Manafort lied to prosecutors, McCabe ordered obstruction of justice probe of Trump

Two bits of major news on the ongoing ‘Russian collusion’ investigation and related legal issues relating to Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort has been found by a judge to have “”made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation.” This breaches a plea agreement he had made as he awaits sentencing on multiple charges.

And Andrew McCabe has revealed that as acting director of the FBI he had ordered an obstruction of justice probe into President Trump.  Trump later sacked McCabe, and as has become typical he has slammed McCabe via Twitter.

NY Times:  Manafort Found to Have Lied to Prosecutors While Under a Cooperation Agreement

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, had breached his plea agreement by lying multiple times to prosecutors after pledging to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court in Washington may affect the severity of punishment that awaits Mr. Manafort. Judge Jackson is scheduled to sentence him next month on two conspiracy counts, and he is also awaiting sentencing for eight other counts in a related fraud case.

After Mr. Manafort agreed in September to cooperate with the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the judge found, he lied about his contacts with a Russian associate during the campaign and after the election. Prosecutors claim that the associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, has ties to Russian intelligence, and have been investigating whether he was involved in Russia’s covert campaign to influence the election results.

The judge also found that Mr. Manafort had lied about a payment that was routed through a pro-Trump political action committee to cover his legal bills, and about information relevant to another undisclosed investigation underway at the Justice Department.

Mr. Manafort joins a string of former Trump aides who have been found to have lied to federal investigators about their involvement with Russians or their intermediaries, including Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer.

I think it’s fair to wonder why so many of Trump’s associates have lied in the investigation into his campaign. Trump himself lies frequently and brazenly so those working for him could have been following his example, but lying to obstruct the investigation is legally a very serious matter – as Manafort is likely to discover when sentenced,

The judge’s ruling (CNN): Judge rules on Manafort plea deal

Meanwhile parts of a CBS Andrew McCabe interview: McCabe says he ordered the obstruction of justice probe of President Trump

Soon after speaking to President Trump about the firing of his boss James Comey, Andrew McCabe, who became the bureau’s acting director, began obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president and his ties to Russia. In his first television interview since his own firing, McCabe tells 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley he wanted those inquiries to be documented and underway so they would be difficult to quash without raising scrutiny.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion. That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

“I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision”.

In typical fashion Trump attacked the messenger:

Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax – a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won.

Many of the top FBI brass were fired, forced to leave, or left. McCabe’s wife received BIG DOLLARS from Clinton people for her campaign – he gave Hillary a pass. McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

A lot of irony in that.

These are the days of the lives of some of the world’s most powerful people.

Trump hasn’t attacked Manafort. It looks increasingly likely that Manafort is taking a fall for Trump to try to hide something.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post): Paul Manafort’s day in court spells trouble for Trump

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lies caught up with him in federal court on Wednesday. The result was a decision that likely means, absent either a deal or a presidential pardon, he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail.

In previous court filings that were inadvertently released, we learned that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had evidence that Manafort gave Kilimnik private polling data. This exchange, according to what federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge last week, went “to the heart” of the Mueller investigation.

“Manafort is either the most self-destructive, irrational liar in history, or he is still protecting a secret so dark that exposing it would kill his chance for a pardon,” former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller tells me.

This, in short, was collusion — Trump’s top campaign official giving material to a suspected agent of a hostile foreign government that the campaign had already been warned was attempting to interfere with our election. Whatever you call it — direct or indirect evidence — this now is one link proven in court between the campaign and the Russians. We know of others, of course, including the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 designed to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s public call for Russia to go after Clinton’s emails, and more than 100 contacts between Russian figures and members of the Trump circle.

It’s difficult to think of an explanation for Manafort’s lying that doesn’t open new avenues for Mueller to explore. “There is no non-nefarious explanation for the chairman of a presidential campaign secretly meeting with a suspected Russian agent in the midst of an election that the Russians are actively trying to influence and then lying about it to the prosecutor after agreeing to cooperate.,” says Max Bergmann of the Moscow Project. “The only reason for Manafort to lie at this point is to cover up something truly devastating.”

Those speculating that Mueller is wrapping up soon better reset their clocks. With Manafort now under extreme pressure, he could for the first time tell us what exactly is the deep dark secret about Russia and the Trump operation that so many people have lied to cover up.

Perhaps, but up until now there has been no indication that Manafort will open up. Perhaps he sees no chance of anything other than a lifetime sentence regardless. Or perhaps he is banking on a pardon from Trump – but that would open up another big area of concern in the US.

 

McCabe seeks immunity, Giuliani seeks diversion

Former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, sacked two days before he was due to retire, has asked for immunity in order to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And Rudy Giuliani, supposedly acting as a lawyer for Donald Trump but spending more time on diversionary PR, claims that Trump is being framed. This is playing to public opinion but has no effect on legal implications – and is a risky PR strategy.

Daily Caller:  ANDREW MCCABE SEEKS IMMUNITY FOR SENATE TESTIMONY

“This is a textbook case for granting use immunity,” Michael Bromwich, an attorney for McCabe, wrote Monday in a letter to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the judiciary panel.

“Mr. McCabe is willing to testify, but because of the criminal referral, he must be afforded suitable legal protection,” Bromwich said. “Accordingly, we hereby request that the Judiciary Committee authorize a grant of use immunity to Mr. McCabe.”

McCabe was fired in March, two days before his retirement, for a “lack of candor” during interviews with the office of the inspector general (OIG) and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility about his role in authorizing FBI contacts with the media about the Clinton probe.

Bromwich decried “a stream of leaks” from the Justice Department about McCabe’s case in his letter to Grassley. He said leaks from the agency revealed the OIG made a criminal referral on McCabe to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.

“Even though Mr. McCabe committed no crime, these leaks have forced us to acknowledge the criminal referral,” said Bromwich, who added that he and McCabe “are outraged by these leaks.”

Immunity is warranted because “Mr. McCabe is eager to give such testimony; he has a legitimate fear of criminal prosecution based on the criminal referral that has already been made, the irregularities in the process by which he was terminated, and the improper command influence that continues to be exercised by the President of the United States.”

Bromwich has accused President Donald Trump of improperly targeting McCabe in a series of tweets about political donations that McCabe’s wife received in 2015 from then–Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a longtime Clinton ally.

It’s hard to know what all this means until it plays out.

It’s more obvious what Giuliani is up to. CNBC: Giuliani says Mueller’s team is trying to frame Trump

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is trying to frame President Donald Trump.

Giuliani, who has been serving as Trump’s lawyer amid the Russiascandal, says Wednesday in Israel that Mueller’s team includes “13 highly partisan Democrats … (who) are trying very very hard to frame him to get him in trouble when he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Speaking to the Globes capital market conference in Tel Aviv, Giuliani says Trump has the power to pardon himself but won’t because he is innocent.

That looks like a hypothetical diversion.

It was the latest in Giuliani’s often contradictory comments surrounding the probe into Russia’s potential meddling in U.S. elections.

Giuliani has become a lightning rod during his tenure on Trump’s team, drawing the president’s ire for a series of scattershot interviews.

There must be some method in Giuliani’s madcap media mushing but while it may divert from the key issues in the short term it could blow back badly.

The Mueller investigation will plod on. Despite attempts by some to claim a lack of legal details now means something, what ends up in court and what ends up proven will have to be waited for, perhaps for some time yet.

In the meantime the circus will continue. One guaranteed loser is US credibility. The Russians could hardly have hoped for a better election outcome.

AG Sessions fires former FBI #2 McCabe

The Washington political circus continues.

Reuters – Former FBI No.2 McCabe fired; claims he is being targeted

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the FBI’s former No.2 official Andrew McCabe Friday, prompting McCabe to say he is being targeted because he is a crucial witness into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Sessions, in a statement on Friday, said he felt justified in firing McCabe after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found he leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” Sessions said.

But McCabe, who played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, denied those claims and said he is facing retaliation by the Trump administration.

In a lengthy statement, McCabe said he believes he is being politically targeted because he corroborated former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure him into killing the Russia probe.

Trump ousted Comey last year and acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

McCabe’s dismissal came two days before his 50th birthday, when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. The firing – which comes nine months after Trump fired Comey – puts McCabe’s pension in jeopardy.

The timing seems a bit nasty.

That’s also nasty -especially considering this just before Christmas:

It’s not exactly going to encourage people to work for the White House or under White House appointees.

Chaos continues.

The sense of chaos in US politics

If President Trump thought that firing FBI director James Comey would bury his Russian problem he seems to have been mistaken.

Washington Post: Why Trump’s efforts to shake his Russia problem only make it worse

New questions are arising in the wake of his sudden decision to can FBI Director James B. Comey, along with revived calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the question of Russian influence in last year’s election and the Kremlin’s connections to Trump’s presidential campaign.

“The only thing that is guaranteed right now is that the sense of chaos will continue, not only in law enforcement but also in Congress,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a veteran of Capitol Hill and the Justice Department. “Every single lawmaker in the House and Senate is going to be pressured to take a stance.”

Of course, the surest way to end the controversy would be through a credible investigation that comes to a definite conclusion about the methods and extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether it involved improper dealings with people close to Trump.

White House officials maintain that Comey’s firing had nothing to do with his agency’s Russia investigation but, rather, with his handling of the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Yet Trump’s letter terminating Comey alluded to the questions surrounding his own administration (“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation …”) and made no mention of the FBI director’s much-criticized decisions involving Clinton.

Fox News: McCabe says FBI call not to prosecute Clinton angered some agents, defends Comey

New Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe acknowledged for the first time in public testimony Thursday that some agents were angry with the 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton – while also defending ousted Director James Comey’s overall standing at the bureau.

“I think morale’s always been good, but there were folks within our agency that were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case and some of those folks were very vocal about those concerns,” McCabe testified.

While he noted the anger over that decision, he also pushed back on White House claims that Comey had lost confidence from rank-and-file staff in the agency.

“I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” he testified, adding that many staff held a “deep, positive connection” with him.

That won’t help Trump or the White House. Neither will Trump by the sounds of his reaction.

Fox News: Trump: Comey a ‘grandstander,’ ‘showboat’

That’s rather ironic coming from Trump.

President Trump on Thursday called fired FBI Director James Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander” who Trump intended to fire regardless of any recommendation from the Justice Department.

Trump, speaking to NBC News, gave his first in-depth remarks since the stunning ousting of Comey on Tuesday evening.

“Look he’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander,” Trump said. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil – less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”

Trump said he had planned to fire Comey for some time, but “there’s no good time to do it by the way.”

So Trump has taken responsibility for the firing, after initially implying he was acting on the advice of the Justice Department.

And Trump isn’t helped by his media staff. It’s hard to know how long the hapless Sean Spicer will keep trying to defend the mess without having any idea what trump will himself come out with.

And this lame diversion won’t help either: Kellyanne Conway Implies Anderson Cooper’s Eye Roll Was Sexist

On Tuesday, Kellyanne Conway made a triumphant return to the airwaves to discuss the circumstances around President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey. When Anderson Cooper showed her several clips of then-candidate Trump praising Comey, Conway responded with, “You’re conflating two things that don’t belong together.” She went on to discuss Trump’s strategy in Michigan…

…conflating two things that don’t belong together…

— at which point Cooper rolled his eyes dramatically:

Conway responded to the eye roll on Thursday during an appearance on Fox & Friends. And naturally, she linked it to sexism.

“Hillary Clinton is in search of sexism as a lame excuse for why her disastrous candidacy and campaign lost six months ago,” she said. “[But] I face sexism a lot of times when I show up for interviews like that.”

She went on, “Could you imagine … having a male anchor on the network roll eyes at Hillary Clinton [or at] a female spokesperson for President Obama or President Bill Clinton? I think not.”

It wasn’t her gender that he rolled his eyes at.