The Tell: “To Charm Trump, Paul Manafort Sold Himself…”

Of course a perennially hand-to-mouth con man like Donald Trump would immediately snatch at any offer of assistance from a conveniently-placed, self-advertised “killer” with all the right enemies (like establishment GOP assassin Karl Rove!). It’s the photo which the NYTimes chose to place at the top of its story…

….On Feb. 29, 2016, Mr. Manafort, the former lobbyist and Republican operative who now sits at the nexus of investigations into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, reached out to Mr. Trump with a slick, carefully calibrated offer that appealed to the candidate’s need for professional guidance, thirst for political payback — and parsimony.

The letters and memos provide a telling glimpse into how Mr. Trump invited an enigmatic international fixer, who is currently under investigation by United States intelligence services, a Senate committee and investigators in Ukraine, to the apex of his campaign with a minimum of vetting. The answer? Through family and friends, handshakes and hyperbole.

Mr. Manafort, who has not been accused of any crimes — and who denies any wrongdoing in his political, business and investment dealings — is nonetheless a central figure in the investigation into the interactions of Trump campaign officials with foreign governments. How he got to know Mr. Trump, and how he rose from overseeing the candidate’s operations at the Republican convention to the entire campaign, is very likely to be a focus during coming Senate hearings about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government…

… But who is that aspirational C. Montgomery Burns handing Manafort a suspiciously thick wad of notes? Why, it’s Stephen Miller, currently right-hand mannikin to the much-reviled Steve Bannon!

One might suspect that Jared Kushner, for all his dewy youth, did manage to learn certain lessons about kneecapping the competition from his father, the convicted felon.

Or maybe he’s just an aficionado of GOP tricksterism who’s read up on the Pumpkin Papers

Effin’ Millenials and their ‘retro’ fads. I could’ve lived a happy life without the current Kremlinology revival.

Open Thread: Don’t Think of It As Plagiarism — Gorsuch Just Declared ‘Eminent Domain’ on Lesser Writers’ Words

*Is* Neil Gorsuch a plagiarist? As an intro to the way Our Media works, the Twitter storyline is kinda fascinating…

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Working As Intended

Via commentor LAMH. Malevolent racist leprechaun, Attorney-General by the grace of the President-Asterisk, does what he was hired to do:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.

In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.

The memo was released not long before the department’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone until at least the end of June a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Baltimore police department that was announced just days before President Trump took office…

If “we” were truly interested in the preventive removal of criminal recidivists, somebody would already have had his ability to impede the wheels of justice removed…

(Nick Anderson via*
*Timeline of Jeff Sessions’ connections with the Russian ambassador

Open Thread: Watching the (Moral) Defectives

Although Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner of Covington & Burling, refused to comment for the article, he tweeted out a statement teasing that “General Flynn certainly has a story tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”

As an experienced lawyer, Kelner will know that the Justice Department would never grant immunity for testimony on these terms. Prosecutors would first require that Flynn submit to what’s called a proffer session in which Flynn would agree to tell everything he knows in exchange for the prosecutors agreeing not to use his statement against him. Only after the prosecutors heard what Flynn could offer in terms of evidence against others, and had an opportunity to assess his credibility, would they be willing to discuss any grants of immunity or a cooperation deal. At a minimum, the prosecutors would require Flynn’s lawyer to make a proffer outlining the information that Flynn could provide…

I suspect that Flynn’s lawyer is really targeting Congress. He is hoping that one of the Congressional committees will take the bait and grant him immunity in exchange for his testimony. If that happened, it would be extremely difficult to prosecute Flynn after he testified. Remember Oliver North?

Open Thread: Anybody Got Plans for Friday Evening?

I thought *I* did, but Mr. Cole seems to have forgotten his proposed meet’n’greet. As I had to admit to the Boston-area commentors who’ve contacted me tonight.

Stood up at the last minute, and at my age, too!

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Some Dare Call It Treason

As perceived by the ex-CIA, #NeverTrump candidate in 2016:

There’s an old political story about LBJ deciding not to run for reelection once the major news media started reporting unvarnished details about the ongoing war in Vietnam: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Trump has only been in office for two months, but he’s already lost at least two Very Serious Media Voices. Thomas Friedman, aka ‘the Moustache of Understanding’:

The last time our country faced such a cancer on the presidency, the Republican Party’s leadership stood up and put country before party to get to the truth. But today’s G.O.P. is a pale imitation of that party. With a few exceptions, it has declared moral bankruptcy and abdicated its responsibility to draw any red lines for President Trump…

If you say and do nothing when the nation’s leader smears his predecessor — and then maintains his fantasy as fact — not only will he never have the credibility to call on any other country to uphold the highest standards for rule of law, democracy and human rights, but neither will all of you. We will become a lesser country and the world a more dangerous place.

Friedman’s fellow NYTimesman Nick Kristof:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

Now the F.B.I. confirms that we have had an investigation underway for eight months into whether another presidential campaign colluded with a foreign power so as to win an election. To me, that, too, would amount to treason…
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Late Night Open Thread: All the Right Enemies, All the Wrong Friends


I am not, in general, a big fan of the ‘Trump’s using this as a distraction’ theory — flinging all the crap he can find to see what sticks is not advanced strategery. But when it comes to their golly-gosh SCOTUS nominee, the Repubs are sure making a valiant, all-out effort to turn the slightly steaming pitcher of vodka-scented yellow liquid of this week’s Trump/FBI revelations into something that could plausibly be sold as lemonade…