. 14, 2018: Manafort Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller

SEPT. 14, 2018: Giuliani Responds – Then Revises Response – to Manafort Plea

SEPT. 15-16, 2018: Trump Tweets: ‘Rigged Russian Witch Hunt’, ‘Highly Conflicted Bob Mueller’, ’17 Angry Democrats’, ‘Russian Hoax’, ‘Illegal Mueller Witch Hunt’

 

 

KIDS HELD HOSTAGE DAY 134

Paul Manafort’s plea deal, Hurricane Florence’s destruction, and the controversy surrounding US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are displacing coverage of what may be the defining tragedy of the Trump administration: America has created orphans.

Here’s the latest report on the families that Trump separated at the border and that a federal court ordered reunited more than two months ago.

Kids still separated from their families:

As of Sept. 13: 211 — 6 under age five

Of the 211, the number of kids still separated because the US government deported their parents without them:

As of Sept. 13: 165 — 5 are under five

Even when the government makes little or no substantive progress toward reunification, the passage of time appears to help its performance metrics. For example, as children turn 18, they age out of the “child” category and move to Justice Department detention centers. Likewise, as kids reach their fifth birthdays, the “under age five” group shrinks.

While holding the government’s feet to the fire, the ACLU is doing what it can to help solve the problem that Trump created.

Trump’s Counterproductive Immigration Policy

The law of unintended consequences is also taking its toll. From The New York Times last week:

“Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.

“Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.

“The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them.”

As Trump’s policy deters relatives and family friends in America from sponsoring children, the kids remain in federal custody.

Welcome to Trump’s America.

THE “MORE MARIA BUTINA” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH SEPT. 10, 2018

In the clamor over Bob Woodward’s new book, an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, and George Papadopoulos’s media tour following his 14-day sentence for lying to the FBI about his 2016 contacts with Russia while a member of the Trump campaign, an important Trump-Russia story got lost: the continuing saga of Maria Butina.

In a brief objecting to Butina’s request to review her bond (and get out of jail pending trial), federal prosecutors provided more details about her efforts to use the NRA and conservative religious organizations as vehicles for pushing pro-Russia policies to particular Republican presidential candidates and the party generally.

Here’s the punchline: In the seven weeks since Butina’s detention hearing on July 18, 2018, the Russian government has conducted six consular visits with Butina and passed four diplomatic notes in her favor to the US Department of State (more notes than for any other Russian citizen imprisoned in the US in the past year). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo twice to complain about Butina’s prosecution, the Kremlin Twitter account has changed its avatar to Butina’s face, and RT, Russia’s government-funded television network has published numerous articles on its website criticizing Butina’s prosecution and detention.

The 29-year-old former owner of a Siberian furniture store is generating a lot of interest from Russians in high places. Watch this space.

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

JULY 14, 2015: Torshin Asks Butina for Info about Trump

APRIL 23-28, 2016: Torshin Gives Butina Another Task

SEPT. 1-3, 2018: Trump’s Anger Turns to Wray

SEPT. 4, 2018: Trump Denies Calling Sessions ‘Mentally Retarded’ and a ‘Dumb Southerner’

SEPT. 5, 2018: Anonymous Insider Pens Op-Ed on Trump’s Danger

SEPT. 5, 2018: UK Charges Two Russians in Poisoning

SEPT. 7, 2018: Credico Appears Before Mueller’s Grand Jury; Corsi Bows Out

SEPT. 7, 2018: Papadopoulos Sentenced; Trump Reacts

SEPT. 7, 2018: Papadopoulos Breaks Silence; Implicates Sessions

SEPT. 7, 2018: Russia Wants Butina Released

SEPT. 9, 2018: Papadopoulos Says Sessions Was ‘Quite Enthusiastic’ About Trump-Putin Meeting, Kept Campaign Informed

KIDS HELD HOSTAGE DAY 127

Kids still separated from their families:

As of Aug. 16: 565

As of Aug. 23: 528 — 23 are under age of five

As of Aug. 30: 497 — 22 are under age five

As of Sept. 4: 416 — 14 are under age five

Kids separated because the US government deported their parents without them:

As of Aug. 16: 366

As of Aug. 23: 343 — six are under five

As of Aug. 30: 322 — six are under five

As of Sept. 4:  304 — six are under five

The government now says 199 parents have “indicated desire against reunification,” but it’s becoming clearer that many of those parents were coerced or misled into such “indications.”

Consider this short video clip that puts a name with one of the 199 parents who gave up their kids. It’s the story of a Guatemalan detainee who signed the paper that the government gave him. He hasn’t seen his 15-year-old son in months. But now that he’s armed with a lawyer, he’s headed toward a court hearing on his asylum claim.

You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse?

A decades-old consent order settling the Flores case imposed time limits for detaining children of undocumented immigrants. That created a problem for Trump’s new zero-tolerance policy.

As The New York Times reports, “The big dilemma facing the administration is what to do about adults who illegally cross the border with children. Families in such cases are typically placed in federally run detention centers that are outfitted to house children and adults together, but [under the Flores order], they can only be held there for up to 20 days.”

Here’s the rub: hearings for the adults facing deportation can take months. Trump’s zero-tolerance policy addressed the Flores dilemma by separating families. Parents went into Justice Department detention centers (jails); kids went into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.

When public uproar caused Trump to rescind his zero-tolerance policy, he required Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask the Flores judge to remove the 20-day time limit for detaining children. That effort failed, so now Trump is doing an end run around the Flores order.

On Sept. 6, 2018, the government proposed new rules that would allow it to detain families indefinitely. The Times continues, “The government said it would develop a network of licensed facilities that can humanely shelter migrant families in the months or longer it takes for their deportation or asylum cases to be heard. But it provided scant details on how the facilities would operate, or why the new plan might pass muster with the court when previous attempts to ease limits on migrant children detention have not.”

A Sad Refrain for America

Ironically, in June 2018, the US Supreme Court repudiated the notorious Korematsu decision, which upheld World War II Japanese internment camps. History may not repeat itself, but it may be on the way to rhyming again.

THE “BRUCE OHR” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH SEPT. 3, 2018

Trump’s newest target is Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward. But for the last month, he focused his ire on a distinguished but relatively unknown 27-year career attorney at the Justice Department. And Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has aided and abetted the assault.

The attorney is Bruce Ohr, and this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline adds him to the Timeline’s name filter, along with a descriptive “pop-up” bubble. The Ohr filter reveals method in Trump’s apparent madness as he seeks to neutralize yet another important player in the Trump-Russia picture.

As for Nunes, clicking on his Timeline name filter produces entries that reveal why he has tried to kill the Trump-Russia investigation from the outset. With respect to Ohr, Nunes recently went to London seeking help on the Steele-Ohr front from British intelligence heads. Fortunately for the US, they didn’t oblige him.

Why Ohr? The Bottom Line 

When Trump and complicit Republican members of Congress first dragged Bruce Ohr into their assault on the Justice Department and the FBI, it looked like just another distraction aimed at discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. In fact, far more could be at stake for Trump.

Ohr’s investigative experience makes him an interesting resource on the connections between the Russian mob, Vladimir Putin, and the 2016 election. And Craig Unger’s new best-seller, House of Trump, House of Putin, puts many of those connections dangerously close to Trump’s doorstep.

Roll the tape

The current Trump-GOP narrative is that Bruce Ohr’s contacts with Christopher Steele were part of a vast conspiracy to undermine Trump’s presidential candidacy. The undisputed facts now refute that narrative. They also reveal why Trump has a special interest in squelching Ohr.

1991: Ohr becomes an assistant US attorney in Manhattan. Coincidentally, the office’s jurisdiction includes the Trump Organization, which is headquartered there. In 1999, Ohr moves to the Justice Department headquarters in Washington where he specializes in combating the growing influence of the Russian mob internationally. Among Ohr’s special topics of concern: organized crime and money laundering.

2007: For the first time, Ohr meets Christopher Steele, who runs the MI6 Russia desk for British intelligence. Like Ohr, Steele is concerned about the growing international impact of the Russian mob. For years, they continue working together on that common enemy. Their common pursuit has nothing to do with Trump’s presidential campaign, which didn’t begin for another eight years.

NOVEMBER 2014: Ohr and Steele (who now heads his own private investigation firm) discuss the possibility of persuading Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to become an informant on Russian organized crime. Again, that is before Trump announces his presidential bid in June 2015.

SEPTEMBER 2015: Ohr and other American officials meet with Deripaska, who rebuffs their recruiting effort.

JULY 2016: Steele tells Ohr that his sources say Russian intelligence has Trump “over a barrel,” presumably meaning that the Russians have compromising material on Trump. But Ohr doesn’t pass along that information to his supervisors, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, because Ohr regards it as inflammatory raw source material. Meanwhile, wholly apart from anything Steele has provided, the FBI has already opened a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. George Papadopoulos’ statements to an Australian diplomat in May had started that ball rolling.

SEPTEMBER 2016: The FBi again tries unsuccessfully to persuade Deripaska to become an informant — this time on the connections between Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Putin.

AFTER THANKSGIVING 2016: On Oct. 31, 2016, The New York Times runs a story with this headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia.” It causes Steele to become concerned that the FBI has not taken his research seriously. After turning first to the press, which breaks the story on what would become the “Steele dossier,” Steele meets with Ohr to discuss his troublesome findings on Trump and Russia.

DEC. 9, 2016: Sen, John McCain (R-AZ) personally delivers a copy of the “Steele dossier” to FBI director James Comey.

Flash forward to August 2018:

— Deripaska is personally subject to US sanctions against Russia.

— Manafort is convicted, faces a second Mueller trial on even more charges, and Trump dangles prospect of pardoning him.

— Ohr becomes Trump’s newest target and the subject of his relentless personal attacks. Trump’s most faithful congressional servant, Nunes, is traveling to London, trying to dig up what he can on Steele and Ohr. Craig Unger releases his new book that outlines the decades-long connections among Trump, Putin’s government, the Russian mob, and Russian money laundering through US real estate.

Something worth remembering about the “Steele dossier”: Many of its most significant findings have now been corroborated. Whether, as the dossier suggests, Putin has a “pee tape” may be the least of Trump’s concerns.

One More Thing…

The biggest underreported story of the week is a line in the Aug. 31, 2018 sentencing memo that George Papadopoulos‘ attorneys submitted on his behalf. At the March 31, 2016 meeting of Trump’s national security team, Papadopoulos said he could arrange a direct meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin:

“Trump nodded with approval and deferred to [Jeff] Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.”

That’s not what Trump has been telling the country for two years. And it’s not what Sessions told the Congress. But the country needs Sessions to remain in place. His recusal put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Rosenstein is committed to protecting the probe; Trump wants to kill it.

There’s no way to overstate the perilous position of American democracy at this moment. Before things get better, they will get worse. Bigly.

Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

2007: Steele Meets Ohr

NOV. 21, 2014: Steele and Ohr Discuss Cultivating Deripaska

SUMMER 2015: Papadopoulos Seeks Position in Trump Campaign

SEPTEMBER 2015: Ohr Meets With Deripaska

JANUARY TO MARCH 2016: Carson Campaign Ends; Papadopoulos Renews Request to Work on Trump Campaign

FEBRUARY 2016: Steele Emails Ohr About Deripaska

REVISED: MARCH 31, 2016: Trump Meets With Foreign Policy Advisers (revision of previous entry)

DELETED ENTRY: SPRING 2016: Papadopoulos Presents His Trump Credentials to Foreign Leaders [Superseded by new May 4, 2016 and May 27, 2016 entries below]

MAY 4, 2016: Papadopoulos Tells British Prime Minister to Apologize

MAY 27, 2016: When Putin Arrives in Athens, Papadopoulos Is Already There (revision of previous entry)

JULY 30, 2016: Steele Tells Ohr: Russia Has Trump ‘Over a Barrel’; Carter Page Not Being Candid

SEPTEMBER 2016: FBI Agents Ask Deripaska About Manafort

SOMETIME IN AUGUST 2018: Nunes Seeks British Intelligence Info on Steele and Ohr

AUG. 16, 2018: Manafort Jury Deliberations Begin, Along with Negotiations to Resolve Charges in His Upcoming Trial

AUG. 21, 2018: Manafort Convicted; Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicates Trump, Has More to Say on Russia (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 27, 2018: Trump Continues to Raise Possibility of Pardon

AUG. 28, 2018: Manafort’s 2ndTrial Delayed

AUG. 28, 2018: Trump Attacks Brennan and Comey

AUG. 28, 2018: Ohr Testifies in Closed-Door Session

AUG. 28-29, 2018: Trump Repeats False Story About China Hacks Into Clinton’s Private Email Server; FBI Responds

AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks Clinton, Obama, DNC

AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Tweets McGahn’s Departure Without Telling McGahn

AUG. 29, 2018: Manafort Seeks to Move 2ndTrial to Roanoke, VA

AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks Ohr

AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Attacks CNN; Bernstein Pushes Back

AUG. 29, 2018: Trump Continues to Attack Ohr, ‘Steele Dossier’

AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Blasts CNN, Launches False Accusation Against NBC’s Lester Holt

AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Responds to Reports About McGahn’s Departure, ‘Rigged Russia Witch Hunt’

AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Attacks Comey, Ohr

AUG. 30, 2018: Trump Calls Mueller’s Investigation “Illegal”; Blasts Ohr, Strzok, Lisa Page, Comey, FBI; Implies Sessions’ Days May Be Numbered

AUG. 31, 2018: Ex-Kilimnik Associate Pleads Guilty

SEPT. 1 2018: Trump Attacks DOJ, FBI , ‘Steele Dossier’, Mueller, and More

 

 

KIDS HELD HOSTAGE DAY 120

The latest development in Trump’s immigration policy involves Hispanic citizens whose birth records show they were born in the US decades ago. The Washington Post reports: “[U]nder President Trump, the passport denials and revocations [for individuals delivered by certain midwives and physicians along the US-Mexico border] appear to be surging, becoming part of a broader interrogation into the citizenship of people who have lived, voted and worked in the United States for their entire lives.”

At first, the State Department refused to comment, The Post continues.

“‘The State Department’s domestic passport denials are at the lowest rate in six years for midwife cases,’ said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement after the story was published.

“But those numbers appear to leave out key data. The State Department declined repeated requests from The Post for additional information.”

Where Are The Kids?

Meanwhile, on Kids Held Hostage Day 120, the US government is making dismal progress in dealing with a Trump-created tragedy that continues to inflict pain on innocent children.

Kids still separated from their families:

As of Aug. 16: 565

As of Aug. 23: 528 — 23 are under age of five

As of Aug. 30: 497 — 22 are under age five

Kids separated because the US government deported their parents without them:

As of Aug. 16: 366

As of Aug. 23: 343 — six are under five

As of Aug. 30: 322 — six are under five

Behind every child separation number is a face and what was once a family. And to the world, the face responsible for this ongoing humanitarian crisis belongs to every citizen of the the United States of America. The ugly image of this self-inflicted wound will shadow all of us for a long time. Other countries don’t allow a miscreant nation and its people to forget this sort of travesty.

And they shouldn’t.

 

KIDS HELD HOSTAGE DAY 113

Where are the kids? 

It’s Kids Held Hostage Day 113. The federal government is moving at a snail’s pace to remedy the humanitarian crisis that Trump created. Here are the details:

Kids still separated from their families:

As of Aug. 16: 565

As of Aug. 23: 528 — 23 are under the age of five

Kids separated because the US government deported their parents without them:

As of Aug. 16: 366

As of Aug. 23: 343 — six of them are under five

Meanwhile, many of the parental “waivers” on which the government relied to improve its earlier metrics are dropping away. The number of parents now “indicating a desire against reunification” — that’s Trumpspeak for “waiving their parental rights” — decreased from 154 to 139. Expect that number to continue falling as the affected parents learn how the government misled them into signing away their kids and/or their international right to seek asylum.

At the current rate, it will take months to reunite the remaining 500+ kids with their families — assuming the government can find them. That’s a big assumption. So far, for 79 of the children, there is either no phone number for a parent or the government provided an inoperable one. Under the banner of the United States of America, Trump has orphaned kids forever.

Who Cares? No One in Trump’s Government

In a recent article for The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes, “‘I definitely haven’t seen contrition,’ an Administration official, who told me about the weekly meetings [among 20 Trump Trump administration officials dealing with the aftermath of the zero-tolerance policy], said. ‘But there was frustration with the incompetence of how zero tolerance got implemented. From the perspective of the political leaders here, there’s recognition of how badly the policy failed.’ The lesson, according to the official, didn’t seem to be that the Administration had gone too far in separating families but, rather, that ‘we need to be smarter if we want to implement something on this scale’ again.”

Blitzer continues, “The government’s own data show that it has had no appreciable effect on migration patterns throughout the summer, but the Administration pursued the policy anyway, targeting immigrant families.”

A Character Test for Every American

“I asked the current Administration official whether the outcry over family separation had caught the government by surprise,” Blitzer concludes. “It had, the official said. ‘The expectation was that the kids would go to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, that the parents would get deported, and that no one would care.’ Yet, when it became clear that the public did, the Administration chose not to change course.”

There’s the money quote: Trump’s expectation was that “no one would care.” That’s because he didn’t. In November, it will be up to American voters to prove Trump wrong by forcing his GOP enablers in Congress into another line of work.