Compromise: Sally Yates’ Warning about Vulnerability to Blackmail Applied to Trump Even More than Mike Flynn

Given the news that the FBI opened a Counterintelligence investigation into Trump in the week after he fired Jim Comey on May 9, 2017 (CNN’s account is actually far more useful than NYT’s), I want to look at part of what Sally Yates testified — the day before Trump fired Jim Comey — that she told Don McGahn when she let him know that Mike Flynn had lied to the public and the FBI about what he said to Sergei Kislyak on December 29, 2016.

Effectively, Yates laid out how, because the Russians would have known that Flynn had lied, it would be easy to blackmail him.

[W]e were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren’t the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.

At the time she delivered these comments to McGahn in January 2017, Yates would have known only that Flynn had lied.

Even at the time she testified about the exchange with McGahn in May, neither she nor the FBI would yet have had tangible evidence that Flynn had been acting on Trump’s orders when he told Kislyak to hold off on responding to sanctions. Likewise, neither she nor the FBI knew at the time that Trump’s spawn had, the summer before, agreed to consider lifting sanctions if his dad got elected. Neither Yates nor the FBI would have known that the Russians were offering a Trump Tower deal and dirt on Hillary Clinton to induce Don Jr to commit to revisit sanctions. And, neither Yates nor the FBI would have known that Don McGahn had written up a misleading report justifying the firing of Mike Flynn (who, after all, had only done what he had been ordered), that directly conflicted with Yates’ account of the conversation.

For all those reasons, Yates would not have known that this theory — that covering up the Tower-for-sanctions quid pro quo, the commitment to deliver on sanctions relief, and the bogus reason for firing Mike Flynn made a person susceptible to blackmail — actually applied to Trump, not (just) Flynn. Indeed, for a variety of reasons Trump was more susceptible to blackmail than Flynn, because Flynn had just been doing what he was told, didn’t have a prior bribe to hide, and might expect a pardon if he successfully protected the President.

Indeed, Yates would not know how, from the moment David Ignatius revealed that the FBI had discovered the transcripts of Flynn’s conversations with Sergei Kislyak, the Russians would have had Trump by the nuts. All the more so given that the FBI also had a transcript of Kislyak explicitly informing Flynn that Putin had based his response to Obama’s sanctions on December 30, 2016 on Flynn’s assurances about sanctions. Putin, that old KGB hand, made sure there was a record of the Russians making it clear that their response was entirely premised on whatever promises Flynn had made (at Trump’s direction).

From the moment the Russians learned the FBI had found those transcripts, Trump would have had to prevent the FBI from discovering that he had ordered Flynn to make those comments, and had ordered him to do so to pay off his election debt.

From that moment forward, Trump would be stuck committing one after another act of obstruction in an attempt to prevent the FBI from discovering the full truth. Each of those acts would put him deeper in the hole, because each time he engaged in obstruction, the Russians would measure his increasing vulnerability.

Almost a month before he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, Donald Trump clandestinely took an action to undercut the official policy of America’s President. From that moment forward, he had as much at stake as the Russians in thwarting the investigation into the election year operation.

And Putin has capitalized on that compromise ever since.

As I disclosed last 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. 

136 replies
  1. Steve Stockdale says:

    All of these ” would not have known” declarations … are you saying that based on the public record, or are you also suggesting that no one within the FBI could have known?

    • emptywheel says:

      Mueller obtained the Transition emails in August. That’s when he would have learned that Trump ordered this, contrary to what several witnesses had already said to the FBI.

      • viget says:


        Which begs the question for me at least, how did the NYT get the info regarding the June 9th meeting and Jr’s email, if Mueller himself didn’t know about these shenanigans until he got access to the transition team’s emails?

        Do we know who the NYT’s sources were for this?

        • MattyG says:

          I recall there was reporting in the days immediately following the NYT piece suggesting that  WH lawyering was involved with the release of meeting info. Jr’s email release was too patt – getting in front of something, etc. The line died soon after.

          • viget says:

            Could be, the sourcing in the article is “…confidential government records described to the NYT…” and “…interviews and documents which were outlined by people familiar with them”.  Wonder if Goldstone had already leaked to the NYT and they were threatening to run with it?

            It just doesn’t make sense.  That meeting is so crucial to understanding the whole Russian conspiracy for the election, why would someone on Team Trump tell the NYT about it?  What could they possibly have been trying to get out ahead of?

            • P J Evans says:

              They don’t want people to trust the media, so they might try to put out a story and then later claim it’s a lie. (It’s a WAG – but it fits with a lot of the previous stuff they’ve tried.)

            • MattyG says:

              The revelation smelled fishy at the time. My thought then was they hustled into damage control mode – maybe even altered by Russian confederates that the Feds were sniffing around – to make the TT meeting appear like a “typical Russian dangle operation” – a phase we started hearing a lot from that time on. The plan was to color the encounter as a sort of “first date” rather than indicative of a fairly advanced relationship. While it admitted a certain degree of bad acting, the Trump team was more able to cultivate the appearance of eager wide-eyed “hells yeah” innocence rather than cool criminality.

        • emptywheel says:

          FBI got the June 9 meeting stuff same time as Congress, in late June/July. NYT got emails probably from Kushner, but a copy that didn’t include Manafort’s side of things. I don’t rule out the Agalrovs leaking as well.

    • Cathy says:

      I remember a lot of Logan Act references when rumors of the foreign contacts started wafting into the public notice. Was that just an easy answer for the quick and dirty (shallow) analysis of the initially sketchy info on foreign contact? Any sign that someone with more detailed knowledge of the contacts considered Logan Act a sort of partial hangout – an attempt to channel speculation about the fishy activity into an obscure dead end by finding a convenient label that validated the fishiness (by admitting illegality) but dismissing it as so minor an infraction (violating a really wimpy and obscure statute), that it was silly to pursue.

      Apologies if this was discussed in earlier threads.

  2. Willis Warren says:

    Rudy is going all in on the “Mueller is leaking” bs, which pretty much convinces me I’m right that he’s the ultimate source for the NYT story that got out in front of the interpreter story…

  3. Steve McCarty says:

    But the peculiar syntax of Yates’ “the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done” could suggest that the underlying conduct involved Flynn’s colleagues up to the top, but it was too sensitive a matter with investigations going on for her imply it more than subtly. We do subtlety here in Japan all the time, so my antenna is up.

    • rip says:

      It may be a post-mortem. Both in terms of finality of the result and a “lessons learned” for future KGB agents and their targets.

      • Cathy says:

        Agreed. I keep reminding myself to view timelines of Russian engagement after the election with a premise that the election results were a surprise to everyone and probably required massive recalibration by all members of the winning coalition.

  4. Rapier says:

    Except not his party or his professional supporters nor his citizen supporters care. Their only care is that people in the government investigated it and have brought charges against some of the players.  In other words blackmail about the nut’s and bolts of altering Russia policy isn’t possible. Nobody in there gives a shit about it being known.  After all it’s probably right Trump nudged Pirro to ask about working for Russia just so he could not deny it, and so give a backhand hint he was. Proudly. It’s a feature not a bug to be seen working with Putin. Not Russia per say I might add.

    The Yates’ and Comey’s of the world might think working underhanded before the inauguration with Putin was something bad.  The courts might agree. Trump and the Party don’t. Even when it’s known they were doing it for personal gain. Don’t care.

  5. GusGus says:

    Let me preface this by saying that I believe that Trump conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. Having said that, let me key off

    [quote]Almost a month before he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, Donald Trump clandestinely took an action to undercut the official policy of America’s President.[/quote]

    As president, Donald Trump determines official policy. As president, Trump determines America’s national interest. Once he took office, if he wants to favor the Russians, that is his prerogative. With that, how can he be viewed as a Russian asset working against America’s interests when gets to determine America’s interests?

    I am not saying Trump is innocent here. What I am asking is that given the primacy the U.S. president is afforded in foreign affairs, under what grounds can Trump’s behavior [i]as president[/i] be challenged?

    • Pat says:

      The Constitution prohibits the President from accepting bribes, which are a thing of value given to the President in exchange for specific acts.

      • Alan says:

        IMO, it would also be bribery for a candidate for office to accept something of value in exchange for official actions if/when the candidate is elected.  In other words, a candidate can be bribes as well, not just an office holder, as long as the promised action will or would be an official action.

        I’m not sure if that has been tested in court, but I believe any reasonable court would agree because to hold otherwise would allow a huge loophole in the bribery laws (that a candidate can accept unlimited sums for promises of official action once elected, and then in fact take those actions with no legal repercussions, because at the time the money was taken and the promises of official action were made, the candidate had not yet been sworn into office).

        • bmaz says:

          Absolutely. But, as stated previously, it will have to be considered under the auspices of McDonnell and Skilling.

      • BobCon says:

        To expand on that, a president cannot engage in a constitutional act for corrupt purposes.

        For example, a president can almost nominate anyone they want to be Secretary of Treasury. But it is not legal to nominate someone in exchange for a bribe, or as part of a conspiracy to commit financial crimes.

    • Rayne says:

      As president, Donald Trump determines official policy. As president, Trump determines America’s national interest. Once he took office, if he wants to favor the Russians, that is his prerogative. …

      No. Trump’s compromise (after the bribe of Tower development and dirt on HRC made to him as a non-/pre-/candidate) came when he ordered Flynn to ask Kislyak as Russia’s representative to hold off on responding to sanctions.

      This happened when Trump was NOT president but president-elect. Neither Flynn nor Trump were authorized to negotiate with any foreign entity before Trump’s inauguration. We have only one president at a time, one foreign policy.

      And then Flynn lied about this.

      Secondly, Trump doesn’t get to do whatever he wants when it comes to foreign policy. He is the head of the executive branch, responsible for execution of laws. He may set tone and negotiate what he wants with his State Department and with Congress, but he can only execute the laws on the books (including approve and ratified treaties) and the legislation passed during his term by Congress.

      This includes the sanctions on Russia which had bipartisan support from Congress, led by a GOP majority. He could ask Congress to lift the sanctions upon his taking office but as you know the sanctions are still in force, though being picked away administratively by Steve Mnuchin in Treasury.

      Your questions are so ill-informed I suspect you’re trolling us. Do more homework. And read the Constitution, especially Article II Section 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur… and Section 3: he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed

      • dimmsdale says:

        I sense your exasperation here, Rayne, but want to thank you for answering the question so clearly. It’s easy enough for less than rigorous thinkers (like me) to lose sight of some of the fundamentals with so many moving parts of this shitshow, and it’s of great value to me to have ‘first principles’ restated now and then. Cheers!

  6. Pat says:

    Rapier makes the comment that none of Trump’s party, professional supporters or citizen base cares that he is a tool of Putin. That’s painting with a very broad brush. There are a surprisingly large number of people purely identify with the Republican party, and can accept that the leader of their party is being controlled by a foreign power. However, it’s a mistake to think that all of them do.

    Many Republicans are former or current military, or members of the military industrial complex community. Those are people that we can peel off of Trump’s coalition. A significant fraction of Republicans in the House and the Senate fall into this group.

    I think that reporters should be asking Tom Cotton how he feels about this. Every day.

    • BroD says:

      I think that’s right.  I know it’s frustrating that many in the GOP seem unfazed by Trump’s egregious behavior but the ice underneath him is getting thinner and thinner.

    • Drew says:

      There are, of course, already Never Trumpers. I know the chair of my church board out in California was a retired Lt. Col. who was livid at Trump & at the party for supporting him. He was and still is conservative, both self-described & in temperament & always thought of himself as Republican. However, he never had any truck with the Tea Party stuff or the kind of “evangelical” politics that forgets about compassion for the poor.

      Trump’s support is softening & eroding, since there still do exist  more conservative people who, at least, want to live with some self-respect.

      • Pat says:

        Another way to think about this is to look at the proportion of evangelicals in the population.  In 2014, 25% of Americans were evangelical (Pew Research Center).  In 2017, the Washington Post estimated evangelicals at 13% (they compared this number to their previous measurement in 2003, which was 21%).

        People are leaving the churches that promote fealty to Trump.

        • Drew says:

          I’m pretty sure that the 25% number included bunches of people that self-identified as evangelicals without darkening the door of a church. That’s an ideological position of supporting anything that keeps your in-group in power. Younger people are leaving evangelicalism in droves-the more pious become “exvangelical” & perhaps associated with more progressive churches of one sort or another, others fade away.
          There are still those who are 100% behind Trump and the grifty “evangelical leaders” (e.g. Falwell, Jr.). It comprises a significant electoral group, but not as overpowering as they would like everyone to believe.

        • P J Evans says:

          Those churches do better when they have congregations that are unfamiliar with the groups that are characterized as “those people”. Once members discover that the out-groups are not, in fact, all that different, I suspect they’re more likely to leave for less closed-minded groups.

  7. P J Evans says:

    Wasn’t Cotton one of the Moscow Seven? (He certainly tried to get around the State Department – and the laws – with his letter to Iran.)

    • chicago_bunny says:

      I think you are referring to the 8 Republicans who traveled to Moscow on July 4?  Here is the list:

      Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.)

      Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.)

      Sen. John Hoeven (N.D.)

      Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.)

      Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.)

      Sen. John Thune (S.D.) 

      Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.)

      Rep. Kay Granger (Tex.).


  8. Hops says:

    “[Trump] had ordered him to do so to pay off his election debt.”

    Given that Trump is famous for stiffing people, I would speculate Putin must have something else on Trump. Something further back. Probably the usual Russian tactic of using small compromising acts to leverage larger and larger ones so the prey sinks into the quicksand.

    • new-radical says:

      Trump has been financed by Moscow for three decades. I don’t mean bank loans like the dirty Deutsche Bank loans but the purchase of real estate with laundered money. This info is in the public domain and has been for years, as the spawn so proudly told us. But there is a price to pay… There was always going to be a price!

      I would be very surprised if the FBI had not also been watching his money laundering for years. But he was always a small fish, but high profile. Probably not worth the effort or the trouble. Many larger fish to fry in the corrupt world of NY real estate.

      But the successful move to politics took everyone by surprise including Trump. The moment he descended the escalator he opened the big ‘orange cupboard’ door to all his secrets and said come look inside.

      He is such an hubristic narcissist that he had no idea that was what he was doing. And once opened the cupboard could not be shut again. He is cornered like the rat on the sinking ship. There is no off ramp because there is no safe port of call. This is the point where we should all be fearful because he will lash out. The shutdown is evidence.

      I’m not at all sure Trump really cares about the wall. He is a sadist, I think he just enjoys the pain and terror that he can evoke to anyone he chooses. Nice…

      • BobCon says:

        The existence of other leverage is a suspicion I can’t shake, although if I think it’s far from proven.

        If it exists, I’m also unclear whether it is evidence of criminal activity or not. It may be the case that if Russians tried to shake down Trump with proof of financial crimes, his response would have been to laugh, because he’d be dead of old age before the lawyers got past square one with the case.

        It may be that the Russians simply know enough about his finances to topple his business if they release details of hidden debt and actual revenue Or maybe they have the ability to pull enough tenants from key properties to force Trump to sell.

        Probably knowing the chaos in his life, there isn’t a single pressure point, but I can’t do more than guess.

        • NorskieFlamethrower says:

          “It may be that the Russians simply know enough about his finances to topple his business…”

          Ya think??!!! The Russians own the Dumpster, he doesn’t even own his own toilet paper.

          • BobCon says:

            The reason I hesitate to be too sure is because it’s possible there is enough crooked money from other sources propping him up by now.

            If his empire is worth a billion or even significantly less, I can see how it might be worthwhile for someone to keep him afloat for a couple of years longer in order to keep the grift flowing.

            • NorskieFlamethrower says:

              I wonder, American oligarchs (see Mercer and the Kochs) finance and administer the larger political movement of which the Dumpster is a totem but they are very careful not to obligate or invest anything directly, that is left to the Russians and gives them a few degrees of separation. The Russians OWN the Dumpster.

  9. Rusharuse says:

    Soon Repo’s will be forced to admit their illegitimacy . . there’ll be no dill on that shit sandwich, you sockfuckers!

  10. HRHTish says:

    Is it actually publicly *known* that Trump ordered Flynn to converse with Kislyak and lie about it afterward?  Or is it only *deduced?*  I’m aware that Trump says “I didn’t order it, but I would have” or something to that affect.

      • Rayne says:

        Thanks for that.

        Please use the same login information each time you comment, especially username, so that community members get to know you. Thanks.

      • HRHTish says:

        Thank you for that link.  I did read it – – in fact I have it bookmarked from a few weeks ago when I decided to (someday) taunt the troll in the comments there. Of course by the time I have the goods the troll will likely have already moved on to other paid work.

        I was hoping that there was documentary proof somewhere, alas, because it would be case closed on obstruction.

        So, we wait.

        Mixed feelings about Barr. Knowing his background and loyalties, and how his previous agency feels about the current occupant of the WH, one would think he’s primed to do the right thing with the evidence in front of him.

  11. P J Evans says:

    Thanks! There’s been so much in the last six months that it’s easy to lose track of who did what.

        • Trip says:

          I asked because I couldn’t find chicago_bunny on this page. I didn’t know if s/he changed his/her name (hops: brewing or bunnies). But now looking upthread, I see it. (facepalms self)

          Never mind.

          • Hops says:

            There’s an allusion to my  fav beverage, but also short for the German word hopsgegangen, which translates into something like gone (gegangen) missing. The possible connect to bunny hopping didn’t register but I see that now…

  12. 200Toros says:

    So how long before GOP starts ramping up the rhetoric, already started I believe, that working for Russia and promoting Russian interests is well and good and proper? Any bets?

    “anybody would take that job”

    or maybe:

    “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Russia is America”….

      • oldoilfieldhand says:

        Of course the Russians are acceptable! For the dyed in the wool, racist, misogynist, bible quoting members of the storm trooper wannabe GOP, anyone, including Russians, who is white, is preferable to Democrats, who openly profess to accept and love all people, including brown, black and yellow citizens. Hell, the same die hard morons who enthusiastically filled the ranks of the TEA Party are largely the progeny of the infamous Yellow Dog Democrats. The primary motivation for turning their backs on a century of membership in the Democratic Party (that wrote and enforced Jim Crow laws) to become members of the once hated Republican party (who fought to free the slaves and destroy the South), was the purported belief that the GOP accepted the premise that the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) was fought for honor and state’s rights, and agreed with them that their sons and daughters shouldn’t have to go to school with anyone who didn’t have to spend hours at the country club pool or apply skin toner to acquire the semblance of a tan.

        Charter Schools began as Christian Schools, funded by racists who could afford to build and staff schools to bypass government regulations and keep their white children segregated from black children. The result was that the children of liberals and the poor whites attended public schools, integrated by law, while the privileged racists sent their children to private Christian academies.  Grifters figured out that the federal pool of money could be manipulated, siphoned off to fund for profit education, to support the segregation with the admission of a few token blacks, and besides, their football teams were not competitive without them.

        The old boy patriarchy that controls Southern politics is vast, steadfast in their  doctrine and deeply rooted in places few people would expect to find them. They will roll out a new party if the Republicans push too hard to accept more than a semblance of others in the big tent.

        • timbo says:

          No they didn’t.  The House just (obliquely) censored King R-IA.  The vote was 424-1.  And the one person who voted against that resolution wanted a tougher statement in the resolution.

          Not seeing any fractures there… the House is still not cottoning to your premise.  Maybe next week, maybe next month, but yesterday, it did not.

  13. Trip says:

    Thank you, Marcy, for covering the hearing. Once it turned to Grassley (and his incessant fist shaking at the moon), I could no longer watch. Grassley and Graham: bitch and moan. Although I don’t know who is bitch and who is moan.

    • rip says:

      My preferred saying is “Mitch and Bone”. Worked when Boner was House Leader but still applicable with Grassleyham.

  14. Mulder says:

    This is an excellent encapsulation. I really appreciate this reminders of the timelines. I only wish the title of the post was


  15. obsessed says:

    EW – It’s amazing to watch you evolve from a super smart expert writing in shorthand for others super smart experts into a media figure able to concentrate your thoughts into a riveting, compelling narrative. By that metric this may be your best piece yet. Thank you!

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      Is it just me or does Chris Hayes exhibit a bit of unease when he is conversing with Marcy? I’m aware of her episode of “bad language” but I wonder if the bosses upstairs have given Hayes the word that his ass is on the line with her.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        I think it’s more that EW has a command of the minutiae and narratives that’s often difficult to translate into the compressed of cablenews, especially when even a smart interlocutor like Hayes knows that it’s hard to keep up. I’d really like Hayes to invite Marcy to the WITH podcast to talk in broader terms about civil liberties, surveillance and hacking from state and quasi-state entities.

      • oldoilfieldhand says:

        I have admired Chris Hayes since I first read his articles in The Nation magazine and was pleased to see him promoted by Rachel Maddow, who was promoted by Keith Olbermann. Chris, like all of the MSNBC taking heads, is very intelligent and has an admirable grasp of current events.
        However, a star cannot be upstaged on air. Although Chris is likely an avid consumer of her work, I think he may be slightly intimidated by Marcy Wheeler’s genius. Who among us would not be?

        Marcy needs and deserves her own program.

  16. Trent says:

    @rusharuse – I can’t watch this, but has anyone asked Barr if he would support the “broadest pardon authority” in the Trump/Russia high crimes as he supported the Bush pardons in the Iran Contra scandal?

  17. Rusharuse says:

    Missed big chunks so don’t know. However, this guy is a greaser and all in for Trump . . so assume the worst!

  18. P J Evans says:

    Over at Kos, they picked up on Barr claiming he hadn’t read up on the emoluments clause (the AG’s job!), but he seems to be happy to jail reporters who write stories that might be dangerous to the US…which isn’t the AG’s job.

  19. Trip says:

    emptywheel @emptywheel

    Here’s an out of the box way to solve this: decide to permit Mueller to indict Trump.

    ^^^THIS, please.

    • harpie says:

      Marcy, half an hour ago:

      1:39 PM – 15 Jan 2019 Some thoughts on Barr hearing so far.
      1) We’ve learned of Barr what his stupid ass memo already told us; he’s happy to form strongly held beliefs based off complete ignorance. And not just Mueller investigation. His views on walls and CJ are far worse. […] 

      …should be another good post sometime soon. :-)

      • P J Evans says:

        Barr seems to have lots of opinions on stuff that isn’t in the AG’s purview, and a remarkable lack of knowledge of the stuff that is – like the emoluments clause and the 14th amendment (birthright citizenship). Does he understand that the AG is law enforcement, not judge and jury?

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          A couple of decades with lots of free time to watch Fox News, browse frothy-right media has done to him what it does to most old white dudes. Except he gets to send legal pontifications pulled from his ass to people who never asked for it, and King Stupid liked that.

          Assuming he gets confirmed, I’d like to have a camera pointed on him after he leaves the first debrief with Rosenstein. This isn’t the same gig as letting Cap Weinberger off the hook.

          • oldoilfieldhand says:

            “This isn’t the same gig as letting Cap Weinberger off the hook.”

            The results are the same. Unitary Executive can pardon his way out of a legal jam.

    • BobCon says:

      Trump is too dumb to realize Barr is guy with his own agenda. Barr is exactly the kind of guy who will shiv Trump if it helps the GOP maximize its chances in a post-Trump world.

      I suspect the Steve King shunning game going on now is a practice run for a larger game. The GOP needs a way to cluck their tongues at Trump but keep the troops in line, and I suspect Barr is there to manage the DOJ side to the extent possible.

  20. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Again, still, I worry the president and the Russians just are not giving up on the lifting of these sanctions. Again, if they do not get them lifted what are they prepared to do in retaliation? Are we going to war over sanctions?  Is America the only place to launder money?

    Someone needs to lay out for the public some of the flash point scenarios of America Russian conflicts where the loss of American life would happen. When we say “national security” and “hostile power” reporters should give examples. To us folks who can’t even spell IQ, when you say ” meddling” it almost sounds like melody, i.e. no big deal. It’s Sabotage. Do this crap in Russia they throw a bag over your head and drag you off to the torture chamber like Sergei Mikhailov. We do lousy job of informing Americans how nasty the russians can be. If not them directly,  their weapons. You’d think someone in Congress would explain some of this. 

    • Rayne says:

      Right now it would not be a war over sanctions from our end. It would be a response based on systemic asymmetric attacks on U.S. sustained since at least 2014.

      Loss of life amounting to thousands — possibly tens of thousands if undercutting ACA and slow walking opioid reduction policy are included — has already happened because Trump took office with Russia’s assistance.

      Media has done a poor job framing the rolling attacks. But it wouldn’t matter how they were framed unless Fox and right-wing media also used the same frame; Trump’s authoritarian base is in thrall to these perceived voices of authority and won’t change until these outlets also change. The majority of the U.S. should be prepared to drag them kicking and screaming.

    • skua says:

      America is far from the only place for the Ruusian oligarchs to launder money.

      London is very poular too, with lax, easily circumvented laws, regulations or processes.

      Anywhere that is politically, socially and finacially stable, with rule of law very present but very skewed in favour of the wealthy and with good schools for children, good healthcare available, and condusive to an oppulent life-style.

      Geography also plays a part. For example, people with large amounts of money, that needs to be protected  from anti-corruption drives in China, favour Australia.

  21. Eureka says:

    How much are we paying for the decorative-dot-gov plastic water bottles and coasters?  C’mon.

    They are nearly as grating as Kennedy’s ‘questions.’

  22. harpie says:

    Peter Baker of the NYT shares an 11/14/17 email from Barr:

    2:23 PM – 15 Jan 2019 Questions have been raised about what Bill Barr told us for a story in 2017. Here is his full email from then responding to our request for comment. We’re grateful he replied and hope this clarifies any confusion. [screenshot] 

    • harpie says:

      I’ve transcribed the Barr email [* marks beginning and end of yellow highlighting by Peter Baker]:

      Got your text. There is nothing inherently wrong about a President calling for an investigation. Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a President wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation, and *I have long believed that the predicate for investigating the uranium deal, as well as the foundation, is far stronger than any basis for investigating so-called “collusion”*. Likewise, the basis for investigating various “national security” activities carried out during the election, as Senator Grassley has been attempting to do. To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the Department is abdicating its responsibility.
      Bill Barr

    • harpie says:

      Here’s what Marcy has to say about it [3:12 PM – 15 Jan 2019]:

      Here’s the email that Barr ended with. It … doesn’t speak well to his judgment. But if we’ve learned anything today it’s that he’s happy to opine aggressively on things he knows nothing about.

  23. Eureka says:

    Jeebus, under Harris’ questioning, Barr is now fidget-spinning one of the coasters. But my point was why are we wasting these resources, and displaying same as a norm? Give the man a pitcher and a doily, and the Senators can bring their own containers and refill them at the tap *like every other American worker.* It’s like we are funding some cheesy hotel buffet benefit with disastrous environmental consequences.

  24. Trip says:

    Here’s why Trump’s government shutdown is actually about ‘power and money’: Authoritarianism experts

    …Trump’s Interior Department is “bringing furloughed employees back on the job to prepare sales of offshore oil drilling rights.”..“When I said Trump would strip the US and sell it for parts — and that this would get worse during the shutdown — this is part of what I envisioned,” Kendzior warned. “Keep an eye on federal lands too.”

    Torches and pitchforks yet?
    Relates to:

  25. thomas paine says:

    WRT the jackass who gave us Trump, its Putin himself.  Schumer’s action on Deripaski’s sanctions is key, but Dems should not be shy at informing Puttee and Russia that the top two aims of any future Democrat Foreign Policy are 1) energy sanctions of Russia’s largely petroleum-based economy, and 2) regime change.  This “reset” crap should not stand for one minute once Trump is gone.  Russia attacked our Democracy – Democracy should push back.

  26. Strawberry Fields says:

    In Muellers filing:
    Prosecutors provided a text between an unnamed person and Manafort asking if he could mention that he knew Manafort in conversation with the President. Manafort responded “[y]es” and said it was okay to mention even if not just “one on one”

    — When I read this, it sounds like Manafort sent in a spokes person to share information with the Whitehouse and they were concerned they could only reveal they were talking for Manafort in a secretative one-on-one with the President.

    Pure speculation of course.

  27. X says:

    @BobCon @ 7:26, Reply problem. I believe that this is whistling past the graveyard. We’re still a ways off the bottom yet.

    • Avattoir says:

      Thnx for posting – whatever magic you performed in doing so somehow opened the portal to allow me to access “Reply”.

      That said, I’m further moved by your post to observe that actually, IMO that comment by BobCon gets it exactly right. And I have reasons.

      Barr has always posed as some sort of ‘practitioner’s academic’. It’s an act, largely tho not entirely phony. At one point today, Barr threw out a contrived vignette (Barr only has 3 types of answers: prepared bullshit stories that duck the question, unreserved agreement to friendly fire or to get away ASAP from unfriendly fire, and hemming & hawing to where the questioner gives up) about asking a ‘friend’ whether Rosenstein’s a “one page kinda guy” or (impliedly) someone who’ll actually read a long deeply complex memo (which the memo he ended up sending was not: longish, sure, but neither deep nor complex, and NO CITATIONS!!).

      Right from the start that’s bogus: Barr KNOWS Rosenstein was summa cum laude at the Wharton School at Penn because DoJ is HISTORICALLY super hot for top line business background types for their range of complex white collar crime cases, plus he was a GOP-favoring full ride scholarship student & cum laude & a senior editor at Harvard Law Review, the last of which has always been a massive selling point inside DoJ, & indeed has helped Rosenstein in his DoJ career.

      Plus Rosenstein served on at least 4 high (to DoJ internally) profile positions while Barr was in DoJ under Poppy Bush either as a high muck DoJo, acting AG or confirmed AG: Rosenstein interned to Mueller and got quickly known during that for exceptional clarity in his academic skills, particularly in critiquing OLC & other internal memos – see more below; Rosenstein clerked to Justice Doug Ginsberg and I can assure you literally everyone in DoJ knows what that means (among other things, that Ginsberg’s a wizard for managing to attract clerks that top DoJo desk commanders like Barr thereafter compete for); and he had a major impact in at least 2 main Justice ‘reform’ committees that I know of.

      I have no hesitation in asserting that not only is Rosenstein a better academic & writer than Barr, Barr knows it & has for decades – indeed, IMHO, Barr carries some resentment of that fact, in much the same petty way he’s long carried resentment of Mueller (It would have been fun to have a livetweet from the inside of Mueller’s brain today.).

      That said, it’s fair to observe that Barr does in fact have ‘a particular set of skills’ – but those are almost entirely about things like:

      -how to portray himself to GOPers external to DoJ as some Super Academic Major League Insider Player

      – managing to lever that both within the DoJ as a desk warrior and outside the DoJ as some eminence/god from the past glory days, and

      – special credit where same is due – the abilities to

      1. capture & adopt for himself the drift of concepts in reading the work of his betters, whether academic or political;

      2. identify softness or weakness in places that might be exploited by the Unitary Executive project (for which he’s managed to construct the rep & presence of a guru among GOP managers, in the Federalist Society, GOP-connected business types & Beltway wank tank circles), and

      2. recognize, attract, hire and exploit relatively strong albeit determinedly “conservative” interns, clerks & juniors (the Nibelungen of those notorious ‘thought pieces’ that keep up his appearances & fees on the speaker circuit).

      Among the minutes in fearless leader’s  live-tweet stream on today’s confirmation hearing, there’s one about Barr striking her as at least less dangerous / offensive than Mukasy. I can appreciate that: after all, that’s how Barr works the game: where Mukasy was and is relentless in his purity (in the Alien robot sense) as a hard ass diamond-cutter con, Barr presents more in the manner of somewhere between a bob-and-weaver and a chimera.

      But they both fill the same role: to preserve and hopefully advance the Long Game.

      Rosenstein & Mueller both know to watch their asses with this dude. It’s no fun going to work every day knowing you might have to have some energy in reserve for fencing with this agenda-ridden animal.

      • BobCon says:

        I should add that my read is based on the assumption that Mueller doesn’t drop any bombshells until at least half of 2019 is over, the House doesn’t get its say until a good bit later than that, and McConnell is able to play rope a dope deep enough into 2020 that everyone throws up their hands. As a result, Barr is able to limit his role to mostly symbolic darts thrown Trump’s way.

        It’s always possible events move too fast and too furiously for such timelines. Barr may find himself facing a Trump who is far crazier than anything we’ve seen before and a level of rebellion against the GOP establishment that can’t be finessed. He may not have a game plan to follow.

        • Avattoir says:

          “symbolic darts” – I like that.

          Here’s a potential example: Barr’s raising today of the notion that the Clintons’ / Clinton Foundations’ / HRC at Secretary of State somehow ‘needs’ to be further, impliedly fully “investigated”.

          Fearless leader has already noted a lot of sloppiness in Barr’s thinking processes, including in accepting bogus winger memes about the alleged involvement of those entities in so-called “uranium deal”.

          Despite some evidence leaning in that direction, Barr is no idiot, and certainly not so idiotic as to be oblivious to the flashing bullshit lights on that meme. So, one possibility is that, in his raising it in the context of today’s ultra-public confirmation setting, with Trump no doubt if not watching intently then at least looking in a lot, Barr raised that to buy himself some room from Trump and his minions, followers & base – while suspecting if not actually knowing how bogus the thing is (So bogus it may well take months of investigation to explore, inhale & excrete all the bogusity in all the over-excruciating detail that such meme’s allow for, months during which he can say, with enough honesty to satisfy his bent conscience, ‘I can’t talk about it … yet. It could be / is/ has been under serious investigation by the FBI and DoJ’, just to let the freaking thing wither and die as media and Trump himself direct public attention more or less exclusively onto the 2020 election cycle.

    • BobCon says:

      Not exactly sure I follow, but I think the GOP leadership is trying to plot out the next few years, facing a very real shot of them losing the White House in 2020. And I think they are scoping out options to repeat the rebranding of 2009-10, with all of its supposed repudiation of GW Bush.

      I don’t expect the GOP establishment to directly challenge Trump, but I think they will be looking for ways to shake his stink off of them. During this process I think Barr’s loyalty will be to the GOP, not Trump, and I think part of his job will be to come up with enough symbolic bits of opposition that the party can claim they stand for the rule of law, especially when they are ginning up more Whitewater and Benghazi-style fake scandals after 2020.

  28. punaise says:

    When I need to do laundry I go the laundromat.

    When I need compromising material for blackmail I go to the kompromat.

  29. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Thank you Ruane, and Mr Paine. If you’re trying to cheer me up it’s not working. But you make strong points. Trump does Putin’s bidding every time he ignores/ slashes/ delays/ crashes the systems that should keep us healthy, vibrant , and smart. It’s not just what Trump does, but what he doesn’t do. He really is dismantling the government, starting with all the vacancies in State department. Oh, and the Infrastructure Bill( remember that?} .

    Our nightmare is Putin’s dream come true. Someone in an earlier posters used the word “eviscerated” meaning drained of blood. Apt.

    To your points about our addicted and homeless; they are American refugees. The cuts to health and education,these are deprivation of basic human needs inflicted on the poor and working poor, not by an enemy but by our president and his party of profiteers. Asymmetrical attacks hard for average folks to understand.
    I am coming to understand this site is devoted, and should be, to discussions of the law and will henceforth try to refrain from commenting just to comment. Don’t be bothering the pitchers when they’re warming up in the ball pen. More watching. Less yapping

    Nevertheless, the content flow here is riveting and so encouraging .
    Most sincerely-Thank you all.

  30. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Drained of blood or stripped of one’s organs are both apt analogies in TrumpWorld.

    On the other hand, Mr. Trump, having ordered 300 fast food hamburgers to serve cold to the national collegiate football champions, presumably expected them to eat the lukewarm salads instead.  The hamburgers were for him.

    Mr. Mueller might want to investigate whether there have been any mysterious changes in the ownership of local fast food franchises in the Metro DC area, especially those involving dummy shell corporations, including any new ones with an address at 1100B or 1600B Penn. Ave.  Mr. Trump likes to keep all his heavy expenditures in the family.

  31. Eureka says:

    Huge news, as far as I’m concerned. Trump already had the fear of Maxine Waters. Add AOC, his PR goose is fully braised in Blue Wave:

    Robert Costa on Twitter: “NY’s @AOC will be on the House Financial Services Committee, which is chaired by @RepMaxineWaters. A powerful perch for a first-term member, provides a platform for her to challenge big banks and others”

    • Eureka says:

      *along with other entailments of this assignment.  It’s not all about Trump and his taxes and other financials, that’s just what immediately comes to mind under the circumstances.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      That’s a really good appointment and a really good mentor. Maxine Waters talked to Chris Hayes about how she started on that committee because nobody wanted to be on it post S&L, but she put in the work and rose to the top. The denuding of the CPFB under Mick the Prick ought to be a priority, especially w/r/t the loan sharks who’ve bankrolled him his entire political career.

      • Eureka says:

        I saw that interview and it made me think of real public service in a nostalgic,  ~’Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’ kind of way.  An author I like defined nostalgia as regret over that which we have destroyed.

        We’re in such strange liminal times.  A CPFB with teeth still feels like a fantasy.  The side-effects of planning for the future while girding for the fight that’s coming when Trump et al. ‘resist’ …

      • Rayne says:

        Let’s not forget the Equifax breach which affected every American who buys anything. That should have been investigated by the CFPB and it was completely ignored.

        • timbo says:

          Good point.  The list is long though now.  Hopefully some DP members will get cracking into opening up some of the books from the loan sharks and other scammers and gangsters.

  32. Avattoir says:

    Wondering which is longer:

    1. The famous “Road Map” memo created by the office of Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, or

    2. The court filing today to the attention of Judge Berman in response to her order for Special Counsel Mueller to explain & illustrate all the ways in which the OSC claims Manafort lied to the OSC.

    (Not meaning to suggest this is Mueller’s Road Map. Oh no, would never suggest that …

    AG Barr: ‘Thanks for dropping by, Bob. You’re probably wondering what’s up. Well, as you probably know, the president, not to mention the media and the public, even some of us here at the Real Justice Department, we’ve all been anxiously awaiting your draft final memo on your investigation. I’ve been looking forward to getting right to work on my own memo informing – or not! – Congress on the things everyone wants to know (or not!). So … any update?

    Mueller: Am I safe in assuming that you’ve read all the court filings – in particular the sealed document we filed with Judge Berman on January 15?

    Barr: Of course! Well, not in minute detail. I PERUSED them. Look, it’s a goddaman sentencing memo, right? And I caught the drift right way. That Berman, man, Bob: that was one long mother of a memo. You’d really have to some sick thing going for reading to want to get through that monster.

    Mueller: But you still have it, right? So, you could read it again? I’m not telling you your job, General. This is a suggestion: you may wish to re-read it, this time more closely.

      • Avattoir says:

        They’re redacted NOW, to US, but not forever and not even now to Berman, so that’s gotta count, right?

        Plus, as fearless tweeted today, the implication from what the OSC filed today is that they may have even more, withholding it for now pending something to do with Manafort.

        Total pages of EVERYTHING the OSC has filed in this investigation – indictments, charges, sentencing submissions, memos submitted in response to judges’ requests … hundreds … over a thousand?

        All that might actually allow Mueller to submit something in a more adventuresome form – an interactive guide to all the court filings? Or that plus an introduction in the form of interpretive dance? IAE, something Barr won’t be able to screw with.

        • Mulder says:

          Avattoir, you are on fire. Informative and amusing all in one.

          Yes to the interpretive dance. I nominate AOC for that performance. Girl can dance!

    • Eureka says:

      It was these words, with an apple turnover, by the side of the blog:

      You’d really have to some sick thing going for reading

      You take people as you find them, and this found me nearly choking from laughter.

      Thanks also for your insights on Barr; sadly, I think I understand what’s going (to not go) on a little better.

  33. Frank Probst says:

    One of the things that I keep going back to–and I think it reflects on just how stupid these people are–is that nobody needed to tell the Russians that things would change when the President-elect became President in a month.  Someone like Putin is abundantly capable of inferring that on his own.  All it did was give the Russians (more) kompromat on Flynn (and probably Trump himself).

  34. Strawberry Fields says:

    It’s even more perplexing when you read KT Macfarlanes email which clearly identifies the Obama sanctions are a trap and even Obama warned Trump to dump Flynn. It was so easily avoidable.

  35. AitchD says:

    Early on Barr pronounced ‘Rosenstein’ two different ways, though later always as a rhyme with ‘wine’.

    • Avattoir says:

      One among the number of my colleagues over the years last-named Stein or -stein has been wont to say that when Winter Olympic Games are on, or during ski season, or whenever the Boss brings his show to town, his last name is “-steen”; that during October or on any big holy day his last name should be pronounced “-stine”; and otherwise, whatevs.

  36. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    From that moment forward, Trump would be stuck committing one after another act of obstruction in an attempt to prevent the FBI from discovering the full truth. Each of those acts would put him deeper in the hole, because each time he engaged in obstruction, the Russians would measure his increasing vulnerability.

    This right here… it’s like kiting checks… the person writing them is forced to write one bad check after another, over and over and over again, and just ends up digging a deeper and deeper hole under him or herself…

    It sure looks to me that Trump is doomed at this point… he’s just written way too many bad checks, so to speak, and there’s no good way out…

    I’d say there’s no truly good outcome to this situation… just some outcomes that are better than others… the question, as far as I can tell, is just how much damage can he do on his way down?

    At least it looks like he’ll end up taking a big part of the GOP w/ him… and they will not be missed…

  37. Rusharuse says:

    @Avattoir 12:57

    “Mueller to submit something in a more adventuresome form – an interactive guide to all the court filings? Or that plus an introduction in the form of interpretive dance?”

    The cake is yours!

  38. Trip says:

    Is there any possibility that people like Tillerson, McMaster and Mattis might share something with Mueller? I realize they weren’t part of the transition team, but they had been front and center during parts of the potential conclusion/fruition of the quid pro quo.

  39. Trip says:

    There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’

    Wow, NYT. The guy you have on your opinion page asks readers to ‘zoom out’ while being as myopic as a vole. The apartheid and imprisonment of Palestinians is justified because “Israel fears others” is a shitty argument. Sure it’s complicated. But just glossing over human rights abuses and how they create more enemies is daft.

  40. Trip says:

    Anthony Scaramucci and EJF Capital split on $3B Opportunity Zone fund

    Skybridge Capital plans to move forward on the fund with a new partner
    The Opportunity Zones program, part of December 2017’s tax overhaul plan, offers tax deferrals and benefits to investors who park their money in assets located within designated low-income neighborhoods.


    Kushner Companies has purchased $13 million worth of properties in Opportunity Zones in Long Branch since April when the federal government – where Jared Kushner works as a senior advisor to President Trump – enacted legislation providing tax breaks to those who invest int he zones.


    Watchdog group urges probe of Ivanka Trump’s role in Opportunity Zone tax break
    In a 12-page letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said that as a result of the 2017 decision by Ivanka Trump and Kushner to “retain a sprawling portfolio of investments after entering government,” the couple “assumed responsibility for exercising due diligence to avoid participating in any particular matter that directly and predictably affects the interests of the companies they retained.”
    Ivanka Trump, Bookbinder wrote, “may have failed to live up to this responsibility.”
    Bookbinder told the AP that CREW’s complaint focused on Ivanka Trump because “there is so much public information about her role in the Opportunity Zones program.”

  41. viget says:


    OT, and not to hijack this thread (I am sure Marcy is going to put a new one out about this), but her twitter is on fire regarding the Manafort filing.

    One of the most interesting bits is the $125K “loan” to Paulie by Restore America Now (RAN), which is really a salary payment that Paulie put towards his legal bills.

    I’m guessing she’s about to write a post on this, so I won’t say any more, but suffice it to say that what’s going on here with RAN is EXACTLY the same sort of shenanigans that’s been going on with former Gov. Greitens in Missouri which the VP chief of staff, Nick Ayers, had been orchestrating.  It’s one of the ways Ayers made his millions.

    Look into LG PAC and SEALs for Truth, and the affiliated non-profits Freedom Frontier and American Policy Coalition for more details.

  42. Trip says:

    aljazeera via rawstory:
    Oligarch ‘made threat’ after Trump inauguration

    Pavel Fuchs, who once negotiated with Trump, accused of making a threat of violence over bad seats at 2017 inauguration.
    Pavel Fuchs, a Ukrainian oligarch who negotiated with Donald Trump and reportedly works with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, stands accused of making a threat of violence against a US-based businessman involved in selling him seats to the 45th US president’s inauguration.

    Big Fuch-ing babies, all of them.

    When does Rudy get called in for an interview?

  43. Thomas says:

    When Sally Yates alerted the Trump Administration that Flynn was lying about his communications with Kislyak regarding sanctions….
    They didn’t tell the vice president?
    The vice president didn’t know about Flynn contacting the Russians prior to that?
    The vice president was in charge of the transition, but he wasn’t told how the transition was reacting to the sanctions enacted in December?

    If the answer to any of these questions is different than the story that the Trump Administration told about the whole Flynn debacle, then perhaps Pence is also part of a bribery conspiracy.

    That would be a question that a prosecutor would attempt to answer, correct?

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