Posts

Organized Crime

Know what you call a crowd that requires 25 pardons to cover their illegal activities of the last 5 years?

As it happens, Trump is mulling the pardons at a juncture when loyalty appears his principal concern, complaining repeatedly over the past weeks that Republicans are deserting him when he needed them to help overturn the election results.

He has largely frozen out those advisers and associates who do not seem on the same page. One person who used to speak to Trump regularly, but who delicately encouraged him to soften his post-election stance, no longer has his calls returned and hasn’t heard from Trump in weeks.

In all, the President is considering pardons for more than two dozen people in his orbit whom he believes were targeted — or could be targeted in the future — for political ends. That’s in addition to hundreds of requests from others who have approached the White House directly, and tens of thousands more whose petitions are pending at the Justice Department.

Organized crime.

Trump Told One Key Truth at His Convention

CNN had a funny story the other day. It described how five different RNC speakers — it focuses on Natalie Harp (who lied about receiving treatment under the Right to Try Act), Mark and Patricia McCloskey (who threatened protestors with their guns), Abby Johnson (whose story about abortion and spousal voting fell apart), and Mary Ann Mendoza (who got cut after spewing an anti-semitic conspiracy theory) — were so crazy, it suggests the Republicans didn’t vet their speakers.

The appearances of several speakers at this week’s Republican National Convention have been surrounded by controversy over social media comments and actions from their past, raising questions about whether and how the RNC vetted its speakers before they were placed on national television.

The story is funny, in part, because it left out the bigger name controversial speakers, like Rudy Giuliani, whose conspiracy theories are every bit as baseless as Mendoza’s, and who is reportedly under criminal investigation for the circumstances behind them) or Eric Trump, who is currently defying a New York State subpoena on the grounds that testifying truthfully about Trump Organization’s accounting irregularities would incriminate him. Which makes the premise even funnier: One controversial speaker is a vetting problem, seven (the number is actually much higher) is an intentional choice.

And yet the press has interpreted Trump’s failures to play by norms they believe remain in place as a goof, simply poor execution of a known formula.

A more alarming example comes in this NYT story. It sums up what it views as the themes the two parties are using, along the way repeating Trump’s claimed theme of “law-and-order” five times.

COVID vs. Law and Order

[snip]

the President is hammering a law-and-order message

[snip]

The moves come as the presidential campaign barrels into the critical last 10 weeks. They represent a bet by Mr. Biden that a focus on Covid-19 will prevail over Mr. Trump’s “law and order” emphasis and his attempt to portray Mr. Biden as a tool of the “radical left.”

[snip]

Aides to Mr. Trump said on Friday that their line of attack would not change. They plan to repeatedly highlight Mr. Trump’s familiar “law and order” message, and are blunt in their assessment that they will benefit politically from violence erupting at some protests.

[snip]

Mr. Trump’s aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him, said the aides, who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

Even assuming NYT describes these themes correctly (it doesn’t mention “competence,” for example), it totally misreads what happened at the Trump convention. It treats the RNC as a thematically organized event, rather than a raw display of power, power premised on dismantling any logic of themes.

While this extends to every logical claim Trump made at the RNC — from his claim that COVID is a thing of the past and his celebration of immigrants lured to participate in the RNC unwittingly — it was most visible in his claim to care in the least about law and order, the theme reporters claimed to be the central backbone of Trump’s campaign.

This is a man, after all, who has had two campaign managers and five other aides indicted or prosecuted, most in the service of protecting Trump. Two separate legal proceedings in New York State are pursuing financial crimes implicating Trump and his business (as noted, RNC speaker Eric Trump is currently defying subpoenas, claiming that his truthful testimony will implicate himself in crimes). And during his last campaign, Trump was implicated in two more crimes, the hush payments to his former sex partners and the misuse of his Foundation. There are active lawsuits from women credibly accusing Trump of sex crimes. It’s likely the only thing protecting Trump from prosecution for these crimes and obstruction of the Mueller probe is his success at winning another term. Meanwhile, the woman who shattered all prior norms about the Hatch Act, Kellyanne Conway, completed her service to Trump by admitting more violence would help Trump’s campaign.

And yet the NYT treats Trump’s “law and order” theme as a credible political claim.

The only mention from this purported news story that Trump’s convention was a televised crime spree of its own accord came in describing the glee with which Trump’s aides enjoyed watching Trump commit crimes, which the NYT instead describes as “raising questions about ethics law violations,” with impunity.

Mr. Trump’s aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him, said the aides, who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

This is not (as it would be in a minimally competent story) a fact check, a discussion of how absurd it was that the most criminally implicated President in history was instead running as the “law and order” candidate. It is, instead, an unexamined nugget of the key truth.

Trump’s aides are gleeful that his defiance of the law during a convention where he claimed to be the “law and order” candidate caused so much consternation. They relish the way he could commit crimes in broad daylight without anyone stopping him.

That is, the theme is not “law and order,” as NYT gullibly parroted. Trump’s campaign promise is the complete dismantlement of rule of law, where a candidate whose potential and confirmed crimes are too numerous to track could condemn the crimes and criminalized peaceful speech of his opponents, while failing to condemn murder committed by a supporter, all while claiming this selective enforcement amounted to “law and order.”

The point is not the theme. It’s partly that a small pack of NYT journalists might collectively repeat it as if it’s true, without instead describing the grave danger posed to democracy when a man who has systematically attacked rule of law rebrands that assault as law and order. Trump has successfully recruited those whose business is supposed to be truth-telling, and gotten them to instead reinforce his central lie, that his abuse of the law is something called “law and order.” And it is, more significantly, that while less negligent journalists were trying to push back on Trump’s deluge of lies, he was instead telling the key truth. Trump’s campaign message is not whatever theme some horse race journalists discern from ad buys. Rather, it is a promise — with his defiance of rule of law, his abdication of any platform save his own whims, his assault on the sanctity of the election, his incitement of violence — that in a second term Trump will forgo any past pretense he made to be engaged in democracy.

Trump’s convention was all designed to perform his utter contempt for democracy itself. And it succeeded, wildly, at telling that one key truth.

SSCI’s Timidity on Trump Tower Moscow

The SSCI Report on Russia is better, in some ways, than I expected (though weak in others).

But on a key issue — the multiple Trump Tower deals floated during the course of the election — it is inexcusably timid.

The report lays out the three offers we know from the Mueller Report:

  • A Trump Tower deal negotiated through Felix Sater, involving sanctioned banks and GRU-linked middle men and the involvement of people close to Putin
  • A deal brokered by Georgian-American Giorgi Rtskhiladze that included buy-off from the Mayor of Moscow
  • Outreach — in which Ivanka was a party — from the Director of a large energy company, Dmitry Klokov, which was tied to a meeting with Putin

Along the way, the report notes that Felix Sater (whose colorful background it lays out) was not entirely forthcoming even in his April 4, 2018 interview, long after he appears to have cleaned up some discrepancies with the Mueller team (though his later Mueller 302s have been withheld, in part for source endangerment issues, and it’s not clear the committee obtained them). Specifically, Sater was not clear who was involved in scheduling a possible trip for Cohen in December 2015, Felix Shmykov (who had ties to GRU) or Felix Dvoskin (who had ties to FSB and ran a bank operating in Crimea).

Sater told the Committee that although he never had direct communication with Kostin, Kostin was indirectly contacted about the project “through people in Moscow.”2719 Sater recalled that a contact in Moscow, whom he identified only as “Danny,” “indicated that he [Danny] spoke to people at VTB and that they would be on board.”2720 Sater also told the Committee that he used Evgeny Shmykov, the former Russian intelligence officer, as a conduit to VTB.2721

[snip]

On December 19, 2015, Sater emailed and sent a text message to Cohen requesting that Cohen call him because he had “Evgeny on the other line.”2778 Sater told the Committee in his interview prior to the release of the SCO Report that his references to Evgeny were, to his recollection, Evgeny Shmykov. According to the SCO, however, Sater’s reference to “Evgeny” on the December 19 message was a reference to Evgeny Dvoskin, who at the time was associated with a Russian bank operating in Crimea.2779 Through counsel, Sater later represented to the Committee that he may have used both Shmykov and Dvoskin at varying times.2780 As a result, while·this particular outreach appears to involve Dvoskin, the identity behind Sater’s other references to “Evgeny” remains unclear.

(U) Dvoskin is strongly connected to Russian organized crime and the Russian intelligence services, particularly the FSB.2781

There’s no unredacted discussion of whether Cohen was asked about the wisdom of pitching real estate deals with people involved in Russian intelligence. He was, however, asked about the wisdom of pitching real estate deals with sanctioned banks.

He didn’t much care.

As noted infra, both VTB Bank and GenBank were sanctioned by the U.S. Government under its Ukraine-related sanctions program targeting Russian government-connected entities. Cohen was unaware of these sanctions targeting either bank, and stated that, in addition, it “didn’t matter to me” whether the banks were sanctioned. Cohen explained that he believed the Russian developer, not the Trump Organization, would be responsible for financing the deal, and thus Cohen did not think that any sanctions “would have been a problem.”

And while the report twice laid out that the committee did not receive key emails showing high level Russian involvement in the deal, it didn’t chase down Cohen’s claim that Trump Organization managed that document request, not even when the report elsewhere admits that other documents were withheld from Trump Organization.

(U) On other matters, multiple emails between Michael Cohen and Russian government officials-which were responsive to the Committee’s document request-were never produced to the Committee. The withheld emails included outreach to the Kremlin’s press office seeking to speak with Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, as well as a response from Dmitri Peskov’ s assistant seeking to discuss the Trump Moscow project. During Cohen’s initial interview, , Cohen’s then-counsel Stephen Ryan told the Committee that Cohen was not involved in the production of documents to the Committee.3009 Ryan stated that Cohen’s emails from his Trump Organization account were produced to Cohen and his counsel by the Trump Organization “off the Trump [Organization] server.”3010 During that same interview, Cohen made false statements to the Committee about these communications with Russian government officials.3011 Cohen also transmitted his false statements about his outreach to the Kremlin on the project to the press and to the public generally; giving the false impression that Cohen had not communicated in a substantive way with the Russian government regarding the project.3012

(U) Cohen eventually pleaded guilty to making intentionally false statements to this Committee and to the HPSCI related to the Trump Tower project.3013 Cohen eventually admitted to receiving an email response from a Russian government employee; ultimately, he admitted contacting her and conducting a substantive conversation about the Trump Moscow project in January 2016.3014 Cohen told the Committee that the email response, which he never produced to the Committee, was never provided to him by the Trump Organization, another member of the alleged JDA.3015 The Committee was unable to determine the accuracy of this claim. However, if true, this lends support to the conclusion that Cohen’s initial false statements to the Committee were aided by other members of the alleged IDA, namely the Trump Organization.

The report also doesn’t address (as it does in the WikiLeaks section) Trump’s demonstrable lies about Trump Tower, even though those lies are even more clear cut than his lies on WikiLeaks. After Trump claimed to have no recollection of any of this, he went out to the press and said stuff that made it clear he had very clear recollections about the real estate deals he was negotiating while running for President.

In addition to the three well known deals, the SSCI Report describes a fourth, one pitched by Boris Epshteyn to Eric Trump.

Virtually the entire description of this deal is redacted in the report, suggesting either that it’s something Trump has ongoing interest in covering up or it’s something that the Intelligence Community believes has sensitive counterintelligence import.

In addition to the Epshteyn to Eric Trump channel, however, three details are not redacted:

Like the Rtskhiladze pitch, this one included involvement from the Moscow city government.

In the spring of 2016, Epshteyn received the proposal from contacts he had in the Moscow city government, and shared it with Eric Trump, with whom Epshteyn had long been friends.

[snip]

In early 2016, these same individuals affiliated with the Moscow city government reengaged Epshteyn about a potential Trump deal in Russia, ultimately sending him blueprints for a hotel.2998 According to the email chain produced by Epshteyn, the blueprints originated with a secretary for Cheremin in April 2016. Cheremin’s secretary forwarded the plans to an email address that included the name Shutenko, likely affiliated with Oleg Shutenko, Cheremin’s deputy in the Moscow city government.2999

According to a heavily redacted bullet, it appears to involve two people thrown out of the US in 2018 as part of sanctions imposed after the Skripal assassinations, which may suggest they were believed to be spies.

Finally, the deal had some tie to Rossotrudnichestvo, an NGO implicated in the false claims about a Michael Cohen meeting in Prague.

The Rossotrudnichestvo reference came in the last and most inflammatory dossier report:

[redacted] provided further details of these meeting/s and associated anti-CLINTON/Democratic Party operations. COHEN had been accompanied to Prague by 3 colleagues and the timing of the visit was either in the last week of August or the first week of September. One of their main Russian interlocutores was Oleg SOLODUKHIN, operating under Rossotrudnichestvo cover. According to [redacted], the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally.

This doesn’t mean the Cohen reference is true!! But it is another tidbit that suggests that, to the extent the dossier was filled with disinformation, it served to muddle actual events that happened.

According to the SSCI Report, Eric Trump wasn’t all that enticed by this offer (which appears to have had none of the improbable grandeur of the Sater deal).

Except they didn’t bother to get him on the record saying that personally. It relied exclusively on Epshteyn’s representation of the deal.

(U) Epshteyn recalled sharing these blueprints with Eric Trump and discussing the offer with him. 3000 According to Epshteyn, Eric Trump said that he would “take a look” and that the opportunity “[c]ould be interesting,” but that his overall reaction was “extremely tepid.”3001 Epshteyn claimed that nothing ever came of the offer.3002

(U) The Committee did not seek to interview Eric Trump. The Committee does not have further information related to what action, if any, was taken by the Trump Organization on the proposal.

And it did so even though it had evidence that Trump Organization was part of an organized effort to lie to the committee about a different Russian real estate deal, in part by withholding responsive documents.

So it’s not, just, that SSCI declined to explain why it was so problematic from a counterintelligence standpoint that a Presidential candidate kept entertaining the kind of real estate deal in Russia he had been chasing for over a decade during the election, and at least two of those deals involved Russian intelligence operatives.

It’s that for one of the deals — a deal that, if the redactions are any indication, poses significant counterintelligence concern — SSCI just didn’t bother checking.

Ron Wyden has complained that the committee refused to follow the money of any of this. And with this fourth Trump Tower deal, they weren’t even willing to demand they got the paper trail.

Elise Stefanik Makes Case that Don Jr and Eric Trump Must Resign from Trump Organization

The first of today’s two impeachment hearings just finished up. While Adam Schiff and Dan Goldman remained sharp, Steve Castor remained lackadaisical, and Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan remained disgusting, much of the rest of the committee, on both sides, seemed less engaged than in last week’s hearings. Bizarrely, Republicans spent much of the hearing asking witnesses Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams — both of whom were direct witnesses to the call to which Republicans want to limit the impeachment inquiry — to provide hearsay testimony about Burisma and Hunter Biden.

The highlight of the hearing came when Vindman, who had been smeared with questionable loyalties leading up and during the hearing, explained that he told his father not to worry about him testifying because, “This is the country I’ve served and defended. That all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.”

Because of her stunt in last Friday’s hearing, I’m interested in what Elise Stefanik did.

First, she got demoted. Her male colleagues treated her like the junior committee member she is, rather than giving her top billing. That, by itself, made it clear she was used last week as a token.

When it finally came around to her turn three and a half hours into the hearing, she then focused on talking points she has adopted — that under Trump (in part forced by Congress) Ukraine has gotten assistance and continued to work on corruption, no investigation into Joe Biden got started, and the aid ultimately got released.

But as part of that, she walked Vindman through an attack on Burisma, first misquoting him saying that in Ukraine, generally, tax evasion and money laundering are a problem, to apply that to Burisma. She then said,

I know that my constituents in NY-21 have many concerns about the fact that Hunter Biden, the son of the Vice President, sat on the board of a corrupt company like Burisma.

It’s a wonderful sentiment, really, that Congress should dictate what the family members of top officials should do to make money.

But since she has expressed this concern, I assume she feels the same about two other children who occupy top positions in a company with a documented history of facilitating money laundering and credible allegations of tax evasion, particularly given that her own state, New York State, found that these children, Don Jr and Eric Trump, as well as their sister, must be barred from running any charities in the state.

Since Elise Stefanik has stated, in front of the nation, that the children of top government officials must not have leadership positions in corrupt companies with money laundering and tax evasion problems, surely she’ll call for the President’s sons to step down from the family business?

Hope Hicks’ Very Well Lawyered Efforts to Protect Trump

Last week, Hope Hicks sat for a mostly tactical interview with the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats used her testimony to establish a record of just how ridiculous the White House claims to absolutely immunity are by getting her on the record refusing to answer both utterly pertinent questions and innocuous ones, like where her desk in the White House was.

While she dutifully refused — on the orders of White House Counsel — to answer questions about her time in the White House, she actually slipped in two answers: revealing that after Trump had his own people in charge of the Intelligence Community, he “he had greater confidence in their assessments” that Russia hacked the DNC and that she learned of the Letter of Intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow in fall 2017. Those are questions White House lawyers would have otherwise prohibited; I’m not sure how it’ll change the use of this hearing as evidence in the lawsuit to get her to actually testify.

Her answers with regards to the period prior to inauguration reveal what she would (and will) be like if she ever actually testifies. In those exchanges, Hicks comes off like a very well lawyered witness who was willing to shade as aggressively as possible to protect Trump.  That was most obvious in her answers about WikiLeaks, first in response to questions from Sheila Jackson Lee. In that exchange, the press secretary of a presidential campaign claimed not to have a strategy surrounding messaging the campaign engaged in on a daily basis.

Ms. Jackson Lee. I’m going to have one or two questions and — I’ve done it again — one or two questions in a number of different areas. Let me first start with the report. According to the report, by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging, based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. Who was involved in that strategy?

Ms. Hicks. I don’t recall.

Ms. Jackson Lee. I thought you were intimately involved in the campaign.

Ms. Hicks. I was. It’s not something I was aware of.

Ms. Jackson Lee. What about the communications campaign, who was involved there? Do you not recall or do you not know?

Ms. Hicks. To my recollection, it’s not something I was aware of.

[snip]

Ms. Jackson Lee. Who specifically was engaged with the Russian strategy, messaging strategy, post the convention, late summer 2016?

Ms. Hicks. I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. I’m not aware of a Russian messaging strategy.

Side note: She would later admit that there was a group of people during the Transition responding to allegations of Russian interference and a somewhat different group of people responding to allegations they tried to make contact with Russia. But that covered the Transition and, with the exception of Jason Miller (who deleted his Twitter account the other day after attacking Jerry Nadler), didn’t include communications people.

Back to her exchange with Jackson Lee, who persisted in finding out how the campaign responded to WikiLeaks’ releases. That’s when Hicks described the campaign’s daily focus on optimizing WikiLeaks releases as using publicly available information, even while insisting it was not part of a strategy.

Ms. Jackson Lee. So specifically it goes to the release of the various WikiLeaks information. Who was engaged in that?

Ms. Hicks. So, I mean, I assume you’re talking about late July?

Ms. Jackson Lee. Late July, late summer, July, August 2016.

Ms. Hicks. So there were several people involved. It was — I think a “strategy” is a wildly generous term to describe the use of that information, but —

Ms. Jackson Lee. But you were engaged in the campaign. What names, what specific persons were involved in that strategy of the impact of Russia and the issuance of the WikiLeaks effort late summer?

Ms. Hicks. Again, you —

Ms. Jackson Lee. Were you involved? Were you part of the strategy? You have a communications emphasis.

Ms. Hicks. I’m sorry. I’m just not understanding the question. You’re talking about a Russian strategy. The campaign didn’t have a Russian strategy. There was an effort made by the campaign to use information that was publicly available, but I’m not aware of a Russian strategy, communications or otherwise.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Well, what names were engaged in the strategy that you remember, messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, which is what I said?

Ms. Hicks. Sorry. I’d like to confer with my counsel. Thanks.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Thank you.

[snip]

Ms. Jackson Lee. Yes. I’m going to read from my earlier comment. According to the report, by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, volume 1, 54. Were you involved in deciding how the campaign would respond to press questions about WikiLeaks?

Ms. Hicks. I assume that I was. I have no recollection of the specifics that you’re raising here.

Ms. Jackson Lee. With that in mind, would you agree that the campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton?

Ms. Hicks. This was publicly available information.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Were you — would you agree that the campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton?

Ms. Hicks. I don’t know what the direct impact was of the utilization of that information.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Well, let me follow up with, did this information help you attack the opponent of Mr. Trump?

Ms. Hicks. I take issue with the phrase “attack.” I think it allowed the campaign to discuss things that would not otherwise be known but that were true.

Hicks never did answer Jackson Lee’s question about how the campaign optimized the releases, but Norm Eisen (who was hired for precisely this purpose) came back to it. Ultimately Hicks described integrating WikiLeaks releases into Trump speeches.

Q Okay. Ms. Hicks, you were asked by Ms. Jackson Lee about a statement in the Mueller report that by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, and you answered to the effect that it was wildly inaccurate to call it a strategy. Do you remember that answer?

A I believe I said that I wasn’t aware of any kind of coordinated strategy like the one described in the report and quoted by Ms. Jackson Lee. Regardless, the efforts that were under way, to take publicly available information and use that to show a differentiation between Mr. Trump as a candidate and Mrs. Clinton as a candidate, I would say that it would be wildly generous to describe that as a coordinated strategy.

Q How would you describe it? A I would describe it just as I did, which is taking publicly available information to draw a contrast between the candidates.

Q What do you remember about any specific occasions when that was discussed?

[snip]

Q Tell me what you remember, everything you remember about that.

A The things I remember would be just the days that — that news was made, right? That there was a new headline based on new information that was available, and how to either incorporate that into a speech or make sure that our surrogates were aware of that information and to utilize it as talking points in any media availabilities, interviews, and what other opportunities there might be to, again, emphasize the contrast between candidates.

Q Did you ever discuss that with Mr. Trump during the campaign?

A Again, I don’t recall a — I don’t recall discussions about a coordinated strategy. But more specifically, to your last point about when there were moments that allowed for us to capitalize on new information being distributed, certainly I’m sure I had discussions with him.

She would go on to admit that the communications team discussed the WikiLeaks releases on a daily basis. But she maintained that — in spite of the evidence that Trump, with whom she spent extensive amounts of time, knew of the emails ahead of time — she did not

EISEN When is the first that you remember learning that WikiLeaks might have documents relevant to the Clinton campaign? A Whenever it became publicly available. I think my first recollection is just prior to the DNC Convention. Q And what was your reaction when you learned that?

A I don’t recall. I think before I described a general feeling surrounding this topic of not happiness, but a little bit of relief maybe that other campaigns had obstacles to face as well.

Q And I know we’ve touched on this but I just want to make sure we get it into the record. What’s your first recollection of discussing this issue with Mr. Trump?

Eisen did get her to admit that Eric Trump sent her the oppo research file on his father, though she claimed to be uncertain about when that happened. Once again, when asked a substantive question about something embarrassing to Trump, she conferred with her lawyer, Robert Trout, before answering.

Q And did Eric Trump ever discuss anything relating to WikiLeaks or other releases of hacked information with you? A May I confer with my counsel, please.

[Discussion off the record.]

Ms. Hicks. Can you repeat the question, please?

Mr. Eisen. Can I have the court reporter read back the question, please?

Reporter. Did Eric Trump ever discuss anything relating to WikiLeaks or other releases of hacked information with you?

Ms. Hicks. I believe I received an email from Eric or some written communication regarding an opposition research file that was, I guess, leaked on the internet. I believe it was publicly available when he sent it to me. It was about Donald Trump.

BY MR. EISEN: Q And do you know if it was publicly available when he sent it to you?

A I don’t recall. That’s my recollection.

Q What’s the basis for your belief that it was publicly available?

A I believe there was a link that was included, and I was able to click on that and access the information.

Q How did he transmit that to you?

A I don’t remember if it was an email or a text message.

Q Was there also a document attached to that transmission?

A I don’t remember.

Q Do you remember the date?

A Spring of 2016.

Q Spring of 2016.

Note, the oppo file was first released publicly on June 15, 2016. That’s still spring, but barely.

In any case, while most of the coverage has focused on the White House efforts to prevent Hicks from answering questions, her responses on WikiLeaks make it clear she herself was unwilling to answer basic questions as well.

Which is why this exchange about the Joint Defense Agreement as part of which her attorney got paid half a million dollars by the RNC is telling.

Ms. Scanlon. Okay. Do you now or have you had any joint defense agreements with anyone in connection with your activities either during the campaign or since then?

Mr. Trout. Objection.

Ms. Hicks. Be privileged with my counsel.

Mr. Trout. I’m not going to answer that.

Ms. Scanlon. I believe you’re not going to answer, but is she going to answer it?

Mr. Trout. No.

Ms. Scanlon. Okay. On what basis?

Mr. Trout. On privilege.

Ms. Scanlon. What kind of privilege.

Mr. Trout. Joint defense privilege.

Ms. Scanlon. The fact of having a joint defense agreement is not —

Mr. Trout. I will — it will be privileged

Hicks is absolutely entitled to keep details of her legal representation secret. But this — like some of the questions she refused to answer about her time in the White House — is public information. As such, her non-responsiveness about the degree to which she has compared answers with Trump is as obvious an obstruction tactic as the White House absolute immunity effort.

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. 

Which Came First: The Indemnity Fail or Cohen’s Cooperation Curiosity?

Michael Cohen is suing Trump Organization for refusing to fulfill an indemnity agreement they had. By itself, the suit offers the promise that these shitholes will rip each other apart in court. Discovery could be awesome, especially since the suit names Eric and Don Jr.

It also may lead other members of the Joint Defense Agreement to question how long Trump will remain loyal to them.

But I’m acutely interested in the timeline the lawsuit draws out for what it says about Trump’s efforts to cover-up his own criminal actions, laid out below. The italicized entries are ones I’ve added to Cohen’s own timeline — many of those dates come from this post on the timeline of the Special Master review of materials seized in the raid of Cohen’s home. The underlined ones are ones in Cohen’s complaint that I’ve editorialized on, to note where someone is known to have told a lie that coordinated with Cohen’s own lies.

As you can see, Trump’s spawn were happy to pay Cohen’s legal bills so long as he continued to tell the agreed upon lies.

But that changed when he got raided in April 2018. As I’ve noted, even though Cohen and Trump succeeded in getting a Special Master appointed to review all the discovery, that appointment didn’t succeed in withholding any of the most damning materials. But the Special Master process did give Trump an opportunity to review what Cohen had — including to identify what he had tape recordings of.

This probably led them to two conclusions. First, because Cohen had taped incriminating conversations (to ensure he’d get paid, Cohen explained in his OGR testimony), he had exposed Trump where he otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed. But because he hadn’t taped the most damning conversations — those implicating the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other Russia-related issues — they could fuck him over with relative impunity.

And that’s about when Trump stopped paying for Cohen’s silence. Notably, Cohen’s filing states that “On June 2018, Mr. Cohen began telling friends and family that he was willing to cooperate with the Special Counsel,” as if there once was a date there. He doesn’t give us that date.

But we can see from the timeline that it happened at a key point in the Special Master review, which is the same time Trump stopped paying for Cohen’s silence.

Two things are unclear to me.

First, as the title suggests, which came first, Cohen’s willingness to cooperate, or Trump’s newfound unwillingness to pay. My bet is it’s the latter, and my bet is it was a response to what they were seeing in the Special Master review. That is, once they decided that Cohen couldn’t hurt them, they cut him free, to sink on his own.

I’m also curious about why Cohen included Papadopoulos, Manafort, Gates, Page, Sessions, and Flynn in his timeline. He is not known to have testimony relating to any of these people — except, perhaps, Manafort. And they weren’t the only ones in Trump’s JDA (Gates has said he was never in the JDA) to have testified in this period (for example, KT McFarland had her first interview).

But it suggests Cohen may have more on the JDA he’s hanging over the others. Which may get litigated in this suit.

Timeline

August 2016: Karen McDougal catch and kill.

October 2016: Stormy Daniels hush payment.

January 13, 2017: SSCI opens Russian investigation.

January 25, 2017: HPSCI opens investigation.

January and February 2017: Cohen seeks reimbursement for hush payment to Daniels.

March 2017: Cohen named RNC Deputy Chair.

May 17, 2017: Mueller appointed.

~May 18, 2017: Cohen meets with Trump and Jay Sekulow, implicitly agree to tell a cover story.

End of May 2017: Cohen lawyers up with McDermott Will & Emery.

May 31, 2017: HPSCI subpoenas Cohen.

July 2017: Trump Organization enters into indemnity agreement in context of joint defense agreement.

August 28, 2017, Cohen sends letter making false statements to HPSCI and SSCI.

September 7, 2017: Don Jr testifies before SJC, repeating Cohen’s false statement on Trump Tower Moscow.

September 19, 2017: Cohen lies to SSCI about Trump Tower Moscow.

September 26, 2017: Roger Stone lies to HPSCI about relaying information about WikiLeaks to campaign, including Trump.

October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos pleads guilty to making false statements to FBI agents relating to contacts he had with agents of the Russian government while working for the Trump Campaign.

October 25, 2017: Cohen testifies to SSCI, lying about Trump Tower Moscow.

October 25, 2017: First payment, in sum of $137,460, to McDermott.

October 30, 2017: Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indicted by a federal grand jury, including conspiracy against
the United States

November 2, 2017: Carter Page testifies before HPSCI.

November 14, 2017: AG Jeff Sessions testifies before HJC.

December 1, 2017: Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

December 6, 2017: Don Jr testified before the HPSCI, sustaining Cohen’s lies about Trump Tower Moscow.

December 2017: Don Jr and Eric Trump confirm they will continue to pay Cohen’s attorneys’ fees and expenses.

March 6, 2018: Daniels files a lawsuit against Trump and Cohen in CA seeking to invalidate NDA.

March 26, 2018: Daniels amends lawsuit to allege that Cohen defamed Daniels through public statements he made in or around February 2018.

~March 20, 2018: McDougal files a lawsuit against AMI seeking to invalidate the NDA.

April 5, 2018: Trump says, of payment to Daniels, “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

April 9, 2018: Cohen raided.

April 9, 2018: Trump states, “So, I just heard that they[, the FBI,] broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time. . . . It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

April 13, 2018: Challenge to seized materials, leading to appointment of Special Master.

April 21, 2018: Rudy Giuliani associate Robert Costello emails Cohen and tells him he “can sleep well tonight” because he “has friends in high places” to reassure Cohen that the President was not made him. Emails also say,

I just spoke to Rudy Giuliani and told him I was on your team. He asked me to tell you that he knows how tough this is on you and your family and he will make (sure) to tell the President. He said thank you for opening this back channel of communication and asked me to keep in touch.

There was never a doubt and they are in our corner, Rudy said this communication channel must be maintained. He called it crucial and noted how reassured they were that they had someone like me whom Rudy has known for so many years in this role

April 21, 2018: Trump tweets, “The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip.’ They use . . . non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if . . . it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”

April 26, 2018: On Fox & Friends Trump states that Mr. Cohen is a “good person” and “great guy” who handled “a percentage of my overall legal work. . . . He represents me – like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal he represented me. And, you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong. . . . I hope he’s in great shape.”

April 27, 2018: Kimba Wood appoints Barbara Jones as Special Master. 

Through May 2018: Trump Organization continues to pay Cohen’s legal fees, totaling $1.7 million.

May 6, 2018: George Stephanopoulos asks Rudy Giuliani, “Are you concerned at all that Michael Cohen’s going to cooperate with prosecutors?” Mr. Giuliani responds, “No. I expect that he is going to cooperate with them. I don’t think they’ll be happy with it because he doesn’t have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.”

June 4, 2018: Jones issues first report (covering a number of Cohen’s recordings), disagreeing with three claims of privilege. 

June 6, 2018: Trump lawyer Joanna Herndon requests that any challenge to Special Master decision be sealed. 

June 7, 2018: SDNY demands that any legal discussions of challenges be public. 

June 8, 2018: Judge Wood agrees with SDNY, leading Trump to withdraw certain privilege claims. 

June XX 2018: Cohen begins telling friends and family that he was willing to cooperate with the Special Counsel and federal prosecutors in connection with the SDNY Investigation.

June 2018: Trump Organization ceases to pay McDermott’s invoices, without notice or justification.

June 13, 2018: Daniels files a new lawsuit in CA against former attorney, Keith Davidson, and Cohen, alleging that they “colluded” and “acted in concert” to “manipulate” Daniels and benefit Trump.

June 14, 2018: NYAG subpoenas Cohen in Charitable Foundation suit.

June 15, 2018; Trump says, “I haven’t spoken to Michael in a long time. . . . [H]e’s not my lawyer anymore.”

June 22, 2018: Judge Wood finds that Cohen didn’t do much privileged lawyering.

July 2, 2018: Jones begins releasing files to SDNY.

July 2, 2018: Cohen tells Stephanopoulos, “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty … I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.”

July 23, 2018: Cohen withdraws privilege claims from 12 recordings. 

July 26, 2018: On CNN Rudy claims of Cohen, “He has lied all his life” and that he is a “pathological liar.”

August 7, 2018: Cohen begins meeting with Mueller. At his first proffer, he lies.

August 21, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty in SDNY.

September 12, 2018: First truthful Cohen proffer with Mueller.

November 29, 2018: Cohen pleads guilty with Mueller.

December 12, 2018: Cohen sentenced.

December 16, 2018: Trump tweets, “Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!”

January 25, 2019: Cohen asks for reimbursement for $1.9 million in legal fees and $1.9 in restitution.

Update, March 14: Included Robert Costello email.

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. 

That Ongoing Grand Jury Investigation that Michael Cohen’s Loot Is Feeding

On Thursday, the NYT asked for the judge in the Michael Cohen case to unseal the warrant materials for the things seized on April 9, as well as the email accounts that had been searched prior to that. In their request, NYT attorney David McCraw asserted,

First, any risk of impairing law enforcement interests is minimal because the Government’s investigation of Mr. Cohen has concluded. … More to the point, Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to all the charges against him. And to the extent there are any ongoing investigations related to Mr. Cohen’s, any sensitive law enforcement information in the documents can be redacted.

As noted by the NYT, both Cohen and the government opposed the request.

A day later, the prosecution team wrote the judge, asking for three weeks to respond and permission to file part of its objection in sealed form

The Government intends to file an opposition to this request, and seeks permission to do so no later than November 2, 2018. In addition, because responding to this request requires describing, inter alia, the effect that unsealing would have on an ongoing grand jury investigation, the Government requests permission to file a portion of its response ex parte and under seal.

The government got two weeks, and the permission to file some of this under seal.

In response to this, I’ve seen a lot of people who assume the ongoing investigation is into Cohen — and it may well be. But the prosecution letter doesn’t say that, and given the way Cohen pled guilty in a rush to beat the campaign season and promptly started begging all prosecutors to start asking him questions, there’s no reason to believe that’s the case.

The reporting on the scope of the warrants against Cohen was always very vague, focusing on the Stormy Daniels part to the exclusion of the taxi medallion and fraud part. Just the taxi stuff was included in his guilty plea. So there’s still fraud (which is probably why Cohen pled guilty so quickly).

Some of the other crimes that might have been covered in Cohen’s warrant — such as the pay to play associated with the Inauguration — would overlap with Mueller’s investigation (and Cohen has spent some days chatting with Mueller’s prosecutors). But it’s certainly possible that (as I’ve suspected), that pay to play has already gotten spun off from Mueller’s investigation and is being led out of NY.

And, of course, there are the Trump Organization people — Executive 1 and Executive 2 (one of whom may well be a spawn) mentioned in Cohen’s plea who might also be targeting. Or, of course, Individual 1, Trump himself.

August 2016: When Paulie’s Panic Set In

As I disclosed last month, 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. 

Back in June, Eric Trump made news when he claimed that, “My father’s life became exponentially worse the minute he decided to run for president.”

That’s not yet clear — though I think it possible that conspiring with Russians to get elected may yet bring down the Trump empire and put at least one of his family members in prison.

The case may be easier to make for Paul Manafort however. As evidence laid out in his trial has made clear this week, it is true that when Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in Ukraine, he started going broke. Yet somehow, he tried to trade up the oligarch ladder, to do for Donald Trump what he had done for his Russian client in Ukraine. In doing so, however, Manafort made himself far more vulnerable to having his influence peddling and corruption exposed.

In August 2016, things started to fall apart. That’s a story increasingly told in the collective legal proceedings revealed by the Mueller inquiry.

First, recall that the Mueller team appears to have the communications between Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik since March 2016, as this spreadsheet that appears to show a parallel constructed source of such communications suggests.

That would suggest the government has a good deal of background on the two meetings Kilimnik and Manafort had during the campaign, including the one that took place on August 2.

In August, as tension mounted over Russia’s role in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, sat down to dinner with a business associate from Ukraine who once served in the Russian army.

Konstantin Kilimnik, who learned English at a military school that some experts consider a training ground for Russian spies, had helped run the Ukraine office for Manafort’s international political consulting practice for 10 years.

At the Grand Havana Room, one of New York City’s most exclusive cigar bars, the longtime acquaintances “talked about bills unpaid by our clients, about [the] overall situation in Ukraine . . . and about the current news,” including the presidential campaign, according to a statement provided by Kilimnik, offering his most detailed account of his interactions with the former Trump adviser.

[snip]

Kilimnik said his meetings with Manafort were “private visits” that were “in no way related to politics or the presidential campaign in the U.S.” He said he did not meet with Trump or other campaign staff members, nor did he attend the Republican National Convention, which took place shortly before the Grand Havana Room session. However, he said the meetings with Manafort included discussions “related to the perception of the U.S. presidential campaign in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, as much of the evidence presented in Manafort’s EDVA case last week makes clear, he was in deep financial trouble. That’s why, prosecutors allege, he submitted fraudulent numbers to get loans fromThe Federal Savings Bank of Chicago and Citizen’s Bank, among other banks. Next week, prosecutors will probably present exhibits 268 and 269, emails to an employee, Dennis Raico (who will be granted immunity if he testifies) of TFSBC asking for the professional details of his boss, Stephen Calk. (h/t pinc)

268 2016.08.03 Email D. Raico to P. Manafort re Need S. Calk Resume

269 2016.08.04 Email P. Manafort to S. Calk re S. Calk- Professional Bio

The next day, Trump named Calk to his financial advisory committee.

Last week, prosecutors showed that, on August 10, Manafort told his tax preparer, Cindy LaPorta, that she should claim he’d be paid $2.4 million for work in Ukraine in November. (h/t NYCSouthpaw for this observation)

Even as he was allegedly engaging in bank fraud to stay afloat, Manafort (and his daughter) would get what appear to be blackmail attempts — threats to release details of his corrupt actions in Ukraine — details of which were later leaked on the dark web.

A purported cyberhack of the daughter of political consultant Paul Manafort suggests that he was the victim of a blackmail attempt while he was serving as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman last summer.

The undated communications, which areallegedly from the iPhone of Manafort’s daughter, include a text that appears to come from a Ukrainian parliamentarian named Serhiy Leshchenko, seeking to reach her father, in which he claims to have politically damaging information about both Manafort and Trump.

Attached to the text is a note to Paul Manafort referring to “bulletproof” evidence related to Manafort’s financial arrangement with Ukraine’s former president, the pro-Russian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, as well as an alleged 2012 meeting between Trump and a close Yanukovych associate named Serhiy Tulub.

[snip]

In a Tuesday interview, Manafort denied brokering a 2012 meeting between Trump and Tulub and also pointied out that he wasn’t working for Trump at the time.

However, Manafort did confirm the authenticity of the texts hacked from his daughter’s phone. And he added that, before the texts were sent to his daughter, he had received similar texts to his own phone number from the same address appearing to be affiliated with Leshchenko.

He said he did not respond directly to any of the texts, and instead passed them along to his lawyer. He declined to provide the texts to POLITICO.

[snip]

Manafort said that the first of the texts arrived shortly before The New York Times published an August exposé revealing that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine had obtained documents — which have since come under scrutiny — that appeared to show $12.7 million in cash payments earmarked for Manafort.

That NYT story came out on August 14, just 3 days after he promised a bank he had millions more coming from Ukraine around the same time as the presidential election. The very next day, the AP would pile on, asking for comment on a story about Manafort’s undisclosed lobbying for Yanukovych that it would publish on August 17. As prosecutors pointed out in a filing in the DC case, this exchange with the AP — and the Manafort-Gates effort to sustain a lie about their lobbying campaign — is a big part of the reason they lied when DOJ asked them to register under FARA that fall.

For example, on August 15, 2016, a member of the press e-mailed Manafort and copied a spokesperson for the Trump campaign to solicit a comment for a forthcoming story describing his lobbying. Gates corresponded with Manafort about this outreach and explained that he “provided” the journalist “information on background and then agreed that we would provide these answers to his questions on record.” He then proposed a series of answers to the journalist’s questions and asked Manafort to “review the below and let me know if anything else is needed,” to which Manafort replied, in part, “These answers look fine.” Gates sent a materially identical message to one of the principals of Company B approximately an hour later and “per our conversation.” The proposed answers Gates conveyed to Manafort, the press, and Company B are those excerpted in the indictment in paragraph 26.

An article by this member of the press associating Manafort with undisclosed lobbying on behalf of Ukraine was published shortly after Gates circulated the Manafort-approved false narrative to Company B and the member of the press. Manafort, Gates, and an associate of Manafort’s corresponded about how to respond to this article, including the publication of an article to “punch back” that contended that Manafort had in fact pushed President Yanukovych to join the European Union. Gates responded to the punch-back article that “[w]e need to get this out to as many places as possible. I will see if I can get it to some people,” and Manafort thanked the author by writing “I love you! Thank you.” Manafort resigned his position as chairman of the Trump campaign within days of the press article disclosing his lobbying for Ukraine.

Manafort’s role with the Trump campaign is thus relevant to his motive for undertaking the charged scheme to conceal his lobbying activities on behalf of Ukraine. Here, it would be difficult for the jury to understand why Manafort and Gates began crafting and disseminating a false story regarding their Ukrainian lobbying work nearly two years after that work ceased—but before any inquiry by the FARA Unit—without being made aware of the reason why public scrutiny of Manafort’s work intensified in mid-2016. Nor would Manafort’s motives for continuing to convey that false information to the FARA Unit make sense: having disseminated a false narrative to the press while his position on the Trump campaign was in peril, Manafort either had to admit these falsehoods publicly or continue telling the lie.

The day the article came out, August 17, Trump gave Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway larger roles in the campaign. Two days later, Manafort would resign, though he would remain in the loop with Trump. Indeed, according to the hacked texts from his daughter, he remained involved and actually “hired [Bannon and Conway]. Interviewed them in trump towers.” (h/t ee)

But according to leaked texts allegedly hacked from the phone of his daughter Andrea Manafort Shand, Manafort’s resignation was all for show, and he continued to wield influence in the campaign.

On August 19, when Paul Manafort officially resigned, the allegedly hacked texts show that Manafort Shand wrote to one her contacts:

So I got to the bottom of it, as I suspected my dad resigned from being the public face of the campaign. But is still very much involved behind the scenes.

He felt he was becoming a distraction and that would ultimately take a toll on the campaign.

Several hours later, a different contact appears to have texted Andrea Manafort to say, “Thoughts go out to your pops—I can only imagine that he’s relieved, angry, hurting, a combination of a lot of emotions. Wishing you and your fam the best.” To which Andrea responded: “Hahaha you’re so silly. It’s all just pr.”

But — as the Mueller filing makes clear — the pushback on the AP and NYT stories didn’t end Manafort and Gates’ efforts to lie about their activities in Ukraine. A filing in the Alex van der Zwaan prosecution details that on September 12, 2016, in the wake of the Kyiv Post’s exposure of new details about this work (h/t ms), Kilimnik would contact van der Zwaan, leading to a series of communications between the two of them and Skadden Arps’ Greg Craig regarding how Manafort and Gates laundered money and its sources to pay Skadden for a report on Yulia Tymoshenko’s prosecution.

Instead of truthfully answering questions about his contacts with Gates and Person A, van der Zwaan lied. He denied having substantive conversations with Gates and Person A in 2016. When confronted with an email dated September 12, 2016, sent by Person A to van der Zwaan, the defendant again lied. The email was sent to the defendant’s email address at his law firm, though the Special Counsel’s Office had obtained the email from another source. The email said, in Russian, that Person A “would like to exchange a few words via WhatsApp or Telegram.” van der Zwaan lied and said he had no idea why that email had not been produced to the government, and further lied when he stated that he had not communicated with Person A in response to the email.

[snip]

Further, van der Zwaan in fact had a series of calls with Gates and Person A—as well as the lead partner on the matter—in September and October 2016. The conversations concerned potential criminal charges in Ukraine about the Tymoshenko report and how the firm was compensated for its work. The calls were memorable: van der Zwaan had taken the precaution of recording the conversations with Gates, Person A, and the senior partner who worked on the report. In van der Zwaan’s recorded conversation with Person A, in Russian, Person A suggested that “there were additional payments,” that “[t]he official contract was only a part of the iceberg,” and that the story may become a blow for “you and me personally.”

[snip]

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016. During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.

These are the contacts van der Zwaan hid, at first, from Mueller’s investigators. Van der Zwaan would claim he wasn’t hiding those contacts because he knew Kilimnik was a former GRU officer, but instead to hide that he recorded the conversation with Craig from the Skadden lawyers who represented him in the first interview with the FBI. But it’s still not clear why he made the recording. It sure feels like blackmail to me, though may also have been an effort to stay on track on his quest to make partner at Skadden (remember that van der Zwaan was being romanced into the family of Alfa Bank founder German Khan during 2016; he would marry Khan’s daughter in 2017).

Indeed, Paul Manafort’s life looks like a series of blackmail attempts during that period.

Which makes the stakes of the question Carrie Johnson asked in her Manafort trial round-up all the greater.

Left unanswered so far, Scott, is why Manafort joined the Trump campaign in 2016 for no money when he was bleeding. He was bleeding money and got no salary from that Trump campaign.

Why was Manafort, badly underwater at the time, willing to work for Trump for “free”? What was the $2.4 million he expected to be paid in November for?

And given all the publicly known things Manafort did out of desperation at the time, what kind of non-public desperate things could he also be coerced into doing?

Update: Added the Kyiv Post and Andrea Manafort details.

Update: Added Calk and TFSBC details.

Timeline

August 2: Manafort has an in-person meeting with Kilimnik where they discussed “the perception of the U.S. presidential campaign in Ukraine”

August 3: Manafort asks Dennis Raico for the resume of his boss, Stephen Calk

August 4: Manafort asks Raico for Calk’s professional biography

August 5: Trump named Calk to his financial advisory committee

August 10: To obtain a fraudulent bank loan, Manafort tells his tax preparer to claim $2.4 million in payments from Ukraine for which he had no documentation

Before August 14: Manafort is blackmailed, allegedly by Ukrainian politician Serhiy Leshchenko

August 14: NYT publishes “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief”

August 15: In advance of an AP story on their undisclosed lobbying, Manafort and Gates work out a false story with Mercury Consulting and the Podesta Group

August 17: AP publishes “Paul Manafort helped a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2M to DC lobbyists”; Trump gives Bannon and Conway larger roles in the campaign

August 19: Manafort resigns from campaign

September 12: Kilimnik contacts van der Zwaan regarding cover-up regarding payments to Skadden Arps