Don McGahn’s Bullshit Report Covering Up the Flynn Firing

Murray Waas, who writes about one and only one subject on the Russian investigation, has for the second time written a story claiming that a report Don McGahn wrote on February 15, 2017 — and not Trump’s serial offers to pardon people who are serving as his firewall —  is “the strongest evidence to date implicating the president of the United States in an obstruction of justice” and “the most compelling evidence we yet know of that Donald Trump may have obstructed justice.” Murray then goes on to parrot Rudy Giuliani’s preferred narrative about what would happen next.

Several people who have reviewed a portion of this evidence say that, based on what they know, they believe it is now all but inevitable that the special counsel will complete a confidential report presenting evidence that President Trump violated the law. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work, would then decide on turning over that report to Congress for the House of Representatives to consider whether to instigate impeachment proceedings.

Because even people covering the story closely mistake the Flynn firing for an obstruction crime instead evidence of the conspiracy, I’d like to lay out why this story is silly. This will lay out things implicit in this post, which shows that in fact the White House narrative about Flynn is all an effort to treat his firing as obstruction and not “collusion.”

Neither story about Don McGahn’s exoneration of Trump should be credited

Murray claims that because Trump knew that Mike Flynn was under investigation when he asked Jim Comey to let the investigation into Flynn go, it will undercut an explanation offered in January that Trump thought Flynn had been cleared by the FBI.

In arguing in their January 29 letter that Trump did not obstruct justice, the president’s attorneys Dowd and Sekulow quoted selectively from this same memo, relying only on a few small portions of it. They also asserted that even if Trump knew there had been an FBI investigation of Flynn, Trump believed that Flynn had been cleared. Full review of the memo flatly contradicts this story.

The memo’s own statement that Trump was indeed told that Flynn was under FBI investigation was, in turn, based in part on contemporaneous notes written by Reince Priebus after discussing the matter with the president, as well as McGahn’s recollections to his staff about what he personally had told Trump, according to other records I was able to review. Moreover, people familiar with the matter have told me that both Priebus and McGahn have confirmed in separate interviews with the special counsel that they had told Trump that Flynn was under investigation by the FBI before he met with Comey.

Murray repeats a suspect McGahn timeline describing himself, along with Reince Priebus and White House lawyer John Eisenberg, “confronting” Flynn about intercepts showing that he had raised sanctions with Kislyak, contrary to what (they were claiming) he had told them.

On February 8, 2017, The Washington Post contacted the White House to say that it was about to publish a story citing no less than nine sources that Flynn had indeed spoken to Kislyak about sanctions. In attempting to formulate a response, Priebus, McGahn, and Eisenberg questioned Flynn. Confronted with the information that there were intercepts showing exactly what was said between him and Kislyak, Flynn’s story broke down. Instead of denying that he had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions, the timeline said, Flynn’s “recollection was inconclusive.” Flynn “either was not sure whether he discussed sanctions, or did not remember doing so,” the McGahn timeline says.

Priebus then “specifically asked Flynn whether he was interviewed by the FBI,” the timeline says. In response, “Flynn stated that FBI agents met with him to inform him that their investigation was over.” That claim, of course, was a lie. The FBI never told Flynn their investigation of him was over. Shortly thereafter, Vice President Pence, Priebus, and McGahn recommended that Flynn be fired.

According to the story Murray got snookered into repeating, because those three never informed Trump about this confrontation, his understanding of the investigation would remain what Priebus and McGahn had already briefed him — that Flynn was under investigation — and so by asking Comey to back off, he was obstructing justice.

In arguing that the president did nothing wrong, Trump defense attorneys John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, in both informal conversations and later in formal correspondence with the special counsel, relied on the false statements of Flynn to Priebus, McGahn, and Eisenberg that the FBI had closed out their investigation of him. In the attorneys’ reasoning, if Trump had no reason to think that Flynn was under criminal investigation when he allegedly pressured Comey to go easy on Flynn, the president did not obstruct justice. More broadly, Sekulow and Dowd argued in correspondence with the special counsel that the “White House’s understanding” was that “there was no FBI investigation that could conceivably have been impeded” at the time of Trump’s White House meeting with Comey.

But Sekulow and Dowd’s account of these conversations is partial and misleading. In fact, there is no information or evidence that Flynn’s false assertions were ever relayed to the president.

Murray doesn’t ask an obvious question: why, if Priebus and McGahn had already briefed Trump that Flynn was under investigation, they would have to confront Flynn about it. Nor does he mention a lot of other relevant details.

Two narratives

Before I get into the most relevant details, consider what we’re looking at: what Murray claims is his scoop, which provides more details on the original McGahn report, written the day after Trump tried to get Comey to end an investigation into why Mike Flynn lied about his conversation about sanctions on December 29, 2016. As always seemed the case and still appears to be true based on Murray’s claims about the report, the McGahn report misrepresented what Sally Yates said and a bunch of other things, but  in so doing laid out a narrative whereby the firing of Mike Flynn would serve as punishment for something Flynn did wrong.

Murray contrasts that with the letter Trump’s lawyers sent at the end of January but leaked in June in part to feed a narrative — one that had already been debunked — that Mueller was primarily investigating Trump for obstruction. The letter was Jay Sekulow and John Dowd’s attempt, in the wake of Mike Flynn’s cooperation agreement, to use the McGahn narrative to spin the firing of Flynn. In the January 29, 2018 telling, Flynn is not at fault, he’s just confused. And so, in the January letter, is the president. It portrays a story where no one really knew what Flynn said to Kislyak and everything that followed was just a big game of confused telephone for which the participants can’t be held legally liable. If Flynn were confused, of course, then his purported lies to Mike Pence would need to be excused, which is probably why Sekulow and Dowd didn’t address that part of the story.

When this whole process started — before Trump fired Jim Comey and in the process extended the investigation and got Robert Mueller looking into the stories being told — McGahn and Priebus and everyone else probably presumed that firing Flynn would shut everything down. That was the intent, anyway. Fire Flynn, end of investigation about why he lied to the FBI about discussing sanctions with Sergei Kislyak. And if you end the investigation, there would be no further scrutiny into what everyone else knew at the time, nor would anyone ask Comey and Yates their side of the story.

Of course, Trump fucked that all up, and fired Comey, which led to Mueller’s appointment, which led to his convening of a grand jury, which led to all that falling apart.

Bill Burck’s other clients already knew that Flynn had discussed sanctions

Which brings us to the most important of the missing details.

As noted, Trump couldn’t leave well enough alone and so fired Comey which led to Mueller which led to an actual investigation which led, in August, to Mueller obtaining the transition communications of 13 key members of the transition team, unmediated by Trump lawyers, who at the time were just responding to wholly inadequate document requests from Congress and sharing with Mueller.

Specifically, on August 23, 2017, the FBI sent a letter (i.e., not a subpoena) to career GSA staff requesting copies of the emails, laptops, cell phones, and other materials associated with nine PTT members responsible for national security and policy matters. On August 30, 2017, the FBI sent a letter (again, not a subpoena) to career GSA staff requesting such materials for four additional senior PTT members.

Among others, Mueller would have obtained emails that would have revealed that contrary to the story the White House had told in early January 2017 (which Murray repeats in his story), numerous Transition officials were aware of the emails regarding sanctions. Indeed, Reince Priebus, along with Flynn, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, and two other people (Kushner’s inclusion is implied elsewhere in the story), got forwarded an email KT McFarland sent Tom Bossert the day that Mike Flynn made his calls with Kislyak, talking about Flynn’s upcoming call with Kislyak and the need to avoid public comment defending Russia. McFarland also relayed what Obama’s Homeland Security Czar, Lisa Monaco, expected from the call, and the expectation Kislyak would respond with threats.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

[snip]

McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Kislyak, hours after Mr. Obama’s sanctions were announced.

“Key will be Russia’s response over the next few days,” Ms. McFarland wrote in an email to another transition official, Thomas P. Bossert, now the president’s homeland security adviser.

[snip]

Bossert forwarded Ms. McFarland’s Dec. 29 email exchange about the sanctions to six other Trump advisers, including Mr. Flynn; Reince Priebus, who had been named as chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the senior strategist; and Sean Spicer, who would become the press secretary.

[snip]

“If there is a tit-for-tat escalation Trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia, which has just thrown U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote.

Mr. Bossert replied by urging all the top advisers to “defend election legitimacy now.”

[snip]

Obama administration officials were expecting a “bellicose” response to the expulsions and sanctions, according to the email exchange between Ms. McFarland and Mr. Bossert. Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser, had told Mr. Bossert that “the Russians have already responded with strong threats, promising to retaliate,” according to the emails.

Flynn took orders on and relayed his results to McFarland, who was in Mar-a-Lago with Trump. And the transition team, when it complained that Mueller obtained these emails, suggested that they would have — perhaps did, in their compliance with congressional requests — treat this one as privileged. The day after Flynn’s calls, Trump hailed the outcome his National Security Advisor appointee had accomplished on the calls the day before.

In other words, a great deal of evidence suggests that Trump not only knew what went on in those calls, but directed Flynn through McFarland to placate the Russians.

Within days after the call, Flynn briefed other members of the transition team on the call. It is highly unlikely that he lied to people who had been informed in advance of his call that he would be discussing sanctions.

FBI may have believed, in January 2017 and even February 2017, when McGahn wrote his memo, that Flynn lied on his own, to hide the contents of his calls from others in the Administration. But by November 2017, they knew that the most important people in the transition — including Bill Burck’s other clients, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus — knew well what had transpired in the calls with Kislyak.

None of this, of course, shows up in the tale White House sources are telling Murray. As a result, he tells a story that presents the McGahn narrative as more closely matching the “truth” than the later Sekulow and Dowd letter.

The problems with the McGahn narrative

But neither are true, and so while it’s nifty for Murray to claim this is the biggest yet proof of obstruction (it’s not, compared to the pardons promised), that’s not actually what happened, and Mueller would know that.

For example, the entire story about Flynn lying to Pence — which is something Sekulow and Dowd simply ignored in their January letter — is probably not true; and if it is, key White House staffers, including at least two of Burck’s clients, were lying to the nominal Transition head and were parties to Flynn’s lie.

On January 12, 2017, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius disclosed that US intelligence agencies had intercepted the phone calls, although Ignatius’s sources did not disclose the specifics of what either Flynn or Kislyak said. Vice President Mike Pence was immediately enlisted to defend Flynn. Flynn assured Pence that he never spoke to Kislyak about sanctions, whereupon Pence repeated those denials on Fox News and CBS’s Face the Nation. Flynn was then also questioned by the FBI about the phone calls, but once again denied that he had ever spoken to Kislyak about sanctions.

Similarly, the notion that Priebus would have to ask Flynn what he said to Kislyak on February 8 (when he had known it would include sanctions before Flynn made the call) is nonsense.

 On February 8, 2017, The Washington Post contacted the White House to say that it was about to publish a story citing no less than nine sources that Flynn had indeed spoken to Kislyak about sanctions. In attempting to formulate a response, Priebus, McGahn, and Eisenberg questioned Flynn. Confronted with the information that there were intercepts showing exactly what was said between him and Kislyak, Flynn’s story broke down. Instead of denying that he had spoken to Kislyak about sanctions, the timeline said, Flynn’s “recollection was inconclusive.” Flynn “either was not sure whether he discussed sanctions, or did not remember doing so,” the McGahn timeline says.

Both Priebus and Flynn would know better. It’s possible Flynn and Priebus were putting on a show for the lawyers (but if so, that show would likely be just for John Eisenberg, because otherwise Burck would have a major conflict). It’s more likely the McGahn narrative was an attempt to make the internal story consistent with the public claims that only Flynn knew of the content of the calls.

One of the other key pieces of bullshit in the McGahn narrative is the claim that there was any doubt whether Flynn could be fired when Yates first presented her concerns to McGahn.

The McGahn timeline recounts: “Part of [our] concern was a recognition by McGahn that it was unclear from the meeting with Yates whether or not an action could be taken without jeopardizing an ongoing investigation.”

She clearly suggested (and would be backed by Mary McCord) that’s what they should do.

Finally, there’s something else missing from this narrative: that Flynn had spent the weekend between this alleged grilling from Priebus and McGahn in Mar-a-Lago with the President, sitting in on yet more sensitive meetings (in that case, with Shinzo Abe).

McGahn’s narrative may offer an explanation for why Trump fired Flynn, even if it doesn’t accord with known facts. But the entire narrative fails to explain why, if all the players knew and did what they said, Trump didn’t fire Flynn as soon as Yates suggested he should, or after they reviewed the intercepts (showing what they knew the conversation entailed), or after Priebus and McGahn grilled Flynn.

Which is not to say that McGahn’s letter isn’t proof of obstruction (albeit far less damning than Trump’s offers of pardons). It’s just an entirely different model of obstruction, and Murray’s story may be yet more PR from Don McGahn to make sure he’s on the right side of any obstruction charges.

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116 replies
    • Avattoir says:

      Couldn’t figure out / wouldn’t risk career & maybe freedom

      fulfilling the Don’s wish to be rid of meddlesome Mueller.

      • Peterr says:

        I suspect all the recent coverage of McGahn’s 30 hours of conversations with Mueller didn’t endear him to the Donald. “When I said you could talk to him, I thought it would be 30 minutes of chit chat! I didn’t mean you two should shack up for the weekend!!”

  1. Richieboy says:

    What I once saw as obstruction I now see as collusion. Yes, of course. Thanks for another dazzlingly incisive piece.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi Richie, welcome to Emptywheel. Thanks for joining us.

      That said there is NO SUCH THING as “collusion”. That will not work here.

      The word, is now, and always has been,”conspiracy”.

      This is a great blog, and a great comment section, but one that has, from the start, understood the real statutes at issue. We still do.

      • rationalfreethinker69 says:

        Indeed. The focus on the word “collusion” is like a suspect being found at the scene of the crime having bludgeoned his victim to death with a crowbar. As more evidence arises of this person’s guilt of the crime of murder, and the prosecution marshalls the evidence to prove the suspect’s guilt of said crime, the suspect continues to insist that he is not culpable because “NO BLUDGEONING!” is being alleged.

        The suspect then gets his comically evil friend to do a seemingly endless round of TV interviews in which he claims that the prosecution has made up a crime of bludgeoning and is accusing the suspect of having committed it.

        That is roughly the situation the Trump team finds itself in with regards to the Mueller investigation.

      • Richieboy says:

        I stands correcte!

        Dammit!

        I stand corrected.

        I actually meant to type “conspiracy,” I swear. See how it works?

        • bmaz says:

          Hahaha! Apologies. I’m sorry, it has been a hobby horse of mine from the first time I heard it uttered in relation to this issue with Trump.

          At any rate, welcome to Emptywheel and please join us often in comments.

  2. Trip says:

    McGahn is like a machine lately, churning out nonstop PR pieces. This leads me to believe he was in very, very deep.

      • Trip says:

        I mean before the election. He was around since the beginning.
        He was clearly planted by the GOP for the purposes of shifting hard right; which also suited the Kremlin goals, (as well as Israel and misc others).

        • Bill says:

          Do you think the GOP wanted the hard shift to the right? The GOP didn’t want Trump. Can you identified who inside the GOP orchestrated that turn? Who put forward Steve Miller? Who pimped McGahn?

          • Peterr says:

            The GOP establishment may not have wanted Trump, but GOP candidates and officeholders certainly paved the way for him, going back to Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Lee Attwater through Reagan announcing his candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a speech backing states’ rights (just down the road from where three civil rights workers were killed in 1965) through Karl Rove’s dogwhistling (ask the McCain family about the SC primary . . . ) through McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate through . . . today. Some of these folks may have thought they were just playing to the base but could govern without the rightwing hate, but they fed the beast and now the beast has grown up. The GOP has been playing TO the hard right for years, and in Trump the hard right finally got someone to actually carry out what they wanted.

            Who put forward Stephen Miller? Well, he was Jeff Sessions’ communications director, and I think he was also tied to Steve Bannon, so those two would be my bet.

            As for McGahn, Dubya put him on the FEC, and later he was the chief counsel for the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team before coming to the WH Counsel’s Office. How Trump came to choose him for the campaign, I got nothing.

          • Trip says:

            The Koch brothers have tentacles everywhere. But here is some background on McGahn, (apologies that I linked only one source):

            McGahn Defended DeLay in the Russian Pay-to-Play Scandal
            One of the scandals surrounding DeLay involved a 1997 trip he made to Moscow, where he was joined by Abramoff, paid for by conservative nonprofit, the National Center for Public Policy Research. The group also financed two trips to Moscow by DeLay’s chief of staff, Edwin Buckham, who went on to become a corporate lobbyist.
            According to associates of Buckham, Russian oil and gas executives subsequently gave $1 million to the U.S. Family Network, a conservative advocacy group founded by Buckham in 1996. The Network was part of DeLay’s “political money carousel,” and later received $500,000 from the National Republican Campaign Committee, where McGahn was also in-house counsel. The group was named in a RICO lawsuit against DeLay filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1998.
            McGahn defended the huge contribution and denied that it had any ties to Russia when Public Campaign ran political ads in 2006 attacking DeLay for the scandal.

            McGahn’s Efforts to Aid the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners
            McGahn testified on behalf of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and Freedom Partners Action Fund at an FEC hearing on rulemaking in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down aggregate contribution limits in McCutcheon v. FEC.
            Freedom Partners is closely tied to Charles and David Koch, and has been referred to as “the Koch Brothers secret bank.” Freedom Partners spent more than $25 million on five U.S. Senate races in the 2016 elections.
            https://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/11/13176/don-mcgahn-trump-transition-lawyer-has-long-courted-controversy

          • bmaz says:

            This is a bullshit question. The GOP had been moving toward the Trumpian moment for decades. He is not the difference, he is the end product.

            • marksb says:

              My dad was a Goldwater, John Birch Society Republican back in the early 60’s, in a Los Angeles that teemed with radical right-wing conservatives and white-nationalists. Our nice suburban house had whites-only deed restrictions. I used to hear him ranting at civil rights, awakening feminism, and negotiating with other countries (instead of just bombing them back to the stone age) and marvel at the lack of logic or for that matter connection to our fundamental Constitutional values. The good news is his insane views gave me a liberal political education in my early teens. The bad news is these people are still trying to turn us into an authoritarian dictatorship.

              • Tracy says:

                Marksb, aren’t you lucky that you were turned off to those dark views, rather than taking them on? Many people end up following the ideology they were exposed to growing up – but college also apparently also has great effect.

                Saddest thing is to see photos of kids at Trump rallies w/ their faces all screwed up w/ hatred-spewing chants that they’ve learned from their parents. Children are naturally loving and accepting, it’s wrong to indoctrinate them w/ such hate and intolerance. It reminds me of how Hitler Youth were brainwashed by parents and society.

  3. Rusharuse says:

    Do we think the “messenger” involved in the pardon(s) offer is also in the gun for obstruction?

  4. TheraP says:

    I can’t let this go:

    You alluded to it, Marcy.  But Pence is not an innocent bystander here.  Many, and you seem to be among them/us, view Pence as having undoubtedly lied when he claimed “Flynn lied” to him.  Was it Pence’s only lie?  We have evidence it wasn’t:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/12/20/in-cabinet-meeting-pence-praises-trump-once-every-12-seconds-for-3-minutes-straight/

    Pence was head of the transition.  He apparently either wants to claim he was a clueless leader, out of the loop.  Or he’s a Toady of the Worst Sort and is willing to lie with impunity.  “Once every 12 seconds.”

    EW needs a Medal of Honor for “Tireless Correction of the Record” – which the culprits mercilessly muddy up.  It’s like a blackboard which over and over EW patiently erases, once again posting the correct “answer” – only to watch her errant learners go right on making the same mistakes.  (Too bad she can’t send them to Detention.  But Mueller awaits.)

    Truly, I admire your patience, Marcy!  Thank you.

    History will not forget your efforts.

    • Trip says:

      November 18, 2016, letter to Pence from Elijah Cummings:

      https://democrats-oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/documents/2016-11-18.EEC%20to%20Pence.pdf

      However: March 2017

      Pence told Fox News’ Bret Baier in an interview airing Thursday evening that media reports about Flynn’s work were “the first I heard of it and I think it is an affirmation of the President’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.”
      White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Mr. Trump was not aware of Flynn’s ties to Turkey before appointing him. Spicer’s comments came two days after Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group Inc., filed paperwork with the Justice Department formally identifying him as a foreign agent and acknowledging that his work for a company owned by a Turkish businessman could have aided Turkey’s government.
      Asked whether Trump knew about Flynn’s work before he appointed him as national security adviser, Spicer said, “I don’t believe that that was known.”
      https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mike-pence-says-turkey-ties-are-affirmation-of-decision-to-fire-michael-flynn/

      LIARS.

    • mesquite says:

       
      It seems virtually certain that Pence lied about the meeting with Flynn, rather than Flynn lying to Pence. Mueller has known since Flynn flipped; had to be one of the first questions asked. With this and many other stories I keep getting the feeling that the real purpose of the story being leaked is to distract and act as a firewall for Pence, who clearly obstructed justice.
       
      Speaking of Flynn, I’d really like to see more discussion in the press of Flynn’s extraordinary rendition for sale conversations with the Turks. This would remind people that these people have no morals and evil comes naturally. Here’s hoping it is part of his plea in September.
       

    • emptywheel says:

      Pence is not an ignorant bystander. But that does not amount to criminal exposure. And I’ve seen zero evidence of criminal exposure.

      • TheraP says:

        Thank you, EW! You do an excellent job policing the Truth here. I am in your debt.

        To our ‘knowledge’ the FBI never interviewed him at the time. So it makes sense we ‘know’ of no criminal exposure. But what a weasel!

        • errant aesthete says:

          I concur in your gratitude TheraP, but am crestfallen at EW’s revelation.

          Pence is most definitely a weasel.

      • bmaz says:

        No, no criminal exposure. Almost surreal the extent to which that has been avoided, but no, not that I can detect.

        • posaune says:

          That says a lot about Pence — his sensibilities and more importantly, his ambitions.   I think he is still a weasel (and I can’t stand the mother thing), but he’s kept his nose clean, apparently.   He can’t wait to be president, don’t you think?

          • bmaz says:

            Oh, yes, very much so. To be clear, don’t think he is really and truly clean, but every effort has been made, and mostly successfully, to make him look so. It is a weird thing; who knows?

          • Tracy says:

            My comment didn’t post I guess, but I think that someone without a core but huge political ambition is easy to manipulate.

            This article from Jane Mayer “The Danger of President Pence in The New Yorker is really good (fabulously long, though): here are some points:

            #1 – Pence is highly ambitious:

            “This summer, I visited Pence’s home town of Columbus, Indiana. Harry McCawley, a retired editor at the Republic, the local newspaper, told me, ‘Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb.” Pence exudes a low-key humility, but, McCawley told me, ‘he’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.'”

            ***

            “Evidently, the next chapter is on Pence’s mind. Over the fireplace in the Vice-President’s residence, he has hung a plaque with a passage from the Bible: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

            #2: Manafort, Koch, connection:
            “Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network. Kellyanne Conway, who had done polling work for the Kochs, pushed for Pence, too, as did Stephen Bannon, although private e-mails recently obtained by BuzzFeed indicate that he considered the choice a Faustian bargain—’an unfortunate necessity.’”
            ***

            #3: Flynn issues/ Pence is spineless

            “Before Pence took over the transition team, Christie had warned Trump not to give a high-level job to the retired general Michael Flynn, whose financial ties to foreign interests triggered the investigation. Flynn, whom Obama had fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was not on any of the original transition team’s long lists for government appointments. Christie considered him too risky.

            “In any event, when Pence replaced Christie, the door of the White House was opened to Flynn. On November 17th, after little vetting, Flynn was named Trump’s national-security adviser, one of the most sensitive posts in the U.S. government. There is no indication that Pence raised any objections about Flynn to Trump, even after Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent Pence a letter warning him about Flynn’s questionable ethics: Flynn had failed to disclose that, during the campaign, he had done paid lobbying work for Turkish interests. A member of the original transition team told me, ‘Pence left his backbone in Indiana, if he ever had one.'”

      • CitizenCrone says:

        Pence likes to project an earnest cluelessness.  Maybe that’s how he survived misusing campaign funds for his mortgage payments, etc. (as governor.)  But that, at least, was criminal, no?

        In fairness, Pence often seems to be out of the loop.  But if he was totally unaware of the Russian contacts and behind-the-scenes maneuvering that went on during the campaign and transition, then it was a willful ignorance.  The GOP, who surely never expected Trump to survive his first term, have an interest in preserving Pence’s “innocence.”  Mueller may have insight, but evidence (if Pence were part of conspiracy) would be hard to get.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Waas seems addicted to the idea that Mueller’s response to hard evidence of obstruction – and presumably other crimes – will be a report to Congress. Have not Rosenstein and Mueller made clear that they will speak principally through indictments?

    That is, they intend to speak through the criminal justice system, not by sending reports to a Congress that has demonstrated time and again it will do nothing with them, except to think of further ways to protect Donald Trump.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      To build on what you said about speaking via the criminal justice process, it’s not just the indictments, it’s the trials. If all goes well, that’s the opportunity to knock down all of the PR that gets floated by a 12-0 vote.

      • Avattoir says:

        Trump campaing: “Make America Great Again”

        Trump administration: “Make Attorneys Ginormously Affluent”

  6. jf-fl says:

    I’m open to idea there was a quid-pro quo that flynn was executing on, abundance of circumstantial evidence.

    Skeptical how much of conspiracy relies on michael schmidtt’s interpretation of kt mcfarland emails. You yourself regularly chide and occasionally mock mike and maggie’s synopsis of even their own past reporting. Why wasn’t nytimes able to release even the email in question?

    Are these reporters memories and note-taking abilities so poor that even amongst the 3 of them, and even allowing they might not have received a copy of the emails, that they couldn’t reconstruct more than a couple of out of context sentences as quotes? (don’t answer that)

    EW frequently references KTM emails as support for russia conspiracy (vs simple obstruction), combined with inconsistencies around team trump’s behavior. Team trump’s comments are frequently troubling and their responses to their own behavior are usually incompetent. Being horrible communicators and administrators are not crimes though.

    My current hurdle is that no matter how many long passages you write on team trump’s contradictions and non-sense, they’ve always been contraditory and non-sensible.

    I could totally see a scenario where stone is indicted, even don jr. Then trump pardons everybody after the mid-terms, fires muller and the trumpkin crowd turns the propaganda up to 11.

    Even if the dems won the house and do a more open, public investigation where they do hard stuff like, you know- verify testimony- it’s possible the simplest explanation is we have a really dumb bunch of people trying to hold onto the best jobs they’ll ever have. And also who even if they deep-down had some desire to follow every law, they couldn’t but more for sheer incompetence. The fake toughness and apathy just covering up for nitwits and narcissists.

    The podcast on lawfare from the former ken starr attorney who interviewed clinton in grand jury was interesting as he stated some of the areas where both trump and mueller might be weak. Ultimately there is going to have to be more evidence released on this stuff. I’m hopeful sept 7th is the biggest news day yet if only bc it may be the last chance we have to ever find out what went on here.

    thanks for your detailed analysis.

          • TheraP says:

            Um… no. Try again. Take same link. Scroll down to “Timeline.” You’ll see Sept 7 in bold. Several very important things are happening. Testimony. Sentencing. Brief.

            (I’m on an iPad. So I can’t just highlight and then copy a line of print. Maybe there’s a way, but I don’t know it. Sorry.)

            • Trip says:

              I’m hopeful sept 7th is the biggest news day yet if only bc it may be the last chance we have to ever find out what went on here.

              The OP opined that that date might be a “last chance”. Marcy noted Giuliani calling Sept 1 the deadline of 60 days out from election if the DOJ follows this supposed tradition, but she calculated the 7th. However, the prosecution of Manafort is proceeding on September 24. So, we will know more, but probably not all of it.

              • TheraP says:

                No real deadline exists. Don’t believe the propaganda.

                And Patience. We may never know everything. But Mueller will. And one day you can read entire books about it. Long after I’m gone. Maybe sooner.

            • Charlie says:

              Here it is.

              September 7: Randy Credico scheduled to testify before grand jury; George Papadopoulos scheduled for sentencing; Andrew Miller brief due before DC Circuit; 60 days before November 6 mid-terms

              On iPad rest finger lightly on beginning of section to copy. It will turn blue. Slide finger over section required then choose copy from drop down box and paste in here.

              • TheraP says:

                I’ve tried it before. I just tried it several times. With finger and even stylus. I have an iPad Pro from last September.

                But that blue bit only covers one word at a time. For me. Maybe my old arthritic fingers? (Old age requires so much acceptance of things you can’t change. Humor about it is the best solution.)

                What you advise makes sense. As it’s how I used to copy using my mouse. (I can’t use Bluetooth in this small retirement apartment – as it can affect other objects unfortunately.)

                Just the fact that you took time to try and help warms my heart! I really appreciate it, Charlie. :-)

    • greengiant says:

      Start with Trump has been a crook his entire life and in bed with the Italian and Russian mafia. It was nice of Jason Leopold and friend to do that stenography for Felix Sater. But just like Mike and Maggie and Devlin Barrett, don’t burn your source. Sater’s father was reported to work for the mob. The same mob involved in Wall Street and covering up Paul Klebnikov’s murder in Moscow in 2004. Rather than pursue Sater in federal court in the cause of justice of those burned in his development schemes and worse, the US put a 10 year seal on the civil proceedings. Snitched on the Italian mob yes, Russian mafia nyet.

  7. obsessed says:

    Et tu Murray? Back in more innocent times, when outing CIA agents and doctoring intelligence to start wars was still considered scandalous, I seem to recall Murray being the gold standard and Jason Leopold the weak link. Have they swapped roles this cycle? Seems like Leopold and Cormier have been pretty good so far.

  8. obsessed says:

    >Have not Rosenstein and Mueller made clear that they will speak principally through indictments?

    Okay … do you think there’s a way to word an indictment that would lock down a case against Trump? In other words, could speaking indictments cover all the key bullets of a report to Congress?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Who says the indictments for the next two plus years need to say Donald Trump?

      Plenty of work to go round, plenty of indictments and trials and appeals to tend to until the Don leaves office.  Mueller could do what he’s doing the next several years and not exceed  the duration of prior investigations.  He’s already had more success then either of Starr or Walsh’s, for example.

      Besides, Waas doesn’t seem to be playing the let’s get it all down in a long, detailed report like the 9-11 Commission’s card.  He seems to be playing two different cards: the obstruction card (cue, one is the loneliest number) and the report instead of criminal prosecutions card.

      Impeachment or censure would be useful, but the Dems would have to win bigly in 2018 and 2020 to make either likely.  Impeachment after 2020 would be irrelevant if Trump/Russia do not win re-election.

      A long, detailed report would be useful, if it were a public document.  But it would not be an adequate substitute for criminal prosecutions.

      • J R in WV says:

        ” Impeachment after 2020 would be irrelevant if Trump/Russia do not win re-election.”

        No, actually, it would end Trump’s federal pension, end his Secret service protection, and close out his place in history properly. So not irrelevant at all to me.

    • Avattoir says:

      You frame the issue wrong.

      What has Rudy G been constantly pimping? This: ‘Winter Is Coming AND It’ll Be In The Form Of A Report’.

      That should tell you the Trump WH wants a report, ANY report, so long as they can spin it as “Mueller’s Report”.

      You’d bleed brains out of your ears if you were given an advance preview of Republican and other authoritarian operatives and agents can outdo Rumpelstiltskin in spinning ANYTHING into something they can market.

      A report might actually come from Rosenstein (It won’t.), but it’d make no difference: it’ll be spun as Mueller’s Report.

      A report could be absurdly narrowly framed, to deal with a mere sliver of a tiny subset of something technical that at most is tangentially concerned with obstruction. But no matter: that’ll be spun as Mueller’s Report.

      Mueller knows this, from long & no doubt often bitter personal experience from, AOT, serving as FBID under GWB.

      Rosenstein knows this too, given how his technically correct memo on Comey & Her Emails got abused by Sessions & Trump.

      So, neither Mueller nor Rosenstein will issue ANYTHING that even if one has to squint really hard to do so might be characterized as a “report”, as ANYTHING either of them ‘reports’ will be spun into Mueller’s Report.

      Why is the Trump WH so desperate for Mueller’s Report?

      Because Congress doesn’t debate – not politics, not policies, not anything.

      Parliamentary systems have legislatures that debate. In the UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, South Africa, the same bodies that deal with passing laws also hold debates; indeed, typically they START with a confrontational debate attacking the government of the day.

      Why? Because the chief executive of the national government is seated right there, in Parliament, open to engagement.

      Not so here. Here, and for exactly as long as I’ve been sentient of federal politics, Congress, certainly the House but increasingly the Senate, is only for 2 things: 1. passing laws, and 2. electioneering. Just not debate.

      So when an issue turns to crisis, in parliamentary systems the governing party often will resort to the ‘nuclear option’ of taking the heat off it by referring it out to a commission.

      That commission will hold hearings for weeks, more likely months, not infrequently years. Then, it issues a report – ONE report, singular. And addressed to the parliament. And then political debate ensue – in the parliament.

      Commissions here are by presidential referral. At least since I first looked, as a teenager, they all share in common the thing I saw with the Warren Commission: reports – PLURAL.

      That is: here, federal commissions are comprised CRITICALLY differently – not just as vehicles for gathering evidence, but as platforms that can host political debate.

      Thus for example, we here are denied the often startlingly raw public airing of dirty laundry that features in parliamentary commissions. We MIGHT get some of that in committee hearings, but in unsatisfying tiny over-manipulated packages (like with that old Woody Allen joke where one retirement home residents says ‘The food here is awful.’ and the other responds ‘And such small portions!’)

      And whereas presidential commissions issue “a” report, by norm, custom & design they also serve as platforms for minority reports, i.e. competing reports = political debate.

      But here, Team Trump sees not even the bare threat that might be posed by a commission (B’lieve me, Trump would hate it but the GOP would LOVE to refer Mueller’s mandate to a preznit commission. Sucker would spend 2 years just in pre-hearing prep.).

      Mueller’s  OSC proceedings serve in something sort of akin to the role of a commission (issues are framed, limits are proscribed, hearings occur, actual evidence escapes out), but as long as, and to the extent that, whatever makes up those ‘proceedings’ can be successfully characterized as political, then any ‘reports’ from the OSC are fair game for rebuttal.

      Among the defects in the Nunes memo, on the applications to the FISC that alluded to the Steele dossier, was that it went first (Nunes is far too inept a parliamentarian to see why they needed to find some way to avoid that.) That allowed the D minority rebuttal to pick out the pits.

      Trump Team sicks hope to exploit that advantage in absurd ways we can’t even imagine (Well, fearless leader might.).

      Bottom line: there’ll be no Mueller Report.

      • emptywheel says:

        Adding (really just expanding on what you said), the reason Rudy wants a Mueller report is he wants finality. An investigation will continue until the culprits are all understood.

        • Avattoir says:

          When we get to your book or movie on this, remember not to bother audience-testing fearless leader’s endings versus mine. Yours are womanifestly better.

          • errant aesthete says:

            Avattoir,

            Bravo! From a communications point of view, you nailed “no Mueller report.” I believe Marcy could quite comfortably nuance your thoughts into the book/movie narrative.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          The only thing I’d challenge is that if there is a really ugly, damning piece of evidence about Trump that comes out, the kind of thing that leaves even Mitch McConnell unable to come up with a bland dusty dismissal, I could see the pressure growing for a quick settlement along the lines of the Spiro Agnew plea deal on a single count. Prosecutors had Agnew on a bunch more charges, but it was decided by the powers that be for the good of the country they needed him out of office right away.

          In that case, I could see Mueller issuing a final report on everything he could have done if the plea deal wasn’t made.

          You might get the report punted to a commission, or left for Congress, but I would assume to a large extent it would still be a Mueller report.

          • Tracy says:

            The weird thing is, Rudy is shopping his “counter-report” – nobody wants your made-up report/ pack of lies, Rudy!

  9. gedouttahear says:

    It was always — still is  — annoying/maddening how the msm repeats the bullshit that flynn lied to the uber unctuous penis pence. The fact that pence says something is half the proof that he’s lying.  And way too little attention has been paid to the fact that it was manafort who engineered getting pence on the ticket as vp.  It wouldn’t come as a surprise if it was revealed that pence dresses up as a russian woman and attends services at a russian orthodox church deep in the bowels of indiana.

    It’s also maddening how obstruction has taken center stage as if obstruction exists without a serious underlying crime, the investigation of which there is reason to obstruct — duh — because serious crimes have been committed. 

  10. fb1848 says:

    One of the most fascinating aspects of this scandal is trying to anticipate and interpret each step Silent Bob Mueller takes and to infer from them what he knows. If what he already knows falls toward the most serious end of the possibility spectrum–say, that Trump conspired with the Russians and there was a quid pro quo regarding sanctions and other foreign policy compromises–then Mueller is faced with a number of strategic considerations. Given the consequences of such findings, he must know that the evidence he presents in a report or indictments must be overwhelming and beyond reproach. But at the same time he will know that there is an urgency to move his investigation–in the meantime the national security of the US is jeopardized. He will also know that Trump has incentive to shut-down the investigation at almost any political cost and that he has to stay one step ahead. Knowing now that Sessions will be canned soon after the midterms, and possibly Rosenstein and himself too, he may feel he needs to make a move that makes it impossible for Trump to do that. I’m guessing that there will be another bombshell indictment that introduces additional evidence of conspiracy into the legal record before the midterms or in the days immediately after them.

    • Richard G says:

      I agree–if Mueller’s got the goods on the most serious crimes being discussed, seems like he’d feel tremendous urgency to get them before the public, and into the courts, ASAP before the election.

      And if Mueller thinks he can prove Trump guilty of such crimes, then just maybe he’d want to distract that kind of president with an indictment, turning DOJ policy on its head.

       

       

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mueller still reads books.  He writes in complete sentences.  He knows what a paragraph break is, and how to pound a defendant in logical steps, one-by-one-by-one.

      He is planning for the long haul.  Neither feeding the media beast’s news cycle nor an election in two plus months time are driving his strategy.  Manafort’s second trial will barely be over by then, and there is likely to be a long list of potential defendants to soldier through.

      He will be planning for the investigations and prosecutions to continue should Trump finally give in to his impulse, fire Sessions, then Rosenstein or Mueller.  The new chief will find that s/he will have to dismantle much of the DoJ in order to stop this thing.  Before we get to that point, the Dems will have at least one house, which will make the president’s urgent demands to neuter the DoJ much harder to fulfill.  And then we’ll be into 2020’s campaign.

      And just to be obvious, because it needs saying:  It Is Not Normal for an American president to be so at war with his own Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  They are normally good pals.

      • oldoilfieldhand says:

        Normally, to the extent that anything remains normal, American Presidents are not career criminals.

      • Richard G says:

        Thanks for that perspective.

        If you’re right, let’s hope whatever long-term strategy he’s pursuing can withstand continued GOP control of Congress.  (27 percent chance of keeping the House per fivethirtyeight.com)

  11. DMM says:

    We seem to keep coming back to this question — which I never really see addressed anywhere — with respect to Flynn: what exactly is the legal basis of Flynn’s jeopardy about his discussion with Kislyak regarding sanctions and Russia’s response to them?  If the charge of lying to the FBI (which may in turn have been the predicate for the whole investigation into Flynn) is predicated on the Logan Act, that seems a tenuous basis, or potentially so, given questions about its constitutionality (as discussed elsewhere by actual constitutional scholars) and other potential defects.

    It would seem that even Mueller didn’t want to touch the Logan Act issue, given that he doesn’t even reference it in the statement of offense, much less charge Flynn with violating it. Rather (as pertains to Flynn’s discussion with Kisylak), he relies entirely on his lying to the FBI.

    Of course, the question about the Logan Act doesn’t negate that Flynn’s discussion with Kislyak could have been part of the “call and response” of a conspiracy, though perhaps it may seem odd that Flynn would need to talk to Russia about the sanctions if they were already part of the (then already-existing) Trump-Putin mutual understanding.

    I haven’t given up hope of direct or explicit evidence, but I do wonder if this, along with (especially) the implicit nature of the “call and response” that Marcy describes, aren’t too weak a foundation to support the charges/accusations.

    • emptywheel says:

      First, Flynn was already under CI investigation before he was appointed. Remember that Obama warned Trump against appointing him, and the Page and other documents make it clear that Flynn was already of interest to the FBI.

      Depending on whom you ask, that CI investigation was either winding down or still active during those calls.

      But lying to the FBI, provided that it’s a material lie that obstructs an investigation, is a crime without any other predication. Probably, they took it seriously at first because Flynn was already of CI concern wrt Russia. And then it became clear how important those lies were wrt the investigation. The charging of them was a no-brainer.

      The big question, wrt Flynn, though, is why Mueller was willing to trade his cooperation for basically no prison time.

  12. Thomas Paine says:

    This is all getting quite interesting. The ConFraudUS and Obstructions cases are surely coming together in Mueller’s briefing room. How and when Mueller acts and informs the rest of us exactly what he knows is the big mystery. He is known for keeping his “Eyes on the Prize” and outsmarting Mobbed-up crooks. I am sure he is three or four steps ahead of everybody on this thing.

    The complication in this case is that the target is the POTUS who has more power than Al Capone, but far fewer neurons. He also has much poorer legal help than Nixon had and is hemorrhaging his best attorneys, (McGahn and his deputies), everyday. None-the-less, Trump could, in fit of pique, fire Mueller and his entire Team America.

    My guess is, as Frank Figluzzi has speculated on MSNBC, Mueller and Rosenstein have a “parachute plan” for this potential event involving sending evidence and prosecutors out to the SDNY and other US Attorney offices, as well as key state AG offices in NY, VA, MD and other states. He may also have a plethora of Grand Jury-approved sealed indictments to send out to the appropriate Courts on trigger.

    WRT Trump’s plan to fire Sessions and then install a new AG hack to kill or curtail the Trump / Russia probe, despite L. Graham and Hatch backtracking, I think it may have hit a severe speed bump with McConnell. McConnell’s reaction to Trump firing Sessions was quite curt and negative. He looked pissed. I think he understands the magnitude of the consequences of this action after the mid-terms including the almost certain loss of the Senate in 2020. If Trump goes down or is not re-elected in 2020, the only chance the GOP has to hang onto power is the Senate. (I don’t think Pence has the stuff to get elected dogcatcher, much less POTUS). McConnell knows that if Trump goes total rogue, keeping the Senate in GOP hands after 2020 may well be impossible. (The GOP has many more vulnerable seats than the Dems in the 2020 election.) In the GOP nightmare scenario, a replay of 2008 with a Democratic House, Senate and Executive in 2021 could instantiate campaign and gerrymandering reforms that the GOP could not easily overcome and which, combined with demographic trends, would consign them to minority status for eternity.

    In addition, with the right POTUS (??) and AG (Kamala Harris ?) payback could be hell for a lot of GOP officeholders who would be headed to the Big House. The only way to stop it is to maintain control of the Senate. That is why McConnell may not let Trump take this too much farther. Losing Trump would be better than losing the whole party. McConnell is an institutionallist (both party and Senate) and also one crafty politician who considers himself Trump’s equal when it comes to political power.

    • Tracy says:

      Also, McConnell knows how high the stakes are on getting Kavanaugh through – that’s why it was such a HUGE gift, what Schummer acquiesced to on fast-tracking 15 judicial nominations (I feel like I will never be able to forgive him for that) – but McConnell doesn’t want anything to interfere (i.e. a new AG confirmation).

      The only way I can understand what Schummer did is if he made that concession to relent to 15 nominations now, in order to allow the red state Dems to campaign for a few days, helping to win back the Senate, which will save hundreds of nominations in 2019 and 2020 (but his acquiescence also benefits Dean Heller and Ted Cruz).

  13. Mitch Neher says:

    emptywheel wrote, “Murray claims that because Trump knew that Mike Flynn was under investigation when he asked Jim Comey to let the investigation into Flynn go, it will undercut an explanation offered in January that Trump thought Flynn had been cleared by the FBI.”

    It seems to me that the explanation offered in January that Trump thought Flynn had been cleared by the FBI pretty much undercuts itself as a reason for Trump to ask Comey to clear Flynn and let go of the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.

     

  14. Trip says:

    Trump personally lobbying GOP senators to flip on Sessions
    Seized by paroxysms of anger, Trump has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017, when Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation. If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.
    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/29/trump-sessions-firing-senators-white-house-803922

    Huckster-b’s accent is okay, though? Does this bother Trump’s southern base, AT ALL? Lindsey Graham has a southern accent. Bueller? Bueller?…Mueller?
    I don’t believe for a second that Trump wants to fire Sessions for anything other than his recusal from the Russian investigation. But true to form, Trump always devolves into personal attacks.

    • Greenhouse says:

      But you must admit that Mr. Magoo is a well-deserved, good one, eh. I’m only sorry the POTUS has besmirched Magoo… or was MAGAoo (sorry).

  15. exacto says:

    All quite interesting, but anyone who considers “Suite Madame Blue” to be an example of Styx’s “better early work” (quite to paraphrase) is confusing Playdoh for later action figures, and raises questions of judgment (smile, perhaps only musical).

  16. Trip says:

    Lindsey Graham dropped due respect for his best friend in McCain, by being an apologist for Trump’s behavior in that regard. Then he turned on Sessions; His compatriot and long standing ally in the senate.

    When Trump has tired of Graham being his pet, or Graham somehow inadvertently says the wrong thing, Trump will turn on him, and the insults and condemnation will be epic. The closer the moth to the flame, the more they get burned. So there’s one thing to look forward to.

    The harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all.

    • Fran of the North says:

      I see what you did there :)

      “Sure as the sun is going to shine, I’m gonna get my share what’s mine.”

      Or hopefully, they’ll get their just desserts.

        • Tracy says:

          Is Graham Trump’s pet now?

          What’s happened to Rand Paul, the Security Clearance Whisperer? Perhaps he was ginning up anti-Sessions rhetoric, too…

          Disappointing that Graham’s friendship w/ McCain hasn’t swayed him away from Trump (McCain even has a Russian dissident pall bearer at his funeral, and the last reading will be an anti-authoritarian sentiment) – I just find this whole shift against Sessions from the *whole* GOP (after the midterms, of course!) so odd.

  17. Avattoir says:

    I think those who envision Mueller acting ‘urgently’ out of some political sensibility, misread who he is & his motives for accepting appointment as SC.
    FWIW, the way I see things thru my old cardboard Mueller decoder ring, adhering as methodically as possible to a plan that aims to cut thru enough spider webs and layers of muck to get
    to whatever’s there to be seen, is one thing – but ‘rushing’ or proceeding in a way that seriously risks compromising the process as he perceives it is quite another.

  18. TheraP says:

    Marcy, I’m wondering if you might consider – maybe you’re working on it – another Times Op-Ed, where you lay out in layman’s language what you’ve been getting at in this post and several other recent posts, the big picture I mean. And I’ve been playing around with different metaphors that might be useful in hammering home the difference between Obstruction of Justice and the Crimes being Hidden.

    For example, the metaphor of Fog comes to mind. If there’s fog, we’re not focused on the fog, but on what’s hidden within it, be it a road or whatever. Trump/sycophants throw up fog (unleash the fog machines) and people cry “obstruction!” But you rightfully point instead to “conspiracy” – ConFraudUS.

    Another example: The Grand Canyon. On an extremely cloudy day, the canyon itself is obscured, because from the Rim, you are literally looking down on clouds. You look down on hawks circling. The canyon is like the yawning catastrophe we’re viewing – looking backward in time, trying to understand the layers of sediment/muck. That’s the conspiracy. But clouded over, people point to the clouds and say: “Obstruction!”

    If these ideas have any merit, please use them freely. Open Source ideas, if you will.

    In any case I think it’s hugely important, if you can, to distill these things down as you did in those wonderful Op-Eds recently. And to distill them in a way that uses metaphor. I suggest that because our right hemispheres think wholistically, emotionally. And you need a powerful vehicle for your insight here – one that cannot be easily obscured, because you’ve defended against that with the very metaphor itself. Something memorable that you can go back to again and again. Something that sticks in people’s minds and might come unbidden in the face of cries of “obstruction!”

    Words matter. But images/pictures are often worth scores of words. As the old adage tells us.

    • Tracy says:

      Almost no one takes the obstruction further to ask: why is there a NEED for obstruction? This shows how people focus too much on the Watergate precedent – like the Saturday Night Massacre precedent – yes, history is instructive, but we have to open our minds.

      The other thing that really gets me is the term “meddling” – it is an on-going attack, people!

  19. Kevin says:

    An important question, given all this, is what did McGahn tell the SCO? Did he give the real story or parrot his memo? If he gave the memo version of events, that may explain his recent public relations “campaign.”

  20. Rapier says:

    Marcy has enough on her plate. DeSantis says he’s not the one who reached out to Gucifer 2.0., and got rewarded.  Somebody is surely following this.  Links appreciated.

  21. Doctor My Eyes says:

    What a shock to hear that McGahn was associated with the New Jersey mob. We really do need to understand that mobsters can be expected to act according to the values of . . . well, mobsters.

    [Sorry, editing not available.]

    From “House of Trump/House of Putin”, footnote on page 48: “Some of Trump’s acquaintances who were close to individuals associated with the New Jersey Mafia proved to be valuable allies in the future. Don McGahn, the nephew of both Paddy and Joseph McGahn, later became White House counsel in the Trump administration.”

    In bonus coverage: “In addition, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who also served as Trump’s campaign manager, is the granddaughter of Jimmy ‘the Brute’ DiNatele, an associate of Little Nicky Scarfo.”

  22. Thomas Paine says:

    I just bought this book, but I haven’t gotten this far…..(there are now so many good books on this whole affair, I’ll never read them all). The backgrounds of ALL these characters are like a bad parody of the Sopranos. Unbelievable.

  23. SC says:

    Not sure where to ask this but . . . what do ya’ll make of the robbery(?) at the home of “Manafort’s former banker”, David Fallarino?

    “Police are searching for a man with a large forearm tattoo who is suspected of stealing an iPad, a briefcase, and sneakers from Paul Manafort’s banker’s midtown Manhattan apartment and also burglarizing another nearby home.”

    http://gothamist.com/2018/08/30/heres_the_guy_who_burgled_paul_mana.php
    http://gothamist.com/2018/08/28/manafort_banker_burglary.php
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/28/politics/paul-manafort-banker-david-fallarino-robbed-new-york-apartment-break-in/index.html
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/28/key-paul-manafort-banker-robbed-in-break-in-at-nyc-penthouse-sources.html

    There are some interesting details . . . the iPad and a briefcase were the only things of value taken, the victim left his terrace door open (not unusual in NYC but perhaps unusual on a hot day), and the robber selected a bottle of wine and then left it behind, for example. David Fallarino was not called to testify at Manafort’s trial but based on the testimony of his assistants, he was perhaps lucky to have (at least so far) escaped prosecution. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/3-missing-men-at-the-manafort-trial_us_5b71d2f8e4b0ae32af9a8b6b.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The police should check the prosthetics departments at the local hospitals.  I think it was his right arm, above the elbow.

      Dr. Kimble could probably give them a clue about the one-armed robber, who broke into a banker’s flat and took only his computer.  One more thing that’s not normal in Manafort, Trump world.

        • SC says:

          I’m _almost_ old enough to have watched The Fugitive but, alas, I missed out on it. I take it you guys recommend The Fugitive?

          I just checked and as far as I can tell, there’s no additional public information about the somewhat strange robbery at the home of David Fallarino, the loan officer at Citizens Bank who handled the bulk of the paperwork for Manafort’s dodgy loans. No one has been caught, as far as I can tell. 

          The most complete article so far appears to be this NYT summary from August 28:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/nyregion/burglar-paul-manafort-banker-ipad.html

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Interestingly, as reported by the victim, the tattoo says, “I am just a run-of-the-mill common thief who randomly selects my victims. I specialize in stealing computers and briefcases purely for their monetary value.”

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Digby noted that Jared and Ivanka might have been behind Trump’s announcement that McGahn would be leaving – which was Trump putting his domineering stamp on something that had apparently been in the wind for a few days.  (Actually, I thought McGahn’s departure was a done deal after Flood was hired some time ago, although Flood seems to be missing in action.)

    Digby also notes that Javanka might be behind the renewed pressure to remove Sessions.

    If true, Javanka are not protecting the Don, or “managing” him by giving in to his latest tantrum.  They are protecting themselves from criminal liability, and protecting the value of the family business they expect to inherit.  If Mueller goes, so goes the thinking, then other pressures, such as the NYAG’s investigation into the Trump Foundation, run out of air, too.

    Ivanka isn’t daddy’s favorite girl for nothin’.

  25. x174 says:

    mt–
    great piece. nicely discloses what has most likely been going on behind the scenes in re: flynn et al., or as you put it after your in depth analysis:

    “In other words, a great deal of evidence suggests that Trump not only knew what went on in those calls, but directed Flynn through McFarland to placate the Russians.

    Within days after the call, Flynn briefed other members of the transition team on the call.”

    helps me understand better why trump has desperately reached out to Chief Justice Roberts in his pathetic attempt to shut down the probe by ranting about the durty dossier

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/08/trump-presses-supreme-court-chief-justice-action-russia-dossier/

    he’s fucked and he knows it. and now because of your tenacious sleuthing we have a much better idea of what’s going on behind the reprobate-in-chief’s wall of distraction.

    given these highly salient details about those closest to the Reprobate, what i’m wondering is how many Rethuglican senators and congressmen and congresswomen–besides Nunes and Rohrbacher–have had their communications intercepted. McConnell? Gowdy? Pence?

    Congress’s behavior in this whole thing has been nothing less that shameful.
    However, after Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s admitting guilt, Congress looks more and more complicit.

    it’s hard to imagine what post-mid-terms USA will be like–assuming that the democrats actually DO SOMETHING.

    thanks again for getting in the details and explaining what most likely happened (and is happening) in this sprawling swamp o’ reptiles, shameless sycophants and depraved grifters–better known as Trump World

    • Rusharuse says:

      Big tweeter need nice judgy wudgy pudgy help him . . pweeze!
      “This is a fraud on the court. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is in charge of the FISA court. He should direct the Presiding Judge, Rosemary Collier, to hold a hearing, haul all of these people from the DOJ & FBI in there, & if she finds there were crimes committed, and there were, there should be a criminal referral by her,” Trump said in the Twitter post that misspelled the judge’s name.

      Rosemary Collyer is the presiding judge for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees electronic surveillance requests and search warrants sought by federal authorities.

  26. Kick the darkness says:

    I guess the thing I keep coming back to is, if the investigative focus here only concerns lies about lies regarding who told whom to make calls that, in and of themselves, were largely innocuous, why does Flynn have a cooperating agreement with the SC?

     

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      “Innocuous” is a big and, I would say, unwarranted assumption.  Using cut-outs to make calls and further undeclared policies, but without attribution, more likely relates to ConFraud US than something sweet and innocuous, such as Ivanka’s smile.

      • Kick the darkness says:

        I agree with you; my intent was to be facetious. In order to get his agreement, Flynn presumably had something of real value that Mueller needed.  I guess that was my point. And it seems unlikely that something was just a willingness to spill the beans on who gave the go ahead to ring up the Russians during the transition. At least to me.  When the simplest explanation can no longer be entertained in a simple way….

  27. x174 says:

    In re: collusion is not a crime

    While technically correct, is it not true to say that colluding can be predicate to a crime, such as conspiracy to defraud?

    If so, then it’s not as though collusion is not part of the legal lexicon (which it clearly is, see, for example: https://thelawdictionary.org/collusion/), it’s just that the trump team has spun people’s views into a state of bewildered misrecognition.

    what i am proposing is that as long as the word is used with understanding and recognition that the Trump World has invested in its tendency to be misunderstood, i think it is a serviceable word that should not be excluded from the conversation because one thing that we can rely upon is that if the reprobate-in-chief says repeatedly that something DID NOT happen we can be quite certain that it in fact DID. still, i can understand why a moderator would want to make the word verboten: it plays into the hands of the credulous and gives the trolls some leverage.

    however, i would argue that of all of the sites with comments that i visit, this one has some of the most knowledgeable, thoughtful and articulate commenters throughout the known InterToobz.

    so, fear not, dear bmaz.

    per aspera ad astra!

    • bmaz says:

      Your comment went into moderation because of so many links. Sorry about that, but it is freed up now.

      Are any of those things you cited federal cases? No, they are state civil cases. Have any cites to federal criminal statutory law that supports “collusion”? I do not, and have looked. But this is important because “collusion” is a false bogeyman set up by the Trumpalos for the exact purpose of diverting people away from the real crime of conspiracy. It has been wildly, even if extremely falsely, successful to date. I don’t want that to be the case here.

      The answer is still no, collusion is not a federal crime under Title 18. I did love the Yeltsin dancing video though, that was awesome!

  28. GKJames says:

    If, on 24JAN, Flynn lies to FBI; 26JAN Yates tells McGahn; 02FEB Eisenberg looks at the intercepts (and sees that Yates is right); 08FEB, in response to impending Post story, Priebus, McGahn, and Eisenberg confront Flynn, but subsequently represent his answers as “unsatisfactory” rather than the lies they knew them to be; and 14FEB the president asks Comey to lay off of Flynn because he’s a “good guy” even though the president knows Flynn lied to the FBI, why wouldn’t every false public utterance after 02FEB by any of these players be deemed in furtherance of the conspiracy?

  29. HCCarey says:

    Flynn has been extremely quiet for a long time. He’s dropped out of sight altogether, and so has his jerk son. When he ran with Trump Flynn was a braying loudmouth, a belligerent tweeter, and was happy to chant “lock her up:” at rallies. Now he’s silent as a tomb. Most other Trump associates are addicted to social media churning, but Flynn…

    Is he chastened? Is he sworn to silence as part of his plea agreement?

  30. Willis Warren says:

    McGahn’s exit gets rid of the trump/koch alliance for good, probably (Mike Pence is strangely quiet these days, too).  This isn’t politically a good thing for trump.  He’s too stupid to realize that.

    Without McGahn’s influence on judges, and with Pence waiting, the GOP alligned with the Kochs could bail on trump in a heartbeat.

    • Outcountry says:

      Trump needs to be pretty careful about relying on the Supreme Court as a backstop if he gets into a serious constitutional fix. They’re just as likely to stick in the shiv. Assuming that Trump provokes a crisis right after the election due to Dept. of Justice firings, indictments, Russian disclosures or an Iran/Korea-related miscalculation, a critical legal dispute could get fast-tracked to the Supremes for resolution. Keep in mind that the justices do not have to face elections and can’t be directly removed by the President. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were vetted by Heritage, not Trump. They are Federalist creatures, not Trumpsters. Roberts also won’t want to elevate Trump’s power at the expense of the judiciary. If the Court rules that Trump can be indicted, must testify, or must turn over damning criminal evidence, he will certainly go crazy and do something heinous. At that point, the Republican moneyed interests may decide to take Trump out while there’s still two years left before the next Presidential election. The tax cut is done, Kavanaugh will have been seated, they hate his trade war, and if the early forecasts for November hold, there won’t be much happening legislatively after the election. This would of course be a risky strategy, since it could all go south. The Republican bankrollers would have to be clever in managing the evangelicals and Fox News. But they must have considerable tolerance for taking chances since they’ve already put up with a lot of erratic and potentially ruinous behavior from Trump.

    • bmaz says:

      Yea, tagging onto something Outcountry said, I am not sure how critical McGahn was on judges. Sure, he was the conduit at the White House, but all the real workup was done and spoon fed by Len Leo, FedSoc and Heritage.

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