The changing story of Khashoggi’s murder

Saoudi Arabia’s explanation of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has kept changing, but their foreign minister now admits that Khashoggi was murdered. However he says it was ‘a rogue operation’. It is difficult to accept any official Saudi claims given how much they have kept changing.

The Saudis gave up trying to deny they were responsible for Khashoggi’s death, and are now left trying to distance  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from any responsibility.

Saudi officials had first denied any knowledge of Khasoggi’s disappearance, despite video evidence of him going into their consulate in Istanbul and never being seen again. Under international pressure and condemnation they eventually admitted Khasoggi had died in the consulate but claimed it was as a result of a fight. The now concede he was murdered.

BBC – Khashoggi death: Saudi Arabia says journalist was murdered

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News “the murder” had been a “tremendous mistake” and denied the powerful crown prince had ordered it.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Saudis, under intense pressure to explain Khashoggi’s whereabouts, have offered conflicting accounts.

They initially said he had left the consulate on 2 October – but on Friday admitted for the first time he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fight. This claim met widespread scepticism.

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence to prove it.

Adel al-Jubeir’s comments, describing the incident as murder, are some of the most direct to come from a Saudi official.

“We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” he said.

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he added. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”

Khashoggi entered the consulate on 2 October. The denials and attempted cover up extended over 20 days, despite being told by US officials to end the crisis ‘quickly’ on 10 October.

NY Times (9 October): Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership

Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.

Business Insider: The Saudi crown prince reportedly couldn’t understand the outrage over Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, the man suspected of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, could not understand why the Saudi journalist’s disappearance was such a big deal, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Mohammed bin Salman was shocked to see Khashoggi’s disappearance in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul provoke such international outrage, and he called the White House adviser Jared Kushner to ask why, the paper said.

Crown Prince Mohammed called Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, on October 10, The Journal said, eight days after Khashoggi disappeared.

Crown Prince Mohammed asked in English what the outrage was about, the report said, citing two people who were briefed on the conversation.

Kushner and John Bolton, the US national security adviser, reportedly told the crown prince in response that he had to solve the crisis quickly.

Kushner is close to Crown Prince Mohammed and – according to CNN – texts him directly sometimes on WhatsApp. He has not taken a public role in the US response to the Khashoggi crisis, but reports suggest he has advised Trump to stand by Saudi Arabia until the episode blows over.

If this is all true then unless Kushner and Bolton did not inform Donald Trump (that seems very unlikely) then Trump knew what was going on but tried to play down Khasoggi’s disappearance.

The Trump administration appeared reluctant to hold the Saudi leadership responsible for weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Trump has continued to tout billions of dollars’ worth of arms contracts struck between Washington and Riyadh, which he has repeatedly claimed could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US.

After Saudi Arabia acknowledged Khashoggi’s death, Trump told The Post that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies” in the Saudi explanation of the disappearance and death.

He must have known well before the Saudi admission.

But the president said he “would love if he wasn’t responsible,” referring to Crown Prince Mohammed.

Many of the 15 men identified in the Turkish news media as suspects in Khashoggi’s killinghave been seen in the crown prince’s entourage.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that he would reveal the “naked truth”about Khashoggi’s death on Tuesday.

That could be embarrassing for both Crown Prince Mohammed and Trump (and also Kushner). They both at least look complicit in an inept attempt to cover up the murder.

Guardian (12 October) – Trump: Khashoggi case will not stop $110bn US-Saudi arms trade

Donald Trump has made it clear that whatever the outcome of the inquiry into the disappearance of the journalist from the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, the US will not forgo lucrative arms deals with Riyadh. The president says the possibility of Saudi Arabia sourcing its arms from Russia or China instead is unacceptable.

Vox (21 October) – “It’s not going to create or take away a single job”: why Trump’s excuse on the Saudis doesn’t hold up

When President Donald Trump explained over the past two weeks why he was reluctant to damage the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia over the disappearance and murderof dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he kept coming back to one reason: jobs.

“I don’t want to hurt jobs,” Trump said in an interview with 60 Minutes that aired last weekend, explaining that there are “other ways of punishing.”

“Who are we hurting? It’s 500,000 jobs,” he told Fox Business on Wednesday.

“I’d rather keep the million jobs, and I’d find another solution,” he said at a defense roundtable in Arizona on Friday.

But while there’s a multitude of reasons Trump might be hesitant to condemn the Saudi government, tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs from an arms deal with the Saudi government isn’t one of them — at least a legitimate one.

The White House has been conspicuously cautious in its reaction to Khashoggi’s disappearance, even after the government admitted on Friday that he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Part of Trump’s explanation — beyond that it’s unfair to consider Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “guilty before proven innocent” — is that a $110 billion arms deal would be at risk. Trump claims the arms deal will lead to thousands of jobs, and it’s a risk he’s not willing to take.

There could also be other economic reasons leading Trump to avoid destabilizing the relationship — including Saudi influence over the world’s supply of oil, which would be particularly crucial if the US imposes sanctions on Iran.

“What’s at stake is global oil price stability,” Ashley Peterson, a senior oil market analyst at energy advisory firm Stratas Advisors, told me. “Saudi Arabia excels at talking up and talking down the oil market.”

But:

“They have the oil card and the arms sales card, neither of which, to me, is particularly compelling in these circumstances,” Chollet, from the German Marshall Fund, said.

Beyond the economic factors in play here, there are also geopolitical considerations — it also goes into the broader context of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal.

As the New York Times’s David Sanger pointed out, Saudi Arabia is an important player in the United States’ plan to go after Iran. The White House is hoping the Saudis will help it keep oil prices from spiking when it reimposes sanctions on Iran, including cutting off Iranian oil exports.

As usual with international issues things are complicated. And in any case, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, oil and Iran are all interrelated.

The death of one journalist is just a nuisance – but it could become a very influential nuisance.

 

 

Nikki Haley resigns as US ambassador to UN

In what appears to be a shock announcement Nikki Haley has resigned as US ambassador to the UN. She has been seen as very competent at the UN, standing out amongst Trump appointments. She has also been suggest as a good future political candidate, including for the presidency, but she has emphatically said she won’t be standing in the 2020 election. (Is that because Trump has told her he wants to stand again?)

Gezza has been doing some middle of the night coverage.


Aljaz TV reporting:

US PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS ACCEPTED RESIGNATION OF UN AMBASSADOR NIKKI HALEY.

TRUMP SAYS SHE WILL LEAVE HER POST AT THE END OF THE YEAR.

New York Times: Nikki Haley Resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

A lot of head-scratching about why she has resigned at this time, just before the mid-term elections. Reasons unclear. Trump’s apparently told her he hopes she returns to the administration & can have pretty much any job she likes. Doesn’t seem to be a disagreement with Trump ?

Showing Nikki speaking to press, sitting with Trump, in those yellow chairs now.

Doesn’t have any set plans. Reviewed all the US has achieved,including getting NATO pay more various other things Trump has pursued like Iran, making the US respected again – if not liked by everybody at least respected & is satisfied. Going out on a high.

She told the president earlier in the year maybe two years would be long enuf. Not leaving until the end of the year, plenty of time to hand over to next UN Ambassador. Thanks Mr President, it’s been an honour. No she’s not running for 2020. She’s campaigning for 2020 supporting the president.

Haley’s & Trump’s press conference.

(Nikki: Jared is a genius & Ivanka is a great friend they do a lot behind the scenes wishes more people knew about. 🙄 ? )

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le6eR5cSPsk

Interesting comments from Aljaz UN political editor. Word around the UN is that she is politically ambitious, very politically astute, gone along with Trump because his pro-Israel and other political positions match hers. Very well placed to run in the future as a Republican candidate for first woman President, should she choose to do so and should Trump not be in the running.


That last comment may be the key – ” should Trump not be in the running”. It could be a long political game by Haley.

Fox News:Haley abruptly steps down as UN ambassador in surprise decision, vows she won’t run in 2020

Haley called her time at the U.N. a “blessing,” but offered no reason for leaving other than a belief that government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.”

Nikki Haley abruptly announced her resignation Tuesday as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, catching staff and lawmakers by surprise and leaving Washington guessing about the next move for one of the administration’s most prominent figures.
Speaking in the Oval Office alongside President Trump, who accepted the resignation, Haley said she would serve through the end of 2018. She preemptively sought to mute speculation she might run against her old boss, stressing that she will support Trump and will not campaign for the White House in 2020.
Haley called her time at the U.N. a “blessing,” but offered no reason for leaving other than a belief that government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.”

Trump told reporters that Haley did “an incredible job” and is a “fantastic person.” He said she had told him six months ago that she wanted to take a break “maybe at the end of the year.”

Haley called her time at Turtle Bay the “honor of a lifetime” and said there was “nothing set on where I am going to go.” She also praised the work of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, particularly Kushner’s role in re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She called Kushner a “hidden genius.”

“Now the U.S. is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said, citing a number of achievements of the Trump administration.

“The U.S. is strong again, it’s strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud,” she told reporters.

On why it’s time to leave, Haley said she’s a believer in term limits and believes it’s good to rotate new government officials in from time to time.

There may be a hidden reason, but sometimes people in high profile, demanding jobs just want to have a break from it.

Also from Fox:

Reuters: Trump’s U.N. envoy Haley quits, denies 2020 ambitions

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is resigning “to take a little time off,” President Trump said, as she became the latest in a long line of high-profile departures from the administration.

Haley, 46, is the latest in a long line of high-profile departures from the administration, such as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who left in August 2017.

So interest will now turn to who Trump replaces her with at the UN. Was she signalling a role for Jared Kushner?

 

‘Game changer’ opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

As promised by Donald trump the US has moved their Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. This is being celebrated by Israelis and by some in the US, and Guatemala, Paraguay and Honduras are expected to follow suit, but Palestinians see it as provocative and an attack on their sovereignty  and violent protests have erupted. This is a predictable immediate outcome, something the US should have known would happen – perhaps it is what Trump and his administration, and the Israelis, wanted.

Reuters: Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza as U.S. Embassy opens in Jerusalem

Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a move that has fueled Palestinian anger and drawn foreign criticism for undermining peace efforts.

It was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since the Gaza conflict in 2014. Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 52 protesters were killed and more than 2,200 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with Turkey calling it “a massacre”.

The Israeli military said it was responding to violence from the protesters to defend Israel’s border.

In contrast to the scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the U.S. Embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.

The move fulfilled a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises”.

“What a glorious day for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

It doesn’t look very glorious in Gaza.

Also from Reuters:

Significantly Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are

Kushner and the Trumps will have known that their actions would provoke violence.

LA Times looks at Israeli celebrations: On the eve of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel celebrates

“The truth is that not only has Jerusalem been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia and of our state for decades, but the truth is that under any peace deal Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced from a stage bedecked with American and Israeli flags at a gala held in the courtyard of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

He expressed gratitude to President Trump for the decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. For decades, Netanyahu has exhorted the world to recognize and accept Israel as it is — with its capital, its parliament, its Supreme Court and its ministries in Jerusalem.

The ceremony Monday officially opening the embassy is expected to draw about 800 dignitaries, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

But they also points out that the US move is not widely supported.

The European Union, however, has criticized the new American position as an impediment to peace, and four European ambassadors attended the festivities.

The Palestinian Authority government, which has boycotted all contact with American officials since Trump announced the embassy move in December, issued a a statement saying the relocation signified a U.S. endorsement of “Israel’s policies and measures that undermine Palestinians’ fundamental rights.”

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

The Israeli celebrations coincided with Jerusalem Day, in which residents enjoyed a day off to honor the anniversary of the 1967 reunification of the city by Israeli forces that captured East Jerusalem from the Jordanian army.

Choosing that as the day to celebrate the US move could also be seen as a pointed snub to the Palestinians.

Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, is leading a congressional delegation to the embassy dedication.

“Everybody has a claim to Jerusalem, from a religious point of view,” he said. “But I think the premier claim comes from the Jewish people, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it could one day be the capital of the independent Palestinian state.”

That sounds confusing. He seems to be implying a split city, but saying that “the premier claim comes from the Jewish people” is unlikely to satisfy non-Jews and is unlikely to pacify the anger.

The Jerusalem Post unsurprisingly applauds the move: GAME CHANGER

Instead of staying away from the embassy opening, all those who truly seek peace should see this as the start of a new era in the ancient city.

The opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem justifiably is being called a “game changer” and “historic.” Seventy years after the State of Israel was born and 51 years after the reunification of the capital, the US, the only world superpower, is not only recognizing Jerusalem’s integral importance to Israel, the Jewish state, but acting on that recognition.

This sends out several important messages, not least of which is the importance of not giving in to terror.

Some people have voiced opposition to the move on the grounds that it might give rise to a wave of Palestinian or Islamist terrorism in Israel or against Jewish or American targets abroad. Had US President Donald Trump accepted this line of thought, it would have only encouraged and rewarded terrorism instead of diplomacy.

There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of diplomacy involved in the US embassy move, apart from between the US and Israel.

The US Embassy move rights an historic wrong and makes clear the terms of any future peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It removes from the agenda the question of Israel’s status regarding Jerusalem, which houses its parliament, Supreme Court, President’s Residence, almost all government ministries and, of course, the Jewish holy sites.

It makes it clear that Israel remains uncompromising and peace will only happen on their terms – which suppressses the rights of the Palestinians.

The move is a game-changer not least because Trump’s opening of the embassy in Jerusalem unequivocally tells the Palestinians that Israel is here to stay and that Jerusalem, at least west Jerusalem, is and will remain its capital. As The Jerusalem Post‘s Michael Wilner reported yesterday, senior Trump administration officials said Palestinian resistance to America’s opening of an embassy in Jerusalem is based on a “fantasy” unhelpful to their cause: the fantasy of having veto power over the fate of the storied capital.

But the Palestinians have no real power. As long as Israel maintains military control the Palestinians are likely to feel oppressed. Terrorism is terrible, but for a substantially weaker side it can be seen as the only option when the powerful ride roughshod over their rights.

The embassy move may well be a game changer, but it is a protracted and often violent game, and there is a real risk that the change will be no less ugly than it has been.

Bannon canon blasts Kushner and Ivanka

Ex Trump adviser Steve Bannon has fired a fusillade at Donald Trump’s daughter and son in law in an interview with Vanity Fair. This could be a part of revenge utu for being dumped from the White House.

NZH: Ivanka Trump called Steve Bannon a liar in White House feud

The internal tensions of Donald Trump’s White House have been laid bare by the man who used to be his top adviser.

In a revealing interview with Vanity Fair, Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s political strategist before he was pushed out of the job in August, got remarkably candid about the simmering rivalries that plagued the President’s inner circle.

Bannon used the interview with Vanity Fair to repeatedly slam the couple, referring to them disparagingly as “Javanka”.

Things soon turned ugly as Bannon and the President’s daughter let loose at each other.

“She’s the queen of leaks,” Bannon reportedly said.

“You’re a f***ing liar!” Ivanka Trump fired back.

The interview revealed exactly how toxic the relationship became, and how much contempt Bannon still has for “Javanka”.

Bannon said it was clear Kushner, whom the President gave a wide portfolio of responsibilities, was in way over his head.

It was very risky to give Kushner huge responsibilities with virtually no relevant experience.

“He doesn’t know anything about the hobbits or the deplorables,” Bannon said, referring to Donald Trump’s voters. “The railhead of all bad decisions is the same railhead: Javanka.”

Bannon said Kushner’s decision to hold meetings with Russians during the election campaign may have given the impression the Trump camp sought Moscow’s help.

An impression that the is under investigation by the FBI, with Kushner apparently a prime target.

The article also highlights how any hopes the pair had of a decent working relationship were over after FBI Director James Comey was fired in May and Kushner’s involvement in that decision.

In an earlier interview, Bannon called it “the dumbest political decision in modern political history”.

The president made that decision, so Bannon is letting lose at the Trump political dynasty.

Employing the services of Bannon in his campaign and then in the White House administration may end up competing for being one of the dumbest political decision in modern political history. Revenge fire from the Bannon canon may inflict serious damage, and could even end up sinking the Trump ship.

Who needs enemies when you have ex-friends intent on turning dirty tactics against you?

 

Developments and implications of Flynn’s guilty plea

A long thread from US attorney Seth Abramson on Twitter, as the news of Michael Flynn pleading guilty and helping the FBI investigation into Russia/Trump and it’s implications.

…is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

And later as more was revealed:

This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon.

So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

And later:

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency.

1/ First, it’s important to understand that Mueller has entered into a plea deal with Flynn in which Flynn pleads guilty to far less than the available evidence suggests he could be charged with. This indicates that he has cut a deal with Mueller to cooperate in the Russia probe.

2/ We’ve already seen Mueller do this once before in the probe, with George Papadopoulos—who was charged with the same crime as Flynn, Making False Statements, to secure his cooperation with the Russia probe. The Papadopoulos plea affidavit emphasized facts were being left out.

3/ Flynn is widely regarded as dead-to-rights on more charges than Making False Statements—notably, FARA violations (failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey under the Foreign Agent Registration Act). There’s recently been evidence he was part of a kidnapping plot, too.

4/ Getting charged with just one count of Making False Statements is a great deal for Mike Flynn—it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll escape incarceration, but a) it makes that a possibility (depending on what the parties and judge say and do), and b) any time served may be minimal.

5/ What this suggests is Flynn brings substantial inculpatory info (info tending to incriminate others) to the table. Unlike Papadopoulos, Flynn was going to be—because of his position in the administration—a primary target of the probe. So he had to offer a lot to get this deal.

6/ Deals like this are offered *only* when a witness can incriminate someone “higher up the food-chain” than them. In the case of the nation’s former National Security Advisor, the *only* people above him in the executive-branch hierarchy are the President and the Vice President.

7/ There may be other targets in the Russia probe—such as Attorney General Sessions—at Flynn’s same level in the hierarchy, but unless he could incriminate two or more of them, a deal like this would not be offered to him. And there *aren’t* two or more at his level in this case.

8/ What this indicates—beyond any serious doubt—is the following: Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the former Director of the FBI, believes Mike Flynn’s testimony will *incriminate* the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, or both of these two men.

9/ For this reason, what’s about to happen in 50 minutes is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

10/ The Papadopoulos plea paled in comparison to this because Papadopoulos was a top national security advisor to Mr. Trump, but still at nothing like Flynn’s level of access and authority. The Manafort indictment pales in comparison because it was just an indictment, not a plea.

11/ The range of crimes for which Flynn can incriminate the president is unknown, but we have *some* sense of what could be involved. The first thing to understand is that Flynn had access to—and influence with—Trump on national security issues beginning in the Summer of 2015.

12/ The last *known* contact between Trump and Mike Flynn was late April 2017—meaning the two men were in contact for approximately one year and nine months. Given that these twenty-one months make up almost the entirety of Trump’s political career, this is a huge swath of time.

13/ During their last known contact—April 2017—we know Trump told Flynn (at a minimum) to “stay strong,” after which Flynn stopped cooperating with investigators. So the first thing Flynn can tell Mueller is all Trump said—and if he obstructed justice—during that April 2017 call.

14/ But of course the “story to tell” that Flynn’s attorney bragged the ex-NSA had—back in late March of 2017—goes *well* beyond Obstruction allegations. Flynn was at the center of numerous contacts with Russia that he can report the president knew about and perhaps even ordered.

15/ Flynn met with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner in early December 2016 to discuss a “Kremlin back-channel” that some have argued would have constituted an act of espionage. Did Mr. Trump know about this? Did he direct Flynn and/or Kushner to pursue this back-channel?

16/ This December 2016 event underscores that Flynn’s a threat not just to Trump but to others. It’s easy to forget that, just because Flynn—it appears—can incriminate the president, doesn’t mean he can *only* incriminate the president. Many others are at risk, including Kushner.

17/ Indeed, today’s plea coming so close on the heels of Mueller asking Kushner to come in and talk about Flynn suggests Kushner is also a target of the Russia probe. Perhaps Mueller didn’t think Kushner would flip on family, so he set him up to Make False Statements about Flynn.

18/ This is critical: Flynn pleading guilty today means he was cooperating with Mueller *before* this. You don’t offer value to a prosecution *after* you plead, you offer it beforehand—via what’s called a “proffer” of info (that incriminates others). That’s what earns you a deal.

19/ So it’s entirely possible that when Mueller called Kushner in to talk about Flynn, he already had everything Flynn planned to give him—meaning he was *testing* Kushner to see if Kushner would lie about events Mueller was already fully informed about via Flynn’s prior proffer.

20/ That proffer may have incriminated not just Trump and Kushner and—perhaps—Pence, but any number of Trump NatSec (or simply “top”) aides: Manafort, Sessions, Clovis, Hicks, Lewandowski, Page, and Gordon, to name a few. We may not know, however, until someone else is indicted.

21/ Mueller isn’t obligated to tell the public what Flynn told him. We’ll first learn of it (for all but Trump) via future indictments of those Flynn incriminated. As for Trump, he can’t be criminally tried as POTUS, and probably can’t even be indicted, so it’ll work differently.

22/ What Flynn told Mueller about Trump will first appear in an indictment of a third party—quite possible, if the third party was/is close enough to Trump—or else in the final report Mueller is tasked with giving Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ (though that may take a while to come).

23/ How long it will take Mueller to issue indictments based on Flynn’s proffer? It’s hard to say: it depends on what evidence was given, what evidence Mueller already had, what additional investigation he wants to do on that person (perhaps to bring further charges), and so on.

24/ But Mueller may act on Flynn’s proffer at any time, which means—and here’s another critical point—the daily, harrowing watch to see if Trump will attempt to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller begins in earnest *now*.

If Trump moves to fire Mueller, all hell will break loose.

25/ I’ve long said that Trump *will* move to fire Mueller—simply because doing so would quickly become one of his only options for self-preservation when/if Mike Flynn or another top associate entered into the cooperation deal with the Special Counsel. Well, we’re finally here.

26/ As I’ve said, we now have reason to believe—to a near-certainty—Flynn can incriminate Trump. And as noted, the range of potential crimes is vast. Did Flynn tell Trump and/or Pence the truth about his Russia contacts as they were happening—despite what the White House claimed?

27/ Remember, besides a long course of conduct involving both Obstruction of Justice and Witness Tampering—of Sally Yates, of Comey, of Jr., of Flynn himself, of Sessions, and of various Congressional investigators—Trump is being looked at for Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes.

28/ In the Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes probe, the question is a) when Trump knew Russia was committing crimes against the United States, and b) whether and how Trump offered Russia anything of financial or political value ostensibly for “free” after he had this knowledge.

29/ If Donald Trump learned Russia was committing crimes against America and subsequently offered—unilaterally—policy shifts of political or financial value directly to Russian agents either himself or through intermediaries, he’s guilty of a crime as great as the underlying one.

30/ We know Trump knew there was a “high likelihood” (the legal standard in this case) Russia was committing crimes against America as of August 17, 2016, when he received his first security briefing as a presidential candidate. A speech in late July suggests he knew it earlier.

31/ But given that Mike Flynn dined with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in December of 2015—after he’d been a key Trump campaign foreign policy and national security advisor for four months—it’s possible Trump had this knowledge as early as the fall of 2015 or the winter of 2015-2016.

32/ This is the key information Mike Flynn can offer: what Trump knew about Russian crimes, and when; and also, what actions he directed his national security advisory apparatus to take—possibly in response to this knowledge—and when. For instance, secret sanctions negotiations.

33/ We know Flynn was engaged in secret sanctions negotiations with Russia that Trump—rather oddly—said he “would have told him” to engage in throughout December of 2016. But we’ve *no* idea if this was the first time such negotiations occurred. Flynn will have this information.

34/ Flynn will also know exactly what occurred as the White House tried to cover up these illicit December 2016 sanctions negotiations—or any earlier ones—including what Trump and Pence knew of them, and when, and how and when they coordinated lying to American voters about them.

35/ Remember that Trump *not only* tried to get Comey to drop the case against Flynn—suggesting he was scared about what that case could uncover—he *also* tried to convince his aides to let him *re-hire* Flynn after his firing and *then* called Flynn to tell him to “stay strong.”

36/ While Trump also exhibited some fear about what Manafort could reveal to investigators—keeping him on as an unpaid advisor through February 2017 after “firing” him as an unpaid Campaign Manager in the summer of 2016—he’s shown much *more* concern about Mike Flynn’s situation.

37/ A quick pause while I read the court documents for today’s plea—they’re just coming out now.

38/ One thing is clear: Mueller charged Flynn with the most innocuous lies he could to shield from the public—and far more importantly, from President Trump and his allies (at least for now)—the extent of what Flynn has told him. A longer charging document would reveal too much.

39/ The first allegation in the single-count charging document is that Flynn lied about asking Russia to moderate its response to the US decision to level new sanctions in December 2016. Presumably, Flynn made this request on a representation Trump would undo those new sanctions.

40/ The second allegation, dating from 12/22/16—the first was from 12/29/16—involves Flynn asking Russia to take a particular stance on a UN resolution. While both these acts violate the Logan Act—private citizens can’t negotiate with foreign governments—they’re just appetizers.

41/ For Mueller to be *so guarded* in what information he’s willing to reveal in his single-count indictment—as we know Mike Flynn lied to the FBI about far more serious things than Mueller has disclosed—confirms, indirectly, that Flynn’s proffer to the FBI was *quite* explosive.

42/ That said, the UN resolution had to do with Israel—and we know Israel had reached out to Kushner about that same resolution, so there’s a possibility that the second allegation against Flynn will give the lie to things *Kushner* told the FBI about his contacts with Israel.

43/ But remember, when the FBI sat down to discuss Flynn’s Russia contacts with him, they would have asked him about *all* his recent Russia contacts—including, for instance, his December ’15 trip to Moscow to dine with Putin. So the topics Flynn lied about could date back years.

44/ (When I get a number of new readers—as today—people ask me to restate my bona fides: Harvard Law School, 2001; public defender for eight years in two jurisdictions; trained at Georgetown/Harvard as a criminal investigator; represented 2000+ defendants in cases up to homicide;

45/ have worked at 3 public defenders since 1996—one federal—and have testified in federal criminal cases as a defense investigator; current member in good standing of the New Hampshire bar and the federal bar for the District of New Hampshire; I now teach legal advocacy at UNH.)

46/ Another key point many will forget: Flynn was so scared about the extent of his criminal liability as Trump’s pre-election advisor and post-election NSA that in March 2017 his lawyer took the *extraordinary* step of *publicly* offering to cooperate with federal investigators.

47/ Usually, this sort of offer is made privately—and usually it’s made somewhat further along in a federal investigation than was the case with Flynn, who made the offer just a few weeks after he was fired by Trump. It was after that offer that Trump told him to “stay strong.”

48/ At the time, Flynn’s lawyer said he had “a story to tell.” It was clear Flynn and his attorney believed enough *other* potential witnesses had similarly inculpatory information about Trump that they needed to “race to the courthouse” (as we say) to get a deal *before* others.

49/ It can’t be overstated that Flynn had been assumed to be one of the primary targets of the Trump-Russia probe—so him being given a sweetheart deal by federal law enforcement means the “story to tell” that he had was a very, very good one in Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s view.

50/ UPDATE: CNN confirms Flynn has now plead guilty. Technically, he pled to *four* false statements, though they were paired—he lied about two statements he made to the Russians *and* their responses to those two statements, one about U.S. sanctions policy and one about Israel.

51/ It’s *very* telling that U.S. media has received *no official response* from the White House about this. Remember how quickly they came out with a party line about Papadopoulos’ plea, and even the Manafort and Gates indictments? This is so bad there’s nothing for them to say.

54/ *Don’t* listen to the White House if it claims the only thing Flynn is offering the Special Counsel is evidence that Trump ordered him to violate the Logan Act (which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments) pre-inauguration. This is *far* bigger.

55/ I’ve been saying for many months now that the publicly available information we have *strongly* suggests that Trump ordered certain of his subordinates to make contact with Russia *pre-election*—which is an entirely different matter than making such contact *post-election*.

56/ With the plea Flynn just entered minutes ago, something significant has died in public discourse: *any possibility* that the Trump-Russia probe is, as Trump and his allies have long claimed, either a “witch hunt” or “sour grapes” or a “nothingburger.” This is all 100% real.

57/ Those of us in the “reality-based community” always knew this was real, and all the media reporting on it confirmed it was real, but it now becomes unthinkable that the White House—the world’s foremost bastion of “fake news” right now—could keep claiming this is all bollocks.

58/ Minutes ago, someone connected to the White House was, CNN reported, saying that Flynn was acting on his own. Even *fewer* minutes ago, ABC reported that Flynn was acting on Trump’s orders. *That’s* how quickly this administration’s network of implausible lies is unraveling.

59/ What Flynn pled to carries a maximum penalty of 1 to 5 years—very light for the federal system, again suggesting a “sweetheart” deal. He could’ve been charged with more; could’ve faced *more* counts of the same charge; and he could still be eligible for a “downward revision.”

60/ Mueller allowed argument on a downward revision for George Papadopoulos—due to his lack of a prior record—and it appears that could allow Papadopoulos to do six months in a federal prison or even no time at all. So we don’t know what Mueller and Flynn agreed to on that score.

61/ While Flynn is getting a substantial benefit by being deliberately *under*-charged, if his evidence is very strong Mueller may also have made an agreement regarding the amount of prison time the government will ask the judge for and how much time it’ll allow Flynn to ask for.

62/ Another reason the government *under*-charges a witness it intends to use at trial is to give a future defendant’s defense team less material to work with on cross-examination. Obviously Flynn is shown to be a liar—but you don’t want him weighted down with *many* convictions.

63/ The next move for the White House is this one: to try to convince the American media, and American voters, that the only thing Mueller has on Flynn is what Flynn just pled to. Don’t be deceived; that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this (cooperation deals) work.

64/ UPDATE: Court documents show Flynn now says he was in contact with top officials on the transition team as he was discussing US sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution on Israel with Russia. All the information we have says one of those officials was *Jared Kushner*.

65/ Kushner was working with the Israelis on the Security Council resolution and—in early December—with multiple Kremlin agents on (it now appears) the sanctions issue. And Kushner was the one who brought Flynn onto the transition—so he’d have been Flynn’s critical contact there.

68/ Note that the events of today *further confirm* that Mueller brought Kushner in to talk about Flynn a couple weeks ago as a ploy to see if he (Kushner) would make (additional) false statements to federal investigators—a felony.

69/ So what we’ve learned today is (a) Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is a target of the Mueller probe (as I and many attorneys have long said); (b) Jared Kushner is almost certainly also a target; (c) Kushner needs a new lawyer; (d) Pence may also be a target.

70/ Pence was nominally the head of the transition, and Flynn is now saying he was in contact with members of the transition—high-level members—about his conversations with Russia. If Mike Pence was one of them—and he lied about it publicly—he could face Obstruction charges, too.

71/ It’s too early to know *all* the dominoes that will fall as a result of what just happened with Michael Flynn, but we know (a) there will be international effects and consequences, and (b) the Trump presidency (including *all* his policy initiatives) is now gravely imperiled.

72/ While we can’t know what they will do, to legal observers I think the idea that the Republicans would push forward with Trump’s political agenda as though he *isn’t* now the *known target of a federal criminal investigation* is almost unthinkable. But we’ll see what happens.

73/ But as I say this, understand something else—this is the beginning of the end for Trump, but it is *not* the end. The number of additional shoes that will be dropping in the days, weeks, and even months to come will cause substantial alarm to all Americans of good conscience.

74/ UPDATE: U.S. media has just televised the perp walk of the former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

75/ BRIEF MEDIA UPDATE: I’m expecting to be on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio, and Sky News (UK) later on this evening to discuss today’s breaking news.I will post audio and/or video when or as available. I’ll update this list of appearances as things are added/changed during the day.

76/ Many will forget that Rep. Conaway (R-TX) yesterday said he expected to finish his probe of Trump-Russia ties in February—and implied the findings were already known: that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. Now Flynn (per ABC) says Trump secretly told him to talk to Russia.

80/ This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon. So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

81/ Putin’s election interference, as Harding notes, was part of a years-long campaign to destroy the EU, NATO, and, yes, the United States. Complicity in that campaign is complicity in an attempt by Putin to reinstate the Cold War and demolish Western democracy. It’s that big.

82/ Trump, Flynn, and many others had—as late as August 17, 2016, but certainly much earlier than that—clear knowledge of what Putin’s ambitions were. And they not only played footsie with him after that but *actively conspired with him* and his agents in secret. It’s *that* big.

83/ Before this ends, the GOP will have no choice but to disavow Trump as one of the greatest traitors in our history—we’re getting only the first inkling of that eventuality today. But Trump won’t go quietly—he’ll take about half the GOP with him to form a new political party.

84/ So yes, the Roy Moore situation is very much about certain members of the GOP, Trump particularly, apologizing for and/or enabling a pedophile. But understand this: Roy Moore will also be a key leader in the political party Trump eventuality forms once the GOP kicks him out.

85/ I won’t go too far down this line of analysis now, but suffice to say that when I say today’s plea is the beginning of the end for Trump’s presidency—though we’ve a long way to go (well into ’18)—it’s also the beginning of the end for many other things. And the start of some.

86/ More immediately, we have to talk about Pence. If Flynn told Pence anything about his Russia contacts and Pence then lied to America to cover it up, I hope it goes without saying neither Congress nor America will stand for Pence assuming the presidency. This is *that* big.

87/ We know Pence ran the transition; we know he discussed Flynn’s Russia contacts with Flynn; we know Pence has lied about big things before; we know Flynn said he revealed his actions to a “top transition official”; we’ve no reason to think Trump or Flynn hid things from Pence.

88/ So we must consider that Flynn’s full proffer—the one we have barely an inkling of so far—imperils the political and possibly legal future of *both* the President of the United States *and* the Vice President of the United States. So we’ll eventually have to talk succession.

89/ I want to underscore: we should *not* get ahead of this story to that degree. But anyone reading this thread and understanding the full implications of today’s news has to *begin* thinking about (and preparing emotionally for) some possible (and quite historic) eventualities.

90/ These eventualities are *so* encompassing that for the moment we must say this: (a) many people in the White House appreciate them, and therefore (b) literally *nothing* that comes from the White House on Russia going forward can be credited *in the slightest*. And I mean it.

91/ The correct action for the White House to take—as a matter of *national security*—is to say absolutely nothing about what’s happened. Anything else a) threatens to destabilize the nation, and b) immediately becomes possible evidence in impeachment and/or criminal proceedings.

92/ The amount of disinformation coming from Fox News and Trump allies right now will be written about in history books for years to come as constituting an infamous domestic disinformation campaign. Americans of good conscience in the White House must *refuse* to participate.

93/ If you are in the media right now saying this isn’t a big deal, or at the White House or other political venues saying that, you are deliberately impeding the orderly administration of justice the nation will rely upon to expose this presidency for what it is and always was.

94/ Every attorney with experience in criminal law now presumes—and factors into their analyses—that Mueller has sufficient information to indict the POTUS. He wouldn’t have given Flynn this sort of deal otherwise. All of us should be acting carefully, with that thought in mind.

95/ None of us know for certain what will happen, but legal experts can certainly tell us what is *likely* to happen—and it’s likely *enough*, now, that those in positions of responsibility in the media and in government must think *very* seriously about what they do and say now.

96/ If you’re reading what people like Andrew McCarthy are saying now in National Review—people who have been *wrong* at *every stage* of this investigation as to the direction it was going in—you’re not preparing yourself or your family/friends for any future political upheaval.

97/ Sadly, we’re at a point at which those inclined to read National Review would do better to listen to anonymous Trump allies than read articles by named conservative columnists.

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

98/ I don’t think people like McCarthy believe what they’re writing; I think they suspect this presidency is disintegrating. What I think they want is for as much of Trump’s radical political agenda to slip through Congress without debate as possible—and as *quickly* as possible.

99/ This, then, is the key *political*—rather than legal—debate of our moment and perhaps our time: conservatives trying to squeeze as much political value as possible out of a presidency that will end in not just disgrace but public acceptance as the worst America has ever seen.

PS2/ This means that—during a presidency legally established via national vote—Jared Kushner was working secretly with a hostile foreign nation to stop the proper operation of that duly-elected president and presidency. This on its own would be harrowing. But it’s just the start.

PS5/ No word on how Flynn Sr.’s deal affects potential charges against Flynn Jr., but I’d have to say—contra Star Wars—”this deal is getting better all the time” if Flynn gets 1 charge, a chance at no jailtime, and no charges for his son. That’d mean he had a *big* story to tell.

101/ The Statement of the Offense recently released on the Flynn case is astounding. Flynn made *multiple* phone calls to “senior” officials (“officials,” plural) on the transition team about his sanctions negotiations and he received clear marching orders from those “officials.”

102/ It’s already been reported that Kushner is one of the senior transition officials who secretly instructed Flynn to participate in clandestine sanctions negotiations with Russia and then never revealed those orders to anyone outside the campaign. The other could be Pence.

103/ Or, there could be more than two. Just as Trump Jr. met Kremlin agents in Trump Tower and says he never went upstairs to tell his dad, we now have transition officials *at Mar-a-Lago* while Trump was there who will presumably claim they didn’t inform Trump of their actions.

104/ Obviously no one will believe *multiple* transition officials who were with the president at Mar-a-Lago gave orders to Flynn on how to negotiate with the Russians on sanctions and *didn’t* tell Trump—that’s not at all consistent with what we know of Trump’s management style.

105/ But in any case, we can note that Mike Pence was the head of the transition, and that the Statement of the Offense says Flynn told *someone* at the top of the transition team *besides* Jared Kushner what he was doing. The list of people that could be is vanishingly small.

106/ Flynn and Kushner knew what they were doing was wrong—they would *not* have widely spread information about their secret (and illegal, under the Logan Act) negotiations with Russia. So the second (or third and additional) “senior” officials had to be *very* senior indeed.

107/ If you imagine for a moment that Kushner told his father-in-law what was going on—spoiler alert: everyone knows that we’ll discover he did—this means that, *at best*, Trump lied to the Vice President and to the nation about his (illegal) actions regarding Russian sanctions.

108/ It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency. I was asked on Bloomberg TV what I would offer as Trump’s best defense and I said, “remain silent.” Which is the advice you give a guilty person who’s dead-to-rights and about to be charged.

109/ I’ll be taking a brief break to appear on BBC Newsnight (for those in the UK or those who have it on cable). I’ll return immediately thereafter to further analyze what’s going on right now.

Again, this is a *historic* day in the United States that will be long remembered.

110/ (I do want to briefly note that—as to the lies Flynn told about the Security Council resolution—the Statement of the Offense said he spoke to “very senior” rather than merely “senior” transition officials. And the Statement *does* reference lies Flynn told relating to FARA.)

USA: Russian collusion probe

Investigations continue into possible Russian collusion by both Democrats and republicans in last year’s US election.

Washington Examiner: Fusion GPS paid journalists, court papers confirm

Newly filed court documents confirm that Fusion GPS, the company mostly responsible for the controversial “Trump dossier” on presidential candidate Donald Trump, made payments to three journalists between June 2016 until February 2017.

The revelation could be a breakthrough for House Republicans, who are exploring whether Fusion GPS used the dossier, which was later criticized for having inaccurate information on Trump, to feed anti-Trump stories to the press during and after the presidential campaign.

The three journalists who were paid by Fusion GPS are known to have reported on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a court filing.

“Fusion GPS is a research firm set up by former investigative journalists,” Fusion GPS’s lawyer, Josh Levy, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“As such, it sometimes works with contractors that have specialized skills seeking public information. Contractors are not permitted to publish any articles based on that work, and Fusion GPS does not pay journalists to write stories.”

Levy also dismissed the Republican idea that these payments were somehow aimed at or otherwise used to help get anti-Trump stories written by the press.

“This is simply another desperate attempt by the president’s political allies to discredit Fusion GPS’s work and divert attention from the question these committees are supposed to be investigating: the Trump campaign’s knowledge of Russian interference in the election,” Levy said.

But House Republicans still have their doubts. One of the documents filed by lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee said each of the three reporters who received payments had written about the Russia probe, which could indicate that reporters were using Fusion GPS’s work to write their stories.

The dossier has become one of the central components of the investigations being carried out by the House and Senate Intelligence committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. Investigators are trying to determine how the dossier may have influence the intelligence agencies during the 2016 election.

The Washington Examinerreported that “FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.”

And more on that from The Hill: Mueller investigating Kushner’s communication with foreign leaders

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators are looking into White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his contact with foreign leaders, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller’s team is probing Kushner’s involvement in the controversy surrounding a United Nations resolution passed in December 2016 that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

Trump, who was president-elect at the time, called for the U.S. to veto the resolution, saying it was “extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

The U.N. Security Council passed the resolution days later as the U.S. abstained from vetoing it.

The newspaper reports that Israeli officials reached out to several top officials involved in Trump’s transition, including Kushner and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and that Mueller’s probe is asking questions about those overtures.

Mueller’s investigators are also looking into Kushner’s role in setting up meetings and communication with foreign leaders during Trump’s transition, according to the newspaper.

Investigations into possible collusion seem likely to take some time.

The end result may be that Russia tried to influence the election, but both Republicans and Democrats were trying to use Russian resources to gain an advantage.

US politics looks like a dirty business all round.

 

 

Dirty democracy: Clinton, Trump, Russia

Investigations and revelations continue on dirty democracy involving the US and Russia.

The use of Facebook by Russians continues – CNBC: House panel plans to release Russian ads that ran on Facebook, committee leaders say

The House Intelligence Committee plans to release Russia-linked ads that ran on Facebook during the 2016 election, the panel’s leaders said Wednesday, according to NBC News.

The House committee is investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are leading the probe.

Facebook has already shared about 3,000 ads bought by Russia-linked groups with the congressional committees investigating the Russian influence campaign.

Google also has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its platforms, according to reports.

Recode:  Facebook admits Russia agents used Messenger to disrupt U.S. presidential election

A top Facebook executive admitted Wednesday that Russian agents had used the social network’s popular Messenger platform to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook Messenger boss David Marcus disclosed that a “very small” number of the 470 accounts active in the Russian interference campaign were using Messenger to communicate with their users.

Messenger was reportedly used by some pages with ties to Russian operatives. Marcus, like other Facebook executives, argued that the work done by Facebook around the world was being wrongly “overshadowed” by the Russia “narrative.”

Investigations continue into possible links between the trump campaign and Russians.

Newsweek: DID TRUMP FAMILY, ASSOCIATES BREAK LAW WITH RUSSIA? A GUIDE TO POTENTIAL SUSPECTS IN MUELLER’S PROBE

It has been a big few days in the ongoing investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and possibly collude with Donald Trump’s campaign. The president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has appeared before multiple congressional committees…

Paul Manafort: At the same time, the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is delving deeper into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager.

This week, it was reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, in conjunction with Mueller, is investigating Manafort for money laundering. It is widely believed that Mueller aims to use the money laundering charges to flip Manafort and turn him into a witness against Trump.

Roger Stone: A longtime adviser to Trump, Stone boasted during the campaign that he was in communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before that outfit released emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Stone has also confirmed that he exchanged messages with a hacker believed to be responsible for attacking the Democratic National Committee.

NBC:  Kushner Under Scrutiny By FBI as Part of Russia Investigation

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple US officials tell NBC Nightly News.

And the Clinton campaign is also reported to be close to Russia in it’s dirty campaigning too – Washington Post: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

So both the Republicans and then the Clinton campaign have had Russian connections in what appears to have been a particularly dirty campaign.

The US and Russia have interfered in other democracies for a long time, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Russia has tried to interfere in the US election, and both sides have had connections to Russia in conducting their campaigns.

Vanity Fair: THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT THE STEELE DOSSIER

On many levels, the Post story merely confirms earlier reports about Steele’s backers. The same day that BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirety, CNN confirmed much of Corn’s earlier reporting. “The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats,” Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein wrote. (As Howard Blum recently reported for Vanity Fair, the funding for the research originally came from a “Never Trump” Republican but not specifically from the war chest of one of Trump’s rivals in the G.O.P. primary, according to a friend of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.)

The involvement of Clinton and the D.N.C. in funding the Steele dossier is not surprising, but it does add fuel to the partisan fire. “I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it’s turned out to be,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday morning. “This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election.” Conservative pundits and commentators celebrated on Twitter, seeing in the Post story validation of their arguments that the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were overblown, if not fabricated.

Complicating matters is the fact that Fusion GPS has also worked with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who attended the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, in which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging information on Clinton as part of what was described to him as a Russian government effort to help elect his father.

It is all extremely messy.

It has become a very dirty democracy in the US, with mud covered credibility. I don’t know if it is repairable.

The end result so far is the Trump presidency that risks becoming an increasingly disastrous train wreck.

Lobbiest/spy also in meeting with Trump Jr

More details are emerging about the meeting that Donald trump Jnr, Jared Kushner, Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort and up to five other people.

AP/Fox:  Russian-American Lobbyist Says He Was in Trump Son’s Meeting with Lawyer

A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.

Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday. Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but was never formally trained as a spy.

The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the election, which is the focus of federal and congressional investigations. In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist who arranged the meeting said a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton and stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised.
In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney said that she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the DNC and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter who participated in the meeting. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

During the meeting, Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the Trump campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had all the evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

Also from Fox:

Another person plus an as yet unnamed person were now believed to be in the meeting.

More.

Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eight person in the meeting.

Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F86, saying who he’d met with and what he’d done, very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up intentionally, he went back and added one hundred names and places.  None of these people made it.

 

From The Hill: Kushner updated disclosure to add more than 100 foreign contacts

White House adviser Jared Kushner reportedly updated his federal disclosure form several times to include more than 100 names on a list of foreign contacts.

Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, updated the list of foreign contacts on his disclosure form — which he needed to submit to get security clearance — three times, The New York Times reported.

He added more than 100 names to it, people close to Kushner told The Times.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday said in a “normal political world,” Kushner would no longer have his job.

“If this were a normal political world, Jared Kushner wouldn’t have a job by the end of today,” he said during a Wednesday interview, “and at the very least, he should absolutely have his security clearance revoked.”

Kushner may have to update again with another name or two as his memory gets jogged.

UPDATE:

Kushner style Middle East ‘peace’

A post from ’emptywheel’ posits: What would Jared Kushner’s Middle east peace look like?

…consider what the purported Middle East peace that Kushner has reportedly been crafting would actually look like.

It’d include unlimited support for Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well.

It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey.

It’d sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen.

It’d fuck over the Kurds.

And it’d mean war with Iran.

I’m not sure about most of those but support for Israel was obvious. This may not be surprisong – Kushner is a Jew.

Trump took steps towards doing most of those things on his trip, not least with his insane weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, itself premised on a formal detachment of weapons sales from any demands for respect for human rights.

And while an all out military war against Iran may or may not happen Trump made it clear that Iran wasn’t seen as a part of any peace process, they were painted as the bad.

Of particular note, Trump claimed to be establishing a great peace initiative with Islamic countries, even when discussing meetings that treated Iran (and by association most Shia Muslims) as an enemy.

Several days ago in Saudi Arabia, I met with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region. It was an epic gathering. It was an historic event. Kind Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he’s a very wise, wise man. I called on these leaders and asked them to join in a partnership to drive terrorism from their midst, once and for all. It was a deeply productive meeting.

People have said there had really never been anything even close in history. I believe that. Being there and seeing who was there and hearing the spirit and a lot of love, there has never been anything like that in history. And it was an honor to be involved.

Kushner’s “peace plan” is not so much a plan for peace.

It’s a plan for a complete remapping of the Middle East according to a vision the Israelis and Saudis have long been espousing (and note the multiple nods on Trump’s trip to the growing alliance between the two, including Trump’s flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Bibi’s comment on “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners”).

It’s a vision for still more oppression (a view that Trump supports globally, in any case).

Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players.

And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.

Good may eventually come out of it but it is unlikely to be quick or simple, and it is very likely to be ugly. It could get very ugly, especially with the nuclear threat.

Fake president blames leaks on ‘fake news’

Ok, Donald Trump is the real president of the United States, but he is faking the problems he has with leaks from within the White House, the FBI and wherever else they are coming from by blaming it all on alleged ‘fake news’.

He’s making more excuses than Hillary Clinton made about losing the election to him.

That’s pathetic, and it’s alarming when coming from the president. Going on about conspiracies like fake birth certificates was bad enough, before he was a real candidate, but now he’s President he needs to get real about the problems he faces or he will become known as the president who faked it.

It’s fair to question media accuracy, but trying to dismiss all news he doesn’t like as deliberately concocted fake news is unbecoming of someone in his position.

There will no doubt be inaccuracies and mistakes in news, there always has been and always will be, but it is alarmingly childish of Trump to blame all his problems on something he himself is making up, his claims are based on “my opinion” with no evidence and not any sources.

He is at least as bad as those he accuses, and I think he’s worse for a person in his position.

Every politician ever has probably claimed about media coverage. I’ve never seen any go as far, promoting conspiracy theories as an excuse for every unfavourable story.

News (from ‘sources’) seems to be getting a bit too close to home for Trump – with reports about investigations into Russian collusion possibly involving his son-in-law Jared Kushner – “is part of the federal investigation into the alleged Russia collusion, though not a target of the probe”.

News reports last week said Kushner, married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is part of the federal investigation into the alleged Russia collusion, though not a target of the probe.

They were followed by stories, also based on sources, that Kushner during the presidential campaign was trying to set up a back-channel communications network with the Kremlin and that he had two previously undisclosed conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kushner’s lawyer has said his client is willing to talk to federal and congressional investigators about the matter.

The US Homeland Security Secretary actually sees contact with Russia “is a good thing”. It depends on what sort of contact, and whether proper disclosures have been made.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told “Fox News Sunday” that any channel of communication between the United States and another country, including Russia, “is a good thing.”

“It doesn’t bother me,” Kelly also said about the reports about efforts to create the back channel. “I don’t see it as a big deal.”

Some of the US authorities, including oversight committees of elected representatives,  obviously see it as potentially a big deal, hence the ongoing investigations.

A number of leaks have been real:

British intelligence on their Manchester bombing investigations was also leaked from the US.

Trump seems to have a habit of attacking when attacked, so the more ridiculous claims he makes the bigger the concern there should be over his conspiracy rants.

A real president wouldn’t just blame all bad news on conspiracies he has no evidence of. He should be bigger than that.

If he makes too many fake claims his protestations may back fire, and he may become known as the Fake President.