Staffer claims Bridges lied to media about UN immigration petition

When a National party petition was taken down soon after the Christchurch mosque shootings the reasons given for the take down by Simon Bridges sounded suspect. First Bridges claimed the petition had been taken down weeks earlier as part of a ‘routine clean-up’. When it was shown that the petition was still in public view at the time of the shootings Bridges switched his claims to saying an ’emotional junior staffer’ had rushed to remove it.

The staffer claimed that Bridges lied to media, as his PR staff had been contacted before the petition was taken down.

It is now being reported that the staffer is expressing a different emotion after being accused of ‘serious misconduct’ by Bridges’ Chief of Staff.

Newsroom on March 19: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

After claiming a controversial petition against New Zealand signing the UN’s Global Migration Compact was taken down weeks ago, National now admits the petition page was deleted by a “junior staffer” who was “emotional” on Friday night, after the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The National Party had previously told media including Newsroom that the petition was deleted weeks before the attacks.

The party now claims that while it had asked for the page to be archived a number of weeks ago due to inactivity on the petition, it remained live without their knowledge until Friday night.

Google screenshot shows the page was still live at 1.39 pm on Friday, roughly the time the shooting took place.

National says they only discovered on Tuesday morning that the petition had not been taken down until Friday.

“The situation there is that I had understood the petition was deleted a matter of weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving,” Bridges said.

“What in fact happened, which I learnt this morning was that a junior staffer who was incredibly emotional on Friday night took it upon themselves to delete it, we didn’t know that until this morning”.

Bridges said he didn’t know whether the staffer had made decision to delete the petition.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re not going to be critical of it. As I say it’s a junior staff member — very emotional, I think New Zealand is emotional, given what we’ve seen,” he said.

Last night Stuff reported:  ‘Emotional junior staffer’ in dispute with National Party following UN petition deletion

The “emotional junior staffer” who deleted a petition from the National Party website is now in a dispute with the party after alleging media were lied to, two sources close to the situation say.

MPs who know him are upset with the way the staffer has been treated by leader Simon Bridges’ office.

The staffer, who has worked for National MPs in various roles for a number of years, has retained high-powered lawyer Linda Clark to represent his interests in the ongoing matter, the sources have told Stuff.

The staffer was upset that the National Party still had a petition online concerning the UN migration pact, which was mentioned by the alleged killer.

When the petition’s absence was noted, the party told both Newsroom and The Spinoff that the petition had been archived “weeks ago” as part of a routine clean-up. Newsroom had already reported the petition was deleted recently but following a conversation with a party spokesperson had corrected their story after being told the deletion pre-dated the attack.

This was proved false the following Tuesday when cached records made clear the petition was still live on the Friday afternoon.

Bridges explained this to media as a mistake, saying an “emotional junior staffer” took down the petition on Friday night, but his media team had believed it had been removed as part of a routine clear-up.

“I had understood that it was deleted some weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving. What in fact happened I’ve learnt this morning was that a junior staffer was incredibly emotional on Friday night and took it upon themselves to delete it,” Bridges said.

Both of the sources who talked to Stuff believed this was false, because a press secretary had been informed by the staffer that he wanted to delete the petition.

This sounds to me like the staffer did take it upon themselves to take down the petition, but after informing a press secretary.

If Bridges was informed of all this then it does look like he lied to media. If he inadvertently told a false story, then his press secretary at least has done a very poor job of communicating with Bridges.

But after the staffer took his concerns about the mismatch in facts to Bridges’ chief of staff Jamie Gray he found himself the subject of a dispute, with Parliamentary Service soon involved, the sources said.

One of the sources said Gray had accused the staffer of “serious misconduct” and began an investigation into the claims he made about lying to the media.

He is now out of the office on leave.

The staffer has been asked for comment.

Something that had looked concocted and messy at the time has blown up into a bigger mess for Bridges and National. This could easily have been avoided by being up front and honest.

A spokeswoman for Bridges said the issues surrounding the petition were “well traversed” already and directed all other queries to Parliamentary Service.

That sounds like Bridges is trying to traverse himself as far from the mess as possible. If the dispute is being dealt with he shouldn’t comment on any details, but he hasn’t helped his case by saying the issues were “well traversed”. The previous traversing did not go well for him, and this latest news makes it look less well.

Two meanings for traverse:

verb
1.  travel across or through.
2. move back and forth or sideways.

The way Bridges has dealt with this looks more like number 2. It doesn’t help that his recent manner of speech has seemed far from authoritative.

 

 

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.

 

Michael Cohen’s lawyer fed media story, falsely denied it

The political/legal circus in the United States takes another twist, with Michael Cohen’s lawyer now admitting he was an anonymous source for a CNN story making controversial claims about a Trump Tower meeting, and then lied about it on air.

In the US it is common for lawyers to use the media to try to portray things to their clients’ advantage, but that can backfire.

Washington Post: Michael Cohen’s lawyer has severely undermined to the case against Trump

In a pair of new interviews with The Washington Post and BuzzFeed, Davis has backed off two massive claims he made in recent weeks, including that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had told people he witnessed President Trump being informed of Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer before it happened. He has also admitted he was the source for the initial report on that claim — despite denying it last week.

Davis also backed off his claim, this time made on the record, that Cohen has information suggesting that Trump knew in advance about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails in 2016. “I am not sure,” Davis said. “There’s a possibility that is the case. But I am not sure.”

And in the BuzzFeed interview, Davis acknowledged he was a source for the anonymously sourced CNN story that first reported on the Trump Tower claim — despite having denied it last week by saying on CNN’s airwaves. “I made a mistake,” he said of his denial, adding: “I did not mean to be cute.” He claimed he didn’t lie but rather “unintentionally misspoke.”

However this came about it’s damaging to Cohen’s credibility. Davis is his lawyer and spokesman, after all, which means these claims effectively came from Cohen himself. Davis is now trying to take ownership of them and take the blame himself, but the explanations he offers are really difficult to accept, especially given the gravity of the claims.

And that has bearing on both the Russia investigation and whatever problems Trump may encounter from the Southern District of New York’s plea deal with Cohen on a campaign-finance violation (in which Cohen also implicated Trump). Cohen was supposed to be the guy flipping on Trump and telling investigators everything he knows about the skeletons in Trump’s closet.

This episode has to make everyone involved wonder whether his claims are all they’re made out to be — up to and including his claim that Trump knew about the hush-money payments beforehand. Regardless of how you want all of this to shake out, it’s best to base a case around people who won’t undermine it.

Cohen wasn’t a fantastic witness before; he’s a worse one now.

The investigators won’t be pleased about this legal circus in the media.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the investigations engulfing the Trump administration is the lawyers involved. Here we have a presidency on the line, and this is Trump’s team? The top legal spokesmen for each side are … Rudolph W. Giuliani and Lanny Davis!?

Giuliani has played media games as well.

The lawyers are almost making politicians look good in comparison.