Twenty Comey Questions Do Not Eliminate Trump’s Obstruction Exposure

As I laid out a few weeks ago, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.

As Trump’s legal teams shift their efforts to stall Mueller’s investigation, the press is shifting their problematic reporting on what legal exposure Trump has. As part of its report that Trump’s legal team has made a “counteroffer” to have Trump sit for an interview covering just collusion, the WSJ repeats Rudy Giuliani’s bullshit that Trump’s obstruction only covers the Comey firing.

The president’s legal team is open to him answering questions about possible collusion with Moscow, Mr. Giuliani said, but is less willing to have Mr. Trump discuss questions about obstruction of justice. “We think the obstruction of it is handled by Article 2 of the Constitution,” Mr. Giuliani said, referring to the provision that gives the president executive authority to appoint and dismiss members of his administration.

Mr. Mueller is investigating whether Trump associates colluded with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, and whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice in the firing of former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey in May 2017, while the FBI’s Russia probe was under way. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion and obstruction, and Moscow has denied election interference.

[snip]

Mr. Giuliani said in an interview Monday that the reasons Mr. Trump has given for firing the former FBI director are “more than sufficient” and that as president, he had the power to fire any member of his administration.

This is just more parroting of Rudy’s spin, just as the old line that Trump was primarily at risk for obstruction.

Here’s the list of questions Jay Sekulow understood Mueller wanting to ask sometime in March, as presented by the NYT. I’ve bolded what I consider collusion questions (including the June 9 statement, as abundant evidence suggests that reflects direct collusion with Putin on the framing of their quid pro quo). I’ve italicized the questions that exclusive address Comey.

  1. What did you know about phone calls that Mr. Flynn made with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, in late December 2016?
  2. What was your reaction to news reports on Jan. 12, 2017, and Feb. 8-9, 2017?
  3. What did you know about Sally Yates’s meetings about Mr. Flynn?
  4. How was the decision made to fire Mr. Flynn on Feb. 13, 2017?
  5. After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
  6. What was your opinion of Mr. Comey during the transition?
  7. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, 2017, about Russian election interference?
  8. What was your reaction to Mr. Comey’s briefing that day about other intelligence matters?
  9. What was the purpose of your Jan. 27, 2017, dinner with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
  10. What was the purpose of your Feb. 14, 2017, meeting with Mr. Comey, and what was said?
  11. What did you know about the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn and Russia in the days leading up to Mr. Comey’s testimony on March 20, 2017?
  12. What did you do in reaction to the March 20 testimony? Describe your contacts with intelligence officials.
  13. What did you think and do in reaction to the news that the special counsel was speaking to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Coats?
  14. What was the purpose of your calls to Mr. Comey on March 30 and April 11, 2017?
  15. What was the purpose of your April 11, 2017, statement to Maria Bartiromo?
  16. What did you think and do about Mr. Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony?
  17. Regarding the decision to fire Mr. Comey: When was it made? Why? Who played a role?
  18. What did you mean when you told Russian diplomats on May 10, 2017, that firing Mr. Comey had taken the pressure off?
  19. What did you mean in your interview with Lester Holt about Mr. Comey and Russia?
  20. What was the purpose of your May 12, 2017, tweet?
  21. What did you think about Mr. Comey’s June 8, 2017, testimony regarding Mr. Flynn, and what did you do about it?
  22. What was the purpose of the September and October 2017 statements, including tweets, regarding an investigation of Mr. Comey?
  23. What is the reason for your continued criticism of Mr. Comey and his former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe?
  24. What did you think and do regarding the recusal of Mr. Sessions?
  25. What efforts did you make to try to get him to change his mind?
  26. Did you discuss whether Mr. Sessions would protect you, and reference past attorneys general?
  27. What did you think and what did you do in reaction to the news of the appointment of the special counsel?
  28. Why did you hold Mr. Sessions’s resignation until May 31, 2017, and with whom did you discuss it?
  29. What discussions did you have with Reince Priebus in July 2017 about obtaining the Sessions resignation? With whom did you discuss it?
  30. What discussions did you have regarding terminating the special counsel, and what did you do when that consideration was reported in January 2018?
  31. What was the purpose of your July 2017 criticism of Mr. Sessions?
  32. When did you become aware of the Trump Tower meeting?
  33. What involvement did you have in the communication strategy, including the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails?
  34. During a 2013 trip to Russia, what communication and relationships did you have with the Agalarovs and Russian government officials?
  35. What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?
  36. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding any meeting with Mr. Putin? Did you discuss it with others?
  37. What discussions did you have during the campaign regarding Russian sanctions?
  38. What involvement did you have concerning platform changes regarding arming Ukraine?
  39. During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media or other acts aimed at the campaign?
  40. What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?
  41. What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates, Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?
  42. What did you know during the transition about an attempt to establish back-channel communication to Russia, and Jared Kushner’s efforts?
  43. What do you know about a 2017 meeting in Seychelles involving Erik Prince?
  44. What do you know about a Ukrainian peace proposal provided to Mr. Cohen in 2017?

By my count there are:

Comey obstruction: 17

Other obstruction: 13

Collusion: 14

There aren’t quite 20 Comey questions, but it’s close.

By getting a journalist to uncritically parrot Rudy’s claim that all the obstruction questions pertain to Comey, the White House has buried some of the more egregious examples of obstruction, including (offering pre-emptive pardons to Flynn and Manafort, and whoever else) the gross abuse of the pardon power, and threatening the Attorney General. It also obscures the obstruction for which there are now cooperating witnesses (including, but not limited to, Flynn).

Probably, Trump is trying this ploy because a range of things — Manafort’s imminent trial, Cohen’s likely imminent cooperation, Mueller’s acute focus on Stone, and whatever else Putin told him — give him an incentive to have an up-to-date understanding of the current status of the collusion investigation. If he can do that in a way that makes it harder to charge some of the egregious obstruction Trump has been engaged in, all the better.

Whatever it is, it is malpractice to credulously repeat Rudy’s claim that Trump is only on the hook for obstruction for firing Comey.

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106 replies
  1. Trip says:

    Why do news outlets even report “Trump sitting down with Mueller” conditions, as far as what “Rudy says”? It’s not gonna happen. They are making filler news to deflect from the cluster-f of Helsinki, while making innuendo nonsense claims/noise that there was no crime beneath the obstruction. We all know it. The local news is the worst. They uncritically reported word for word what came out of Huckster-b’s twisted mouth about security clearances. Bunch of tools.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      It’s because the DC editors for the main news orgs early on  refused to believe this was going to be a story and never assigned dedicated resources to cover it.

      Now coverage is split between different beat reporters and none of them are able to process what it means when the President’s attorney is doing almost 100% PR and politics instead of legal work.

      I blame the individual reporters less than the editors and producers, who are going to be caught scrambling when the threads really start to come together, and they lack any in-house ability to understand what is going on. This may well be the story of the first half century, and they’ll be caught completely flat footed.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        The coverage is mostly in the hands of access reporters talking to Rudy911 with a little bit of background by legal scholars. It’s not in the hands of people truly covering the investigation.

        So the story is being being treated as “The Interview” as if it’s a proposed summit meeting, when the story is the conspiracy and obstruction in plain sight.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          Which is why I put the majority of blame on the editors and producers – they frame the stories, determine the length and placement, and decide what kind of followup there will be.

          An article like this never should have run.

          https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/us/politics/mueller-trump-indictment.html

          You can make an argument for slicing off a piece of Haberman and Schmidt’s reporting for a larger piece on White House spin strategy, but it is ultimately the fault of the editors who ran it as a freestanding piece, with the headline it got, at the length it was allowed and the prominence it was given, and maybe worst of all, as a single piece in a long series of similar articles giving the Trump camp nearly unchallenged ability to say what it wants.

  2. Pete says:

    I dunno…I can be a certified prick at times ;-) added to my admitted lack of (criminal) law and prosecutorial strategy, tactics, and patience.

    If I were Mueller I’d just take negotiations off the table, possibly just subpoena Trump, or say in effect “OK we’ll sort out your involvement in the upcoming trial(s) and then loop back to deal with it later”.

    Pete

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suspect Mueller is still positioning his pieces.  He’s not ready for an attack on the king.  Part of his strategy is an exercise in public education.  Through the Manafort trial, for example, he could make public key facts and a dominant interpretation of them.  If Cohen has or were to flip, he might reveal or confirm facts regarding multiple defendants, especially Trump.

    I agree that Trump will never voluntarily submit to an interview with Mueller, not even one ludicrously circumscribed in the manner Giuliani contends would be a major concession from (rather than a major victory for) his client.  But issuing a grand jury subpoenaing to Trump would be part of Mueller’s end game, not a preliminary step.

    Mueller knows he needs more than a good case against Trump.  He needs a great one, an ironclad one, to survive a conservative judiciary and a very conservative Supreme Court.  He will need an even better one before the House and Senate would proceed on impeachment and trial.

    • Peterr says:

      Mueller may still be positioning some of his pieces, but I suspect he’s a lot farther along on that than is generally visible to folks not on his team. At this point, I think Mueller is doing at least as much to get inside Trump’s head and mess with him.

      He’s refusing to get into a public back and forth with Rudy on so-called conditions for an interview, which deprives Trump a target to swing at.

      In his style of dealing with Manafort, you can bet Team Trump is watching every move, trying to get a read on Mueller, and they can’t like what they’re seeing. Every filing Mueller makes is written both with the judge in mind and with Trump in mind.

      In the GRU indictments, likewise, Mueller wrote them as speaking indictments to show Trump just how thorough he’s being. All those redactions have to drive Team Trump crazy, making them wonder “just how much does Mueller know?” Ditto for the Carter Page FISA warrant application.

      Trump hates not knowing what’s going on around him. Trump hates not being in control of what’s going on around him. When he finds himself in this kind of situation, he lashes out at those around him, projecting onto them the displeasure he has at whoever has made him feel out of control and in the dark. He acts out against them (or others) as a way of demonstrating to himself that he IS TOO in control and in charge of something, though that other place still says otherwise.

      Most of all, though, he hates feeling cornered.

      When the banks came after him and Trump Co for payment on their loans, he used the bankruptcy courts to wiggle his way out of it and remain in charge and in control. When his first two wives came after him for his serial adultery, he used the divorce courts to show them that he could remain in charge and in control. When a municipal planning committee threw up too many barriers to one of his projects, he threatened or actually walked away saying “I’ll build somewhere else, and you’ll miss out on all the growth and business I’d bring in,” thus telling himself that he — not they — was the one in charge and in control.

      And now, for perhaps the first time in his life, Mueller is silently telling him that Mueller is in charge, not Trump. With each day that passes without a Mueller press conference or indictment against him, Mueller is silently letting him stew in knowing that Mueller is in control of this process, not Trump. With every moment the phone does not ring with news from his lawyers about Mueller, with every hour that his staff does not bring him news about Mueller, with every morning that Morning Joe and Fox & Friends talk about Mueller’s silence, every afternoon that Sarah Huckabee Sanders faces questions about Mueller’s silence, and every evening that Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity talk about Mueller’s silence, Trump gets the same message.

      He is not in control. He is not in charge. He. Is. Cornered.

      Mueller may still be positioning some of his pieces, but I strongly suspect it is not because he doesn’t know where he wants those pieces. It’s because he wants that last advantage when it comes time to put his cards on the table. He wants a defendant who is going bonkers in fear and desperation as he watches the prosecutors corner him. Taking his time to let Trump stew in his own ignorance about what Mueller knows, even as Mueller demonstrates to Trump just how thorough and meticulous he is, is a sure means for insuring that Trump will be at his most petulant — and thus least helpful to his own case.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        He must feel like a Kremlinologist, attempting to read the Russian tea leaves, when interpreting what Mueller is thinking, what he has, what he might be doing, and what he should do about it.

        • dg says:

          Trump is a grifter. He knows his vulnerabilities. What he doesn’t know is if Mueller has in fact connected all the dots. I agree with Peterr’s eloquent synopsis. As always, Ms Wheeler, a gargantuan effort!

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        As I’ve said for a long time, Mueller does not want to talk to trump.

        Trump is a puppet.

        There is no reason to talk to him.

        Mueller is looking at the puppetmasters.

        Rudy, Nunes, others have for a long time now been trying to figure out what is really happening.

        • Trip says:

          Giuliani and Nunes have been trying to cover asses…end of. There is absolutely ZERO intellectual, ethical or investigatory curiosity. They want it shut down. Nunes won’t/doesn’t even READ the shit he complains about and insists on getting released. How you could frame their motives as “trying to figure out what’s going on” is beyond me.

          • SpaceLifeForm says:

            They are blackmailed and/or corrupted. They are being *told* to find out what is going on.

            They will not find out.

        • bmaz says:

          Seriously? This is fucking nuts. As is most of your legal musings and conspiracy theories.

          Of course Mueller would LOVE to interrogate Trump. To say otherwise is simply insane. Any and every prosecutor would love to get a target under oath and talking, almost irrespective of what the witness says. Get the guy on the record. More than once, if you can, because they will contradict themselves.

          Garbage like this makes me wonder where you are coming from. Can Mueller live without an interview/GJ with Trump? Sure. But to say he would not want the same, nee relish it, is simply batshit insane.

           

          • Peterr says:

            And especially this target.

            Trump does NOT handle depositions well at all, and Team Mueller would have him tied in knots within fifteen minutes. A deposition where he is forced to sit there and answer the questions put to him by a competent opposition lawyer is a nightmare for someone who hates not being in control. To face a more-than-competent lawyer would give Trump nightsweats for weeks, or until either an indictment on criminal charges or report to the House Judiciary Committee suggesting articles of impeachment is released, whichever comes first.

          • pseudonymous in nc says:

            Let’s try and square this a little for the sake of comity: an interview with King Idiot is probably a “like to have” but not a “need to have” for Mueller, given that most prosecutors aren’t investigating people who can fire them and are unstable enough to try it and see where the pieces land. The process of negotiating an interview has value by itself as the case comes together, because it exposes where the legal seagulls in the White House are most afraid, and it’s hard for them to double-bluff on it. And as the other pieces of the puzzle come together, from outside to in, the space that King Idiot & co have to move in terms of The Interview gets smaller and smaller. So at least for the moment, talking about talking is perhaps more valuable to the investigation than a definite yes or no because you only get one shot at it.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              Bingo! You get it.

              In this chess game, Mueller has King Trump boxed in. But, no need to even get to a ‘Check’ situation, nor even a ‘Checkmate’ situation.

              Importantly, Mueller does not even want to get even close to ‘Check’ or ‘Checkmate’ at this time.

              And Mueller can keep pulling his Bishops and Knights fore and aft, making sure there is no ‘Stalemate’ situation.

              While King Trump converses with his Chess advisors, the M word comes into play.

  4. getouttahere says:

    Absolutely Mueller needs all that. He needs to lay out his case in a way that even the enabling congressional and administration creeps cannot deny. I think that was what the GRU indictment was, in large measure, about. The jury that counts — the repug office holders and the retrograde judiciary — need to be boxed into a corner by undeniable facts. It’s as if he needs a video and even with that, we have all seen that even with damning videos, culprits are not always brought to “justice.” It took far far less than what is now public about this prez, for nixon to fall. different times, different creeps. but these creeps are even creepier if such a thing is possible.

    • dg says:

      Nixon definitely occupied a different time. Watergate occurred in the back drop of a hugely unpopular war with a tremendous display of civil disobedience that building exponentially. Chris Hedges often recounts Kissinger’s memoirs where he retells Nixon’s fears that the protestors outside of the White House were going to over run it and kill them. What ultimately sunk Nixon was the tapes and the national revulsion that ensued. What is interesting here and must be considered, is if indeed there were many more damming tapes of Trump, certainly nobody we be shocked let alone repulsed. We’ve come to expect that everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is an obscenity.

  5. Tracy says:

    It is also maddening the way the press parrots Trump’s tweets and gobbled-y gook statements – the press ought to start every title with “In Another Misstatement of Fact…” or some such thing, rather than just repeating it. This takes it at face value & normalizes it. Psychology shows that sheer repetition, even of falsehoods, sticks in people’s minds – even if refuted later! :-(

    Re: the subpoena, Glen Kirschner on MSNBC gave three theories (below) of why Mueller has not yet subpoenaed Trump; the third (which “after Helsinki,” Kirschner said, is looking most likely), is that the landscape has changed so much that Trump is now a “subject” of the investigation. Well, if he is innocent (which we saw is NOT the case in Helsinki), he sure acts guilty!! His latest: that “Russia-will-help-Dems-in-election,” further makes him look like a desperate, cornered animal.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/why-hasn-t-robert-mueller-subpoenaed-trump-three-theories-about-ncna892591

    Thanks again for your reporting, Marcy!

    • bmaz says:

      Trump has long, if not always, been a “subject” of the investigation. The question is whether he is formally considered a “target” at this point. And that is very possible depending on what the depth of non-public evidence Mueller is sitting on really is.

      • Tracy says:

        Yes, bmas, I misstated that – you are correct! The third theory is that he’s now a “target.”

        • Tracy says:

          Here it is, from the article on CBS: “The third possibility — and one that I suggest is growing more likely by the day — is that evidentiary developments in the investigation may have moved the president from being a ‘subject’ of the investigation to being a ‘target.’ If this is the case, then Department of Justice policies would strongly argue against using a grand jury subpoena to compel the president to testify.”

          • bmaz says:

            Yes, and that is correct as to the general protocol of not usually subpoenaing actual targets.

            • Bob Conyers says:

              Does the shift from subject to target trigger anything else from a legal perspective? Do prosecutors need to designate someone a target before filing certain charges or is it a prerequisite for making certain record requests, for instance? Do targets get additional notification requirements from the government, for example? Or are they terms that have a degree of flexibility and overlap, and don’t necessarily mean anything in particular for the defense and prosecution?

              • bmaz says:

                Presumption is that a target letter gets issued to the person, but that is pretty loosely adhered to. Mostly the flexible thing.

  6. Pete says:

    Excuse me for watching Maddow tonight but she did mention something interesting.

    Recall the two part question asked of Putin if he wanted Trump to win and did he direct Russian resources to help that happen  – words to that effect.

    1. The WH transcript does not show the first part of the question or the answer.

    2. The WH video copy scrubs the first part of the question as well as Putin’s first “Yes I did”.

    3. The Russian transcript scrubs the whole two part Q and A.

    • Tracy says:

      Hey, Pete, I also saw that! I was looking forward to hearing her national security experts cover this story (sinister!!) – and about the Russians blindsiding General Votel with claims that he had undercut his commander-in-chief by saying he wasn’t aware of any Syria policy changes. But the big, shiny object of the Cohen tape took up 1/3 of their time.

      As the Cohen tapes will surely drip, drip into the public, orchestrated by Cohen or Trump teams to suit their narratives, it distracts from the real story: Trump’s abdication of his Article II mandate to protect the country and faithfully execute our laws.

      These distractions keep reporters from getting to the bottom of the story.

      This has real consequences; I read in WaPo the other day that the reason that humanitarian efforts are needed (part of the negotiation, we’re not sure??) along Syrian-Israeli border is b/c so many civilians have been killed due to Trump’s inaction there against a particularly brutal Russian offensive. This comports w/ Marcy’s theory that Syria was part of the bargain; those dire consequences need so much more attention.

  7. Frank Probst says:

    The idea that he’s going to sit down for “collusion questions” strikes me as absolutely absurd, too, especially after last week. His real attorneys should have long since concluded that Trump is compromised with respect to Russia. Last week was their “just in case you weren’t already 100% sure” moment.

  8. Trip says:

    Rudy and Trump were successful in making the Cohen tape usurp news that 1. Trump bowed down to Putin in Helsinki after creating animus with allies, 2. wouldn’t allow anyone from his own administration in on the meeting, 3. hasn’t informed the US people what he agreed to, 4. that the GOP immediately signed into law cover for dark money (to shield the NRA from exposure to dirty Russian cash), 5. that Trump was willing to bargain away an ex-diplomat’s skin for Putin’s approval and 6. that Trump, without informing his top security guy, invited Putin to the WH after giving away the store once already in Helsinki.

    Eyes on the ball, FFS. The tape is a shiny object.

    • Trip says:

      The tape is exactly where they want the argument to go (Digression, Red Herring, Misdirection, False Emphasis): on consensual sexual affairs. Then they can tailor the discussion with whatabouts on Bill Clinton and John Edwards (Tu Quoque, You Too, What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander). If we follow the conventional wisdom that a sitting president can’t be indicted for a crime (including campaign expenditures), this all comes down to politics, as Giuliani admitted. They’d rather fight this argument than defend against aiding a foreign adversary destroying democracy.

      Unless there is significantly more in additional tapes, and some of it related to Putin/the Kremlin, or some long term racketeering, I think this is a dead end politically.

      Although it is not a good look on Cohen, who isn’t the president.

      • Tracy says:

        Totally agree on all these points, Trip – and that these tapes will be shiny objects as they drip-drip into public. It distracts from the real issues/ consequences of the conspiracy. Ex: read in WaPo the other day that the reason humanitarian efforts are so badly needed along Syrian-Israel border is b/c of Trump’s declining to stop brutal warfare in that area by Russians. Ugh!!

        • frs says:

          It seems that quid pro quo was for Trump to abdicate all of Syria to Assad and Russia and Russia will pressure  Iran to lay low.  The first part is abundantly clear (and has created an immense humanitarian crisis of which Trump could likely be indicted in the Hague for war crimes – IMHO) but maybe not the second.  What do you guys think?

  9. Mitch Neher says:

    emptywheel said, “Trump is trying this ploy because of . . . Mueller’s acute focus on Stone, and whatever else Putin told him . . .”

    Awesome. Trump met with Putin in Helsinki to ask Vlad what Trump should do next. It’s only fair. Putin got Trump into this mess. It’s up to Vlad to get Trump out of it. But how? Beats me. Does Putin know more about Mueller than Trump does?

    • Trip says:

      Tell everyone that the Russians will rig the election for Democrats. Delete any references to Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. Dazzle everyone with tapes that have Nada to do with that investigation. Putin and the right wing nutzos (including the radical religious right) are misogynists, so it’s perfectly acceptable to use a woman, and then pay her to go away. They don’t GAF.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        I see your point. Putin is the Jimi Hendrix of disinformation. Trump is an electric balalaika. The MAGA cultists, a Marshall stack.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        I wouldn’t rule out Russian interference on behalf of a Democratic candidate or three. Their trollers made a few attempts to link up to Black Lives Matters activists in order to inflame tensions, to very limited success.

        I can imagine them carrying out some mild hacker interference with voting infrastructure in deep red areas, or funnelling some contributions to blue candidates via shell companies, only to later leak what they did to discredit the Democrats and feed a Trump storyline that the Russians don’t really own him.

        And I can certainly see the NY Times jumping on the story that this is really a bipartisan problem and the Democrats need to give up a lot in order to get the GOP on board  for some fantasy scenario of a bipartisan solution.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          We still don’t know the Jill Stein backstory.

          And elections like gubernatorial race in Georgia, where GOP Truckleberry was the SecState who shut down federal inquiries into hacking of the elections system, are obvious targets for shenanigans made to look like they’re on behalf of Abrams.

          • bmaz says:

            Maybe not. But we do know that the Jill Stein effort was based on ignorance, fraud and narcissism. And continued to be after the election with her little “recount” self serving slush fund.

        • frs says:

          This NY Times can always be counted on to disseminate false information masquerading as real news – remember Judith Miller in the march to war in Iraq.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump’s $12 billion farmer’s bail-out, apart from going to big Ag more than small farmers, making it a corporate bail-out, is buying votes and looking like a he-man to his base. 

    Never mind what he’s not doing with that $12 billion, such as reuniting the families he has torn apart, in man cases, permanently. And never mind that his throwing tariff spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks is the only reason for considering a bail-out.

  11. Peacerme says:

    All conjecture here, but these strategies “feel” more like Putin. The propaganda machine, is strong. The strategies well played for brain washing. It’s as if he is walking the entire country over a cliff. Feeding us fruit and chocolate as we walk toward the death of democracy. It’s not the creation of total believers that is the true mechanism of influence.  It’s the constant state of fear, followed by gifts, and flowers, honeymoon. See, he’s not that bad, he gave a bail-out to farmers! He’s a monster! Ok, I guess it’s not THAT horrible! It’s horrible. No it’s surviveable. No it’s horrible. Etc….  This is all part of the authoritarian play book. We all, breath for a minute and in that breath of relief from the fear, he pushes us closer to the cliff. You don’t have to be fooled to be manipulated. We are all being changed in this process whether we are aware or not! (Thirty years in the field of domestic violence!!) it’s not just the believers, it changes the non believers. We all look clumsy and weak using truth in his presence. The truth can’t compete with the emotional drama. We keep having to check him out. Pay attention to him. He demands our attention by what he does. This becomes a habit in the brain. Slowly moving us away from paying attention to our own perceptions. The drama demands our attention. Over time we lose touch with reality and ourselves.  We are being demoralized!! Systematically.

    • Tracy says:

      Along w/ your point, Peacerme, Rachel Maddow made a good point last night: the flood of disinformation is by design supposed to be disorientating, dejecting and demoralizing.

    • lamsmy says:

      Don’t despair too much. Putin has grossly overplayed his hand and the Russian mob bosses cannot be happy with the intensifying glare of public exposure.

      The Russians have always been poor readers of domestic US politics. They view everything through the prism of their own (sad) history and experience. We all do. But in their case, all power lies at the pinnacle and the propaganda about “the people” is just that: propaganda. Russians have never known anything but fake news.

      They then wrongly assume that this is the case everywhere – just more cleverly disguised. Putin and his cronies only have a very shallow understanding of the separation of powers and a truly independent judicial system. He has completely underestimated the depth and resilience of American democracy.

      It may take years to play out, but this will lead to a dark chapter for Putin as well.

       

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    On that Cohen tape, Cohen discusses with Trump setting up an LLC to act as a cut-out through which to funnel payment(s). Presumably, a common occurrence for Team Trump. But we all know Trump likes process issues about as much as he likes crewcut haircuts.

    After ten years with the Don, Mickey Medallions would know that. That means Trump wanted to be in on that discussion.

    Paying a routine personal Trump debt by check through one of hundreds of Trump Org. subsidiaries was routine, if a misuse of corporate assets, and an accounting and tax problem. It would not be a conversation Team Trump would have with a vehemently impatient boss, who despises process.

    But they would discuss it with the boss if the objective were to make the payment look like it was on the up and up when it wasn’t. It was a process discussion about using cut-outs and a check instead of cash in a brown bag. It was about paying hush money through a corporate cut-out. Trump wanted to make sure the witness was hushed up in a way that would not directly touch him or his campaign, but which would protect them both.

    • Frank Probst says:

      I think the reason for the face-to-face meeting was about purpose, not process.  Trump is famously stingy.  He’s not going to pay hush money (even indirectly) to a possible former mistress unless she really WAS a former mistress.  THAT’s why they had this meeting.  Trump is enough of a jackass that he probably keeps a list of his “conquests”, and Cohen is making sure that this is someone who really did need to be paid off (again, indirectly).  If this had been a woman who was making up a story about sex with Trump, I can’t see Trump giving her money.  Trump sees all deals as having a winner and a loser, and only a loser would pay someone who was lying about an affair.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Exactly.  Trump makes Scrooge look like John Beresford Tipton.  Trump was there to make sure something got done and that it wouldn’t bounce back on him or the campaign.  He would have had these discussions before.

        These were old potential problems he would ordinarily have ignored or fought through legal intimidation and threats.  But he was running for president, he was the official GOP candidate, and he couldn’t do that this time.  He needed to pre-empt problems and money was how he ordinarily did that.  That also made it personal for the Don, which was why he spent time on it.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        It’s telling us two things: firstly, that there was a system in place for this, and secondly, that King Idiot doesn’t really delegate. His fixers do the legwork, but they don’t act with autonomy.

        In reverse order, that provides context for the Tower meeting, where it was always implausible to think that he was ignorant of what was going on, and also suggests that the system for paying off mistresses was highly adaptable to other purposes.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yes.  It seems clear Trump is a micro-manager regarding issues he thinks affect him personally.  Which implies knowledge and intent. Viewing the June 9th meeting in that light is incriminating.

  13. Trip says:

    Why didn’t they follow-up on her concerns about children, by asking the first lady about the immigrant children traumatized, separated from their parents, maybe never reunited, their development irreparably harmed, and BULLIED DIRECTLY by her husband’s policies?

    Kate Bennett
    ‏Verified account @KateBennett_DC

    NEW: I asked @StephGrisham45 whether @FLOTUS had comment on the new Trump/Cohen tape details, and if she indeed was watching @CNN aboard Air Force One, upsetting the president, as @maggieNYT & @katierogers reported last night. Here’s the response I got:
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Di9OEfkWwAASYyP.jpg
    https://twitter.com/KateBennett_DC/status/1022121563666214917/photo/1

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Instead, we have Trump going ballistic because one television on Air Force One was tuned to CNN and his wife was watching it.  Maybe Donald has a deal with Fox and is obligated to tune his TVs to Fox or return some of the cash or watch his good coverage dry up.

      The MSM lauds Melania for being heroic by watching a TV channel Donald didn’t like.  What, is she Edith Bunker arguing with Archie?  Pretty low bar for the MSM to consider Melania heroic.  That would make her Olympian for deviating from the planned cruelty Trump calls an immigration policy.

      • Trip says:

        Ha. It’s sad that that show is like 40 years old (?) and how we have regressed to where it seems current.

        As far as Fox, Trump wants to live in a delusional world where all the people love him and support him. If watching CNN is Melania’s rebellion, she hasn’t even reached puberty level protest.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Almost fifty is Norman Lear’s, All in the Family.  Yet Trump makes it look like a current documentary.

          It is disconcerting for the MSM to characterize a spouse watching a TV channel Trump doesn’t like as principled resistance, or even acting out.

          Admittedly, Melania’s behavior is probably circumscribed by draconian details in her pre-nup.  The MSM might point out that possibility, and avoid describing her mild resistance as anything but strangled dissent.

          The MSM’s current treatment manages, however, to define down to almost nothing the meaning of dissent.  In that, it would be performing its job of reining in democracy and manufacturing consent.

          It’s all a shiny object, distracting from the hell-hole that is the Trump maladministration.

  14. Willis Warren says:

    Or we could all stop pretending like this idiot is ever going to do a Mueller interview.

    Maybe it’s time to keep harassing journalists who access report. It worked on Haberman

    • bmaz says:

      Correct. Trump was never going to do a voluntary interview with Mueller on any grounds. It is a PR ruse.

    • Frank Probst says:

      Ditto.  And it’s not like Mueller’s team doesn’t already know this.  They know that any “negotiations” over an interview are bogus.  They’re probably all clumsy attempts by Trump’s team to try to figure out what Mueller’s team knows.  And based on that list above, Mueller doesn’t seem to be showing any cards that weren’t already out on the table.

  15. Critical Thinker 10 says:

    When Comey was fired, I started a tally of statements made and actions that POTUS took that could be obstruction of justice.  I’m well into double digits now and added to my list twice this week with the threat of security clearance removal from former intel officials (intimidating witnesses) and his twisted summary of what was in the FISA application for Carter Page (corrupting the jury pool).

    Great blog!

  16. Frank Probst says:

    Question for those with better memories than mine:  During the whole process of the Special Master vetting everything that had been seized from the Cohen raids, wasn’t there one piece of evidence that the Special Master deemed NOT privileged that Trump’s lawyers wanted to argue WAS privileged?  If memory serves, Kimba Wood said she would hear Trump’s arguments, and the evidence itself would be kept under wraps while this was happening, but the REASONING behind Trump’s arguments would not.  In this case, it looks like there was a possible crime/fraud exception to attorney/client privilege, so this could potentially be the piece of evidence being discussed.  I think Trump’s attorneys dropped their challenge once Wood said that their arguments would have to be public.  If this was the piece of evidence being discussed, they would have had to argue in open court that the crime/fraud exception did NOT apply here, which they wouldn’t want to do.  This would explain why Trump’s lawyers have previously discussed this tape with Wood, as Giuliani has said, and that they had obtained “permission” to authorize its release.
    Under that scenario, this isn’t a shiny object.  It’s the one piece of evidence that Trump’s team wanted suppressed.  They’d want to get it out as quickly as possible, mainly to distract from the fact that they had been trying to suppress it, NOT to distract from whatever else they’re supposedly distracting us from today.
    Thoughts?

    • Frank Probst says:

      I’ll add that I don’t think Trump’s team throws out info on extra-marital affairs as distractions, ESPECIALLY audio that really can’t be dismissed as “fake news”.  Trump’s relationship with Melania is icy at best.  I’ve repeatedly said that I think her number one priority is protecting her son.  Stories like this have got to be painful for the kid.  Yes, he’s probably well aware of the fact that his father is an asshole, but it’s STILL got to hurt to hear your father on tape discussing a payoff (again, an indirect one) to a mistress.  Melania has just shown that she can trash the whole news cycle by wearing one obnoxious coat.  That wasn’t an accident.  I think she wants things like this kept to a minimum, and she’s willing to inflict damage on herself and the administration to make sure her point is clear.

      • Trip says:

        Are you kidding?

        Do you think Trump actually censors himself in the presence of that kid?  Trump probably directly calls him a loser. No doubt he hears all forms of sexist/misogynist and racist ramblings. The only true way to protect the kid from Trump is to leave Trump.

        All of the secrets that Trump holds on his corruption are damaging. But the fealty to Putin is harder to explain and support, rather than Trump’s affairs and payoffs. So they go with the latter, while the news cycle buries the former.

        • Trip says:

          Background on Trump’s fathering ‘skills’
          Miami DJ Says He Watched Donald Trump Brutally Slap His Son in College

          The way Melker tells it in a lengthy Facebook story posted last night, he lived in the same freshman dorm at UPenn as Donald Trump Jr., who attended the Wharton School. One day, the elder Trump showed up to pick up his son for a baseball game and flat-out slapped the crap out of his kid when he wasn’t dressed for the occasion…”Don Jr. opened the door, wearing a Yankee jersey. Without saying a word, his father slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates,” Melker writes on Facebook. “He simply said ‘put on a suit and meet me outside,’ and closed the door.”

          https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-dj-says-he-watched-donald-trump-brutally-slap-his-son-in-college-8900500

          • NorskieFlamethrower says:

            Oh sweet Jezus! When are we gunna Google Donald J Trump and get Frederick Christ Trump instead? This is gettin’ really surreal.

            • Charlie says:

              If the topic is surreal, the “weirdness” may be due to long term use of white powder resulting in brain damage.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  No, but baby powder can cause mesothelioma and other problems because its manufacturer apparently keeps letting asbestos adulterate it.  Mr. Trump’s emotional and mental faculties are limited, whatever the reason.

                  • NorskieFlamethrower says:

                    Yeah, yer right, his mental problems don’t come from talc…maybe that explains Eric though.

        • Frank Probst says:

          I’m not kidding at all.  I have no trouble whatsoever believing that Trump is a shitty father.  But I strongly suspect that Melania keeps her son as far away from Trump as she can at all times, and I suspect the two are rarely (if ever) alone together.  I think the kid spends most of his family time with Melania and/or his maternal grandparents, with whom he is said to be very close, and all of them speak Slovenian when they’re together.

          I also don’t think this is much of a distraction from the Russia story.  The general public doesn’t follow that story on a day-to-day basis, even when it gets as bad as inviting Putin to the White House.  And it’ll be back in the news again next week when Manafort’s trial starts.  That story isn’t going away in the long term.

          Sex stories, on the other hand, get everyone’s attention.  That’s why Michael Avenatti has been on television for as long as he has.  It’s why Bill Clinton got impeached for lying about blow jobs.  And it’s why I think that this is what Trump’s lawyers wanted protected by privilege.

          • Trip says:

            Fair enough.

            And the Helsinki clusterfuck was revisited via Pompeo.

            My thoughts on Melania are that she is a kindred spirit with Trump.

            • NorskieFlamethrower says:

              Why do folks want to find some kinda humanity or normal human values in this woman? Has she ever made an effort to distance herself from Trumpty politically or in any way other than refusing to hold his hand? And I wonder what she meant by the message on her hoodie.. This is just nuts.

              • Trip says:

                Yeah. I think so too. There have been times I’ve had some sympathy, but it boils down to what they have in common, and that’s love of money and status. And if she loves him for who he is instead of what he has, and that’s why she stays, then she is FUBAR anyway, because he is an awful-awful person.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Mr. Cohen signed one of his own ubiquitous non-disclosure agreements, any flipping he might do would violate it.  If so, then he and Lanny must have a strategy to beat it.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t think that is a concern. If Cohen signed it, it would only have been “with” the client at interest, in his case Trump or one of his alter egos. Who appear to want to run and hide from these issues, not go nuclear with them.

  18. Trip says:

    I only caught bits and pieces, but the Pompeo narrative seemed like the polar opposite of what Trump said in Helsinki, at least from what I saw. When senators tried to drill down to “did Trump tell you…blah blah blah?”, versus the standard response of “this is the administration’s policy”, he seemed a tad slippery and defensive. He hadn’t read any interpreter’s notes, so even if he was honestly relating what Trump said to him, that would require trusting Trump’s word. And that is a fool’s game.

    • Palli says:

      Oh, but the fool’s game is playing extra innings. Ohio junior senator, Rob Portman, said in a July 18 Fox interview: “I wish [trump] said it in front of President Putin and the world yesterday. But I take him at his word if he said he misspoke, absolutely.” 

       

      • Trip says:

        They nailed Pompeo with what the president says is official policy. He couldn’t quite wiggle (wriggle?) out of that, and the disconnect with his position on policy and established attribution of actors.

  19. david sanger says:

    I can hardly imagine Trump remembers enough to be able to answer most of the questions and this will only get worse as time passes. It will be interesting how Mueller deals with Trump’s memory lapses, real and feigned.

  20. Mitch Neher says:

    FWIW, the other day, on another blog, a Trumpalo argued that Congress should exercise its power to grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal to hire “privateers” to enforce its subpoenas and [someday] it’s contempt citations and criminal referrals for lying to Congress. [I am not making that up.] The Trumpalo at issue claimed that Trump, like any other POTUS, is institutionally averse to requiring members of the executive branch to obey Congressional subpoenas and the like.

    I mention this because it is so completely improbable that it could be a sign that the Trumpalos  are looking for an excuse to make Congressional Republicans walk the plank. Or maybe it’s just the usual insanity.

  21. Trip says:

    via southpaw

    Profile on @pwnallthethings

    This Former British Spy Exposed the Russian Hackers

    Tait used publicly available information to compile incriminating evidence of metadata and technical slip-ups against the Russian intelligence agency GRU, concluding that the attack bore the hallmarks of a classic Russian influence campaign. …when the Russians, posing as a Romanian hacker, began dumping the stolen documents online. “That was the point where it conspicuously changed from being, ‘This might be about espionage,’ to being ‘This is clearly an influence campaign,’” Tait says…“As soon as Guccifer [2.0]’s files hit the open Internet, an army of investigators—including old-school hackers, former spooks, security consultants, and journalists—descended on the hastily leaked data,” Rid wrote. “The result was an unprecedented open-source counterintelligence operation: Never in history was intelligence analysis done so fast, so publicly, and by so many.” Rid noted that Tait’s work on the issue was “particularly prolific,” pointing specifically to Tait’s astute observations that the username found in the metadata of one document referenced the founder of the Soviet secret police, and that the files had been edited on a computer with Russian language settings….Tait recalls being surprised that the hackers didn’t simply call it quits, given how quickly they were exposed. “We kind of expected they would just go away,” says Tait. “Like, they would say, ‘We screwed up. We got caught. This is dreadful. We’ll just pretend that this didn’t happen and go away back into the night.’ ”
    Instead, the Russians doubled down and started to release more documents, only this time they manipulated the metadata in ways specifically designed to discredit Tait’s observations. “They intentionally started editing these documents in multiple languages of Microsoft Word,” says Tait. Suddenly, files cropped up pointing to countries like China and Cuba instead of Russia. “It was very interesting, because what that showed was they were, in real time, responding to people doing analysis.”
    https://www.weeklystandard.com/haley-byrd/this-former-british-spy-exposed-the-russian-hackers

    • Trip says:

      The names which immediately popped in my head based on name recognition only, without any particular talent, are: Ivanka, Melania and Kardashian. The first two capitalizing on “Trump” and  the last on the OJ Simpson murder trial (defense) association.

  22. pseudonymous in nc says:

    And the latest in “Maggie and Mike talk to Rudy” is out, related to the tweetering. Nothing really new other than “is you taking [timestamped] notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?”

    (Though Maggie’s pieces have been sharper in recent days, especially the one pointing out that Hopey lied to her.)

    • Valley girl says:

      I read your link.  It prompted the following.
      Forgive me for going OT, kinda, or like really. I just had to get this out of my system.  Forgive the back story, but my two (old) computers have gone defunct, one about 2 weeks ago, and the other just this morning.  I had a third computer I bought online, basically a mistake, sitting around.  I had to get it working this morning, so I could go online.

      And, I had this sudden thought- this is pretty  trivial for others I’m sure- but Trump likely uses audio dictation, rather than actual writing, to “write” his tweets.  This of course has nothing to do with Mueller’s examination of the Donald’s tweets.  I mean, I can’t image it would.

      But it reminded me of reports long ago that Trump probably can’t read past the third grade level.  I don’t know if anyone has discussed his ability to write. Low level at best, I’d guess.

      I had this fantasy about the Mueller interview of Trump- which of course isn’t going to happen.  So, Mueller starts out by giving Trump some kind of a print document to read aloud.

      • Valley girl says:

        Sorry about my youtube link turning into a huge space hog.  I mistakenly thought that by adding the link, the link itself would show up, not what happened!

  23. klynn says:

    A thought for today…823 means, “Thinking of you…don’t thank me,” in cyber language.

  24. Trip says:

    It’s kinda weird that Mueller’s office acknowledged that it was he at the airport at the same exact time as Don Jr, but that he didn’t notice him (paraphrased). It makes you wonder about his skill or power of observation. And yes, I realize he was reading a newspaper and not on the job, but still. I wonder if Jr noticed him. Small world. Both heading to NYC, hmm. Much different goals in travel.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Did you notice the person sitting across from Mueller?

      I would not assume Mueller was *not* working.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Think about this scenario: person across from Mueller is FBI agent (watching the boarding line, signals to Mueller, yep, he is in line), who just happens to be booked in seat next to Jr. on flight. Mueller has First Class seat up front, so boards late, leaves first upon arrival. Jr. has no clue.

  25. Trip says:

    Apparently, (I gathered from reading RS), CNN put up Dershowitz versus Avenatti, and Dershowitz tried the Mariah Carey, “I don’t know her” on Trump, when Avenatti told him to come clean about working for Trump. When will anyone question him about how a civil rights attorney (and Bolton) could ever be associated with a racist organization like Gatestone? Or how a civil rights attorney could ever carry Netanyahu’s water, when he is slaughtering children in an apartheid regime?

    • bmaz says:

      I saw it. Dershowitz repeatedly called Avenatti an unethical lawyer. I thought he might swear out a bar complaint against Avenatti on the spot. He then went on to say how pristine he was because he taught ethics at Harvard to “Supreme Court Justices and important people”. Avenatti then pricked back at him over Trump as you described. It was basically a shitfest.

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