Russiagate Open Thread: Has Manafort’s Crony Rick Gates Flipped?

Well, it would explain some of pants-pissing tantrums on His Short-Fingered Lordship’s twitter feed this morning (especially if Trump’s not the only one sending them.) Per the L.A. Times:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case…

Gates’ defense lawyer, Thomas C. Green, did not respond to messages left by phone and email. Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, declined on Saturday to comment…

The imminent change of Gates’ plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller’s prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.

According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said that Gates is apt to serve about 18 months in prison.

The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.”

One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables – derived from Gates’ allegedly illegal activity – that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.

Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense…

According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts” and took steps to evade related U.S. taxes.

If Manafort maintains his not-guilty plea and fights the charges at a trial, the testimony from Gates could provide Mueller’s team with first-person descriptions of much of the allegedly illegal conduct. Gates’ testimony, said a person familiar with the pending guilty plea, would place a “cherry on top” of the government’s already-formidable case against Manafort.

The same individual said he did not believe Gates has information to offer Mueller’s team that would “turn the screws on Trump.”

In mid-August 2016, Trump fired Manafort following reports of possibly improper payments he had received from a pro-Russia political party aligned with his longtime client, Viktor Yanukovych, who was Ukraine’s prime minister from 2010 to 2014.

Gates, however, remained with the Trump campaign through the election, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee. He also assisted Trump’s inaugural committee.

My emphases. “Mistakes were made. Just not by Mr. Trump.” Uh-huh…



Russiagate Open Thread: Into the Wayback Machine…

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Yeah, but at least the Democrats aren’t actively abetting our foreign enemies…



Laying The Groundwork

The indictment just released from the Mueller investigation, against 13 Russian individuals and 3 Russian organizations, lays out what we have been hearing bits and pieces of for some time, but it’s in a legally rigorous form, presumably with what Mueller’s team thinks is enough to convict. Those named conspired to interfere in the presidential election of 2016.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were particularly used. The Twitter account “Tennessee GOP,” @Ten_GOP, long suspected by Twitterati of being a Russian front, is specifically called out. Topics focused on were immigration, Black Lives Matter, and religion. The organizations used stolen US identities. And OMG so much more!

 

I have stuff happening IRL this afternoon and so can’t do a detailed rundown. I’ll be around a little while for the discussion. I’m sure Adam will have more to say later, as will I. Read the indictment. It’s easy to read, and amazing.

In the overall scheme of things, this is a first step for Mueller. His remit is to “investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.” He has now established that the Russian government interfered in the election. The indictment also says that individuals associated with the campaign were involved with the Russians. The indictment, and Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein, are very careful to say that those individuals were not knowingly involved with Russians. But there clearly will be more to come.

This helps to inoculate Mueller and Rosenstein against firing.

Trump was briefed on the indictment before it was released. Perhaps they also confiscated his iPhone. If not, there should be some interesting tweets.








Is Donald Trump A Traitor?

James Risen published the first of four articles in a series bearing that headline in the Intercept. Yes, I know it’s the Intercept.

It’s a question that I think has arisen for many of us, but I haven’t said it out loud because it designates such an extreme situation. Notice that the headline is framed as a question, the way to put a controversial idea if you don’t have the evidence to fully support it.

That’s another reason I haven’t gone there. An enormous number of credible reports exist of Russian involvement in the election and involvement of Trump associates with Russians. But the connections of hacking and social media campaigns to Trump associates to Trump himself don’t exist in the public record. The case, so far, is circumstantial.

Risen has reported for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on national security and intelligence matters. But he also was part of the crew that got the Wen Ho Lee story wrong. He won a Pulitzer Prize with Eric Lichtblau, who was one of the authors of the October 2016 Surprise article that said that the FBI was (no way!) investigating Donald Trump’s connections with Russia.

Risen is credible, but he’s also made some big mistakes.

The Intercept article is long. I’ve skimmed it. I didn’t see anything new, but organizing the information that’s out there is a service in itself. Risen says there will be four columns. The fact he calls them columns suggests that he is not contributing new reporting. Bolding is mine.

THERE ARE FOUR important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

I’ll read it in more detail later. Have at it!



Russiagate Open Thread: First Bannon, Then Gates? Or the Other Way Around?

Anybody less prone to hyperbole want to extrapolate here? From the Washington Post:

House Republican leaders are weighing “further steps” to force former top White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon to answer investigators’ questions in their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — including potentially declaring him in contempt of Congress — after a Thursday interview they called “frustrating.”

Bannon came to speak with the House Intelligence Committee under a subpoena the panel issued on the spot last month, when he refused to answer questions related to the transition period and his tenure in the White House. The interview came after Bannon met with investigators in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe on Monday and Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the sessions…

The intelligence panel’s probe is not supposed to overlap with the objectives of Mueller’s investigation, but several events and people are common to both efforts. Bannon has not yet met with the Senate Intelligence Committee in its probe of Russian meddling in the election.

But in the House, Republicans and Democrats alike have been angered by Bannon’s repeated attempts to dismiss questions based on a claim to executive privilege that Trump never formally invoked, even when served with a subpoena.

Intelligence Committee member K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) said Thursday that he, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and a few others would decide whether to accept Bannon’s legal arguments against answering the panel’s questions or take punitive measures such as declaring him in contempt. The decision-makers will not include panel chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Conaway said…

Republican leaders are not expected to decide on a course of action until late February, after they return to Washington following a one-week recess, he said.

Schiff, however, demanded that the committee move to hold Bannon in contempt as soon as possible.

“I think contempt is the only road left open to us,” the Democrat said…

It sure sounds like the Repubs suspect Bannon is no longer loyal to La Familia GOP — but they don’t wanna risk raising his profile, either, just in case. And Rep. Schiff is needling them.

Then there’s this, per Vox:

Rick Gates — Paul Manafort’s longtime junior business partner, and a 2016 Trump campaign staffer — is “finalizing” a plea deal in which he’d cooperate with the Mueller investigation, CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Sara Murray report. Gates has been in negotiations with Mueller’s team about cooperating for over a month, their report says, citing sources familiar with the case.

Back in October, Mueller’s team indicted Gates and Manafort on a combined 12 counts that mostly focused on alleged money laundering, failure to disclose financial assets, and false statements regarding their work for the government of Ukraine and a Russia-affiliated Ukrainian political party — matters that didn’t have anything specific to do with Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. (Both pleaded not guilty.)

But apparently, Mueller didn’t intend to stop there. The special counsel’s team had prepared superseding indictments that would add to or replace the original charges against both Manafort and Gates, per an earlier CNN report. Facing an expensive legal defense with no end in sight, Gates signed a new lawyer who has been working on cutting him a plea deal.

The biggest question, though, is whether Gates’s possible flip is mainly bad news for Paul Manafort concerning those lobbying and money laundering charges … or whether it would have even bigger implications for the investigation into Russian interference as a whole, and into President Trump specifically…

We’ve all been trained by years of watching/reading police procedurals: First to flip gets best terms. Presumably Gates and Bannon are just as aware of this truism as the rest of us.



Russiagate Open Thread: The Wages of (Fiscal) Sin

Miguel de Cervantes was supposed to have conceived the great novel Don Quixote while *he* was in jail. Machiavelli wrote The Prince while in political exile. So, there’s precedent… (/snark)

Paul Waldman, at the Washington Post, “Trump’s lawyer just made the Stormy Daniels affair much more interesting”:

To catch you up: Back in January, the Wall Street Journal reported that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and all-around fixer, had set up a shell company in Delaware in the fall of 2016 for the sole purpose of passing a $130,000 payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford). Soon after, In Touch magazine published an interview with Daniels in which she detailed how she and Trump had an on-again, off-again affair in 2006 that began in Lake Tahoe just after the birth of his son Barron, when his wife Melania was back home in New York.

The liberal good-government group Common Cause filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, alleging that the payment was an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign intended to quash a potentially embarrassing story and thereby help Trump get elected. Yesterday, Cohen issued a statement implying that the $130,000 was his own money…

What’s odd about this is that he doesn’t say he paid her $130,000 with his own personal funds, he says he used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment. Which could well mean that he used his personal funds to pay whatever fees were necessary to establish the Delaware shell company, but the money came from somewhere else. Like, I don’t know, from Donald Trump. For instance.

Furthermore, if we assume the second sentence is true and neither the Trump Organization nor the campaign was involved, what it leaves out is the involvement of Trump himself. Did Cohen discuss the payment with the person on whose behalf he was making it? Did Trump approve the amount? If Cohen put up the whole $130,000, did Trump personally (as opposed to the Trump organization or campaign) reimburse him?…

I would bet a store-bought cookie that the answer to that would be Like Trump ever “personally” repaid anyone except under threat. But if not Donald himself, then where would the money have come from?…


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Russiagate Open Thread: What Would You Sell, If You Needed the Money?

“His honor”, without something more tangible to back it, would be worth about 37 cents even in a sellers’ market…


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A little background reading…


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