Tuesday, December 18, 2018

An Investigation Here, A Probe There & Pretty Soon You Have A Real Scandal

There have been several yummy moments in the Russia scandal, although none will be as delicious as when Donald Trump finally goes down.  But until that moment arrives, we can relish the fact that not only have many of the president's associates turned on him, but so has the supermarket tabloid that was so instrumental in making him. 
I speak, of course, of the National Enquirer, which admitted to federal prosecutors last week in a non-prosecution agreement that it had acted as a dirty-tricks shop for candidate Trump in making a $150,000 catch-and-kill payment to Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal to keep her from blabbing about her affair with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.  That, of course, is not the half of it as the Enquirer was a Russian troll's wet dream in running extraordinarily sleazy and spurious ("fake news"!) stories as the campaign ground to a sickening end. 
Cover stories declaring that Hillary was "Corrupt!" "Racist!" "Eating Herself To Death!" "Suffered Three Strokes" "Has Violent  Rages!" "Stricken With Liver Damage From Booze!"  And so on and so forth. 
The non-prosecution agreement between the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the folks who kneecapped Michael Cohen for his role in hush money payments, and American Media Inc., the Enquirer's corporate parent, gives AMI in general and David Pecker, its chief executive and now former Trump confidant in particular, immunity from prosecution for its participation in a campaign finance violation in exchange for cooperation in the ongoing investigation of that crime.   
But what is most important about this ongoing investigation is that it can lead in only one direction -- right into Trump's wheelhouse. 
As Charles Pierce has so divinely noted, the president "Has no friends anymore, only witnesses.  There are an extraordinary seventeen separate investigations ongoing, according to Wired magazine.  For those of you keeping score at home, these investigations -- and they're just the ones we know about -- include:
(1.) Russian government election attacks, including cyber intrusions and data thefts, an ongoing investigation into contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign, including what candidate Trump knew.  STATUS: 12 Russian intelligence officers, 13 Russian nationals and three companies indicted, one guilty plea.  Several individuals, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, are cooperating with prosecutors.  
(2.) WikiLeaks' publication of emails stolen from Clinton and other Democrats by Russian hackers, possibly in coordination with the Trump campaign.  STATUS: Indictment of Julian Assange and others expected. 
(3.) Middle Eastern influence targeting the Trump campaign and centering on the role of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, including business ties to Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  STATUS: No public court action yet, but several individuals are cooperating, including George Nasser and Erik Prince. 
(4.) Paul Manafort's activities, including a sweeping money laundering indictment of Trump's former campaign chairman and investigations of Manafort associate and suspected Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik and Trump inauguration committee chairman Tom Barrack.  STATUS: Manafort has been convicted at trial of eight felonies.  Cooperating individuals include Manafort associate and former campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates. 
(5.) The Trump Tower Moscow hotel-spa project, which was worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Trump, extended far into the campaign and included negotiations with close Vladimir Putin associates.  STATUS: Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project and is cooperating.  Donald Trump Jr. may face legal exposure.
(6.) The June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising "dirt" on Clinton, as well as at least 13 other Russia-campaign contacts, some including campaign aide Carter Page and future AG Jeff Sessions.  STATUS:  Flynn and campaign aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty.  Cooperating individuals include Cohen and Flynn.    
(7.) Obstruction of justice by Trump, including his firing of FBI director James Comey and numerous public statements made to intentionally mislead the public in an attempt to limit the scope of the Russia investigation.  STATUS: Even if there is enough evidence to bring a case, it will likely be passed on to Congress to consider as an article of impeachment. 
(8.) Campaign conspiracy and Trump Organization finances, including hush money payments and other financial shenanigans.  STATUS: Cohen has pleaded guilty.  Cohen, AMI's Pecker and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg are cooperating.
(9.) Inauguration funding, including how the record $107 million raised was spent by the Trump inauguration committee and whether Russian oligarchs and other Eastern European businessmen illegally helped fund the event.  STATUS: No public court action yet, but Manafort associate Samuel Patten is cooperating.  
(10.) Funding irregularities involving Rebuilding America Now, a Trump SuperPAC related to the inauguration in which Manafort played a role. STATUS: No public court action yet, but Patten is cooperating. 
(11.) Foreign lobbying involving Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, and Greg Craig, and whether they allegedly failed to register as foreign agents for work related to Ukraine.  STATUS: Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan has pleaded guilty about his contacts with Gates, who is cooperating.
(12.) Mariia Butina and the National Rifle Association, including whether the Russian foreign agent enlisted boyfriend and Republican operative Paul Erickson to use the NRA as a conduit for Russian money going to the Trump campaign.  STATUS: Erickson is likely to be indicted, while Butina has pleaded guilty to being a foreign agent and is cooperating. 
(13.) Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynove, alleged chief account for the Russian Internet Research Agency troll farm, is being investigated for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.  STATUS: Khusyaynova has been indicted, but why she is being prosecuted separately is a mystery. 
(14.) Illegal influence by the Turkish government, including a campaign against exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, and a plot to kidnap and return him to Turkey.  STATUS: No public court action yet, but Flynn has testified extensively about the role his consulting business played. 
(15.) The New York State Tax Department is investigating an allegation that Trump benefited from upwards of $400 million in tax schemes.  STATUS: Unknown, but Cohen is believed to be cooperating. 
(16.) The Donald J. Trump Foundation, which is being sued by the New York attorney general for sweeping violations of  campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.  STATUS: Trump has agreed to shut down the foundation  while the lawsuit has cleared several preliminary hurdles and is proceeding.  
(17.) A lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington charging that Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign powers while in office. This included the purchase of more than 500 hotel rooms by the Saudi government at Trump's Washington hotel in the months after the election.  STATUS: The lawsuit is in the discovery phrase and is proceeding. 
No president has faced a legal assault so staggering nor has had a defense counsel as comically inept as Rudy Giuliani, who declared over the weekend that Trump's many lies pertaining to the scandal don't matter because he wasn't under oath. 
While Flynn's sentencing on Tuesday for lying about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was postponed after he was rebuked by the judge, Mueller and other prosecutors are moving right along.  They have netted three sentencings, one conviction at trial, eight guilty pleas and charges against 38 people and business entities with a total of 196 criminal counts.  
And the best certainly is yet to come as prosecutors close in on the president and the innermost of his inner circle.  

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.


Carol said...

I had my computer read this. It was fun.

Dan Leo said...

Yeah, 2019 is going to be a hell of a year...

Anonymous said...

Have you considered who among Trump’s cronies will benefit from the sale of steel for the wall and the building of it? Not that it makes all that much difference, but he’s sure in a hurry to get that passed before he is dumped (hopefully). Another crime to add to his list as long as he is going down? I recently saw ownership of Canadian steel by Russian. Hmmm.