Russiagate Open Thread: Cue the Theme from Jaws

It looks to me like you’ve got a consummate professional demonstrating that he’s running a thoroughly professional operation, not a GOP-style dog & pony show for the rubes. Any Trump associates / excusers weren’t scared of this man before this, have been informed. Politico, Tuesday:

Moving forward on the Mueller-protection bills is an “absolutely necessary” step after the guilty plea by Michael Flynn, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview. “They need to be combined into one, and I think we have bipartisan agreement about it.”

Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of the stronger of the two Mueller-shielding bills, from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), which would require the attorney general to seek a federal court’s approval before removing a special counsel. Booker said Tuesday that he is “having great bipartisan conversations” with Graham as well as Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), whose version of the legislation would allow Mueller to seek judicial review of a firing after it occurs…
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Russiagate Open Thread: Meanwhile, What News of the Prince of Amway?

Erik Prince, brother of Betsy deVos, founder of Blackwater (now Academi), testified before the US House of Representatives Select Committe on Intelligence on November 30th. A 105-page transcript of his testimony has been released, and is providing much fodder for specialists…


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Today’s Flynn Story: More Questions Than Answers

Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.

If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal.

But there’s another layer: what was the business deal? News of that broke last week, and it simply doesn’t make sense. I’m going to make this a short post, so I won’t list all the questions I have about that deal. Just a few.

What are the companies IP3 and ACU? The IP3 website does not work well and contains very little. The reactor project seems to be all they’ve got, although they make it sound like more. The ACU website is similarly sketchy.

Bud McFarlane? Really??? The guy who took a cake and a Bible to Tehran in 1986 as part of Iran-Contra?

What does Flynn, or any of these people, know about nuclear reactors? Why is the program continuing? Rick Perry just came back from Saudi Arabia and a bunch of photo ops. He was talking to them about selling them reactors.

Why were Russian reactor firms involved? The purpose of the deal has been said to be to sell American reactor technology.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland has made a timeline available of Flynn’s activities in this deal.

I’m continuing to monitor and research this and will report when I’ve got something. But so far, the deal just doesn’t make sense.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Wednesday Evening Open Thread: “All the signs in the Russia probe point to Jared Kushner”

I’m petty enough to be pleased that Jill Abramson is feeling maybe just a little revenged on her NYTimes ex-colleagues. From her new post at the Guardian:

Game of Trumps is about to get really bloody. With special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moving ever closer to President Trump himself, it looks like someone inside the family is about to be sacrificed.

Consider this chronology. On 23 November it was widely reported that Flynn had informed the Trump legal team that he could no longer discuss the case with them. The end of cooperation with Trump surely signalled the beginning of cooperation with Mueller. Two days later the New York Times and Washington Post carried nearly identical stories about Jared Kushner’s waning influence.

The Times story had three bylines, including Maggie Haberman, the president’s go-to reporter. It concluded: “Mr Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who had been in seemingly every meeting and every photograph, has lately disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, taken on a more limited role behind the scenes.”…

Someone high up in the White House seemed anxious for the word to spread. The Times story was attributed, in part, to three “advisers to the president”. Parker’s included an earlier interview with Kushner and came “from interviews with Kushner himself, as well as 12 senior administration officials, aides, outside advisers and confidants, some speaking on condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment”…

Apart from schadenfreude, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Wednesday Morning Russiagate Open Thread: “Follow the Money”


Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post:

This may turn out to be no big deal — perhaps Mueller will find that all Trump’s transactions with Deutsche Bank were aboveboard and free of any funny business, and also that nothing he discovers there will lead to evidence of any other misconduct on Trump’s part… But the fact that Mueller is looking at Deutsche Bank means his probe is reaching the very heart of Trump’s financial life.

Why is Deutsche Bank so important? After a string of bankruptcies and broken promises, pretty much every other major bank stopped lending Trump money some years ago. The one exception was Deutsche Bank, to which Trump owed $364 million as of the end of last year. By sheer coincidence, Deutsche Bank recently had to pay $670 million in fines for its role in a Russian money laundering plot (though as Bloomberg reports, the bank’s internal investigation found no link between Trump and that scheme).

At this point, we don’t know exactly what Mueller is looking for in the Deutsche Bank records. Law professor Ryan Goodman suggests that Mueller could be trying to determine if Trump’s loans from the bank were guaranteed by Russian interests, which could mean he was indebted to them in ways that could compromise him.

What we do know is that the Russia investigation has led Mueller to Trump’s personal finances, which provide a target-rich environment if you suspect financial malfeasance…

… In that tweet about Flynn, Trump closes by saying, “There was nothing to hide!” That has indeed been a consistent line from Trump himself, the White House and the president’s defenders: nobody did anything wrong, all the contacts with Russians were just routine, and there’s nothing to hide.

But if that’s the case, why do so many Trump associates keep getting caught lying about Russia?

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Open Thread: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Attempts to Thumb the Scale, Again

There’s been talk all week that Sessions “ought” to fire Mueller, and replace him with a (Repub-) “trustworthy” prosecutor. I personally doubt that’ll happen, because the blowback would be intense, and Sessions is having way too much fun pursuing his dreams of returning American society to the Fifties — the 1850s, for preference.

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Yet Another Russiagate Open Thread: These Crappy New Reboots Are Too Rushed

Love the graphic, tho…

Sure, we all remember the basic outlines, but it just makes the whole process feel sketchy!

Meanwhile, in Would this face lie to you? developments…

K. T. McFarland served on the presidential transition team before becoming the White House deputy national security adviser. In July, she was questioned in writing by Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, on whether she had ever spoken to Mr. Flynn about his contacts with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was then the Russian ambassador to Washington, before Mr. Trump took office.

“I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above,” Ms. McFarland wrote in response, sidestepping a direct answer to the question.

An email exchange obtained by The New York Times indicates that Ms. McFarland was aware at the time of a crucial Dec. 29 phone call between Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak that was intercepted by American intelligence. During that call, Mr. Flynn urged Moscow to respond cautiously to sanctions just imposed by the Obama administration for Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

If senators on the Foreign Relations Committee find that Ms. McFarland was evasive in her testimony, it could complicate her nomination to become ambassador to Singapore. Repeated attempts to reach Ms. McFarland, who left her post as deputy national security adviser in May, were unsuccessful…

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