Those Sexy Details in the Papadopoulos Sentencing Memo Aren’t Intended for Your Consumption

In this post, I argued that George Papadopoulos’ sentencing memo was written to make a case to Donald Trump for a pardon, not to judge Randolph Moss for no prison time (even though that’s what he asks for).

It would follow logically, then, that the details of his testimony Papapdopoulos chose to highlight in a claim that “George provided investigators with critical information” — details that have attracted much of the press coverage of this memo — also aren’t intended for our benefit, but for Trump and other co-conspirators.

Jeff Sessions lies as much as “young George” Papadopoulos

Consider the one that has attracted the most attention, revealing that (according to Papadopoulos), he told the government that Trump approved of his plan to pursue a meeting with Putin and — even more importantly — Jeff “Sessions … appeared to like the idea.”

On March 31, 2016, he joined Mr. Trump, Senator Jeff Sessions, and other campaign officials for a “National Security Meeting” at the Trump Hotel. George’s photograph at this meeting flashed around the world via Twitter. Eager to show his value to the campaign, George announced at the meeting that he had connections that could facilitate a foreign policy meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.

At a minimum, after 11 months of being prevented from sharing this detail, including it here tells all the other co-conspirators what Papadopoulos said. The allegation is not new; at least two other participants in the meeting offered a similar version to Reuters in March (and presumably to the FBI before that). Still, Papadopoulos provides the detail in such a way and at such a time that it’s sure to generate pressure on Sessions, just as Trump is trying to convince Republican members of Congress he should fire the Attorney General. Not to mention that Papadopoulos raises an example of a person who has thus far avoided all consequences for lying in official settings.

The offer of emails came during a discussion finalizing a meeting

An even more delicious mention is the specific description Papadopoulos gives of the meeting at which Joseph Mifsud told him the Russians had Hillary emails they planned to release to help Trump.

George strived to organize a meeting with the Russian government and help the Trump campaign promote its foreign policy objective: improve U.S. and Russian relations. He believed that such a meeting would be a boon for the campaign as Mr. Trump had not yet hosted any major foreign policy events with officials from other countries.

George joined Professor Mifsud for breakfast in London on April 26, 2016, with the intention of finalizing plans for the foreign policy meeting. It was during this breakfast meeting, however, that Professor Mifsud told George that individuals in Moscow possessed “dirt” on candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Not knowing what to make of this comment, George continued his efforts to make the Trump – Russia meeting a reality. [my emphasis]

Papadopoulos’ statement of the offense had made it clear that Mifsud mentioned the emails in the context of Papadopoulos’ efforts to set up a meeting.

On or about April 25, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed [Stephen Miller — see this story confirming Miller as the “Senior Policy Advisor” in the document]: “The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready []. The advantage of being in London is that these governments tends to speak more openly in “neutral” cities.

On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel. During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the  Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”


[T]he day after his meeting at the hotel with the Professor, on or about April 27, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed [Miller]: “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”

Also on or about April 27, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed a [Corey Lewandowski] “to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump. Have been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host him and the team when the time is right.”

The Schiff memo and Alexander Downer have subsequently added the detail that Mifsud specifically told Papadopoulos that, “the Russians might use material that they have on Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the election, which may be damaging,” to assist Trump’s campaign.

Remember, Papadopoulos worked with Lewandowski to draft Trump’s first foreign policy speech, delivered on April 27, which Papadopoulos reportedly told Ivan Timofeev (whose entire existence Papadopoulos’ lies had managed to hide from the FBI at first) was a signal to meet. That speech included these lines:

I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries.

Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.

Obviously, the tie between Russia releasing stolen emails and foreign policy meetings was always implicit. But Papadopoulos has just revealed that Mifsud said Russia might release emails in the context of setting up a meeting, after having floated such a meeting with Miller the day before.

The breakfast meeting ties the release of the stolen emails to help the Trump campaign and foreign policy meetings together directly. And having just sat through such a meeting, Papadopoulos worked with Stephen Miller and Corey Lewandowski to send a message to Russian that Trump was willing to meet — and would pursue improved relations with Russia.

Papadopoulos tells the Greeks of the dirt offer just in time to pass Putin a message

I’m most interested, however, in the inclusion of Papadopoulos’ admission he told the Greek Foreign Minister about the Russian offer of dirt just before Putin came to town on May 27, 2016.

George provided investigators with critical information. George told investigators about his interactions and meetings with other members of the campaign. He detailed a meeting in late May 2016 where he revealed to the Greek Foreign Minister that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He explained that this meeting took place days before President Vladimir Putin traveled to Greece to meet with Greek officials.

Remember, Natalia Veselnitskaya dates the idea for the June 9 meeting to a conversation she had with Aras Agalarov at “the end of May” 2016.

Around the end of May 2016, during a conversation with a good acquaintance of mine, being my client, Aras Agalarov on a topic that was not related to the United States, I shared the story faced when defending another client, Denis Katsyv, about how terribly misled the US Congress had been by the tax defrauder William Browder, convicted in Russia, who, through his lobbyists and his close-minded rank-and-file Congress staffers, succeeded in adopting the Act in the name of a person whom Browder practically hardly ever knew. I considered it my duty to inform the Congress people about it and asked Mr. Agalarov if there was any possibility of helping me or my colleagues to do this. I do not remember who of us was struck by the idea that maybe his son could talk about this with Donald Trump, Jr., who, although a businessman, was sure to have some acquaintances among Congress people.

But it’s not just the tantalizing possibility that Papadopoulos left some kind of message for Putin just before Aras Agalarov started setting up the June 9 meeting.

Papadopoulos’ statement of the offense describes him emailing Paul Manafort about Russia’s desire to set up a meeting, which Manafort forwarded to the government’s most important now cooperating witness, Rick Gates, telling him that the candidate wasn’t going to do such meetings himself — someone else in the campaign would.

On or about May 21, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS emailed another high-ranking Campaign official, with the subject line “Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.” The email included the May 4 MFA Email and added: “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss.”2

2 The government notes that the official forwarded defendant PAPADOPOULOS’s email to another Campaign official (without including defendant PAPADOPOULOS) and stated:

“Let[‘]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

The House Intelligence Majority Report, however, reveals that that Papadopolous sent that email from Greece.

(U) While on a trip to Athens, Greece in May 2016, Papadopoulos sent an email to Manafort stating that he expected to soon receive “an official invitation for Mr. Trump to visit Greece sometime this summer should his schedule allow.”183 In the same email to Manafort, Papadopoulos also forwarded a meeting Invitation from Ivan Timofeev, Director or [sic] Programs for the Russian International Affairs Council, and claimed that “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss. thought it would be prudent to send to you.”184

(U) As of May 2016, Manafort had not yet been elevated to campaign chairman, but had a long track record of work abroad. Manafort forwarded Papadopoulos’ email to his business and campaign deputy [Rick Gates] noting that we need someone to communicate that D[onald] T[rump] is not doing these trips.” 185 Manafort and [Gates] agreed to assign a response of a “general letter” to “our correspondence coordinator.” the person responsible for “responding to all mail of non-importance.”186

While it’s clear nothing in that email could have reflected a discussion of passing a message to Putin via Papadopoulos’ Greek contacts, it does show that Papadopoulos used the opportunity of a verbal offer from Greece to raise a Russian meeting with Manafort directly. Manafort responded by saying other campaign aides would do such meetings. Papadopoulos then somehow saw reason to tell Greece’s Foreign Minister that the Russians were offering dirt to help Trump just before Putin arrived. And that’s precisely the timeframe when the June 9 meeting setting up a Russian meeting with Trump’s senior-most campaign officials, including Manafort, got born.

Maybe it’s all a big fat coinkydink, but Papadopoulos seems to believe it important enough to tell all his co-conspirators (even while it makes his repeated claims not to have told the campaign itself laughable), possibly because he knows the FBI has evidence from the Greeks as well.

As I disclosed in July, 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. 

65 replies
  1. Bob Conyers says:

    Who, specifically, would this message be for?

    I’m struggling to get a sense of what person in the White House (or two or three) is in a position to read this, process it, and if they decide to pass it on to Trump, translate it into terms he can understand.

    I assume Giuliani’s not up to the task. Is it Flood, Sekulow, someone in a kitchen cabinet somewhere? Who, for that matter, is monitoring the messages Manafort’s defense team is sending, and analyzing and strategizing in response to them?

    • Charles says:

      McGahn is smart enough and in close enough to Trump to be the translator.  As I mentioned in the previous thread, the reports in the press that Manafort was talking to prosecutors and that Trump wanted to pardon Manafort but was hamstrung by McGahn seemed to be a very noisy negotiation telling Manafort to be patient until McGahn leaves, somewhere around October 1, when Kavanaugh will be on the Court and able to run interference at the highest levels.

      People have taken this to mean that Trump is on the outs with McGahn. I doubt this. I think he just wants to not have his fingerprints on a Manafort pardon, since that will ultimately be brought forward as an example of the use of the pardon power as obstruction of justice.

      • bmaz says:

        No, the McGahn situation is far, FAR, more complicated than that. And he and Trump both have exposure on it going back to the Flynn thing.

        • Charles says:

          I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. I’m saying McGahn is part of the central conspiracy; he’s Trump’s consiglieri. That much has been obvious ever since McGahn blew off Yates’ warnings about Flynn. No honest lawyer would do that

          All I am doing is proposing an answer to Bob Conyers’ question, i.e., who is translating Papadopoulos’ statement to Trump. McGahn can read legal filings, he’s close enough to Trump to get face time, and since he is part of the fabric of the conspiracy, he’s highly motivated to keep them both out of jail.

          • pseudonymous in nc says:

            I think McGahn is the GOP’s consigliere.

            His job is to extract the most benefit from King Idiot in terms of granting fortysomething raised-by-FedSoc hack judges lifetime appointments in the shortest space of time, which will be a g[r]ift that keeps giving long after he’s returned to the private sector. And that’s what he’s done.

        • Avattoir says:

          What about Bill Burck, then? All con roadsters pit stop thru him right now – including looking down from high up in his booster seat, Pope Leo.

          I mean, if Burck gets it, doesn’t that mean everyone with a pie in this bake-off gets it?

          • bmaz says:

            Yeah. Burck is something. Does he have a man size safe for all those client conflict waivers he damn well better be in possession of, or what? He represents 6-7 of these jokers?? While also carrying the institutional water you describe? That is……..interesting.

            • Bob Conyers says:

              I’m curious what kind of prisoner’s dilemma style thoughts are going through the minds of Burck’s clients. I’m sure he’s argued to them that sticking together is the path to the best outcome for each individual, but this is an environment where no sane person would rest easy trusting their partners. Or him, for that matter.

          • Charles says:

            Does Burck have frequent direct access to the president? Has he worked with Trump long enough to develop Trump’s trust? I ask because I don’t know. But the person doing the translating has to be reasonably familiar with legal filings, has to have direct and frequent access to the president, and has to be deeply in on the conspiracy–so deep as to actively participate in obstruction of justice.

            Seems to me McGahn fits the bill. There could be others.

    • Kevin Finnerty says:

      That’s a fascinating question. Who is guiding the defense strategy?  It’s probably safe to say that Giuliani and Sekulow are unable to navigate these kind of tea leaves. Many co-conspirators seem to have competent legal counsel, but their wagons are all hitched to Trump, which means they need to craft a defense that will withstand not only the evidence arrayed against them, but also Trump’s erratic and self-destructive impulses. The sheer incompetence of Trump and his personal legal team have to be causing ripple effects for everyone downstream. 

      There are a lot of jokes being made at the expense of Trump’s counsel. But I actually find the situation deeply concerning. If Trump is unable to fight this through legal processes, he’s going to fight it another way. And then we’re in real danger. Josh Marshall recently described the stakes like this: “The entire canvas is one vast obstruction of justice, a lawless President trying to escape the grasp of the law and using his powers as President and his outsized megaphone to evade the law, to become something more than a President.” 

      When it comes down to it, Trump only has one move.

      • Tracy says:

        Josh might have his finger on it, I don’t think that such a deep narcissist would stop at anything to save his own skin.

        Thanks for the question, been wondering this since EW’s last post on the subject, I didn’t have a clue on who could be “reading the tea leaves” for Trump to understand what’s going on SINCE HE DOESN’T [CAN’T?] READ :-/

        I’d imagine that he could receive this info similarly to how he does in his classified daily briefings (if he even gets them anymore) – lots of pictures, lots of references to himself (“now, here’s where so-and-so flatters you”), etc.

        Studies show that all people pay more attention when their name is mentioned, or when the info pertains directly to them – but Trump is an extreme, narcissistic case – he appears ONLY to be capable of processing info that relates directly to himself.

    • Kevin says:

      This is a great question, but I suspect the answer is mostly Rudy and Jay. And maybe whatever co-conspirators he still talks about the case with (which may be dwindling). I would not be surprised if he and Rudy have strategizing sessions where they talk about who they could pardon, and Trump certainly would expect Rudy to read this and give him the important points. I don’t think they are too dense to understand the gist of what’s being said here (especially since Trump likely knows it’s a lie–that would stick out to him).

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Re Rudy other seeming idiots–it’s very difficult to assess how intelligent a person is from watching them in a vaudeville act.  I have always thought that it is difficult for good singers to pretend to sing poorly in a way to bring laughs.  Perhaps Rudy has skill in that direction.  If the truth hurts, sling bs.  Just musing.

        • Kevin says:

          I mean, I’m not saying I think Rudy is a secret genius (he may have lost a lot with age but trying to defend Trump tends to make people look stupid). But it doesn’t take a genius to understand the gist of GP’s memo if you know that he is saying he lied to the SCO.

          Even if GP is being realistic about Trump’s advisors, he might imagine Rudy would summarize to Trump by saying “he says you nodded at the idea of a meeting with Putin, he told the Greeks about the emails, and he didn’t tell the campaign about the emails. He is asking for no jail time. I really feel for this kid.”

    • RWood says:

      Emmet Flood is my answer. IANAL, so I’m basing it on his record and the fact that his name is mentioned very little when it comes to this mess. Which is what I would expect from someone in that position who knows what he’s doing. Its always the quiet ones.

      “…if they decide to pass it on to Trump, translate it into terms he can understand.”

      This conjured a picture of Flood sitting with Drump with some paper and a box of crayons. Orange ones of course.

  2. Ollie says:

    coinkydink=Jocular alteration of coincidence. Perhaps influenced by rinky-dink. HAHAHA I had to look it up and I was SO excited! TY

    I’ve been foot tapping waiting for this post EW! I came here a bit ago to see if there was any mention of all this. CNN had been reporting it and I saw something on Reddit. Here’s what I’m confused about. I read the posting of yours about Papa and his plea to get DJT to notice and pardon him, right? So. He’s not clean (he broke like Cohen) and spilled on Sessions (I just KNEW all along that slim ball was guilty) and confirmed that DJT nodded. Well that isn’t being a good soldier, is it? Hasn’t he witnessed enough decrepit behavior from the orange blob to know that Papa is dead to him for giving up anything?

    If I’m way off, just be kind, lol. This really hurts my head at times trying to com/pre/hend all this evil doings. Really. This is like Marvel’s ‘super villain(s)’ crap. Now I see why I’ve come to see Mueller as a ‘super Hero’.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Papa and Mrs. Papa are dreaming if they think the Don is going to go to bat or them and issue a pardon or commute Papa’s sentence. He’s not a water boy, by any means, but he is smallfry. Trump doesn’t do loyalty or protect smallfry. He only protects himself.

    It is tantalizing, however, that Papa felt so empowered by the signals he was getting from the Trump campaign that he blabbed to the Australian High Commissioner and the Greek Foreign Minister about what a big boy he was, and how important he was to team Trump.

    But unless Papa’s testimony can fry the Trump campaign figures at the June 9th meeting at Trump Tower, Papa’s gonna get what Mueller and the judge decide he’s gonna get.

    • Avattoir says:

      I’m could be growing addled or having a skepticism seizure, but – are we actually certain George P’s spilling the dirt-on-Hillary info on the man from Aus was ‘just’ a manifestation of lips loosened by booze?

      Could it have been instead that George intended – quite apart from whether George’s intent reflected wires crossed or short-circuiting – that he anticipated his words to be carried to someone else’s ears?

      • Charles says:

        That sounds like a helluva bank shot, especially given how non-cooperative Papadopolous has been.

        The only thing that is strange is that it took so long to go from Papadopolous’ lips in early May to the Crossfire Hurricane interview on August 2.  Usually allies are more forthcoming. But I guess Downer was Liberal Party and hence not keen to help Democrats.

        • Avattoir says:

          Again: we’re guessing on that why?

          I mean, even in your proffer you’ve suggested something more may have been going on in covfefe-crazed mind of his: the Aus Liberal party being the best comparable down under to the Republican party, and Aus being among the 5 Eyes nations.

          Of the other 3: Canada would have been out as the Trudeau Libs won in 2015 and they’re more comparable to Dems; Trump’s UK alliance is messed up by the Nigel Farage connection; and NZ is, well, who really cares besides Peter Jackson and that guy Kevin who played TV Hercules?

          So if you’re Trumpist and feeling impelled to choose which in the 5 Eyes to favor and court, it’d have to be Aus, right?

          • pseudonymous in nc says:

            I don’t think George was that clued into the specific relationship of Downer to the Libs, or the weird dynamics of AusPol, where PMs and senior ministers get offloaded on a regular basis. I think he was drunk with perceived power as well as Barossa shiraz. And I think Downer assumed he was a chancer and bullshitter until the DNC leaks were dumped.

          • charles says:

            I’m with pseudonymous in NC on this one.

            Papadopolous seems a lot more like a fantasist with a drinking problem than a careful schemer with a clear sense of Downer’s predilections.

            But I guess the facts will eventually emerge and prove one theory over another

            • Avattoir says:

              Imma hit this dying horse one more time then leave it there.

              This is about context. There’s no ‘competing theories’ going on here; I didn’t even pose this as a theory, just a line of conjecture extending out from a legit question.

              This may be worth recalling from SpyGate: the entire front of active measures Team Dick instituted, starting in early summer 2003, repeatedly feeding rumors to the MSM – including close to even directly into the natsec desks at NYT & WaPo, TIME, some network & cable news shows – about former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson, including his wife’s connection to the CIA. And the activity kept up at various times, culminating in the late Robert Novak’s infamous column out “Valerie Plame Wilson” as “CIA operative”.

              It included a WH staffer during a pit stop on GWB’s Africa trip in July 2003 pressing the rumored connection, about as explicitly as one might conceive, on junket reporters David Gregory then with NBCNews  and John Dickerson then with TIME mag (Indeed, it was Dickerson whose antennae got perked up to this being a deliberate op, as he reported it back to his masters in TIME HQ in NYC, suggesting that was what was going on. The devil only knows what that doofus Gregory did with it.). Indeed, fans of fearless leader’s live tweet reporting of the Trial of Libby should recall her treatment of when senior WaPo natsec reporter Walter Pincus was confronted on the witness stand with both a call he’d received before that, from a WH minion ‘source’, and later on his being offered a ‘tip’ by Robert Woodward, then working on one of his ‘process’ books on the GWB WH and some time around Woodward’s having had a long interview session with Scooter Libby – during which, the implication was heavy as lead, that Libby tried to suck Woodward into the effort to suborn ‘legit’ news into outing Plame before Scooter et al felt compelled to force feed it to the Prince of Darkness.).

              So my thinking is that Papad was in a somewhat analogous situation to that which Christopher Steele felt in the early fall of 2016: the very human feeling of knowing something really big, but having passed it on – in Steele’s case, to the FBI; in Papad’s case, to senior figures in the Trump campaign – feeling fear that the MESSAGE MIGHT NOT GET THRU, so giving it some extras – in Steele’s case, dropping the story to the well-known political reporting team of Isikoff & Corn; in Papad’s case, to borrow from fearless leader’s great phrase, “telling strangers”.

              It’s a really well-known Jungian archetype:

              the Loner Hero, desperate to get out the message that ‘only he’ seems to get the importance of or else he will have ‘failed’ in his self-appointed mission, taking on greater risk than he otherwise would because he doesn’t feel comfortable – in Steele’s case, because he knows extremely well the GENERAL territory he’s dealing with, despite that the particular region he’s focused on has undergone changes; in Papad’s case, because he’s knows almost nothing about what he’s dealing with – accepting that others actually may well have heard him but also, naturally, have seen things from their own different perspectives and, naturally, are acting – and will act in future as well – according to the latter.

              To bring this poor, beaten thing home: per Marcy’s scenario, Papad told the Greek FM because he wanted the Greeks to do something classically Greek: to act has his chorus, to let Putin know Trump had received, had understood, and was accepting Putin’s offer of assistance.

              But, again enlisting Marcy, it wasn’t like Papad was adept enough to go about pulling this off without speaking to others as well who might act as conduits for his Message To Putin, so that the way he went about could be made fun of as pretty much amounting to “telling strangers”.

              • Charles says:

                Recquiesat in pace, Silver.

                Anything is possible, Avattoir. What’s striking about l’affaire Trump is, indeed, how much talking was going on for a supersecret operation run by Russian intelligence.

  4. Somecallmetim says:

    Thanks for your masterful connecting of dots in such a thick point cloud, EW.

    “If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table.”

    Did DJT wink or pull on his earlobe when he dropped the ‘Russia too’ line?

  5. Sabrina says:

    Hi all! I’ve been away for a bit so was catching up on the posts I missed. Just a couple thoughts:
    1- not sure what to make of Papa’s waffling on cooperating with the SC. If he is trying for a pardon (interesting theory!), it would make sense that he would try to ingratiate himself with Trump where possible. Just a thought here- but given Trump’s desire to get rid of Sessions, is it possible Papa’s info regarding Sessions’ knowledge of a back channel meant to aid Trump in that effort? It’s awfully convenient that this info, which will surely help turn public opinion against Sessions, is now released just in time to “help” Trump get even more ammo to justify Sessions’ firing? It would tie in pretty neatly with the intended audience of this memo as EW lays out.
    2- Slightly OT, but I don’t know what to make of Sessions personally. Clearly he’s been involved in some sketchy business, but he’s “also” appeared to protect Rosenstein and the SC from being removed (though with all the confusion in the media, who knows exactly what’s going on at any given time). It is possible that Sessions’ acceptance of public humiliation and digging his heels in rather than being forced out may be because- though not the most ethical of people- perhaps he’s trying to protect the investigation. Which would be a poor move based on self-interest, since Sessions is likely going down with the ship based on some of his actions (see above, for example). Why on earth would he want to keep the investigation going, unless he has either found a small shred of heart left that hasn’t turned completely to stone, or has been cooperating with Mueller behind the scenes? His BS policies issued from the DOJ (the racist, unfair ones, which is practically all of them) may seem like small potatoes to appease Trump and allow him to keep his position (which may not be working anymore). Perhaps staying on is really the end goal here for some sort of long-play to be on the right side of history? I can hope….TBH, I find myself feeling bad for everyone’s favorite evil Keebler elf lately.
    3- Does it seem odd to anyone here that as the SC (and related) investigations are heating up, coconspirators like Papa, Flynn Jr, even DJTjr and Manafort- seem to be actively overtly undermining the SC investigations? Why would Papa plead to the charges then backpedal like this? Is this a last ditch effort from those still attached to Trump’s presidency, or maybe foreknowledge that Trump and co have an ace up their sleeve that may help them fight charges? (I’m thinking Kavanaugh appt to SC, stuff happening in Oct, McGahn’s inevitable replacement who may be more permissive with DTs power, midterms that may be jeopardized in various ways, and other stuff I probably can’t think of at nearlt 3am). I’m likely being unrealistically pessimistic. I hope so.
    3b- What the hell is going on with Lindsay Graham? He seemed fairly rational initially, and I understand that most Republicans are silenced or outwardly supportive of DT due to fear, but he has been an active supporter lately, seemingly agreeing with the idea of firing Sessions. It’s like he has a brain slug or something (please tell me someone gets that Futurama reference!), because he just seems like a different person from even a year or two ago.
    EW- as usual, a great and thought provoking piece. Thank you for all you great work tracking this mess of criminality as it unfolds.

    P.S. Apologies for the long comment as I tried to sort out my thoughts with some level of coherence and conciseness. Clearly, I did okay on the former and absolutely failed at the latter.

    • emptywheel says:

      No apologies for the long comment! That’s why we have a comment section, for people to share thoughts and work out their own.

      Something I realized last night is that when I wrote this post — on why Papa wrote and deleted a tweet on perfidious Albion — he may have been working on the joint statement that was due that week, but he hadn’t seen the PSR that I speculated he had, which wasn’t done until August 1. He may have learned at that point that the government didn’t find him a terribly cooperative witness. Or maybe he learned something else.

      In any case, I think he pled and then got cold feet bc he’s a lying douchebag who thought he could get away with lying even to his attorneys.

      As to Sessions, he has reportedly been cleared of lying to Congress (he was usually careful about either correcting his testimony or parsing carefully). He likes being AG and likes implementing all the racist policies he’s doing there. And probably wants to be seen as someone who ended his life as part of the club that never really wanted him, Justice.

      • Frank Probst says:

        Agree completely on Sessions.  He’s more important now than he’s ever been before, and he’s gleefully implementing as many racist policies as he can while he’s AG.  I have two big questions about him, and I think I can answer only one.

        The first is:  Why didn’t Trump accept Sessions’ resignation when he had the chance?  That one I really can’t answer.  Maybe someone like McGahn convinced him that it would just be more evidence of obstruction of justice.  Sessions was practically BEGGING to leave, which is the kind of thing that Trump loves, but Trump ultimately refused his resignation.

        The second is:  Why won’t Sessions resign now?  He was willing to leave before, but he’s not willing to leave now.  What changed?  And I think there are three things that he’s thinking about:

        1.  Trump’s attacks on Sessions have become so vicious that Sessions now looks like the good guy.  Sessions is STILL running around trying to implement racist policies, but a lot of the criticism against him has been blunted by Trump’s increasingly nutty tweets about Sessions.  That last statement Sessions made about law and order and not being swayed by partisan politics was pure bullshit, but when you compare it to what Trump’s been saying, Sessions looks like a non-partisan Boy Scout rather than the pure-GOP bigot that he really is.  I don’t think he ever expected to be cast in a favorable light on the national stage.

        2.  When you leave the cabinet, you usually pick up a sweet lobbying gig or a TV spot, or at the very least some wingnut welfare.  Trump hates Sessions so much that I think that nobody is going to want to hire him after he steps down, and I think Sessions realizes this. It’s hard for me to see him getting a sweet book deal, either.  “I’m the Guy That Coretta Scott King Warned You About” isn’t going to sell a lot of copies.  So he’s unlikely to be able to stay in DC with anywhere near the stature that he has now.

        3.  The other route people often go after leaving the cabinet is to go back to their home state and run for governor.  The reason I think that’s not going to happen is that, fairly or not, he’s going to get some of the blame for Doug Jones flipping “his” Senate seat to the Dems, and when that’s coupled with all of the venom Trump has spewed at him, I doubt he could win a primary down there, much less a general election.

        Any thoughts?

        • Trip says:

          Question one:

          Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and then-Chief of Staff Reince Preibus intervened and convinced Trump to allow Sessions to stay.
          Sessions allegedly told his associates following the Oval Office incident “that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.”
          According to the Times, Trump returned Sessions’ resignation letter to him — which included a handwritten response.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          Ignore the Sessions rascist crap for a moment. Assume he is just a fish on a gold hook. As you assert, he has no other income if he resigns.

          But, also consider that he is privy to some TS Intel. ‘Stuff’ that implicates potus badly.

          Trump can whine about Sessions all he wants, but he recently said that Sessions is safe thru midterms.

          Why would that be a cutoff point?

          To me, that is a tell. The tell being that potus believes that gop will survive and trump will be able to ride out the storm, with Kavanaugh.

          A thought.

          Trump (allegedly him) whining about no FISC hearings on Page.

          My thought: How about FISC actually has some hearings, specifically to review why the WH is trying to bury over 100k pages of Kavanaugh documents.

          Yeah, not normal. But things are not normal.

          And make things public.

          Right now, this is a big legal problem, but the Kavanaugh nomination probably can not be derailed at this point via legal process.

          Kavanaugh must be derailed via political process.

          Someone must have dirt on him that needs to be revealed ASAP.

          • Trip says:

            Sessions is 71 years old and has plenty of money. I don’t understand why these guys don’t just retire at this age after government:
            Sessions is also one of many of President Donald Trump’s very wealthy Cabinet members. An attorney by profession, he was estimated to be worth $7.5 million in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks campaign finance data. That’s risen steadily over the years. In 2010, he had an estimated net worth of $6.8 million — $4.2 million more than the median senator net worth that year. And in 2004, Sessions’ net worth was about $2 million.
            Much of that wealth came from investments in the stock market, and specifically real estate investment, according to the Washington Post. Most of his assets —$5.3 million — were in real estate in 2010. He also held nearly $1 million in mutual funds.

    • Vicki says:

      Re 3b–the Lindsay Graham query as to his about face re Sessions and Trump==there was comment article posted in the Dallas Morning News about contributions made via a Russian-American w/ties to Derapaska who gave lot of money—millions–to several campaigns–over millions to McConnell–who was not even running for reelection…a million to Graham…and although this money is technically “legal” since it came through a US citizen who also has Russian citizenship…in the past this same person has displayed a more balanced contribution history with money to Dems and GOP and in lesser amounts.

      His contributions in 2016 seem flagrant in their abuse of the donation laws and  calculated to be spent doing the most good. It is possible Graham didn’t know initially how tainted the money was and has been shown how compromised he is if all the money is followed…this man was referred to in Gates and Manafort’s emails…can’t remember his name right now…sorry…

      • Frank Probst says:

        My theory on Lindsay Graham is much more mundane.  To begin with, he’s all talk.  I can’t remember the last time he actually DID something.  But more importantly, I don’t think he’s ever really been at the receiving end of one of Trump’s rage tweets.  I suspect Graham has been told that he can expect Trump to raise questions about his sexuality if Trump ever really lasers in on him.  That’s not a topic Graham wants to discuss, and I think the threat of it has stopped his usual posturing.  (The carrot is that he might get to be the new AG.  I don’t think he’s going to be, but even Mitt Romney thoroughly debased himself when a cabinet position was dangled in front of him.)

  6. edward says:

    There is a lot that is suggestive in GP’s sentencing memo, and in Marcy’s reading of it, but I’m wondering if we could clarify a few points that are left hanging.  First, re: Jeff Sessions:

    “Papadopoulos provides the detail in such a way and at such a time that it’s sure to generate pressure on Sessions, just as Trump is trying to convince Republican members of Congress he should fire the Attorney General. Not to mention that Papadopoulos raises an example of a person who has thus far avoided all consequences for lying in official settings.”

    Are you saying that GP has some sort of intent/agenda behind mentioning this that is designed to give Trump a stronger pretext for firing Sessions?  If that’s the implication, then I dunno, but that seems like a stretch to me.  If not, then what would be the agenda beyond just reporting what he said to the SC?  Additionally, I’m struggling to see how this would generate any more pressure on Sessions from his former GOP Senate colleagues, when they didn’t go after him for the much more obvious lie he told during his confirmation hearing about no having met with any Russian officials (despite having met with Kislyak).

    Second, and more to the central point, I’m wondering if that :

    “Obviously, the tie between Russia releasing stolen emails and foreign policy meetings was always implicit. But Papadopoulos has just revealed that Mifsud said Russia might release emails in the context of setting up a meeting, after having floated such a meeting with Miller the day before.

    So the implication is that because GP continued to pursue setting up a Trump/Putin meeting (and immediately contacted the campaign) after Mifsud told him about the emails, that GP was signaling to Russia through Mifsud that the campaign was on board with receiving Russian help by way of releasing the HRC material?  And that Trump’s subsequent speech — which GP helped craft — was a way of publicly signaling that the candidate himself was on board?

  7. Tracy says:

    Hmm, I don’t think my comment posted, but apologies if I post twice.

    Thanks for your detailed reporting on this, Marcy! The immanent Sessions scapegoating is definitely one to follow.

    On the OVD news front, what do people make of this Sunday-front-page NYT piece about OVD? My question is b/c it doesn’t present anything re: OVD wrong-doing, just Steele and Ohr trying to recruit him to no avail – well, what does this show, and who does it help?

    The article mentions “officials” who are afraid to talk due to the classified nature of their part of the info; it mentions OVD connections as sources. It mentions a “person familiar w/ the matter” in a few different contexts, a note Ohr wrote, and some DoJ info.

    But – why release this info now – who does it serve?

    Secondly, note that on the 31st, the NYT published a piece in which we see that the Belarusian escort who was offering the FBI tapes that she said indicated involvement b/t OVD/ Russians and the US election. She is now being held in a Thai jail, threatened now w/ 10 years, and she’s sent those tapes back to OVD, waiting for him to help her.

    She may be a waiting a long time b/c IMO, he had everything to do w/ her getting picked up in Thailand, and now threatened w/ a very long sentence (having lived in Thailand, the Thai police are v corruptible/ bribable).

    The whole story is interesting – you can keep linking to older articles – and to Alexei Navalny’s investigative video about her photos and “book” about her time on OVD’s yacht – the video from Navalny, I’d think, caught OVD’s attention and led to her incarceration:

    • Geoff says:

      On a related note : (apparently someone anonymous was talking about this breakfast meeting with Ohr and Steele and Ohr’s wife, who was at Fusion GPS, so, perhaps the NYT article timing is not so unexplainable)

      At the time of the breakfast, cyberwar hack had already occurred, Page was lying his ass off and Papadoofalis was flapping his gums. And Trump wasn’t even a candidate I think, yet he gloms on to this as some anti Trump campaign effort.

    • Tracy says:

      Furthermore – w/ more evidence of Republican obstruction in the SIC, if you believe OVD’s lawyer – the article says that OVD was willing to testify about Manafort, but not Russian interference in election (b/c he knew “nothing about” this – ha!), but the committee never called OVD to testify:

      “’I told them that he would be willing to talk about Manafort,’ Mr. Waldman added.

      “Mr. Waldman said he did not hear back from the committee’s staff members, but he contends that they played a role in pushing the claim that the talks over Mr. Deripaska’s potential testimony had fallen apart because he demanded immunity.

      “’We specifically told them that we did not want immunity,’ Mr. Waldman said. ‘Clearly, they did not want him to testify. What other conclusion could you possibly draw?’”

      Also, just to note in having re-read the article – I wonder if this article is mainly to show that Ohr and Steele began trying to recruit OVD in 2014, BEFORE Trump was running – to show that Ohr did not work on the dossier, that Steele presented info from it to Ohr in summer 2016 – and to indicate what deep water DJT is in – also his attempts to thwart the investigation by maligning Ohr? This part makes more sense in that light:

      “The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an initiative that remains classified. Most expressed deep discomfort, saying they feared that in revealing the attempts to cultivate Mr. Deripaska and other oligarchs they were undermining American national security and strengthening the grip that Mr. Putin holds over those who surround him.

      “But they also said they did not want Mr. Trump and his allies to use the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation. That, too, they said they feared, would damage American security.”

      And I wonder – what readers new to all this info will make of all this?

      • bmaz says:

        If he truly does not know anything about Russian interference, there would be no problem testifying about it by saying “yeah, I don’t know anything about that”. But the problem is he does not know what Mueller knows, and thus he can’t risk that. Also, he probably knows more than he lets on.

        • Avattoir says:

          To that point, it appears that while OTOH OD wanted/wants to appear RW&A, indeed eager, to testify in Congress, none of that enthusiasm is even remotely hinted at for submitting to an OSC interview.

          For OD to claim USgovt cointel somehow has it fundamentally wrong that Putin operates with intimate reliance on Russian criminal organizations has to be a tell: Put me in front of a public Congressional hearing & Imma

          Tell y’all a story ’bout / A man named Vlad / Served the Russian people / With all the love he had

          OD, see, has a real nice life going; shame to imagine someone Putin an end to it.

            • Tracy says:

              Bmaz – Sounds like OVD might’ve been in a pickle on the “election inference” questions. I thought it was interesting how he at least appeared at the time to be ready to just throw Manafort under the bus. I wonder who actually backed off, then: the Senate w/ their fake tale of “he wanted immunity,” or OVD b/c he didn’t want to be asked about the election and/ or changed his mind about talking about Manafort.

              Avattoir – Yeah, I never could understand the thought that OVD would EVER give up his cushy deal w/ Putin. In the Navalny investigation video I mentioned, we see an aerial view of the Deputy PM’s estate and land (given, Navalny asserts, as a bribe) – it’s just a modern day fiefdom. Just imagine what Putin’s given these oligarchs – would they ever give that up for whatever US law enforcement could offer them? So doubtful…

                • Vicki says:

                  He likely wants any part of the 12 million he “loaned” PM he can get back–he already asked the DoJ to help him once. Or maybe that was the price to get Trump nominated/elected… Putin would consider it cheap at any price…

    • Tracy says:

      These two are such social and political climbers!

      What do you think of the idea that Javanka – one or the other – is setting him/ herself for a future run at the presidency?

      Though any indictments and convictions may alter that viability!…

      • Vicki says:

        The person cultivating the alt-right for a move into politics is Don Jr. He is very desired speaker and with his new brain-behind-the-throne he is setting himself up as a legitimate force despite Pence’s chief of staff working as hard as he can to keep Pence as the heir apparent.

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    I Love the smell of hydrocarbons in the morning

    All of them seemed out of their depth, each projecting confidence and deep knowledge of the jet fuel business while seeming not to grasp the basics. None appeared to have any idea how to pull off the deal they were negotiating — or the money with which to do it.

    It did not take an expert to spot serious flaws in the plan.

    “I knew they didn’t have any clue, because there’s no port in the world that could hold the amount of oil they were saying they could sell,” said Yoni Wiss, the Israeli-American who briefly met with Ms. Butina and Mr. Erickson in June 2017.

    David Keene, NRA Glue

    • Yohei72 says:

      I keep thinking to myself, apropos of so many aspects of, and characters in, the various Trump stories: “My god, what if these people were competent?” If we end up dodging a bullet with this administration, we may look back and wonder at our luck that the people trying to pull all this off were so clumsy.

      And of course, that leaves open the frightening question, “What if smarter scumbags look at this administration and say to themselves, ‘Hey, we can do that a lot better’?”

  9. orionATL says:

    i don’t understand all this trump-and-sessions stuff except these basics:

    president trump is an irrational, very anxious, politically incompetent, but powerful demagogue clumsy enough to repeatedly cuts himself with his own knife. speaking analytically and intending no insult, the highly emotional, demogogic, incompetent leader who rules thru terror analogy with adolf hitler and similar leaders in history seems sound. 

    attorney-general sessions i judge to be an emotionally contolled, rational, competent politician whose decades of experience in politics have shown him how to get done what he wants to get done. in politics, keeping one’s emotions under control, he would understand, keeps you out of trouble. 

    trump is trying to provoke/insult sessions into resigning. sessions has had plenty of time now to get a good handle on trump’s style and to understand it’s weakness. i’d guess sessions will not resign unless, like lindsey graham (who for all i know might have been offered any attorney-general job aborning), trump offers him a better deal. staying is session’s best revenge.

    young mr. p’s declaration that campaign honcho sessions was enthusiastic about p’s rapproachment with the russian nation actually binds trump tighter to session’s fate (recall that famous photo with all the suits sitting around the conference table, sessions in the end TVcommand seat, all eyes on him, and trump at the other end.)

    recall sessions had multiple tete-a-tetes with ambassador kislyak. fuck sessions over too much and he might do what manafort has refused to do – spill the beans on trump’s election conspiracy with the putin government.

  10. SpaceLifeForm says:

    It would not bother me one bit if a couple of US senators are indicted tomorrow morning.

    For Conspiracy. ConFraudUS.

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