Manafort pleads guilty, to cooperate with Mueller investigation

Signalled yesterday, confirmed today (Friday US time) – Paul Manafort, who was soon to face further charges, has entered a guilty plea after a deal of “full cooperation” with  prosecutors investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort already faces a possible lengthy prison sentence after being found guilty on eight counts of federal tax and banking crimes last month.

Fox News:  Paul Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate in deal with Mueller team

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court Friday as part of a plea agreement that involves cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and allows him to avoid a second trial.

“I plead guilty,” Manafort, 69, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that Manafort’s deal includes a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, who are investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. That could include interviews with prosecutors and testifying in court.

A defense attorney for Manafort told Fox News the deal includes “full cooperation.”

Manafort, in a trial set to begin Sept. 24, had been facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering in federal court in Washington.

Manafort faces up to 10 years on these charges in Washington.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told reporters after the court hearing it was a “tough day” for his client, “who has accepted responsibility.” He said Manafort “wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”

The case was brought by Mueller’s team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election. But Manafort has not been charged with anything related to the campaign.

There were the predictable denials and distancing from Trump spokespeople:

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement to Fox News. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong.”

Bloomberg: Mueller Wins Manafort’s Cooperation in Plea Deal

The White House, which has repeatedly played down Manafort’s role on the campaign, responded to news of his guilt. “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated,” said Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.

Perhaps this is because Trump is innocent of any electoral crime. Perhaps thou doth protest too much.

Manafort certainly worked with at least one foreign government (before he worked for Trump).

After a year of withering financial pressure and a jury conviction in another case, Manafort admitted Friday that he laundered more than $30 million earned over a decade while working as a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, cheated the U.S. government of $15 million in taxes and tampered with a witness.

As part of his plea, Manafort admitted that he conspired to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not telling the Justice Department about a multimillion-dollar campaign to improve the image of Yanukovych and his Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S. Prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC were hired to help him, along with several European former elected officials.

Manafort organized the European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, to lobby U.S. senators in a campaign to defeat a resolution that criticized Yanukovych’s treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted and imprisoned. Manafort never told the senators that the lobbyists or Hapsburg Group members were paid by Ukraine.

In May 2013, one Hapsburg Group member met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. They also met with senior U.S. officials in the executive and legislative branches, according to the filing.

One of the potential witnesses against Manafort was Sam Patten, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to failing to register as a Ukrainian agent. He also helped a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch gain access to Trump’s inauguration.

Manafort’s legal team had repeatedly challenged Mueller’s authority to investigate business activities related to Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign. Prosecutors said they had to examine whether Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs served as a back channel to members of the Trump campaign.

The investigation looked at such interactions “before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities.”

Prosecutors will ask Manafort about his months running Trump’s campaign. In June 2016, he attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Kremlin-backed attendees promised to offer damaging information about Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting.

Manafort faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. Perhaps he still will, but hoovering over this is the possibility that Trump will pardon him.

As part of his guilty plea, Manafort agreed to brief prosecutors, produce documents and testify if warranted. Asked by the judge whether he understood that his deal with the government required him to cooperate “fully and truthfully,” Manafort replied, “I do.”

Trump may (or may not) be innocent of anything, but some of his family at least may be feeling a tad more nervous now that Manafort has agreed to full cooperation with the Mueller investigation.

More US views (from RealClear Politics):

US democratic dysfunction continues

Facebook says it has identified further attempts to use social media to interfere with US elections, while Robert Mueller has referred three investigations into possible illicit foreign lobbying by Washington insiders to federal prosecutors in New York – as this involves people associated with Democrats as well as Republicans President Trump should at least be partially supportive of legally confronting the swamp.

NY Times: Facebook Identifies an Active Political Influence Campaign Using Fake Accounts

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had identified a political influence campaign that was potentially built to disrupt the midterm elections, with the company detecting and removing 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in activity around divisive social issues.

The company did not definitively link the campaign to Russia. But Facebook officials said some of the tools and techniques used by the accounts were similar to those used by the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-linked group that was at the center of an indictment this year alleging interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook said it had discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Activity was also detected around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The dream of the Internet enabling a revolution in ordinary people involvement in democracy has become an electoral nightmare in the US.

And we are not immune from it in New Zealand, but the greatest risk here is probably self inflicted wounds by ‘social justice warriors’ and political activists trying to impose their views and policies on everyone else, and trying to shut down speech they don’t like or they disagree with.

Also in the US, illicit foreign lobbying is in the spotlight with the trial of Paul Manafort under way – Manafort on trial: A scorched-earth prosecutor and not a mention of Trump

The nation’s inaugural look at special counsel Mueller’s team in action started with a bang. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye, brought onto the special counsel’s staff from the Alexandria federal prosecutor’s office for this case, faced the jury and declared: “A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him.”

With more than a dozen of his colleagues from the federal investigation alongside and behind him, Asonye recovered quickly, keeping jurors riveted through a 26-minute opening statement that portrayed Manafort as someone who lied about his taxes, his income, his business, and a litany of other topics.

Only once, toward the end of the first day, did anyone mention the words “special counsel.” Zehnle said it, casually, in passing, with no reference to Trump or Russia or any of the political firestorm that has dominated the news for all of this presidency.

Yet the reason the courtroom was packed, the reason an overflow courtroom three stories below was also full, the reason the lawn in front of the building was given over to TV crews in their ritual encampment awaiting news, the reason for all of this was the cases yet to come, the deeper layers of the onion.

And three more lobbyists are also under investigation – Mueller Passes 3 Cases Focused on Illicit Foreign Lobbying to Prosecutors

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has referred three investigations into possible illicit foreign lobbying by Washington insiders to federal prosecutors in New York who are already handling the case against President Trump’s former lawyer, according to multiple people familiar with the cases.

The cases cut across party lines, focusing on both powerful Democratic and Republican players in Washington, including one whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly targeted — the Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta. The cases are unlikely to provoke an outburst from Mr. Trump similar to the one he unleashed in April after prosecutors raided the home and office of Michael D. Cohen, then the president’s lawyer. But these cases do represent a challenge to Washington’s elite, many of whom have earned rich paydays lobbying for foreign interests.

They also tie into the special counsel investigation of Mr. Trump: All three cases are linked to Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, whose trial on financial fraud charges began Tuesday in Alexandria, Va.

Under American law, anyone who lobbies or conducts public relations on behalf of a foreign interest in the United States must register with the Justice Department. The law carries stiff penalties, including up to five years in prison. But it had rarely been enforced, and thus widely ignored, until recently.

Trump should be happy that the political swamp of Washington is at least under scrutiny, albeit a long way from being drained.

Image result for monster swamp washington

The jury is still out on whether Trump is going to monster the swamp, or if he is a monster of the swamp.

But it is obvious that dysfunction in US democracy is a long way from being rectified, if that is at all possible.

 

FBI raid of Trump’s personal lawyer’s office

A high development in the US with the FBI raiding the home and office of Michael Cohen, a lawyer closely associated with Donald Trump. This doesn’t mean Trump has been found to have done anything wrong, but it looks a more serious situation for Cohen.

Reuters: FBI raids offices, home of Trump’s personal lawyer

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday raided the offices and home of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, law enforcement sources said, in a dramatic new development in a series of probes involving close Trump associates.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan, said that U.S. prosecutors conducted a search that was partly a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating whether members of Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia during the U.S. presidential election. Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt” and denied any collusion.

The raid could increase legal pressure on the president, because it involves the records of his longtime attorney and indicates a second center of investigations in Manhattan, alongside Mueller’s Washington-based probe.

Cohen has been at the center of a controversy over a $130,000 payment he has admitted making shortly before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels, who has said that she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it.

Trump reacted with unusually harsh language to news of the raid.

“It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time,” Trump said.

Former federal prosecutor @renato_mariotti tweeted:

This is the most important paragraph of today’s article about the search warrant of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office.

Every search warrant has a list of “items to be seized,” and a warrant for a lawyer’s office has to be carefully written. Communications between Trump and Cohen were within the narrow categories of documents listed in the “items to be seized.”

That suggests that the communications between Trump and Cohen related in some way to the federal crime for which Cohen is under investigation. A “taint team” will review these communications to determine which are privileged.

That means that Cohen is under investigation and that there is substantial evidence that evidence of a crime was at his office. It also means that federal prosecutors believed that they could not obtain the same records via subpoena. That’s unusual and interesting.

The United States Attorneys’ Manual (DOJ’s guidelines for federal prosecutors) disfavors search warrants of attorneys’ offices. Section 9-13.420 states that “prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach” and should consider subpoenas instead of a warrant.

Section 13.420 requires authorization by the United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, consultation with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, a search warrant that is as narrow and specific as possible, and procedures to safeguard privileged materials.

The reason that searches of attorney offices are disfavored is because they can be abused by prosecutors who want to intimidate defense counsel or obtain privileged information. That is why all of those safeguards exist, and the fact that they were overcome tells us something.

The fact that federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant tells us that they believed that they would not obtain the same records if they used a subpoena. That’s not only what 9-13.420 requires, but it’s also common sense–the prosecutors had an incentive to use a subpoena.

Cohen is an attorney who has his own lawyer. If the prosecutors used a subpoena, Cohen’s attorney would be obligated to go through all the documents and materials himself and produce only what’s relevant to the prosecutors. He would be responsible for organizing them as well.

Instead, prosecutors and FBI agents decided to take upon themselves the hefty task of seizing these documents, setting up complicated procedures to weed out privileged materials, and organize and digitize the documents. They wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t have to.

This suggests that they have some information about Cohen that suggests that he would destroy evidence, hide evidence, or otherwise deceive the prosecution team. So what does this mean for Trump? It’s an issue for him for at least two reasons.

First, his relationship with Cohen appears to go beyond a typical lawyer-client relationship, by Cohen’s own description. Communications between Cohen and Trump would be reviewed by a “taint team” that is separate and walled off from the investigators.

If the taint team found communications between Trump and Cohen that were not privileged, those communications could be used in the investigation. An example would be communications that are completely unrelated to legal advice, or communications furthering an ongoing crime.

Second, Trump should be concerned because Cohen appears to have significant potential criminal liability. He could potentially cooperate against Trump, although he appears unlikely to do so. Trump could pardon Cohen for any federal offense, but he cannot pardon state crimes.

Most importantly, because the search warrant was required to be “drawn as specifically as possible,” the fact that the FBI seized Trump’s communications with Cohen suggests that the FBI believed that those communications may provide evidence in their criminal investigation.

That should worry Trump. It doesn’t necessarily mean that investigators believe Trump committed a crime, but it suggests that they believe that his communications would have potentially contained useful evidence. He was, at least, in close proximity of a crime.

One question that is raised by this news that we cannot answer is why Mueller chose to refer this case to Manhattan prosecutors instead of handling it himself. Perhaps we will learn more in the days to come that could shed light on his decision.

 

Gates to plead guilty

ABC News: Former Trump aide tells loved ones of plans to plead guilty, cooperate with special counsel

President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign aide Richard Gates has told family and close friends in a letter sent this morning he plans to plead guilty Friday in the special counsel’s criminal case against him, setting up the potential for Gates to become the latest well-informed Trump insider to assist in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, according to sources close to the matter.

In the letter obtained by ABC News, Gates writes to family and friends “despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates explained. “The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”

Gates is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Friday to face reduced charges of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal agents, according to a new court filing.

One could assume that the strength of the case against him had a part to play in his decision. It seems unlikely Gates would plead guilty if he was not guilty.

The potential for a guilty plea could dramatically change the dynamics in the investigation, just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller added a raft of new financial and tax charges to the criminal case against Gates and his longtime colleague, Paul Manafort.

It depends on what Gates tells the investigators beyond the charges he faces, in  particular if he provides information about contacts between the trump campaign and Russians intent in interfering in US elections.

13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

The FBI investigation into Russian interference in the US elections in 2016 has made a major move.

From Fox News: 13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in U.S. elections, a spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said.

According to the special counsel, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to hold a press conference Friday afternoon.

Reuters via Twitter:

U.S. says defendants’ operations included supporting ‘Trump… and disparaging Hillary Clinton,’ staging political rallies, buying political advertising while posing as grassroots U.S. groups

Defendants, in communicating with U.S.-based group, were advised to ‘focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida’ – indictment.

During 2016 presidential campaign, Russian defendants spread derogatory information about Clinton, Rubio, Cruz and supported Sanders and Trump – court document

U.S. says Russian defendants paid one American to build a cage and a second American to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform

Reuters: U.S. grand jury indicts 13 Russian nationals, three entities in alleged election meddling

In a court document, the U.S. government said Russian entities began interfering in U.S. political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014.

Some of the defendants, posing as U.S. persons, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the indictment said.

Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. deputy attorney general, will make a law enforcement announcement at 1:15 p.m. (1815 GMT), the Justice Department said on Friday.

Rosenstein:

“The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system.”

“The stated goal: of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The defendants allegedly conducted, what they called, information warfare against the United State.

They operated through a company that employed hundreds of employees, including recruitment of Americans. The campaigning staged rallies both before and after the 2016 election.

“They used stolen or fictitious American identities… The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans.”

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American knowingly participated”. “The Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.” The campaign went to great lengths to disguise who was behind it.

The special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing.

There is no indication in the indictment on any affect on the outcome of the 2016 election.

Fizzling ‘fake news’ excuse from Sideshow Don

Politicians have tried to discredit media when they report unfavourable news for a long time. All Donald Trump has done is raise it to new heights of ridiculousness – something that has worked in his favour to an extent, but is likely to turn against him over time. Especially when claims of ‘fake news’ are prove him to be the one trying to fake it.

CNN:  Sorry, Mr. President, the ‘fake news’ excuse isn’t good enough anymore

In Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, President Donald Trump was asked about reporting by a slew of media organizations — including CNN — that he had ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Bob Mueller.

“Fake news,” Trump replied. “Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories.”

And that was it. Which is not good enough. Not even close to good enough.

The reporting that Trump had ordered Mueller’s firing is a) deeply sourced b) confirmed — after being first broken by The New York Times — by a number of serious and credible media outlets and c) very detailed as to how and why Trump moved to fire Mueller.

Given both the seriousness of those charges and the depth of the reporting, it is a massive — and, likely, purposeful — cop-out by Trump to simply reply with his standard issue “fake news.”

What about it is fake? Did he not tell McGahn to get rid of Mueller?

Because, if he didn’t, then Trump should come out and say “I absolutely did not — at any time or ever — ask Don McGahn to remove Bob Mueller from the special counsel investigation.”

He didn’t say that. And White House lawyer Ty Cobb didn’t either, refusing to comment on the reports of the Mueller firing out of “respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process.”

Which means, almost certainly, that it did happen.

‘Fake news’ has become an overused Trump euphemism for ‘fuck the news’.

The broad point here is that saying “fake news” is not a denial of the details reported first by the New York Times and subsequently confirmed by a number of other outlets.

What Trump is doing is a sidestep in hopes of creating a sideshow.

A typical Trump tactic. Sideshow Don.

Sure, there is a chunk of people who will take his “fake news” comment as an ironclad assertion that The New York Times is wrong about his move to fire Mueller.

There will probably be a few comments here supporting the ‘fake news’ dismissal plus a few other repeated anti-Trump criticism slogans.

But, that doesn’t mean that saying “fake news” in any way, shape or form clears the air as to what Trump actually did.

It’s an attempt to distract from the serious allegation.

 

Claim that Trump tried to fire Mueller

The New York Times claims Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit

President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel.

After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

One could ask why this leak has come out, purportedly from four different sources.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

A typical fake news’ response from Trump:

“Fake news, folks,” Mr. Trump said. “Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story.”

But also, from Fox News: Trump was talked out of firing Mueller last June, source says

President Trump told top officials this past June that he wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but was talked out of doing so by White House counsel Don McGahn and other aides, a source close to the White House told Fox News late Thursday.

The source could neither confirm nor deny a New York Times report that Trump ordered Mueller’s dismissal, but backed down when McGahn threatened to resign instead.

However, the source added that then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steven Bannon believed last summer that Trump would fire Mueller and were very worried about the political fallout.

“They said, ‘This is going to blow up,'” the source recounted to Fox.

White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment on either the source’s account or the New York Times report “out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process.”

Another day, another Trump controversy.

Mueller silent against Trump noise

Donald Trump and his supporters have tried hard to play out the investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election, to win it in the court of public opinion. But Robert Mueller has not played ball, he has done things his way, professionally, and largely silently. Legal matters are won and lost in court, and public statements can be used against you.

Bloomberg: Mueller’s Silence Cuts Through Noise of Trump Russia Inquiries

Through all the controversy, threats and noise surrounding the Trump-Russia investigation, one person has been conspicuously silent: Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The former FBI director hasn’t uttered a single word in public since he was appointed in May to lead the probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election despite increasingly combative attacks by Republicans and their allies on the FBI, the Justice Department and the integrity of his probe.

Instead of press conferences, Mueller has spoken loudly through a series of indictments and plea deals related to various Trump associates.

Trump’s lawyers have been trying to build public expectations that Mueller will wrap up soon, but officials say the investigation is ramping up in some ways and is likely to last for most, if not all, of 2018. Areas where the inquiry is accelerating include a close examination of the activities of Trump’s son Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, said two U.S. officials who asked to remain anonymous.

“When you’re a prosecutor, you put your head down, you do your job, and you try as much as you can to ignore the outside world,” said Patrick Cotter, a former U.S. prosecutor who worked in the 1990s with Mueller and others now serving on his team. “This case is not to be tried on cable TV. It’s to be tried in a courtroom.”

Trump has also failed to trash the investigation by Twitter.

“The way Bob has been doing this is out of the prosecutor’s rule book 101 as to how you handle an investigation,” Twardy said. “There is the court of public opinion, but the court he’s playing in is the district court. And he’s staying there.”

So far, the strategy appears to be working. Republicans have sullied his probe a bit with their attacks, but Mueller has won over key allies who would play instrumental roles should Trump try to force him out.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said in interviews this week that they support Mueller and would oppose efforts to remove him. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said he thinks there would be an “uprising” in the Senate if Mueller were fired. That would be “beyond the pale,” Corker said.

Trump has repeatedly denied any intention to fire Mueller.

Mueller’s lack of public comment shouldn’t be confused with a failure to communicate, said Cotter, who now heads the white collar criminal defense practice at the law firm Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. in Chicago. Mueller is speaking through legal proceedings, Cotter said.

“He’s communicating. He’s sending messages,” Cotter said. “I don’t think his intent is to send a message to the public. It’s to send a message to the people in the investigation, and that’s what he cares about.”

To date, Mueller has indicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another campaign aide, Rick Gates. The special counsel also secured a guilty plea and cooperation agreement from Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians. A low-level foreign policy adviser to the campaign also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and agreed to cooperate.

Small targets so far, but aimed at lining up the big targets.

Mueller’s strategy has forced some critics to reorient their attacks, Cotter said. “You can’t stand there with a straight face and say there’s absolutely nothing here” after the indictments and Flynn’s agreement to cooperate, Cotter said.

There are ongoing attempts to discredit the investigation and the chief investigator, but these have been legally futile.

The new approach by Trump’s allies is to try to delegitimize Mueller’s investigation, such as by arguing members of the team are biased, Cotter said.

“It’s a tactical change,” Cotter said. “If you convince people that whatever the investigation comes out with is bad, just because of the people who did it, then you don’t ever have to deal with the facts.”

Cotter doesn’t believe the new tactic will fare any better, or prod Mueller into making a mistake. “I can’t imagine why Mueller and his people would possibly care,” he said. “The bias in law enforcement is always in favor of law enforcement. They don’t like criminals.”

The aim of the investigation is to identify criminal activity and if they find it to prosecute.

It could be some time until we know further criminal behaviour is discovered, or has been discovered and can be proven.

“Officials say the investigation is ramping up in some ways and is likely to last for most, if not all, of 2018”.

Until it is completed we simply don’t know what the outcome may be,

The Flynn plea agreement

The Michael Flynn plea agreement promises full cooperation with Robert Mueller’s Special FBI Investigation. It requires extensive disclosure from Flynn. In return it promises no further criminal charges – but there’s a big out clause. If Flynn breaches the agreement in any way then the whole deal is off.

2. Factual Stipulations

Your client agrees that the attached Statement of the Offense fairly and accurately describes your client?s actions and involvement in the offense to which your client is pleading guilty. Please have your client sign and return the Statement of the Offense as a written proffer of evidence, along with this Agreement.

3. Additional Charges

In consideration of your client?s guilty plea to the above offense, your client will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office for the conduct set forth in the attached Statement of the Offense.

The agreement gives sentence indications but doesn’t make any guarantees.

7. Court Not Bound by this Agreement or the Sentencing Guidelines

Your client understands that the sentence in this case will be imposed in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), upon consideration of the Sentencing Guidelines. Your client further understands that the sentence to be imposed is a matter solely within the discretion of the Court.

The requirements for cooperation are extensive.

Rights are limited.

C. Trial Rights

Your client understands that by pleading guilty in this case your client agrees to waive certain rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States and/or by statute or rule. Your client agrees to forgo the right to any further discovery or disclosures of information not already provided at the time of the entry of your client’s guilty plea. Your client also agrees to waive, among other rights, the right to be indicted by a Grand Jury, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to a jury trial.

And if Flynn fails to fulfill completely ever obligation as stipulated by the agreement then the deal is off.

Even the ‘Government’s Obligations’ are stacked against Flynn.

12. Government’s Obligations

The Government will bring to the Court’s attention at the time of sentencing the nature and extent of your client’s cooperation or lack of cooperation. The Government will evaluate the full nature and extent of your client?s cooperation to determine whether your client has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense.

If the Government determines that your client has provided such substantial assistance, this Office shall file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines, which would afford your client an opportunity to persuade the Court that your client should be sentenced to a lesser period of incarceration and/or fine than indicated by the Sentencing Guidelines.

The determination of whether your client has provided substantial assistance warranting the filing of a motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines is within the sole discretion of the Government and is not reviewable by the Court.

In the event your client should fail to perform specifically and fulfill completely each and every one of your client’s obligations under this Agreement, the Government will be free from its obligations under this Agreement, and will have no obligation to present your client’s case to the Departure Guideline Committee or file a departure motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines.

If Flynn doesn’t deliver fully all his knowledge of the Trump campaign, all his financial information and any evidence of any crimes of which he is aware then the deal can be ditched.

If Flynn commits any crime or breaches any law prior to sentencing then the deal is off, and he cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

This proves nothing about Russian collusion, but if Flynn knows anything about any collusion then it’s going to be be revealed, or he risks some very severe legal repercussions.

Court filings: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/01/politics/michael-flynn-court-filing/index.html

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.)