THE “IG REPORT” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JUNE 17, 2018

On Thursday, June 14, 2018, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report on the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Over the next three days, Trump tweeted (and retweeted Fox News) about the report 17 times. On camera, he was even bolder: “It totally exonerates me.”

By Sunday morning, even Rudy Giuliani admitted that the report does no such thing. In fact, it doesn’t even consider the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his allies from weaponizing it. The bigger the Trump lie, the louder and more persistent his voice — along with those of his Greek chorus.

This week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline includes a close look at one small slice of the IG report that hints at a bigger story yet to come. At least, that bigger story should be coming. Rudy may be central to its plot.

The October “Surpise”

On Oct. 31, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with FBI Director James Comey to discuss his infamous Oct. 28 letter updating Congress on the Clinton email investigation. According to Lynch, they talked about leaks from the New York office of the FBI. Why?

Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Rudy Giuliani’s name. Among the resulting entries are these:

Sept. 26, 2016: FBI agents seize former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) laptop and find emails from his then-estranged wife, Huma Abedin, to Hillary Clinton.

Oct. 25: Giuliani tells Fox & Friends that “surprises” are coming, and Clinton won’t like them.

Oct. 26: Rudy tells Fox host Martha MacCallum that the surprises are imminent — in the next day or two — and they are “big.”

Oct. 28: Shortly after Comey releases his letter to Congress, Giuliani says that he’s heard from active and former FBI agents that there was a “revolution” going on inside the FBI over Comey’s failure to prosecute Clinton.

Lynch, Comey, and the FBI’s NY Office

When the IG interviewed Lynch during its investigation, here is what she said about her Oct. 31 meeting with Comey:

“Now, I knew that the laptop had been handled in a case out of New York. And so I said, you know, we have to talk about the New York office…and the concern that both you and I have expressed about leaks in the past…. And I said, you know, I’ve talked, you and I have talked about that before…. [McCabe] and I have talked about them before….”

“[Comey] said to me that it had become clear to him… that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep…[H]e said it was surprising to him or stunning to him.”

“[H]e was saying it did exist, and it was hard to manage because these were agents that were very, very senior, or had even had timed out and were staying on, and therefore did not really feel under pressure from headquarters or anything to that effect…”

“And he made a comment about, you know, you understand that. A lot of people don’t understand that. You, you get that issue. I said, I get that issue. I said I’m, I’m just troubled that this issue, meaning the, the New York agent issue and leaks, I am just troubled that this issue has put us where we are today with respect to this laptop.”

And Then There’s Nunes

Fast-forward almost two years to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). On June 14, 2018, Nunes revealed that, shortly after the release of the IG report, “good FBI agents” told him in late September 2016 about the Clinton emails on Weiner’s laptop. But the FBI’s New York office first seized that laptop on Sept. 26, and Nunes didn’t share the information from the “good agents” with any Democrats on his House Intelligence Committee — ever.

Back to the Timeline:

Nov. 4, 2016, Giuliani tells Fox News that he expected Comey’s reopening of the Clinton investigation “three or four weeks ago.” The same day, senior congressional Democrats ask the Justice Department IG Horowitz to investigate leaks that seemed to account for Giuliani’s clairvoyance.

Whatever the “active agents” told Giuliani about the coming “surprise” was an illegal leak of highly confidential information relating to an federal ongoing investigation. The same is true for whatever the “good agents” told Nunes.

What’s Next

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 18, 2018, FBI Director Christopher Wray refused to confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation into pre-election leaks from the FBI’s NY office. Inspector General Horowitz said only that his work on that issue remains “ongoing.”

Some observers, including Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, are skeptical about the IG’s investigation into pre-election leaks from the FBI’s NY office. Skepticism may be warranted, but there’s one more possibility that could be even more devastating to Trump than a fulsome probe of those leaks: Special counsel Robert Mueller may have taken that matter under his wing, in which case the IG won’t release his findings. In other words, Rudy Giuliani could well be a subject of the Trump-Russia investigation.

Someday, the whole truth about the “October surprise” that put Trump in the White House will be become known. When that happens, Trump will tweet as he has never tweeted before.

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

AUGUST 2014: Bolton’s Super PAC Hires Cambridge Analytica

DECEMBER 2015: Russians Close to Putin Meet With NRA Reps In Moscow

LATE MAY 2016: Stone Meets With Russian Claiming to Have ‘Political Dirt’ On Clinton

SEPT. 26, 2018: FBI Seizes Weiner’s Laptop

LATE SEPTEMBER 2016: Nunes Learns About Weiner’s Laptop From “Good FBI Agents”

OCT. 31, 2016: Comey and Lynch Discuss the FBI’s New York Office: “Deep Visceral Hatred” of Clinton and Leaks Related to Weiner’s Laptop

NOV. 12, 2016: Farage Meets With Trump

MARCH 22, 2018: Trump Names Bolton NSA

JUNE 1, 2018: Artemenko Appears Before Grand Jury

JUNE 14, 2018: NY Attorney General Sues Trump Foundation

JUNE 14, 2018: Trump Resumes Tweets About Russia Investigation; Tweets About Trump Foundation Suit

UNE 14, 2018: DOJ’s Inspector General Issues Report

JUNE 14, 2018: Giuliani Calls For Investigating Comey, Suspending Mueller, Imprisoning Strzok

JUNE 15-16-17, 2018: Trump Tweets, Retweets, and Talks About DOJ’s Inspector General Report

JUNE 15, 2018: Manafort Goes to Jail; Trump Tries To Distance Himself; Giuliani Talks Pardons

JUNE 15, 2018: Former Cambridge Analytica Employees Working for RNC

JUNE 17, 2018: Giuliani: ‘IG Report Doesn’t Exonerate Trump’

 

THE “PUTIN PRISM” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JUNE 10, 2018

Trump’s approach to the Russia investigation reveals what attorneys call “consciousness of guilt.” He acts as if special counsel Robert Mueller poses an existential threat. Accordingly, one way to assess Trump’s self-interested behavior on many topics — not just the Russia investigation — is to view it through the Putin Prism.

Applying the Putin Prism to this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update produces an interesting perspective on several new entries relating to the G-7 summit.

Lobbying for Putin 

Leaving for the summit on June 8, Trump said, “Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend, and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it… They should let Russia come back in.”

Unlike most of Trump’s proclamations at impromptu sessions with reporters, his lines seemed rehearsed.

Then for two days at the summit, he pressed the case for Putin’s inclusion, acknowledging only that “something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in.” The “something” was Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which led to its expulsion from what had been the G-8 group of industrialized democracies.

A Bizarre Twist

After the summit ended and Trump had left, he tweeted that the US would not sign the G-7 joint statement. The media accepted as true Trump’s stated reason: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relatively mild remarks at the final G-7 press conference, where Trudeau released the statement to which all countries, including the US, had agreed previously. Reporters wrote off Trump’s tweets as just another case of his impulsive reactions to what he perceived to be a personal slight.

It was more than that. The next day, Trump spokesmen Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro appeared on Sunday morning news programs, parroting a more dramatic version of Trump’s new talking point: Trudeau had “stabbed Trump in the back.” Anyone familiar with the rise of authoritarianism in Weimar Germany after World War I bristled at that phrase.

Using the Putin Prism

Running these events through the Putin Prism produces a much different storyline. When Trump left Canada, the joint statement was a done deal. He had agreed to it. At the supposedly offending press conference, Trudeau didn’t say anything different – or new – from his prior public responses to Trump’s threats concerning new trade tariffs against Canada, a stalwart ally.

Trump’s stated reason for reneging on the G-7 communique makes no sense. So use the Putin Prism to test this hypothesis: Maybe someone on Air Force One briefed Trump on the 4,000-word statement. Certainly, if Putin and his advisers read it, Item 17 would have caught their attention:

— “We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing behaviour, to undermine democratic systems and its support of the Syrian regime.”

— “We condemn the attack using a military grade nerve agent in Salisbury, United Kingdom.”

— “We urge Russia to live up to its international obligations, as well as its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to uphold international peace and security.”

— “We reiterate our condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea and reaffirm our enduring support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We maintain our commitment to assisting Ukraine in implementing its ambitious and necessary reform agenda.”

— “We recall that the continuation of sanctions is clearly linked to Russia’s failure to demonstrate complete implementation of its commitments in the Minsk Agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty….”

— “Should its actions so require, we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia.”

If Trump viewed the G-7 statement through the Putin Prism, he saw that reneging on his prior support for the statement was preferable to upsetting Russia’s president.

A Different Perspective

The Putin Prism is a versatile tool for understanding some of Trump’s seemingly inexplicable behaviors. For example, scandal-ridden EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt keeps his job. Why? Because if Trump ever persuades Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, he could appoint Pruitt as acting attorney general without a confirmation hearing. In that scenario, Pruitt would replace Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein as Mueller’s supervisor and could, effectively, terminate Mueller’s investigation.

Likewise, consult the Trump-Russia Timeline and apply the Putin Prism to a key episode: Don Jr.’s statement that Trump dictated to describe the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians promising “dirt” in Hillary Clinton.

  • July 7, 2017: The Times asks the White House for comment on a breaking story about the Trump Tower meeting. The White House stalls for time on the grounds that Trump’s team is busy at the G-20 summit in Germany.
  • July 7: At the summit, Trump initally meets with Putin personally. The only other attendees are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two interpreters. But later during dinner, Trump has a second, private conversation with Putin. This time, only Putin’s interpreter is present.
  • According to Trump’s later account of his dinner conversation with Putin, “We talked about adoptions.”
  • July 8: Aboard Air Force One on the return trip to Washington, Trump dictates Don Jr.’s statement describing the June 9 meeting: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children…”

Where did Trump get the “adoptions” idea for Don Jr.’s statement? The Putin Prism reveals a plausible and upsetting answer.

Whenever Trump says or does something that seems bizarre on its face, run it through the Putin Prism. Some of his strangest actions might make more sense than you think. And that’s troubling.

Now you know why, in addition to the Trump-Putin discussions at the July 2017 summit, this week’s update to the Trump-Russia Timeline now includes all other known dates that Trump and Putin have spoken since Trump took office: Jan. 28, 2017, Apr. 3, 2017, May 2, 2017, Nov. 21, 2017, Dec. 14, 2017, Dec. 17, 2017, and Feb. 12, 2018.

Take a look at what else was happening around those dates. You will be amazed. And you’ll begin to understand why one of Trump’s first initiatives after the November election was to create a “back-channel” with Putin.

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

JAN. 28, 2017: Putin Calls Trump

FEB. 17, 2017: Cambridge Analytica Director Meets With Assange

APR. 3, 2017: Trump Calls Putin

MAY 2, 2017: Trump Speaks With Putin

AUG. 1, 2017: White House Admits Trump ‘Weighed In’ on Don Jr.’s Misleading Statement (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 21, 2017: Trump Speaks With Putin

DEC. 14, 2017: Trump Speaks With Putin

DEC. 17, 2017: Trump Speaks With Putin

FEB. 12, 2018: Trump Speaks With Putin

APR. 11, 2018: Trump Architect Drops Out of Sight

APRIL 21, 2018: Swiss Banks Freeze Vekselberg’s Assets

MAY 23, 2018: Schiff: Send Interview Transcripts to DOJ For Perjury Investigation

MAY 31, 2018: Graham Suggests Rosenstein’s Recusal; DOJ Responds

JUNE 4, 2018: Trump Asserts Power To Pardon Himself

JUNE 4, 2018: Trump Attacks Mueller/Media “Witch Hunt”

JUNE 4, 2018: Sanders Refuses To Explain Her Previous Lie; Giuliani Says Sekulow Made a “Mistake”

JUNE 4, 2018: Mueller Accuses Manafort of Witness Tampering

JUNE 5, 2018: Trump Attacks Comey, Sessions, and Russia Investigation

JUNE 5, 2018: Parscale Launches Pro-Trump Website

JUNE 5, 2018: Vekselberg Has Repaid Bank Debt, Cut Foreign Holdings

JUNE 6, 2018: Ryan Sees No Evidence To Support Trump’s “Spy-gate” Claim

JUNE 7, 2018: Trump Tweets About Mueller, Comey, and the Need to Investigate Democrats

JUNE 8, 2018: Trump Says He’ll Stop Talking About Trump-Russia For Awhile, But Doesn’t

JUNE 8, 2018: Trump Says Russia Should Be Readmitted to G-7

JUNE 8, 2018: Mueller Indicts Kilimnik; Adds Charges Against Manafort

JUNE 9, 2018: Trump at Summit: Russia Should Rejoin G-7

JUNE 9, 2018: Trump Reneges on G-7 Joint Statement

 

THE “PARDON ME” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JUNE 4, 2018

Trump isn’t subtle. He uses big sticks and tantalizing carrots. His sticks include tweets attacking potential witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Those open and notorious attempts to intimidate are one of the many ways that Trump has been obstructing justice.

Last week, Trump used carrots — signaling to those who remain loyal to him personally the prospect of a pardon down the road. He even claimed the power to pardon himself. It was a remarkable week for the Trump-Russia Timeline.

Sheriff Joe

In August 2017, Trump bypassed the years-long pardon application process to grant one to former Maricopa Country Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He had been convicted of criminal contempt of court for brutally racist treatment of undocumented immigrants. Some speculated that Trump’s pardon was a “message” to potential witnesses in the Trump-Russia investigation — a natural follow-up to Trump’s April 25 message to Mike Flynn: “Stay strong.”

But as with all outrageous Trump actions, the controversy over Arpaio’s pardon disappeared as his new outrageous acts took its place. By May 1, 2018, Mike Pence was saying that he was honored by the presence of then-GOP Senate candidate Arpaio — a  “tireless champion of the rule of law.”

Scooter

In 2007, President George W. Bush received enormous pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney to pardon Cheney’s former chief of staff “Scooter” Libby after convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice. That’s even closer to the Trump-Russia situation than Arpaio’s because:

1) Crimes similar to Libby’s — perjury and obstruction of justice — are the subject of Mueller’s investigation;

2) A special counsel investigation led to Libby’s conviction; and

3) The special counsel who prosecuted Libby successfully was then-US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — appointed to do so by then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Fitzgerald is now in private practice and represents Comey.

Dinesh, Martha, and Rod

In 2014, conservative author, commentator, and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud. But even without a pending application, Trump pardoned him on May 31, 2018. It’s no coincidence that campaign finance laws are elements of Mueller’s investigation.

As he announced D’Souza’s pardon, Trump said he was contemplating similar relief for Martha Stewart. She was convicted in 2004 of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators. Sound familiar?

So is the name of the US Attorney in Manhattan who gave prosecutors the green light to proceed with the case against Stewart: James Comey. (Stewart had also appeared with Trump on The Apprentice.)

On the same day, Trump also floated commuting the public corruption sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He was convicted on 18 felony counts and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Blago — another alumnus of The Apprentice — probably got Trump’s attention with his May 28, 2018 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “I’m in Prison for Practicing Politics.”

Like Trump, Blagojevich called his prosecution a “witch hunt.” The US attorney who prosecuted that case was Patrick Fitzgerald.

Roger Stone Gets It

Trump is working his way though a checklist. It’s a mix of crimes that he and his compatriots may have committed (Flynn, Gates, and Papadopoulos have confessed to giving false statements to federal investigators), along with individuals who have connections to one of Trump’s most formidable enemies: James Comey. The message is clear, and Roger Stone said that he, for one, has received it:

“It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III: Indict people for crimes that don’t pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen. The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers.”

The same day, Stone told ABC News, “I will never betray this president. Under no circumstances will I bear false witness against President Trump.”

There are many ways to obstruct justice. Trump is utilizing all of them. And he’s not done yet.

Postscript on Sekulow and A Dangerous Memo

Last week’s post on the Trump-Russia Timeline update discussed Trump’s lawyer-enablers — with a special focus on Emmet Flood and Jay Sekulow. This week was bad for both of them, especially Sekulow.

Recall that in July 2017, Sekulow took to the airwaves, proclaiming repeatedly that Trump — his client — had no involvement whatsoever with Donald Trump Jr.’s misleading statement to the The New York Times about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Last week, the Times obtained the Jan. 29, 2018 memo that Sekulow and his then-co-counsel, John Dowd, wrote on Trump’s behalf to special counsel Robert Mueller:

“[T]he President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”

From “no involvement whatsoever” to having “dictated” Don Jr.’s statement. More proof that either Sekulow lied publicly for Trump, or Trump lied to him.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 20-page memo that Sekulow and Dowd sent to Mueller is an embarrassment to the legal profession. For example, it relies on the wrong statute to claim that Trump could not have obstructed justice in his conversations with then-FBI Director James Comey about “letting Flynn go.” They ignore altogether the correct statute, which destroys their argument.

In substance and style, the memo’s legal positions would be laughable, if they weren’t so frightening. With respect to the Trump-Russia investigation, Sekulow and Dowd suggest that Trump can do whatever he wants and the law cannot touch him. Trump’s enablers with legal degrees have become a mortal threat to democracy and the rule of law.

Where is Emmet Flood? As his reputation slides down Mt. Trump, he is nowhere to be found. But history will record his guilt by association. Flood’s sins of omission are no less damning than Sekulow’s sins of commission.

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

DEC. 15, 2016: Bannon, Flynn and Kushner Meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Gerson Surfaces; Nader Nearby (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 11, 2017: Prince Meets With Putin Associate in the Seychelles (revision of previous entry)

MAR. 4, 2017: Trumps Asks Sessions To “Unrecuse” Himself

AUG. 25, 2017: Trump Pardons Arpaio; Warner Concerned About “Message”

NOV. 21, 2017: Trump’s Lawyers Talk With Mueller About Possible Trump Interview

JAN. 8, 2018: Trump’s Lawyers Talk Again With Mueller about Possible Trump Interview

JAN. 10, 2018: Trump Waffles on Mueller Interview (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 29, 2018: Trump’s Lawyers Resist Mueller Interview

APR. 13, 2018: Trump Pardons Libby

MAY 29, 2018: Gowdy Defends FBI and DOJ

MAY 30, 2018: Trump Renews Attack on Sessions

MAY 30-31, 2018: Trump’s Twitter Rampage Over Russia Investigation Continues

MAY 31, 2018: Trump Issues Another Pardon; Hints About More With A Comey Connection

MAY 31, 2018: Stone: Trump Pardons “Send a Message”; Stone Receives It

JUNE 1, 2018: Trump Tweets About Mueller Investigation

JUNE 1-2, 2018: Brennan Attacks Trump; Trump Tweets Back at Brennan and Mueller

JUNE 2, 2018: Trump Tweets In Advance of NYT Story

JUNE 3, 2018: Trump Tweets About Obstruction, Comey, Manafort, and Mueller

“SELLING THE BIG LIE” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH MAY 28, 2018

When Trump hired Emmet Flood (JD, Yale, ’91) the legal profession consensus was that, at long last, a principled, disciplined, qualified, and widely respected attorney would finally be in charge. The consensus was wrong.

Flood is the featured player in this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline update. In less than a month, he ruined forever a reputation that took him decades to develop. Welcome to the world of Trump’s reverse-King Midas touch afflicting those who become his enablers. For an attorney, it’s an especially ignominious distinction.

Lessons Not Learned

Flood should have known better. Jay Sekulow (JD, Mercer, ’80) is the sole survivor from Trump’s original legal team, and it has cost him dearly. Along with every sentient lawyer, Flood must have felt pain for the entire profession as Sekulow self-destructed.

It began in July 2017, after Don Jr. was caught lying about his June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Jared Kushner (JD/MBA, NYU, ’07), Paul Manafort (JD, Georgetown ’74), and three Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Sekulow hit the national media circuit, proclaiming that Trump himself had nothing to do with his son’s initial false statement. Then the truth emerged: either Sekulow had lied or his client had duped him. No lawyer wants to be the subject of that Hobson’s choice.

Yet Sekulow soldiered on. In February 2018, Politico wrote about Sekulow’s weekly radio program during which he shilled for Trump by attacking the Russia probe. Perhaps he forgot the oath that all lawyers take to uphold the rule of law, along with the legal profession’s ethical rules requiring all attorneys to promote public confidence in the judicial system.

Enter Emmet Flood

But Flood was supposed to be more than just another Sekulow-type Trump lackey. Unlike Sekulow, who from the outset was unqualified for the job of defending Trump, Flood has advised top Republicans (Vice President Dick Cheney during the Valerie Plame episode) and Democrats (President Clinton during his impeachment) through the challenging intersection of law and politics. Flood probably believed that he could avoid landmines that had blown up predecessor legal-enablers such as Marc Kasowitz (JD, Cornell, ’77), John Dowd (JD, Emory, ’65), and Ty Cobb (JD, Georgetown, ’78).

Flood’s first warning sign was Rudy Giuliani (JD, NYU ’68). Prior to Flood, Giuliani had been the most recent addition to Trump’s legal team. The second warning sign came on May 2, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued this press release announcing Flood’s arrival:

“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt.”

If Flood knew that his publicly stated job description would be helping Trump beat back the “Russia witch hunt” — a stunning official White House declaration — he never should have taken the position. If he didn’t know until Sanders’ announcement, he should have saved himself by resigning immediately and returning to his respected firm law firm, Williams & Connolly. It’s too late now.

Fake “Spy-Gate” Story

Flood knows that Trump traffics in lies and that some are more dangerous than others. Last week’s Big Lie was Trump’s claim that the FBI had planted a spy in his campaign. There was never any evidence to support Trump’s rants. But beginning on May 22, Trump launched “spy-gate.” By the end of the Memorial Day weekend, he’d tweeted 23 more Russia-related attacks on the rule of law.

One of those tweets was Trump’s unprecedented demand: The Justice Department must disclose highly confidential information to Trump’s most complicit GOP congressional ally, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

[Pro tip known to experienced Trump-Russia Timeline followers: Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline at InvestigateRussia, org and click on Nunes’ name. The resulting entries reveal that he should be a “subject” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, if not a “target.” Nunes was on Trump’s transition team, spoke daily with Mike Flynn in December 2016 (when Flynn was talking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions), and has been a key player in Trump’s efforts to derail the Russia probe. (E.g., Nunes led the phony “unmasking” controversy; he made the “midnight run” of White House documents back to the White House; he championed bogus issues relating to the FBI’s request for a FISA warrant on Carter Page. And so on and so on and so on…]

Nunes’ favorite red herring is attacking the FBI and the Justice Department. Most recently, he has been seeking information about a specific person who became an FBI informant during the Bureau’s counterintelligence investigation of Russians trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign. No prior president has ever attempted to get the FBI or the Department of Justice to divulge such information during an ongoing investigation, much less an investigation involving that president’s own campaign.

Trump’s demand was actually a ham-handed effort to learn what evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has on him and his colleagues. Giuliani admitted it:

“We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it. If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably… What I need to know is, ‘What’s the basis for their doing it?’ Most important, ‘What did the informant produce?'”

Where Was Emmet Flood?

Into this mess walked Emmet Flood — literally. Although Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said previously that no one from the White House would attend the meeting between Nunes, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and senior leaders from the FBI and DOJ, Flood entered the room with chief of staff John Kelly.

Neither Kelly nor Flood had any legitimate reason for attending that meeting. Consistent with long-standing norms, they should have remained far away from a confidential session during which the FBI and the Justice Department would be discussing an investigation into the person who happens to be their boss. Trump is already a “subject” of the probe, yet Flood — a lawyer who knows better — proceeded anyway.

Complicit Lawyer-Enablers

Before the meeting, Trump had tweeted his latest Big Lie eight times. Immediately thereafter — from Friday, May 25 through Tuesday morning, May 29 — he posted another 16 tweets railing about his phony “spy-gate” claim, repeating assaults on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and even asserting that Mueller would “meddle” in the upcoming midterm election. Meanwhile, Giuliani declared Mueller’s investigation “illegitimate.”

Where is Emmet Flood now? It was bad enough that he walked into the Trump assault on democracy in the first place. He has no excuse for staying there as his new client undermines the rule of law by attacking an investigation that has already yielded 22 indictments (including five guilty pleas).

History will judge harshly Flood and others on the long list of Trump’s enablers with law degrees, including Kushner, Manafort, Mike Pence (JD, Indiana-Robert McKinney School of Law, ’86), Kellyanne Conway (JD, George Washington, ’92), Reince Priebus (JD, Miami, ’98), Don McGahn (JD, Widener, ’94), and numerous members of Congress (including Sen. Mitch McConnell, JD, Kentucky, ’67) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (JD, South Carolina, ’89).

None of Trump’s enablers will recover their reputations. Emmet Flood is different from the others in only one respect: he had far more to lose.

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

NEW: SEPT. 18, 2016: Stone Wants Info From Assange

NEW: JAN. 9, 2017: Vekselberg Meets With Cohen

REVISED: JAN. 20, 2017: Vekselberg, Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin and Butina Attend Trump Inauguration Festivities; Cohen Gets Big Contract

NEW: MAY 21, 2018: Trump Meets With Wray, Rosenstein and Coats

NEW: MAY 22, 2018: Cohen’s Business Partner Pleads Guilty

NEW: MAY 22, 2018: Trump Continues Tweeting About “Spies” In His Campaign

NEW: MAY 23, 2018: Trump Twitter Barrage About Campaign “Spies” Persists

NEW: MAY 23, 2018: Mueller: “Ongoing Criminal Investigation with Multiple Lines of Non-Public Inquiry”

NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Trump Continues Tweeting About Bogus “Spy-gate”

NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Trump Resumes Attack on Comey

NEW: MAY 24, 2018: White House Meeting Among Rosenstein, Wray, Coats, Kelly, and Congressional Leaders

NEW: MAY 24, 2018: Giuliani: “We Want To See How The Briefing Went Today”

NEW: MAY 25-29, 2018: Trump’s Memorial Day Weekend: 16 Tweets About the Russia Investigation and Spies

NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Deripaska Resigns From Rusal Board

 NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Manafort’s Virginia Trial Reset For July 24

NEW: MAY 25, 2018: Giuliani Wants Briefing on Classified Info

NEW: MAY 27, 2018: Guiliani: “The Basis of Mueller’s Appointment is Illegitimate”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE “NOT JUST RUSSIA” EDITION: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH MAY 21, 2018

Russia wasn’t the only foreign government trying to help Trump win the election. Last week’s bombshell on that subject competed for attention with two other big stories:

— The Senate Judiciary Committee released interview transcripts relating to the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump’s top campaign advisers and Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton; and

— Trump made an unprecedented demand: The Justice Department should investigate the unfounded claim that the FBI had placed spies in his 2016 presidential campaign. In other words, Trump is now openly issuing orders in an investigation for which he is a subject.

But an August 2016 rendezvous that Erik Prince arranged between Donald Trump Jr. and George Nader as an emissary from two foreign powers could reverberate beyond wherever those two stories lead. At a minimum, it sure looks like Prince and Don Jr. have a serious legal problem. And that is very bad news for Trump.

Erik Prince Testifies

For a long time, Prince has been a featured player on the Trump-Russia Timeline. On Nov. 30, 2017, here’s what he told House Intelligence Committee:

— He had no formal role in the Trump campaign, except as a donor, fundraiser, and occasional supplier of foreign policy position papers to Steve Bannon. (Prince did admit to having a Trump sign on his lawn. That sarcastic comment typified his cavalier and irreverent congressional performance; the joke is now on him.)

— He had minimal interactions with Don Jr. (“I met him at a campaign event… I ran into him a couple of times when I was up there [at Trump Tower] during the transition.”).

— His January 2017 meeting with a Russian close to Putin in the Seychelles was a chance encounter having nothing to do with the incoming Trump administration or its policies.

The Truth Emerges

Now go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Prince’s name, and see what the truth looks like.

— In August 2016, Prince set up a meeting that included Don Jr., Nader as an emissary from the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and a specialist at social media manipulation.Through Nader, Saudi Arabia and UAE offered their assistance to help Trump win the election.

— Witnesses to the January 2017 Seychelles meeting have contradicted Prince’s account. They say it was an organized gathering aimed at easing US-Russia relations.

It’s worth noting here that prior to Prince’s congressional testimony in November 2017, he visited the office of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) — Trump’s principal Republican congressional ally in the effort to derail special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In March 2018, Prince co-hosted a fundraiser for “Putin’s favorite congressman”, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

And Then There’s Don Jr.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2017, Donald Trump Jr. provided answers that lined up nicely with Prince’s but, like Prince’s, are now problematic:

“Q: We’ve talked a lot about Russia. So I have some broader questions about other foreign governments. Did other foreign governments offer or provide assistance to the Trump campaign?

“Don Jr: None that I’m aware of.

“Q: Did other foreign nationals offer or provide assistance to the Trump campaign?

“Don Jr: No.

“Q: Did you directly or indirectly seek foreign government or foreign nationals assistance for the Trump campaign?

“Don Jr: No.

“Q: Are you aware of anyone else seeking foreign government or foreign nationals assistance for the Trump campaign?

“Don Jr: I’m not.

“Q: Did you ever tell anyone that you or the Trump campaign would be receptive to offers of assistance from foreign governments or foreign nationals?

“Don Jr: No.” (Transcript pp. 208-209)

Through his attorney, Don Jr. acknowledged on May 20, 2018, that the August 2016 meeting occurred:

“Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

The Problem With Lies

So it seems that yet another “Flynn situation” has emerged. That is, it sure looks like Erik Prince and Donald Trump Jr. made statements to federal investigators that weren’t true. Why? Even more damning than Flynn’s dissembling about his communications with Russians during the transition, Prince and Don Jr. may be at the center of a more important unfolding storyline: If other foreign governments wanted to help Trump win the election, Prince could be a matchmaker and Don Jr. would be all ears.

That’s not good.

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

JAN. 19, 2016: Goldstone Pushes Russian Social Media Campaign; Graff Responds

FEB. 29, 2016: Agalarov Sends Trump A Super-Tuesaday Greeting

JUNE 8, 2016: Goldstone Offers Trump Help From Russian Social Media Giant

JUNE 9, 2016: Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet With Russian Lawyer (revision of previous entry)

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

JUNE 29, 2016: Goldstone Again Pitches Help From Russian Social Media

AUG. 3, 2016: Don Jr. Meets With Emissary From Saudi Arabia and UAE

AUG. 17, 2016: Trump Receives First National Security Briefing (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 11, 2017: Cohen Falsely Claims No Trump-Russia Contacts

JUNE 2-5, 2017: Goldstone Responds to Garten

JUNE 27, 2017: Goldstone Complains To Emin Agalarov About Heat From June 9, 2016 Meeting

JULY 9, 2017: Goldstone Complains About Publicity Surrounding June 2016 Trump Tower Meeting

JULY 9-10, 2017: Goldstone Seeks Help Responding To Media Stories About June 2016 Meeting

JULY 10, 2017: Emin Agalarov on Trump Tower Meeting: “No Comment”

JULY 11, 2017: “Why Did He Release This E-Mail Admitting Collusion?”

SEPT. 7, 2017: Don Jr. Talks to Senate Intelligence Committee (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 30, 2017: Prince Testifies Before House Intelligence Committee (revision of previous entry)

APR. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Stormy Daniels (revision of previous entry)

MAY 15, 2018: Putin Drives Across New Bridge Connecting Russia and Crimea

MAY 15, 2018: Trump Tweets “Witch Hunt” “No Collusion”

MAY 15, 2018: Federal Judge Denies Manafort Motion to Dismiss Indictment

MAY 15, 2018: Trump Eliminates Top Cybersecurity Policy Coordinator

MAY 15-16, 2018: Trump Belatedly Reports Cohen Reimbursement

MAY 16, 2018: Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Issue Preliminary Findings on June 9, 2016 Trump Tower Meeting

MAY 16, 2018: Senate Intelligence Committee Report Disputes House Report: Putin Wanted Trump to Win

MAY 17, 2018: Trump Tweets “No Collusion” “No Obstruction” “Witch Hunt”

MAY 17, 2018: Manafort’s Former Son-In-Law Makes Plea Deal

MAY 18-20, 2018: Trump Tweets Culminate Demanding DOJ Investigation

MAY 20, 2018: Rosenstein Responds To Trump Demand

MAY 20, 2018: RNC Has Paid Almost $500,000 In Legal Fees to Hicks and Others

MAY 21, 2018: Trump’s Twitter-Storm Against Russia Investigation Continues

 

 

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

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

MAY 18, 2017: Trump Denounces Special Counsel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so on, and so on, and so on…

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

What Worries Pence?

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

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

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

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

Russians Penetrated Voter Registration Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAR. 29, 2016: Trump Hires Manafort

OCT. 17, 2016: Cohen Creates Shell Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY 8, 2018: Emerdata Shutting Down, Too

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctions

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

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

The latest example involves Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

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

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

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

Obstruction

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

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

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

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

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

2006: Trump Begins Decade-Long Cash Spending Spree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY 4, 2018: Baker and Page Resign From FBI

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

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