JUDGE TO ROGER STONE: “YOUR APOLOGY RINGS QUITE HOLLOW”

[NOTE: On Feb 21, 2019, my post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

Roger Stone’s attorneys put him on the witness today to explain his Feb. 18 Instagram photo of the presiding judge in his case. It included crosshairs near her head.

Marked as Exhibit 1 of the hearing, the accompanying text accused “Deep State hitman Robert Mueller” of using “legal trickery” to guarantee that his “upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime.” But by the end of that day, the image was removed and, through his attorneys, Stone had filed an apology with the court:

“Please inform the Court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted. I had no intention of disrespecting the Court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression.”

The following morning, Judge Jackson ordered today’s hearing at which Stone was required show cause why the court’s previous media contact order in the case and/or the conditions of release should not be modified or revoked.

Putting any criminal defendant on the witness stand is risky, in part because it waives the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But with respect to the gag order, Stone’s signed apology (transmitted through his lawyers’ unusual “Notice of Apology”) probably waived that right anyway. Another risk is that, after taking the stand, the defendant might lie and create new, independent criminal exposure to perjury charges. In any event, Stone’s Instagram post had placed him in danger of pre-trial incarceration, leaving him and his attorneys few options.

So after swearing to tell the truth, Stone reiterated his apology, using phrases that included: “I am kicking myself over my own stupidity… I offer no excuse for it… This is just a stupid lapse in judgment…[I]t was an egregious mistake.” Stone claimed that he was under stress and having trouble putting food on his table and paying his rent.

In response to the judge’s questions, Stone admitted that he posted the offending image. But he said that he has five or six volunteers, and couldn’t say who chose it, who sent him the image, or whether it was sent via text or email. In response to questions about his social media operation, Stone suggested that someone else may have used his phone to find the photo: “I do not exclusively use my own phone, that’s what I’m saying.” Stone also named four of his volunteers, saying that he couldn’t recall the names of all volunteers working for him a few days ago.

An attorney in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office asked, “You can’t remember the people who worked for you four days ago?”

Stone responded,  “No.”

Judge Jackson observed that Stone has insisted that his name be in the media every day since his arrest. Even after apologizing, he continued talking every single day. She asked Stone’s attorney, “Why won’t this happen in the future?”

“Sometimes a person learns a lesson, especially when a person is unrestrained in his speaking,” the lawyer answered. “It’s indefensible.”

“I agree with you there,” the judge said.

The government’s attorney argued for a stricter gag order, saying that Stone’s testimony was not credible. “That he committed a lapse in judgment is belied by the fact that even after he realized the post was a mistake, he continued to make statements to the media that amplified that message.”

After a recess, the judge returned with her ruling. She said that Stone has decided to pursue a strategy of attacking others. The Instagram post had a “more sinister message” from Stone, who “fully understands the power of words and symbols.”

“Thank you,” the judge said, “but the apology rings quite hollow.” Finding his testimony not credible (“couldn’t keep his story straight on the stand”) and that his release under the current media contact order would pose a risk to the public, she ruled, “No, Mr. Stone, I’m not giving you another chance.”

The court could have concluded that Stone’s incitement to violence aimed at a federal judge was at least as dangerous to the judicial system as the witness tampering that caused her to jail Paul Manafort pending trial. In that respect, Judge Amy Jackson Berman gave Stone a break. She ordered that Roger Stone can no longer speak publicly about the case or any participants in it.

But the judge warned that next time would be worse:

“Today I gave you a second chance. This is not baseball, you don’t get a third chance.”

LIARS FOR TRUMP: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH FEB. 17, 2019

[NOTE: On Feb 19, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

On Sept. 14, 2018, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pled guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering. In exchange for a reduced prison sentence on those charges, as well as on tax and bank fraud convictions in a separate case, he agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He promised to tell the truth.

Then he lied. As a result, last week Judge Amy Berman Jackson voided Manafort’s plea agreement. Federal guidelines call for a 19- to 24-year prison term. Unless Trump pardons him, Manafort — who turns 70 on April Fools’ Day — will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

Paul Manafort is the latest in the series of former Trump campaign advisers to incur criminal penalties for lying to federal investigators. The names change, but the subject of their lies remains the same: Trump’s connections to Russia. Using the name filter for the Trump-Russia Timeline reveals that, like Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen lied in an effort to hide information about three key Russia-related issues — and they suffered legal consequences for it.

#1: Lies About Russians Helping Trump Win the Election 

Papadopoulos. Throughout the campaign, George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, communicated with individuals claiming to have Russian connections. They told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton consisting of “thousands of emails” that would help Trump win. When the FBI quizzed Papadopoulos in January 2017 concerning those contacts, he lied about them. On Oct. 5, 2017, he pled guilty to making the false statements.

Manafort. During 2016, Paul Manafort shared 2016 presidential polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a liaison to Russian oligarch and Putin confidant Oleg Deripaska. Last week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Manafort’s “relationship or communications” with Kilimnik is “a topic at the undisputed core” of Mueller’s investigation, and that Manafort had lied about it.

#2: Lies About Trump Softening Sanctions Against Russia

Flynn. Trump’s national security adviser Mike Flynn had numerous contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. Flynn was seeking to soften Russia’s response to new sanctions that President Obama was imposing for Russia’s interference with the 2016 US presidential election. When the FBI later asked Flynn about those communications, he lied. On Dec. 1, 2017, he pled guilty to making the false statements.

Manafort. During his conversations with federal investigators, Manafort apparently also lied about his discussions with Konstantin Kilimnik concerning a Ukrainian “peace plan” — which has become a euphemism for efforts aimed at lifting US sanctions against Russia.

#3: Lies About Trump Tower-Moscow

Cohen. Through at least June 2016, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater communicated about Sater’s efforts to involve senior Russian government officials and bankers in developing Trump Tower-Moscow. Cohen himself contacted Vladimir Putin’s personal press spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, and briefed Trump Organization family members about the project. Cohen and Sater even discussed plans for a possible Trump trip to Moscow. When congressional investigators later asked Cohen to describe the status of the project during the campaign, he lied about it. On Nov. 29, 2018, Cohen pled guilty to making the false statements.

People lie for different reasons. But when so many people lie to federal investigators about the same thing, they open a window into the truth.

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

OCT. 7, 2016: Burr Joins Trump Campaign

MAY 26, 2018: Manafort Authorizes Representative to Speak with Trump Administration Official on His Behalf [previous entry deleted)

NOV. 26, 2018: Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Plea Agreement; Shared 2016 Campaign Polling Data With Kilimnik (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Clinton; Senate Subpoenas Cohen (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 12, 2019: Burr and Warner Disagree on Senate Investigation

FEB. 13, 2019: Trump Tweets About Burr’s Comment: ‘NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION’ 

FEB. 13, 2019: Judge Finds Manafort Intentionally Lied To Feds After Signing Plea Agreement

FEB. 13, 2019: Nadler Invites Whitaker to ‘Clarify’ Testimony

FEB. 13, 2019: The Daily Beast: Election Security Task Forces Downsized; DHS Says Election Preparations Underway

FEB. 14-15, 2019: McCabe Launches Book Tour; Rosenstein Responds; Trump Attacks

FEB. 15, 2019: Judge Enters Limited Gag Order in Stone Case

FEB. 15, 2019: Mueller Files Manafort Sentencing Memo in Virginia Case

FEB. 16, 2019: Trump Retweets About Strzok, Page, Mueller

FEB. 17, 2019: Trump Quotes Limbuagh: ‘Mueller is a Cover-up’; Tweets ‘Witch Hunt’; Retweets Attacks on McCabe 

FEB. 18, 2019: Trump Tweets About Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions, McCabe, Rosenstein; Quotes Supporter: ‘Illegal Coup on the President’

“ALL THE PRESIDENT’S LAWYERS”

The Trump era presents attorneys with opportunities for great distinction — and great shame. My article, “All the President’s Lawyers,” appears in the current issue of the ABA’s Litigation Journal. Here’s the link: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/publications/litigation_journal/2018-19/fall/all-presidents-lawyers/

THE WHITAKER “NUGGET” AND THE “HEART” OF THE MUELLER PROBE: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH FEB. 10, 2019

[NOTE: On Feb 13, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

When the president dangles a pardon under the nose of a cooperating witness in a federal probe, incentives change: Lying yields potential rewards rather than draconian penalties. Truth becomes elusive. Justice is obstructed and the rule of law loses.

That principle could have framed last week’s lead Trump-Russia story. Instead, another Trump era made-for-TV spectacle flooded the airwaves. But buried in acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s contentious hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was an item about pardons. A related development in the case against Paul Manafort illustrates the problem.

The Whitaker Nugget

During Whitaker’s four hours of actual questioning, he avoided substantive answers on most topics. His demeanor became the story. But at the two-hour and forty-eight-minute mark, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asked him about discussions of pardons for Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen. Whitaker responded broadly:

“Congressman, as I have been acting attorney general, I have not been involved in any discussions of any pardons even and including the ones you’re discussing.”

Ninety minutes later, the day’s final questioner, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) asked:

Q: Did you ever create, direct the creation, see, or become aware of the existence of any documents relating to pardons of any individual?

Whitaker paused before answering: “I’m aware of documents relating to pardoning of individuals, yes.”

An inadvertent cliffhanger that few in the media noticed: Whitaker said he’d had no discussions with anyone about pardons, but he’s aware of documents relating to them. Alas, time expired. No follow-up questions. Hearing over.

The Manafort Connection

As the Whitaker show played out, another pardon story emerged in the case against Paul Manafort, who stands accused of lying to special counsel Robert Mueller after signing his plea agreement. On Aug. 22, 2018, Trump told a Fox News reporter that he would consider pardoning Manafort. As recently as Nov. 28, he said that a pardon for Manafort was not “off the table.”

During a Feb. 4 hearing, Andrew Weissmann, an attorney on Mueller’s team, outlined Manafort’s two motives for lying. The transcript redacts the first one entirely. As for the second, Weissmann said that Manafort could have been trying “to at least augment his chances for a pardon.”

One of Manafort’s alleged lies relates to his Aug. 2, 2016 meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen whom the FBI assesses as having ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik was Manafort’s liaison to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin confidant. (On Jan. 16, 2019, Senate Republicans failed to stop Trump from lifting sanctions on Deripaska’s companies.)

Weismann emphasized that the Aug. 2 meeting “goes very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s office is investigating.” The Trump-Russia Timeline offers hints as to why. Here’s a sample of relevant entries:

July 11, 2015: A month after Trump announces his candidacy, he appears at a Las Vegas town hall and answers question from the audience. Russian national Maria Butina gets to a microphone and asks about his policy toward Russia.

“I don’t think you’d need the sanctions,” Trump answers, referring to crippling economic sanctions that the US, the European Union, and a host of other countries and international organizations imposed against Russia after its 2014 intervention in Ukraine.

It turns out that Butina is a Russian agent.  In 2018, she pleads guilty to conspiring with a Russian government official to establish “unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics… for the benefit of the Russian Federation.” Among other vehicles, she uses the NRA to reach Republican Party leaders.

Mar. 29, 2016: Although Manafort is broke and deeply in debt, he goes to work on the Trump campaign for no pay. 

Apr. 11, 2016: Manafort asks Kilimnik how they can use Manafort’s new position on the campaign “to get whole.” During his tenure, Manafort discusses with Kilimnik a “peace plan” for Ukraine, and he transfers US polling data to Kilimnik.

June 9, 2016: Manafort attends the Trump Tower meeting with Russians connected to Putin’s government. They claim to have “dirt” on Clinton.

July 7, 2016:In an email to Kilimnik, Manafort offers to give Deripaska “private briefings” on the Trump campaign.

July 14, 2016: The Trump campaign successfully resists a proposed GOP platform plank that would strengthen US support of Ukraine against Russia.

July 22, 2016: On the eve of the Democratic convention, WikiLeaks releases nearly 20,000 emails that the Russians had stolen from the Democratic National Committee months earlier.

July 24, 2016: On national television, Manafort denies any link between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Which takes us to Aug. 2, 2016:Manafort meets with Kilimnik at the Grand Havana Club in Manhattan. What happened there? According to Mueller, Manafort is lying about it, perhaps to augment his chances for a pardon. That’s not how America’s justice system is supposed to work.

UPDATE: Feb. 13, 2019: The judge agreed with Mueller: Manafort “intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC, and the grand jury concerning matters that were materials to the investigation: his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik.”

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

1995: Trump in Moscow Seeking Development Opportunities

FEBRUARY 2006: Trump’s Children Visit Moscow; Discuss Possible Trump Tower Deal (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 25, 2015: Cohen Sends Trump Tower-Moscow Drawings to Sater

SEPT. 29, 2015: Trump Tower-Moscow Talks Proceed

OCT. 5, 2015: Cohen Sends Draft Letter of Intent Re: Trump Tower-Moscow

OCT. 9, 2015: Sater Sends Cohen Potential Trump Tower-Moscow Site Info

NOV. 3, 2015: Sater and Cohen Pursue Trump Tower-Moscow and Getting Trump Elected President (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 1, 2015: Sater Asks Cohen for Copy of Passport for Russian Visa

DEC. 17, 2015: Putin Praises Trump; Cohen to Sater: ‘Now is the Time’

DEC. 19, 2015: Sater and Cohen Discuss Trip to Russia for Trump Tower-Moscow Financing Discussion

DEC. 21, 2015: Cohen Wants Copy of Trump Passport

DEC. 29-31, 2015: Cohen and Sater Argue Over Delay in Solidifying Trump Tower-Moscow Deal

JAN. 25, 2016: Russian Bank Invites Cohen to Moscow

JUNE 13, 2016: Sater Sends Cohen Visa Application to Attend Russian Economic Forum

JAN. 28, 2019: Cohen to Testify Privately Before House (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 4, 2019: Manafort’s Alleged Lies Go ‘To The Heart’ of Mueller’s Investigation; Judge Postpones Sentencing Date

FEB. 4, 2019: Prosecutors Subpoena Trump Inauguration Committee

FEB. 5, 2019: DHS and DOJ: Foreign Governments and Agents Had ‘No Material Impact’ on Midterm Election

FEB. 5, 2019: Erickson Indicted for Fraud

FEB. 6, 2019: House Releases Witness Transcripts to DOJ, Including Mueller

FEB. 7, 2019: Trump Tweets About Schiff, ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘PRESIDENTIAL HARRASSMENT’ 

FEB. 7, 2019: Corsi Sues Stone for Defamation

FEB. 8, 2019: Trump Tweets ‘No Collusion’, Attacks Schiff, ‘GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX’ 

FEB. 8, 2019: Whitaker Testifies Before Congress

FEB. 9, 2019: Trump Tweets About House Judiciary Committee; Retweets Hannity and Others on Schiff, Simpson, Senate Investigation, Clinton, Russia Investigation 

FEB. 10, 2019: Trump Tweets That Burr Concluded ‘NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, REMEMBER YOU WERE WARNED — REPEATEDLY: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH FEB. 3, 2019

[NOTE: On Feb 5,, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

Walk into a room full of people and turn off the lights. It will get their attention. If hackers shut off electricity to parts of the United States, perhaps the personal impact of Russia’s threat to the nation’s security will become apparent. Maybe it will also generate a closer look at Donald Trump’s responses to that threat. According to the US intelligence community’s annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” we’re approaching that moment.

Last week, America’s intelligence leaders informed Congress that Russia “is now staging cyber attack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage US civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis….” Russia has the ability to disrupt an American electrical distribution network “for at least a few hours” and is “mapping our critical infrastructure with the long-term goal of being able to cause substantial damage.”

Restoring a power grid is challenging. When the lights go out on democracy, restoring power to the people is a more daunting task. Here’s the report’s opening line about Russia:

“We assess that Russia poses a cyber espionage, influence, and attack threat to the United States and our allies.” (Emphasis in original)

Testifying before Congress, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned:  “[T]he Kremlin is stepping up its campaign to divide Western political and security institutions and undermine the post-WWII international order. We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies.”

The next day, Trump moved the spotlight away from the report’s discussion of Russia by contradicting his intelligence leaders on Iran and North Korea — and chiding them in a tweet: “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school.”

It’s a familiar pattern, as the Trump-Russia Timeline reveals:

#1: AUG. 17, 2016

Trump receives his first national security briefing from senior FBI officials who warn that foreign adversaries, including Russia, will probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign.

Trump’s response: At the “Commander-in-Chief” forum on NBC, he praises Putin. (SEPT. 7)As the Trump campaign racks up more than 80 contacts with Russia before the election, Trump and his advisers deny repeatedly that there are any.

#2: OCT. 7, 2016

The intelligence community publishes its statement that Russia is interfering with the election.

Trump’s response: At the third presidential debate, he says, “[Hillary Clinton] has no idea whether it is Russia, China, or anybody else… Our country has no idea.” (OCT. 19)

#3: DEC. 9, 2016

The Washington Post reports the CIA’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump win.

Trump’s response: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” (DEC. 9) “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. I mean, they have no idea.” (DEC. 11)

#4: JAN. 6, 2017

The US intelligence community issues the public version of its report that Putin ordered the influence campaign promoting Trump’s candidacy.

Trump’s response: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.” (JAN. 11) Days after the inauguration, the Trump administration considers an executive order unilaterally lifting Russian sanctions.

#5: JAN. 10, 2018

A Senate report details Putin’s ongoing worldwide attacks on democracy and emphasizes the need to counter Russia’s threat.

Trump’s response: He tells The Wall Street Journal that the Russia investigation is a hoax. (JAN. 11)

#6: MAR. 15, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issues an alert: Russia has hacked into US utilities’ control rooms.

Trump’s response: He congratulates Vladimir Putin on winning re-election, ignoring the “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” warning from his national security advisers. (MAR. 20)

#7: JUL. 13, 2018

DNI Coats says Russian cyberattack warning lights are “blinking red.”

Trump’s response: When asked if Russia is still targeting the US, he says, “No.” (JULY 18)

#7: AUG. 2, 2018

At the White House daily press conference, DNI Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray warn about ongoing Russian election interference in the midterms.

Trump’s response: At a rally that evening, he decries the “Russian hoax.” For the rest of the year and into 2019, the Trump administration drags its feet on implementing new sanctions against Russia.

#8: DEC. 17, 2018

A report for the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that Russia is still using social media to help Trump by targeting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump’s response:Tweets about the “Russian Witch Hunt” and “Hoax.” (DEC. 18)

Last week, Mueller said that non-public government discovery produced in the case against a Russian troll farm and 13 Russian nationals reappeared in a social media disinformation campaign against his investigation. As Putin’s global attacks continue, waiting for the lights to go out is an increasingly perilous path.

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

EARLY 2016–MARCH 2016: Trump Seeks Loan From Deutsch Bank; Bank Refuses

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

SEPT. 5, 2018: Twitter Removes 3,483 Russian Troll Accounts

OCT. 30, 2018: Stolen Documents Used to Attack Mueller’s Case Against IRA and Prigozhin

PRIOR TO NOV. 6, 2018: Twitter Removes More Russian Troll Accounts

NOV. 29-30, 2018: Trump Cancels G-20 Meeting with Putin; Kremlin Pushes Back; Trump Meets with Putin After All (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 28, 2019: Sens. Blumenthal and Grassley Introduce Bill Requiring Public Report From Mueller

JAN. 28, 2019: Cohen To Testify Privately Before House

JAN. 28, 2019: Sanders Refuses to Rule Out Pardon For Stone

JAN. 29-30, 2019: US Intelligence Community Heads Warn: Russian Efforts Include Cyber Attacks, Crippling Infrastructure, Dividing Americans, and Interfering With US Elections; Trump Changes Subject

JAN. 30, 2019: Mueller: Disinformation Campaign Targeted Russia Investigation; Additional Uncharged Individuals Engaging in Unlawful Activities

JAN. 31, 2019: Trump Tweets About Ohr, ‘Witch Hunt’

JAN. 31, 2019: Trump to NYT: ‘I Like Roger’ Who Has Been Treated ‘Very Badly’; ‘We’ll Do Something on it at the Right Time’; Says He Had No Conversations With Stone About WikiLeaks 

JAN. 31, 2019: Trump to NYT: Business in Russia During Campaign

JAN. 31, 2019: Trump to NYT: Rosenstein Says He’s Not a Mueller Target, Doesn’t Know About SDNY’s Case Against Cohen, Denies Witness Tampering

FEB. 1, 2019: Belarusan Model Says She Gave 2016 Election Material to Deripaska

TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JAN. 27, 2019: WITNESS TAMPERING

[NOTE: On Jan. 29, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

Roger Stone’s indictment— followed by his non-stop media appearances — smothered every other Trump-Russia news story last week. Lying to federal investigators is bad; it reveals what prosecutors call “consciousness of guilt.” Stone’s alleged obstruction of proceedings and false statements carry potential sentences of five years for each offense.

But trying to get others to lie for you is worse — and even more telling. The most serious charge against Stone is witness tampering. Conviction could result in his incarceration for 20 years.

According to the indictment, Stone texted Randy Credico (identified as “Person 2”): “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.”

Later that day, Credico texted Stone: “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.”

Stone responded: “If you testify you’re a fool. Because of tromp [sic] I could never get away with a certain [sic] my Fifth Amendment rights but you can. I guarantee you you [sic] are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.”

In an Apr. 9, 2018 email, Stone called Credico “a rat” and “a stoolie.” He even threatened to take away his dog.

His dog!

Culture of Witness Tampering

Stone’s indictment and arrest obscured what otherwise would have been the week’s blockbuster Trump-Russia story: Michael Cohen backed away from a voluntary appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7. His attorney offered reasons that suggested witness tampering — by Trump. 

On JAN. 23, 2019Cohen’s lawyer issued a statement saying: “Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date… This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.”

For Cohen, it was the culmination of a journey that began after the FBI executed search warrants against him on APR. 9, 2018. Go to the Timeline, click on Cohen’s name, and consider the context that subsequent entries provide, including these:

APR. 13, 2018: One of Trump’s former attorneys warns him that Cohen will flip. The same day, Trump calls Cohen to “check in” and pardons “Scooter” Libby, even though Libby didn’t have a pardon application pending. In 2007, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had prosecuted Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff for lying to the FBI.

APR. 21, 2018: Trump tweets that he “doesn’t see” Michael flipping on him.

But on JULY 20, 2018,The New York Times reports that Cohen secretly recorded conversations with Trump, and federal investigators have the tapes.

JUL. 25, 2018: Trump tweets: “What kind of lawyer would tape a client?”

Then on AUG. 21, 2018, Cohen pleads guilty to campaign finance violations and implicates Trump in his crimes. Throughout SEPTEMBER, Cohen has multiple interview sessions lasting several hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.

OCT. 23, 2018: Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that Cohen “has tremendous legal liability” for taping him.

NOV. 29, 2018: Trump says Cohen is “lying to get a reduced sentence.”

DEC. 3, 2018: Trump adds Cohen’s wife and father-in-law to his twitter attacks.

DEC. 16, 2018: Trump calls Cohen a “rat.”

JAN. 18, 2019: Trump tweets about Cohen, adding, “Watch father-in-law!” 

Other Trump Targets

Using the Trump-Russia Timeline name filter reveals other examples of Trump’s carrot-and-stick behavior toward potential witnesses in the Russia investigation.

Mike Flynn

APR. 25, 2017: As investigators circle Flynn, Trump reportedly sends a message to him: “Stay strong.” Flynn doesn’t.

Paul Manafort

AUG. 17, 2018: Deflecting a question about whether he’ll pardon Manafort, Trump defends him as “a very good person.” Four days later, Trump calls him a “good man.”

AUG. 22, 2018: Trump says he would consider pardoning Manafort.

NOV. 26, 2018:Mueller alleges that, after Manafort signed his Sept. 14, 2018 plea agreement, he lied to federal investigators.

NOV. 28, 2018: Trump says that a Manafort pardon is “on the table.”

Roger Stone

MAY 31, 2018: Stone says that Trump’s pardons “send a message” to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort. Stone receives it too, telling ABC News, “I will never betray this president.”

AUG. 13, 2018: Stone reiterates that there is “no circumstance under which I would testify against the president.”

DEC. 2-3, 2018: Stone again says there is “no circumstance” under which he would testify against Trump. The next day, Trump quotes Stone in a tweet praising his “guts.” Later that day, Stone invokes the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

JAN. 25, 2019: Immediately after his bond hearing, Stone appears before reporters and protesters, saying, “There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.”

Trump can’t solve every potential witness problem by dangling presidential pardons — carrots. For someone who doesn’t face the threat of federal prosecution, they’re worthless. The Timeline name filter reveals that Trump not only dangles such carrots, but also uses sticks — relentless personal attacks. As with Cohen, those attacks are happening in plain sight too. Just ask James Comey.

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

JUNE 16, 2015: Trump Announces His Candidacy; Secret Trump Tower-Moscow Discussions Continue (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 6, 2015: Stone Formally Leaves Campaign, Maintains Contact Through Election (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 12-14, 2016: WikiLeaks Has Clinton Emails; DNC Tries to Get Ahead of Hacking Story (revision of previous entry)

JUNE – JULY 2016: Stone Speaks to Senior Campaign Officials About WikiLeaks

ON OR SHORTLY AFTER JULY 22, 2016: Someone Directs ‘Senior Trump Campaign Official’ to Contact Stone About Additional WikiLeaks Releases

JUL. 25, 2016: Stone Tells Corsi to Get WikiLeaks’ Hacked Emails (revision of previous entry)

JUL. 31, 2016: Stone to Corsi: ‘Malloch Should See Assange’ (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 2-11, 2016: Corsi Informs Stone of WikiLeaks’ Plans, Suggests Attacking Clinton’s Health; Stone Talks to Trump; Hannity Helps (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 8, 2016: Stone Says He’s Communicated With WikiLeaks Founder (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 19-21, 2016: Credico to Stone: Assange to Appear on Credico’s Radio Show

AUG. 23, 2016: Stone Appears on Credico’s Radio Show

AUG. 25-26, 2016: Assange Appears on Credico’s Show, Talks About Stone

AUG. 27, 2016: Credico to Stone: Assange Has ‘Kryptonite on Hillary’

SEPT. 18-30, 2016: Stone Asks Credico to Pass Along Request to Assange; Credico Sends Photo (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 21, 2016: Stone Says He’s Spoken With Trump

OCT. 1-2, 2016: Stone to Credico: ‘Hillary’s Campaign Will Die This Week’

OCT. 3-4, 2016: Stone Assures Trump Supporters: ‘The Payload is Coming’; Discusses WikiLeaks and Raising $$$ With Bannon (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 6-7, 2016: Intelligence Community Publishes Statement on Russian Interference; Stone to Corsi: ‘Tell Assange to Start Dumping’; Access Hollywood Tapes Released (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 2, 2016: Stone Says He Speaks With Trump Weekly

NOV. 10, 2016: Stone Speaks With Trump

MAY 8, 2017:Trump Posts Angry Tweets on the Day of Yates’ Testimony (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 25-26, 2017: Stone Decries Congressional Hearings (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 19, 2017: Stone Tells Credico to Confirm Stone’s Lie

NOV. 19 – DEC 12, 2017: Stone Tells Credico to Resist Investigation: ‘Stonewall it’, ‘If You Testify, You’re a Fool’

DEC. 24, 2017: Credico and Stone Discuss Russian Investigation

APR. 9, 2018: Stone Threatens Credico

MAY 21, 2018: Credico To Stone: ‘You’ve Opened Yourself up to Perjury Charges’

AUG. 8, 2018 to JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Drags Feet on New Russian Sanctions, Again (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 13, 2018: Stone: ‘Will Not Testify Against the President’

AUG. 22, 2018: Trump ‘Would Consider’ Pardoning Manafort (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 2, 2018: Stone: ‘No Circumstance’ Under Which He Would Testify Against Trump

JAN. 15-22, 2019: ‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia, Arrested, Apologizes (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 18, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen: ‘Watch Father-in-Law!’

JAN. 21, 2019: Emin Agalarov Cancels US/Canada Tour

JAN. 22, 2019: Trump Tweets About Steele Dossier, ‘Illegal’ Russia Investigation, ‘Unconstitutional Hoax’

JAN. 23, 2019: Cohen Cites Threats in Postponing House Testimony; Cummings and Schiff Want to Move Forward

JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Clinton; Senate Subpoenas Cohen

JAN. 24-25, 2019: Roger Stone Indicted, Arrested; Trump Tweets; Stone Remains Defiant

JAN. 25, 2019: Sanders/Sekulow Respond to Stone Indictment

JAN. 26, 2019: Trump Tweets About Stone, Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Strzok, Lisa Page, Hillary…‘WITCH HUNT!’

JAN. 27, 2019: Treasury Confirms Lifting Sanctions on Deripaska’s Companies

 

 

 

 

TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JAN. 20, 2019: DISTRACTIONS FROM DERIPASKA AND PUTIN

[NOTE: On Jan. 21, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

As last week ended, all eyes focused on BuzzFeed’s report that Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Then special counsel Robert Mueller’s unprecedented press release stated that various aspects of the story were “not accurate.” Time will tell where the facts lead, but for now, the BuzzFeed story has become a counterproductive distraction from key developments relating to two issues: Oleg Deripaska’s unambiguous successes and Vladimir Putin’s unimpeded escalation toward war with Ukraine.

A Dark Deripaska Chapter

This week’s revision to the Trump-Russia Timeline entry for MAR. 5, 2018 —    “Model/Prostitute Claims to Have Audio Recordings” — adds a prescient remark from Anastasia Vashukevich (a/k/a Nastya Rybka), a jailed “sex training expert” claiming to have audio recordings of Deripaska and others that prove Russia’s involvement in 2016 US election interference: “If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know,” she says from a prison in Thailand. “I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.”

The new JAN. 15-19, 2019 entry — “‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia and Arrested” — describes the strange things now happening to Vashukevich in Moscow. After nine months in a Thai prison, she and seven others pleaded guilty to prostitution charges. The court sentenced them to time served and ordered immediate deportation to their home countries. Vashukevich’s destination was Belarus, but she didn’t get there.

As she walked through a transit zone while changing planes in Moscow on Jan. 17, a group of men dragged her into Russian territory. Vashukevich’s lawyer posted a video on Instagram that, he says, shows her arrest. She now faces prostitution charges that could land her in prison for years. On Jan. 19, she appeared in a Moscow court, apologized publicly to Deripaska, and promised continued silence about whatever she knows about him.

Deripaska Winning on Sanctions

Back in April 2018, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions against Deripaska’s aluminum production companies for their role in the Kremlin’s worldwide pattern of “malign activity,” including “attempting to subvert Western democracies.” But those sanctions have never been implemented. On Dec. 19, 2018, Trump put the companies on track to avoid them forever. Last week, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes required to stop him. Even with many Republicans in Congress breaking ranks (11 in the Senate, 136 in the House), Putin, Deripaska, and Trump prevailed.

Putin Winning in Ukraine

Meanwhile, a Russian court is detaining eight of the Ukrainian seamen captured during Russia’s illegal confiscation of three vessels in the Black Sea on Nov. 25, 2018. And international satellite images now show that Putin has deployed batteries of short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles near the Russian-Ukrainian border.

For context, couple those two new Timeline entries with a few others from last month, starting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s unsubstantiated claim that looks increasingly like an ominous pretext:

DEC. 17, 2018: “Lavrov Says Ukraine Planning More Provocations”

DEC. 22, 2018: “Russia Moves Fighter Jets to Crimea”

DEC. 24, 2018: “Russia Repeats Unsubstantiated Claim of Ukrainian ‘Provocation’”

Trump seems content to let Putin and his favorite oligarch have their way — on anything and everything they seek. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and most of his Republican colleagues seem unperturbed.

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

JUNE 16, 2015: Trump Announces His Candidacy; Secret Trump Tower-Moscow Discussions Continue (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 10, 2016: Russian Officials Admit Trump Campaign Had Contact With Kremlin Intermediaries (revision of previous entry)

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

JAN. 30, 2018: Trump Says Manafort Won’t ‘Flip’ and Sell Him Out; Talks About Prosecuting Mueller (revision of previous entry)

MAR. 5, 2018: Model/Escort Claims to Have Audio Recordings (revision of previous entry)

JAN 14, 2019: Trump: ‘I Never Worked For Russia,’ FBI Officials ‘Known Scoundrels,’ Comey Was a ‘Bad Cop… a Dirty Cop’, McCabe is a ‘Proven Liar’; Says He Doesn’t Know What Happened to Interpreters’ Notes

JAN. 14, 2019: NYT: Trump Said He Wanted to Withdraw from NATO

JAN. 14-15, 2019: Barr at Confirmation Hearing: Mueller Not Engaged in ‘Witch Hunt’

JAN. 15, 2019: Parties Seek More Time Before Gates Sentencing

JAN. 15, 2019: Russia Holds Ukrainian Seamen

JAN. 15-17, 2019: Senate Fails to Halt Trump’s Deripaska Sanctions Relief; 136 House Republicans Rebuke Trump

JAN. 15-19, 2019: ‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia, Arrested, Apologizes

JAN. 17, 2019: Trump Tweets About Mueller ‘Witch Hunt,’ ‘Fake’ Steele Dossier

JAN. 18, 2019: Russia Has Deployed Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missiles Near Ukraine Border