The Steele Dossier and the Mueller Investigation: Michael Cohen

Update: I’m reposting this on July 20 because these warrants have been re-released in less redacted form. As noted below in the update on Section C, that previously redacted section does pertain to Michael Cohen’s hush payments to Stormy Daniels, meaning the only mention of the Steele Dossier in the earliest warrant on Cohen is just to a post-dossier WSJ article used exclusively to explain Cohen’s own description of how he served as Trump’s fixer. 

Because the frothy right thinks it’s an important question but won’t actually consult the public record, I’m doing a series on what that public record says about the relationship between the allegations in the Steele dossier and the known investigative steps against Trump’s associates. In this post, I argued that the way the Steele dossier influenced the Carter Page investigation may be slightly different than generally understood: it appears that the dossier appeared to predict — just like George Papadopoulos had — the release of the DNC emails on July 22. From that point forward, Page continued to do things — such as telling people in Moscow he was representing Donald Trump in December 2016, including on Ukraine policy — that were consistent with the general theory (though not the specific facts) laid out in the Steele dossier. That is, Page kept acting like the the Steele dossier said he would. That said, the government had plenty of reason before the Steele dossier to investigate Page for his stated willingness to share information with Russian spies, and his ongoing behavior continued to give them reason.

I’m more interested in the example of Michael Cohen.

The Steele dossier eventually describes Michael Cohen as the villain of coordination with Russia

The dossier makes allegations against Cohen four times, all after the time when Steele and Fusion GPS were shopping the dossier to the press, increasing the likelihood Russia got wind of the project and were shopping disinformation.

The first three mentions came on three consecutive days (probably based on just two sub-source to Kremlin insider conversations), all apparently sourced to the same second-hand access to a Kremlin insider, and evolving significantly over those three days.  Importantly, the sub-source is also the source for the claim that Page had been offered the brokerage of the publicly announced Rosneft sale, meaning this person purportedly had access to Igor Sechin and a Kremlin insider, and if this source was intentionally feeding disinformation, it would account for the most obviously suspect claims in the dossier.

October 18, 2016 (134): A Kremlin insider tells the sub-source that Michael Cohen was playing a key role in the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Kremlin.

October 19, 2016 (135): The Kremlin insider tells his source that Cohen met with Presidential Administration officials in August 2016 to discuss how to contain Manafort’s Russia/Ukraine scandal and Page’s secret meetings with Russian leaders. Since that August meeting Trump-Russian conversations increasingly took place via pro-government policy institutes.

October 20, 2016 (136): In a communication that “had to be cryptic for security reasons,” a Kremlin insider tells a friend on October 19 that the reported meeting with Cohen took place in Prague using Rossotrudnichestvo as a cover. It involved Duma Head of Foreign Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev. This is notably different from the PA claim made just the day before.

Then there’s the final report, which Steele has claimed was provided for “free,” dated after David Corn and Kurt Eichenwald’s exposure of the dossier, after the election, after the Obama Administration ratcheted up the investigation on December 9, and after Steele had interested John McCain in the dossier. In addition to offering a report that seems to project blame onto Webzilla for what the Internet Research Agency did, this report alleges what would be a veritable smoking gun, missing from the earlier reports: that Cohen had helped pay for the hackers.

December 13, 2016 (166): The August meeting in Prague was no longer about how to manage the Manafort and Page scandals, but instead to figure out how to make deniable cash payments to hackers (located in Europe, including Romania, where the original Guccifer had come from, not Russia), who were managed by the Presidential Administration, not GRU.

This December report is really the only one that claims Trump had a criminal role in the hack-and-leak, but the claims in the report all engage with already public claims: situating the hackers where the persona Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be from, Romania, suggesting the hackers were independent hackers who had to be paid rather than Russian military officers, and blaming Webzilla rather than Internet Research Agency for disinformation. That is, more than any other, this report looks like it was tailored to the Russian cover story.

The way this story evolved over time should have raised concerns, as should have other obvious problems with the December report. But it’s worth noting that there are two grains of truth in it. Cohen had been the key interlocutor between the Trump campaign and the Presidential Administration during the campaign, but to discuss the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow in January, not how to steal the election in October. Few people (at least in the US) should have known that he had played that interlocutor role; how many knew in Russia is something else entirely. Cohen was also someone that people who had done business with Trump Organization, like Giorgi Rtslchiladze and people associated with Aras Agalarov’s Crocus Group, would know to be Trump’s fixer. That fact would have been far more widely known.

Nevertheless, by the end of it, Cohen was the biggest Trump-associate villain in the Steele dossier. If the Steele dossier had been directing the investigative priorities of the FBI, then Cohen should have been a focus for his role in the hack-and-leak as soon as the FBI received this report. Nothing in the public record suggests that happened. Indeed, at the time the FBI briefed the Gang of Eight on March 9, 2017, Cohen was not among the people described as subjects. Just Roger Stone had been added to the initial four subjects (Page, Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Mike Flynn) by that point. Congress, including the Devin Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee, would focus closely on Cohen more quickly than the FBI appears to have.

That’s true even though Cohen was doing some of the things he would later be investigated for, including — immediately after the election — establishing financial ties with Viktor Vekselberg even while Felix Sater pitched him on a Ukraine deal.

Suspicious Activity Reports and the investigation into Cohen

The investigation into Cohen appears to have started — given this July 18, 2017 warrant application — as an investigation into suspicious payments, both Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels and payments from large, often foreign companies, particularly Columbus Nova, with which Viktor Vekelsberg has close ties, but also including Novartis, Korean Airlines, and Kazkommertsnank. The investigation probably started based off a Suspicious Activity Report submitted by First Republic Bank, where Cohen had multiple accounts, including one for Essential Consulting, where those foreign payments were deposited.

Cohen opened that Essential Consultants account on October 26, 2016, ostensibly to collect fees for domestic real estate consulting work, but in fact to pay off Stormy Daniels. His use of it to accept all those foreign payments would have properly attracted attention and a SAR from the bank under Know Your Customer mandates, particularly with his political exposure through Trump. Sometime in June 2017, First Republic submitted the first of at least three SARs on this account, covering seven months of activity on the account; that SAR and a later one was subsequently made unavailable in the Treasury system as part of a sensitive investigation, which led to a big stink in 2018 and ultimately to charges against an IRS investigator who leaked the other reports. The language of the third one appears to closely match the language in the warrant applications, including a reference to Viktor Vekselberg’s donations to Trump’s inauguration.

The first warrant application against Cohen

On June 21, the FBI served a preservation request to Google for his Gmail and to Microsoft for Cohen’s Trump Organization emails (see this post for the significance of Microsoft’s role). Generally that suggests that already by that point, FBI decided they would likely want that email, but needed to put together the case to get it. The preservation order on Microsoft suggests they may have worried that people at Trump’s company might destroy damning emails. It also suggests the FBI knew that there was something damaging in those emails, which almost certainly came in part from contact information the bank had and call records showing contacts with Felix Sater and Columbus Nova; it might also suggest the NSA may have intercepted some of Cohen’s contacts with Russians in normal collection targeting those Russians.

That July 2017 warrant (confirmed in later warrants to be the first one used against Cohen) lists Acting as a Foreign Agent (18 USC 951) and false statements to a financial institution. It explains:

[T]he FBI is investigating COHEN in connection with, inter alia, statements he made to a known financial institution (hereinafter “Bank 1”) in the course of opening a bank account held in the name of Essential Consultants, LLC and controlled by COHEN. The FBI is also investigating COHEN in connection with funds he received from entities controlled by foreign governments and/or foreign principals, and the activities he engaged in in the United States on their behalf without properly disclosing such relationships to the United States government.

In other words, the predicate for the investigation was his bank account — one in conjunction with which he would eventually plead guilty to several crimes — not the dossier. Had Cohen told the truth about why he was opening that bank account (to pay off the candidate’s former sex partners!), had he not conducted his international graft with it, had he been honest he was going to be accepting large payments from foreign companies, then he might not have been investigated. It’s possible that the public reporting on the dossier made the bank pay more attention, but his actions already reached the level that the bank was required to report it.

In the unredacted parts of the application, there is one citation of the dossier, but only to the title of a WSJ report on Cohen written in the wake of the dossier release, “Intelligence Dossier Puts Longtime Trump Fixer in Spotlight.” It uses the article in a section introducing who he is to cite Cohen explaining that he’s Trump’s “fìx-it guy . . . . Anything that [then-President-elect Trump] needs to be done, any issues that concern him, I handle,” not to describe any allegations in the dossier.

From there, it introduces the bank account, Essential Consulting.

Redacted section C

Update, 7/19: These warrants have now been unsealed, and — as media outlets originally reported — this section is about the hush payment to Stormy Daniels. The section also confirms that much of this investigation came from the KYC work of Cohen’s bank. I’ve marked the paragraphs that consider the possibility this section pertains to Russia with strike-through text.

The next section, C, is six paragraphs long (¶¶13 to 18), and remains entirely redacted. If the substance of the dossier appears in the warrant application, it would appear here. But such a redacted passage does not appear at all in a search warrant application for Paul Manafort from May, and no redacted passage appears as prominently in a Manafort warrant application from ten days later — which describes his relationship with three Russian oligarchs and the June 9 meeting — though there is a six page redaction describing the investigative interest in the June 9 meeting. The difference is significant because the dossier alleged that Manafort was managing relations with Russia until he left the campaign (including during June), so if there were redacted language about the dossier on Cohen, we would expect it to play a similar role in applications on Manafort, but nothing public suggests it does.

Some background on this redacted section. We got the Mueller-related warrants on Cohen because a bunch of media outlets asked Chief Judge Beryl Howell to liberate them on March 26, the week after Mueller officially finished his investigation. At first, Jonathan Kravis, the DC AUSA who has taken the lead in much of the ongoing Mueller word, noticed an appearance to respond. But it was actually Thomas McKay, one of the SDNY AUSA who prosecuted Cohen there, who responded to the request, along with another SDNY attorney.

Although the Warrant Materials were sought and obtained by the Special Counsel’s Office (“SCO”), the Government is represented in this matter by the undersigned attorneys from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), as the SCO’s investigation is now complete.

They argue that they’re willing to release the warrant materials under terms consistent with the terms used in SDNY, where information about the FBI affiants and information we know deals with the hush payments investigation got redacted.

Judge Pauley ruled that “the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance crimes shall be redacted” to protect an ongoing law enforcement investigation, along with “the paragraphs of the search warrant affidavits describing the agents’ experience or law enforcement techniques and procedures.” Cohen, 2019 WL 472577, at *6. By contrast, Judge Pauley ordered that the portions of the materials that did not relate to the campaign finance investigation be unsealed, subject to limited redactions to protect the privacy interests of certain uncharged third parties. Id. at *6-7. Judge Pauley’s decision in these respects is also consistent with prior decisions of this Court, which have recognized the distinction between law enforcement interests in ongoing, as opposed to closed, investigations, as well as the importance of respecting privacy concerns for uncharged third parties. See, e.g., Matter of the Application of WP Company LLC, 16-mc-351 (BAH), 2016 WL 1604976, at *2 & n.2 (D.D.C. Apr. 1, 2016).

Consistent with the foregoing, the Government does not oppose the Petitioners’ request for partial unsealing, but respectfully requests that the Court authorize redactions consistent with those authorized by Judge Pauley in the SDNY litigation.

Because of this language, some people assume the redacted passage C relates to the hush payments, which were, after all, the reason Cohen opened the account in the first place. That may well be the case: if so, the logic of the warrant application would flow like this:

A: Michael Cohen

B: Essential Consultants, LLC

C: Use of Essential Consultants to pay hush payments

[Later warrants would include a new section, D, that described Cohen’s lies about his net worth to First Republic]

D: Foreign Transactions in the Essential Consultants Account with a Russian Nexus

i. Deposits by Columbus Nova, LLC

ii. Plan to Life Russian Sanctions

E: Other Foreign Transactions in the Essential Consultants Account

That would explain McKay’s role in submitting the redactions, as well as his discussion of redacting the warrant consistent with what was done in SDNY, to protect ongoing investigations. (The government will have to provide a status report in August on whether these files still need to be redacted.)

That said, it was not until April 7, 2018 that anyone first asked for a warrant to access Cohen’s email accounts in conjunction with the campaign finance crimes. And some SARs submitted in conjunction with the hush payments, such as one associated with the $130,000 payment on October 27, 2016 to then Daniels lawyer Keith Davidson and one from JP Morgan Chase reflecting the transfer from the Essentials Consulting account to Davidson’s were not restricted in May 2018 in conjunction with a sensitive investigation (nor was the third one reflecting the foreign payments described above), suggesting they weren’t the most sensitive bits in May 2018. Of note, the Elliot Broidy payments to Essential Consulting would post-date this period of the investigation.

That leaves a possibility (though not that likely of one) that Section C could describe the Russian investigation. The next passage after the redacted one describes the “foreign transactions in the Essential Consultants Account with a Russian nexus” (though, as noted, subsequent warrants describe Cohen’s lies in the following paragraph). It describes the $416,664 in payments from Columbus Nova, and describes the tie between Columbus Nova and Vekselberg. After introducing the payments, the affidavit describes the public report on a back channel peace plan pitched by Felix Sater on behalf of Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko.

Another possibility is that it describes Trump’s inauguration graft, which embroils Cohen and Broidy (though the investigation into Broidy is in EDNY, not SDNY).

Perhaps most likely, however, is that that section just describes other reasons why that Essential Consulting account merited a SAR. For example, it might describe how Cohen set up a shell company to register the company, something that doesn’t show up in the unredacted sections, but which is a key part of the hush payment prosecution.

If the section does not mention the Russian investigation generally (and the dossier specifically), then it means there is no substantive mention of it in the warrant at all, meaning it played at most a secondary role in the focus on Cohen.

As the timeline of the investigation into Cohen below shows, that redacted section would grow by one paragraph in the next warrant application, for Cohen’s Trump Organization emails, obtained just two weeks later. It would remain that length for all the other unsealed Mueller warrants.

Felix Sater and the investigation into Cohen

The way in which Sater is mentioned in the warrants against Cohen presents conflicting information about what might be in that redacted section. Significantly, Sater (described as Person 3) is introduced as if for the first time, in the discussion of the Ukrainian deal that appears after the redaction. That means that he doesn’t appear in the redacted material. That’s important because Sater would be one other possible focus of any introduction to why Cohen would become the focus of the Russian investigation (aside from the dossier).

The next warrant would also note numerous calls with Sater, reflecting legal process for call records not identified here (the government almost certainly had a PRTT on Cohen’s phones by then). But those calls, as described, were in early 2017 (tied to the suspected Ukrainian peace plan), not in 2015-2016 when the two men were discussing a Trump Tower Moscow.

Mueller interviewed Sater on September 19, 2017, the first of two FBI interviews (he also appeared before the grand jury on an unknown date).

One of the most interesting changes to the Mueller warrants happens after that: In warrant applications submitted on November 13, the unredacted discussion of the Ukraine peace deal gets dropped. It’s unlikely Mueller’s investigation of it was eliminated entirely, because Mike Flynn, who allegedly ultimately received that deal, is not known to have been cooperating yet (his first known proffer was three days later, on November 16), and Mueller was still interested in interviewing Andrii  Artemenko — the Ukrainian politician who pitched the deal — in June 2018.

In addition, based off the details in the Mueller Report cited to Sater’s September interview, Mueller was already investigating the Trump Tower deal. That suggests both topics — the Trump Tower deal and the Ukranian peace pitch — could appear in the redacted passage. Indeed, while the unredacted passages don’t explain it, one important reason to obtain the earlier emails would be to obtain the communications between Sater and Cohen during that period.

None of these warrants explain why Mueller became convinced that Cohen had lied to Congress, but by the second December interview of Sater, he presumably knew that Cohen had lied. But he probably didn’t have all the documents on the deal until he subpoenaed Trump Organization in March 2018.

All of which is to say, the treatment of the warrants’ Sater’s ties to Cohen, so important in any consideration of Cohen’s ties to Russia, ultimately don’t help determine what’s in that section.

If Mueller obtained Cohen’s location data, it was only second-hand

Finally, there’s one other detail not shown in the Mueller warrants you might expect to have if the Steele dossier was central to the Cohen investigation: a concerted effort to confirm his location during August 2016, when the dossier claimed he had been in Prague.

Granted, by obtaining records from Google, Mueller would get lots of information helpful to confirming location. For example, Google would have provided all the IP addresses from which Cohen accessed his account going back to January 2016. He would have obtained calendar data, if Cohen used that Google function. The warrant (as all warrants to Google would) asks for “evidence … to determine the geographic and chronological context of account access” and describes the various ways investigators can use Google to ID location (though it doesn’t specifically talk about location data in conjunction with Google Maps).

Mueller would get even more information from the Apple warrant obtained on August 7, 2017. The warrant for Cohen’s iCloud account on August 7 focused on a new iPhone (a 4s!!!) he obtained on September 28, 2016 and used for a function that gets redacted (which, again, could be the hush payments). It described his use of Dust and WhatsApp on the phone (Dust was what he used with Felix Sater), meaning one reason they were interested in the account was not for Cohen’s Apple content, but for anything associated with the apps he used on his phone (remember that Mueller got Manafort’s otherwise encrypted WhatsApp chats from Apple; the Apple specific language notes that some users back up their WhatsApp texts to iCloud). That said, the language on Apple (as all warrants on it would) specified that users sometimes capture location data with the apps on their phones.

Apple allows applications and websites to use information from cellular, Wi-Fi, Global Positioning System (“GPS”) networks, and Bluetooth, to determine a user’s approximate location.

This is a way the FBI has increasingly gotten location data in recent years, via the apps that access it from your phone. So the FBI would have gotten information that would have helped them rule out a Cohen trip to Prague in 2016.

That said, it’s not until April 7 that the government obtained the only known warrant for cell location data. That warrant focused only on the campaign finance crimes, and it obtained historical data only started on October 1, 2016 — pointedly excluding the August 2016 period when Steele’s dossier alleged Cohen was in Prague.

In short, along the way, Mueller obtained plenty of information that would help him exclude a Prague meeting (and subpoenas and other government information — such as his Homeland Security file — could have helped further exclude a meeting). But there’s no sign in the public record that Mueller investigated the Steele dossier Prague meeting itself.

To sum up: while it’s possible the redacted portions discuss Russia and therefore potentially the dossier. But there are a lot of reasons to think that’s not the case. It is hypothetically possible that between March (when FBI wasn’t investigating Cohen) and May (when Mueller took over) the FBI had done something to chase down the dossier allegations on Cohen. But, there’s no evidence that Mueller investigated them. On the contrary, it appears that the investigation into Cohen arose from the Bank Secrecy Act operating the way it is designed to — to alert the Feds to suspect activity in timely fashion.

In another world, that should placate the frothy right. After all, they complain that the dossier was used in Carter Page’s FISA application. You’d think they’d be happy that, in the eight months between the time FBI obtained that order and started investigating Cohen aggressively, they hadn’t predicated an investigation into the dossier. By that time, there were overt things — like Vekselberg’s donation to the inauguration and the Ukraine plan — that were suspect and grounded in direct evidence.

Timeline

May 18, 2017: Possible date for meeting involving Jay Sekulow, Trump, and Cohen.

May 31, 2017: Cohen and lawfirm subpoenaed by HPSCI.

June 2017: A SAR from Cohen’s bank reflects seven months of suspicious activity in conjunction with this Essential Consulting account

June 2017: Federal Agents review Cohen’s bank accounts.

June 21, 2017: FBI sends a preservation request to Microsoft for Cohen’s Trump Org account.

July 14, 2017: FBI sends a preservation request to Microsoft for all Trump Org accounts.

July 18, 2017: FBI obtains a warrant for Cohen’s Gmail account focused on FARA charges tied primarily to the Columbus Nova stuff, but also his other foreign payments). ¶¶13-18 redacted.

July 20, 2017 and July 25, 2017: Microsoft responds to grand jury subpoenas about both Cohen’s account and TrumpOrg domain generally.

August 1, 2017: FBI obtains a warrant for Cohen’s Trump Org email account (which they obtained from Microsoft), adding bank fraud, money laundering, and FARA (as distinct from 951) to potential charges. ¶¶13-19 redacted. ¶¶20 to 24 note irregularities in claims to First Republic. ¶28 details how Cohen and Andrew Intrater started texting in large amounts on November 8, 2016, showing over 230 calls and 950 texts between then and July 14, 2017. ¶30 includes email reflecting visit to Columbus Nova. ¶31 reflects probable subpoena to bank (rather than just SARs). ¶32 describes Renova paying Cohen through Columbus Nova. ¶36 reflects phone records showing 20 calls with Felix Sater between January 5, 2017 and February 20, 2017, and one with Flynn on January 11, 2017. ¶39, ¶41 include new evidence from Google search.

August 7, 2017: FBI obtains a warrant for Cohen’s Apple ID (tied to his Google email). ¶¶14-20 redacted. ¶50-54 describes Cohen obtaining a new Apple iPhone 4s on September 28, 2016 and using it for a redacted purpose. It describes Cohen downloading Dust (the same encrypted program he used with Felix Sater) the day he set up the phone, and downloading WhatsApp on February 7, 2017.

August 17, 2017: FBI obtains second warrant on Cohen’s Gmail, not publicly released, but identified in second Google warrant. It probably added wire fraud to existing charges being investigated.

August 27-28, 2017: Cohen conducts a preemptive limited hangout on the Trump Tower story feeding WaPo, WSJ, and NYT.

August 31, 2017: Cohen releases the letter his attorney had sent — two weeks earlier — along with two earlier tranches of documents for Congress.

September 19, 2017: FBI interviews Sater. Cohen attempts to preempt an interview with SSCI by releasing a partial statement before testifying, only to have SSCI balk and reschedule the interview.

October 4, 2017: Additional SAR restricted because of ongoing sensitive investigations.

October 20, 2017: Cohen included in expanded scope of investigation.

October 24, 2017: HPSCI interviews Cohen.

October 25, 2017: SSCI interviews Cohen.

November 7, 2017: Mueller extends PR/TT on Cohen Gmail.

November 13, 2017: FBI obtains Cohen’s Gmail going back to June 1, 2015 and his 1&1 email. Adds wire fraud. ¶14-20 redacted.¶23a-25 adds Taxi medallion liability. Eliminates Ukraine/sanctions plan in unredacted section. Adds section F, payments in connection with political activities (associated with AT&T, expand Novartis, add Michael D Cohen and Associates.

December 15, 2017: FBI interviews Sater.

January 4, 2018: Mueller extends PR/TT on Cohen Gmail.

February 8, 2018: Mueller provides SDNY with Gmail and 1&1 email returns.

February 16, 2018: SDNY obtains d-order for header information on 1&1 account.

February 28, 2018: SDNY obtains warrant for emails sent after November 14, 2017 and warrant for emails Mueller handed over in conjunction with different conspiracy, false statements to a bank, wire fraud, and and bank fraud charges.

March 7, 2018: Mueller provides SDNY with iCloud returns.

March 15, 2018: Press reports that Mueller subpoenaed Trump Organization.

April 5, 2018: After CLOUD Act passes, SDNY applies for Google content that had been stored overseas and withheld in February 28 warrant.

April 7, 2018: FBI obtains warrant for cell location for two cell phones, tied only to illegal campaign donation investigation (the FBI would use this to use a triggerfish to identify which room he was in at Loews). FBI obtains warrant to access prior content for use in campaign donation investigation. This is the first warrant that lists 52 USC 30116 and 30109 as crimes being investigated.

April 8, 2018: FBI obtains warrant for cell location for two cell phones, tied only to illegal campaign donation investigation.FBI obtains warrant to search Cohen’s house, office, safe deposit box, hotel room, and two iPhones.

April 9, 2018: FBI obtains a warrant to correct Cohen’s hotel room.

June 20, 2018: Cohen steps down from RNC position.

July 27, 2018: Sources claim Cohen is willing to testify he was present, with others, when Trump approved of the June 9 meeting with the Russians.

August 7, 2018: First Cohen proffer to Mueller.

August 21, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to SDNY charges. Warner and Burr publicly note that Cohen’s claim to know about the June 9 meeting ahead of time conflicts with his testimony to the committee.

September 12, 2018: Second proffer.

September 18, 2018: Third proffer.

October 8, 2018: Fourth proffer.

October 17, 2018: Fifth proffer.

November 12, 2018: Sixth proffer.

November 20, 2018: Seventh proffer.

November 29, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty to false statements charge.

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. 

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62 replies
  1. Naomi says:

    “I’m more interested in the example of Michael Cohen.”
    Thanks for sharing insight and chronology!
    May we hope to learn what you are most interested in?
    I promise I’ll be patient. You have many grateful fans.

    Reply
  2. Areader2019 says:

    Cohen steps down from RNC position.

    This is a thread I would really like to see followed. Especially now with Broidy facing a grand jury. Cohen was involved in campaign finance fraud. How much did the RNC know, and when did they know it?

    Reply
  3. MattyG says:

    It seems odd Mueller would not press for cell location info into the period prior to October 2016 – just as a matter of course. Could this suggest a conscious effort to avoid delving into Cohen/Prague? Given the overall investigative thrust of focusing only on “official Russian” contact maybe the Mueller team cut the underbrush *way way* back when circumscribing areas it was comfortable looking into.

    Reply
  4. Badger Robert says:

    OT question: Why doesn’t SDNY have to use a grand jury to produce its indictments? If they discover misdeeds by high ranking officials, is it correct that will not be required to keep that information confidential?

    Reply
  5. Bay State Librul says:

    Excellent reporting by the best.

    Trump’s criminal enterprises

    A history lesson:

    In 2001, while federal agents were digging into the muck of Providence City Hall — an investigation aptly called “Operation Plunder Dome” — a confidential source handed Mr. Taricani a copy of an F.B.I. videotape showing a $1,000 bribe being accepted by the top aide to Vincent A. Cianci Jr., mayor and future convict.

    It made for delectable television. As Mr. Taricani later noted, the tape showed the public what corruption looks like. But it was also secret grand jury material.” NY Times.

    Comment: Taricani went to jail to protect his sources, a fine journalist indeed.

    To break this fucking Trump three-ring circus of lies, and coverups, we need a whistleblower.

    There are multiple sources who can fill the bill.
    Please come forward.

    Reply
  6. CD54 says:

    Please EW:
    Better Blog Title:
    “No Available Evidence Steele Dossier Caused Mueller To Investigate Michael Cohen”

    Reply
    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Sam Penrose, for example, suggests correcting a typo. That’s a factual matter. That doesn’t need an attached comment. Yours is editorializing.

      Put your title preference within a comment that suggests you’ve read Marcy’s – and not just her title. Or you could start your own blog and draft your own titles.

      Reply
  7. harpie says:

    Ryan Goodman this morning:
    https://twitter.com/rgoodlaw/status/1148557626122350594
    4:40 AM – 9 Jul 2019

    More than noteworthy
    Justice Dept Inspector General Horowitz looking into Russia probe origins interviewed Steele in June and >>>
    “Horowitz’s investigators appear to have found Steele’s information sufficiently credible to have to extend the investigation”

    Links to:
    Trump ‘dossier’ author grilled by Justice Department watchdogs: sources
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia/trump-dossier-author-grilled-by-justice-department-watchdogs-sources-idUSKCN1U410I
    Mark Hosenball JULY 9, 2019 / 6:11 AM

    Reply
    • harpie says:

      Goodman’s quote, above is from one of two “sources with direct knowledge of the [DOG OIG] lawyers’ travels.”

      Reply
      • BobCon says:

        This is more on the Horowitz-Steele interview:

        https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/09/christopher-steele-trump-dossier-doj-1403318

        “The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016.”

        I think it’s interesting to note that it says Steele’s testimony was found credible, not his evidence, which suggests to me that Horowitz is focusing on process and methods rather than litigating the Dossier itself.

        The article goes on to say “the extensive interview with Steele, and the investigators’ sense that he offered new and important information, may dampen expectations among the president’s allies who’ve claimed that Steele’s sensational dossier was used improperly by the bureau to “spy” on the campaign.”

        I don’t think it’s surprising if this is correct. Horowitz isn’t a stooge. Even if this coming from sources with a particular point of view, at a minimum it’s inconvenient for the Chuck Ross/John Solomon types.

        Reply
        • Diviz says:

          This line kicked me in the face.

          Conservatives have also seized on Mueller’s conclusion that no criminal conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as evidence that Steele’s sensational dossier was a fraud.

          Reply
    • Vicks says:

      Mark Meadows: “Crimes Were Committed And People Need To Go To Jail”
      This news coming from the “FISA abuse probe*” does some real damage to the dodgy dossier/ Bruce Orr/deep state angle of Trump’s alternate conspiracy defense.
      Can Barr/Trump demand or have access to status updates of IG reports?
      This interview happened in June
      Barr was motivated to start an investigation he could control in May. I have to wonder if that was just to make noise because Horowitz was supposedly wrapping up or if we are in for a sh*t show because of the “he can control” part?

      Reply
    • harpie says:

      Marcy links to new NYT article:
      Justice Dept. Watchdog Is Preparing to Deliver Verdict on the Russia Investigation
      https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1148675852210712580
      12:30 PM – 9 Jul 2019

      This adds significantly more detail on the Horowitz investigation, including that he’s scrutinizing whether FBI should have raised questions in 2017 after interviewing one of Steele’s sources.

      Reply
    • harpie says:

      And now this:
      1] YES, COLLUSION Mueller Missed the Crime: Trump’s Campaign Coordinated With Russia The special counsel will testify before Congress next week.
      He needs to answer for historic legal and factual errors. https://www.thedailybeast.com/robert-mueller-missed-the-crime-trumps-campaign-coordinated-with-russia
      Jed Shugerman Updated 07.10.19 6:52AM ET / Published 07.10.19 4:30AM ET

      2] https://twitter.com/jedshug/status/1148889790806409221
      2:40 AM – 10 Jul 2019

      “Mueller’s legal errors meant that
      1) he failed to conclude that the Trump campaign criminally coordinated with Russia;
      2) he failed to indict Manafort & Gates for campaign crimes (see concise timeline);
      3) the 10 acts of obstruction in Vol II fell flat.”
      2/ My article has a concise timeline of 10 events showomg criminal coordination in the back-and-forth between the Trump campaign & Russia.
      Puzzlingly, Mueller omitted some of these key events from Vol I, but revealed them in other indictments or in Vol II, another strange error.

      Reply
      • harpie says:

        Shugerman echos Marcy’s “call and response” idea:
        From the article:

        […] In addition to ignoring these rules, Mueller also made a major organizational error: Volume I separates the events of Russian hacking from the actions of the Trump campaign.
        The entire point of a “conspiracy and coordination” investigation was the relationship between the two. The ongoing pattern of signal or invitation with response, of cause-and-effect, gets utterly lost in the hundreds of pages of details, the siloing of each character, and especially in the omissions and the errors. […]

        Reply
      • P J Evans says:

        IIRC, Mueller said in the report that he couldn’t prove coordination/conspiracy, because people lied and hid/destroyed evidence.

        Reply
      • Vicks says:

        I read that too, his timeline shows a lot of coincidences that point to the probability of coordination but just like what he claimed were failures on Mueller’s team to indict, Shugerman made a minimal effort to show that Mueller was in possession of the actual evidence needed to make any of his criticism valid.

        Reply
    • harpie says:

      Also:
      3] https://twitter.com/TheViewFromLL2/status/1148735798612779012
      4:28 PM – 9 Jul 2019

      Lots of drama in Flynn-land these days. In short: after firing his Covington counsel and securing new attorneys, Flynn changed his planned testimony for the upcoming trial of his business partner Bijan Rafiekian. So the gov’t decided it couldn’t call Flynn as a witness at all.
      [Read this THREAD]
      So the real mystery for me is still this: how in the hell Flynn got such a sweetheart plea deal from the Special Counsel, when the proof of Flynn’s crimes was ironclad, and the “help” he provided as a cooperating witness has only damaged the govt’s cases against other defendants.

      Reply
    • Americana says:

      Glad you posted about this development regarding the IG’s investigation and its interview of Christopher Steele. It does sound hopeful, doesn’t it? However, I’ll only feel secure once the IG’s investigation comes out and if it comes down on the side of the FBI’s original investigation and, ultimately, the Special Counsel’s investigation because that’s the only combination of events that delivers surety Trump won’t be able to twist these events any longer. Once IG Horowitz writes a report vindicating the legality of process of the FBI and Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation, it won’t be possible (I don’t believe anyway) for AG Barr to continue to attempt to undermine the recommendation by Mueller that Trump must be dealt with by Congress via its oversight of a corrupt POTUS.

      As much as I awaited the Mueller report w/high hopes, I’m even more on tenterhooks for the IG’s report because this is the one that may knock down the Deep State idiocy of Sean Hannity, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, et al. It will be fascinating to see what the response is from Trump, never mind from Alan Dershowitz, if there is vindication of the FBI and the Special Counsel’s process.

      Reply
  8. Savage Librarian says:

    Marcy, before I forget, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the way you structure your writing. You take such care to share your plans with us. You tell us that you will be doing x, y, z and why you are doing it.

    Then, not only do you do x, y, z, but you give a remarkable analysis of each. You show us the logic and how things connect.

    For me, this helps to quell the chaos that engulfs us. Your gift to us is greater than any one person can say. But this person is extremely grateful for what you share and for what you enable others to share.

    I look forward to the other segments in this particular series. Thanks so much for your fine work. And a big shout out to Rayne, bmaz, Ed, and all the fascinating commenters, too!

    Reply
  9. Rugger9 says:

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-id

    and

    https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/09/christopher-steele-trump-dossier-doj-1403318

    Tiger Beat on the Potomac (h/t Charlie Pierce) talks about how the DOJ now seems to think that Steele was credible in terms of raw intelligence gathering. Now, if that is what the Palace DOJ found on what I would guess was a “gotcha” interview, it makes me wonder what the GOP is going to do to downplay this report by way of Reuters.

    Remember: Mueller didn’t use the dossier for the basis of any of his legal actions in spite of the RWNM howling about it so the cases generated by his investigation won’t be affected. Nunes and Gym Jordan just had one of their key talking points undercut, because it’s either Palace incompetence in its witch hunt or Steele got something right. I’m not sure how either outcome helps Kaiser Quisling.

    Reply
    • BobCon says:

      The broader implication of the Steele interview, the Michael Cohen testimony, and probably the upcoming Mueller testimony is that GOP conspiracy theories and GOP interrogators look really bad when they are exposed in a professional setting.

      Which of course raises the ongoing complaint of why Pelosi is shoving so many opportunities in a sack and dumping them in a well. Now she is apparently doing it with Acosta too.

      What’s additionally aggravating is that she is squandering incredible messaging opportunties to go after the GOP in general — it would be straightforward to tie together Russia, Trump’s taxes, Acosta’s appointment, child cages, Obamacare destruction, stonewalling of Congress and Trump’s sexual assault into a comprehensive theme of an extremist attempt to permanently tilt the playing field in favor of corrupt few and away from everyone else. She shudders at the thought of doing anything but grinding gears.

      Reply
        • BobCon says:

          And the point to make here is that the Russians aren’t operating in isolation. Putin is just one of the oligarchs trying to buy up everything.

          Which again is a huge part of the frustration so many people have with the House leadership. Focusing on Russia in isolation has limited value, but Russia isn’t an isolated phenomenon. The frightened wing of the Democratic Party won’t make the connection that Trump, Putin, Murdoch, Salvani, Bolsonaro and the rest are all acting together against ordinary people.

          Reply
          • vicks says:

            Yep.
            The bad guys have a plan, and we have what exactly?
            The truth?
            The MAGA machine just bounced the UK Ambassador in response to a mysterious leak before the election. We are being told bald faced lies about what is happening to our border in the name of this nationalism bullshit these a-h*les are using to arouse the dark side of the population and build power with their support
            As I have been saying, things are happening fast and gaining momentum

            Reply
          • orionATL says:

            bobcon –

            what’s this baloney about “the frightened wing” of the democratic party? you done been smoking too much emptywheel and gone and lost your good judgement :)

            looking to the future with much solid experience in the political past isn’t acting frightened. it could be acting to preserve and extend democratic power, couldn’t it. it is arrogant in the extreme to claim fear as the motivator of leaders of whose experience and motivation you have little or no understanding.

            the nice thing is, though, that we get to wait and see how matters play out in november 2020. i’m happy to go to work in the fields of electioneering and see how things turn out – so long as the panicky fanaticism i read here can be controlled and the very large and diverse democratic party not be stampeded by a noisy bunch of sincere and righteous firecracker flakes.

            but as for you, bobcon, you sound a bit freightened. does not “the connection that Trump, Putin, Murdoch, Salvani, Bolsonaro and the rest are all acting together against ordinary people” express fear? fear that what you think should be done will not be.

            Reply
            • bmaz says:

              “Frightened fanaticism” my ass. There is sober and smart analysis and reasoning here.

              YOU are the one that relentlessly insists on acting like a frightened coward, too timid and afraid to have elected representatives honor their oath and defend the Constitution with the very powers the Constitution specifies to do so. All out of some vague happy horse manure rose colored fever dream of 2020. You are a political coward, and can piss the fuck off.

              Reply
              • orionATL says:

                ho hum. got anything else you’re selling, maestro?

                by the way, the phrase was “panicky fanaticism” :)

                did you notice that after the vote on rep. green’s resolution, the pot quit boiling?

                and do you remember, maestro, what lawrence tribe said about 2 months ago – that impeachment was a PROCESS, a process that was underway at that time. as i recall, you, typically, dismissed tribe’s comment, but i think he was right. so the impeachment process has been proceeding right along all along under the nose of your oratory.

                Reply
                • bmaz says:

                  Again, piss up a fucking rope you repetitive coward. And if you think the “impeachment process” has been under way for months, you are a blithering idiot and a liar. You also understand that Tribe, who you relentless and fraudulently cite, has demanded opening an inquiry now since the first of June.

                  You repetitively continue to straight up LIE about Tribe. And, take your “maestro” and shove it up your lying ass. You keep lying here, you will be done. It is your choice, I have about had it with you and your patently dishonest and cowardly argument.

                  Reply
                • Rayne says:

                  I’m going to tell you just once: stop poking the bear, by which I mean denigrating other community members’ opinions and persons with derogatory labels instead of focusing on facts.

                  If you don’t your comments will be held in moderation for an afternoon siesta.

                  Reply
  10. orionATL says:

    there are a lot more important things here than my concern, but before this post closes out i just want to say this is the most specific and hence useful/informative criticism of the steele “dossier” that i have read. everyone has known about prague and Cohen and the rosneft honcho sechin meeting for forever, but this critique is detailed and has the feel of being fair-minded, balancing negative and positive.

    i am an admirer of steele’s – of his dogged willingness to try to warn american counter-intelligence about the gossip he had heard being passed around in moscow about the 2016 election and putin working trump and then to light a public fire. i regard the way he has been treated by american political factions as contemptible. chapter the last of his dossier raises some questions but i’ve yet to see how they are a major matter.

    it is interesting that i get the impression that whatever info the Russians might have planted once they learned of steele’s work (remember they would certainly have known him by reputation) may have been designed, not to lead those listening to steele down some wrong path, but to hide specific forms of Russian involvement.

    Reply
    • Desider says:

      @neal_katyal doesn’t think OLC exempts campaign-finance violations “whether you cheated enough to win an election. That would encourage people to cheat to the hilt to win & get a get-out-of-jail-free card.. seems like a very perverse rule.”
      IANAL, but this seems only too obvious – were the Founding Fathers too stupid to realize that an opening that says “you can’t be indicted, just impeached” would have any tyrant immediately trying to make sure he couldn’t be impeached while engaging in more & more outrageous acts? I’m guessing half of Trump’s firing cabinet members is to prevent the 25th Amendment from being invoked. With Mitch McConnell heading the Senate, Trump seems safe to do what he wants – 1 man essentially keeps him from any worry of being removed by Senate conviction. [Impeachment without conviction would just encourage Trump, give him bragging rights, talk about the rigged crooked Dems out to get him, make him a martyr]
      https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/neal-katyal-on-whether-the-mueller-report-went-far-enough

      Reply
      • bmaz says:

        Orion is a pain in the ass garbage troll at this point. If that is where you want to go too, duly noted.

        The ONLY question is whether or not to open a mere inquiry to aid in investigation, gathering of facts, meaningful hearings and getting information to the public.

        When you and Orion argue that opening an inquiry is tantamount to voting Articles out for trial in the Senate YOU ARE LYING both to commenters here and to the American public.

        Desider, if you want to LIE out of your ass, don’t do it here. I will bust you and Orion Every. Single. Time. you propagate this absolute Lie. It is craven. It is sick. And it is an affront to the rule of law and the Constitution.

        Your fear is “impeachment without conviction”? Seriously, what in the living hell is wrong with you? The ONLY question is about opening an inquiry to aid in investigation and oversight (NOT articles and trial in the Senate). Are you too chickenshit to even sanction that? Are you too chickenshit to even admit that? At what point “would” you deign to defend the Constitution?

        Maybe you think the Constitution is just “a goddamned piece of paper”. There are rumors that is what Bush and Cheney thought, albeit them unconfirmed.

        But is that what you think? Or do you think the Constitution ought be protected and defended? Or is it all just some relative moment of craven political expediency for you? Do you give a shit about the rule of law, or just naw?

        Reply
        • bmaz says:

          No, Orion, it is you that is lying out of your butt. That will not fly here any more. And, if you think the “impeachment process has been going on all along”, you are deranged.

          Also, too, bye. I have bent over backwards to keep you here from, literally, the day we left FDL when you were so feeble you couldn’t even manage to log on to our new site. I personally held your hand on that. And you have, no thanks, but lately, proved yourself to be a belligerent jerk that would rather lie about things than confront them, or be anything less that a jackass to the principals here. No. That time is over. Good luck.

          Reply
        • Desider says:

          Wow, I based my comment on an observation by Neil Katyal with a link to his interview. I thought Mueller too careful with OLC (he seemed to even give family privileges), and thought this “no indictment” interpretation the DoJ came up with in 1973 when Nixon was about to be impeached worth reviewing. But I don’t know, IANAL.
          Yes, impeachment is a political event, and like sane people I worry about losing rather than just making a point. I’m happy for hearings, whether “impeachment” hearings or “exploratory” hearings. I would like whatever to lead to Trump being removed, but short of a 2020 relection, it would also be good to havemore of the rampant Trump Org and GOP malfeasance in this episode revealed as well. So I’ve been supportive of Pelosi’s “slowly slowly catch a monkey” approach, thinking a) Trump’s won lots of “oh, it’s only a bunny” skirmishes, and b) it will be stronger if somehow the process pulls in more of the public the way once-Nixon supporters accepted their president had gone too far.
          Granted, other strategies might work, who knows, but Trump is a bit like The Mule in Foundation – jackassism and buffoonery seem to sustain him.
          What in all this is me “lying” I’ve no idea. I’m not Orion and I don’t pretend to have a definitive view of the Constitution nor impeachment/hearings strategy – I only offered my opinion and a quote from someone who I thought had Constitutional weight, not that that makes his view definitive either – it was a starting point for inquiry, not insults and flames.

          Reply
          • bmaz says:

            And what is it that you and other “sane people” think you are going to “lose”?? THAT is the LIE. An impeachment inquiry is just an investigative tool. The only way to “lose” is if formal articles of impeachment are voted out for trial in the Senate. But that does not have to ever be done. Opening an inquiry is NOT that. That is the lie. Anytime a person, whether you, Orion, or Pelosi conflates opening an inquiry with a trial isn the Senate, it is a lie.

            Oh, and by the way, Neal Katyal has been saying the same thing, i.e. that an inquiry should be opened, since mid-January. So has conservative lawyer George Conway. Note that that was long before the Mueller Report was even released. So has pretty much every lawyer with common sense. So has Larry Tribe, who was famously hesitant at first, came out in favor of an inquiry back in April (and specifically noted that a formal inquiry is NOT the same as voting articles of impeachment for trial in the Senate).

            So, again, when you and Orion parrot Pelosi in conflating an inquiry with a failed trial, it is a LIE.

            Reply
            • Desider says:

              I don’t think I’m conflating anything. Here’s everything I have to go on, per CNN:
              =================================
              Democrats have been wrestling with the question of impeachment since taking control of the House, and now more than a third of House Democrats publicly support opening an impeachment inquiry. But Pelosi has resisted those efforts, saying they should not move forward with impeachment unless the public is on their side.
              “With all the respect in the world for him, we have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the President may have engaged in,” Pelosi said. “That is the serious path that we are on, not that Mr. Green is not serious, but we’ll deal with that on the floor.”
              ==================================
              So, I either trust Pelosi with her path of don’t-call-it-impeachment-yet hearings, or trust some other Democrat with yes-lets-call-it-impeachment. Neither says they send this to the Senate for trial nor when. I did think calling for impeachment hearings on winning the midterms would lead to some partially slightly justifiable objections (including optics/public opinion as opposed to simply legal) that Dems were in too much of a hurry to over-politicize impeachment, and I’d guessed (didn’t know) that it might make it harder to get White House testimony & documents, but that’s been 8 months, and it’s Trump who’s by far over politicized everything since then, including testimony & turning over documents – which also solidifies the case for impeachment, and I also had mistakenly expected the final analysis of Mueller’s report to solidify the call for impeachment more than it has (due to Barr & the GOP in general playing even more obsessively partisan than one possibly might have expected, aside from Amash, along with little change or leakage of support from usual suspects like Evangelists, GOP centrists, foreign policy figures, et al), so aside from professionals figuring out the right timing back in March/April, I’m pretty fine with full speed ahead at this point.
              I am concerned when Al Green thinks leading impeachment with Trump’s “racism” is a good idea – I think that’s Trump’s strong turf, where his consistent 42% polling support lies. But hey, I’m as clueless as anyone else as to how to bring down that 42% – it’s been flat-line level for over a year now, only slightly below the 9 month preceding – no matter what Saudi, North Korean, Putin, Wall, gov shutdown, Michael Cohen, Mueller Report, tax avoidance, Stormy, Epstein, midterms, firing Sessions/Comey, or other scandal, meanness or incompetence on display that week.
              Anyway, I think you accuse people of “lies” a bit too freely when they’re just giving their opinion or perception of things. [awaiting the “but you don’t own this blog/you can go fuck yourself” response]

              Reply
              • bmaz says:

                I don’t need some weak ass crap from CNN. You just go with that namby pamby bullshit while the Constitution burns. Good plan. And I’ll call a lie when I perceive a lie. And anyone who conflates a “failure” with opening an inquiry is lying. And that is exactly what you and Pelosi are doing. It is a lie.

                Reply
              • Rayne says:

                Was this a direct quote from a CNN talking head? “But Pelosi has resisted those efforts, saying they should not move forward with impeachment unless the public is on their side.”

                If this is sourced from her — and it’s not clear it is — she’s given us the road map. We still have ~133 Democrats who must be persuaded to support an inquiry let alone impeachment, and they aren’t budging. If they aren’t getting adequate feedback from their constituents that an inquiry let alone impeachment are necessary to keeping their seats, they aren’t going to change their opinions.

                I do wonder if Nadler’s appearance on Fox with Chris Wallace this weekend was designed to budge the intransigence. And it’s still up to us, the voters, to contact representatives and demand they support an impeachment inquiry.

                Reply
                • bmaz says:

                  “Unless the public is on their side”. Another lie. The public doesn’t understand Constitutional law. The public doesn’t understand the fundamental difference between a “legislative purpose” standard versus the immensely more powerful and bulletproof “impeachment inquiry” footing for court review. The public has not read the Mueller Report (less than 3% last I heard), nor do they have the sophistication to understand it if they did. This is the job of elected representatives. And there would be plenty more of them supporting an inquiry if Pelosi and Hoyer gave them the headroom to do so. Pelosi and Hoyer are the ones choking this off at the head. Pelosi is flat out lying to those representatives and the American public by tying the opening of an inquiry with voting out articles for a trial in the Senate and demanding that a majority of the public approve. It is complete bullshit. Pelosi and Hoyer know that, she just doesn’t care.

                  Reply
                  • Rayne says:

                    Let’s be clear that what you called a lie is what appears to be CNN’s content.

                    I have a suspicion it’s time to start looking through the DCCC’s donations over the last year and call out names publicly.

                    Reply
                • Desider says:

                  For Rayne:
                  Pelosi has given this same roadmap before (whether she fed it to the CNN reporter or not) – from Steve Israel, ex-Congressman:
                  ========================
                  When House Democrats convened in the room to hash out strategies on policy and politics, Pelosi would point to the portrait and remind them of a Lincoln quote: “Public sentiment is everything.” That instruction guides her today on the matter of impeachment. But it’s easily misunderstood.

                  For Pelosi, public sentiment doesn’t mean following public opinion, but strategically shaping it so that it’s more receptive to a strategic goal. It’s not just laying the groundwork; it’s fertilizing it. That takes message discipline, unity, and patience—all of which will be necessary as pressure to impeach President Donald Trump continues to build.
                  … (later in the article)
                  A few days before the vote, Pelosi hunted me down on the House floor and asked why I couldn’t oppose the measure. When I told her that many of my constituents favored it, she looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Well, educate them.”

                  Pelosi’s sensitivity to public sentiment requires her to keep tabs on three fronts….
                  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/nancy-pelosi-public-opinion-and-timing-matter/591385/
                  ======================
                  Todd Purdum:
                  ======================
                  When Republicans voted on impeachment more than 20 years ago, Nancy Pelosi was right there on the House floor, watching as the GOP plunged headfirst into the process without broad public support or the clear prospect of conviction in the Senate. For many establishment Democrats of a certain age—say, those who are now eligible for Medicare—the lesson from that time is clear: Impeaching Bill Clinton was a bad idea that hurt the presidency, the country, and most of all, the House Republican majority.

                  What Pelosi surely has in the back of her mind is how, in the ’90s, impeachment essentially put an end to the GOP policy agenda. “Their brand became impeachment,” said Jake Siewert, who was the deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House when the House Republicans voted on articles of impeachment. “That’s all they were known for. It actually elevated the loudmouths in their party because they were the ones who went on TV.

                  But the ultimate reaction to the numbing litany of lewd details in the report was an overwhelming public backlash against Starr and the Republicans, which was only exacerbated by the release of Clinton’s own videotaped grand-jury testimony, in which he largely came off as a steady and sympathetic responder to the prosecutors’ relentless questioning.

                  The biggest lesson of the Clinton impeachment proceedings—the one that is surely not lost on Pelosi—is the purely political one: They didn’t ruin the public’s opinion of the president.* As my colleague Ronald Brownstein explained recently, when the Republicans voted to remove Clinton, public support for impeachment, at about 35 percent, was roughly the same as it is now for impeaching Trump, about 40 percent. And Clinton had much greater public support than Trump does—a roughly 60 percent approval rating, compared with Trump’s 40 percent. Following the Senate’s acquittal of Clinton by a wide margin, the president’s overall approval rating remained at about 60 percent through the rest of his time in office.
                  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/06/pelosi-impeachment-trump-clinton/591652/
                  ============================

                  Reply
                  • Rayne says:

                    Until there’s a critical mass of House Democrats supporting — demanding — an inquiry, Pelosi is going to continue this vaguery. As she told Steve Israel, “Educate them.” It’s the people’s House, representatives are there to serve them. The people need to educate them. Make it clear we don’t give a shit about incumbency and donations. We care about the law and the oaths they took to protect and defend it.

                    As for Bill Clinton: I shut down when this comes up with regard to the statistics. Not only was he more popular than Trump, no man really wanted to see him removed for lying about a fucking blowjob. Hard to compare that to the enormity of Trump’s ongoing rampant criminality save for the fact the nation survived the process. Nixon is a far better example.

                    Reply
                  • Desider says:

                    From Huffpost – it’s partly politicians doing the educating, partly activists doing the educating. Anyway, when enough are woke, it can move forward. The Squad has 4 votes. I understand 27 more Congressfolk signed on Wednesday, bringing House total for impeachment to 112 – need a few more than that to get a majority of 435 members.
                    =================================
                    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/go-out-and-make-me-do-it_b_281631
                    President Barack Obama‘s address to Congress Wednesday night was not just a litany of policy prescriptions. It was a call to action.

                    His approach took a page out of President Franklin Roosevelt’s playbook.

                    FDR once met with a group of activists who sought his support for bold legislation. He listened to their arguments for some time and then said, “You’ve convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.”

                    Even in the middle of the Depression, Roosevelt understood that the more effectively people created a sense of urgency and crisis, the easier it would be for him to push for progressive legislation…

                    But Obama now understands that winning a victory on health care reform will require more than good ideas and inside-the-Beltway maneuvering with Congress. It will require a mass movement with a moral message, voter mobilization, marches, prayer vigils, stories of everyday people damaged by insurance industry practices, testimony by doctors and nurses frustrated by the insurance companies’ priorities of profits over patients, and media savvy.
                    …Moreover, Obama took aim at the right-wingers – the talk show fanatics, the tea-party mob who disrupted town meetings, and their allies in Congress – who have been spreading “ bogus claims” and “whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.”
                    …With those words, Obama issued a challenge to the American people and, in particular, to the activist organizations — the labor unions, community groups, faith-based groups, seniors groups like AARP, netroots groups like MoveOn, Organizing for America (the group created by his campaign volunteers), and Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the key coalition spearheading the grassroots citizens campaign for health care reform. (People interested in having their voices heard should connect with HCAN).

                    Obama was letting them know that even the President of the United States can’t reform the health insurance system on his own. To get Congress to adopt his plan – especially to get the conservative and centrist Democrats like Senators Max Baucus (Montana), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Evan Bayh (Indiana) – Obama needs an army of ground troops to join the battle. Only a grassroots movement can transform people’s anger, frustrations and hopes into focused public action, creating a sense of urgency equal to the health insurance crisis facing the country.

                    “Now’s the time to deliver on health care,” Obama insisted.

                    Obama reminded the members of Congress that “a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight.” But Obama understands that powerful special interests – particularly the insurance industry – can offset public opinion unless the public is organized and mobilized.

                    Tonight, Obama was telling the American people that he shares their desire for bold health care reform, but he was asking for their help to change the political climate so Congress will respond to what most Americans – not the insurance lobbyists – want.

                    Echoing FDR, Obama was saying, “Go out and make me do it.”

                    Reply
                    • bmaz says:

                      What a complete load of coward rubbish. Just admit you do not care if the Constitution is shredded and burns. Admit it and stop with the foot long rationalizations for your abject cowardice and apathy for the Constitution.

                    • Desider says:

                      1) sorry if I mistakenly told you Nancy Pelosi calls me to get advice on what she should do. Spoiler: she doesn’t. (nor does AOC, oddly enough – coincidence?)
                      2) if you’re so brave and uncowardly, why didn’t you stand up for the Constitution and demand impeachment hearings in January 2017, or latest May 2017 if it’s the right thing to do? You didn’t let a little piddling thing like a lack of a majority stop you, did you? or are you secretly apathetic? I suppose the correct answer’s supposed to be Jan 5, 2019, because there can only be 1 way.

                    • bmaz says:

                      1) Listen you disingenuous jerk, I never said Pelosi called you for advice. She would do better asking a Ouija board. 2) I have been talking about heightened oversight and investigation pretty much ever since the Dems won the majority. If this is all you are going to do, stop. You are repeating Pelosi’s lie, and then lying about me. You need to move along.

        • Desider says:

          PS – I think you’re interpreting my intent *opposite* to how I read things. I also think it useful for Congress to assert the right of oversight and to hold hearings *without* the burden of officially launching “impeachment” hearings. If Trump/GOP create a new obligatory hurdle to normap review, it gives too much power to the executive branch until it’s way too late to do anything about it (factoring in the delays with court reviews, the DoJ leadership’s role in stonewalling, et al.)
          PPS – re Orion, I.m not sure why at this point I tagged this onto his comment – maybe sleepy – but even Marcy has suggested numerous times that Steele was fed disinfo, so I.m not sure what in Orion’s comment here sets you off so bad, unless it’s prior comments.

          Reply
          • bmaz says:

            Without an inquiry being opened, the “hearings” will be worthless and the Administration will continue to mock and laugh at the House, and continue to refuse to provide evidence and refuse to appear. So, you have indeed reinforced that you are in strong favor of worthless and feckless bullshit as opposed to using the exact and specific remedy the Constitution provides to fight that. You are in favor of cowardice and betrayal of the Constitution. Because you think defending the Constitution,on and the Separation of Powers that is designed into it is a “burden”. You have made that crystal clear. And you want the slowest and most pathetic path in courts possible, when there is a clear and faster path the Constitution specifies. But you think that would be a “burden”. Thank you for making clear that you just do not give a shit.

            Reply
            • Desider says:

              I am hoping that the representatives that you & I elected will figure out the right type of hearings to bring about the best effect. If that’s parallel Intelligence hearings and Ways & Means and Judiciary, et al that come together in October to officially open impeachment hearings, or if that means opening official Impeachment hearings this week, I simply don’t know – faster *could* be better, unless it fails or is too poorly done for results. Slower could be worse – I think in some ways we expected more coming from Mueller in his 2 years, and now it’s 5 months since Barr’s been mucking things up, so yes, clock’s ticking. I was more patient in April, but the level of outrageous contempt of Congress by the White House has also greatly escalated – which has also created I would think more impeachable offenses.

              Reply
              • bmaz says:

                Again, it is an investigative tool. There is nothing to “fail”. Every time someone describes it in terms of something that could “fail”, it is a lie. An inquiry facilitates evidence gathering and oversight. It cannot, alone, “fail”. The failure is to NOT use the best process and tools possible. And waiting until October is insane.

                I do not need some idiot representative to figure out what needs to be done, I know what needs to be done. What I need is for Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to get their heads out of their asses and honor their oaths of office.

                Reply
                • Desider says:

                  Blocking Kavanaugh “failed”. Whatever one thought of Democratic strategies on how to carry out their limited part in the approval hearings, whether focus on attempted rape or his prior lying to Congress or his history as an attack dog – he snuck through. Sure, we got some points for bringing something to the public, but in the end, he’s on the Supreme Court and I consider that a “fail”.
                  It’s also possible that even if he had been rejected the GOP would have come back with someone even worse but who’d be easier to confirm, so I don’t overestimate how much good it would do in the end, but I do think rejecting Kavanaugh would have been best for us (and I thought the high school attempted rape angle was the worst way to turn the hearings, as it again played to the GOP culture base & the “everyone makes mistakes in high school” objections, vs the more concrete lying-to-Congress, leaking-confidential-hearing data for partisan gain issues that strike at the heart of the law, but again, I don’t consider myself the best judge of which strategy – I just hope we can get someone who’s pretty smart to come up with a strategy that works well – not perfect, but good enough for out basic interests.

                  Reply
                  • bmaz says:

                    What in the living fuck does the Kavanaugh confirmation have to do with opening an impeachment inquiry? Just admit you don’t give a shit to do what is actually necessary and quit spewing bogus rationalizations.

                    Reply

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