Why Was Paul Manafort Fired?

In an attempt to sow outrage because the lifetime Republican Stefan Halper asked Carter Page and George Papadopoulos some questions, the frothy right is now focusing on why DOJ didn’t tell Donald Trump his campaign, the one that asked all manner of people to work for “free,” was infested with suspected foreign assets. They point to this passage in the GOP House Intelligence Report to suggest that if only DOJ had told Trump which of the suspected assets in his campaign they knew about, he would have fired them.

The Trump campaign did not receive a general counterintelligence briefing until August 2016, and even then, it was never specifically notified about Papadopoulos, Page, Manafort, or General Flynn’s Russia ties. 1o.; Further, the counterintelligence briefing provided to Trump and his top advisors did not identify any individuals by name, but rather focused on the general threat posed by adversaries, including Russia and China.

The suggestion that Trump would have fired these men is mostly without merit — after all, after President Obama gave Trump very specific warnings about Mike Flynn, Trump promoted him to oversee all of national security.

Moreover, these frothy defenders of individual liberty are effectively demanding that some kind of Nanny Running Mate do the vetting that — as the HPSCI report also admits — Trump never did.

While the Committee will not go into further detail on the charges against Manafort due to ongoing litigation concerns, Special Counsel Mueller’s indictment of Manafort illustrates the necessity for U.S. presidential campaigns to better investigate individuals who serve in senior positions within the campaign. If the accusations against Manafort are true, he should have never served as a senior official with a campaign for the U.S. presidency, much less campaign chairman or manager.

I mean, sure, DOJ could have done the vetting of Trump’s “free” staffers that the billionaire candidate refused to do, but it would have involved the kind of review of communications and balance sheets that Trump would call “Spying,” and it’d be much more intrusive “Spying” than asking lifetime GOP operative Halper to ask a few questions.

All that said, particularly giving how it took place the day after Trump’s first intelligence briefing on August 17, I am increasingly interested in the campaign’s decision to fire Paul Manafort. Here’s how the GOP House Intelligence Report spins it.

Then-campaign manager[Corey Lewandowski] testified that, when Manafort was hired, [redacted] made no attempt to vet him and was entirely unaware of Manafort’s past work in Ukraine.85 In May 2016, Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman and, after [Lewandowski] was fired the next month, “evolve[d]” into the role of de facto campaign manager.89

(U) Manafort left the campaign in August 2016 following news reports that he had received $12.7 million In secret payments for his work on behalf of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions; news reporting also alleged that Manafort and his aide Rick Gates had “directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation” on behalf of the party–while failing to register 90 as foreign agents. Campaign press secretary Hope Hicks recalled that, after receiving press inquiries about Manafort’s “professional history,” a major story broke91 on the evening of August 14, 2016. According to Hicks, “Trump had made a decision to make a change in leadership on the campaign outside of Paul’s issues that were being publicly reported,” but those issues “certainly contributed to expediting and intensifying the way in which his role changed, and then ultimately he was fired at the end of that week.”92 Trump directed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to ensure Manafort departed the campaign on August 19, which he did.93 As Kushner put it, ”[t]here was a lot of news that was out there and the decision was that it was time for him to resign.”

But here’s the story as told by Don Jr in his admittedly demonstrably false testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Q. And returning briefly to Mr. Manafort, what was your understanding of how Mr. Manafort ceased to be affiliated with the campaign?

A. I believe there was stuff coming out about Paul that he denied, but he didn’t want to drag any other aspects of that life into the campaign and the work that we were doing. So he removed himself from his position as campaign chairman.

Q. And did he discuss with you or, to the best of your knowledge, anyone else on the campaign his ties with Ukrainian business or Russian interests, his alleged ties?

A. No, not that I recall.

Now, these are not entirely inconsistent stories. In both versions, when Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych became a liability, he was ousted. Though if Manafort’s ties to Ukraine were the primary problem, then Rick Gates should have been ousted at the same time, and he not only remained on the campaign, but stayed on through the inauguration, helping Tom Barrack sell foreigners (including, but not limited to, wealthy Russians) inauguration access.

But, for starters, I find it absurd to suggest that Manafort was ousted because of allegations about his ties to Russia and Ukraine, but that he never spoke about that with the family. You might argue that Don Jr just remained ignorant of the details, but Trump’s spawn, including Don Jr., were instrumental in ousting Lewandowski and elevating Manafort in the first place, so I find it doubtful Manafort would in turn be ousted without their feedback. Indeed, Jared’s reported role in the firing makes it clear he, at least, was centrally involved.

So I find Junior’s claim that he didn’t discuss his Ukrainian and Russian ties just as dubious as these other answers.

Q. Are you aware of any ties, direct or indirect, past or present, between Mr. Manafort and the Russian government?

A. I’ve read that since, but I’m not aware of anything specific, no.

Q. Were you aware of Mr. Manafort’s relationship with and work on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych?

A. Again, I’ve heard that since, but not at the time, no.


Q. Do you know Konstantin Kilimnik?

A. Not that I’m aware of.

Plus — something that always gets forgotten in this timeline — between the time the most damning NYT story came out, the time Trump got his first intelligence briefing on August 17 and the day Trump fired Manafort on August 19, he demoted him, also on August 17, putting Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in charge.

Donald Trump, following weeks of gnawing agitation over his advisers’ attempts to temper his style, moved late Tuesday to overhaul his struggling campaign by rebuffing those efforts and elevating two longtime associates who have encouraged his combative populism.

Stephen Bannon, a former banker who runs the influential conservative outlet Breitbart News and is known for his fiercely anti-establishment politics, has been named the Trump campaign’s chief executive. Kellyanne Conway, a veteran Republican pollster who has been close to Trump for years, will assume the role of campaign manager.


Trump issued a statement hours later. “I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” he said. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”


Trump’s stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the general election. And it sent a signal, perhaps more clearly than ever, that the real estate magnate intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side.

Manafort, a seasoned operative who joined the campaign in March, will remain in his role, but the advisers described his status internally as diminished due to Trump’s unhappiness and restlessness in recent weeks over his drop in the polls and reports over lagging organization in several key states. He told some friends that he was unsure if he was being given candid assessments of news stories and the campaign’s management.

While Trump respects Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel “boxed in” and “controlled” by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.

Even after the NYT black ledger story, Manafort was being portrayed as a moderating influence in Trump’s campaign. Reports about Manafort’s firing focus more on his treatment of Trump as a child than on his corruption. Even the NYT’s coverage of the firing, in the wake of their blockbuster black ledgers story, minimized the import of that on his ouster, waiting until the very last paragraphs of a long article to describe how the stories led to his loss of support among his kids, especially Jared.

At the same time, the new accounts of Mr. Manafort’s ties to Ukraine quickly eroded the support that he had from Mr. Trump’s family during his earlier battles with Mr. Lewandowski.

According to people briefed on the matter, Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, expressed increasing concern after a Times article published on Sunday about allegations of cash payments made to Mr. Manafort’s firm for his work on behalf of his main client, Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukranian president, who is an ally of Mr. Putin.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has repeatedly sought to yoke Mr. Trump to Mr. Putin, citing Mr. Trump’s praise for the Russian leader. And the avalanche of stories about his work for pro-Russian entities in Ukraine were becoming untenable for the campaign, according to people briefed on the discussions.

“The easiest way for Trump to sidestep the whole Ukraine story is for Manafort not to be there,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who has become a counselor to Mr. Trump.

In North Carolina on Thursday, Mr. Trump was informed of the newest such report: an Associated Press article that, citing emails, showed that Mr. Manafort’s firm had orchestrated a pro-Ukrainian lobbying campaign in Washington without registering as a foreign agent.

That was enough, according to people briefed on the calls, for Mr. Trump to call Mr. Bannon and Ms. Conway.

I raise this for two reasons. First, retaining Gates while firing Manafort shows that the concern about Russian ties was only PR, at best. I admit when I first started writing this, I thought firing Manafort might have been a reaction against his willingness to chum up to Russia, possibly up to and including sharing information via Kilimnik with Oleg Deripaska. I believe that at various times in the Trump campaign, he tried to get out of the devil’s bargain he made with Russia, and entertained the possibility that firing Manafort was one of those efforts. But the retention of Gates makes that unlikely.

All that said, Don Jr’s explanation, like his father’s, are convenient post hoc justifications (though this Corey Lewandowski story, which relies on Steve Bannon’s, has the same emphasis).

Still, I find the coincidence of the decision to fire Manafort and that first briefing to be interesting. Did the warning that Russia was attempting to infiltrate his campaign make him more sensitive to Manafort’s burgeoning Russia scandal?

One way or another, I’d love to revisit the events of that week to measure how much Trump and Junior — as distinct from Jared — cared about Manafort’s ties with Russia.

90 replies
  1. gmoke says:

    Billionaire? Do you have any real evidence that Trmp is a billionaire? I mean, you could ask John Barron but then I don’t believe that guy either.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Ha. Maybe that is the value of the towers.
        Oh, wait, he does not own them all. Nevermind.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mr. Trump is not the guy who measures his “wealth” by deducting from his supposed assets associated liabilities.  He’s a marketing exaggerator.  He sells how much he claims he has without reference to the claims against it.  “Net worth” is as foreign a concept to him as disclosing his tax returns to the public that elected him.  That’s why he did the real estate concentration at Penn; the finance department would have flunked him.

    • Muster Sterling says:

      Correct. Trump flipped the Plaza hotel, blew on the proceeds on Atlantic City, and only made money going forward through licensing his name. Oh, and money laundering for central Asian and Russian gangsters. For all we know, Trump’s net work might be just the value of Trump Tower. Every other business he owns is in the red. Surely the Muller team has Trump’s 2016 tax return by now. They would know.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Trump filed his 2016 Tax return?

        So far, I have seen no evidence of that.

        And he may not have had to yet if he lost money.

        Trump Org would be a different story.

    • Michael says:

      A-way back when … at the time Trimplethinskin had just begun spending inherited millions, he bought a yacht, among other things. We don’t hear about the “boat”, just the (bigger) big-ticket stuff. But I find it entertaining to image Captain Donnie man-spreading with fixers on the after deck, a lady in each hand, his soon-to-be-gone back hair secured beneath a jaunty (purloined) cap. By all accounts, he hated that yacht. (Probably because it would be useless as transport to most “resorts”.)

      • SteveB says:

        “Hated that yacht” ?

        Bought it for $29 mill in 1987, spent $10 mill on refit commissioned a Trump PrincessII to be the latest biggest yacht in the world

        Financial problems in 1991 forced sale of Trump Princess I for $20 mill, and big losses on ship yard etc re Trump Priness II

        See businessinsider: Hisrtory of Donald Trump’s Yachts (nov 2016)


  2. Trip says:

    Marcy, I can’t find any reference or source at the moment, but as I recall, part of why Trump got tired of Manafort was because Manafort was stifling the “off the cuff” typical Trump stupid/offensiveness (in an effort to bring on establishment GOP support). Remember, since back to the campaign, everyone always said that Trump would be corralled or would corral himself and act more presidential? Manafort was supposedly one of those guys (minus his hidden nefarious connections, although perhaps not hidden from Donald), he had a long run as a “legitimate” political operator, and people marveled at how Trump was behaving better (for a short time). I think Lewandowski was also very pissed off about being fired and worked Trump from the outside. He has the backstabbing DNA (which Trump loves along with drama and people fighting to be near him) and later, while angry about his rival dating Hope Hicks, he was suspected to be the leaker of the domestic violence past. I don’t think Trump was ever bothered by Manafort’s connections, but the heat and attention to it may have also played a role, in addition to the first and second reasons.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump’s standard behavioral response when criticism gets too close is to project that behavior onto someone else, then fire him for it in hopes that it takes the heat off Trump.  Kind of like firing a building contractor for not putting in the sprinklers Trump told him not to put in.

      Odds are Manafort, Gates, Page, Papadopoulos, etc., were hired because of their Russian connections, not in spite of them.  Mickey Medallions, too.

      • Trip says:

        Oh, Okay. I know this was a report back then, but I didn’t recall it being the script from Lewandowski.  I still think there’s a small element of truth because Trump fires anyone who might make him ‘appear’ normal, or who constrains him, or puts journalistic investigatory heat on him for Russian connections. Trump certainly didn’t fire Manafort because of his Russian connections. Like Marcy said, if that were the reason, he would’ve dumped Gates too.

        • Willis Warren says:

          I don’t doubt that Manafort tried to reign in tRUmp and that may have pissed him off.  Lewandowski had this obviously fake account wherein tRUmp fired him after saying “my campaign manager is a crook” and that he fired him because Manafort “thought he was smarter than the President, he wasn’t”

      • Trip says:

        I wrote a whole thing that got 404-ed, so I’ll be brief: if Manafort was going to be fired for Russian connections, Gates would have gone along with him, as Marcy said.

  3. cue says:

    A quick cut with Occam’s razor: Did someone discover there was missing vig in a bigly way?

    • Trip says:

      The day of, or the day after Manafort was fired/resigned, he got a loan approval from Stephen Calk (and more after), who was on Trump’s Economic Advisory Committee. Even though the bank he worked for centered on loans to Vets.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      So, which party was stiffed on their vig? In US or outside?

      Follow the money laundering.

  4. SteveB says:

    Keeping Gates on board while “moving Manafort away from centre stage” (shall we say) always looked sketchy ; but it seems even sketchier when the timing of the defensive briefing is taken into account as you have.


    I don’t know if there is any reporting on what Tom Barrack was up to at the time of this. His role in touting Manafort to Trump always struck me as meriting some deeper analysis.

    • Trip says:

      Barrack was looking to influence ME policies which, of course, would benefit himself. He sent Qatar to look into helping Kushner finance his building.

  5. SteveB says:

    Further re Tom Barrack and Manafort at the time of Manaforts firing

    See: WaPo interview of Barrack October 2017 (summarised in vox explainer.5 May 2018 when Barrack was interviewed by Mueller) Manafort was on Barracks yacht moored “off Greece” in the aftermath of his firing , Barrack was there with 4 or 5 guys, and invited Manafort over because he was depressed and he spent 4 or 5 days figuring out what he could do next.

  6. orionATL says:

    trump declated guilty.

    “he tried to get out of the devil’s bargain he made with Russia”

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:

    It is clear now, totally logical, Manafort was a spy planted by the Obama Administration. Comey even approved! And Scooter Libby knows the facts!

    It all makes sense now. /s

    (wait for it)

  8. pseudonymous in nc says:

    We know that Manafort took the job unpaid, but there’s never been any indication that Gates was working for free, has there? (I’d look through the FEC database for payments, but it’s a holiday weekend.)

    • bmaz says:

      “Things the Devin Nunes led HPSCI did not just decline to answer, but affirmatively and aggressively refused to even contemplate asking”.

  9. SteveB says:

    Barrack asserted prior to the election “The only solution to Syria is to work with the Russians not against them”

    His connections to Saudi Royal family goes back 40 years.

    After the election he looked after Gates, repeatedly hiring him: firstly for the inauguration, then Gates got a gig at AmericaFirstPolicies until forced out because of the Manafort link so Barrack hired him into his ColonyNorthStar business only firing him when he was arrested, but meanwhile taking him to the White House for his meetings.

    Barrack is clearly a big hearted guy.

    • orionATL says:

      and it should always be assumed, absent clear contravailing evidence, that tom barrack had donald trump’s back any and every time his long-time pal needed that protection. look for it; it will be there in the weeds.

      • SteveB says:

        My suspicion is that Barrack is something other than a Trump enabler: his insertion of Manafort and Gates into the campaign and protection of them when things got sticky may mean no more than he was acting to advance his own influence on events, however the question surely arises whether Barrack himself was coordinating with external powers to use illicit methods to manipulate events.

        • orionATL says:

          interesting. after all, barrack has known trump and worked with him for ~25 years. he has known and worked with the saudi royalty for >40 years. as shrewd as barrack appears to be he could have seen some opportunity in the middle east.

          still, barrack comes across in his public statements as the voice of reason to trump’s intemperate, unwise “tamanian devil” cartoon character.


          “… He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack said. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”. i’ve thought the same thing of the president.


          “… Trump said Mexico was sending “rapists” and other criminals to the United States and that he would build “a great wall” that Mexico would pay for.

          Barrack thought to himself, “ ’Oh my God, where are we going with this? What did he just say?’ Which I continue to say, by the way. It is shocking to me that he would talk that way because he is not that way.” Barrack said Mexico and the rest of Latin America needs “kisses and hugs” from the president, not divisive attacks. He suggests that Trump change his motto from “Make America Great Again” to a more continental theme of “Make the Americas Great Again…”

          barrack’s family were syrian immigrants to the u. s. and barrack grew up speaking arabic which made making a connection with saudi royalty easier.

          aside: as for trump, he appears to be a tragic figure in literary terms, doomed in his presidency by his profound political ignorance, his uncontrollable temper, his disinclination to take responsibility for any of his actions, and his incapacity for self-reflection.

          • Trip says:

            I read that. That’s the one where it was laid on thick. Perhaps Barrack is simply a higher functioning con than Trump?  I mean, based on his own description of himself, he’s saintly and damn, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. And YET, he has been friends with Trump for decades.


            • orionATL says:

              my point was barrack said very sensible things – presidential thinking things – publicly. good advice from a presidential pal to a president. furthermore, those comments are consistent with the picture of barrack’s personality.

              • Trip says:

                I don’t disagree with the sentiments behind not being a racist asshole. But how do you know what Barrack’s personality is?

                Hidden among the niceties is a guy working angles toward his benefit, incentivizing it for others in order to influence policy.

                • orionATL says:

                  read what i said carefully, trip.

                  i did not say i knew barrack’s personality, i said his (very reasonable) comments were consistent with the picture of his personality.

                  i’ll add, it is the case that sometimes things are as they seem. that was excellent (public) advice for a presidential friend to give a president.

                  • Trip says:

                    He also said, “You’re better than this” to Trump.

                    No, Trump’s not better than any of it. He is much worse. And someone who knew him for decades, should and would, know this.

                    • orionATL says:

                      oh come on trip. don’t be obtuse.

                      one says “your’re better than this” as a way of encouraging a person to change behavior, not as a description of that behavior. you understand that, surely.

                    • Trip says:

                      I can’t tell you what his personality is; but he has been friends with Trump for decades and then consoles Manafort (a guy who worked for murderous fucking dictators), plus he was pushing the ME policy to make bank. So giving this soft interview sounds remarkably like “Kindly Branding” to me, rather than an objective analysis of motive and true depth of character. By mentioning that “You are better than this” it also brands Trump as having some better angel in his heart, as well.  And sure, it was also a manipulation. Excuse my cynicism, but no one close to Trump for so long wouldn’t have some taint attached to them.

  10. Serene Tami says:

    When we saw the superseding indictments against Manafort/Gates in February I was finally struck very forcefully by how much Manafort is Gates and Gates is Manafort; and how in for all intents and purposes Manafort might never have really left the campaign. (Gates’ involvement in the inauguration only furthers my faith in the validity of this line of questioning.)

    My working assumption since February has been that Gates was always been a Manafort proxy. I’ve seen nothing that has made me reconsider that and your well reasoned analysis here gives me more perspective and even more cause to keep that thesis.

    I am admittedly fascinated by what a Gates-as-Manafort-proxy actuality could mean for the juicy, caramel filling at the center of the entire Trump-Russia connection. I am fascinated by it, enthralled by it, even, but the fact that it makes the possible conclusions around a bona fide conspiracy more explosive and consequential doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely and entirely true. At the very least, I see no reason to shelve the possibility.

    • Carla says:

      This is almost certainly correct. One of Manafort’s daughters told a friend he was still very involved behind the scenes after he left, and shortly after the election Maggie Haberman said Manafort had sent at least one memo in the final days telling Trump to focus on MI and WI.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      You raise a very good question: if Gates was essentially Manafort’s junior partner, and was happily corresponding with Kilimnik along the way, then that’s no less exposure even if it’s at a slight remove. Their fates were intertwined.

      One question then presents itself: what was Manafort privy to that Gates was not (and vice versa)? An obvious answer would be “meetings where Manafort was in the room and Gates was not.”

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      I make sure I’m stocked up on salt for that site, but I do think that the approach towards Manafort isn’t designed to let him flip and have a peaceful retirement, whatever Judge Ellis thinks: it’s to throw him under the bus and reverse back over him. Manafort is both a shitstain and representative of a large cohort of DC-area shitstains. It is important that he go down pour encourager les autres.

  11. Mitch Neher says:

    If Trump knew that Manafort was trading on his position with the campaign to get square with Deripaska, then Trump may have fired Manafort for disloyalty. But Trump still should’ve fired Gates for the same reason.

    It is truly bizarre that Trump is whining about the FBI not sharing the fruits of their “spying” with Trump. I wonder what Trump would say if the FBI claimed that Crossfire Hurricane was a security-clearance background check on Trump.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Red herring.  Rudy 911 does not want Trump ever to answer Mueller’s questions.  Cartoon Rudy is just doing his best Lucy with the football imitation.

      • Trip says:

        But there is an element of truth, like usual: Trump wants to know what Mueller has on him; not because he wants to ever answer questions, but so he can gain an undue advantage in defense and dirtying up the sources.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s not cheating when it’s winning.  He knows everything falls down when people stop oohing and ahhing and look behind his curtain.

      • bmaz says:

        This is right Earl, Trump will never sit for a voluntary interview with Mueller, and will attempt to fight a grand jury subpoena. I think there is little question but that the courts, including SCOTUS, would uphold the subpoena. But who is going enforce it and how? The enforcement mechanism is detention as a contemnor until compliance with the required testimony. nobody is going seize the President. It might look tawdry to the public, but I think Trump would just defy it under the guise of “Witch Hunt!”.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Indeed.  Why would Trump follow this law and process when he trashes every other one.

        • orionATL says:

          i am confident you are right, bmaz. but even if trump would agree to sit, his lawyers wouldn’t let him. not only do they know he is “guilty”, but they know trump has no controll over his lying – it’s instinctive.

          mueller understood all this, no doubt in my mind. so why did he/his team even pretend there would be an interview by releasing those sets of questions to the whitehouse (which ew discussed recently) ? i’d guess to lay out the entire indictment for the public to contemplate. or maybe to make clear in detail and publicly what trump would be dodging when he refuses the invitation to chat with mueller.

          • bmaz says:

            Mueller did not release those questions, they are issue areas Jay Sekulow drafted on his own from his understanding of what information the special counsel has and from his, Dowd’s and Cobb’s discussions with the special counsel team. They are his work product, not Mueller’s.

            • orionATL says:

              oops. thanks for that correction.

              so let me put the question differently since it needs to be asked.

              mueller surely knows trump will not accept questioning. what is his move then? going to the appellate court/supreme courts?

              • Avattoir says:

                Why does it “need to be asked”?

                So it gets immediately blurred over that, despite being a longtime regular here, you just now got a thing shockingly wrong, one not only featured on this site recently as the basis for a big series, but more prominently than any other from emptywheel in a decade, and with the backdrop that actually understanding where the questions came from is critical to the process of any value at all being gained on the nature of the p.r. Phony Battle between this incontinent White House & this restrained OSC?

                And indeed, why then follow even that up with repeating back what’s just been said in question form? bmaz has been nothing if not direct and clear, even by his standards.


                Among many other things, it’s worth noting that, on the issue of interviewing Trump – including on all the basics such as about what subjects, on what basis, in what forum, and when – both the appearance of any interest, leave aside any anxiety, on the part of the OSC, is, AFAWK, a thing that’s come entirely from the Trump side.

                • orionATL says:

                  avattoir –

                  you were too fast by half in commenting “So it gets immediately blurred over that, despite being a longtime regular here, you just now got a thing shockingly wrong… “.

                  1) i get a lot of things here “shockingly wrong” all the time, particularly technical matters involving surveillance or law. i depend on others to correct that. they mostly do. i appreciate that – mostly :)

                  2) the rest of your paragraph is just histrionic rhetoric. what? were you practicing for debate club?

                  3) while the questions may be seklow’s, i wonder if the both the questions and, more importantly, the elaborate structure of the sets of questions might not be the result of interactions with the osc.

                  4) my question about what mueller would do in the event trump refuses an interview is a good question. it is a question about political strategy, but one mueller has to pursue within the law, mostly. the “mostly” is important because mueller can use “the law” politically and strategically. how does he do this?

                  5) you might want to consider that because you are a lawyer you place too much emphasis on law as the controlling matter in the trump/osc/doj conflict. as much as law is discussed here, i doubt that law will decide this conflict. only superior political power will prevail. in general the discussions at this site a tightly wound around technical issues, but those technical issues rarely resolve any problem for society. the discussion here elaborates them and makes them more accessible to non-technicals like myself.

                  in the end that i attributed the questions to mueller and not to sekulow is an utterly trivial matter. it means i am not as careful as you in thinking about legal matters, nor do i have any interest in trying to be.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Oh, the “questions” (really topic areas) were absolutely the product of interaction with the special counsel’s office by Sekulow, but also the shared knowledge of both Dowd and Cobb.

                    Can’t and won’t speak for Avattoir here, but personally, I too have a bug in my butt about terming the “questions” as having been from Mueller. That is exactly the framing the Trump Team intentionally misrepresented, and it was, and is, part of their larger disinformation and distraction effort. I do think it important that said falsity not be propagated. All FWIW.

                    • orionATL says:

                      bmaz –

                      i have no objection to having my wrist slapped for terming the questions “mueller’s. they weren’t. but avattoir’s histrionic take on my error was silly.

                      i have a reasonably good (non-lawyer’s) understanding of this case, though it does not come close to the understanding of the lawyers and subject matter experts who write and comment here. my understanding is not affected by whose name goes on the questions.

                      once i know they are sekelow’s questions then i merely correct my error and proceed. nothing about that naming error has any bearing on my general understanding of the trump/osc conflict, including the strategy question i asked. that’s why i said avattoir’s argument is trivial.

                      there are lots of good comments one can make about this case that do not depend on a detailed legal understanding. i have made some of those., e. g., the need to reign in the american presidency whose nearly absolute legal power trump has made freighteningly apparent, or the sham of classified documents, used for years to clobber whistleblowers and news reporters, but now (and in bush’s time) used to abuse and excuse the presidentvs power.

                      the question i asked about mueller and the supreme court is a good question because it gets to the matter of whether and how david can survive against goliath. the value of that question does not depend on the formal matter of whose name belongs on the questions. as you mention and as i suspected, mueller team and trump team interacted to create the structure and specific questions.

                    • Avattoir says:

                      Does the OSC ‘need’ Trump?


                      In the one forum in which the OSC is functioning – the federal court system – there is, so far as we know, no such legal necessity .

                      Trump, as anyone, can decline an invitation to submit to AG/FBI/DoJ/OSC interview. That authority then could seek to have issued by a judge overseeing a Grand Jury, then have the same served on its behalf, a subpoena to appear to testify before the GJ, bringing along whatever records identified within the subpoena.

                      Trump, as POTUS, has the means, and some basis in non-judicial opinion, to launch a court challenge to any such subpoena. AOT:

                      – he might refuse to acknowledge service;

                      – he might deny enforcability of the subpoena, forcing the AG to pursue a court order compelling his attendance;

                      – he might resort one or more of a number of moves akin to what Nixon did in 1973 in trying to cut off those leading the inquiry, by dismissing them from office;

                      – thereafter, should others be appointed instead, he might issue additional challenges, some engaging his case for immunity, which in the end might well result in nothing more than delay.

                      But considering this from the POV of the OSC: to what end? Why would we think it necessary for OSC to secure Trump’s cooperation or testimony for PROSECUTION (I’m distinguishing here the OSC’s duties in its national security mandate.), if it’s so that the OSC and its supervising authority, the USAG (in these circumstances, Acting AG DAG Rosenstein) are of one mind to address any compelling case for obstruction of justice by POTUS by referral to Congress, i.e. by means OTHER than criminal indictment?

                      FWIW  (the de rigeur acronym here), it’s clearly not necessary for the DoJ to abandon its mandate just because some Don of a crim/org declines to submit to interview and is never subpoena’d before a GJ beforehand. Indictments issue quite commonly against those who’ve neither been so interviewed nor so testified.

                      FWIW (!!), we have no basis for concluding with confidence that the OSC has not already factored in that Trump as POTUS will do as he’s been doing – fulminating threatening, obfuscating, delaying – all things he’s always for decades in litigation before he was sworn into office.

                      So we really don’t know that SC Mueller sees the need to do anything other than what we’ve seen from OSC court filings.

                      Indeed, the very notion that Mueller and Rosenstein might think otherwise could well just be part of the smoke produced by attorneys speaking publicly on Trump’s behalf.

                      If I were in Mueller’s position, I fail to see how I could be justified in thinking Trump will ever cooperate.

                    • orionATL says:

                      avattoir –

                      i don’t think the osc needs trump in order to do its work either.

                      that’s why i made this obscure joke recently:

                      “… SteveBsays:

                      May 24, 2018 at 10:24 am

                      “Dear Bob

                      A window has opened in my schedule.

                      Is 12 June 2018 any good for you?

                      Let’s talk.


                      Donald “……
                      ….. orionATLsays:

                      May 24, 2018 at 3:16 pm


                      Tuesday the 12th? no Tuesday won’t work.
                      How about never? is never OK with you? *

                      *With appreciation to Mankoff

                      but as pinc commented, trump does need to be kept at bay, i. e., off the backs of sessions, rosenstein, wray.

                      apparently trump has decided, at least for the time being, that smearing doj, fbi, and osc (witch hunt) is better than crushing the investigation.

                      at the very least, from this political approach he is getting excellent mileage with his cult followers and creating lots of media diversions.

        • Soldalinsky says:

          I respectfully disagree.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the questions are addressed in the most sensational way possible.  The way the climax of the OSC investigation is playing out is similar to a mass agitation technique, or agitprop, as defined in low intensity conflict manuals.

          • bmaz says:

            Disagree all you want. It is true to form for you to be blowing duplicitous crap out of your ass, and you are here and now. You are just making things up and spewing them. Again. But, as a consistently cancerous factor in our threads, you specialize in that kind of trolling bullshit.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Trump, Rudy, others are fishing for info as to what is happening in the investigation (actually many, but let them think there is only the Mueller one).

      They are lost, looking for info to spin excuses/coverups.

      I’ve said for a long time now, Mueller has no need to talk to Trump, none whatsoever.

      The list of questions that Sekulow put out, was just baiting. Mueller will not bite.

      • bmaz says:

        Does Mueller have to talk to Trump? No. Should he? Of course. Is there a foundational purpose for doing so? Sure, the statement of the defendant is always critical as to the the mental state element. Your blithe dismissal of all this is silly. Obviously Mueller should ask, then demand, to talk to Trump. If Trump then refuses, it only strengthens Mueller’s case. But, hey, I’m sure you know better.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Except that when Nunes and the Freedom Caucus idiots are trying to launder CI material for the White House and threatening Rosenstein and Wray if they don’t comply, it complicates what would normally be a much simpler dynamic.

          It would be nice to think this wouldn’t affect an investigation, because that’s a kind of obstruction of its own, but it’s arguable that the rollout of pleas and indictments is being done to keep King Idiot from pulling the plug.

          • bmaz says:

            Sure. But Mueller and Rosenstein should still stand up and make the GJ subpoena demand. If they don’t, that, too, sets a bad standard.

          • orionATL says:

            pseudonymous in nc –

            as you say, accomodations to buy investigatory time and prevent shutdown:

            the agreements to give gang-of-eight and hpsci briefings, bring in the doj inspector general (yet again) , look at fisa warrants, involve in person the head of the national security administration (coates), investigate non-spies for spying, tolerate a personal, criminal (?) presidential lawyer at a classified congressional briefing.

            and we’ve only just heard whisperings of clinton distractions.

            everyone understands trump will never be sated because he is in big legal trouble. what he is doing to doj is precisely what he did to tenants, banks, and business partners for his entire business career. he has never been stopped yet excepg occassionally, e. g., when tenants in a rent-controlled building won out.

            more than anything else, the 2018 congressional elctions will determine what happens this time.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A recent immigrant from Mali, dubbed the French Spiderman, to be given French citizenship for climbing five stories up the outside of a building in less than a minute to save child dangling from balcony. He emigrated to France to find a better life.  Looks like he brought it with him.

    Trump and Sessions would send ICE to scour the building and arrest Spidey for burglary.  If we really want the better angels of our nature, we might first have to expel a few devils.

    • Trip says:

      Ivanka Trump photo with son sparks backlash over border separations
      ….Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics and former Democratic strategist, wrote: “This is so unbelievably tone deaf, given that public outrage is growing over young kids being forcibly ripped from the arms of their parents at the border – a barbaric policy that Ivanka Trump is complicit in supporting.” Previously, families suspected of crossing the border illegally were allowed to stay together until their cases were resolved. In early May, attorney general Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

      A Department of Homeland Security official told Reuters: “Those apprehended will be sent directly to federal court under the custody of the US Marshals Service, and their children will be transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.”


      Donald Trump argues the kids aren’t so innocent. If you used the same logic on the spawn of Trump, then you have future thieves, cons, sexual assaulters, possible rapists, and associations with gangs (mobs) who murder.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump and his party privatize government to subsidize businesses – and reap return subsidies to its party coffers – and to hide government misconduct from its citizens.  Privatizing government never cuts costs, it increases them.  It never yields better services, it lowers them to cut vendor costs and increase profits.  Jobs flee, becoming less secure and lower paid.  The beauty of private enterprise.  Citizens bear the brunt of that equation.

      Reporters, for example, are not allowed in some ICE detention facilities to see what’s happening to lost kids because, “It’s a private facility!”  That only happens when government fails to impose its obligations on its vendors, and chooses to hide its failures and misdeeds through the device of private sector vendors.

      As with failing to hold contractors to account in Baghdad, that failure comes to pass only because the government chooses to make it so.

  13. Peacerme says:

    He believes everyone on earth is here for him, as extensions of him to feed and supply his ego. But not the same as him. No. He believes that he is better than, smarter than and stronger than everyone else. This is a false self, his over expanded wall of a psychotic super ego that protects him from the truth about who he really is.

    There is a touch of psychosis in the way he sees himself and a complete disconnect from his true emotions or perceptual system. He operates out of his ego (WWD-what would Donald do) instead of his authentic self. He cannot feel guilt or shame, they are always masked in anger and power. He will alter his concepts of truth to protect himself from facing his authentic strengths and weakness. He cannot access his true emotions.
    I wish he saw us as the same as him, but he doesn’t. He truly lives life through a template that tells him that he is truth. (You could substitute God). He believes he is right. Because he has never, or very very rarely faced any other truth about who he is in the world. He cannot operate out of truth. If Trump were the wicked witch, water is the truth and will melt him. Only the truth will set us free.

    That’s what scares me to death. It’s a delicate design, a perfect storm for an accultive personality (to use the colloquial.) This defense mechanism soothes anxiety. It draws in every one who cannot face themselves. It’s like opium for the masses. It’s a comforting lie to all who were raised by a dictator. The lies are comforting. We don’t have to face the truth. We can live in a false world of power and control where we can escape the truths of life.

    Republicans don’t want to live in truth because they dance with the devil. Some dems fit this category. Evangelicals need redemption for the same reasons. It’s so much easier to pray for forgiveness, to adore and fawn over the liers than it is to face the real guilt and shame of living.
    Not meant as criticism but to expand the inner world of narcissism.

  14. Trip says:

    Today is ME-morial day. Because it’s all about ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. 

    I’m sure all the dead soldiers would be proud that a draft dodger, who denigrates POWs, who is butchering the bill of rights, is celebrating himself on this somber day! Clearly, it’s what they died for.

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

    Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!

  15. x174 says:


    here’s a follow up. John Schindler, former NSA analyst, published an article today in The Observer, “Here’s How the FBI Investigation Into Russia and Trump Campaign Actually Started” (http://observer.com/2018/05/what-did-the-fbi-do-in-2016-about-russian-connections-to-donald-trump/) in which he writes “by the time that Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination in mid-July 2016, ‘We knew we had a Russian agent on our hands,’ as a senior NSA official put it to me recently.” In his article, he also cited The Guardian article, “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia” (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/13/british-spies-first-to-spot-trump-team-links-russia).

    It’s interesting that the chatter about Trump arose while they had the Kremlin under surveillance:

    “Western intelligence agencies that were eavesdropping on the Kremlin and its spies—not Trump or any of his retinue—heard numerous conversations about Trump and his secret Russian connections.”

    The earlier Guardian piece elaborated on the collaboration:

    “The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said. Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.”

  16. ToBeContd says:

    Well done.
    While we all have an inner narcissist our social feedback loops manage to keep it in check.
    For some of us, when we witness an out of control narc it causes us to flinch and shrink our own arrogant tendencies even further so that in no way do we resemble them. However, you are right in your statement that for others it is such a rush…marching to the drum of jack merridew…that the inner narc takes over and that is when the shape-shifting begins, a compass cannot point the correct direction when magnetic north is yourself…

      • Trip says:

        I think it was in response to @Peacerme’s comment above, but this comment got orphaned. It would make a lot more sense if it had been properly nested.

  17. bmaz says:

    Orion at 6:09pm= No wrist slapping just an explanation auto why it is important to not call them “Mueller’s questions”. It is a problem in the MSM far more than here. And, as I said earlier, I think Trump loses at every level, but the subpoena may still be unenforceable.

    • orionATL says:

      bmaz –

      thank you. nontheless, i could have done better by checking my assumptions before i started tapping that keyboard.

  18. bmaz says:

    Avattoir at 6:24pm – I think that is what I have been saying. But, given that, were I Mueller, I would force Trump to refuse to honor a court order on a GJ subpoena. That fact shows Trump to be the lawless cad he is, and bulks up the process.

  19. Mitch Neher says:

    I’m sorry I used the phrase Mueller’s questions. I did not intend to imply that Sekulow’s questions were Mueller’s questions. I only meant that Mueller must have questions of his own device to pose to Trump. Meanwhile, EoH’s remark about Giuliani imitating Lucy with the football reminded me of the following passage from the AP article:

    “In a separate television appearance, Giuliani said Trump was ‘adamant’ about wanting to agree to an interview, saying, ‘If he wasn’t thinking about it and it wasn’t an active possibility, we would be finished with that by now and we would have moved on to getting the investigation over with another way.’

    The new wrinkle, he said, is the disclosure about the informant.

    ‘We are more convinced, as we see it, that this is a rigged investigation. Now we have this whole new ‘Spygate’ thing thrown on top of it, on top of already very legitimate questions,” he told CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’”

    Taking EoH’s cue, Giuliani’s remark about moving on to get the investigation over with another way might be what could happen when Lucy [Rudy] pulls the football [interview]away from Charlie Brown [Mueller]. But what about Giuliani’s claim that the investigation is rigged? That sounds just like the whipsaw routine they pulled on the campaign trail. Only this time, instead of saying that “She [HRC] never should’ve been allowed to run,” the Trump team seems to be saying that “They [FBI] never should’ve been allowed to investigate.”

    Is that permissible as a legal defense? Or is it mostly just a political defense in case of Impeachment hearings or an Impeachment trial?

  20. Mitch Neher says:

    Thanks bmaz. That figures. Trump has no legal way to end the special counsel’s investigation. And the AP article quoted Giuliani as saying [by paraphrase] that firing Rosenstein and Mueller would play into the Saturday Might Massacre analogy. So . . . Mueller’s final report to Rosenstein has to make a case strong enough for Impeachment hearings and an Impeachment trial.

  21. orionATL says:

    one possibility is that in march 2016 when manafort was first brought into the campaign, he was brought in specifically for the purpose of working with the russians (that having been already arranged), or alternatively of creating a working relation with the russians to help in the election.

    it might then have been necessary to fire manafort post haste later to immediately tamp down any suspicion that manafort brought the russians in or was brought in to work with them. all public commentary about manafort that i recall at the time focused on his controlling events at the convention. but trump was in like flynn :) by the time the convention started (7/18/16).

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