It’s Not the Campaign Finance Violation or the Simple Private Transaction, It’s the Conspiracy to Commit Fraud

Andrew McCarthy has finally come around to the criminal behavior of the President, though he has found it in Trump’s hush payments rather than his conspiring with Russians. But, in typical fashion, McCarthy stops short of the hard-charging prosecutor he once was, and suggests Trump may have a way out of his crime because campaign finance law favors the candidate.

This is not to suggest that the president is without cards to play. Campaign finance violations have a high proof threshold for intent. President Trump could argue that because there was no spending limit on his contributions, he did not think about the campaign-finance implications, much less willfully violate them.

There is, furthermore, a significant legal question about whether the hush-money payments here qualify as “in-kind” campaign contributions.

McCarthy does this even while rightly emphasizing the language in Michael Cohen’s SDNY sentencing memo that focuses on transparency.

First, Cohen’s commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election for President of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency. While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

It is this type of harm that Congress sought to prevent when it imposed limits on individual contributions to candidates. To promote transparency and prevent wealthy individuals like Cohen from circumventing these limits, Congress prohibited individuals from making expenditures on behalf of and coordinated with candidates. Cohen clouded a process that Congress has painstakingly sought to keep transparent.

This language very clearly signals that SDNY believes those involved in this crime thwarted the transparency requirements imposed by campaign finance law. It’s not just the payment itself, it’s the fraud conducted on regulatory bodies designed to ensure transparency. And, equally clearly, SDNY lays out that Cohen did not act on his own.

So even while McCarthy notes that Trump was named personally, he deemphasizes how many players worked together to coordinate these hush payments: In addition to Trump, Cohen’s hush payment lawyer Keith Davidson, the National Enquirer, its Chairman David Pecker, its Editor Dylan Howard on the Karen McDougal payment:

With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. (PSR ¶ 51). In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1. (PSR ¶¶ 41, 45)

And then Davidson, Howard, and Trump Organization, with the involvement of several of its executives (probably including one of Trump’s spawn) on the Stormy Daniels payment.

Executives of the Company agreed to reimburse Cohen by adding $130,000 and $50,000, “grossing up” that amount to $360,000 for tax purposes, and adding a $60,000 bonus, such that Cohen would be paid $420,000 in total. Executives of the Company decided to pay the $420,000 in monthly installments of $35,000 over the course of a year. (PSR ¶¶ 52-53). At the instruction of an executive for the Company, Cohen sent monthly invoices to the Company for these $35,000 payments, falsely indicating that the invoices were being sent pursuant to a “retainer agreement.” The Company then falsely accounted for these payments as “legal expenses.”

Importantly, the sentencing memo focuses on the “sophisticated means” that Cohen used — the shell companies and the structured repayments — pointing to fraud, not just campaign finance violations.

The “sophisticated means” enhancement is addressed to Cohen’s use of complex means to carry out and disguise his crimes. For example, Cohen created shell companies for his commission of the campaign finance crimes, including one shell entity (Resolution Consultants) for use in the transaction with Woman-1 and another shell entity (Essential Consultants) for use in the transaction with Woman-2. (PSR ¶¶ 43, 47.) Cohen also agreed to structure the reimbursement for his payment to Woman-2 in monthly installments, and to disguise those payments by creating fake invoices that referenced a non-existent “retainer.” (PSR ¶ 54.)

While it is true that Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance violations, that’s not what SDNY lays out in this memo. Rather, they lay out conspiracy to defraud the United States, which carries a five year prison sentence, on top of any campaign finance or money laundering prosecution to carry out that fraud. That’s the same charge that Trump appointee Dabney Friedrich just upheld for the Russian trolls that helped Trump win, the same charge that Rick Gates and Paul Manafort have pled guilty to, the same ConFraudUS that Mueller has built all his interlocking indictments around. And there, it’s not so much the intent or success of the attempt to thwart campaign finance oversight that matters, it’s the conspiracy to do it and the secrecy and sophisticated means by which you do it.

So Trump may want to claim this is a “simple private transaction,” just like all the other hush payments he has orchestrated with his buddy Pecker over the years.

But when you carry out such “simple private transactions” in the context of an election then it becomes conspiracy to commit fraud.

And to reiterate: it’s not just Trump himself that can be charged with ConFraudUS for this, it’s also The Company and whichever spawn served as The Executive seeking to hide the payback for Cohen’s hush payments.

Heck. Even the NYT is beginning to figure this out.

What it means is that both Trump (after he’s no longer President) and his company (as soon as SDNY gets around to charging it and its executives) are on the hook for cheating to get elected.

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. 

298 replies
  1. Willis Warren says:

    Still betting we’re going to find out the original deal for the hotel was to disrupt the election with “voter fraud”. Trump wasn’t supposed to win the Republican nomination, he was gonna run as a agent of chaos as an independent.

    Trump seemed to think there was going to be fraud found. I can’t get past that.

    • Trip says:

      I thought the fraud that Trump always talked about was in re to Democrats stealing/rigging the general election. Was he saying this against GOP primary contenders (because I don’t recall)?

      • William Bennett says:

        I always understood it that his repeated “If I don’t win, it proves fraud” claim against the Dems during the campaign was designed to allow him to keep carrying on as a disruptive force into the HRC administration, had the election gone that way. Whether that was Plan A or Plan B is another question…

        • Purveyor of Things says:

          I took Trump’s “rigged” claims as another example of projection.

          He was telling the truth about what he was doing by accusing others of doing it, as a narcissist is apt to do.

        • Lisa says:

          And Wikileaks told Junior to tell his dad not to concede if he lost. I am sure Trump would have followed this advice and encouraged his followers to commit acts of violence while he tweeted and called into Fox and Friends to talk about cheating, illegitimate, crooked Hillary.

          • timbo says:

            And Wikileaks told Junior to tell his dad not to concede if he lost.

            Lisa, where is that in evidence?  I’m truly curious—can you point me to some sort of reputable reporting or court documentation, etc, of that?  If so, much appreciated.  If not, well…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Agent of Chaos thing he has down pat, as he has profiting from public office by knowingly channeling US and foreign government funds to investments he still owns and, arguably, still controls.

      I agree that the voter fraud meme is intended to wage a war of attrition on representative government, one that all of the GOP as well as the Russians are already systemically addicted to.

    • Stormcrow says:

      I keep coming back to a quote from Michael Flynn, and I wish I could remember where I read it. It was before the election and someone was telling him that all his consulting work was highly problematic, and Flynn’s response was “only if we win.”

        • Tom says:

          Remember there was that concern about how Trump (and by implication, his base) would react if he lost the election.     Trump tried to reassure the public by stating at one rally that he would accept the results of the election–“But only if I win!”

  2. BobCon says:

    I’m once again struck by how bad the NY Times editorial staff is when it comes to headlines.

    You really want a less confusing word than “effectively” in that headline. I suspect they want to say “In effect, prosecutors…” but it also reads as “In an effective manner, prosecutors…”

    • Peterr says:

      How about simply saying “Prosecutors accuse . . .”? Call it what it is, people – an accusation. Not a sorta-kinda-maybe accusation, but an actual accusation filed in federal court.

      All this “apparently” and “allegedly” piffle is a sign that a news organization really doesn’t want to do it job.

    • Kevin says:

      I didn’t find the headline confusing at all. Prosecutors are accusing Cohen of defrauding voters. They make references to coordination with Trump without actually saying Trump defrauded voters.

  3. Peterr says:

    And the Counsel for the Trump 2016 campaign was former FEC chairman, Don McGahn. That makes it exponentially harder to claim “I didn’t know what the law was.”

    If McGahn didn’t know about these efforts and payments, it only deepens Trump’s troubles, as not talking to your own lawyer strengthens the claim that Trump and Cohen acted with intent to deceive.

    • bmaz says:

      Heh, little bit, yeah. I’d assume Amy Berman Jackson is a little torqued off at how this has gone. Note that it is not just Manafort’s lawyers that are ordered to appear, but the order also inherently applies to the govt as well. But she is unhappy about something.

  4. new-radical says:

    OT slightly. I have probably missed this peach but I understood there were as many as 18 mobile devices seized during the raid on Cohen, mostly secured.

    Do we know if he has provided Meuller with access to the secured entities? The goodies that were found from the opened devices seemed to provide the info that gave Simplicio apoplexy. Can anyone shine some light?

  5. Peterr says:

    I wonder who had the task of telling Individual 1 that the DOJ may have to wait for Individual 1 to leave office before filing charges against him, but they don’t have to wait at all to go after The Company.

    Trump’s whole sense of self worth is tied up in The Company. How many buildings is my name attached to? How many golf courses with the biggest reputations have my name on them? How high does this put me on the Fortune list of the wealthiest people on earth?

    There was a time when he could shrug off failures like Trump Airlines, but those days are long gone. Now it’s simply succeed or fail . . . and fail is looking more and more likely, thanks to SCO, SDNY, et al. In October, Forbes looked at how Trump has been trying to monetize the presidency, and thus far, it’s failing:

    Gazing around [Trump Tower], almost all the tenants [when it opened in 1983] are now gone. The hollowing-out began years ago, but it has only gotten worse since Trump entered politics. Nike abandoned its attached flagship store earlier this year, and Ivanka Trump’s accessories business closed up shop as well. What’s left is basically nothing but Gucci, Starbucks and The Donald, wall-to-wall. Trump Bar sits atop Trump Grille, next to Trump Café, the Trump Store and Trump’s Ice Cream. It is unlikely Trump pays himself rent for any of them. “Things are all different now,” [former Trump Org executive Barbara] Res says [Note: she helped build Trump Tower back in the 1980s].

    That difference includes profits. Net operating income dropped 27% between 2014, the year before Trump announced his run for president, and 2017, his first year in the White House. . . .

    After Trump won the election, Doral lost 100,000 booked room nights, according to someone who knows the resort’s business. While revenues for the Miami luxury hotel market jumped 4% overall in 2017 according to the data analytics firm STR, Doral’s revenues fell by an estimated 16%. . . .

    A similar scenario has played out in Trump’s traditional wheelhouse: luxury residential real estate. The president still holds roughly 500 condos, co-ops and mansions, all with their own complications, in terms of both hassles and branding. He has 37 units worth an estimated $215 million in midtown Manhattan. Prices for condos in Trump Tower have fallen every year since 2015, when Trump declared his candidacy, and are an estimated 33% below their highs. Similar trends are playing out a few blocks away at Trump Parc East, where prices are down 23%, and at Trump Park Avenue, where they have dropped 19%.

    In Chicago, values of Trump condos have crept downward, the opposite direction of the overall market. . . .

    [P]artners at three Trump-branded hotels (Toronto, Panama, New York City’s SoHo) have taken the president’s name off their projects, which helps explain why politics has dragged that segment of the Trump hotel empire down about $30 million, by Forbes’ estimates. Meanwhile, many of his licensing customers, including Macy’s and the mattress-maker Serta, fled in the early days of his abrasive campaign—and the president’s company doesn’t seem to have landed a single new deal since. In 2015, Forbes valued Trump’s product-licensing operation at $23 million. It’s now down to a mere $3 million. . . .

    And all that’s before any charges get filed against The Company.

    Imagine how Individual 1 will react as his name comes off those buildings and the golf courses get repossessed/sold to pay legal fees, fines, and other penalties incurred by The Company . . .

    • Trip says:

      For some strange reason, they are again promoting the Trump name on the Chicago Tower (per Real Deal), even though this was not the case prior. I guess I was half-joking when I said that the promotion of the name was done to help the Saudis find it.

    • emptywheel says:

      I dunno. But I’m going to keep relinking my post on that bc thus far no one outside the reach of our little likker cabinet seems to get that–that both prosecutions are homing in on Trump Org.

      • Trip says:

        That also knocks out Eric’s and Junior’s wealth, too (aside from any legal exposure). Princess Ivanka seems safe financially because the Kushner property entities haven’t been implicated, right? (at least up to now)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It’s like a game of Jenga:  Pull on the wrong (or right) block, and the whole tower comes tumbling down.

        • P J Evans says:

          Or the one block too many, that causes the entire tower to go off-balance and collapse. (I grew up with a box of mixed sets of blocks plus assorted scrap lumber: building a tower was not at all easy, as none of the sets shared any dimensions.)

            • marksb says:

              Yeah I was going to say, sounds like some of the Tech products I’ve had to manage, with legacy code and hardware welded loosely to acquired products duct-taped to feature upgrades and wrapped up in a half-assed GUI. And then the execs who ordered this monstrosity be built and shipped–often with minimal QA testing–whine that the engineers didn’t do it right, and the product manager gets laid off.

      • BobCon says:

        Given the state of the emoluments lawsuits, and his general paranoia about Mueller, I have to assume he’s made a connection even if it’s due to faulty reasoning.

        The spoon fed bit about the red line in the Hberman interview says to me that he recognizes his businesses are at serious risk. The overly credulous reporting over time about the red line may have dulled his fear for a bit, but I doubt it ever goes away for long.

      • timbo says:

        Yeah, it sure seems to have been an ongoing conspiracy to circumvent tax laws and sound accounting practices.  No firewalls whatsoever from what I can tell.

  6. Yogarhythms says:

    What could go wrong? Palace has power and SDNY has evidence. Let’s wait 90 days and see what happens. Oops TFW shoe sole sucks and smell wafts. Or like the family in the iCU when unconscious elderly loved one has 3 ABX iv’s and medical staff says everything is “under control” Again. What could go wrong?

  7. Jenny says:

    Individual – 1 has lived his life covering up, conning and ripping people off.  All about money, power and greed.

    Allen Weisselburg (Chief Financial Officer of Trump Organization) must have told federal prosecutors about the payments and the organization’s finances.  Wasn’t he granted immunity?  For decades Weisselburg has known all of the ins and outs of the organization.  Follow the money continues … more to be exposed … more to be revealed …

    Perhaps it is Covfefe time for Individual – 1.

  8. bmaz says:

    As to Marcy’s main post, I think one other thing should be noted and added. The specific campaign finance violation behind the two Cohen plea charges (no, it is not a “conviction” until he is sentenced) has, as many attorneys and campaign finance experts, such as Rick Hasen, a fairly high bar as to the intent element. While that may be technically true of the campaign finance charges themselves, it is not necessarily so as to the broader conspiracy it was tied to. So don’t be thrown off by “experts” clucking about Trump having an “out” on the intent element.

    • Avattoir says:

      Must be a slow day for lurkers with intent: now you’re bouncing former aUSas writing for NRO off their pointy head in case they’re just even possibly musing about dropping in.

      Been many many years since it was possible to be genuinely surprised by the depth of intellectual dishonesty he traded all his former cred to peddle. The only thing I find at all surprising about him now is how even moderate cons apparently keep feeling some obligation to express gentle lamentations at his having voluntarily surrendered his brain.

      • bmaz says:

        Ha! Yes, how anybody, on any side, gives McCarthy any weight at this point is long beyond me. I guess there is some feel good moment at saying “even Andy says….”, but it seems dubious. It’s like “But Baghdad Bob now says….”.

        • Fran of the North says:

          What is most disheartening is that that message and the accompanying “But Obama did it too! Why wasn’t anyone talking about jail back then??”

          Wha Wha.

          Eh Corey? That’s what we say up here in the tundra.


    • Pete says:

      And they refer to her in one of the most correct, succinct, and hopefully gratifying to her ways possible: Independent Investigative Journalist. But being a Independent Investigative Blogger ain’t all that bad either especially with that nom de plume eponymous web site she’s got ;-)

      When this is all looked back upon one hopes for the acknowledgement and respect and any follow-on goodness that comes her way through hard work and sacrifice.

      • Avattoir says:

        Did you catch Amy Goodman’s (possibly unintended, whether deserved certainly open to debate) nice compliment to all of us here below the fold at Amy’s introduction has Marcy ‘editing’ this website – hey! Apparently all of US are Thomas Wolfe and Marcy’s just Maxwell Perkins!

        (Something has me feeling this is the perfect day for s’mockery.)

    • errant aesthete says:

      @Jenny. I agree. It was an excellent, intelligent and thought-provoking interview.

      Marcy, you were solid! Good points, well stated, concisely delivered. With everything that covers the depth and breadth of your voluminous mind, you are remarkably focused with staying on point – a real advantage to anyone listening and/or watching. It’s as close as you can get to delivering an effective and clearly-defined message without the usual accompaniment of most on-air spokespeople who feel the need to posture, exaggerate, pontificate, or bellow. And you do it with humility, knowledge, and respect. Thank you for elevating the forum and our side. You are as much a pleasure to watch as the empty wheel is to read.


  9. Ollie says:

    Excellent segment on DN! this am Marcy.  Also?  Corsi just stated he’s suing Mueller for $350 million, lmao.  Thank you!

    • timbo says:

      Thanks for that link.  Interesting to watch how DN is trying to cover this and where they’re focused (or slightly off focus) when it comes to this scandal.

  10. Alan says:

    BTW, the GRU could have also used a “Stingray” device to intercept the short code (second factor) sent via txt msg to the DNC admin’s cell phone.  A Stingray device is a portable radio transmitter and reciever about the size of a medium suitcase that can evesdrop on cell phones.  It is reported that Stingway devices are widely available from China and on the black market.  They can be used to evesdrop on the voice calls and txt msgs to and from any cell phone, which makes them useful for law enforcement, intelligence and industrial espionage.  For more info, see feel free to google or see the wikipedia article linked below. (see section 1.3.5)

    To be used, the Stingray device has deployed near the target cell phone.  The GRU could have deployed a Stingray outside a DNC computer admin’s residence, attempted to login to the AWS management console in the middle of the night, and intercepted the code sent to the admin’s cell phone using the Stingray device.

    On reflection, I think this is the most likely way the GRU stole the second factor, since it would have left little trace or no trace.  In contrast, if the GRU had rerouted the admin’s txt msgs to a phone network in Russia, the admin’s cell phone carrier woudl probably have a record of that.

    Another reason why no one should consider their cell phone to be secure (include Trump, members of Congress and their staffers, etc.), and probably another reason why the NIST has advised against using the type of two factor authentication that the DNC was using.

    • Trip says:

      Remember that report a while back that this was happening around all of DC cellphones? This was after the hacks, and around that same time as the phone situation, Russian ships were ‘touring’ the coast (while it was reported that there was nothing illegal about it: the touring).

      • P J Evans says:

        And Himself is known to be using an insecure phone. He’s been warned, but he apparently believes that newer more secure phones won’t have the misfeatures he loves. (But then, he also doesn’t get that his phone has a computer inside. He really is clueless about any technology appearing after about 1960.)

    • JBinCA says:

      I am by no means an expert in surveillance technology – so I ask this question:

      In my experience, codes sent by text (or produced by app) for two-factor identification are valid for a very short time — 60-90 seconds — after which they expire. If a (Russian) hacker obtained such a code with a Stingray or similar device, that would suggest that the real user had already started to log into the DNC system (or else no code would be texted to that user).  And to use that stolen code before it expired, the hacker would have to start logging in immediately after obtaining the code. In that scenario, would the DNC’s system have noticed two log-ins using the same credentials but from very different machines/IP addresses and then triggered some sort of notice/alert/error/alarm? If not, why not?

      • Tech Support says:

        Great question to ask, but it’s not necessary to wait for the real user to log into the system. The whole point of 2FA is that its not enough to just have the user’s credentials (which is the easy part really). When you log in, you have to have some sort of ability to deliver the 2nd factor during the time window in which it is asked for. So the individual elements of the attack would be executed in the following sequence:

        FIRST, obtain the target’s credentials.

        SECOND, set up the Stingray device to intercept the traffic between the target’s mobile device and the carrier’s cell towers.

        THIRD, attempt to use the target’s credentials.

        FOURTH, intercept the “access code” sent to the targets device via SMS text and *DO NOT FORWARD* it.

        FIFTH, use the second factor to complete the authentication process.

        All this is possible because a Stingray device, in essence, impersonates a cell tower and convinces one or more mobile devices to route their traffic through it. If you can act as a go-between (formally known as a “man in the middle” attack) you can impersonate, prevent, or even modify the transmission of data between the two endpoints.

        • Alan says:

          You nailed it. The only trace this would leave is an entry in the access logs of the server that the attacker logs into.  Note if the attacker did allow the access code to reach the admin’s cell phone in Step 4, the attacker could still use the code to log into the system, but the arrival of the txt msg might alert the admin that a break in was in progress, or that one had happened during the night (if that’s when the break in is executed).

    • obsessed says:

      And this: !!!

      Two sublime hours of Marcy and Robert Wright – I’m on my third pass.

  11. Diane says:

    It’s very, very difficult to get a conviction on Campaign Finance Reform. That’s why it’s right to focus on conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering, and tax evasion. So many choices!

    • bmaz says:

      People always say that. I am not sure such is the case though. The cite is almost always the Edwards matter, which is extremely easy to distinguish from the instant matter, but plenty of people have been dealt with under the provision.

    • timbo says:

      Congress and the laws that it has enacted in this area should be burnished a bit harder, not with the blood of patriots, but with the skinning of scoundrels, ere rust pock be the downfall of the Republic.

  12. Jacksback says:

    I’m wondering why there has been no activity from the state attorneys general on starting investigations into the Trump Org, Flynn, Manafort, Jared, Junior, etc. (NY AG is investigating the Trump Foundation, but, that’s it). If the state AGs are the pardon-proofing that insures that the conspirators will do jail time, why haven’t they moved on any of these guys? Wouldn’t that be the logical pincer move on Trump and his minions?

    • gedouttahear says:

      The NY AG has sued the trump foundation. You are also making an erroneous assumption that there has been no activity. Just because there has not yet been public disclosure does not mean that nothing is going on. I suspect a lot is going on. Patience, m’boy, patience.

      • Jacksback says:

        Ged – We’re all being patient, right? But wouldn’t there be reporting if state investigations were started? And, to my point about a pincer move, wouldn’t Mueller’s team want it known to the various felons, Trump especially, that they were about to get squeezed and that a pardon was useless? Just trying divine the strategic thinking of the people we’re counting on to end this catastrophe.

        • Avattoir says:

          The rules of procedure that apply in any given state to a number of the sorts of charges & claims that are available to be pursued against Toad Inc. can be quite different not just when compared to other states but radically from federal criminal cases. Some extend relatively long periods for defending parties to respond, and even those can be extended by state court judges if not by the parties themselves. Some provide for something like the same sort of pre-trial document exchanges and non-public witness interlocutaries that seem more at home in civil claim proceedings than in state criminal, quasi-criminal and regulatory breach proceedings. All of it ultimately is subject to at least some sort of review by whichever judge has drawn supervision of the case’s conduct thru the court system, but a lot of the stuff in between public appearances, even where there’s a lot of activity, is typically pretty opaque to public view. And for much of that activity, at least until the trial itself, discussing it outside of the clients, the attorneys & the supervising judge can expose attorneys to serious sanctions, even their licenses.

  13. HRHTish says:

    Off topic: In another comment thread it was mentioned there are folks here who used to hail from Firedoglake, etc. That makes me so happy because one of the things that keeps bringing me back (besides Ms Wheeler’s excellent work) is the feeling that I already “know” some of you. Even after my near-decade long hiatus.

    That’s all I’ve got, back to lurking.

    • setlistthief says:

      This comment warms my heart as mine was the comment you reference. Indeed, I recognize a few handles, but it’s also the smarts, humor and all around hominess of this lil ol’ likker cabinet that feels like home.

      • bmaz says:

        As I said before, there are actually quite of lot of the old timers from FDL, and even TNH, here. Some still have the same screen name, others do not, but yet are still here in comments. The core group on the blog – Marcy, me, Rayne, Ed Walker and Jim White – are all obviously from back then. Thank you for staying with us.

    • BobCon says:

      Wouldn’t Sater be an unlikely choice due to his long history with the feds? If they are trying to screw around, I’d think they’d choose a person who was less well known and less likely to be tracked.

      At any rate, I suspect that the antennae are up with regards to deception. That doesn’t mean it can’t slip through, but they’re watching for it. And I suspect that Mueller is A) cautious about putting too much weight on potentially dodgy sources and B) has a lot of options for which crimes to charge, so he’s less likely to need to rely on dodgy sources. I don’t think he’s Cheney and Wolfowitz with their  heavy dependence on Ahmad Chalabi.

  14. der says:

    “No Smocking Gun…No Collusion”, a double entendre or a faux pas from Individual 1?

    Urban Dictionary: Smock – A boy or man with a small cock. Very very small cock.

    • Avattoir says:

      Now my own taste in comedy runs obscure:

      An’ I’m inclined by nature cheap shots to abjure;

      Yet I’m actually open to a liberal range of wit.

      Except from a certain bigot’s son –

      The one who tweeted out that “smocking gun” –

      I’d like that joker indicted ear from ear.

      Now it ain’t like spellin’ can’t be bent:

      S’long as word don’t convey injurious sentiment;

      I’ve smocked myself – of that there ain’t no doubt.

      But cheap rhyming bullies are all the same,

      Whether on Twitter or at the rally game:

      Everything explodes when they tweet one out.

      Send send send that schmatty talk;

      Knit & pearl til you show us all your head is made of rock.

      But as you’re grunting out that tweet

      Ask if St. Severus would think it’s neat

      You can’t stop expelling daily puffs of smock.


      They / Ask me what it meant

      That the president is bent

      I of course retweet

      What we can’t too much repeat:

      Smock gets in his I’s.

      They / Said, We cannot look 

      Else all see he’s a crook

      Since he has conspired

      With even those who he has sired:

      Smock got in his I’s.

  15. Jockobadger says:

    Apologies in advance, bmaz, but I’d like to know how Maria Butina fits into all of this?  I know EW covered this a couple of weeks ago, but that was before the plea deal.

    The whole thing seems weird to me.  Here she is, just an eager beaver gun-happy networker student, who also happens to be a direct report to Torshin (and his bank.)  In hindsight it just appears to be so outrageously out in the open – funneling boodles of $ into the NRA who then shoveled it into trump’s coffers.  The NRA/Russkies had to know that was going to come out in the financial reporting?  And why is her case is with the Washington A.G.’s office?

    Sorry if these are dumb questions, but here’re a couple more quick ones:  any idea if she’s now been thoroughly tied into Mueller’s investigation(s) through her plea deal?  Did the Russians figure she’d be caught and it was just all part of the plan to create chaos?  Whether she’s caught or not, the outcome is cool?    Thanks much!

    • bmaz says:

      Don’t have good answers to this yet, but suspect it will be soon made a little more clear in the entry of her plea and allocution thereto.

      • Jockobadger says:

        Thanks bmaz.

        It certainly is curious that Torshin, a Lifetime Member of the NRA, reportedly met with trump at the NRA National Convention in Nashville in ’15, then met with Jr. at the ’16 National Conv.  Trump Sr. later denied that he’d ever met Torshin (of course.)   Odd also that Torshin is also alleged to be a good buddy of Vlad and that he is wanted for questioning by the Spanish NatPol in connection with the movement of Russian mob money through Espana.  From where, to where, I wonder?  I bet the Shadow knows.

  16. David Karson says:

    I am curious what people here think of Trump’s nomination of William Barr in regards to the Mueller investigation? Does anything think that Whitaker might act against the investigation in some fashion before Barr takes over? Also, I saw that Whitaker and Kushner met last Friday (on Marine 1 of all places). Would have loved to be a fly on that wall!

    • timbo says:

      If Whitaker “acts” then the incoming 2019 Congress will likely begin impeachment hearings immediately in January.  I’d say that things are more likely to come to head around March-June time frame otherwise.

      As someone pointed out publicly, very recently, Barr helped poppy Bush get out from under a lot of the Iran-Contra mess…which avoided senior level impeachments.  So, Barr is coming in to help Trump navigate away from impeachment if at all possible.  Harder to navigate away from it if one has already run aground on it; difficult in the extreme if Whitaker acts now.  (Also, frankly, I believe that Whitaker and Trump are both too scared/disoriented to fire Mueller at this point; Trump’s house seems in heavy disarray right now. Certainly Trump won’t want to act until such time as he has a chief of staff in place?  Ah, well, I’ve been wrong before so…who really knows?)

    • Jenny says:

      My question is why would Barr want the job?  With the baggage that goes with it and the Groper in Chief thinking the AG is his personal attorney.

      As for Whitaker, I think he is a spy for the Groper in Chief.  I have no evidence.  He does look the part of a “tough guy” in a position as acting AG.  He fits into the WH Reality Show.

      The Whitaker and Kushner meeting is disturbing considering there is an ongoing investigation.  Isn’t that unethical?  Why is this not being questioned?  Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac and there was outrage.

      Hard to keep up with all the unfolding of gunk from moment to moment and day to day.

  17. Bobo says:

    I keep going back to the photo of the inner circle in Trump Tower at the moment it was realized he was going to win the election. Everyone in the room was, understandably, very excited – cheering fist pumping and smiling – but not Trump. He is looking at the monitor very grim faced. A picture tells a story (trump said this!) sometimes it does and sometimes its just a picture. But the picture does encapsulate his dilemma. Shit, everything I did was to make money and I didn’t formulate the plan for winning. Of course then his ego took over as well as his instinct for self preservation. And here we are at the unraveling.

    • Tom says:

      And when it’s finally all over and unraveled, I think I’ll begin suffering from some sort of psychological ‘phantom limb’ syndrome, as if part of my conscious self will still be waking up every morning with a sense of mixed anxiety and anticipation wondering what might have happened in the Mueller investigation since I went to bed the night before.    I appreciate Ms. Wheeler’s hard work and dedication in laying out the intricate details of this sordid and squalid saga day after day.    Her reporting certainly provides as much mental stimulation to aging synapses as the New York Times crossword or a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

      • Valley girl says:

        Well, I’d put Marcy way above a NYT crossword or a jigsaw puzzle (I’ve done both) for mental stimulation.  Apart from reading EW,  you could set about learning a foreign language.  I’m doing that, and from all I’ve read, it keeps the aging synapses functioning.  Way more challenging than NYT crosswords or jigsaw puzzles!

    • Theresa says:


      As I’ve heard many times before, the worst thing that’s ever happened to Individual 1 is getting elected president.

  18. Boikley says:

    OT homage: Civilian fan here. The emptywheel blog is a guilty pleasure to which I plead no lo contendere. Thanks all for the daily education—I’m finally engaging the “support” button.

    I have nothing to contribute beyond appreciation, but for this humble, seasonal offering (sing as verses to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” you know the drill):

    As Bob Mueller’s probe unfolded, Doc Wheeler ‘splained to me:
    (1) a bright and shining lie.

    As Bob Mueller’s probe unfolded, Doc Wheeler ‘splained to me:
    (2) “GRU” hackers hacking,
    and a bright and shining lie.

    As Bob Mueller’s probe unfolded, Doc Wheeler ‘splained to me:
    (3) three tainted spawn,
    “GRU” hackers hacking,
    and a bright and shining lie.

    As Bob Mueller’s probe unfolded, Doc Wheeler ‘splained to me:
    (4) four oligarchs,
    three tainted spawn,
    “GRU” hackers hacking,
    and a bright and shining lie.

    As Bob Mueller’s probe unfolded, Doc Wheeler ‘splained to me:
    (5) five … iPods … seized!!!
    four oligarchs,
    three tainted spawn,
    hacks by G-R-U,
    and a bright and shining lie.

    (repeat (5), adding beneath initial line:)

    (6) timelines a-ticking,
    (7) spox-folk a-spinning,
    (8) rat-fuckers fucking,
    (9) vast JDAs,
    (10) comma redactions,
    (11) speaking indictments,
    (12) central CONFRAUDUS,

    All together now!

  19. Rugger9 says:

    Think of the Chief of Staff to replace Kelly and the minefield they’re walking into.  RF Stone seems to think that Ayers’ dodge prevented a Pence coup (a la the 25th Amendment I would think) but we’ll see how long he stays in GA with his family before making the TV rounds like Santorum has so he can get wiped on the floor like Granholm did to Ricky.

    The names being floated (I’m betting Mulvaney since it wouldn’t cost a Congressional seat) are not awe inspiring either, in terms of intellect or integrity.  Too bad Mittens is in the Senate, he’d be perfect, or maybe Lindsey.  They’re needed in the Senate to spike the conviction of the impeachment to come.  Also part of the calculation is that the Senate map for 2020 is really bad for the GOP relative to the 2018 one, and maybe a few Senators would not want to risk giving Kaiser Quisling a pass on playing footsie with Vlad.

    The NRA coordination may bring them all down as well, since that is clearly against the law and apparently one person signed off on three different organizations’ activities.  The tie in with Butina is part of that.  They will not be missed.

    • P J Evans says:

      I’m seeing hints that Ayers is connected in some way to the Hawley and Greitens shenanigans. If so – he might have good reason to want to be out of the DC media view.

    • Frank Probst says:

      I have mixed feelings about Mulvaney.  Making him chief of staff would mean putting a rabidly anti-LGBT asshole in the West Wing.  But it gets him out of Congress, puts his bigotry in a spotlight, and ultimately leads to him resigning in disgrace, which might make it worth it.

      • BobCon says:

        Mulvaney has supposedly taken his name off the list (unless he has suddenly had his mind changed). He’s the extreme right wing former congressman from South Carolina (he now heads OMB). He wouldn’t mean a lost seat in the House for the GOP.

        Meadows is the extreme right wing current congressman from North Carolina who may still be in the running.

        Mulvaney would probably be far more dangerous in the job. He has a more realistic sense of what priorities would win the most general support, even if he is an extremist. He also has far more management skills, and would probably do a lot more damage than Meadows in the job.

        • David Karson says:

          For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would want the job.  You would be working for Trump who:  1) is the  definition of the world’s worst boss, unmanageable and a screaming, angry, narcissistic tyrant who thinks he is the smartest person in the room, 2) has Ivanka and Jared who will go around  you and your decisions, 3) has serious ethical issues, 4) will be under investigation by Congress, 4)  expects his aides to show blind loyalty, even if it is against the law or traditional values, 5) might be impeached, 6) might be shown to have colluded with the Russians, 7) might be going to prison.  What reputable person would want to be associated with that on his resume?

    • P J Evans says:

      Now they’re saying it will be sometime after the end of the year. Which means there really isn’t anyone wanting the job that will be acceptable to Himself.

      (Himself was behaving badly this morning on the teevee. Looked like a five-year-old, perched on the edge of that armchair, and, I understand, not letting Pelosi speak but interrupting and talking over her. He tried it on Schumer and Schumer got louder and kept talking.)

  20. Frank Probst says:

    I agree with Jenny above that we shouldn’t leave out Trump’s CFO.  We haven’t heard a word about what he’s said, and any time someone gets immunity, they’d be wise to take advantage of it.  The other guy I keep wondering about is Elliott Broidy.  Cohen handled the $1.6 million involved there, didn’t he?  And Broidy was the chairman of the RNC finance committee at the time, so presumably he would know the laws about campaign contributions.  Isn’t he likely to be on the SDNY’s radar?

    • Frank Probst says:

      (And I always have to remind myself that Cohen’s Client #3 was Sean Hannity.  I still don’t know what the hell to make of that.)

      • General Sternwood says:

        Josh Marshall has a recent editor’s note on the Falwell, Jr./poolboy story asking, among other questions, how Cohen gets involved in such situations. Specifically the piece notes that Cohen’s connection to Falwell, Jr., goes back to 2012, the same year that the latter met said poolboy (and apparently the same year Trump is photographed with said poolboy at Liberty University,) which would seem then to be connected to Cohen’s ability to inveigle Falwell into endorsing Trump four years later. A similar set of questions could be asked of Hannity or Broidy, and perhaps other high profile conservatives who need to have something hushed up — why is Cohen is the fixer of choice, a fixer who coincidentally also happens to be tied into the Russian mob?

        • David Karson says:

          The fact that Hannity talks to Stone, Trump, Corsi and Assange makes me wonder what he knows about the source of Wikileaks. And that Cohen only had a few clients and he named Hannity as one of them. Hannity has enough money to get the best lawyers, why would he use a Cohen, who does not seem to have much legal expertise beyond coordinating hush money payments. It seems too coincidental to not be suspicious in my opinion.

      • HRHTish says:

        The only thing I can make of the Hannity thing is that he claimed to have used Cohen for “real estate advice.” Which makes no sense at all, because Hannity is rich and can afford a *real* lawyer to advise him on real estate matters.  Besides, it seems the only real estate deal Cohen was involved in was  . . . Trump Tower Moscow?

  21. Trip says:

    So it looks like Butina may actually be cooperating. Paul Erickson is aware he is a target.

    Butina has acknowledged that with U.S. Person 1’s assistance, she drafted a proposal called “Description of the Diplomacy Project” in March of 2015 which was later sent to the Russian Official, in which she said that she had already “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration” and requested $125,000 from a Russian billionaire to attend conferences and meetings to further develop those ties. The Russian Official, the agreement said, confirmed that her proposal would be at least partially supported

    Paul Erickson was offered a job with the FSB, allegedly. I’m wondering if she will be like Manafort and pass info back. I’d think she’d have to worry about her health in the future if she fully cooperates with the US gov’t.

    • Eureka says:

      I think if her cooperation results in chaos and pain for the US political system/players, she’ll be all set (and in fact that may be part of the game plan).  Superficially, it seems what she has to offer is not as knitted-in to RU-side damages as would be what e.g. Manafort would have to offer.  She’s certainly shorter-term player as well.

      • Eureka says:

        In other words:  if she is cooperating, and such cooperation primarily hurts US (in general, persons, etc), RU is happy with a job well done.

      • Trip says:

        If as a byproduct of her cooperation she wrestles away control of the Gov’t by the NRA, I say she goes home a hero, too.

    • Jenny says:

      According to Malcolm Nance he recently tweeted, “Maria Butina is going home a Hero of the Russian Federation for an almost 10 year long “Svetlana” mission completely buying the NRA & compromising GOP leaders using her sexy “Spy” skills to turn numerous old men into de facto traitors. For a single agent she was wildly successful.”

      Remember, Butina was the individual at the Freedom Fest 2015 to ask Trump about sanctions against Russia.  Staged and a set up considering there are no accidents.

      • timbo says:

        It really makes one wonder what other “brushes” with the Trump Org that Butina has had since coming to our country.  Good thing all these fellows are of high moral fiber…  I should imagine that the Cointel folks will have a good idea of whereabouts and dates by now, although, obviously, not nearly as good as the GRU folks?

      • Rusharuse says:

        At the prayer brekky Trump seemed quite ready for her question re sanctions, maybe they met in the green room? Or, perhaps “one time he was her little red rooster, but now he’s just one of her cocks!”

  22. person1597 says:

    “Let’s find the truth and confront it fearlessly. ”

    Milk and cookies for all repentant repundlickens.

    • G Holland says:

      I don’t think it’s clear yet whether he’s “gone underground,” “gone to ground,” “been put underground,” or “been ground up.”

      Sadly, I suspect wherever he is now, he didn’t go there voluntarily.

  23. new-radical says:

    If Butina is a spy, then her cooperation must be approved by the Reds, or she is deds.

    Just saw Preet on the box and he said how unusual it was for a Russian spy to cooperate. FMD, I should think! But he gave no hint as to why. Just the limp explanation about being young and not wanting to see the inside of a cell… And Preet isn’t silly, so what’s that all about?

    Has Nance nailed it, is it just a case of sowing more seeds…


    • Alan says:

      If she didn’t cooperate, she would eventually be deported back to Russia where her life would at best be a coin toss. So my guess is that she cooperates, testifies if necessary, and then quietly lives out her life here in the US under a new federally-sponsored identity.

      • new-radical says:

        If she has been doin’ the business, Nance would be right. Condo in Sochi. Go to trial, be convicted and then exchanged. A couple of years for a lifetime of “well done, good job”.

        If she spills the beans (against the will) she has about ten minutes, perhaps I have read too many spy novels but I suspect that they can get you if they want. They got two blokes into Salisbury and out again. She could never be hidden – will the feds support her for the rest of her life – she must be unemployable.

        If she is cooperating, expect a Manafort cooperation or WTF?


        • Alan says:

          IDK, seems to me Russia has already disavowed her, saying this is not something they were involved in, it was completely private.  Why get involved now when they still have plausible deniability?  And even if not, could Putin be trusted to keep his word?  That’s why I think her life would be at best a coin toss back in Russia, and she has better odds with the Feds.  But it all comes down to what she believes and who she trusts–we’ll find out shortly…

          • Jaag says:

            She probably applies for asylum in the USA soon.  I am not an expert here, but would assume that the plea deal would be structured so that her ongoing cooperation must be fruitful and true and if not her asylum claim could include subs from Mueller or FBI.  I would guess they wait several years to hear here asylum claim. Hence, they have a good deal more assurance that what she says before then is truthful.

            Guessing here.

  24. clairence says:

    “cheating to get elected”

    But it sounds like this whole conspiracy was not intent on actually getting elected.

    Would that matter when/if this all ends up in court with DJT, TrumpInc, and family?

  25. Rusharuse says:

    In my own personal Idaho!

    Avenatti threatens to go after Epstein/DERSH . .




    Michael Avenatti


    – I’ll make you a deal. You stop attacking my client Stormy Daniels with falsehoods and bogus claims of extortion (like you did today) and I will not start attacking your VERY close friend and client the infamous pedephile Epstein while asking what you knew and when.
    2:49 PM · Dec 11, 2018 · Twitter for iPhone

    • Trip says:

      Methinks Avenatti jumped the shark a while back. But if he has info on Epstein, he should just bring it, and not on any conditions or via idle threats.

      • Alan says:

        Avenatti isn’t someone you would want as President, but he is the kind of guy you want on your side.  His willingness to push the envelope and advocate on behalf of Stormy Daniels might be what ends up taking down Trump.

        • Trip says:

          No doubt Alan, but he lost the plot when he decided to run and it became more about him than Daniels, etc. He also somewhat muddied the victims within the Kavanaugh confirmation, via the changing narratives/statements by his witness, versus what he alleged she would say and that he could prove. That tended to permit the GOP to cast doubt on the more consistent and corroborated ‘testimony’ of other victims and associated witnesses. So in that sense, he has been a mixed bag of effect.

          • G Holland says:

            YES! Finally someone else who sees it that way! As soon as he started the pre-gossip “…gonna announce some big news about BK in a couple of days,” I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, worrying that he would go too far.  By peddling an outrageous story of gang rape lines at college parties (whether true or not), he made Dr. Ford’s testimony seem (a) too mild to qualify as assault; (b) more likely to be false (because obviously all women lie anyway, don’t we?); and (c) just one of several “Twilight Zone” plot lines that could all be clumped together and disregarded…i.e., throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Chuck Grassley was delighted with Avenatti that month, I bet.

            Also, FWIW (which isn’t much, I grant you [since that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead (metaphorically, anyway)]), I don’t think Feinstein deliberately sat on Dr. Ford’s letter for the specific purpose of waiting until the last minute to spring it on the committee. I think she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to use it at all…that the numerous other concerns with BK’s nomination, including but not limited to the absurd “committee confidential” label applied to WAY too many documents by one of BK’s own former colleagues, and his not-at-all-credible testimony about his emails relating to certain unappetizing practices in the Bush administration. If the Senate Judiciary Committee had DONE ITS DAMN JOB, it would never have been necessary to involve Dr. Ford at all.

            But I acknowledge Feinstein could have (and probably should have) handled the disclosure of the letter differently, nonetheless.

            It’s all sewage water under the bridge now, anyway.

  26. Ed Smiley says:

    A more serious campaign violation would be if part of the outsize $30 million dark money funneled by NRA to Trump campaign was a gift with strings attached via Putin/Torshin/Butina. Knowingly accepting a foreign donation is strictly illegal. If the NRA had the money itself, why does it now claim to be broke?

  27. new-radical says:

    Wow, as I sit here in Oz, wading through the news, because I can get no cable, even if I should pay for it, which I cannot. So I have to try to find  a way to interpret the news feeds I can get, and then I found EW and now at least I have really good data. Is the sh1t finally hitting?

    I got into trouble once before on this site when all I was trying to do was encourage you a’ll  to stay in the fight (I’m way too old to understand the nuance of this medium, and my attempts may be pathetic given that my understanding of a troll is based on ‘billy goat gruff and the bridge’), but it seems we are close to a phase transition in the complex system.

    Is this true? Meuller must keep indicting… Corsi, Stone, (I have no idea who is below the international radar), Jr., Simplicio won’t give a fuck until Ivanka gets a letter. There will be no report… But when Ivanka gets one, there will be a phase transition.

  28. new-radical says:

    Just hear’d Lawrence Tribe, is he a good guy? First legal bloke who made any sense (sorry Bmaz, Rayne). I’m not sure how much you USA people understand that some of us around the world are really affected by your policies and are hurting and we don’t get a vote, so we get no voice, but we do care and we support the fight!

  29. Trip says:

    In today’s stupid reality TV news: Angelina Jolie’s father was seen at the WH. J Voight offered to be Trump’s CoS.

  30. Philip S. Webster says:

    what about this Atlantic post: ?  on proving guilt for white collars? Is it not important because the The Dump Corp is available civilly?

    That’s what makes Trump’s behavior so remarkable. Given every advantage conferred on the wealthy and connected, including being the president of the United States, Trump can’t help but provide both the public and the authorities investigating him and his campaign with knowledge of his state of mind. Proving guilt in white-collar crime is an exceedingly difficult task for prosecutors. Trump is doing his best to make it easier.

    (BTW: let me anecdotally confirm the Doral Dolf Course traffic fall off. I have been riding by the practice range for 20 years and there are few people out there swinging now compared to the years before he put his name on it.  Before there were a ton of people presumably the very snow bird north-easterners reported to have shun his shitty name. Got hit on the roof of car once.)

    • BobCon says:

      The killer for Trump properties is that they’ve gotten the reputation for being paper napkin places at cloth napkin prices. Or probably even worse for a brand, they have cloth napkins, but they’re dirty.

  31. Willis Warren says:

    I guess I’m wondering why anyone believes Butina will actually cooperate.  She’ll tell them what they already know, like Cohen, manafort, etc…

    At the end of it she gets sent back to Russia?  c’mon

  32. Jockobadger says:

    There may be a few bits she could provide that they’d like more details on e.g. the exact nature of her relationship to Torshin and Konstantin Nikolaev.  What did Trump and Torshin discuss during their “jovial” meeting at the 2015 NRA National Convention (which Trump denies happened?)  Also, what she might know about the movement of Russian oligarch money through Europe, particularly Spain, and whether or not Torshin, Nikolaev, Kilimnik are connected?

    She may just say whatever is necessary to get out.  Otoh, she may have done, and may be doing, exactly what she was tasked with i.e. sow as much chaos/confusion as possible.  While she seems to be a true believer wrt her Russian NRA, her connections to these other characters is just sooo convenient.

  33. MattyG says:

    Delicate situation given we are dealing with a spy “caught” in a situation looking more and more like part of the Russian operation to begin with. CI intercepts and direct intelligence will hold this together or it’s mainly network theater for us civies.

      • MattyG says:

        Besides, the Rooskies will bake in a certain amount of dark money revelation into their plans as “encouragement” to anyone that might be having second thoughts – sharpen their priorities so to speak. The NRA/RNC comes to mind – Butina’s  patch.

      • Tech Support says:

        There are some perverse similarities between Russian intelligence operations and retail franchise businesses.

        “Those are not our employees!”

  34. setlistthief says:

    OT, but what an epic display in the Oval this morning.

    “If we don’t get what we want… I will shut down the government… I am proud to shut down the government.” — Donald Trump

      • Tom says:

        If that’s how the President handled himself with Nancy & Chuck this morning, I shudder to think what that two-hour private meeting with Putin at Helsinki must have been like.    The Great Deal Maker doesn’t seem to know how to argue a position effectively or actively listen to what the other party has to say.    He just falls back on repetition and dubious statistics.    (The French had a wall, too; they called it the Maginot Line.)  And I can’t believe Mike Pence just sat there like a ventriloquist’s dummy without speaking up to help the President reframe his argument, suggest compromise positions, defuse the tension, or support him in any way!     No wonder Trump doubts his V-P’s loyalty.

        • BobCon says:

          Pence’s shrink job and Ayers’s refusal of an offer I’m sure was presented as an offer he couldn’t refuse must add to Trump’s seething fury at Pence.

          The fact that Haberman’s byline was on last month’s NY Times article about Trump’s doubts suggests that Trump’s side is pushing the story. And I bet that this mistrust is going to be a big hurdle for any in the GOP who think they can broker a resignation for pardon deal between Trump and Pence.

          • Tech Support says:

            On this point, it’s become my pet theory that Ayers was the author of the NYT “resistance” editorial, deliberately using his bosses “lodestar” language.

            After all Ayers, as the employee of a different elected official, is one of two dudes (besides Pence) that Trump can’t fire.

              • Tech Support says:

                It’d be a bit harder for the reporting side of the house to sniff out the author if that were true!

                But I kinda like the idea of Ayers doing that to just obliquely taunt the prez. As long as I’m going to speculate without evidence I’ll opt for maximum entertainment value.

      • Lisa says:

        Could there be a thought in his mind that he wants a shutdown as Justice is one of the agencies that would be affected??

      • Eureka says:

        Let’s make it a functional rocket Faraday cage.  We’ll tuck in that Purple Heart (sigh, given him by that vet), and he can content himself with Space Force hero-hood.  Win win win.

  35. Greenhouse says:

    Kudos to editors at commondDreams who’ve assembled viral posts of asshat in chief post smocking gun. Just a little levity to your day here at the wheel, peace!

    His idiocy, it is universally agreed, “makes a smockery of” our democracy, the presidency and basic literacy: “I always hope that it’s a parody account and it never is…Can I buy a smocking gun without a background check?…Dude what r U smocking???…It was #ScottFree with the #SmockingGun in the #Covfefe room… Smocky the Bear warned us about this. Only you can prevent re-electing dumb ass presidents.” To help us resist, the Washington Post Fact Checker has added a new mendacity rating for Trump, the “Bottomless Pinocchio,” for formerly 3 or 4 star lies repeated at least 20 times. So far, Trump has 14 whoppers that made the list. Meanwhile, even Fox News pundit Judge Andrew Napolitano actually said out loud that Trump may face indictments. Trump, Giuliani et al, he warned, “mock the government at their peril,” smocking gun or no.

  36. Greenhouse says:

    Kudos to editors at commonDreams for collecting the viral posts, post smocking from asshat in chief. A little levity for ya’ll here at the wheel.

    His idiocy, it is universally agreed, “makes a smockery of” our democracy, the presidency and basic literacy: “I always hope that it’s a parody account and it never is…Can I buy a smocking gun without a background check?…Dude what r U smocking???…It was #ScottFree with the #SmockingGun in the #Covfefe room… Smocky the Bear warned us about this. Only you can prevent re-electing dumb ass presidents.” To help us resist, the Washington Post Fact Checker has added a new mendacity rating for Trump, the “Bottomless Pinocchio,” for formerly 3 or 4 star lies repeated at least 20 times. So far, Trump has 14 whoppers that made the list. Meanwhile, even Fox News pundit Judge Andrew Napolitano actually said out loud that Trump may face indictments. Trump, Giuliani et al, he warned, “mock the government at their peril,” smocking gun or no.

    Sorry if this was a double post:(

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      The real question is not between “collusion” and “conspiracy” but who in positions of power throughout the “developed” world is in on it. Let’s take a quick peek at Great Britain, France, Austria, Poland, the US and of course Israel, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. I’ve been ridin’ this dead horse for a long time but tell me again who won WWII and what is 1939 and why is it followin’ us?!! And after the meeting today at the White House, I think we just found out that the government has been shut down for a long time and turned into a laundry.

  37. JAAG says:

    I cannot believe the Kushner and Whitaker stroll.  I get that the latest speculation is that Kushner was less likely to be a target than in the past, but that was before a lot of new info came to light.  It almost looks like the stroll was for public consumption of some kind.  Why make it so plain to see?  As far is I know, Whitaker is still waiting for an ethics opinion on recusal and we don’t actually know if he is looking at Russia stuff at all. If I am wrong, tell me please.

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, I questioned this earlier.  Not only a stroll but a ride on Marine 1.  It is disturbing with the Acting AC chatting and taking a ride with Kushner who is under investigation by Mueller.  Perhaps both were discussing the correct way to fill out government financial forms or the interest of Chief of Staff position.

      Remember the Clinton/Lynch Tarmac outrage?  Why no outrage with Kushner/Whitaker ride on Marine 1 and a stroll? More questions than answers.

    • timbo says:

      lol.  Like what would you say if you were sitting there that would help the situation along?  He wants to be President but he ain’t the President.  Best way to get to be President at this point is not to get much more deeply involved with the dysfunction that is publicly apparent.

        • AitchD says:

          He is President of the United States Senate. Next month he sits next to the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the SOTUA even though the guy’s on record saying he cannot be that close to any woman except for his wife.

        • timbo says:

          Actually, honestly, what would you be saying if you were Pence (a stretch but still) and you wanted to be President?  Would you intervene? And if so, how?  Tell the President to “calm down”?  There’s no good political place for Pence to go with this and not make the markets tremble even further…

          • Tom says:

            Pence could have helped Trump out by saying something along the lines of, “It sounds like we all agree on the need for border security, so all we have to do is work out the best means to achieve it, but this isn’t the time or place for that discussion.”   Or he could have joked to the President, “Why don’t you just say what you really want, Donald,” just to lighten the mood a little.   As it was, by remaining silent the V-P only displayed his own ineffectiveness and/or lack of professionalism.    You don’t just sit there and let your boss flounder and flail in front of the cameras without supporting him in some way, no matter what you might think of the merits of a border wall (Trump’s Folly).     Pence is sending the message that, if you’re in a tight corner don’t count on him to help you out.

  38. Trip says:

    Marcy, what’s the deal with the Manafort delay? Are the lawyers trying to pretend they weren’t involved in the JDA that went on after the cooperation agreement? Or was Manafort stupid enough to make phone calls himself to the WH from recorded payphones in jail? They seemed to come to court with no rebuttal (probably not the right word) to what the prosecutors wrote on breaching the agreement.

    • Alan says:

      “A federal judge set a tentative hearing for Jan. 25 to hear disputes about whether Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, breached his plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller.
      Defense lawyers said they need more time to evaluate five subject areas of alleged lies that prosecutors outlined Friday in a court filing.
      District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the filing didn’t provide enough information for her to draw conclusions.”

  39. cracker says:

    When Pence was selected as Trump’s VP nominee a friend of mine gave him the multiply descriptive  nickname “Q-Tip.”


    • Watson says:

      Maybe the Dems should offer $5B for the wall in exchange for DACA (I think that’s a very important issue from the point of view of compassion, symbolism, and politics) + healthcare, infrastructure/jobs, debt relief, etc.

      • P J Evans says:

        They did that before, and Himself turned it down. (He’s a racist, in case you’d missed that part of it.)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Donald Trump does not negotiate well.  He is chronically unprepared, and substitutes lies and snap judgments for tactics and strategy.  He makes promises with abandon and keeps few of them.  That he is often wrong, and expensively so, he obscures with money and hissy fits.

        Trump does theater, witness his failed attempt yesterday at dressing down Pelosi and Schumer.  The tension in his drama depends on heightening conflict, never having an endgame or resolution, and portraying his opponents as evil incarnate.

        A competent theater critic would mercilessly pan his one-trick-pony plots and ham acting.  If he were a game of Clue, every player would know the culprit was the fat butler in the bedroom with the empty McDonald’s bag before the second roll of the dice.

        Offering Trump money and expecting him to keep a promise is playing kick the football with Lucy.

        • Trip says:

          Trump got his orders for the “Wall Show” from Fox News. Carlson and Coulter were signaling that it was time to put this stupidity back on full display. You are absolutely on point about the theater aspect. This was all for the cult’s benefit, and as a tool to distract from the investigations closing in on him. So much oxygen was wasted by the media covering this dog and pony show.

          • Trip says:

            One more note: threatening to shut down the Federal gov’t at the busiest, most dense period of commerce and delivery via the post office, is one of the stupidest positions to take for a business friendly president. (aside from Fed employees not receiving paychecks, including the SS who watch over Trump’s big rump at Maralago).

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Chuck Schumer keeps acting as if he’s negotiating with Trump, offering up amounts of money in hopes of appeasing a dictator. That’s theater for his base: if Trump takes it, ok; if not, he’s the problem.

            He knows, thought, that Trump does not know how to negotiate. Plus, resolving an issue through compromise – a bread-and-butter practice for a working politician – would remove the potential theater for his base.

            The Don also regards that low-emotion, all-in-a-day’s-job practice as womanly and weak.  When the Don sees a nail sticking up in a wall, he doesn’t reach for his Irish screwdriver and give it a quick tap: he rips the wall out and replaces it with shoddier material, but flaked in fake gold.

            No amount of money for a wall is appropriate: it is a phenomenally bad policy.  Money for “border security” – excluding a wall – would be a suitable fudge that might lead to compromise.  It is overspending on what is largely a non-problem, but it does less damage overall.

            • Trip says:

              Trump wanted to show that he wasn’t negotiating. That was the point of this theater of the absurd.  He can talk about campaign promises all he wants, but then he’d have to get Mexico to pay for it, not the US, which was his promise. The wall is a terrible idea on so many levels, including harm to wildlife, never mind the financial cost.

  40. Willis Warren says:

    Reading the Flynn memo from today… I can’t help but thinking something is off. The memo describes him as jockular when lying to the FBI.   Was he unaware he was under investigation?  did he not know he committed a crime?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Michael Flynn is a highly-trained special forces officer and counter-terrorism expert.  Any time he went to work, he risked capture, interrogation, and torture.  Passing his training required that he remain alert and be effective under high stress and immense pressure, and that he be a competent and convincing liar.

      • BobCon says:

        I don’t think it even rises to the level of special training. FBI agents can only pick up the most obvious warning signs, and even then there are tons of false positives and false negatives. Agents see no obvious signs of lying all the time when talking to liars, just as they see obvious signs of lying when talking to truth tellers.

  41. Trip says:

    Where is the Flynn memo online? I caught the end of Maddow saying something to the effect of that the FBI tricked him. Is it true that he said that?

    • Trip says:

      It’s what Willis said, that he didn’t know it was a crime to lie to the FBI and then he named the specific agents who, of course, are the ones the entire rightwing has been hysterical about.

      Mike Flynn is such a sleazeball. Who was that message for? Not the judge.

      Editing to add: Thanks again Alan.

      • Trip says:

        Bullshit on his contrition. He’s sorry he got caught and is blaming the FBI for his lies. I don’t care how much he helped Mueller. Obviously he is a repeat offender of, if not laws, then norms. I wonder if they knew he was going to pull this stunt in his memo.

        You don’t lie unless you have something to hide.

      • P J Evans says:

        178 pages of “why I should get a break”? Throw a heavier book at him, he didn’t get the message the first time.

        • Trip says:

          Someone last night kind of defended it (I had it on in the background, wasn’t watching, so I don’t know who). They said it was written to differentiate between Flynn and others who were warned against lying to the FBI. (Aside: is the FBI required to mirandize like police?) They mentioned the judge had an independent streak, and so was not guaranteed to accept the prosecutor’s or defense’s recommendations for sentencing, hence the ridiculous massive memo putting polish on Flynn. Still, I’m not sure it was necessary to include that the agents were eventually under investigation (because it seemed to me, at least, that that aspect was, to some degree, political retribution for investigating Trump at all).

          But I will add that Flynn has always rubbed me the wrong way. He’s an arrogant little fucker, so maybe my reaction was overwrought?

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            The FBI are the federal police and communications with them can lead to criminal liability.  So, yes, the Bureau is required to give a Miranda warning.  Exactly when that requirement is triggered in an interview, I’ll leave to bmaz.

            • Alan says:

              Miranda warnings are only required for custodial interrogations, i.e., after a suspect has been arrested or taken into custody.  They are generally given immediately after arrest. It is not uncommon for police to try to question a suspect and get information or admissions before they arrest them and give Miranda warnings.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            An interviewee can ask for a lawyer or retract a waiver at any time.

            Other than giving the most routine interview as a witness, it is good practice to have a lawyer present during questioning.  The storyline that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide and do not need a lawyer, is demonstrably false.  It is a screenwriter’s plot device that simplifies the throughline and focuses attention on the hero interrogator.

            Remember, law enforcement personnel can lie to you at will and without penalty. If you lie to them, it is a felony. They manipulate the circumstances that trigger a Miranda warning, to extend the questioning without a lawyer present.

            Do not rely on a their response to the question, “Do I need a lawyer?” If you feel the need to ask the question, the answer is yes.

            • Trip says:

              I completely agree @earl. I would be terrified to talk to investigators alone, even if I’d done nothing wrong.

              On the other hand, Flynn knew that he was lying, but the lying wasn’t even the gist of it. They were working out sanctions for what appeared to be quid pro quo. Flynn was considering extraordinary rendition for a US resident. He was writing op-eds about Turkey without informing about his lobbying. Further, although ‘politics is politics’, he toured the US chanting “lock her up”, while campaigning, about a person who wasn’t charged with any crime. So his indignation about the “fairness” of being questioned without warnings is a bit rich in irony.

                • Trip says:

                  Between Flynn and John Kelly, maybe now we can move on beyond the propaganda that being a general in the military guarantees integrity and honor.

  42. David Byron says:

    Can someone explain this?  The prosecution is claiming that the money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels was his own money and not money that he was spending on behalf of his client?  They have to say that because it’s not illegal for Trump to spend money without limit on his own campaign (and also because they need to charge Cohen with the crime as the president can’t be indicted).

    So…… I mean that’s not true is it?  If a lawyer spends money on a service for their client and gets reimbursed in the normal way that’s not a gift to their client or the campaign.  It just seems like the prosecutors are lying to the court here and presumably forcing the witness (Cohen) to lie and make a false confession?

    Are we all supposed to just believe that Cohen just donated $130,000 to his boss with no thought of repayment?

    Their story doesn’t make sense to me.  I assume that if there had been an actual trial someone would have pointed this out but because Cohen pleads guilty these facts are not contested in court.  But nobody believes it do they?

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, people, including the prosecutors and court do indeed believe this. He spent his own money and was then directly reimbursed by Trump Co. afterward all as directed by Trump. Those are the facts, please try to keep up.

      • David Byron says:

        Yeah that’s not a gift or donation then, is it?  If the client is billed for the service then it’s not a gift.  OK I guess you don’t understand what I am asking.  Maybe someone else can explain it.

        • Trip says:

          If Trump had paid Daniels off directly it would have been legal, but then he would have had to declare it, which would have defeated the purpose of paying to shut her up and keeping the story killed.

          Cohen fraudulently took out a loan to pay Daniels, and then set up an LLC to launder the payment through to her. He exceeded the amount permissible by law for campaign donations.

          • David Byron says:

            So you are supporting the legal fiction that a personal lawyer making a billed expense is really giving a gift to their client?

            Let me ask you this then.  If a campaign hires a hall for a meeting and the cost is $2800 is that also a breach of campaign finance law in your mind?  It’s a donation by the owner of the hall, right?  In your mind it doesn’t matter that the $2800 will be billed?  it’s still a donation and therefore illegal?

            To me this all seems a nonsense and clearly the prosecutors have just lied to the court, lied to the public, and forced a witness to lie and make a false confession.  I assume this I illegal even in the USA.  The motivation for it seems pretty clear.  I am asking if this logic is wrong in some way but from the answer you have both given it seems you don’t have anything to suggest I have missed something.

            Your other remarks here are irrelevant are they not? (“he would have had to declare it”,  “fraudulently took out a loan”) They don’t make a difference to the simple question did Cohen genuinely give money (or in kind services) to the campaign expecting no reimbursement?


            ETA: do you think Stormy Daniels broke the law too by giving $130,000 in services to the Trump campaign?

            • Trip says:

              “Let me ask you this then. If a campaign hires a hall for a meeting and the cost is $2800 is that also a breach of campaign finance law in your mind? It’s a donation by the owner of the hall, right? In your mind it doesn’t matter that the $2800 will be billed? it’s still a donation and therefore illegal?”

              This is a ridiculous example, but the campaign can spend the money. THE CAMPAIGN, and they would have to declare/account for that expense. The campaign would need to directly pay the hall. Not hide the expense through a third party and an LLC.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              As Trip also tries to explain, you need a better example.

              The campaign is entitled – indeed, obligated – to obtain goods and services by paying market value for them.  It can accept donations, too, except from non-US nationals.  These must be accounted for and be within the limits allowed by the rules.

              The payments to Daniels and McDougal are illegal.  They are election-related because they were paid to keep quiet witnesses to unlawful or embarrassing conduct alleged on the part of the GOP nominee for president.

              Had Trump or his campaign paid and accounted for them, they might have been legal.  Having others pay for them – Cohen, Trump’s business – made them contributions in kind that were not accounted for and disclosed.  That made them illegal.

              The elaborateness of the payment methods is strong evidence of knowing deception and wrongful intent.  Any lies about them to law enforcement officials added to the illegal conduct.

              This is not a case where Donald Trump can legitimately contend that these actions are private or routine, they can’t be undone or disclosed later with a mea culpa which might excuse Trump from penalties.

              Nor were they open and notorious conduct, which Trump might argue negated any failure to disclose.  Trump and his associates went to great lengths to hide and to lie about them.  At this point, they are crimes.

              • David Byron says:

                “Having others pay for them – Cohen, Trump’s business – made them contributions in kind that were not accounted for and disclosed.  That made them illegal.”

                So you think that if you buy goods or services from someone, that purchase is a gift?  That’s nonsense.  Look I can’t help you if that’s what you believe but it’s not true.  There’s a difference between a gift and a purchase and it is based on whether you exchange money for the item in a contract or whether you get the item free and clear without any transaction.  It’s not based on whether the money or item is exchange by someone or a series of intermediaries on your behalf.

                And if you really did believe this then almost any purchase of goods or services would count as a campaign contribution, as well as that Stormy Daniels herself would have to be counted as making an illegal campaign contribution for example.  I assume you are being inconsistent about your beliefs here but I don’t get the impression you can articulate why you think it’s a donation sometimes and a service at other times.  at least if you could do that it would be a start.




        • bmaz says:

          Um, no, what you “are asking”, and in the way you phrased it, is silly. Perhaps you would like to re-enter with cleaner and better questions. Thanks.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yes, it is a campaign contribution.

          This was not a private transaction by a corporate CEO to avoid a divorce, a higher divorce settlement, or a cut in his company’s stock price, which would hit him in the pocketbook.  That’s the characterization Trump and his supporters have latched on in his defense.

          The payment was hush money paid by the GOP nominee for president.  It was made by the GOP nominee to promote his chances of winning by keeping embarrassing news out of print before the election.  That makes it election-related, and wrongful for Cohen and wrongful for the Trump Org, which reimbursed him.

          The Trump Org was also wrong in characterizing the payment to Cohen as “legal services.”  That wasn’t the purpose of the payment.  The form of the payment demonstrates wrongful intent, in part, because it was structured to appear unrelated to its purpose.

          Like the Trump Foundation, the Trump Org is Donald Trump.  In these matters, he is a micro-manager.  He approved the payment and its form, including the strange need for Cohen to get a bank loan for a relatively small amount of money, an act that only increased everyone’s legal, accounting, and tax exposure.  Ironically, given the purpose of the hush money, the bank loan part of the process dramatically increased the odds of the transaction becoming known.

          Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer, he was a longtime employee and admitted “fixer” for him.  There’s no distance between them on this and similar issues that Trump can legitimately hide behind.

          Importantly, this is only one of possibly scores of deals that the same people probably engaged in for the same purposes.

          • David Byron says:

            Do you know most of what you said is irrelevant to the question?  That you said it anyway makes me think you might be very confused about what I am asking here.  it’s real simple.  The prosecution is saying that Cohen made a gift to the campaign.  I am saying that’s ridiculous and in fact we know it’s false even based on their own evidence because we know Trump was repaying the “gift” which therefore is not a gift. Can you address just that please?

            “The payment was hush money paid by the GOP nominee for president”

            I agree and therefore it was not a gift by Cohen.  Therefore the prosecution lied to the court.  You appear to agree here.

            “…the Trump Org, which reimbursed him”

            Again I agree.  Cohen was reimbursed and therefore it was no gift.  Therefore the prosecution lied.  if it’s not a gift then it can’t be a gift in excess of $2700 obviously.

            Although you agree with me on all the facts I think you’re saying that Cohen made a gift to the campaign anyway, right? Presumably for no other reason than you want to avoid the conclusion that the prosecution lied to the court and forced the witness to lie and make a false confession and are guilty of obstruction of justice and a bunch of other related crimes I would guess.

            Is there any way you can address the apparent contradiction in what you believe?

            • Alan says:

              So you are suggesting that if President Trump testifies honestly about the payments, we’ll find that no laws were broken and this will all go away?  If so, I’d like to see that.

              One problem with your version of the facts however is that is not how the parties accounted for the payments.  The parties accounted for the payments as two corporations paying two women for their silence, and in a completely unrelated transaction (according to how the parties accounted for the payments), the Trump Organization paid Cohen a monthly retainer for legal services. Under the law, the payments from the two corporation to the two women were illegal (and unaccounted for) campaign contributions.

              The parties specifically did not account for the payments in the way you are claiming (Cohen personally loaned Trump some money, which Trump personally repaid).  But if that’s what you think happened, I would very much like to hear Trump testify to those facts.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Appearance and reality are not often the same thing.  It’s one reason Donald Trump lies so much.

              • David Byron says:

                If that was the prosecutions case then Cohen would not be charged with making a donation would he?

                “The parties specifically did not account for the payments in the way you are claiming”

                That’s what they said in court, yes.  Cohen confessed to an illegal campaign contribution so far as I understand it.  From himself.  A gift to the campaign.

                Is that not correct?

                • Alan says:

                  Cohen pled guilty to willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution–but you shouldn’t need me to tell you that, you can and should read the documents for yourself, which you clearly have not done, and are instead repeating misinformation that you heard somewhere.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              You cannot always collapse multiple transactions.  They often have to stand on their own, as separate transactions, with separate legal, tax and accounting consequences.

              The short version is that either Cohen, the Trump Org or both made payments for the benefit of Trump and his campaign.  These were not properly disclosed or accounted for, nor presumably did they receive proper tax treatment.

              Consequently, the campaign contributions were illegal.  They way the payments were made, structured and accounted for most likely generated other crimes.

              • Trip says:

                You have the patience of a saint. This person is not trying to gain a greater understanding, but rather is regurgitating a fallacious argument ad nauseam so that Trump is not implicated in any crime. The tone is clear.

              • David Byron says:

                You are just washing your hands and saying oh the details don’t matter it doesn’t matter if the prosecution lied.

                “You cannot always collapse multiple transactions”

                But you can in this case.  That’s true even if Cohen wasn’t Trump’s personal lawyer.  In fact it would probably be illegal to try to argue that Cohen made a donation.  If it was legal anyone could evade campaign finance law by paying people to make campaign donations for them.  If the donation counts as donated by the paid agent then you could donate a million dollars simply by finding 400 people to donate $2500 for you.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  There’s such a thing as willful ignorance.  Your comments beautifully demonstrate the concept.

  43. Alan says:

    Trump hs moved the goalposts again. He’s now on to the “advice of counsel” defense.

    “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……”

    “….stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not…”

    “….guilty even on a civil basis. Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Obviously not written by Trump, probably dictated by him but vastly improved in the editing.

      I like the last bit.  If these were the charges Mickey pled to, what worse ones were out there that neither he nor prosecutors wanted yet to put on the public record?

    • Alan says:

      P.P.S., I’m also very interested to know when Trump formed the belief that campaign finance matters could simply be resolved by paying a fine.  Because that to me shows consciousness of guilt.  My theory is that Trump knew it was wrong, but he thought the consequences of getting caught would be fairly minor, so he was willing to take the risk.  But being wrong about the consequences is not a defense–if you take the risk and end up being wrong about the consequences, you have to pay what’s due, not what you thought you would owe.

      • Trip says:

        Plus, he originally denied knowing anything about it, remember? He was forced to fess up after the tape was released. Initially, this was something he didn’t rubber stamp (according to him). If he wanted to make a clean payment, at that time, he could have. But then the muckrakers would have dug it up and aired it before the election.

    • David Byron says:

      That all seems to be true.  But I am guessing the reaction here will be that it doesn’t matter if it’s true because it’s not “truthy”.  That facts don’t matter only the end conclusion (“Trump bad man”) matters.  This sort of reaction reflects badly on you because it makes you look partisan and corrupt in an “ends justify the means” way.  It makes you look like you’d support criminal and corrupt charges and investigations as long as they simply hurt Trump.

      Don’t you see that?

      • Alan says:

        I favor an investigation because Trump has repeatedly and consistently lied and covered up.  If no crime occurred, that’s fine, and if one has, the perpetrators should face justice. But first we need the real facts and we need the truth–not a bunch of shifting stories and repeated lies.

        • David Byron says:

          “If no crime occurred, that’s fine”

          Legitimate criminal investigations start with a crime and find who did it.  Not the other way around.  You don’t understand how the very words you use condemn you as partisan.

          Can you not see this?  What if the cops decided to investigate you one day and just ask around until they found some dirt to stick on you or a member of your family?  That is abuse.  Pretend it was anyone but Trump and you’ll see I am right.

          Quit letting Donal Trump and the Deep State’s fight with each other suck your brains out.  There’s no good guy side here.  You don’t have to pick a side in this.

          • Alan says:

            No, you are wrong (again). Legitimate investigations start with something that looks suspicions, and try to determine if it was a crime, and if so, try to determine who did it and whether it can be proven. That’s exactly the progression we are seeing in this investigation.

            • Trip says:

              “Deep State”

              John Edwards was indicted for the same. Was the “deep state” after him? He wasn’t convicted because he probably had better excuses: in that his campaign was going in the shitter anyhow, he was paying for prenatal care, and didn’t want his dying wife to know about the affair. This also happened before he was the candidate in the general election, in the primaries.

              Trump and Cohen, in earnest, looked to kill the Stormy Daniels story because it came on the heels of the “grabbing pussy” tape and it was right before a general election. Further, Rudy Giuliani said outright that the payoff was made because it would have effected the election. As far as Trump’s excuse that he was trying to protect Melania, she’s still with him, knew he was a cheater when she married him, so that doesn’t pass the sniff test either.

              I think I’m done, once someone goes on the pick the deep state or Trump argument.

              • David Byron says:

                Oh please.  Now you’re trying to be cute.  Deep State, Washington Insiders, “Steady State”, “permanent” state, Military Industrial Complex, it doesn’t matter what you call it.  As Senator Reid said on live TV before retiring “the security agencies have seven ways from Sunday of getting back at you”.

                The FBI and CIA have run constant operations to undermine democracy both domestically and internationally.  I am sure you know many of the names of the operations that have been revealed eventually under FOIA or by commissions like the Church Commission.

                I’m done with you.  Once someone starts pretending the CIA and FBI are innocent as babes they have gone off a cliff they don’t come back from easily.  I remind you that you’re the one pushing a crazy conspiracy theory here about how Trump is some sort of Russian agent, as pushed by the same outfit that tried to kill Martin Luther King by blackmailing him.

                Well done.  You are known by who you associate with.

            • David Byron says:

              “Legitimate investigations start with something that looks suspicions”

              That’s what I said.  They start with a crime.  Of course you don’t have to have definite proof before you can look for proof but you have to have a reasonable suspicion about a specific crime.

              This investigation was supposed to be about Russians rigging the election.  From the very start it picked Trump as the criminal and investigated only him.  That from the very start was good evidence it was corrupt.

              A legitimate investigation starts with a crime and finds a criminal this one started with a “criminal” and is still trying to find a crime.  You’re embarrassing yourself by supporting corrupt crap.  And why?  because you hate Trump?  You think the rest are any better?

              • Alan says:

                You came here with the agenda of trying to delegitimize the investigation.  But you have only proven the opposite and embarrassed yourself.

    • Trip says:

      He doesn’t believe any of that. It’s just more nonsense theater to satisfy the cult about campaign promises. Then the Fox Propaganda channel can repeat his quote as if it’s fact.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Then there’s that Trump wants a budget, but has no plan for how to spend it or what to spend it on.  National Security!  QED.  That behavior would quickly get a lowly line manager canned, let alone the smartest, wisest, most gifted bidnessman on the planet.

      At this point, the curtain is threadbare and falling down around the fat gnome trying to pull levers, who no longer knows what they do.  He just wants the levers in his tiny little hands.

  44. David Byron says:

    It seems like nobody here wants to say that I am wrong about the facts of the case but only the conclusion.  This is quite disturbing.  I came here to ask if perhaps my understanding of the case was wrong.  Maybe the media simply misreported the facts.  Maybe Cohen did not in fact plead guilty to making a campaign contribution in excess of $2700.  Maybe he was charged but on the basis of some other money and not the $130,000 pay-off to Stormy.  Or maybe some other detail was wrong.

    But nobody here has said that.  It seems to be agreed then that Cohen really did lie and falsely confess to making a donation (in-kind) to the Trump campaign of $130,000 (over the $2700 limit) by arranging to pay off Stormy Daniels.  However we know he was expecting to be reimbursed and so this is a lie.  That’s a fact.  And it’s a fact nobody here appears to disagree with so far as I can see.  Fact: Cohen knew he would be reimbursed.  Fact: that means he didn’t donate to the campaign himself.  Fact: he lied to the court.

    That’s all I am asking about.  Many here seem to take any questioning of the Mueller narrative as an attempt to vindicate Trump.  But in fact if you were wise you’d be all over this because any sign that the mast you’ve nailed your colors to is corrupt, reflects badly on you.  This should be something bothering you but it plainly isn’t.  That’s disturbing.

    All the people answering me said something along the lines of “Who cares because Trump’s guilty anyway because of XYZ”.  I am not going to argue XYZ.  I only want to know if you think Cohen really intended the $130,000 as a free and clear gift to the campaign or not.

    This is a problem and you’re simply ignoring it.  It looks to me that the prosecution corruptly forced a witness to lie, lied themselves and forced a false confession here.  That’s true regardless of whether you think Trump is a Russian agent or whatever it is you want to believe.  I don’t care about that.  Because if this is true and right now I don’t know of any argument or interpretation of the law that would tend to suggest that it isn’t true, then this more or less blackens the entire Mueller investigation even despite this case being the one case Mueller subcontracted as it were.

    Now I am trying to be as clear as I can be here.  I don’t want to hear from anyone about how Trump’s guilty anyway, or an insulting dismissal that I must be a Trump supporter if I am asking these questions.  I only want to hear from people who can tell me that my impression of the facts from the media is false.  Namely that Cohen did NOT in fact plead guilty to making a big campaign donation or that he did but it was NOT the $130,000 thing.  Or maybe some other weird reason that means he didn’t really claim two opposite things.

    I am asking a very narrow question here.  Don’t get on your soap boxes.

    • Alan says:

      I’m going to repeat the reply I posted above: Cohen pled guilty to willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution. The facts are laid out in the docs, and they are consistent with the charge to which Cohen pled guilty. You should go read the docs for yourself, which you clearly have not done, instead of repeating misinformation that you heard somewhere.

      • David Byron says:

        ” Cohen pled guilty to willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution”

        That’s over the media company, not the Storm Daniels thing.  I mean the media company charge seems even more obviously a lie because they are saying the company itself made the “donation” which they expected payment for.  That’s even crazier than the Stormy case in my opinion but I’m asking about the Stormy one because it’s a cleaner / simpler case. OK?

        The media company was simply providing a service to the campaign for money no different from if they had rented a hall.  Saying it was a gift is a lie.  Do you disagree and if so why?

        But because it’s simpler I’ve only asked about the Stormy Daniels pay off up until now.

        Do you have a link to these documents and save me Googling for them? They don’t make it easy to find that stuff half the time.

        • Alan says:

          The Stormy Daniels payoff was just as much an unlawful corporate contribution–Cohen arranged the payment from a corporation, and his “reimbursement” (even if it can be fairly characterized as that), came in the form of payment for his personal services from another corporation, specifically The Trump Organization. So it was a corporate contribution no matter how you slice it.

          Regardless, the facts to which Cohen pled are laid out in the documents that you have still not read.  If Trump disagrees with those facts, he can and should testify himself under oath and let a jury decide.

          This discussion IMO is over–I have better things to do with my time than debate your misinformation.

        • Trip says:

          The media company was providing assistance to the campaign via the value of burying a harmful story and with costs associated with that story remaining buried. A corporation can not donate to a person in campaign law. The campaign did not pay the media company. M Cohen did. And even if it was a loan from the Trump Org, he facilitated an unlawful payment by a corporation. If the campaign had paid both women directly, that would be legal, but then they would have had to declare it. M Cohen made payments with loans or his own money. Whether he expected reimbursement or not, he shelled it out. Further, if he shelled it out expecting reimbursement from a corporation NOT THE CAMPAIGN, and whether he received reimbursement or not, the donations were illegal. The amount exceeded what an individual could donate of value to a campaign, and/or a corporation can not donate to an individual candidate and hide it through intermediaries.

          The campaign did NOT pay for any of these cover-ups and that’s what you don’t seem to comprehend. They didn’t “rent a table”. They got the value of a hotel by M Cohen donating money to another party/parties so that there wouldn’t have to be an accounting of the expenses by the campaign.

          Not one person has said, “Trump’s guilty anyway” to you. You are pulling quotes out of the air.

          • David Byron says:

            Count 7 again.  Media company was repaid so it’s not a gift.  If you’re seriously saying that Cohen should not be considered an agent of the campaign for these purposes then you’re claiming, once again, that Cohen made a gift to the campaign but we know he was to be reimbursed too.  You’re just chasing your tail here.

            “If the campaign had paid both women directly, that would be legal”

            This is to suggest that a simple transaction becomes a gift due only to how many people are in the chain.  Clearly that’s not true.  If I buy you a truck expecting repayment then it’s not a gift.  If the money gets to me through your brother it changes nothing.  If it goes through a million people it changes nothing.  I’m still just acting as your agent to get you a truck that you end up paying for.

            I honestly cannot even tell if you disagree or not.

            “but then they would have had to declare it”

            False.  They had to declare it either way.  I know why you pretended otherwise of course.  Because what you are saying is that Trump deliberately went out of his way to technically violate the law when he had absolutely no reason or benefit to doing so.  Which makes your case look ridiculous.  So you’re trying to find a rationale for why he’d do this.   But it’s irrelevant anyway.   This is a narrow question.  I don’t care.  Maybe Trump’s just stupid about the law (which bolsters his case that it’s all Cohen’s fault of course).

            “M Cohen made payments with loans or his own money”


            “Whether he expected reimbursement or not, he shelled it out”

            Relevance?  So what?  He wasn’t ultimately paying the bill.  That’s what matters to whether something is a gift or a billable service provided.  Presumably he had some furtive motive for all the messing around with shell companies but again, so what?  Paying off mistresses is an inherently furtive assignment.  And even if that wasn’t the case again, so what?  The law doesn’t say secretive donations are bad but public donations are fine.

            “if he shelled it out expecting reimbursement from a corporation NOT THE CAMPAIGN”

            The money in the shell company came from the campaign didn’t it?  Actually for Stormy I think it came from Cohen.  It’s a bit confusing but the basic point remains clear: at the end of the day Trump paid.

            “whether he received reimbursement or not, the donations were illegal”

            They were not “donations” at all if he was reimbursed.  A gift is something you don’t receive something in exchange for.  Are you disagreeing with that?  I can’t even tell what you are thinking because your position is so ad hoc, nonsensical and convoluted.  This is why I am asking questions like “Is it illegal to rent out a hall?”  “Was Stormy Daniels also making a campaign contribution?”  I honestly don’t know what you think the answers are.

            “The amount exceeded what an individual could donate”

            We agree.  We disagree that it was a donation at all.  because he was reimbursed.  I am saying a good or service that you are paid for is a transaction not a gift.  I have no idea what your logic is.  No idea at all.  Do you think all transactions are gifts?  For the purposes of the FEC anyway?

            “The campaign did NOT pay”

            The prosecution said that they did.  Or at least that was the agreement.  I admit I don’t know if Trump later tried to stiff them (apparently he has a bad rep for not paying his bills).

            Do you think an unpaid bill constitutes a campaign contribution?  I do not.  I don’t know what you think because you’re position is completely crazy.  To me whether the bill is paid or not is a separate civil matter with no bearing on campaign finance law.

            “They didn’t “rent a table”. They got the value of a hotel by M Cohen donating money to…”

            Once again there’s no donation because a gift is something you don’t get anything back for.  If you make a “gift” with the understanding of a goods or service reward that’s a transaction not a donation.

            Now this is why I am asking you if you think renting a hall is a campaign donation by the owner of a hall.  because it really really sounds like that’s what you’re saying — but only for cases involving Donald Trump of course.  That’s why you sound so ad-hoc.  This is the problem don’t you see?

            Please tell me you at least comprehend the problem even if you can’t explain why you disagree?

            • Trip says:

              NO. The money which paid Cohen back was from the Trump Organization, a corporation, NOT THE CAMPAIGN. I don’t know how to explain it to you any other way. You are talking yourself in circles. Cohen used his own money (a loan) for the shell corporation to make payment. Then he was later paid by the Trump Organization. Really, he probably should have been charged with conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud (because he, Trump and Pecker were hiding the sources of not only the money, the amounts, but also the purpose of the payments), however maybe since he cooperated they charged him with a lesser crime that would have a lower penalty associated with it.

              • David Byron says:

                It’s irrelevant where the money came from.  Irrelevant to the question I am asking which might i remind you is very narrow, namely, was this money a donation (a gift free and clear) by Cohen or was it something he was reimbursed for?

                “Really, he probably should have been charged with….”

                This seems to be you admitting you don’t think the prosecutions case makes sense either.  Great! Now you’re seeing what I mean.

                “maybe since he cooperated they charged him with a lesser crime”

                YES but that’s ILLEGAL if it involves lying to the court.  They are under oath when they make these plea deals.   Of course this is what they did but with the extra element that they wanted to substitute with a crime that implicates the president.  They wanted a court transcript with a “finding of fact” to have something implicating the president so they told Cohen to lie.

                • Trip says:

                  But he didn’t lie, because part of the conspiracy was that he did put money out, which was his own, and exceeded the legal amount. I think they charged him with the lesser of two crimes. Not that the crime he pled to was a “lie”.

                  • David Byron says:

                    Was it a campaign gift (free and clear) or was he expecting to be reimbursed would you say?

                    Come on dude.  This isn’t rocket science.  Was Cohen expecting to be reimbursed or was he making a free and clear donation?


                    If I buy you a car and you’re to repay me, does it make any difference who’s cash I hand over to buy the car? Either way I’m not giving you the car. Either way you’re paying. So why do you think it makes a difference with Cohen? Can you explain?

                    Do you honestly think that if I buy you a car using my cash and then you are to repay me with your cash that situation is me making a gift to you of a car?

                    • Alan says:

                      You really have no clue about the facts or the law and you are just making things up. What made it unlawful is the the amount came out of corporate coffers. If it had come out of the campaign coffers and been properly accounted for, it would have been ok. But it didn’t, and that’s what made it unlawful. See 51 USC 30118(b)(2): “the term “contribution or expenditure” includes a contribution or expenditure, as those terms are defined in section 30101 of this title, and also includes any direct or indirect payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money, or any services, or anything of value (except a loan of money by a national or State bank made in accordance with the applicable banking laws and regulations and in the ordinary course of business) to any candidate”

            • Alan says:

              You still don’t have the basic facts right.  The media company was never repaid (and even if it had been, that wouldn’t change anything).

      • Alan says:

        P.S., If that’s Trump’s argument, that there was no crime because the facts are what you state above, then he should testify to those facts under oath and let the chips fall where they may, instead of consistently lying, covering up and obstructing justice.

        • David Byron says:

          I direct you to where I said,

          “Now I am trying to be as clear as I can be here.  I don’t want to hear from anyone about how Trump’s guilty anyway, or an insulting dismissal that I must be a Trump supporter if I am asking these questions. “

  45. Trip says:

    Donald Trump Played Central Role in Hush Payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal
    Federal prosecutors have gathered evidence of president’s participation in transactions that violated campaign-finance laws

    What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.
    Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump…The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.

  46. David Byron says:

    “See 51 USC 30118(b)(2): “the term “contribution or expenditure” includes a contribution or expenditure, as those terms are defined in section 30101 of this title, and also includes any direct or indirect payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money, or any services, or anything of value”

    So you DO think that renting a hall is a breach of campaign finance laws?  You’ve changed your mind now (and yes I’ve read that subsection too, smarty pants).  Honestly it’s become clear you have no idea what you’re talking about, which is fine I guess, and you don’t really have any clear conception of what you believe here.  That’s fine but I was hoping I’d fine someone with some knowledge.

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