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Thursday, December 14, 2017

MSNBC Journal, July 28

Friday July 28
The health bill failed late into the night. Murkowski voted no, in spite of being threatened by Zinke. Zinke may now be investigated for that for abuse of power. Collins voted no. Ryan argued long and hard with McCain, but he voted no.

All In
Reince Priebus is out. Gen John Kelly, fmr head of Homeland Security, is in. WSJ reports that Trump “was dismissive of Priebus for not returning fire” after Scaramucci’s vulgar tirade.
McKay Coppins at the Atlantic:  WH staff told him that Trump likes to set people against each other. He enjoys a knife fight between 2 aides, even during a historic health care vote that effects so many people. He still is not ideological and still does not understand many issues, and is short on facts.
David Jolly, fmr Rep, R-FL:  There is no place for center-right Republicans in this party today. Trump will surround himself with people who see him as Trump the person and not the leader of the party. Voters chose a man who cannot support his ideas with knowledge. Trump is now planning to “let Obamacare implode.”
Rep Lee Zeldin, R-NY:  In his district, a gang called MS-13 has committed horrendous crimes with machetes. Many of them are illegals. But over against Trump’s quip that the law shouldn’t be too nice to these felons, law enforcement should always follow rules. [Chris Hayes is grilling Zeldin about Trump’s statement, which was partly a joke, but it’s the kind of joke that unleashes bad behavior in certain individuals. The police cheered. Zeldin doesn’t want to make strict statements about the remark, but Hayes has Freddie Gray on his mind and Zeldin has murders on his mind.] Zeldin says that there’s more to the story than Trump’s remark. He agrees that Long Island is terribly victimized by horrendous violence. A small skirmish can lead to unspeakable consequences. They don’t use guns because death is too quick that way.
The new healthcare bill, written that day, was posted with 2 hours of review, no debate. At midnight Pence arrived to break the tie that they knew was coming. At 1:30 the vote came. McCain hesitated. Then voted no. Outside, crowds cheer. McConnell says it’s time to move on. “Yes, a disappointment indeed.”
Lawrence O’Donnell:  John Kelly comes from a world of competence and discipline. He is coming to total incompetence and chaos. His first job needs to be to get Scaramucci out of there. Scaramucci is a crime against decency. No government office would hire him. Only Trump.

Richard Engle
Russia finally decided to retaliate for congressional sanctions. American diplomats will be expelled, and two buildings used by American officials withdrawn. Now will Trump sign the congressional bill, or is he so beholding to Russia that he vetoes it? Kaspersky Labs is being investigated. Eugene Kaspersky interview. Their software is on 400M computers. He denies any involvement with Russian govt. His software is even on US govt computers. So far, there are only suspicions about connections with FSB. The Dept of Defense is being discouraged from using the product. Eugene attended a KGB-run school. Then he was in military intelligence. Then into business. Now he is a billionaire. He says he gets zero help from Russian govt. He’s not a typical oligarch. In 2014, in VA, Kaspersky was celebrating the opening of a subsidiary to drum up business with the US govt. Michael Flynn was a paid speaker.
A hacker sanctioned for hacking the DNC was a fmr Kaspersky employee. A current employee, a fmr intelligence officer, was recently arrested in Russia on suspicion of being a double agent.
Carter Page was caught turning over documents to Russians. He always thought that we should try to get along better with Russia. He is an investment banker, worked for Gasprom. He claims no contact with the FSB. But according to fmr CIA officer Daniel Hoffman, Page was on the radar. Page came to NY, moved into the building next to Trump Tower. He was approached by a man who said he was an attaché at the UN. He told his handlers in Russia that Page was “hooked” on Gasprom and was greedy. Page said that he gave the guy some public research reports about energy markets. Hoffman:  The trick is to get the person comfortable with offering information, even if it isn’t protected. The good stuff comes later. The attaché was a spy, He and two others were busted by the FBI. Page was interviewed, but not charged.
Suddenly in March, 2016, he was on Trump’s campaign team as an advisor. Then in July, he was invited to have a discussion with Kislyak at the Republican Convention. And that is when the RNC platform changed in favor of Russian interests. Page told Richard Engel that Kislyak did nothing to influence the election. Hoffman:  The point of the meeting was not content, but contamination. Page also made a trip to Moscow that was private and unrelated to the campaign. Journalists kept sniffing, so the campaign cut him loose. The stories just keep coming. If Hoffman can find the bread crumbs, then they were deliberately placed.
Hoffman: Putin is not our friend. He wants to interfere with our governing ability and he wants to promote Russia as a global power. Hoffman thinks Putin deliberately set DJT up by Russia for failure. Putin would not allow so many valuable assets to be in one meeting. The names leaked out one by one—bread crumbs deliberately leading back to the Kremlin. A “poison pill” was offered to Don Jr, which he leaped at. “Free cheese can only be found in a mouse trap.” “Useful idiots will do their bidding.” Putin then counted on the free press here to finish them off. Drive a wedge between elements of our government.
Engle:  “Does President Trump fit that category?”
Hoffman:  A wry nod. “No comment.”
Are the Russians “rolling up” their own people? On inauguration night, even Russians were surprised. Andre Soldatov, investigative reporter, author, “The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries”:  Soldatov thinks that since the election, Russia is trying to clean up any possible leaks. They are arresting people who knew anything. The first was arrested at the airport as he was about to leave the country. Next was a Colonel, a handler of Russian internet. Then that guy’s deputy, a fmr hacker turned spy. Engel tracked down an attorney of one of the men, but he wasn’t allowed to say who his client was. Couldn’t say much about anything because it was too dangerous. He warned Engel that even he could be in danger as well for asking too many questions. A 4th joined the 3 in prison. The men deny the treason charges. They say they were arrested for what they know.
A Russian Senator was angry about the new sanctions bill. The sanctions are “illegal.” We have no right to punish anyone. Russia as a state did not interfere with the election. He sees Trump as a victim.
Engel spoke to two CIA officials who know Russia. They think the ultimate goal was chaos. Smoke is dangerous enough, even without fire.
Word is that Trump will sign the sanctions bill.

While Ted and I were in the car listening to NPR , I was scanning Twitter and other news sources on my phone. I ran across a story that talked about Don Jr’s old pal who ran a prostitution ring off a yacht that was previously owned by the Prime Minister of Turkey. Ted immediately connected that story with Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts. Trump told a story about a man who went into business and got very rich and bought a yacht. Then he said, and I’m paraphrasing, I won’t tell you what they did after that. You’re Boy Scouts. You know life. Shall I tell you? Nah, you know life. Trump didn’t say what the moral of the story was. He didn’t say why he told it. He just went on to a new topic. Ted thinks that the rich man was Don’s old friend and partner. What a scurvy thing to do to the Boy Scouts. If so, it’s like a sick private joke. I don’t know of anyone else who caught that.

MSNBC Journal, July 27

Thurs July 27
The revolt is on.
First, in the WH there is a huge battle between Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and new Communications Chief Antony Scaramucci. He accused Priebus of leaking something that he didn’t leak because it was public info. He called the FBI and the DOJ to start an investigation, something totally inappropriate.
Scaramucci had a dinner with the president and some other interesting people and that got leaked to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker. Scaramucci was furious. He called Lizza to find out who the source was and shocked our jaded world by unleashing a long, profanity-laced rant against WH leakers and specifically Priebus. He called him a “f***ing paranoid schizophrenic.” He insulted everyone on staff. He said that there are people in the administration who feel that their job is to protect America from this president. He threatened to fire them all, suggested that they are all stinky fish except he himself and Trump. He insulted Bannon in the crudest language possible. WH staff members are turning on each other. People are saying that Sean Spicer was totally right in resigning due to the hire of Scaramucci.
The military is revolting. It turns out that a female Representative from MO lobbied the president to withhold US treasury money from transgenders wanting the military to pay for their operations. Trump issued a tweet, saying that he had consulted his Generals, which wasn’t true, and banning all transgenders from serving in the military. The Pentagon and everyone else were shocked. The thousands of trans people who are already serving in the military were stunned. The military is not rolling over on this. If Trump insists, he will have to send an order to the Chief of the DOD, and then they would work on how and when to implement. Meanwhile, “all service members will be treated with respect.” Only the Evangelicals think this is cool and that God is using “our President” to relieve America of a great sin. Most people are horrified.
The congress is revolting. Sen Lindsey Graham made the statement that if Trump fires Sessions there will be holy hell to pay and if he tries to fire Mueller, it will be the beginning of the end of his presidency. He is openly threatening impeachment. Congress people are lining up to endorse Sessions, even ones who were not fans in the past. Graham said that Trump is trying to turn our Democracy on its head. He is introducing a bill to make it impossible for a president to fire a special counsel without judicial review.
The Congress is also having their third vote on a health care bill. It doesn’t seem like it will pass. Bernie Sanders says that the libertarian Koch brothers are telling members of Congress how to vote and what to do. They hold the purse strings of billions of dollars in donations. The want private health care, all regulations rolled back, taxes cut, protections for the middle class curtailed.
Congress also has stated that if Trump thinks he has a recess appointment coming up, he can forget it. First, Congress will forego a recess to block it. That includes Repbubs. They also say that they would not confirm anyone under those circumstances.
Ryan Zinke, Sec of Interior, called Murkowski of Alaska and tried to blackmail her into voting for a health care bill by threatening to withdraw federal perks. That is going to bring him more trouble than he can bring her. Murkowski isn’t buckling. Now she’s pissed.
The Boy Scouts of America revolted. They put out an apology today. Tillerson is a past president of that organization.

She reminded us of one of Trump’s fmr attorneys, Michael Cohen, who threatened a reporter in much the same way. Kasowitz did the same to someone who emailed him. Marc Kasowitz is now no longer around. His replacement, John Dowd, is made of the same stuff. None of this is any surprise. She put the list up again of fired senior officials. Priebus may be next unless he is so pissed that he refuses to leave. People are wondering if Trump likes all this chaos and humiliation of staff and cabinet members.
Gen James Mattis was on vacation when Trump’s tweet came out about the transgenders. He has not commented yet.
When Comey had the conversation alone with Trump, he immediately informed some of his colleagues at the FBI. There were 5 that he told. McCabe was one, and now Trump is tweeting against him, suggesting that Sessions should have replaced him, that he never should have been hired as the acting FBI director, accusing him of corruption. Tonight, a conservative news outlet owned by Sinclair (Circa) is reporting that FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, “is purportedly under a Department of Justice criminal investigation.” He leaked national security information. No one would confirm any of this. Sessions recently made an announcement about leaks in the department, so maybe he is about to “expose” Baker as a leaker. Three are now being threatened, disparaged, or smeared.
Rachel mentioned Grassley’s statements about how the whole Russia investigation is suspect because it’s based on the Steele dossier, and that it might all be a Russian plot to fake a plot. So RW media is jumping on the new counter narrative. CNBC:  Twenty House Republicans call for a second special counsel – to investigate Clinton, Comey, and Lynch, in a letter sent to DOJ tonight. There are fourteen items they want investigated. These letter signers are all on the House Judiciary Committee. This committee has done nothing to investigate the Russia situation.
Tim Weiner, author, “Enemies: A History of the FBI.” He says the FBI can take care of themselves. Firing Mueller would be a constitutional crisis that Trump could provoke with 2 or 3 tweets, like Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre and Hitler’s Reichstag Fire. Only Rosenstein can fire Mueller for impropriety. Weiner talks about what it would take. But then the FBI would take over the investigation, so it wouldn’t stop. The president would have to say no more rules. I’m the law. Trump doesn’t understand the role of the FBI. The director does NOT answer to the president. Firing Mueller would be a second obstruction of justice.
Sen Cory Gardner, R-CO has not been accessible to his constituents at all about the ACA, so they came up with a cardboard cutout to stand in his place.
Four Senators have said that the “skinny bill” is a fraud and they will only vote for it if there is a guarantee that it will not become law as is.
Graham: “It’s a pig in a poke.” It will be an all-nighter. Some want a guarantee that the bill will go to “conference” so they can change it because they hate it the way it is. Sen Al Franken, D-Minn doesn’t think Ryan has the votes to make it happen.
Rachel visited Bridgegate again. It was a case of political revenge. 3 of his staffers got convicted on federal corruption charges. There was one who did not get charged, Bill Stepien. He is now in the WH as Natl Political Director. Christie fired him over Bridgegate.

Interior Sec Ryan Zinke called both Murkowski and Sullivan of Alaska about punishment for AK if she doesn’t change her vote. This is the same kind of abuse that caused Bridgegate. This is Bridgegate North. And of course, Christie’s personal attorney in Bridgegate is about to become the FBI Director. 

MSNBC Journal, July 25, 26

Tuesday July 25
Yesterday, Trump spoke to a huge audience of Boy Scouts. It’s a traditional thing, non-partisan. All presidents do it. Obama usually Skyped his, although he himself was a Boy Scout. The scout leaders wanted respect, no partisan cheers or boos or chants, but Trump got them booing Hillary and Obama. His speech was about politics, about himself, and was a complete train wreck. It embarrassed the Scouts, and they added a statement on their website assuring people that they are an independent, non-partisan organization. Many parents were outraged. Many former scouts were as well. It was a horrible example of modeling for our youth.
One of the more egregious things Trump did in his speech was introduce Tom Price, the Health Secretary, to the youth. Then he publically threatened him in his sideways way that if he can’t get help to get a health bill passed, he is toast. He did that in front of thousands of children. He also talked about the loyalty issue, that there needs to be more of it. His attorneys can’t seem to convince him that the FBI Dir and the DOJ Dir do NOT report to the president. They are not there to protect him.

Trump still swiping openly at Sessions today. Says he is disappointed in the Attorney General. Notice he doesn’t use his name. Just his title. He is still blaming him for not going after Hillary, for not looking for leakers, and for recusing himself, which every attorney on the planet says he should have done. It’s clear that Trump wants him to resign, and he is clearly not intending to. And frankly, even those who have lost all respect for him don’t want him to.
Manafort spoke in private with one investigative committee today about the Trump Tower meeting on June 9. In that meeting he shared his notes that he took on the meeting with the Russians. The Senate Judiary Committee had issued a subpoena last night, but it was rescinded today, and his formal testimony was delayed. Neither he nor Don Jr will be testifying publically on TV on Wednesday. The subpoena was rescinded just before Rachel’s show went on.
The big story of the day is the GOP effort to just repeal the ACA. All of the Repubs but two (two women, Murkowski and Collins) voted to proceed to the debate. The vote will be in a week. One expert on All In said that when he talked to GOPers, they said that their donors are telling them that if they don’t help Trump to repeal the ACA and to get that tax cut through, they will stop donating.
McCain came to DC just to do a few chores before going home for treatment for brain cancer. One was to vote to proceed to debate (PTD) so that once they did, he could stand up and chew them all out. 90 protesters were arrested today. Twenty hours of debate are ahead on a bill about which no one has any idea what’s in it. Voting on part of it will begin tonight. Amendments can be added. Sen Chris Murphy, D-CT, is preparing about 100 amendments. Rachel said it’s the first time she spoke to him where he had not had a chance to shave. He says he is scared about what could happen. His constituents are scared. Many GOPers will vote as they are told, no matter what. If this bill fails to work if passed as is, GOPers will own it.
Walter Nixon, a judge in the 80’s, got roped into an illegal business deal. The son of the person that lured him in got caught with a plane load of marijuana. The dad called up the judge and asked for help. Judge Nixon got the case against the son shelved, so there was a push to get him impeached. This Nixon did get impeached, and got 5 years in prison. The vote was 417-0 in the House and 89 to 8 in the Senate. They voted in Senate to remove him from the bench. He repeatedly lied. Had the judge not helped, the family could have exposed him and taken him down, so he was not in a position to say no. He was “compromised.” Congress used to be concerned about things like that.
She compared that to Flynn. Trump didn’t care for weeks. Sessions is also in a bad position. Kushner didn’t disclose. He stood by when others that claimed that no campaign members had met with Russians. None of them have expressed alarm about Russia affecting our election process. They could all be compromised. GOP reaction…no problem.
Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass:  Is this who we are? It’s about our values. The early bill was designed to be tax breaks for millionaires and corporations.
The first vote tonight will require 60 votes. That won’t happen.
Sen Eric Swalwell, D-CA:  He was there today when JK testified under oath behind closed doors. He did say that Oct 30, 2016 he got an email that was probably a scam that wanted money to not release information about Dad’s tax returns [Trump’s?]. He took that to the Secret Service. The Trumps were obviously willing to receive Russian help. Trump, he has gone from no contacts to so what?

Weds July 26
USA Today reported on Dmytro Firtash, the guy that Manafort tried to do a deal with. Officials say he is a major Russian mob player and money launderer. Manafort dismisses his relationship with Firtash, saying that the deal they attempted fell through.
In the news today, Trump tweeted today that transgenders may not be allowed to serve in the military due to the cost of reassignment of gender and disruption. But no one was complaining about them or the cost, which is relatively minimal (less than Trump’s visits to Maralago), and many have served honorably. Trump didn’t confer with the military about this. Some learned while on vacation. Pundits say that this is a distraction.
Trump keeps swiping at Sessions in tweets. Now it’s why didn’t he replace Andrew McCabe? Conservatives are standing behind him. Staff members are telling Trump to back off. Pundits say that Trump can’t fire him because the purpose of it is to put in a recess pick for Atty Gen that Trump can pick for loyalty. That person can fire Mueller. If T fires Sessions and does what comes next, that puts him in legal jeopardy of obstruction of justice. So he is trying to torture him into resigning. Even GOPer congress and RW media are supporting Sessions. Only one person wants him to resign. Sessions is pissed and is standing firm.
North Korea is getting scarier by the day. Rumors persist that Tillerson is struggling to deal with Trump undercutting him.

July 19, NYT published an article headline: “Manafort Was in Debt to Pro-Russia Interests, Cyprus Records Show.” Manafort wanted a retraction, but NYT said no. Records showed that just before Manafort joined the campaign, his business entities were in debt by as much as $17M to entities tied to Ivan Fursin and Oleg V. Deripaska, two Russian oligarchs. Deripaska is the aluminum oligarch who signed a $10M deal with Manafort to promote Putin’s interests around the world. Fursin was a partner of Dmytri Firtash, who worked with Fursin to launder money that came through Gasprom.
The dismissed lawsuit in NY was about a plan to tear down the Drake Hotel in NYC, an $850M deal. Firtash, Manafort and Brad Zackson, a guy who used to work for Trump’s father were involved in a plan to redo the hotel, but as of Dec 2015, months before Manafort joined the campaign, his business owed around $9.9M. Now, Firtash has been popping up in the news because the US wants to extradite him from ? due to other complex corrupt practices. He was trying to pay bribes in the US. DOJ says Firtash is a top-tier comrade of Russian mobsters. They want to prosecute him. This should be troubling news for the WH. How did Manafort get to be Trump campaign chair?
Firtash has hired some fabulous attorneys. He will be prosecuted by the DOJ Criminal Justice Dept. That dept is now being run by a man that Trump picked, Brian Benczkowski the guy who assured us that nothing illegal went on between the Trump server and Alfa Bank. We know that Alfa Bank has ties to Putin. He started working for Alfa Bank this year. He went from Trump transition to AB and from there to the DOJ. He will recuse himself from any matters about AB, but won’t say if he will recuse from the Russia investigation.
Ivanka has just hired a top-tiered attorney.
Don Jr has been told to retain any documents associated with AB.
Rachel showed a list of 10 major employees of the administration that have either been fired or have resigned in frustration, and Trump is threatening 3 more. Now Priebus is fighting to keep his job by promising that he can raise money from RNC donors to a legal defense fund.
If Trump fires Sessons, his far right base will be angry. So he just humiliates him.
The “snap decision” to ban transgender troops is to mollify some of Trump’s base. Those 15,000 troops are shocked and hurt. Some are serving in war zones. What Trump said during the campaign was totally the opposite. [The Evangelicals will be delighted. It will trash more lives, but it gets him kudos from that section of his base.]
It took Obama 2 years to sign off on “don’t ask don’t tell.” He consulted with the military leaders. Last year, they allowed trans troops and all LGBT. Now with no warning and no preparation, that policy is now in chaos.
Trump could order a policy change, but this isn’t the route to getting it done. No one in troops or military leadership knew this was coming. These troops are accepted now, even by leaders. Some are commanders, pilots, doctors, marines, submariners, etc working openly as trans. Some are in training.
Shane Ortega:  A trans. This guy looks and sounds totally male. He served two terms in Iraq, was a marine and was in the Army. [Here we have another group of people in addition to DACA dreamers and illegal aliens who have finally found acceptance are now in panic mode.] This would have to come down from DOD. You can’t just issue an idle threat by tweet. Shane wasn’t surprised. He actually predicted something like this.
Senate Dems want to block the Senate from going into recess. Chuck Grassley of the Judiciary Committee says that their agenda is set for the rest of 2017. They are confirming employees that will be judges and sub-cabinet members, but they have no desire to see Sessions go. Even if Sessions is fired, they would not consider confirming a nomination for the rest of this year.

There will be one more try to kill the ACA. 10 Governors have written Congress asking not to bring this to vote. Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, on the Judiary Committee:  The new version is the “skinny plan.” It’s just a skin and bones plan. CBO:  This plan will throw 16M people off their insurance, and chaos in the insurance business. There are people who have plans to fix health insurance and are willing to work together, but McConnell isn’t interested in that. 

MSNBC Journal, July 24

Monday July 24
Rachel makes the point that we should all be concerned about the Congress going on vacation in August. They are delaying their recess to vote on a bill tomorrow that, once again, no one has seen. There is tremendous pressure on hold outs like Sens Susan Collins and Dean Heller. Today, Trump took another swipe at Jeff Sessions. First, several days ago he blamed him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, even though everyone who knows anything about how justice works says it was the right thing to do. Today, he is swiping at him for not raising a case against Hillary Clinton, which would be a totally partisan and wrong thing to do. But rumors are flying that WH staff is looking at potential replacement. Sessions doesn’t want to resign, but if Congress goes on recess, Trump could make a recess replacement who would stay until 2019! It wouldn’t need congressional approval. He could put in a loyalist who could fire Mueller.
Some Repubs say that there would be a backlash, but with this congress, who knows? McConnell, Ryan, and other loyalists would certainly support whatever Trump wants to do as long as they get their tax cut.
It was also a day of denial for Jared K who spoke to the House Intel Committee in closed door session, but not under oath. Tomorrow he will talk with another committee, also not under oath. He admitted 4 meetings with Russians: two with Kislyak, one with Gorka of the Russian-connected bank. One was with Don Jr and the Russian atty meeting on June 9. Jared failed to disclose all of these until he was forced to. He made excuses to show how benign it all was, and in fact, with no wire tap and confession from the other participant, there is no way to ever dispute what he says went on.
New topic. This is huge: In Oct 2016, there was a small stir about communications between the Trump campaign and a Russian bank called Alpha Bank. Their servers connected in a mysterious way. Campaign and bank both denied any nefarious reason for the connection. Tomorrow in the Senate, Trump’s nominee for the DOJ Criminal Division, Brian Benczkowski, [what a Scrabble word that would be!] is up for confirmation. NYT reports that he used to work for Alpha Bank. In fact, he supervised a review of the two servers and released his report that there was nothing nefarious going on. The Russian bank was his client. This position in DOJ is a “big hairy deal.” Mueller once held it. GOP response…no problem.
Chris Wray was confirmed in committee the day after his testimony. [He did in fact state in his interview before the committee that his loyalty would be to the constitution, not to the president. We’ll see.] A radio station, WNYC, Matt Katz reports that Wray’s last big gig was the Bridgegate with Chris Christie. He represented Christie as early as 2014 at the expense of taxpayers of NJ. That fact that he was representing Christie was not disclosed until he had been on the job for 11 months because he didn’t send any bills in. All the while Christie was gearing up for his presidential campaign and didn’t have to answer about these legal fees because no one knew it was happening. Millions of legal bills. Even after the trial was over, Wray kept representing him, again at tax payers’ expense. It was Christie who recommended Wray to Trump as a possible FBI director. NO WONDER HE THINKS WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A FINE NEW DIRECTOR. He already knows what this guy is like. If he’s loyal to nasty Christie, he’ll be loyal to Trump.
Katz:  No one ever heard of 11 months lag time. He didn’t send the bills into the treasury, but he was billing. From Sept to Christmas 2014, Wray and his colleagues were working through weekends, really hard. Wray held Christie’s phone. Christie’s aides, who got convicted for Bridgegate, sought that phone. The judge quashed that request. That became an issue in the summer of 2016 right before the trial, after Christie’s campaign flamed out. That was the first time that anyone knew of Wray’s defense of Christie because there was so little on the record. It was the responsibility of the legal firm billing all this money to disclose a signed agreement showing that Wray was part of his defense team. But that agreement and the bills didn’t show up until the summer of 2016. So that was 3 unethical things that Wray did to protect Christie.
April 2016, Mayflower Hotel, while his candidate father-in-law was making a speech, Jared K met with another Russian official that he had never disclosed. He also gave us a third different explanation as to why he met with Sergei Gorkov, the Russian banker, the head of VEB, a man who has close ties to Putin. At the time of disclosure, VEB, said the meeting was because Jared was the head of his father’s real estate firm. WH said, no, he was meeting him as a transition official, a soon-to-be advisor. It was “diplomacy.” It would be illegal for Jared to do business with a bank under US sanction. Today, Jared said it was to be nice to the Russian ambassador but also because there really was a discussion about a secret channel between Kislyak and Flynn. Sen Ron Wyden, D-OR, Sen Intel Comm would not reveal what Jared said behind closed doors, but he did say publically that Kushner’s statement raises far more questions than answers.
Wyden:  He said that Kushner made some careful lawyerly statements, like that he didn’t rely on Russian financing for his business. He didn’t say, “I have no business dealing with the Russians” or “I have never received Russian investments.” The responses were incomplete.
The most recent meeting in June was an attempt to collude. Jared said he didn’t really look at the email so didn’t know what the meeting was about. That is unlikely, given the subject line.
If the Pres fires Bob Mueller without cause it would initiate “a constitutional crisis and all options would be on the table.” He would not rule out impeachment.
The vote on the new health care bill, but still no one knows what they will be voting on. They vote tomorrow to proceed with the debate. Next week some time Sen McConnell will decide what they will debate on. CNN asked John Cornyn what they want in the bill and he said, we aren’t there.
Sen McCain will return tomorrow. He will vote to open debate.
Wyden said he has never heard of voting on something so significant while not knowing what they are voting for. There are Republicans that will vote for it no matter what. They really want a big tax cut and want to roll back Medicaid.
This weekend hundreds of thousands of Poles in cities across Poland came out to protest a new law that is sitting on the desk of the pres of Poland. It would allow the president to fire every single justice on the Supreme Court except those who were hand-picked by his own justice minister. An independent court is a democratic norm no matter what country you are. So Trump is there in Poland during this ongoing attempt to break down Poland’s free democracy and he is attacking our free press and praising the Polish president. In fact, he joked about our press with the Polish president and praised him. But the people have been protesting for over a week because this drift toward authoritarianism is not what they want. IF it passes, it will be the beginning of the end of democracy in Poland and in that whole region. With all those people in the streets, he vetoed the bill. [Trump doesn’t get, or doesn’t care about, any of this.] He did sign a bill allowing them to strip away justices that they don’t like in the lower courts.
In the 2018 mid-term elections, there will be a historic number of Democratic challengers.
People in the WH have told WaPo that Trump really is thinking of firing Sessions to pick an Atty Gen during the recess who will fire Sessions. If he picks him during the recess, there is no need for Senate confirmation. During the Obama admin McConnell would not let the Senate go into recess to keep Obama from making such an appointment.

Jared K has better attorneys than Trump. Abbe Lowell is one of the best. He defended Clinton during impeachment. In a written statement to the committee today, Kushner said            that he could not find a record of the two phone calls with Kislyak that Reuters reported during the campaign. Nor can he remember the meeting. He said he had forgotten about the June 9 meeting when he was filling out his security form, but said it was a complete waste of their time and he texted an aide to call him so he could get out of it. He didn’t mention the explosive title of the emails.
The meeting in Dec 1 in Trump Tower with Flynn and Kislyak wasn’t disclosed. He said he didn’t request a secret back channel, he did not request any ongoing communication. WP reported that he had wanted a secret channel using Russian facilities that would not be penetrated by US surveillance techniques. On Dec 13, he met with Gorkov. There was no discussion about Jared’s businesses. He said that his security clearance was submitted without all these meetings because his assistant submitted it. But, Jared’s signature is required on the last 4 pages of the form. He was hopefully asked about that. You sign where it tells you clearly how you are screwed if you lie on this form. Now his assistant will have to testify about all this. Tomorrow, he will be under oath.
Neera Tanden, fmr senior advisor to Pres Obama, The form tells you clearly that the person it is about is responsible for the information and that it is a crime to misrepresent the information. She doesn’t believe any of Kushner’s explanations. The idea that you would forget things when forgetting could lead you to jail is ridiculous.
Mieke Eoyang, People do make mistakes on forms and sometimes there is a back and forth on some issues like a wrong address. It seems inconceivable that he would forget all that.
Jill Wine-Banks: He added over 100 additional contacts. He is lying.
Joseph Barro, Business Insider:  None of this makes sense yet.
Richard Painter, University of Minnesota Prof of Law, an anti-Trump Republican:  A pres has the power to fire a special prosecutor but he doesn’t have the right to. It would be a betrayal of the Republican Party to the American people just to win an election and cover it up.

No matter what Trump does, Paul Ryan gets in line with it. None of it matters to him. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MSNBC Journal, July 20, 21

Thurs July 20
The new FBI director nominee, Christopher Wray, was confirmed today by the Senate Judiciary Panel.
The spokesperson for Trump’s legal team resigned today, and a new WH communications director has been appointed.
TMS began with a long convoluted revelation of Paul Manafort’s connection to a Russian oligarch. Manafort claimed that he received millions from a pro-Russian group in Ukraine, although that party says that the $17M he allegedly received from them for 2 years of work is more than their whole budget. So he didn’t get it all from them. The Putin government gave the rights to sell gas from Gasprom to an oligarch, Dmitry Firtash. He and a Ukrainian minor partner bought gas cheaply and sold it to Ukraine for a high price and made literally billions. This person then came to the US and found Paul Manafort to help him make investments in NY real estate for Russians so they can transfer money out of Russia and launder it in the US. Then the money went from there to a pro-Russia dictator in Ukraine and to whomever he needed to prop up his rule. The problem is that the Ukrainians got tired of it and revolted, so the dictator is now in Russia. In 2011 a Ukrainian woman brought suit against Manafort and these two partners in what is called a RICO lawsuit, which is usually used to describe mafia deals, but is not limited to that. The lawsuit went nowhere and Manafort claimed that he was innocent, but today it just seems to be part of a greater pattern of behavior.
So Manafort got millions from this Russia-Ukraine connection, and he got big loans from Deutsche Bank. But he also owes millions to Oleg Deripaska, the aluminum oligarch, because they entered a deal to build a building and Manafort just went off with the money and never did anything with the project. Deripaska began pursuing him in the courts for a couple of years, but about the time Manafort became campaign manager for Trump, Deripaska just dropped the whole affair. It was never explained why.
On the topic of Trump’s weird interview with NYT, it’s clear that Mueller and team are on the money trail of all of them, including Trump, Jared, Manafort, and anyone else that pops up in all this mess. [Wilbur Ross wasn’t mentioned, but only because he has been forgotten in the midst of the everyday scandals around Trump and crew.]
Everyone in pundit world was wondering if Sessions would resign. Well, today he said he wasn’t going to. Connect that with today’s news that Trump’s attorneys are talking amongst themselves about whether they can find a conflict of interest in Mueller or any of his spectacular investigative team in order to undermine the Russia investigation. The other issue they are discussing is whether a president can pardon his whole staff and family and even himself. That right there indicates that they KNOW there is criminal liability to be uncovered. But alas, this is hearsay, and has to be a leak.
That leads to speculation that Trump wants Sessions to resign so he can put a loyalist in DOJ who is not recused from the Russia investigation. That new person can then fire Mueller. Trump stated clearly that the FBI Dir should answer to the president, an idea that is totally inaccurate and unconstitutional. Trump’s attorneys should set him straight on that. Half the country has no idea how the checks and balances that protect our democratic way of government work. [I’ve learned a lot about civics through this slow train wreck.]
So even if criminal wrong doing is found on everyone’s part, Trump may pardon everyone, something Richard Nixon refused to do because it was too dishonorable. [Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon.] Trump should then fire them, but he won’t. No one can make him do it. For instance, there are many reasons to fire Jared, who has done nothing but “lie and lie and lie.” He’s been busted for so many of them (perhaps not all). If Jared has committed a crime in not reporting all of his contacts, then so has Ivanka, because the form says, “Have you or any family member…” blah blah. They should both lose their security clearances, but so far, neither one has and the RW isn’t concerned about it. The NYT has now released either all or most of the interview. It sounds like Trump is babbling or like he’s taken an anxiety pill or something. He made some crazy claims.
Mike Beschloss, MSNBC presidential historian said today that Trump’s statement that the FBI Dir should report directly to the president was not only unhistorical and wrong, but “absolutely blood chilling.” Trump said that before Nixon, that’s the way it was, but during Nixon’s administration, out of courtesy, he started reporting to the head of the DOJ. Then Trump added, that we are soon going to have a great new FBI director. Beschloss says that this whole situation is so far out there that Watergate looks like a minor event.
There is one area where Trump is excelling, and if you are a Republican, you have to be happy. He is filling judgeships with young, RW judges who will be in place for decades. So now the Congress, the courts, and the WH can all be Republican.

Friday July 21
All In with Joy Ried
Sean Spicer resigned today. He objected to the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci for WH Communications Director. Sarah Huckaby Sanders will be press secretary. Scaramucci is known to be aggressive and very loyal to DJT. He is not particularly likeable, but Trump wouldn’t care about that. Scaramucci will support all of Trump’s crazy alternative facts. He says that the prez isn’t under investigation, said in June the Russia investigation is a hoax. Thinks there may be something to the millions of illegal voters voting just because “the president” said so.
Today, Scaramucci said that Trump has good karma, “I love the president.” He has said nasty things about Trump in the past, that he’s a hack, divisive, a bully. Now he said 3x that he loves the president. He has the good look that Trump wants.
In 2010 President Obama took a question from Scaramucci, and Obama answered very well.
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times: He’ll have to come up with something else to say about it now because the whole thing has gone way too far to dismiss it as a hoax. You can’t pretend that this is not happening. She makes good points. Says that it doesn’t matter who replaces Sessions because it’s too late to shut this whole thing down. It’s too far in.
Rick Wilson, Repub strategist:  Repubs have abandoned rule of law. All they care about is watching DJT tear things up, so they just accept his heresies. Scaramucci actually believes in gun control and gay marriage. GOPers will put up with whatever keeps the Trump base coming to them. Wilson thinks that this revelation came from the WH to force Sessions out. They are lawless.
Tom Hamburger, WaPo:  Republicans would raise a backlash if a new AG fired Mueller. Too many admire him.
The new problem:  Today info came from somewhere (WaPo) that the intel community has recorded Sessions twice discussing future policy with Sergei Kislyak. He has denied over and over that he had the contacts and said I don’t remember on a number of issues. He certainly denied talking to anyone about campaign issues. So it can’t be verified what he talked about because the intercept was of SK talking to his boss in Russia about what he and Sessions discussed. That’s hearsay and probably another leak without a transcript. We have no transcript yet or official NSA or CIA verification, but if true, the verification and transcript may come out in the future. The issue now is that Sessions lied about contacts under oath more than once. Like all politicians, he’s good at it. Now, he really should resign, and if he doesn’t Trump could certainly fire him.
If a president pardons himself, it would not protect him from impeachment, and it would be an admission of guilt. But also goes against the spirit of the constitution.
Rep Mike McFaul, R-TX:  If Trump fired Mueller, there would be a “tremendous backlash among House Republicans.”
David Jolly, fmr congressman, R-FL:  Disagrees. It would take a certain revelation of criminal behavior. Republican voters will not re-elect their congressmen if they go against Trump. It’s time for the leaders to denounce Trump to change the base. Ryan is not a popular substitute for Trump.
Will Sean now write a tell-all book? Testify?
Charlie Sykes, author, “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”:  He hasn’t seen it yet, especially with McCain gone due to a glioblastoma. As long as base stands for Trump, the congress will not move against him.

We are all so tired!
Communication from the president’s top lawyer. That used to be Marc Kasowitz, but he was demoted or has left the team. Now, it’s John Dowd, a guy with a hot temper. Last night Bloomberg reporter Greg Farrell talked about his article about Mueller expanding the probe into Trump’s business affairs. Before the show was over, NYT and WP were reporting that Trump’s attorneys were looking to undercut Mueller and his team and fire Mueller. They were considering a president’s pardon powers. Trump is irritated, disturbed about Mueller’s ability to dig into his business records. This “has stoked fears among the President’s aides.”
Maddow team noticed a phrase in the Bloomberg article where the attorneys looked up the statute of limitations on certain kinds of crimes. So the TMS called Dowd, who said we have no indication that any of this is under investigation. “I’m beginning to think it’s not true. I’m wondering where the hell that even came from. This is the last call we will ever have.” And then he hung up on them.
Tonight, WSJ reported that the Kushners are revising their financial forms because they left off “dozens more assets.” Walter Schaub warned two nights ago that Trump may do an end run around Shelley Finlayson, who should normally step up and replace him. He said it would be worrisome if that happened. Well, it did. Trump appointed David J. Apol, a more lenient, compliant person. He is the one who signed off on JK’s financial disclosure that got released today. JK was supposed to meet with Intel Committees on Tues and Weds. But that has changed. On Weds, Grassley of the Judiciary Committee will just receive documents from JK and Paul Manafort. Instead he wants to interview the head of the company that produced the Steele dossier. Maddow predicted that the GOPers will go after the investigators to defend DJT. This is the big pushback. They’ll say there is a scandal, but it’s not Trump. It’s the Democrats. The first subpoena for that went out tonight.
Rumors are that Reince Priebus is next, and his assistant has already left and gone back to the RNC.
Rachel:  If Mueller is fired, is there any way that the investigation could carry on?
Bob Bauer, WH counsel under Obama:  Impeachment should be next. He thinks that firing Mueller would trigger counter-reaction. It’s too much like Watergate.
Rachel:  If the president issues a pardon, would he have to tell the American people? Could he already have pardoned someone?
Bauer:  Highly unlikely. It has to be public or it’s useless. Founders meant pardon power to be a tool of accountability. In issuing the pardon, the prez had to convince people that it was issued for good, not for nefarious reasons.
Rachel:  If a pardon is issued to obstruct justice, would it be legal?
Bauer:  No.
Rachel:  Last question. Today Jessie Liu disclosed that she had been nominated for US Atty for the District of Columbia. Apparently Trump met with that woman along with the Judiciary Committee.
Bauer:  Hadn’t heard much about it, but he would find it disturbing. It sounds too cozy. Red flag. But it’s “one of a piece with other similar behaviors.”
New question:  If Trump committed business crimes, and if they were in fact beyond the statute of limitations, are they then beyond the bounds of the special counsel?
Walter Dellinger, fmr DOJ Office of Legal Council Director, acting Solicitor General under Clinton: But Congress could still impeach. Plus any links between crimes and relationships are still viable for investigation.
Rachel:  Are any of the things that Trump’s attys have raised legitimate?
Dellinger:  No. Mueller is a life-long Republican. “The idea that Robt Mueller would risk his reputation due to a 6-year old fee dispute at a golf club is beyond absurd.” Also, Trump cannot require that only Trump supporters investigate him.
When Schaub left his job, he said that when the laws we have today were written, they couldn’t have anticipated “the flagrant, willful violations of ethics norms that the new administration is demonstrating.” The old rules were premised on the norm that when you get exposed, you will be embarrassed and resign. Rachel revisited the fact that Shelley Finlayson is not the new director. They are looking for a better deal. They found Apol.
Kushner disclosed over 70 new assets and millions of dollars that he didn’t disclose before on his amended form. Apol signed off on this new form yesterday. But it didn’t hit the news until Friday night, after the close of business. That timing is unusual. Those normally get released the same day they are signed.
Ari Melber on Last Word:  If there was no collusion, how could Trump fire Sessions over an innocent conversation with Kislyak?
Max Boot, fmr Defense Policy Advisor:  Meetings have to be seen in context, such as Trump’s meeting with Putin at G20. Shortly thereafter, the US announced it would stop lending aid to Syrian rebels, something Russia has been wanting, since they support Assad. There’s a new connection every day. Benign explanations are not credible.
These guys think the WH leaked the report tonight to stick it to Jeff Sessions. It makes Session’s statement of how innocent he is “a detestible lie.” His outrage that anyone would think that he would do anything to hurt this country that he has served with honor for 35 years, looks pathetic.
John McLaughlin, fmr CIA Acting Director:  This is probably sensitive information that a select few people would have received. The CIA or whoever might want to stop the leak would check the list of who knew and would be calling everyone with questions. McLaughlin would want to see it. He knew Kislyak and knew that he could embellish to Americans but probably not to his superiors. An outside possibility is that the Russians let the conversation be overheard to sow chaos.
Melber, we don’t have the intercept.

The NBC News with Lester Holt:  Sarah H Sanders promises to fulfill her new role as Press Secretary with “transparency and integrity.” [LOL]
A half dozen staffers are out as of tonight. Reince next?
Trump’s legal team said that the allegations that they want to undermine the investigation ridiculous and untrue.
Monday JK talked to Capitol Hill investigators in closed doors.
One of Kushner’s jobs in the administration is to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. The administration’s full support of Israel with no understanding of the issues that cause tension may have helped to unleash a complete break in relations between Israel and Gaza. There are riots there tonight. I read recently that Israel recently cut more electricity to Gaza. They now have about 4 hours a day’s worth. [Honestly, I don’t know what is going on there, but neither does the Trump administration.]

PBS News Hour:  The analysis of Trump and his administration by Shields and Brooks was just pure genius and so well stated, but I’m too tired to take notes on it. Whole libraries will be devoted to this battle in our politics. Classes will be taught just on this because of the psychology involved at every level. 

MSNBC Journal, July 18, 19

July 18
Topic 1:  Trump and Putin held a second, undisclosed meeting at the G20, although it wasn’t secret. It was a pull-aside away from everyone with only Putin’s translator present. After the 2 hour plus meeting with Putin earlier, it was Russia that told some of what happened in that meeting. The US said nothing. So one diplomat said that the US ceded to Russia the narrative about what happened there. But at that late meeting at a dinner with Putin, no one will ever know what happened or what was discussed. This is a breach of national security protocol. Then the WH didn’t tell anyone that it happened. Once it got out, the WH lied and said it was just a short meeting. The two bros were at the table, but out of ear shot. The conversation was friendly and animated. Nixon used to do this kind of thing.
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group:  He’s the one who broke the story. He doesn’t want to specify who told him because it was a lot of people. This kind of behavior freaks out our allies. [The “no readout” is the kind of thing an authoritarian leader likes.]
IBC, International Business Creations:  You pay and they create a business for you. You can get a bank account for more money. They created around 2,000 of them, mostly for brokers in Moscow who make requests for the formation of corporations in Delaware, US. Irakly (Ike) Kavaladze, the president of IBC told the GAO that the bank accounts were formed to move money out of Russia. This is money laundering. He told the banks that he knew who these people were but he told the investigators that he didn’t know them. He used Citibank to help 50 different Russian non-resident aliens who used the address of IBC. Ultimately Citibank closed all those accounts. The Commercial Bank of San Francisco shut down the accounts and their whole international banking department. Then they quickly got sold off.
The title of the report was “Suspicious Banking Activities: Possible Money Laundering by US Corporations Formed for Russian Entities.” Banks have to report it this illegal activity. One way to know is “know your customer protocols.” Because the banks didn’t do that, they laundered $1.4B in the 90’s. The report came out in Oct 2000. A year later the US decided to change the rules so that the reporting policy was mandatory.
The guy who was head of the IBC company was the 8th person at the meeting in Trump Tower! There was the attorney, Natalia; a Russian translator named Anatoli Samochornov; there was Rinat Akhmetshin who used to be the counter-intelligence guy who was recently named in a lawsuit about predatory hacking of a Russian mining corporation; Ike Kaveladze; and apparently Rob Goldstone was also there. We got Ike’s name today. But Robt Mueller knew because this weekend he contacted someone’s attorney named Balber to see if Kaveladze would agree to testify. He asked for him by name. Knew before the intel committees.

Weds July 19
All In (with Joy Reid)
Michael Schmidt, NYT, Trump was heard on audio in an interview:  If Sessions had recused himself before being appointed as Attorney Gen, he never would have been appointed. Trump said it was so unfair. He sounded like he was betrayed. He has no clue how these things work. The only way to interpret that anger is that he wanted Sessions to be there to watch his back.
Also, he threatened that there was a red line if Robt Mueller were to look at family finances apart from Russia. He didn’t say what he would do. He said he is not under investigation and has no financial ties to Russian money and hasn’t done anything wrong. Maybe someone bought a condo from him. That of course is demonstrously not true. He is deeply involved with Russians and real estate. Real estate is often used to launder money.
When Comey told Trump about the Russian dossier, Trump thought that he was trying to get leverage over him.
It was revealed today that Paul Manafort is over $17M in hock to Russian oligarchs. That puts him in a vulnerable position.
Russian organized crime now is into hacking and cyber crime.
Video:  Trump dinner where he was pushing his agenda, which includes letting Obamacare fail. Sen Dean Heller, R-AZ, one of the resisters, was sitting next to Trump at the dinner. Trump threatened Heller, to the effect that if he doesn’t go along, they will undercut his position as Senator. If he wants to stay a Senator, he will go along. At first Heller thought a joke was being made and he and everyone laughed. But by the time Trump was done, Heller’s smile left his face. [I saw him do the same thing to Nikki Haley shortly after her confirmation. With her, we don’t know what the issue was, but it was the same kind of threat. He’s smiling like it’s a joke, but he’s dead serious and everyone knows it.]
David Kay Johnson, author “The Making of Donald Trump”:  Now Deutsche Bank is being investigated. They’ve already been fined $650M for money laundering for the Russians. They are one of the biggest promoters of tax shelters. They are the only major bank that would loan money directly to DJT. So Trump is telling Mueller to not look into these issues.  Deutsche Bank is “key to Trump’s finances.” The person to watch now is Jared Kushner. He will have some choices to make. Paul Manafort and Flynn are vulnerable to leverage.

Jeff Sessions watch:  he may resign? Trump also hired Jeff’s whole staff. Sessions took on Trump’s extreme policies. Besides this betrayal, he accused Sessions of lying to the Senate about his own undisclosed contacts with Sergei Kislyak. “He gave some bad answers.” Sessions hasn’t commented yet.
In the interview with NYT, Trump said that Mueller has conflicts of interest that he knows about and will reveal soon. [This is a Trump pattern. I know things that I will reveal soon, and then he doesn’t because there is nothing there but a slur and slander.] He ripped Andrew McCabe. Insulted the Deputy Atty Gen, Rod Rosenstein, who is now overseeing the Russian investigation. And of course, he angrily ripped Jeff Sessions, saying that if he had known that he would recuse himself, he wouldn’t have appointed him. There is no transcript of the interview yet.
NYT said that Trump was irritated to discover that Rosenstein was from Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.” Is he suggesting that coming from a liberal place, Rosenstein might not be able to do his job fairly? He also nailed McCabe, but Rachel wants to get the whole transcript before she comments.
As soon as this interview was posted, the Times also published their story about Deutsche Bank. They loaned Trump a huge amount of money. Banking regulators are looking into those loans, and Deutsche Bank will cooperate. So, NYT probably asked that question in the interview, knowing that this investigation will look into Trump’s finances. Rachel takes this as a threat that Trump may fire Mueller.
Breaking: NYT released more from the interview:  Trump babbles about Nixon, which is hard to understand what he is saying, but one thing was clear. He thinks that the Dir of the FBI answers to the president, and he said “You know, this is interesting, and I think we’re going to have a great new FBI director,” suggesting that the new FBI Dir will not answer to DOJ but will report directly to Trump. Of course, in the confirmation hearing, the new candidate was asked who he would be loyal to, and he answered “to the Constitution.”
Matthew Miller, fmr Justice Dept spokesperson:  It sounds troubling. Trump got Watergate wrong. After Watergate, new rules were put in place that the FBI director would not contact the president about ongoing investigations and the prez would not contact them to interfere. [Trump’s statement seems to me to be a threat, a typical Trump sideways threat to the guy up for confirmation now, that if he doesn’t express loyalty to Trump above all, he will be history.] Sessions and Rosenstein swore an oath to the constitution. When Trump fired Comey, Trump crossed a red line. Sessions and Rosenstein failed the test to keep that vow of loyalty to the constitution.
Miller wrote an article recently, predicting that something like this would happen.
Rachel:  When DJT met with Lavrov and Kislyak in the oval office, he gave them super sensitive information, the way we found out that he did that is because there was a note taker in that meeting. Those notes circulated around the WH, and someone (a source there) became sufficiently alarmed that it got leaked to the press. Once it was known by intel, they had to protect the source. But when prez met with Putin at the G20, there was no note taker or US translator. Tonight, Trump said that the meeting was maybe 15 minutes and we talked about “pleasantries” and “adoption,” meaning sanctions. Magnitsky Act.
Rep Adam Schiff, D-CA, House Intelligence Committee:  That is bad practice for any president. It’s all the more dangerous with Trump because he doesn’t have discipline in what he says.
Rachel:  Asked about committee schedules. It looks like things in the House investigation is stalled. He said no. They are planning to do things right, coordinating with Mueller and the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee. We’re just less public about what we are doing than the Senate. They will bring in lots of people.
Interview, Walter Schaub, first day off job as Office of Government Ethics: He quit in frustration. Trump’s statements are “outrageous.” Schaub told Sessions he had to recuse if certain circumstances applied. They did and he did. DOJ has an excellent ethics office of their own. The breaches began with Trump not separating himself from his financial interests, and comes down to where we are today, which is totally unethical. Schaub shredded Trump’s statements. The fact that Mueller was originally considered for the FBI dir does not make for a conflict of interest. Rosenstein should not have to recuse from anything, but the memorandum Rosenstein wrote is concerning.
As for Schaub’s resignation, he is confident that the person it should default to, a woman named Shelley Finlayson, will do a good job in his place. But, if Trump were to reach down into the office and appoint someone else other than the person it should go to, everyone should be asking why. That would be troubling. Is he looking for another loyalist. [Trump did go around Finlayson. No one asked why.]

Last Word
I figured O’Donnell would have something juicy to say tonight. The NYT keeps dribbling out quotes from the interview. About the night when Trump wanted to talk to Comey and asked everyone to leave the room: “I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff. He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, OK?” Trump says Comey is lying about the Jan dinner.
O’Donnell is wondering what Sessions will say when asked under oath whether he, Kushner, and Pence were asked to leave the room when Trump wanted to talk to Comey alone.
Jill Wine-Banks, prosecutor in the Nixon debacle:  Nixon also told people to say “I don’t remember.” That is perjury if you deliberately use that as an excuse.”
Trump is at war with everyone in Justice. He seems to be throwing Sessions under the bus. Wants him to resign.
Mieke Eoyang, atty:  What kind of leadership is this? He should just talk to Sessions first. [But this is similar to how Comey found out he was fired.

O’Donnell:  Rephrasing Trump:  “If I had known that Jeff Sessions was going to do the right thing, I would have known that he was not the man for me.”

MSNBC Journal, July 14, 17

Friday July 14
All In
Video was shown of Junior telling Fox News that the whole revelation about the meeting was out. Five attended. [12-13:  Lie. It was 8. Five were Russians. The kid is just like his dad.] He said he wanted to get the message out to stop the drip drip drip. Nothing to be seen here. Trump, as we recall, praised his good son for his “transparency.” [Oh, you lefties. You just want to persecute these wonderful people. When will it stop?]
But then, today AP reporters Desmond Butler and Chad Day revealed that there was a 6th person and maybe another. The 6th person, Russian-born Rinat Akhmetshin, who is an American citizen, admitted being there, and also mentioned that Natalia left a plastic folder with information about the flow of illicit funds to the DNC with the Trump crew. This man was a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch who wanted the sanctions lifted against the oligarchs for laundering money and for human rights abuses. He’s known around town. He worked with Natalia before. They had lunch before the meeting. Then she invited him in. He says that he had 2 years of military service. He worked in the Baltics with a police unit that did counter-intelligence work. He said the documents left by Natalia in some way detail funds from Russia to the DNC. Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider says he is a major operator. Today it was confirmed that Goldstone meant Yuri Chaika for sure when he mentioned the Russian prosecutor. He and Natalia have been working together daily undermine William Browder, client of his attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who died mysteriously in prison in Russia after he uncovered a huge money laundering scheme. Browder was a driver behind the Magnitsky Act. Putin called the act outrageous, so he banned Americans from adopting Russian children.
Makes it clear that they gave the dirt out, although a plastic folder couldn’t hold a lot of “dirt,” and they wanted the sanctions lifted when he is elected president. It’s a quid pro quo.
Junior on Fox downplayed the family relationship with the Agalarovs. Agalarovs say it different, and so do public photos. The Agalarovs bring together two oligarchies that are fully corrupt. Aras built a mall in Russia. When Emin was here, he wanted publicity. He’s a good singer. New Yorker reporter Adam Davidson interviewed Emin here, pretending to be a music journalist. Emin raved about his relationship with Senior and family. They are part of the Trump and Putin orbit. Senior in 2012 and 2013 was desperate for funds.
When Pence was Gov of Indiana, he expanded Medicaid. [Medicaid is the largest insurer of Americans in the US.] Now Pence constantly lobbies against the ACA. He wants the horrid bill of today to be passed. John Kasich said today he would vote against it, and that sinks the bill. He’s number 3 against it for sure. The CBO weighs in on Monday.
The now famous video of Junior accusing the DNC of being liars, and this just weeks after his famous meeting. Feigned outrage. [The kid is good. Like his dad. So far, no embarrassment, no apology from any of the three.]
Chris Hayes says there were 8 people in the meeting. Jared Kusher’s attorneys made the statement that the reason his SF86 was incomplete was that a staff member hit “send” prematurely. JK contacted the FBI and said he would revise it. It took 4 months for that to happen. Also, you don’t “send” those forms by email. You fill them out, sign, and mail. If you want to send it by email, you have to “click/enter password 28 times in order to e-file. That from Susan Hennessey.
Today it became clear why the GOP Congress people can’t deal with Trump and crew because Trump’s base is still in the 80% and above. That ties their hands. Trump supporters say, why don’t you just let him do his job?

For the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Putin made a concession by releasing some political prisoners, which included punk band Pussy Riot. They were in prison for months. Last Feb the group released another one. They act out a symbol of crossing the hands over the chest, which signifies a seagull. The name of song is “Chaika.” It signifies “corruption.” Same word as the top prosecutor. He is known for disappearing and arresting and torturing people. He is a symbol of corruption. Alexei Navalny is just getting out of prison now, but he goes after Chaika and his corruption. Chaika’s family and cronies have accumulated massive wealth. He is hated and feared by many Russians.
According to the email chain, the info left by Natalia with Junior came from Chaika. Chaika met with Aras. Aras went to Goldstone, and Goldstone went to Don Jr. Jr brought in Manafort and Kushner. There was a translator and then the lobbyists. CNN is reporting that there was also a representative of the Chaika family. A total of 8. Tonight, WSJ reports that Natalia admitted in an interview that she was in fact working with Chaika and Russian authorities.
This week Rachel did a recap of the revelations of 2016. There were meetings between Trump associates and Russians, chatter about how to undermine HRC, info about Russian money coming into our election. By July of 2016, CIA Dir Brennan testified openly about the concern that Trump campaign members “may be wittingly or unwittingly cooperating with Russians” to influence the election. A CIA working group handed info over to FBI. By end of summer 2016, Russian hackers were discussing how to steal and deliver HRC emails. “Do not listen to what they (Trumpists) say.”
Roger Stone threatened Eric Swalwell on the radio. Today JK lost his top attorney, a woman who says she’ll represent him on other issues, but not Russia.
Trump hired attorney Ty Cobb, a relative of the baseball player, to run his legal team in dealing with Russia scandal.
The lawsuit of Protect Democracy:  They say that when Russia wants to interfere with another country’s election, their MO is to find people in that country to help with the digital operation.
Carpenter again (Michael?):  Asked whether he saw things that he thinks the American people should know, he said yes, he watched their MO of using local proxies, or uses people to perpetrate the attack with a thumb drive or something similar. They always use a multi-pronged approach. A prime goal is to penetrate into foreign political circles who aspire to power. They want to affect policy.
Maddow: Do they try to penetrate think tanks? There is talk of a Russian auxillary in the NRA.
Carpenter:  Yes. There is an NGO in Russia about the right to bear arms. For Putin and oligarchs, that is anathema. They don’t want an armed citizenry. A honey pot NGO works to lure people to become friends. They get working with them, then use them.
Maddow:  Kilimnik, Gorkov, Medvedev, Veselnitskaya, Rinat, all these met with campaign members during the campaign. Is that normal? Typical?
Carpenter:  Typical in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia. Not here. These types don’t quit the intel or govt relationship. Once in, you stay in. Scratch “former” in talking about them. They worm their way in, maybe with kompromat, maybe business ties. Whole variety of tactics.
Maddow:  On a scale of 1 to 10, how alarmed are you about this series of events?
Carpenter:  He is alarmed. The Russians are still probing. They intend to influence the election and affect policy. With no consequences, Putin will keep pushing.
Discussion of Kris Kobach and his voter info request. That won’t happen now because states refused, but there was a comment section on the WH website where people could let their opinions be known. Those comments were published on July 5, with all kinds of personal information of the people making comments. Their addresses and phone numbers, for instance.

Monday July 17
All In
Today Sean Spicer returned to the briefing room for the first time in 3 weeks. There was no video of it. His statement about the June 9 meeting was that he just wanted to see what the meeting was about and there is nothing to indicate that there was anything in the meeting other than the topic of adoption and the Magnitsky Act, which he mispronounced. Today on Twitter, Lavrov tweeted @RusEmbUSA that no investigator or committee has presented any facts. Both Spicer and Lavrov are wrong.
Jeanine Pirro of Fox News, a former judge, said on TV that if the devil called her up and told her he had opposition research on her opponent, she’d be on the first trolley to hell to get it. [That woman wouldn’t need a trolley to contact hell.]

WSJ says that a new subpoena from the Manhatten DA office has gone out on behalf of Paul Manafort to a small Chicago bank run by Steve Calk, a member of Mr. Trump’s economic panel. The Federal Savings Bank gave big loans to Manafort in Nov 2016 and January, 2017. These were gigantic loans from small bank. $16M was ¼ of the bank’s equity capital. The WSJ says that around the time the loans were issued, Mr. Calk had expressed interest in becoming Sec of the Army. Steve Calk did not get to be Sec of the Army.
In mid-June, the FBI investigated deals involving Manafort and his [Trump’s?] son in law. Manafort and his wife invested at least $4M in several CA properties.
In mid-April, federal investigators requested his banking records from Citizens Financial Group in VA.
In March, Richard Engle reported in Cyprus that the Attorney Gen of Cyprus had been asked by the US Treasury Dept to hand over bank records of Manafort’s offshore banking activities.
NYT reported that Manafort had discussed that meeting with congressional investigators. What did he say? Also, the Ukrainian party from which PM was supposed to have gotten $17M says that they didn’t give him that much money. They disputed all the payments he reported as having come from them. So where did it come from then?
Wilmer Hale, famous law firm, had Robt Mueller as a partner there. It’s sticky if your law firm is representing both sides of a case. JK’s atty also worked there. So JK’s atty said that she was dropping out. PM’s atty also works there, Reginald J. Brown. But he got to keep his job representing Manafort.
DJJr’s atty is being paid for with campaign funds. They said it’s because the congressional committees had said they wanted to talk to him. However, today’s SEC filing showed that his atty was actually hired in June.
Magnitsky Act:  Jay Sekulow can’t pronounce it. He is supposed to be the PR guy. He’s the one who said, why did the Secret Service let the meeting take place? Usually the SS doesn’t comment on stuff like this, but they felt they had to say that Junior wasn’t under protection then, and if he was, it is not their job to say whom he can meet and whom he can’t.

Now Trumpsky wants the RNC to pay his (Senior’s) legal bills. The RNC says they don’t know if that would be legal. The NYT says that right away, the Trump team started using campaign funds for atty fees. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MSNBC Journal, July 13

July 13
After taking notes on All In and RMS yesterday, I was tired, so I watched Last Word later, hoping that it would be all repeat. Too tired and too late to take notes. Alas, there was more. So here is a part that I didn’t catch yesterday:
[It’s clear that Jeff Sessions is as rotten as the Trump family. A $6M settlement in a case of $230M money laundering is a slap on the wrist. Russia was undoubtedly passing out cognac and cigars over that one. As of now Russia is winning the war. One headline on Daily Kos said that Trump has made every Republican in Congress and the administration a liar. He has put corrupt, loyal people in high positions and has corrupted those who weren’t up to that point.
When Ryan was asked point blank if he would have taken such a meeting, he hedged and dodged. I get it now. He can’t say he would have because that would open him to critics. But he can’t say he wouldn’t have because our Dear Leader is saying in defense of his son that lots of people would have taken that meeting. To say “I wouldn’t have taken it” condemns Donnie all the more. So this is going to be the GOP play: dodge ball.]
[Another shocker that came from Last Word last night was that the leaked email chain didn’t come from an FBI leak. It came from Kushner’s attorneys. They were going through JK’s emails to see if there is anything in there that needs to be addressed, anything they need to know about. They found the email chain. The best I can figure is that it went down like this:  Someone noticed that this meeting had taken place and found out that it was undisclosed on the part of all 3. I don’t know the back story on that. But Jared changed his security clearance form. Someone in the press noted that change. That may have started an inquiry that could be damaging even without the emails. So to save himself, Kushner released the emails through his attorneys. That put the onus on Donny. That seems to be the thrust of what O’Donnell had to say. The attorneys could not make this decision w/o JK’s permission due to atty/client privilege.]

All In
According to Michael Isikoff, Trump attorneys Kasowitz and Gardner knew about the email chain in the third week of June 2016. That was shortly after it was discovered by JK attorneys, and JK changed his sec clearance form for 2nd time. He was interviewed by the FBI on June 23rd, and Trump’s attorneys were informed.
Today DJT is in France saying that the meetings were all just opposition research. Everyone does it. Nothing to see here. Politics is not a nice business. Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate prosecutor, said this is déjà-vu. Not a smoking gun, it’s a smoking cannon. She shot their argument full of holes. She thinks the FBI has actually got something.
The Agalarovs were business partners of the Trumps. Goldstone said that they signed a letter of intent to build a tower in Moscow, but it fell apart.

Peter Smith apparently committed suicide. He left a note.
At the end of May, Mike Cohen was asked to testify. He said no and would not turn over any documents, so he was issued with a subpoena. He then agreed. He was a political advisor in the early campaign. In summer of 2015, he was approached by a reporter for a comment on an allegation made against Trump by one of his ex-wives. Cohen threatened that reporter in no uncertain terms. I’ll ruin your life. I’ll take all your money. He will testify Sept 5. They’ll need a bleep button.
Video where Trump attorney John Dowd gives the finger to CNBC.
Kasowitz threat to a stranger, inspired by Maddow show. See above. Same guy who threatened to bring suit against the women who accused DJT of sexual harassment. Kasowitz does not have a security clearance. He has struggled with alcoholism, been in rehab.
Fmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and fmr Dir for Russia Natl Sec Council, quit last January, Michael Carpenter, now Senior Director at the Penn-Biden Center for Global Engagement: He knows how Russians use disinformation all over the world, and he is convinced that Russia’s assault with disinfo was so sophisticated and well-targeted here in the U.S. that they had help. He gave several examples. One was that Bernie supporters were targeted with sites and memes that appeared to come from Americans who supported Bernie, but it was really Russian operatives who put out negative, malicious opinions about HRC. 
Protect Democracy is suing the Trump campaign for colluding with Russians and WikiLeaks to release personal information of 3 individuals at the DNC, including SS #, sexual orientation, medical records, financial info, and other private information. On
Walter Dellinger, fmr solicitor Gen under Pres Clinton, now:  These 3 DNC folks are not high level people. This was just malicious intimidation on the part of the Trump administration.


Congratz Donnie, you’re on the cover of Time Magazine.

MSNBC Journal, July 11, 12

July 11
General hair-on-fire news today. NYT let Donald Trump Jr. know that they knew about a meeting between him and a Russian attorney (Natalia Veselnitskaya). Junior told them it was just about adopting Russian children. Then they let him know that they were about to release a string of emails that they had acquired between Rob Goldstone and DTJr, adding JK and PM to that string. Julian Assange apparently heard of this somehow. Said he contacted Donny and gave him reasons why he should release his email to WikiLeaks. But minutes later, and shortly before the NYT release, Donny released them himself. Now he is saying that he didn’t really get any of the info promised by the Russians, that JK left the room after a few minutes, and that PM was looking at his phone and paid no attention. Natalia said that she was not a government attorney and that she never promised any information about Hillary Clinton. She says that is just what they wanted to believe. What she wanted to talk about was the Magnitsky Act, which is really annoying some oligarchs because it ties up their money and limits their travel. But Donny’s statement about “later this summer it would be great” is very telling when in fact, emails were dumped later that summer.
The meeting was June 9. On June 7, Trump Sr was at a rally and promised dirt on Hillary very soon, and it would be terrible. What came was an email dump, not sure which one. The lies and hypocrisy are just breathtaking. The new Russian name, which has not been fully incorporated into the narrative, is the top Russian prosecutor Yuri Chaika. There was the suggestion from Goldstone that this meeting originated with him. And if with him, then surely with Putin himself.
Rachel says to watch for the GOP to create a new narrative blaming Democrats somehow.
Senior’s attorneys are saying that JK is whispering in Senior’s ear and not keeping the attorneys in the loop, and thus he is back for Senior’s defense.
All over Fox News they are saying this email leak is a “nothing burger.” They are all saying it, using the same phrase. [Does that mean that if, in the future, Junior and crew are indicted for treason or conspiracy or some other crime, Fox News is aiding and abetting?] Mueller now has a team of 16 famous attorneys, so he doesn’t seem to think this is all nothing. What are they doing? No one has heard a peep from them.

Weds July 12
All In
NYT says Senior signed off on Donnie’s statement about adoption topic. But that statement was shown to be false. The meeting took place in Trump Tower, one floor above Senior’s office on a day when Trump was in the bldg. They all said Trump didn’t know. Trump calls it the “greatest witch hunt in history.” Claims he didn’t know until a couple of days ago. But in Spring 2015, intel picked up on fact that Russians were discussing associates of DTSr months before he declared his candidacy. Investigators didn’t know what to make of it. On June 7, 5:16 pm, Donnie wrote to Rob Goldstone, “How about 3 at our offices?” Four hours later, DJT was at a rally and said that on probably the next Monday he was going to be making an announcement about the Clintons that would be very very informative. Everyone cheered. Of course he knew!
Sen Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, on Sen Judiciary Committee:  The email so flagrant, he thought at first it might not be true. It makes it hard to believe that DTSr didn’t know. This investigation could be so huge it could take a long time.
Sen Robert Pittenger, R-NC:  This is all speculation and conjecture. Pittenger refuses to say anything negative about it. He danced all around, would not say it was wrong or un-American. Said Trump had a lot of meetings every day. He is still pro-Trump.
Rep Ted Leiu, D-CA:  Conspiracy, it’s easy to prove. He thinks Donnie can be prosecuted. If this meeting wasn’t a big deal, why would DTSr help Donnie put out a false statement. He actually signed off on it.
Last night on Sean Hannity, Donny was asked if he was given any indication of what the info on HRC might be. He answered: no, it was basically this email coordination. But NBC reporter Ken Delanian noticed that in the email chain of June 6, he did seem to know something. At 12:40 pm Rob emails him and says let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about his Hillary info. 3:37, Donny replies, Rob, can we speak now? Rob answers that he’ll track him down in Moscow. Asks for a number to call. 3:38, My cell, thanks. 3:43, Rob:  OK, he’s on stage right now but should be off within 20 minutes so I’m sure he can call. 4:38, Donny:  Rob, thanks for the help. 4:40 June 7, Rob writes that Emin wants to set up the meeting for the 9th Thurs when the attorney is flying over from Moscow. I believe you are aware of the meeting. (A ref to previous conversation?) 3 pm or later works for you?
Later he mentions the other participants. 725 5th Ave 25th floor.
Ken Dilanian, NBC News Intelligence and Natl Security Reporter:  The day after phone call, Trump’s rally speech. Of course, no speech about dirt came out. This is all right out of the Russian playbook. This is a “dangle” to see how the team would respond.
Barbara McQuade, fmr US Atty, Eastern District of MI, Prof of Law at University of MI:  You’d want to get phone records to see if a call occurred. She’d want to talk to Rob G. She’d look for even later emails. [But, without a FISA warrant, that’s impossible.]
Last summer, the Obama admin was afraid of seeming partisan, so they sought a bi-partisan condemnation of Russia for what they knew. Mitch McConnell stood solidly in the way of that in spite of being briefed on what was going on and how Russia was intending to meddle in the election. McConnell voiced skepticism about the accuracy of the intel.
Senate health care bill effort is in chaos.
DTSr has been seen recently in a photo being prayed over in the WH. Elijah List wrote an article about it today. Evangelicals are ecstatic about things like that. Today he was interviewed by Pat Robertson. CBN has always been supportive of him. Last summer, while at a Trump golf course, David Brody of CBN asked him about his relationship with God. Trump answered that God helped him make a great deal on the golf course they were standing on. He wants to make great deals for America. [He didn’t really say, Jesus is my Lord. Judas could have made a similar proclamation.]
The email exchange hasn’t changed anyone’s mind! 88% of Repubs who voted for Trump still approve of him. Steve Schmidt, Republican Strategist:  Trump is the most unpopular president ever. People are still supporting the tribe. Lies, lies, going from smoke to fire, Repubs can’t pass anything. Will voters grow weary? To pass a bill, you try to make something popular. That is not what is happening here on health care. This is a titanic deal. How can Fox say it’s a nothing burger?

Rachel is disturbed that Homeland Security doesn’t seem interested in investigating the Russian hacking of our voter registration databases. They stole information off our servers. Released info. There were also warnings of Russian funding of the ‘16 election, and Russian media efforts against Clinton.
In mid-May, Time magazine did a story on the media effort. That was the issue where the cover showed the WH morphing into the Kremlin. In May 2016, there was an intel intercept where “a Russian military officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU,…was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election.” They were going to use Russian resources in Kremlin and GRU to spread damaging information about HRC. [I think the FSB is the cyber wing of the GRU.] That was reported in May 2017 of this year by Time. Today, McClatchy brought that story out in an article by Peter Stone and Greg Gordon. The importance of that is better understood now. Donnie didn’t seem surprised by the Russian op in the June email chain. He was just delighted that the info is coming. It didn’t bother JK or PM either.
Today, the question is, did someone here help the Russians know how to target groups with their information? McClatchy just reported that “investigators at the House and Senate intelligence committee and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation--overseen by Jared Kushner--helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.” For that story, McClatchy spoke to a fmr Pentagon official, Russian expert in 2016, who said, “There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation.”
Later tonight, Charlie Savage of NYT wrote about a lawsuit by Dems suing the Trump Campaign over leaked emails tied to Russia. Protect Democracy, a new organization founded by lawyers, says it was the Trump campaign that conspired to release the DNC information, which included private information about staffers and donors. The attorney at the Fed District in DC, want to depose witnesses and call for documents.
A lot of investigations are going on now. Marc Kasowitz is the chief of the Trump team. Some say that he is considering resigning. ProPublica wrote a story about MK saying that he may not be able to get a security clearance. There is a link on her (?) website, and there is a lot of negative info about MK there. The whole defense team is weird.
Signs of stress with Mike Pence. [Or is that wishful thinking?] His spokesperson had a hard time dodging questions today. Sen Chris Murphy, D-CT is asking why JK allowed all the people around him all these months, including Mike Pence, to say that there was definitely no contacts between JK and Russians. That is what Mike Flynn was fired for.
Congress and Republican media may try to turn this story into something else. Today in the hearings on Christopher Wray, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen Chuck Grassley, R-IA, seemed to go after the acting head of FBI Andrew McCabe, saying that he wants McCabe off any investigation of Mike Flynn. Before the hearings began, Grassley also went onto Fox and Friends trying to push the idea that the meeting was a set up by Democrats. He also suggested that the Steele dossier needs to be investigated as a set-up by Democrats. This narrative is being supported in the conservative media. DJT is beginning to tweet the narrative making this a Democratic scandal.
Shane Harris, Natl Security reporter for WSJ:  Reprises the story about Russian officials discussing Trump associates in 2015. “In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisor.” The reports themselves weren’t alarming, but it did get intel officials wondering, what is going on here? In spring of 2016, European intelligence officials warned U.S. intelligence officials that Russian money might be flowing into the US election. In May, that’s when Russian officials were talking about causing chaos in the election.
Last March McClatchy had a scoop:  “Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said. The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said.” Today’s investigators in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division are looking into the possibility that operatives here in the U.S. helped with these attacks.
Now the investigators are looking at Jared Kushner to see if perhaps he was involved in those attacks. Greg Gordon of McClatchy:  The investigation is still tentative and Gordon does not know really who the persons of interest are. But the trail is getting warmer. This starts with the NSA. They search for data packets. But it’s a huge challenge. Now they need humint.

From Fox News:  Jan 2017, trying to explain if there was contact between campaign people and Russians, Pence said, “Of course not.” Later that morning, he was even more clear. “Of course not.” He also said that Flynn didn’t talk to Russians. He also said that he had no idea that Mike Flynn had contact with Russians, although he, Pence, was head of the transition and the transition was notified multiple times that Flynn had had such contact and taking paychecks. Today FN asked a Pence spokesman if the VP had ever met with representatives from Russia. He dodged. Didn’t say definitively no. Rachel:  Don’t discount Mike Pence in this scandal.