Manafort Destiny 2.

A curious article appeared in the New York Times today.[1]  It seems a little disorganized as would be the case with important, but late-breaking news.  Still, it contains interesting points that whet the appetite for more information.

Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election of November 2016.  Mueller’s team of prosecutors charged Paul Manafort, President Trump’s transient campaign manager, with various forms of fraud related to his work as a consultant to pro-Russian candidates in Ukraine through 2014.  Manafort worked out a plea deal with Mueller.  That deal required his full co-operation with the prosecutors.  Now, prosecutors want to break the deal.  They argue that Manafort has lied on multiple occasions.   They want to dump a ton of bricks on him.

To justify throwing the book at Manafort, the prosecutors could have to provide some evidence of exactly how and in what regard he did lie to them.  Failing that, the defense could claim that Manafort did provide truthful information.  Normally, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution.  Hence, the sentencing memorandum may reveal important information from Mueller’s investigation.  This might run beyond Paul Manafort’s actions as far as the president.

First, although he had a plea deal with the prosecutors, Manafort’s lawyers secretly consulted with President Trump’s lawyers about the lines of investigation being pursued by Mueller.  Although such discussions “violated no laws,” Mueller and his team are exercised nonetheless.   Did they have an agreement with Mr. Manafort that he would not consult with the President’s lawyers?  If they did, and if Manafort repeatedly stated that he had held no such talks even as his lawyers met with White House lawyers, then this would be grounds for breaking the plea deal.

Second, Mr. Mueller’s team “accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them” despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant.  “Holding out” usually means withholding facts.  So far, the statements in the NYT are ambiguous.  According to Rudolph Giuliani, himself a former Federal prosecutor and now a special counsel to President Trump, “He [Robert Mueller] wants Manafort to incriminate Trump.”  Did Manafort deny any collusion?

Third, in one paragraph, the NYT states that President Trump’s “tweets” tried to imply that “he had some inside information.”  As evidence, the NYT story quotes Trump as saying that “the Mueller investigation are a total mess.  They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.  They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.”   Does the president have evidence to this effect?  If he does, then what does that say about the state of the Mueller investigation?

Finally, dumping Manafort back in the glue suggests that the federal prosecutors have no use for the testimony he has provided so far with regard to President Trump.  That is, Manafort may have denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russkies.  If this is the area in which he lied, then Mueller must have a bunch of solid evidence from other sources with which to prove that Manafort lied.  What is that source?  What is that evidence?

In any event, when will Robert Mueller report?

[1] Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon Lafraniere, and Maggie Haberman, “Manafort Lawyer Briefs Trump Team on Inquiry,” NYT, 28 November 2018.

The Latest News.

I’m a never-Trump Republican.  I didn’t vote for him the last time and I’m not going to vote for him the next time.  I think, to steal a line from P.J. O’Rourke, that when the Donald Trump Monument is unveiled in Washington, DC, it will consist of a large pit with a donkey at the bottom.  That said, here are my thoughts on “The Latest News.”(Name of an anti-Bolshevik Russian refugee newspaper published in Paris).

  1. Paul Manafort is convicted of stuff from 2014 and before in Ukraine and Trump is supposed to be worried about what he may say about Russian collusion in 2016?  What if there was no collusion, as Trump has insisted?  So far, but we’re waiting for Robert Mueller’s final report or charges before we know.  We’re also waiting for the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the origins of the Russia investigation.  The last one excoriated James Comey in exactly the terms used by Rod Rosenstein to fire him back before Trump admitted that it was about Russia.  The IG also came down hard on Andrew McCabe.  So, he doesn’t look too marshmallow-like to me.  Let’ wait on the reports.  In the meantime, the suspicion might arise that Manafort would fabricate stuff to please Mueller.  Or, if Manafort says “I don’t know anything about what you want to know,” does he get the book thrown at him?
  2. Michael Cohen pleaded to a bunch of stuff he did independently of Trump + he helped pay hush money to a couple of women with whom Trump had had sex.    Similarly, HRC refused to release the text of her secret speech to Wall Street bankers for exactly the same reason as Trump tried to hide the revelations of “Stormy Daniels” and that other one.  People might think less of them during the run-up to an elections.  Did the lawyers and political operatives–if any–for HRC who counseled her on refusing to release the text of the secret speech also violate campaign finance laws?  After all, they got paid money to keep the truth hidden.   For that matter, how many of the Democrats who want to get Trump also said “OK” when Bill Clinton said “Well, we’ll just have to win it”?
  3. Turning to matters of substance, rather than froth and scum (see: Andie Tucher ),  Mexico is willing to make concessions on NAFTA and Canada will soon join in.  China has resumed talks with the US on tariffs and may yet open its markets to American goods.  The NATO allies are finally starting to meet their long-standing commitments.  North Korea has begun talks with South Korea and the US on nuclear disarmament.  It seems that the North Koreans suddenly figured out how to make (or buy) ICBM rocket engines and the computer technology to prevent US cyber-attacks on missile tests.  Could the CIA offer some insight on how this happened?  Then, huge numbers of ordinary Iranians, according to the New York Times, want their government to talk to the US, given the collapse of the Iranian economy.  The corporate tax is down to international norms.  OK, spending is wayup above international norms.  The unpredictable regulatory environment of the Obama administration has been reined-in.
  4. Yes, Trump identifies with “strong leaders.”  What do people want?  A continuation of the “Empire” as it operated under Clinton, Bush, and Obama?  Bunch of weak elites of both parties are nostalgic for the era of the USA telling everyone else what they had otta do, while getting bent-over on trade and other stuff.  Times up.
  5. Minor social stuff.  A.) Wait, Asia Argento had sex with  a 17 year-old boy and he was “traumatized”?  As opposed to grateful?  You ever see her in “La Reine Margot”?  Was he fighting to keep his virginity?  You know any 17 year old boys who are/were saving it for marriage?  Me neither.  America never was “Up With People.”  Then, how did the stuff come to the NYT?  And why were they in such a hurry to publish it?  To bust on an immigrant woman who may or may not be a little kinky?  Think about that one.  B.)  One little picture in the paper of the activists who pulled down the statue of “Silent Sam” at Chapel Hill.  (S’OK by me.  My great-great grandfather was killed at Nashville commanding the 35th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Picture of him getting knocked backward off his horse by a minie-ball to the head appeared on the front page of Harpers.  Burn the whole place down.)  In that picture, all but one of the people is white.  In the story accompanying the picture, the black people who are interviewed are described as being at the back of the crowd.  Was the crowd truly multi-racial, diverse, and inclusive, or was it a bunch of white activists who appropriated the justifiable anger of African-Americans for their own purposes? I would really appreciate it if people could give me some information or advice here.

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 25.

There have been four special Congressional elections since the general election of November 2016 put Donald Trump into the White House.  Democrats have fought hard to win these newly-opened seats, casting the votes as a referendum on the reality show of a Trump presidency.  To the alarm of Democrats, Republicans have won all four.[1]  In Georgia’s Sixth District the Democrats appeared to have a reasonable shot.[2]  Although the district had long given the Republican candidate 20-plus percent majorities, Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton there by only 1.5 percent and the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, had almost reached the 50 percent mark in an April 2017 election amidst a crowded Democratic field.  In the run-off election between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, the Democrat claimed to be a centrist, while Handel portrayed herself as a mainstream Republican (rather than as a Trumpite).  Immense amounts of money ($55 million) from both sides passed through the campaigns and into the hands of local television stations and Washington consultants.  In the end, Handel triumphed by 52 to 48 percent of the vote.  That is, she did better than had Donald Trump.  Conservatives have commented that Ossoff’s “centrism” was bogus: he supports all the standard Democratic orthodoxies that have sent Southern Democrats streaming into the Republican party for decades: gun control, secular sharia, abortion-on-demand, and extensive regulation of the economy.[3]

According to Democrats, Donald Trump is in deep trouble with the law.  They point to the retention of private lawyers by Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and Jared Kushner as proof that the allegations of collusion made by Democrats “could be a big deal.”  However, Trump “believes that he’s the victim of a Democratic conspiracy to oust him from the White House.[4]  OK, now it’s out in the open.  Thing is, he’s probably correct.  When Green Party candidate Jill Stein challenged the vote count in a number of critical states, alleging un-specified “irregularities” and “Russian interference” with the vote count, money from aggrieved Clinton supporters poured in.  Trump foolishly[5] challenged the reports of the intelligence services on Russian hacking.  They responded with sun-burned “amour propre” by leaking secret information to embarrass the president.[6]  So far, there exists no actual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Not even “circumstantial evidence.”  If there was no collusion, then it will be a stretch for prosecutors to prove that Trump “obstructed justice” rather than just tried to get James Comey to act the way a decent human being outside the Beltway might do.  Most of the quoted criticism comes from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine.  Partly, this reflects the collapse of print journalism in the rest of the United States.  Fewer points of view are represented.  Partly, it reflects the bifurcation of the United States into bi-coastal Democratic islands and “heartland” Republicans.  All the same, for a long time lots of Republicans believed that President Richard Nixon could not have broken the law.[7]  We live in an ugly political season.

[1] This includes a Montana race where the Republican won despite (because of?) body-slamming a reporter.

[2] “GOP holds seat in high-stakes Georgia election,” The Week, 30 June 2017, p. 5.

[3] As many scholars have demonstrated, race wasn’t the issue that caused Democratic decline in the South.

[4] “Trump goes on attack against special counsel,” The Week, 30 June 2017, p. 4.

[5] Being a fool is no legal bar to running in or winning a presidential election.  Look at Ted Kennedy or Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush or Mitt Romney.

[6] Good luck with that.  Embarrassing the president I mean.  Still, it is difficult to understand the American intelligence community’s leaks of information about the Manchester, Britain, bombing while President Trump was en route to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May as anything other than a jab at the president.

[7] That is, I may yet have to eat this line of reasoning.