Glenn Greenwald and David Frum Need to Stop Looking to the Mueller Report for FBI’s Counterintelligence Conclusions
There have been several public controversies in recent days that arise from the fact that there was a Russian counterintelligence investigation that no one sees tangible results of.
The most predictable came when Glenn Greenwald claimed Mueller’s purported silence about blackmail proved that any questions about it amounted to conspiracy mongering.
Glenn objects to John Garamendi wondering why Trump continues to push so hard to readmit Russia into the G-7. It’s a question raised by reports of how Trump’s private lobbying to readmit Russia undermined the G-7 even more than his more public lies and intransigence about other topics.
The leaders sat down Saturday evening for their first joint meeting — a dinner of Basque specialties at the foot of the landmark lighthouse of Biarritz. The meal started normally, with a discussion of the fires in the Amazon. It moved on to containing Iran’s nuclear threat. But it went off the rails when Trump blasted leaders for not including Russia.
Trump’s message was that “it doesn’t really make sense to have this discussion without Putin at the table,” according to a European official briefed on the conversation among the leaders.
The official, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sharp discussions at the summit.
The entire 44-year vision of the G-7 gathering, according to the non-U. S. participants, is to hash out global issues among like-minded democracies. So the discussion quickly turned even more fundamental: Whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said.
Most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes. Trump believed the answer was no. The pushback against him was delivered so passionately that the U.S. president’s body language changed as one leader after another dismissed his demand, according to a senior official who watched the exchange. He crossed his arms. His stance became more combative.[snip]
But having such a forceful advocate for an authoritarian leader inside the room of democracies profoundly shaped the overall tone of the summit, one senior official said.
“The consequence is the same as if one of the participants is a dictator,” the official said. “No community of like-minded leaders who are pulling together.”
There is another possible explanation of course: That Trump is an authoritarian, which would mean that anybody who helped him get elected had a hand in fostering authoritarianism.
That said, Glenn’s argument that Garamendi was engaging in unhinged conspiracy theories by asking the question because after 22 months of investigating, Mueller “didn’t even hint that Putin ‘had something’ over Trump” he might use to blackmail him is an outright error.
First, it assumes that Mueller would have prosecuted someone if Russia’s president had blackmail material over Trump. I’m a bit confused how this would work, even in theory. Does Glenn think Mueller is going to charge the President of Russia with a crime for pressing an advantage over the President of the United States in foreign policy? Even distinguishing blackmail (what Putin would do) from accepting a bribe (what Trump might do in response), did Glenn miss the part where Attorney General Bill Barr, whom Glenn has treated as a credible interlocutor in this matter despite his authoritarian tendencies and his history of covering up Executive abuse, took an especially hard stance against indicting a President?
It is absolutely true that the Mueller Report concluded that the available information did not support a quid pro quo conspiracy, where Russia offered to help get Trump elected in exchange for favorable treatment in the future.
[T]he investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.
Some information that is known not to have been available to Mueller’s investigation includes an explanation for why Trump’s campaign manager was sharing campaign strategy with an Oleg Deripaska aide at a meeting where they also talked about carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking — directly related to the event that led to Russia’s G-7 exclusion. Mueller also was unable to get any answers from Trump about discussions of sanctions relief, extending (uniquely even for Trump’s contemptuous responses) even to discussions during the campaign. Mueller also was never able to obtain a definitive answer about whether Mike Flynn asked Sergey Kislyak to hold off on responding to Obama’s sanctions with Trump’s involvement. Mueller also did not get a solid understanding of how the Transition treated Erik Prince’s discussions with Kirill Dmitriev, because both Prince and Steve Bannon deleted their texts that would have explained their inconsistent accounts. In short, Mueller did not establish a quid pro quo. But he also did not have some of the most important information he’d need to assess the question.
More importantly, a quid pro quo amounting to the crime of conspiracy — something Mueller could charge, if it involved people in addition to Trump — is a different thing than blackmail, what Glenn explicitly refers to twice in his tweets. Short of accepting a bribe, that’s a counterintelligence question, not a prosecutorial one. And the Mueller Report explicitly says that all the counterintelligence findings were not in the report, which is by regulation limited to prosecution and declination decisions.
From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results. [my emphasis]
If Mueller had found evidence Putin were trying to blackmail Trump, he would have treated it as a counterintelligence concern; it wouldn’t show up in the report, which is why it is so silly that Glenn suggests Mueller’s public statements would discount the possibility of blackmail. Being blackmailed is not a crime. Glenn is — as he has been since he embraced Bill Barr’s summary as a faithful report of what Mueller found — simply misrepresenting (or perhaps ignorant of) the scope of the report, even while relying on Mueller as an authority to dismiss Garamendi’s claim.
Glenn’s claims about Mueller’s silence are all the more inaccurate given Mueller’s testimony before the Intelligence Committee, which itself has a counterintelligence function. Mueller did, explicitly, state that his report does not show Trump to be an agent of Russia.
WENSTRUP: So a member of this Committee said President Trump was a Russian agent after your report was publicly released. That statement is not supported by your report, correct?
MUELLER: That is accurate. Not supported.
But that’s not what Glenn addressed, at all (and it’s also not what the the majority of concerns raised about Trump address). Glenn was making a claim about blackmail, not about being a recruited agent.
In his testimony, Mueller said something very different about blackmail. One of the biggest pieces of news that came out of that day of hearings was Mueller’s statement that the FBI continues to investigate whether Mike Flynn was susceptible to blackmail.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Since it was outside the purview of your investigation your report did not address how Flynn’s false statements could pose a national security risk because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right?
MUELLER: I cannot get in to that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.
That may be consistent with reports from a period when Mueller’s investigation was done that multiple US Attorneys districts had equities in Flynn’s 302s, not to mention the disclosure that Ekim Alptekin was working to influence Trump’s policies in ways that go beyond the Gulen related contact.
As to Trump, in Mueller’s longer colloquy with Raja Krishnamoorthi, he confirmed that two potential sources of potential Trump blackmail were not addressed by the report: Trump’s financial ties with Russia and Russian money laundering using Trump businesses.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Director, since it was outside the purview of your investigation, your report did not reach counterintelligence conclusions regarding the subject matter of your report.
MUELLER: That’s true.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: For instance, since it was outside your purview, your report did not reach counterintelligence conclusions regarding any Trump administration officials who might potentially be vulnerable to compromise of blackmail by Russia, correct?
MUELLER: Those decisions probably were made in the FBI.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: But not in your report, correct?
MUELLER: Not in our report. We avert to the counterintelligence goals of our investigation which were secondary to any criminal wrongdoing that we could find.
Then, in an exchange with Adam Schiff, Mueller agreed hypothetically that acting unethically, particularly if it involves lying about financial issues, could make someone susceptible to blackmail. When Schiff asked explicitly whether a presidential candidate lying about doing business with Russia could expose someone to blackmail, Mueller said he would, “leave that to you.”
SCHIFF: If a presidential candidate was doing business in Russia and saying he wasn’t, Russians could expose that too, could they not?
MUELLER: I leave that to you.
In other words, the most direct thing Mueller has said — after having laid out that if there were counterintelligence concerns stemming from Trump’s lies to hide his willingness to work through a former GRU officer and with sanctioned banks to make an improbably lucrative real estate deal in Moscow relying on the intervention of the Russian government, they wouldn’t be in his report — is that he would leave it to Schiff, or perhaps the House Intelligence Committee tasked with CI, to determine the CI implications of Trump’s lies about the Trump Tower deal. And yet Glenn is complaining about Garamendi raising the question that Mueller himself deferred to Congress.
If Glenn wants to treat Mueller as his authority (he actually wants to treat Bill Barr’s caricature of Mueller as his authority), then he needs to admit that, after acknowledging that the kinds of things Trump and his flunkies did and do may make them susceptible to blackmail, Mueller deferred precisely this issue, as it regards the President, to Congress. He sure as hell didn’t say concerns about them amounted to Alex Jones-worthy conspiracy mongering; he said the opposite.
And while it wasn’t asked in either of the Mueller hearings, the report does not treat two other areas investigators would need to review to determine whether or not Trump was making policy decisions based off a concern that Russia had leverage over him. Probably for very good constitutional reasons, the report doesn’t deal with actions unrelated to the investigation that Trump took as President, such as attempting to overturn the existing sanctions on Russia or slow-walking the further sanctions imposed by Congress. More specifically, however, the Mueller Report doesn’t treat the most alarming incidents between Trump and Russia: Trump’s sharing of highly sensitive Israeli intelligence in the same meeting with Sergei Lavrov where Trump boasted of firing Comey, Trump and Putin’s private conversation about adoptions during the period when Trump was penning a false statement claiming the June 9 meeting was about adoptions, and Trump’s backing of Putin’s claims about the DNC hack in Helsinki, even in the wake of the GRU indictment for the theft. They’re all (especially given precedents about the President’s role in classification decisions and foreign policy) legal, but deeply troubling from a national security perspective. That’s where any counterintelligence analysis of Trump’s compromise by Russia would start, and even though related events are treated in the Mueller Report, these specifically are not.
In short, Glenn’s comment, which would have betrayed ignorance of the scope of the Mueller Report back in March when he started making such claims, is an outright error in light of what Mueller said in Congressional testimony. To the extent anyone in government has made conclusions about Trump’s susceptibility to blackmail (and at least per Mueller’s testimony, FBI is still investigating related issues), that’s not something in the Mueller Report. It’s also not something Mueller deems conspiracy-mongering. Mueller’s report of their criminal charging decisions is by definition silent on that issue.
All that said, Glenn is not alone in this error. He’s joined by many critics of Trump’s coziness with Putin, too. Just this morning, for example, Axis of Evil scribe David Frum made precisely the error Glenn made, suggesting that the silence about counterintelligence issues in Mueller’s Report reflects any conclusion about it. He made it about the same topic, too: Trump’s insistence that Russia should rejoin the G-7.
A simple review of the report would explain that Mueller was primarily tasked to prosecute crimes, and a simple review of Mueller’s testimony — the only time he addressed this question explicitly — would show Mueller stating that, “the counterintelligence goals of our investigation which were secondary to any criminal wrongdoing that we could find.”
All that said, it is equally wrong to assume that Mueller’s team and the FBI counterintelligence agents colocated with it didn’t take particular steps to investigate counterintelligence concerns. Last night, in the wake of confirmation that Deutsche Bank had copies of Trump’s tax returns, there was a sketchy single sourced report on MSNBC (which Trump’s lawyer has just aggressively refuted; now MSNBC has retracted it) that unnmaed Russians had co-signed on some DB loans.
To be clear, there are reasons to suspect Deutsche Bank files on Trump and his son-in-law would show suspect behavior. That’s because an earlier NYT story relying on five sources, one of them named — said DB had flagged certain transactions. That report even said the DB declined to submit Suspicious Activity Reports on the transactions.
In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser.
Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.
Ms. McFadden drafted a suspicious activity report and compiled a small bundle of documents to back up her decision.
Typically, such a report would be reviewed by a team of anti-money laundering experts who are independent of the business line in which the transactions originated — in this case, the private-banking division — according to Ms. McFadden and two former Deutsche Bank managers.
That did not happen with this report. It went to managers in New York who were part of the private bank, which caters to the ultrawealthy. They felt Ms. McFadden’s concerns were unfounded and opted not to submit the report to the government, the employees said.
Ms. McFadden and some of her colleagues said they believed the report had been killed to maintain the private-banking division’s strong relationship with Mr. Kushner.
After Mr. Trump became president, transactions involving him and his companies were reviewed by an anti-financial crime team at the bank called the Special Investigations Unit. That team, based in Jacksonville, produced multiple suspicious activity reports involving different entities that Mr. Trump owned or controlled, according to three former Deutsche Bank employees who saw the reports in an internal computer system.
Some of those reports involved Mr. Trump’s limited liability companies. At least one was related to transactions involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, two employees said.
Deutsche Bank ultimately chose not to file those suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department, either, according to three former employees.
That said, these sources all seem to have reviewed the actual transactions, and there’s nothing as inflammatory as a Russian co-signer. Lawrence O’Donnell’s source reportedly has not seen the documents.
More importantly, the belief there’ll be some criminal hidden grail in Trump’s finances assumes that Mueller never got any of his finances. In the same Intelligence Committee hearing, Mueller declined to comment on whether he had obtained Trump’s tax returns and other financial documents.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And of course your office did not obtain the president’s tax returns which could otherwise show foreign financial sources, correct?
MUELLER: I’m not going to speak to that.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: In July 2017 the president said his personal finances were off limits, or outside the purview of your investigation and he drew a “red line,” around his personal finances. Were the president’s personal finances outside the purview of your investigation?
MUELLER: I’m not going to get in to that.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Were you instructed by anyone not to investigate the president’s personal finances?
Mueller did base some of his investigation off of SARs referrals (which, obviously, he wouldn’t haven’t obtained if DB was sitting on them until this got reported several months after Mueller’s investigation shut down); that’s where the investigation of Michael Cohen began. Any investigation into Jared Kushner’s discussions of back channels involving sanctioned Russian banks would surely have subpoenaed bank records. Furthermore, Mueller obtained at least Cohen’s Trump Organization email without asking for it from the company itself (and preserved all of it as soon as he learned about the June 9 meeting).
In other words, there’s a counterpart to those — like Glenn and Frum — erroneously making claims about Mueller’s counterintelligence conclusions based on what is in the report. That’s people assuming that certain kinds of investigation wouldn’t have happened, when we know some form of one did.
Always nice when you turn my vague feelings of frustration and bullshit into a well written article. Thanks Marcy
After reading this through and reflecting on the hemming and hawing DB did in front of the appeals court, I’m thinking that there is a possibility that DB might not have totally forthcoming with Mueller’s document requests.
That’s the shame of all this — that the principals weren’t forthcoming as they should have been if they were citizens loyal to the United States first and foremost instead of to themselves and their own self-aggrandizement. Their dishonesty fucked w/the production of a cohesive understanding of the entirety of the Trump-Russia conspiracy process. The continuing flow of dishonesty from Russian trolls and the Trumps keeps the churn going. It’s notable to see how they’ve shifted their focus now they think Trump has evaded the implications of the Mueller report.
Nonetheless, it’s clear what was done to accomplish what and what was agreed to in order for that Russian assistance to be forthcoming in such a timely manner. It’s just a matter of having the insights and the luck to gain the last vital pieces of evidence of Trump’s efforts at conspiracy. I’m glad Trump keeps exposing his efforts at quid pro quo because those efforts at quid pro quo should work in our favor when it comes time to present evidence.
Deutsche Bank is hosed as far as being a legitimate bank when it’s engaging in money laundering on this scale this consistently and this frequently over time despite paying fines. Yeah, I’m sure DB hosed Mueller. Hopefully, DB will provide Congress w/honest Trump financials rather than a falsified set. I’m not going to speculate on where I think the last evidence is going to come from but I think the DB financials might shake some folks to their core.
DB took on all the shady business that was orphaned after BCCI. Some bank will eventually take it’s place. There is simply too much money involved.
Apparently legal threats are flying over said thinly sourced report. McDonnell is backing off claiming error in vetting the report. I sincerely hope that someone else can get confirmation. It would explain why Trump acts like Putin has his right nut in his pocket. The left one, of course, is in the possession of the Saudis.
He’s got it. May have jumped the gun reporting it, but the fact that he did makes me 99% sure he has it.
Plus, if it quacks like a duck…
Does anybody remember what Trump said when told that the Special Counsel’s investigation might touch on his relationship with Russia?
Thank you for doing this. I just to worry before I found your work. One things, and I’m not sure how it could tie in, I don’t have the necessary expertise, but I do remember a bunch of hinky doings at Treasury around some sars I think that indicate some sections of Treasury are not a well oiled machine right now. Let me peek and I’ll add.
FWIW, not much 😉 lol, I think it was one of these set off my “that pattern doesn’t make sense in a good away” alarm
I used to respect Glenn Greenwald’s intellect, but his unbridled support of Donald Trump makes me wonder if he is not somehow compromised.
[Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. If this is the name you’ve chosen to replace a more common username, disregard this note. Thanks. /~Rayne]
For a long while, Greenwald seems to have been desperate to convince people (contrary to all evidence) that Trump’s election was entirely legitimate and that he has no connections to Russia, with the token poo-poo-ing of policy to show that he doesn’t actually like Trump, but usually using those policies to bash the Democrats. Once he started on the “Russiagate” tirades (even as Mueller was literally indicting Russians and Junior was outing himself), I had to stop reading anything with his name on it.
And Frum…has his own history, who people only pay attention to because he doesn’t like Trump.
[Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more unique version of your current username to differentiate yourself from other community members with the same username. Please also use the same differentiated username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Thanks. /~Rayne]
The ax that Greenwald’s grinding relates less to Trump than it does to Clinton and the DNC. He’s committed to the position that Clinton is irredeemably corrupt and that the disclosure of DNC documents was a leak, not a hack. Having gone out on that limb, he’ll not countenance a factual narrative that contradicts his, even if that means misreading / mischaracterizing the Mueller Report. He deems “Russiagate” a fraud perpetrated and sustained by Democrats.
It is absolutely far more complex and deeper than that.
Do tell …
I think I will mostly pass on that for reasons I am not going to delve into. But, at a minimum, it is not just Clinton, it is the Dems in general, who he sees as malignant as the Republicans (parts of that are not necessarily wrong).
And he is highly invested in things being “whistleblowing” as opposed to criminal hacks or theft. You don’t have to agree with him to understand where he is coming from. There are many more factors too, but I will leave those be. The point is, it is not a simply explained posture.
I agree about the dems, but I think they are more malingerers than malignant.
A presidential race with Trump vs. Clinton is about a big a failure of American democracy is anyone can imagine. It was like having to choose between Satan and Cthulhu. I voted for Clinton – better the devil who knows the system – but I sure as heck wasn’t happy about it.
That’s a very large pile of bovine excrement you have there.
(Fond memories) The Krishnamoorthi questioning is a gift that keeps on giving.
Odd fixation Glenn, Craig Murray and others have that the Russian influence opp is bunk, and that Mueller’s report establishes that by its silence on behavior related to it by Trump and his close associates.
Mueller was clear that he did not address such counterintel issues in his investigation of potential crimes.
Agree with your skepticism about DB having loan docs with RU oligarch co-signers. We should be so lucky (lol). My understanding though, is that the loans were processed through the private banking part of the bank, and that would allow for many other ways to provide the security for the loan that would not be obvious as to the source. Money parked in previously laundered assets, third party go betweens, or possibly the immaculate conception laundering arrangements that DB was busted for earlier. We are talking about DB, so a number of things are possible that would be less likely at a more ethical bank.
That’s what I’m fearful of — that the banking cut-outs used by Trump and the Russians are so complex and sophisticated, it will be nigh impossible to get a clear picture of where the funds are coming from that fuel Trump’s empire. We can’t simply juxtapose Don Jr’s statement(s) about “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” (Trump Jr., during a conference in New York in 2008) and link them to LLCs registered in tax haven nations. We need those tax havens to provide the final identifications of principals.
I am hoping some of the discovery needed to expose Trump’s money laundering will have already been identified in previous Russian money laundering analysis of DB’s banking records and other international money laundering centers like Netherlands and London and will transfer directly to an investigation of Trump’s financiers.
Marcy, Thank you for this detailed, and clearly written response to the clouded formulations of a propagandist.
In challenging Lawrence O’Donnell’s report, Trump’s law firm claims that the documents supporting their claim that Trump is the only guarantor of any and all borrowed funds for any projects which exclusively involve Trump entities.
And in supporting this contention, it asserts that “numerous documents” for each of these loans are recorded, publicly available and searchable online. And thus it claims that actual malice can be easily be proven through “reckless disregard of the truth” by reliance on an unidentified source for this story.
This is classic intimidation of a news gathering organization whether print, electronic or digital. Here is my question: If the loan documents are publicly available, searchable and online, then this must mean that Trump is all about transparency. Well, we know that isn’t true. So, why should we accept this argument?
Simple, in order to do business with Putin and his oligarchs you must be corrupt. There is no other way around it. Deutsche Bank is corrupt. Trump has laundered money for Russians for years. The bank loaned money to Trump even when it was sued by the bank and owed it hundreds of millions in outstanding loans. There is only one reason the bank would continue backing Trump and his failed real estate and business empire, because it was backed by Russian money.
I don’t give a shit what the reporting says today or whether O’Donnell caves to corporate pressure and backs off his story. In the end, Trump is a fucking crook compromised by Russian money and Putin influence. End of story.
If the docs are all that innocent, then they can post them on a public site for everyone to look at. That they’re trying to prevent them from being seen by anyone says there’s stuff they have to hide from legal authorities like tax agencies as well as oversight committees and the voters.
All it would take to unravel the tapestry of lies that make up Trump’s financial statements is to leave a thread that someone like David Cay Johnston could pull. I suspect that’s why Trump insists that nothing, absolutely nothing, be released.
Agree 100% wouldn’t be surprised is Johnston is correct with the two sets of taxes, one a draft with totally different set of numbers.
Well, NBC and MSNBC, via Lawrence O’Donnell, just retracted the whole report.
Uh oh! Dewey, Cheatum, Harder & Howe prevails…
That doesn’t mean Trump doesn’t use two set of numbers, that is unrelated from Russians. Cohen said as much in Congress.
Lawrence just sAid by having a single source he wouldn’t have been able to report it. Not quite a retraction though I don’t think it would just be like a car co-sign like he seemed to be implying.
Who was Trumps banker at Duetsche? Kennedy’s son yes?
They’ve never actually said, but it’s been implied that the younger Kennedy had some connection to Tr*mp that permitted loans others wouldn’t have gotten.
To be fair, also this:
I have read multiple placeS Kennedy had already hired clerks for the next term when he suddenly retired. That doesn’t mean Trump had him do it though.
Ugh, bad day so typos!
Naw, that was a retraction.
That again had jack shit to do with my comment, but guess you are perfect.
Don’t get pissy ass with me, that won’t work well. Here is the pertinent part of your comment I was responding to:
Those were YOUR words. So, yeah, it did have “jack shit” to do with your comment.
We were talking about David day Johnston theory of taxes, which was discussed on ow but had jack shit to do with what they had Lawrence say, which agin not a retraction.
Fuck of done here jackass, have a good laugh fed asshole and hope Rayne and Marcy do well but I don’t need this shit fyckface insecure bully
Fuck you bmaz. But good for you you made the disabled suicidal aspie dry
Strong man eh?
I caught you with your own words. So sorry. You can either leave here willingly, or be banned. This type of shit posting will not be tolerated. Nobody here gets talked to that way, not other commenters, and certainly not the proprietors. You are done.
As usual with Trump or any politician or CEO, the devil is in the details, because precise language can obscure as much as illuminate.
For example, is Trump personally a borrower under any loans? Not if he could help it, I’m sure. Is he a guarantor of any loans taken out by entities he controls? Again, not if he could help it.
Trump may still have substantial exposure – and therefore vulnerability – because family entities he controls and that contribute to his wealth might be on the hook as debtors, guarantors or in some other capacity that puts assets at risk.
There may also be contemporary transactions that do not directly intersect, but which are mutually dependent. That can be done through cross-default clauses, financial interdependence, or other mechanisms. At first glance, they would appear unrelated – and Trump would probably report them as such. In substance, though, they might be closely interrelated.
I assume it’s also possible that taken as a isolated package, the numbers may work out as legit, but when the pieces are viewed in a larger context, they’re much harder to reconcile. A debt in one place becomes an asset in another, depreciation periods for the same asset are counted in different ways depending on the deal, the same asset is pledged as collateral multiple times….
The quote from Trump’s legal demand that DW Freeman pointed out makes it sound like the information on a loan APPLICATION is public information.
“Numerous documents for each of these loans are recorded, publicly available and searchable online.”
I was under the impression that public info was limited to: who bought it, when, how much, square footage, property taxes and maybe a google pic?
Before I make a snarky comment about the intended audience, am I missing something?
Does the letter say “wholly trump properties”
Maybe guy through a shell co provided x amount guaranteed for a x %. Who knows?
Don’t just trust Trump, but my understanding is that things are never simple in those type of deals. So where is the evidence.
THAT is what we need.
I was wondering if this recently hired lawyer has actually seen the documents in question. God forbid he might be taking his clients word for it. The thought that Trump might lie to his lawyer is well within the realms of possibility.
Some of his previous lawyers worked in pairs, so they could act as witnesses to each other when Tr*mp lied about stuff said in their presence.
I would want to start with the executed loan document and the accompanying file, especially the presentation to the loan committee (and related minutes). Then dig into any named parties supplying the funds and any collateral or guarantees to see what/who is there.
Trump should be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the leading exemplar of Plausible Deniability in all its many permutations.
Trumps assault on the free press
Minithread that linked to first, second example:
It seems absolutely beyond dispute that Trump defers, submits, promotes, and espouses Putin’s interests as if in thrall to Putin.
Glenns typically hyperbolic approach — to damn all dispute as unhinged or dishonest — sheds little light on the reasons for Trump’s evident and consistent support for what seems to be his intent to defend and promote Russian interests.
Explaining Turmp’s submissiveness to Putin was never Mueller’s remit. Further, to make DJT’s psychology a subject of his investigation, Mueller would have had to violate his own precepts. Further, I suspect that after the fiascos of Wen Ho Lee and Stephen Hatfiill (not to mention several other notorious FBI overreaches) Mueller would shy away from any psychological analysis.
Other people — political commentators — speculate, attribute and conclude based upon different interpretations of facts in evidence (whether, like the Steele dossier, in dispute or not.) That commentary almost always disguises a political/professional agenda. This is especially true in Greenwald’s case.
A third, often ignored layer of this mystery (Trump’s apparent allegiance to Putin), is the Russian interest in hiding the actual agenda, the goals, and the methods.of their operation. Much of the mystery remains because the Russians are both not forthcoming and disinforming (see, for instance, Seth Rich story.)
The greater mystery is why Trump is allowed to get away with it
The panel discussion on Nicolle Wallace’s “Deadline” yesterday (Aug. 28th) came to the conclusion that Trump is feeling increasingly desperate to hang on to power and that there was nothing he would not do to protect himself if he feels sufficiently threatened. Perhaps the reluctance to begin a formal impeachment enquiry and follow it through to its conclusion is due to an unspoken fear of what Trump might actually do if he truly feels his Presidency is done for and he has nothing to lose. It’s as if Trump has taken the country hostage and no-one wants to confront him decisively lest the hostage be seriously wounded in the rescue attempt. The collective thinking may be that it’s better to wait Trump out, continue the stand-off, and live with the day-to-day craziness rather than provoke a crisis that would almost certainly have unintended consequences.
I also wonder if the death of Jeffrey Epstein is weighing on the President’s mind. Here was a former friend, a rich privileged white man of power and influence, like himself, who apparently killed himself rather than spend the rest of his life in prison. Knowing he may well face criminal charges himself once he leaves the sanctuary of the Oval Office, Epstein’s fate may well reinforce Trump’s own instinct to survive at all costs.
Slightly off-topic, but
For years now, I’ve seen the two parties in terms of the two women who came before Solomon in judgement: when it comes to the national interest, Republicans are content to have the baby cut in half while the Democrats are prepared to give up the baby as long as its life is preserved.
Will the baby survive life with its new mother, though? That’s what I wonder.
Two political crises urgently requiring a progressive response:
UK – Prime Minister employs procedural skullduggery to shut down the legislature.
USA – House of Representatives takes a voluntary vacay.
The split the baby analogy is quite accurate.
I intend to shamelessly steal it.
I don’t think that there is any well thought out reason for the Democratic establishment’s fear of beginning an impeachment inquiry. I think it’s just muscle memory due to several decades of conditioning by the media and the GOP that it’s one of the many things that are out of bounds.
The party establishment has become allergic to strategy in any meaningful sense — the idea of setting objectives, assessing strengths and weaknesses, and then planning accordingly. Everything is reactive, and in a lot of ways they’re barely better in terms of their strategic thinking than Trump.
I emailed Nancy again about getting off the stick – and about Neal, who seem to think it’s still the 90s and “collegiality” still works.
“I also wonder if the death of Jeffrey Epstein is weighing on the President’s mind…”
Please God, can we get the O Donnells of the world to STFU for a year or so? These guys will be the salvation of Trump. What kind of morons do we have producing these segments; do they have any idea what harm they are causing? Haven’t seen the goods you are ‘reporting’ on? Ye gads. Fire the whole bunch of them.
When I heard about this I flashed back to the movie All The President’s Men and the part where Ben Bradley was extolling Woodward and Bernstein to get confirmation.
Off topic, but if Trump sues Lawrence O’Donnell, will the latter have to give up his source during discovery?
In a civil suit, discovery works both ways. Trump would never open himself up to a deep-pocketed defendant who doesn’t need money, but wants information. A private settlement would defeat their purposes. That’s an arrangement that would always defeat a secret-hoarder like Trump. But he would threaten suit until the cows come home.
Yeah, this is just not going to happen. What amazes me is that Trump has his lawyers throw out this nonsense. It is not productive, and, instead, is counterproductive.
He’s used to people backing down at the threat of a suit from someone who can afford to drive them into bankruptcy.
Trump’s funniest vanity lawsuit was after the 2005 biography “Trump Nation — The Art of Being The Donald” was published by Warner Books. Timothy O’Brien had shadowed Trump for over a year to write it but Trump found it so accurate and unflattering in its analysis of his personal finances that he sued O’Brien for $5 BILLION. O’Brien has always assumed the lawsuit was only because if Trump had won and Warner Books’ insurance agency had paid out, the settlement would have brought Trump closer to being the multi-billionaire Trump claimed to be at the time. O’Brien believed he’d found evidence Trump was not worth anything like he’d claimed.
Any time he is being talked about, Trump considers it productive. Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
This is pretty much what I figured. The discovery bs is being spread by some suspect profiles as a win/win for trump. I feel like the whole thing is coordinated.
So bmaz, wouldn’t it be in O’Donnell’s and MSNBC’s interest to force tr*mp’s lawyers to sue? I’m puzzled by the retraction. Seems to me it would be a good thing to force their hand? Or would it not force their hand and they’d just try to walk away?
Sorry for the barrage of questions – very much NAL.
The Brothers GrimmBruno Bettelheim:
Marcy quote-tweets Josh Daswey with @PressSec’s statement on Comey/IG report, which caused me to see @PressSec’s profile pop up in Dawsey’s comments. Apparently following Bill Shine’s outdoor photo commandment (nature-staging is real rich with these folks) Grisham’s twitter banner looks like Trump leading her into a wood.
emptywheel: “One of the main reasons what Comey did was wrong was because he leaked details of an ongoing investigation, so there’s a lot of cart-horsing around here, but I expect to hear the same from Bill Barr.…”
Say what you want about Comey, but what he did was intentional and it worked.
It just occurred to me that Glenn Greenwald might be going soft on Russia because his friend Edward Snowden has taken refuge there.
thank you to taking apart one of the many, many willful errors penned by Greenwald