The Access Hollywood Search Doesn’t Mean Trump Coordinated with Assange

As I noted, yesterday several outlets reported that among the things included in the FBI warrant for Michael Cohen’s premises was communications between Trump, Cohen, and others (whom I suspect to include Steve Bannon and Marc Kasowitz) “regarding the infamous ‘Access Hollywood'” video.

FBI agents who raided the home, office and hotel of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer sought communications that Trump had with attorney Michael Cohen and others regarding the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump making lewd remarks about women a month before the election, according to sources familiar with the matter.

[snip]

The search warrant also sought communications between then-candidate Trump and his associates regarding efforts to prevent disclosure of the tape, according to one of the sources. In addition, investigators wanted records and communications concerning other potential negative information about the candidate that the campaign would have wanted to contain ahead of the election. The source said the warrant was not specific about what this additional information would be.

From that, people on both the right and the left have assumed, without presenting hard evidence, that this means there must be a tie to Russia. Most often, people assume this must mean Trump somehow managed the events of October 7, when the Intelligence Committee report blaming Russia for the DNC hack, the Access Hollywood video, and the first Podesta emails all came out in quick succession.

That’s certainly possible, but thus far there’s no reason to believe that’s the case.

Mueller and Rosenstein referred this

That’s true, first of all, because after consulting with Rod Rosenstein, Robert Mueller referred this to the Southern District of New York for execution and prosecution, rather than dealing with it himself. He did that surely knowing what a sieve for leaks SDNY is, and therefore knowing that doing so would undercut his remarkably silent teamwork thus far.

In spite of a lot of reporting on this raid this week, we don’t yet have a clear understanding of why the two chose to refer it (or, tangentially, why interim SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman recused himself from this matter).

There are two options. The first is that Rosenstein believed hush payments and taxi medallion money laundering sufficiently attenuated to the Russian investigation that it should properly be referred. In which case, the fact that it was referred is itself reason to believe that Mueller — even while he had abundant evidence supporting the search warrant — has no reason to believe those releases were orchestrated with Wikileaks, and therefore have no direct interest to his investigation (though they may cough up one to three witnesses who will be more willing to cooperate when faced with their own fraud indictments). In which case, the Access Hollywood video would be just another example, like the Stormy Daniels and the Karen McDougal payoffs, of Trump’s efforts to bury embarrassing news, using whatever means necessary.

The other option is that Mueller does have evidence that Trump in some way managed the October 7 events, which would be one of the most inflammatory pieces of evidence we would have heard of so far, but that there was some other reason to refer the matter.

Michael Cohen wasn’t serving as an attorney for much of the reported documents

The really good reason to refer the warrant would be so that SDNY would serve as a natural clean team, sorting through seized items for privileged communications, only to hand them back to Mueller’s team in DC once they’ve sorted through them. It’s an idea Preet Bharara and Matt Miller, among others, have floated.

Before we conclude that SDNY is only serving as a clean team for Mueller’s team here, consider that coverage has vastly overstated the degree to which the items being searched will fall under attorney-client privilege.

The search also sought information on Cohen’s taxi medallions, a business in which he has had really corrupt partners, some Russian, with their own legal problems, and one that has reportedly left Cohen with some debt problems that make his purported personal payment to Stormy Daniels all the more sketchy.

In addition, as soon as Trump claimed to know nothing of the hush payment to Daniels last Friday, the government could credibly claim that either Cohen was not representing Trump when paying off Daniels, or involved in fraud.

The NYT has reported that the raid also sought all communications between Cohen and National Enquirer’s top brass, communications that would in no way be privileged.

Even the reported communications about the Access Hollywood video may not be privileged. If they involved four people, then the only way they’d be covered by privilege is if they counted as campaign emails and Marc Kasowitz, not Cohen, was the attorney providing privileged advice in question. In that case, Cohen would have been playing the press contact role he often did during the campaign.

Still, just because Cohen was not playing the role of an attorney during most of the activities the FBI is interested in doesn’t mean the FBI won’t be really careful to make sure they don’t violate privilege, and I’m sure they’ll still use a taint team.

Mueller has already dealt with (at least) two sensitive attorney-client relationships in his investigation

Even on top of the eight members of the White House Counsel’s office who have spoken with the Special Counsel, Mueller’s team has dealt with (at least) two other sensitive attorney-client relationships.

The first was Melissa Laurenza, a lawyer for Paul Manafort whom he had write false declarations for FARA registry. Judge Amy Berman Jackson permitted Mueller’s team to ask her seven of eight proposed question after proving Manafort had used her services to engage in fraud.

More recently, we’ve gotten hints — but only hints — of what must be extensive cooperation from Skadden Arps and its partner Greg Craig, describing how Manafort and Gates laundered money to pay the firm loads of money to write a report they hoped would exonerate Ukraine’s persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko. While the cooperation of Skadden itself was probably effusive in its voluntary nature (the firm seems determined to avoid the taint that Tony Podesta’s firm has acquired in this process), Mueller did subpoena Alex Van der Zwaan and it’s unclear what methods the FBI used to obtain some of the materials he tried to hide from prosecutors.

Neither of those exchanges involves a search warrant. But they do show that Mueller is willing to take on the tricky issue of attorney testimony first-hand. Using SDNY as a clean team still may be the easiest option in the Cohen case, but Mueller clearly isn’t shying away from managing all such issues in-house in other cases.

The other possible explanations for the Access Hollywood search and the October 7 timing

Which brings us finally to the other possibilities behind the Access Hollywood search.

It’s certainly possible that the coincidental release of all these things was coordination, entirely orchestrated by the Trump campaign. But there are a number of reasons — on top of the fact that Mueller isn’t keeping this search far tighter under his own control — I think that’s not the most likely explanation.

Consider this story, arguing that the real story of Access Hollywood isn’t that it leaked on October 7 — the piece notes that David Farenthold had only received it that day — but that it didn’t leak earlier in the process, when it might have led Trump to lose the primary.

t is just impossible to believe that the tape not coming out at the start of Trump’s campaign, when logic dictates that it would have blown Trump instantly out of the water (before he was in a position where Republicans had no choice other than to keep backing him against the evil Hillary Clinton), was anything but a highly unethical political decision by someone at NBC. The fact that no one has ever even gotten an answer from NBC about how this could have happened is equally unfathomable and yet, given the news media’s overall incompetence, kind of expected.

[snip]

It has always struck me as EXTREMELY odd that it was the Washington Post, not NBC, who first released the tape on Friday Oct. 7, 2016, barely beating NBC which, it should be noted, was clearly ready to go with it immediately after the Post did. I presumed that perhaps NBC wanted this to be the case because it might take some of the focus off why they had not released it during the primaries (and thus chose not to prematurely kill off the media’s Golden Goose which was Trump’s ratings-friendly campaign).

However, there is another aspect of the Post being the outlet which got the big scoop that has always struck me as potentially very significant. The Post’s reporter, David Fahrenthold, has said that he was only made aware of the tape, via an unnamed source, THAT day — which is a clear indication that whomever was trying to get the Post to release it had decided to do so in tremendous haste. After all, if the source had planned it sooner they would have made contact with Fahrenthold well before then because he might have been out of pocket that day.

[snip]

For instance, what if it was actually someone from the TRUMP team who leaked the tape. At first glance, this seems ludicrous because no one thought that Trump would be anything but greatly harmed by the tape (though he clearly was not). But what if someone in Trump World got wind that the tape was about to be released and decided that stepping all over the Russia news (which would normally have dominated the narrative for the remainder of the campaign) would at least create the least bad outcome for them?

I don’t agree that the release was released when it was to distract from the Russia announcement that day. As I’ve long noted, in reality, the Access Hollywood distracted from the Podesta emails, effectively burying the most damning release in the bunch, the excerpts of Hillary’s speeches that even Democrats had been demanding she release since the primary. And while the Trump team might claim they didn’t control the release of the Podesta emails directly — and Roger Stone’s predictions that Wikileaks would release Clinton Foundation rather than Podesta emails were dead wrong — the Trump team at least knew something was coming (indeed, Wikileaks had made that clear themselves). So there’s little reason they would stomp on what they had long welcomed with the Access Hollywood tape. As this post alludes, I also think the Trump team and Russians or Wikileaks may have been squabbling over whether Wikileaks would release possibly faked Clinton Foundation emails that week, only to scramble when Wikileaks refused to release whatever the Peter Smith effort had gotten dealt to them.

Like the Mediate piece, I’m interested in the way that Steve Bannon had Clinton accusers all lined up to go that weekend (indeed, I noted how quickly Stone moved to that after having raised expectations for a Clinton Foundation release). But I also think there are some reasons to believe that attack was in the works for other reasons (though I agree it might reflect advance knowledge that the video might come out, or even that Stormy Daniels might come forward).  Finally, I don’t think the release came from Trump because of all the reports of Republicans trying to convince Trump to step down (though it’s possible the GOP dropped the video in one last bid to get him to do so).

One alternative narrative, then, is that the real story about the Access Hollywood suppression goes back months or years earlier, as one of the things Trump managed to suppress throughout the campaign, but something happened internally to breach that agreement. And, separately, that either Assange by himself, with Russian help, or with Trump assistance, timed the Podesta emails to come out as the Russian attribution was coming out. That is, it could be that the real story remains that whoever orchestrated the Wikileaks release did so in an attempt to bury the Russian attribution, but that the coincidental release of the Access Hollywood video in turn buried the Podesta emails.

Finally, it’s possible that Democrats got ahold of the Access Hollywood video and they released it to (successfully) drown out the Podesta emails, which they (and the intelligence community) also would have known were coming, but by doing so, they also drowned out the all-important Russian attribution in the process.

The point is, we don’t know. And nothing we know thus far about the process leading to this warrant or about the suppression and release of either the video or the women’s stories suggest it all took place that week of October. Trump’s usual m.o. is about suppression, not timing.

That said, I’m curious if this raid will reveal details about one other item Trump probably tried to suppress: the nude Melania photos that NYPost released on July 31, 2016, just as campaign season got going in earnest.

84 replies
  1. Trip says:

    October surprise > counter October surprise > counter-counter October surprise. There could have been coordination with Wikileaks, but if Assange wasn’t blocked from the internet at that point, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to consider it an opportune time to dump, following developments in real time.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Michael Cohen to plead the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels suit, Michael Avenatti claims on CNN at 4.43 pm.

    In essence, the personal attorney to the sitting president has asserted to the federal court in California that any questions put to him in that private suit for a declaratory judgment by Daniels to negate her NDA with Cohen/EC he will answer by pleading his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a criminal action.

    Cohen asserts that he will refuse to answer questions put to him by Avenatti in a deposition in the Daniels suit. He will take the Fifth, on the basis that his answers under oath could be used against him in collateral actions resulting from the FBI’s investigation of him. Cohen is hoping that the court in California will “stay” proceedings in that suit until some later date.

    Developing story.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      *TO* plead Fifth?

      Is he begging for a pardon *BEFORE* he *HAS* to plead?

      Damn, the Metadata is rich.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yep, he’s apparently told the court in California that, if asked, he would plead the Fifth.  I’m not sure if there is a federal rule of civil procedure that works that way.  The court might be more persuaded by his obviously being the target of a federal criminal probe.  But it should require Cohen to go on the record through a public filing in court, and a hearing, to substantiate the jeopardy Cohen claims to be in.

        The district court needs to give Avenatti an opportunity to contest Cohen’s claims, and it has to weigh any harm to Daniels should it wish to stay proceedings.  But Cohen has to fucking ask and file a brief that gives the court a legal basis to do what he’s asking it to do.  Otherwise, none of this is on the record and it’s all bullshit.

        As Avenatti has said, Cohen’s potential criminal jeopardy may not be a basis to stay proceedings against Cohen. It is not a basis to stay proceedings against Trump or to seek his deposition.

        • emptywheel says:

          I would imagine Mueller might weigh in here.

          He’ll want Cohen to preserve his value as a witness to incriminate Trump.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          I doubt the ‘court’ was told, as you allude to. I suspect David Schwartz contacted someone well familiar with the court and the case and dropped the ‘hint’ about the 5th scenario.

          That lawyer then contacted Avenatti.

          Betcha, betcha, multiple investigations going on in 9th.

          At least one Grand Jury.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Phoenix now definitely confirmed.

              Prostitution and Money Laundering.

              All of the locations I mentioned tie to BackPage. SF definitely via BackPage and El Camino Technologies LLC. (toss is the Russian consulate that was shutdown)

              LA and Vegas, no question on the Prostitution and Money Laundering angle. (toss Trump team into the Vegas mix also)

              Redmond may have been where the investigations actually got started into BackPage.

              And, off the 9th Circuit trail, now Texas.

              All tied to BackPage, prostitution, and Money Laundering.

              Hell, lets add the Stormy Daniels case with probable Money Laundering (Cohen) into the LA mix too.

          • bmaz says:

            This is garbage. Avenatti’s law office was directly contacted and noticed with the imminent filing of a motion for stay. And the musing about GJ’s in the 9th is completely baseless.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Pretty sure on the Avenatti being ‘noticed’ is not accurate. You have access to Pacer, would not something be visible on that point by now?

              As to Grand Juries, Phoenix is definitely confirmed via the BackPage reports today.

              And based on the news of another Cohen hush fund ($1.6 million), dealing with LA no less, I am 99% certain that there is an active Grand Jury in LA.

              Avenatti dropped the hints before it hit the news. And BMAZ, *you* know how Avenatti found out. And you know how it was ‘leaked’.

              Phoenix GJ:

              https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/backpage-com-ceo-carl-ferrer-company-dubbed-online-brothel-cop-pleas-human-trafficking-underage-victims/?espv=1

              [Also note article writer in Sacramento]

              The company founders were among Backpage officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona.

              https://amp.azcentral.com/amp/311968001

              https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-michael-cohen-negotiated-1-6-million-settlement-for-top-republican-fundraiser-1523638726

              The 2017 deal was on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a businessman who faced allegations he impregnated a former Playboy model, and resembles one Mr. Cohen arranged with Stormy Daniels

              • bmaz says:

                No notice?? You mean like the court mandated discussion and fucking stipulation that BOTH parties signed and submitted to the court in Central District of California? THAT is what is “not accurate”? Seriously?

                As to Backpage and Phoenix, it is swell of you to tell me about my local court, where I am all the time, and their grand juries and defendants I have known for a very long time, on a variety of cases. Really swell, because you clearly are far more informed than I possibly could be. From here in Phoenix. With people and lawyers I have known for decades. Good call.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Because, first off, you were referencing the Stormy Daniels matter in the first instance. Secondly, “the 9th” is a Circuit Court, and, of course, there are no grand jury proceedings in an appellate court. Third, what the fuck does Lacey, Larkin and Backpage have to do with any of that?

                    The answer is, clearly, nothing. Come on man, WTF??

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump is the silver sixpence in the Christmas pudding. He’s the one fixed point in a melange of tastes and textures, now all rancid.

    Michael Cohen is beginning to implode.  He could expose Trump to a multitude of problems, many of them domestic.  But Cohen may also have been involved in the international aspects of this as well.  Trump already had a multitude of problems arising from Mueller’s investigation of his Russian connections.  Comey is about to launch a tell-all book tour.  And the FBI has all sorts of new material to sort through from its raid on Cohen’s home, hotel room and office in New York.  The Manafort case proceeds apace, and Gates is presumably auditioning for the Vienna Boys’ Choir, answering whatever questions his FBI interlocutors come up with.  And that’s just for starters.

    The military aide holding the Pentagon’s football had best stay at arm’s length from his charge.  His superiors had best brief him about responses to scenarios he and they might never have imagined.

    Oh, and please remind MSNBC that Donald Trump cannot choose not to chat with Bob Mueller just because he won’t agree to ridiculous limits on the questions Mueller may ask.  Bob Mueller has the authority to subpoena Trump and Supreme Court precedent that supports the enforcement of that subpoena.

  4. scribe says:

    Just a silly question from this lawyer:

    Why is paying someone money for a story, then not publishing the story, a putative crime?  So long as the taxes were paid, meh.

    I mean, back in ’04 when that artist painted the takeoff on Manet’s Olympia, with Bush 43 on the bed and Deadeye Dick bringing him the flowers, and someone bought the painting and the rights to it and took it off the gallery wall whence it promptly disappeared forever, the only thing remotely negative I heard was “why the hell didn’t I paint one like that so I could have made some money?”  Likewise, there are any number of old movies which are simply not available for showing because someone rich, embarrassed by something in the movie, has bought the rights and just won’t let them be shown.  Maybe even bought the prints and negatives and torched them, for that matter.

    Criminal?  No.

    Discuss.

    The one thing this extended kerfluffle has shown is that chasing sex scandals is in MSNBC’s blood.  They are back to the same behavior that enabled EW to get herself banned, for reminding them they’d spent years chasing down a blowjob.  Like public corruption in Newark, it’s bred into them.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, it would appear to be a clear criminal campaign finance violation. The warrant is reportedly also framed in additional terms of wire and bank fraud too, though not clear exactly how that would play in. The campaign finance implications are clear on the face though.

      • Trip says:

        The bank fraud part is easy. Cohen obviously didn’t get a loan from the bank after indicating on the form that he needed to pay off an adult film actress so she wouldn’t talk about Trump.

        • Trip says:

          “to prove wire fraud government must show (1) scheme to defraud by means of false pretenses, (2) defendant’s knowing and willful participation in scheme with intent to defraud, and (3) use of interstate wire communications in furtherance of scheme.”
          Cohen set up the LLC in Delaware to distance himself from the payoff. The false pretenses were likely whatever he told the bank he was going to use the money for, ie home improvements, increasing the value of the property which the bank would take an interest in . He sent the money from Delaware which would make it interstate wiring in furtherance of that scheme.

            • Trip says:

              Nope, not really. We have reports of this loan. Whether or not Cohen was paid back or if the loan story is even true, we don’t know.

            • emptywheel says:

              Nope. But we know that Cohen probably didn’t drop the $130K because he didn’t have it — he was having some debt problems already.

              So … someone else.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Well, there was that $130,000, minus 28 cents, that moved from the Trump campaign to various Trump Org companies.  I imagine that Mr. Mueller was curious about that.

                • Rayne says:

                  In re: that $130K home equity loan — Susan Simpson says there wasn’t a home against which he could take out equity credit. More details.

                  Possible bank fraud charges? Where is Mrs. Cohen anyhow?

          • SpaceLifeForm says:

            Keep in mind that setting up an LLC in Delaware happens so much every day that it is a joke. The state laws are so protective of the principals. The drawing card.

            A couple of C-notes can save one 28 cents.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Spiking a story a publication paid a lot of money for would not be a crime, but you knew that.  Depending on timing and other facts, it might be an illegal campaign contribution or relate to other acts that are crimes.

      There are also the unknown unknowns.  We went to war over those.  We might as well explore a potential pattern of conduct that could well lead to a pattern of illegal behavior.

      Otherwise, watching Chuck Todd would be a good substitute for those allergic to Ipecac, who find a glassful of salt and warm water distasteful.

      • Peterr says:

        One potentially criminal aspect with the Karen McDougal case is that she alleges that her lawyer, who encouraged her to take the offer, was apparently working for or with Cohen and putting those interests ahead of hers. From NBC back in March:

        In her lawsuit, McDougal alleges that she was misled about the deal by the publishing company when she signed it. The company, McDougal said in a statement, “lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me.”

        Stris told NBC News that “to say that she was misled is a nice, lawyerly way to be kind to American Media.”

        The lawyer who negotiated McDougal’s 2016 agreement was “colluding” with Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, and AMI, which would “make this contract illegal,” Stris said.

        This lawyer brought her to American Media and together they convinced her that she was signing a publish — a modeling and publishing deal,” he said.

        McDougal “is not someone who signed a hush agreement and regrets it. This is someone who was taken advantage of by a consortium of interests, including a massive company that happens to be run by someone who is personal friends with the president of the United States,” he added.

        This is very different from Stormy Daniels and her NDA, and also not a simple “they paid for the rights to the story, and I want them back.” She’s alleging a conspiracy against her, led by Michael Cohen and involving the lawyer who was supposed to be looking after her interests.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I believe Daniels and McDougal used the same lawyer in “negotiating” their separate agreements.  The alleged conflict of interest he had is something I hope the NY State Bar takes a hard look at.

          The alleged conspiracy regarding McDougal’s would be a civil fraud; it’s not obvious that it’s a crime.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If you’re asking me, MSNBC had nothing to do with any raid, except possibly reporting it.  However, my opinion of Chuck Todd’s anchoring and reporting stands.

        • Trip says:

          Nah, it was a bit of sarcasm for the original poster. I don’t watch Todd, so I have no idea what he’s yammering on about, so I agree with you that he is awful.

      • bmaz says:

        That is not what Scribe is saying. He is correct about the history of MSNBC, clinton sex scandals (they were literally built on that) and a history with Marcy and banning her.

  5. JD12 says:

    The thing I can’t get past is Cohen being in London (where Assange was) at that time, and that he’s gone out of his way to obscure his activity surrounding that trip. It’s still unknown whether the campaign and Wikileaks coordinated on anything, but if they did the dirty lawyer would be most likely involved. I don’t think there would be photos of him at the Ecuadorian Embassy, but a third party could ferry information easily. Even though Assange follows US politics, he could’ve used help analyzing the importance of the Podesta emails.

    Since the Stormy Daniels possible campaign finance violation and bank fraud occurred in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, they were presumably on the defensive. His only passport stamp in the Buzzfeed photos was on October 6th, but his daughter shared a photo from the airport on October 17th. Later that day he created the LLC used to pay Stormy Daniels. It’s hard to imagine that was done without running it by Trump.

    That same day is when Assange’s internet access was cut off. Could it be coincidence? Of course. Could there have been intelligence gathering until Cohen left? With the timing it’s possible.

    Also of note, which pseudonymous in nc has commented on before, is the next day, October 18th, Steele’s sources referenced a Cohen problem solving trip to Europe. The “Prague” stuff was added to the report after, possibly due to the feedback loop.

    https://pansapiensblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/the-curious-tale-of-m-cohen/
    https://pansapiensblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/the-return-of-michael-cohens-passport/
    https://pansapiensblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/michael-cohens-mysterious-tweet-breaks-whered-he-go/
    https://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/julian-assange-internet-connection-cut-229875

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      I would not assume *ANY* Cohen – Wikileaks connection.

      Think of other scenarios that do not involve WL.

      Maybe SCL/CA?

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        Yes!! I have been wondering why all the focus on Wiki after we learned of SCL/CA. It seems to me that Wiki is taking a lot of weight for the “collusion” that should be shared with CA.

        • JD12 says:

          They’ve publicly denied a relationship, but the denial was fishy. Nix, from CA, told a “third party,” who then told the press that he emailed Wikileaks trying to get Clinton’s 33,000 emails. Wikileaks confirmed it on Twitter. But nobody saw or quoted from Nix’s alleged email, and the source was an anonymous third party.

          Why would they do that though? Who wants the press to publicize that information without being prompted? You’re talking about sensitive, stolen State Department emails that intelligence agencies wanted. Nix was bragging about opsec in the videos, he knows what he’s doing. Did Wikileaks and CA actually have a secret relationship and were using the press to create the appearance that they didn’t to throw them off the scent?

    • emptywheel says:

      Except if he was coordinating the Podesta dump, it was the opposite of what Steele said he was doing, which was cleaning up other messes and not participating in the release of the email.

      • JD12 says:

        Right, the circumstances make more sense without the dossier. But weren’t those details added after the October 18th update (original and purest on this subject) in the dossier?

        pseudonymous in ncsays:
        August 31, 2017 at 8:18 pm

        It’s worth clearing your mind and reading 134-135-136 in sequence to see how that strand developed.
        134/Oct 18: “Kremlin insider” in mid-October conversation with trusted compatriot emphasizes “a key role” played by Cohen. Some redaction in Buzzfeed doc, no indication of a meeting.
        135/Oct 19: “Kremlin insider” in mid-October conversation (the same one?) says Cohen met “in an EU country in August 2016”, but unsure of “the exact date/s and locations.”
        136/Oct 20: “Kremlin insider” speaking on October 20 “clearly indicated” in “cryptic” terms that meeting was in Prague using plausibly deniable contacts and location.
        Assuming the same or very similar provenance for all three notes — and given the compressed timeframe, I think we’re okay to do that — that’s a lot of elaboration on Cohen in three days from at least two separate conversations, where presumably the one described in 136 was guided by Steele’s feedback on the earlier one.
        https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/08/31/trumps-lawyer-i-did-not-go-to-prague-i-did-not-go-to-prague-i-did-not-go-to-prague-i-did-not-go-to-prague/#comment-717471

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Re Mueller and the SDNY clean team idea, there may be lots of threads and it may be true in part.

    I agree that Mueller and SDNY would be scrupulous in reviewing the Cohen materials for anything legitimately covered by attorney-client privilege.  A defense challenge to admitting evidence owing to violations of privilege is obvious and predictable.  It is something the courts would review carefully.  Mueller’s team would do the same, in part because that’s how they do things, in part because it anticipates that every part of these cases might end up in the Supreme Court, some more than once.

  7. scribe says:

    Re Marcy and MSNBC: How do you think she got the reputation as “legendary potty mouth”?
    She told the guy on MSNBC, while being interviewed on live TV about something or other, that they’d spent literally years chasing a blowjob [which reflected badly on their journalism skills, etc.].
    Which went out over the air, live.
    For which, they banned her.

    She has the tape of it somewhere. We’ve seen it. It’s hilarious. The MSNBC guy nearly gagged.

    Back to spiking a story, I see a pretty strong 1A defense to a campaign finance violation, summed up as “we got scammed. We thought there was a story there that would work for our publication, but it didn’t turn out to be a story we could run.” As long as they crossed the i’s and dotted the t’s on the financials, no problemo.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Certainly in light of the relatively small payment to him: a $30,000 payment, but a possible $1 million penalty for his breaching it. Not likely to hold up, but you have to pay a lot more than $30K to get a court to invalidate it. A doorman is unlikely to go there.

    • scribe says:

      And re Mueller passing the Cohen case off to the leaky SDNY?

      1.  Trump’s attorney is venued there, so it makes more sense.

      2.  To get the story and details to leak, and thereby further pressure the quarry (Trump) to do something rash.  Kinda like stomping the brush to flush gamebirds.  It works.

      That way, Mueller gets the benefit of leaking and the reputational benefit of not having been the leaker.

        • bmaz says:

          Wait, was there a question on the appropriateness of SDNY venue? Of course it is. Not saying could not be in other venues too if so sought, but SDNY is clearly fine.

            • scribe says:

              The point I was pursuing was that the SDNY is leaky, while Mueller isn’t.  So, beyond the fact it’s a very appropriate venue for Trump’s lawyer, it would be appealing to Mueller if he wanted to flush Trump into more tweetstorms or whatever, to further drag him in.  The cascade of leaks we’ve seen out of the lawyer’s matter (not a case, yet) was an intended side effect.

              Muller getting himself fired might also be an intended, second-order side effect – bring the Trump matter to a head sooner rather than later.  Too many Establishment outlets have been taunting Trump.  The NYT’s lead editorial yesterday – “The Law is Coming”, fer Chrissake – sounded like the junior high school assistant principal saying “you’re in trouble, mister” as he drags a miscreant to the office, firmly gripping the kid by the earlobe.  With a guy like The Donald, that’s the kind of needle that sets him off.

              So I would not be surprised if Mueller is trying to provoke his firing, from the POV of it being “for the good of the country” to get Trump boxed in to an impeachment/resignation spot now, rather than drag it out.  While I condemn Rodino for settling the Nixon impeachment case upon Nixon’s resignation the countervailing argument, which was Rodino’s rationale, was that in a time of crisis we needed to get this over with quickly.  I thought and still do that he set a bad precedent because it allowed, among other things, Nixon’s contention that if the president does it, it cannot be criminal, to go untested (and unrejected).  We’ve seen the poisonous fruit of that for the last 40+ years.

              But I do think Mueller is confident enough in the overall lay of the land that he can taunt Trump and dare him to fire the Special Counsel, knowing that it would be a catastrophe for Trump but, in Mueller’s (and the Establishment’s), a boon for the country.

              YMMV

    • bmaz says:

      Eh, no. There may be a 1A defense for publication (there was none) by AMI, but not for Cohen, Trump or Pecker for campaign finance violations.

  8. TheraP says:

    Could it be that the probable leakiness of the SDNY raids/team might even have constituted ‘icing on the cake’ at this point in the overall investigation joining all these folks?  Like shots across the bow? Another signal:  “You are heading into danger!”

    After all, it certainly seems to have precipitated a great deal of panic among the players, setting up perhaps a classic series of prisoner’s dilemmas among the supposedly loyal troops, many now seeing the terrible end games which may play out, and the great potential for self-interest to fracture all hope of a cooperative or beneficent group strategy going forward.

    We’ve already seen Trump’s disorientation as a consequence.  We’ve seen Bannon exposing himself to investigation (indictment?)  by publicly urging Trump to fire Mueller.  (Thank you, Rayne, for that helpful info about how former high White House officials cannot legally advise, once they’ve left their executive employ.  See recent former thread whose title begins with “Bannon” if you missed it.)  Links that may have been hidden are now vulnerable to exposure.  Mistakes of judgment may happen among the guilty. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the evidence of panic.  Are there other things, too, of the type Hope Hicks expected would “never see the light of day”?  Or inadvertent remarks like that one?

    We’re all speculating like detective novelists, Marcy seeming to hold cards we didn’t envision – till she laid them out….  And I just hope this nation lands on its feet.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      “And I just hope this nation lands on its feet.”

      You are in very good and numerous company.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      “You are heading into danger!”

      This. Everyone is. Most do not see the danger.

      Things (Investigations, Grand Juries) must *NOT* move *TOO* fast.

      Not moving too fast is *CRITICAL*. Seriously *CRITICAL*.

      Do not move too fast.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Yeah, if we were all robots, we would not give a damn about what is happening on Planet Earth.

          But, we are not all robots, nor are we all ‘Lost In Space’.

          Yet.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I don’t think anyone here does not know about Marcy’s “legendary” potty mouth, or her on-air comment about the press spending years chasing Clinton’s blowjob.  A few choice words in a web search will yield pages of MSM work, starting with the estimable and seemingly permanently frustrated Maureen Dowd.  (She who coyly described Catherine Deneuve and friends in a famous Parisian hotel lounge as a Chanel bag surrounded by Chanel bags.) But it’s always good to remind the MSM of its fallibility.

    As for your 1A defense, go for it.  Optimism makes the world go round.

    • scribe says:

      That’s where Citizens United came from;  IIRC the FEC cited (or was going to cite) Citizens United Not Timid (the original name of the organization) for making a hack piece movie about HRC and thereby violating the election laws, though, to be sure, that was not (IIRC) a criminal prosecution.

      Similarly, the Virginia governor raised a 1A defense to his criminal prosecution for election-related financial chicanery and was convicted, until the S.Ct.  said he wasn’t and that his defense was good.

      You never know.

      • Desider says:

        Perhaps the last time I somewhat agreed with Green Glennwald was that maybe banning normal citizens (a tough unlikely description of the C*U*N*T group) from pooling their bucks to create a campaign ad was a violation of free speech, especially in the internet age.
        Not that I think it had to mean “ok, we can’t regulate or track non-individual contributions at all”.
        (seems like our purposely inept BFT way of not tracking guns follows the same purposely inept FEC approach)

    • scribe says:

      Some of the names I see posting here are new and I assume they may not know the whole back story.  I’ve been around since The Next Hurrah was still on Kos, so this is all old hat to me.  Kinda like “all those crazy things we did in college” stories.  Still fun to recount.

    • Peterr says:

      Video of that historic panel discussion here.

      Be sure to watch to the end, to see the backpedaling in horror from the co-hosts of the show after they abruptly cut the interview off. “I’d like to apologize for the use of that word” from Tamron Hall, followed by David Shuster saying “We all say things sometimes when we’re passionate that we don’t intend . . .”

      More fun here, as Marcy recalls a 2007 chat with former Clinton spokesperson Joe Lockhart, which she wrote about a couple days after the historic video above. Key exchange with Joe, back in 2007:

      Marcy Wheeler: So, finally you get to the point where, yes, Clinton did not, was not completely forthcoming about a consensual blow job. The other thing that I think could have happened is that a lot of people said but, fundamentally what happened was a consensual blow job between consenting adults. I think it’s between Bill and Hillary and Monica Lewinsky. And again, that didn’t happen. So those are three things that might have short-circuited the story.

      Joe Lockhart: I will say this. I spent two and a half years with great discipline not once using that phrase, and you won’t get it out of me today. I think it, I agree with you, but it’s just, it’s a mental block. You have no idea how many times I wanted to say exactly that from behind the podium. It’s just a goddamn [grimaces face]. I completely agree with that.

      Marcy’s headline on that post? “Joe Lockhart Wanted to Say Blow Job”

      • Desider says:

        It’s humorous/sad/ironic, but they didn’t “abruptly cut the interview off” – they announced Marcy had the last word, and even after the Republican dickhead (can I say that in a family forum?) continued on and on, Marcy was able to repeat “rule of law, rule of law”.

        Whether she never got invited on again (post-“Pussy grabbing” even?) is another issue.

  10. TheraP says:

    Somehow a comment of mine got into moderation. I see below this that I messed up the email address! I misspelled a word in the address. (This email address is correct.) Sorry… Thanks for help!

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Try it with an invalid email address, say nothing after the at sign. The back button fails just like the reply button can fail.

  11. orionATL says:

    the good thing about all this campaign reporting since 2016 is that slowly we are moving, though sloshing back and forth on the deck, toward a more detailed and confident view of what type of businessmen trump and some of his retinue were, and what types of crookedness the trump campaign and its hangers on perpetrated in 2016 (and we know without question that “trump” stands for crookedness whatever the venue).

    two years of media reporting with a good boost from the ofc have moved the trump involuntary disclosure hypotheses forward. now we are following a number of small trails, filling in step-by-step details to confirm or deny each particular trump&company initiative.

    peripherally but usefully, unresolved puzzles in and about the old media reports are being solved anew as the reports themselves are brought back to life.

    among other things, this process serves to help evaluate competence from incompetence and chicanery among teevee/print media doing that old 2016-17 reporting.

  12. joejoejoe says:

    Re: Taxi cab medallions

    The utility of a taxi medallion for laundering money was tied to each medallion being profitable and NYC fixing the supply of the medallions. The price was historically up and up — a boom market — until Uber and Lyft hit the scene. Since 2013 these licenses have seen their price drop from ~$1M to ~200K. Banks that deal in these loans are taking tens of millions of dollars in losses. Those losses are going to tend to shine more light on corruption and laundering in the taxi medallion business.

    This 1/17/18 WSJ piece has a good explainer.

    Medallions once powered a New York twist on the American dream. A driver who bought a medallion for a low six-figure sum could borrow against its rising value, using the proceeds to put children through college or buy a home. Some family-run fleet operators own hundreds of medallions.

    The dream turned into a nightmare a few years ago when the market plummeted, leaving many medallion owners owing more than the value of their medallions.

    Last summer, Signature Bank wrote down the value of its New York medallion loans to $325 million from $600 million.

    It’s more difficult to hide corruption in a shrinking pile of money.

    • joejoejoe says:

      There may be something at the intersection of Signature Bank & the Trump world. Ivanka Trump used to be on the board of Signature Bank and Signature is in many of Jared and Ivanka’s financial disclosures.

    • orionATL says:

      thaanks.

      wow. $1 mill. boy was my $50k off. but another bubble. even at 250k though one could make some money if the yellow fleet became less necessary.

      can you short taxi medallions :)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Kudos to the WSJ for covering this. But not many “family-owned” businesses owned hundreds of medallions.  Dozens was more the norm, even for the well-off.  Michael Cohen and associates, however, once owned about 800 medallions.  He was suspected of doing so with the assistance of Russian organized crime. Prices have dropped precipitously.

  13. orionATL says:

    as for why nbc withheld, that’s for the sleuths to ferret out. i do recall though that rumors of sexual misconduct at nbc swirled about nbc with that movement. after repeated denials, the president of nbc had to confirm and fire one of their leading men :) .

  14. Michael Keenan says:

    Julian Assange is not doing to much these days and probably would be more than willing to testify if Mueller asked and granted him diplomatic immunity.

Comments are closed.