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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 28

Weds Feb 28
All In
Today Trump tweeted great displeasure with Jeff Sessions because he wants to use the IG office to investigate FISA abuse. “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
Sessions apparently grew just a bit of a backbone recently. He responded, “We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary," Sessions said in a statement. "As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”
Hayes:  This is an example of the president telling the DOJ to investigate his enemies, which seems like a plausible impeachable offense. Usually Sessions just takes the abuse. Showed a photo posted by Axios of Rosenstein and Sessions dining together with a third party. “Scoop: Besieged Sessions dines with Rosenstein in show of solidarity.”
Barbara Boxer:  She has never seen anything like this. It’s a new version of the Apprentice, you’re fired. This is a nightmare. She and Sessions have disagreed over the years on so many issues, but today she is saying that she applauds him. “Hang in there, Jeff. Stay in there.” It’s still all about Russia.
Mickey Edwards:  Sessions is not going to let himself go down in history as someone who threw is all over for Donald Trump. Most presidents bring a person for that job who can do it well. Trump brings in people who will be loyal to him.
Mueller is asking questions about when Trump knew about the email release. That should be really bad news for Trump, who still wants to accuse, indict, and jail his political opponents.
Hope Hicks resigned. One day after admitting to the HIC that part of her job was to tell “white lies.” The WH told her she couldn’t answer many questions. She told sources that this job has taken a toll on her. Paparazzi, Mueller probe. The resignation of her close friend Josh Raffel may have influenced her. She was part of the drafting of the misleading statement about the June 9, 2016 meeting. She also helped to draft a defense of Rob Porter.
Mueller is also asking questions about Trump’s attempts to fire Jeff Sessions last July. It could be part of a pattern of obstruction of justice.
Rep Trey Gowdy’s Oversight Committee is investigating the lavish expenditures made by Ben Carson and his wife for furniture and décor. HUD had agreed to spend $165t for lounge furniture for its DC HQ. Last year he said in an interview reported by the NYT, “Don’t make housing for the poor too cozy.”
Hayes:  But, the Secretary who pulled firefighters and money from fire zones in July so he could fly a charter tour while there were 21 wild fires in the region that very day.
Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair:  An investor met with JK in the WH, and proceeded to loan the Kushner family millions in risky loans. This is a conflict of interest. We’re not sure what he is going to do all day now. The WH needs to define his job now.
Asawin Suebsaeng, Daily Beast:  It used to be when we talked to people about JK said he was untouchable and could get away with anything. Now there is an unwillingness to defend him. he thinks there is no way that JK will solve ME peace. Now maybe he can do criminal justice and prison reform. Kushner’s father went to prison thanks to Chris Christie.
Natasha Bertrand, The Atlantic:  He has met with Russian and Chinese investors. People feel that Jared is exposed to several charges.
Trump made the claim again today, come up with a gun control bill and I’ll sign it. He also said if someone is dangerous, the police should take their guns away first, and do due process afterward. That is totally unconstitutional.
Rep Elizabeth Esty, D-CT:  He said today in a bi-partisan meeting he would support a bunch of stuff that Dems have been fighting for. There were some stunned faces around the room. He said to the GOPers, I’m not afraid of the NRA and you shouldn’t be either.
Walmart has decided not to sell automatic guns, and will not sell guns to anyone under 21.

Once again Rachel had to throw out her ABC block again and the reporter who she is going to interview is running into the building as she speaks.
From NYT:  Early last year, “Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184m to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.” That loan was made on Nov 21, 2017. That was triple what the Apollo group usually loans. Citigroup also loaned the company hundreds of millions of dollars. That loan was made in spring of 2017, “shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the WH with Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat…”
Kushner’s attorney is denying all this. Both lenders also deny that the loans had anything to do with WH meetings. Kushner still holds a stake in these companies. Jesse Drucker, NYT:  JK divested some small portions of his stakes in the companies, which are LLC’s and apartment buildings. The average loan for Apollo is about $60m. The size is what makes it an outlier. There is a lot we don’t know about the loan. One of the problems is that there are no logs as to what was discussed in the meetings. You have to take their word for it. They don’t make meetings public anymore. We have to discover it on our own. Just discussing a job with Harris is a problem. It puts Kushner into a zone of ethical issues. Would Apollo be able to then seek their own interests through the WH? They had a big stake in the tax plan, and may have infrastructure issues.
For a while, a man named Mark Corallo, spokesman for Trump’s legal team, quit his job suddenly. Michael Wolf explained the quitting in his book Fire and Fury. Pg 260. Corallo was told not to talk to the press and not to answer his phone. A month ago, the NYT got the story. The newspaper broke the June 9 meeting bit by bit. They contacted people about it and asked 14 questions about it and Trump’s aides received the questions on AF 1on the way back from the summit meeting in Europe. They began writing a response. Trump and HH huddled. She sent many texts to Junior, who was in NY. Trump insisted that it was about adoptions. That response was sent to the NYT. The next morning, there was a conference call with Mark Corallo, HH, and the president. What transpired on the call is in dispute. He said that he told them that the statement and the meeting would backfire because “documents would eventually surface showing that the meeting had been set up for the Trump campaign to get political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians.” He said that Hicks responded that those email would never get out because only a few people have access to them. He was alarmed that she said that in front of the president with no attorney on the phone, so that conversation could not be protected by attorney privilege. He told others what happened. HH denies all of it. But those emails did come out quickly. The legal problem is that Trump is under investigation for obstructing justice. If Corallo is right, she has contributed to criminal obstruction of justice, both for her and Trump. Now Mueller has requested an interview with Corallo, and sources say he was going to testify to all of it. He has had that meeting with Mueller, and there is no indication that he has changed his mind about his story. Mueller is also wants to interview Josh Raffel, who resigned while HH was testifying to the HIC. She said she did not lie about conversations with Russians.
Rachel’s wall of firings and resignations is now HUGE! Elaine Duke and several others we’ve never heard of have resigned. “It is not normal for the USA to be this unstable.”
NBC scoop:  Mueller is investigating whether Trump was aware the DNC emails were stolen before WikiLeaks published them. Carol Lee, NBC News:  This would involve collusion, and shows the investigation will not wrap up any time soon. She says witnesses have been asked if Trump’s “joke” about Russia looking for HRC emails came as a request from someone outside the campaign. Did someone direct him to say that or was it ad lib. Mueller isn’t convinced that comment wasn’t a joke.
The photo of Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco all having dinner together where they could be photographed by reporters is usually not just a coincidence, especially since Trump is attacking Sessions today. And since Francisco is the person who would step up into the Deputy Attorney General spot if Sessions resigned.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 27

Tues Feb 27
All In
Video of Admiral Mike Rogers, National Security Adviser, saying that he has had no instructions from the WH to take steps to protect our next election. He feels that he needs an order to proceed, and that what we are doing isn’t enough. He sounded frustrated, saying that Russia must realize now that they can do this with impunity and there will be no price to pay. Claire McKaskill and Elizabeth Warren and other Dems were visibly outraged. Nothing bothers the GOP. SHS blamed Obama. Thanks, Obama.
Jake Sullivan, fmr senior policy adviser, HRC, 2016:  Dereliction of duty. Trump is choosing to do nothing. Two options: the Russians have something on Trump; he hopes to benefit from the interference in the future; or he is afraid of Putin for some reason. This is a blinking, flashing red light that there is something very wrong in the WH right now.
Mieke Eoyang, fmr staffer, HIC and Armed Services Committee:  Adm Rogers is blowing the whistle. She says that Rogers has presented plans to deal with the issue, but “the president is rejecting those options.”
Hayes:  He was blown back by the tone of the testimony.
Hope Hicks was interviewed today for 9 hours. Raj Shah said on Fox News that she cooperated fully with the Mueller team and the HIC because there is no wrongdoing. BUT, Rep Joaquin Castro, D-TX said that is not true at all. She stonewalled like Bannon. They are counting on the fact that the GOP-led committee will not subpoena them or hold them in contempt. She had a couple of attorneys with her. It was terribly arrogant of them. They claimed no privilege. They just said, I’m not going to answer. As far as he can tell, the GOPers are not going to compel her testimony. They’re gaming the system. They probably will succeed. That in a sense an obstruction of justice. There are witnesses we need to talk to, and others we need to bring back.
Kushner’s clearance has been downgraded, and WP reports that foreign countries (China, Mexico, UAE) have been caught discussing how to manipulate him as a soft target through his “complex business arrangements, financial difficulties, and lack of foreign policy experience.” He did not officially report contacts with foreign officials, and that is why he cannot obtain a security clearance. All the other WH staffers also lost their top secret clearances and access to top secret info. Rep Ted Lieu said he needs to resign. He can’t do his job without that clearance. This is why we have nepotism laws. Why should Ivanka have a security clearance? Why is she communicating with the president of South Korea? I have no idea other than nepotism. The Dems on the HIC asking Jared a yes or no question in a letter about 2 months ago, did he have conversations with foreign nationals about 666 5th Ave, and he just ignored the question. That suggests that he did.
Hayes:  Rep Trey Gowdy has initiated an investigation. He is head of the oversight committee.
Warren Buffet said his company got a $29b gift from the tax cut. That is enough to give a $1000 bonus to 29 million workers. That is every worker in OH, MI, PA, WI, and FL combined. Workers have gotten $5.2b. Shareholders have gotten $178b. Trump did promise diners in a restaurant that charges $36 for a burger.
Casey Cagle’s threat to Delta for cutting ties with the NRA is illegal.
Michelle Goldberg, NYT:  Women who maybe voted in the past but weren’t really plugged in are making it safe for Dems today to take on the NRA. Many people are disenfranchised when it comes to voting, but not when it comes to consumerism.
Hayes:  There’s no neutral ground in the culture war.
While Trump was addressing the governors telling them we need to arm teachers, Melania was down the hall, addressing the wives and saying that she is proud of the youth because they are the future, and it’s good to see them have a voice. What Trump is saying was made 40 years ago by Archie Bunker in “All in the Family.” Stop skyjacking by arming all the passengers. Pass out pistols at the beginning of the trip.
Sherri Dillon, Trump’s attorney, announced today that Trump has decided to donate all profits from one of his hotels to the US Treasury. The logistics of it would be a nightmare. The Trump International Hotel said they didn’t know anything about it. WP tried to get details about the claim, but Trump Organization said, “We have nothing further to share at this time.”
When he was running for president, Ben Carson criticized irresponsible spending. But recently he spent $30,000 for a dining room table in his office, even though the budget for his agency has been cut by $8b. the NYT said that Carson’s wife has been pressuring people to redecorate the office in this lavish way, “even if it meant circumventing the law.” Raffi Williams, HUD spokesman, said that Carson did not know the table was bought, but he doesn’t think it is too expensive, and doesn’t intend to return it.
Chris Lu said it was NOT like this in the Obama administration. People were vetted, money was not wasted, ethics was important.

Trump just named Brad Parscale — the guy who was essentially a conduit between the Trump campaign and Russia's online disinformation campaign — as his campaign manager for his 2020 re-election bid  From @RVAwonk today.
Rachel explained a scandal associated with Parscale. He’ll be indicted some day.
WP reported today that Gen H. R. McMasters expressed security concerns about Jared Kushner meeting with foreign officials without coordinating them with the NSC and without officially reporting that he was taking those meetings. He just went off and met with them on his own. There was no one there to monitor or analyze or verify what went on. Nicole Wallace of MSNBC said that it was beyond weird. Crimes were committed in those meetings because the NSA was monitoring the communications of those that Kushner met with. They say that he combines his own business with WH work and then lies about it. [People have been indicted for doing that. I don’t know how Kushner could not wind up in jail. And yet, GOPers at the convention are still chanting “lock her up.”]
Why is it dangerous to mix business and politics? You can be a target for blackmail. Wallace described the WH as a snake pit. We now know that not only was Kushner working without a clearance, but he probably never would have gotten one.
There is a new Patriot Legal Defense Fund, LLC incorporated in Delaware to help people pay for their lawyers. [Oh, the irony. Lock them up. Lock them up.]
David Fahrenthold of WP has dedicated himself to following Trump’s alleged charitable giving. It turns out that he promises money and doesn’t deliver. He also uses other people’s money and claims it as his own. He broke tax laws by using his charitable foundation to settle legal disputes and make political donations and even to buy big portraits of himself. One time he crashed a ribbon cutting ceremony for a nursery school for children with AIDS, stole a seat on stage reserved for a large donor, then left without contributing a thing. Fahrenthold won a Pulitzer Prize for all that reporting. Trump has a hotel in Panama City. Richard Engel that it was a haven for Russian money laundering. Now there is a huge dispute between Trump employees who run the hotel and the owners. The police have been called numerous times, and today a security guard was arrested. There are rival groups of security guards, fights, and other nutty chaos. Panamanian government is now investigating the Trump organization.
Fahrenthold:  The owner of the hotel thinks the hotel is losing money, and he thinks it’s mismanagement and the Trump brand. He wants to fire the Trump organization, but the contract doesn’t allow for it. The Trump employees refuse to leave.
Dems flipped two more state seats. One was in NH. This is the 5th seat that the Dems have flipped in NH since Trump was elected. Another was in CT. In the third one, Dems lost, but Trump won this district by a huge margin. The Dems pulled off a 28 pt swing.

Monday, February 26, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 26

Mon Feb 26
All In
[I read today that 6 GOP heads of important committees think that there is no reason to look into Trump’s finances. That shows that the GOP is as corrupt as Trump, and that if Mueller designates the Trump administration as a RICO operation, they will do nothing. They are like a crime syndicate themselves. Trump is threatening our democracy, and they do not respond with any concern at all.]
Trump’s attorneys are trying to keep him from having to interview with Mueller. Today Trump is still calling for the DOJ to investigate Clinton.
Adam Schiff:  Trump still thinks that the DOJ is his department to do his bidding and to punish his political opponents. Schiff said that some GOPers on his committee have said that they are under tremendous pressure to shut the investigation down. But they hope to have Hope Hicks in soon. He wants to subpoena Corey Lewandowski. He wants them to know that if they don’t answer, we will take them to court. [But unless Nunes says they will go to court, they won’t. Mueller may. If Mueller succeeds in indicting all these people and they somehow get convicted, our democracy will be saved and continue. If the Trump administration gets away with all this nonsense, even I will have to admit that we have a tinpot despot for a leader who is godfather of a crime family, and he is supported by an oppressive hostile foreign power and a bunch of selfish and naïve Evangelicals.]
The state of WA is taking great steps to regulate guns and registration.
Trump is going to make his personal pilot head of the FAA. He has no other experience than being a pilot. Trump’s event planner is now in charge of all housing in NY. In the Trump WH, nepotism is unrivaled.
SCOTUS said that they will not hear the case to keep the DACA program in place or kill the program. They must go through all the lower courts first. So the March 5 deadline ending the program won’t hold. But now the pressure if off  Congress to find a solution.
Xavier Becerra, CA Attorney General:  When the Obama administration created DACA. They used a process of rules. Trump just wants to end it without any process. He just said it’s unlawful. He needs to prove it. Trump was using the Dreamers as hostages to get the wall.
Thing One and Thing Two talks about how even Fox News gets twisted around when what they report gets washed through Trump’s Twitter feed. The hostess on FN, Molly Line, was quoting Adam Schiff about the Nunes memo saying, “Congressman Adam Schiff, he argued the Republican memo omitted and distorted key facts meant to mislead the public. This Democratic memo was meant to be the rebuttal and was meant to show what was left out.” Trump turned that into:  “‘Congressman Schiff omitted and distorted key facts’ @FoxNews So, what else is new. He is a total phony!” He tweeted that on Feb 24. Thanks to John Bowden of The Hill.

Review of Gates indictments. Manafort will be arraigned in one court on Weds and another court on Friday. But now fmr European heads of state are denying that the two million euros that they were paid to support the Russian policy on Ukraine came from Manafort. The indictment mentions unnamed co-conspirators, Conspirator A and others who applied for a $5.5m from Lender B. They worked with Gates and Manafort in their money laundering schemes. One of them “submitted a falsified 2016 DMI P&L…[it] overstated DMI’s income by more than $2m. A bank insider emailed that the papers looked doctored. They wanted a clean version. “Lender D” was the Federal Savings Bank. NBC and WSJ have confirmed that Mueller and his prosecutors are investigating a quid pro quo, where Steve Calk was thinking he would get to be Sec of the Army. The bank employee who was pressured to approve the loan is now cooperating with the prosecutors. ABC is now reporting that those loans are now looped into Steve Calk’s recent divorce. She wants to see the loan files for any and all loans to Paul Manafort. She subpoenaed the files. Calk and attorneys tried to fight release. Those records may become public through the divorce court. Manafort may be hoping for a pardon from Trump, but he is answering to so many jurisdictions, it may be too late for a pardon.
Before the election, in October at LaGuardia Airport in NYC:  campaign press reporter Vaughn Hillyard was on the plane with Mike Pence when it skidded off the runway. Everyone was fine. But apparently the landings on the Pence plane are hard so frequently that Vaughn was actually filming it with the expectation that something might go wrong. It was a joke among the press, how long will we last? The plane almost skidded onto a highway full of cars. The next day the NTSB was examining the incident. The plane came down too far down the runway. NTSB called it pilot error. Pilot should have pulled up and gone around. There were more errors after that. The captain took the controls without telling the co-pilot, who was flying. They deployed speed brakes too slow. Vaughn went straight to Rachel’s studio to describe it.
The month before, Vincent Caldera, “a retired police officer and chair of Trump’s Florida law enforcement coalition, will no longer fly vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence to rallies across the US.” He was fired for aggravated battery. In 2015 he allegedly ran his car over a coworker repeatedly, knocking him to the ground and running over him 3 times. The victim was seriously injured. In 2014 there was a similar charge. This was the same company. What happened to the vetting process?
Axios reports today that that guy who was running the campaign air fleet is probably going to be nominated to run the FAA. This is a theme in Trumplandia. Trump’s fmr golf caddy, Dan Scavino, is now WH director of social media now. Trump’s long time body guard is director of oval office operations. His wedding planner is put in charge of HUD. The husband of a member of Trump’s household staff at Trump Tower, Steve Kopec, joined EPA’s Region 2 office in NY. Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer was named ambassador to Israel. A friend of Melania Trump got a $26m payout from the inaugural committee. That’s slightly more than the actual contractor got who ran the inauguration, and has done so for ages. What did the friend do for that amount of money? Andrew Giuliani worked in the WH.
Today was supposed to be the first day in the WH where all pending security clearances were cancelled. But it doesn’t apply to Jared and Ivanka. In the future, this administration will be the textbook case for why nepotism is bad.
BREAKING, NYT, Ken Vogel and Maggie Haberman:  Melania Trump parts ways with adviser after she learned that the adviser’s firm reaped a huge payment from the inaugural committee. The spokeswoman for Melania said that the Office of the First Lady has severed her contract with the woman. The woman brought on a close male friend whose firm was paid $3.7m. Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff complained about the media coverage of her work is unfair.
They got Ken Vogel, NYT on the phone in lightning speed. He said that the inaugural committee is a non-profit, so their records are vague. No detail about what he did. She did a lot of subcontracting for various jobs in the inauguration. She said that her firm only profited less than $2m and that had to be divided among 15 employees. Melania introduced Winston-Wolkoff to Tom Barrick who was the chair of the committee. It was Barrack’s decision to use her services, not Trump’s. She was a volunteer adviser in the east wing as well, and often flaunted Melania’s name to get her way. That apparently got old with staff and with the Trumps.
This weekend we learned from the Dem memo that Carter Page was approached in Mar 2016 for the second time about his ties to Russian intelligence. We learned that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation began on July 31, 2016. Also, “in subsequent FISA renewals, DOJ provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting.” The corroboration was heavily redacted, 3 paragraphs long. There is the allegation that Page lied under oath to the House Intell Committee when he testified there last November.
Rep Jim Hines, HIC:  The GOP memo took all of 72 hours to get out over the objection of the FBI. There were no redactions. Dems wanted to be more careful and give the FBI and DOJ time to review it. Theirs is technical, but you can see that the Nunes memo was an attempt to slime the FBI without any basis. The Dem memo said that information gathered by the FBI contradicts what Page told the HIC. But Hines said that he has been in on a lot of testimonies, but Page’s was unique in that he contradicted himself during the testimony. The premise of the Nunes memo was that the FBI was biased against Trump and so abused their power. But Page wasn’t a good victim for the GOP to use for that purpose. Page may not be our biggest priority. Tomorrow they get Hope Hicks behind closed doors.

Friday, February 23, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 23

Fri Feb 23
Today, Rick Gates pleaded guilty to international conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with the investigation. If he has something to offer, he may avoid prison time. Long after Manafort left the campaign, Gates stayed. He pleaded just before another indictment came out. Gates said that he had a change of heart. Manafort is staying aloof. He’s been indicted 3 times. There is a paper case and a friend who will testify against him. Hayes suggested that seeing who he has associated with (Russian mobsters), he may be afraid to plead guilty.
Matt Miller:  The rule of law is slowly winning out. We are nowhere near the end.
Nick Ackerman:  Gates went into a proffer (queen for a day) where you convince them you will tell the truth and you have something valuable to offer, and he lied. So they charged hin with that. That is when he agreed to cooperate, within 24 hours. It takes time to convince the accused that the key to relief is telling the truth. The one who lost out today was DT. Gates is facing 5 to 6 years in prison. Ackerman thinks that Gates must have info on more than Manafort.
Jill Wine-Banks:  Gates claims that he can’t afford to defend himself. When you consider the millions that he and Manafort were dealing with, you have to wonder where the money went. Some went to pay for government officials to help Ukraine. The noose is tightening. Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. She explained that we shouldn’t think there won’t be challenges to his testimony.
Hayes;  The lie that Gates told is whether or not had had a meeting in 2013 with Rep Dana Rohrabacher, known to be a pro-Russian congressman, and Paul Manafort. The topic was Ukraine.
Between 2015 and 2017, Gates and Manafort were engaged in an international conspiracy involving $75m which flowed into offshore accounts. Manafort, with the help of Gates, laundered more than $30m. Nick Confessore, NYT: they are running errands for the pro-Putin oligarchs in the Ukraine. The goal is to get Ukraine in the EU and to squelch investigations in the US and keep them out of trouble diplomatically. They are paying off American lobbyists and an unknown group of ex-European politicians to lobby both in Washington and in Europe, and they are raking a lot of money off the top for themselves, So they make money overseas and still live off it at home.
Are they taking more than they should be? It seems that at some point, Manafort owed some powerful and dangerous people.
NC:  At one point Oleg Deripaska was looking for them and couldn’t find them. Then they pop up in the campaign, and Manafort is waving that in front of OP as if he is scared and is saying does this make it OK? Suddenly that Deripaska debt apparently disappears. The RNC changes its platform in favor of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Putin is trying to hack the election in favor of Trump, “it is all right there in front of us.”
Hayes:  People who cross Putin often wind up dead.
Corporations are dumping the NRA in droves. A GOP FL governor, Rick Scott, known for his radical pro NRA stance, has introduced a package of gun control. The age will go from 18 to 21, call for tighter background checks, and bump stocks would be banned.
Trump gave a long, rambling speech at CPAC. He connected all immigrants with the horrendous MS-13. He has brought them up repeatedly in his campaign and administration. It is classic fear-mongering. Then he calls for an anti-immigration policy. There are hundreds of them, but not thousands. But that gang is an American made problem. It emerged in the 1980s when Salvadorans came here as refugees. Bill Clinton’s administration sent many back, but then they became an international gang. They recruit kids who are homeless or without family. Schools aren’t good, people are poor.
Trymaine Lee:  When Trump mentions MS 13, he is promoting them. “This president loves the boogyman, and he found the perfect boogyman in MS 13.”

This week Mueller has unsealed 89 new felony charges against 17 individuals, including Ricky Pinedo. Today alone, Gates charged with 23 new felonies on top of the 8 he was already charged with, he replaced his entire legal team, he got all 31 charges dropped, then he plead guilty to 2 new charges, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Manafort left the campaign in August 2016. Gates was very much the insider after that. The new charge was lying to the FBI on Feb 1, 2018.  His 3 lawyers then told the judge they didn’t want to represent him anymore. If you are an attorney and your client is lying and you can’t do anything about it, you are supposed to withdraw. Strategically, it is a dumb thing to lie to the FBI in the middle of a plea negotiating. You lose all your immunity. The other new charge was conspiracy to defraud the US. Then he signed a cooperation agreement, which is quite comprehensive. [These unsealed documents are all online.] He could realistic be looking at 4.5 to 6 years.
Manafort is now facing all the partner charges alone. He hid his money in Cypress in shell companies. Sometimes “loans” aren’t loans at all. It’s a payment. But Deripaska really wanted his investment money back. In August 2015 he moved the case to the US. After the nomination of Trump, Deripaska just dropped the case. Manafort offered private briefings to Deripaska. On Aug 2, 2016, Manafort met with Kilimnik, who brought important messages from Deripaska having to do with Russia. In or around Sept 2016, Alex van der Zwaan spoke with Gates with both Gates and Person A regarding the Report. In early Sept 2016, Gates called van der Zwaan and told him to contact Person A. It just continued to get deeper from there.
What Gates was in a position to see was what was going on between the Trump campaign and Russia. Tonight the WH said they would not be commenting on any of this. (It’s not our problem.)
This week OR passed a gun law. Abusers and stalkers can no longer buy guns. There was a huge loophole that made former laws useless. The bill was introduced before the Parkland shooting. 24 hrs after the bill was passed. They already had a law about taking guns away from high risk users.

New sanctions have been set against North Korea. Ivanka is in South Korea briefing the South Koreans about the sanctions. Today all who didn’t get their permanent clearances by now were supposed to lose them. WP said that Rod Rosenstein alerted the WH that there are still issues out there that could further delay Jared’s clearance. 

MSNBC Journal, Feb 22

Thurs Feb 22
All In
A day or two ago, Trump was assuring the HSers that he was going to reconsider his own hardline stance about gun control. But today, he is parroting exactly, almost word for word, a speech made today at the CPAC by Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA. We need to arm teachers, train them, and harden the schools so it’s hard to get in. More guns is the solution. Teachers say the opposite. And it’s not what the kids were calling for. [A Twitter wonk reminded folks today that within two years, a teacher will kill a kid and the school will be sued and go bankrupt.] The armed school guard on campus stayed outside while the shooter was inside shooting kids. He has been suspended.
Sen Marco Rubio, R-FL, today in a huge town hall meeting refused to change his ideology on guns. The NRA even refuses to ban plastic guns that look like real guns. Children have been shot by police while brandishing a plastic gun. Mickey Edwards, fmr House representative, R-OK, said he fought for bans and it wouldn’t fly. He said that OK is more conservative now than it was when he represented them.
New charges against Manafort and Gates, 32 counts. Money laundering, tax evasion, bank fraud, doctoring financial information. The charges go back to activities in 2006. Ben Wittes, Lawfare Blog:  There is a focus on financial crimes in this indictment. There is some confusion about whether Rick Gates is in a plea mode and who his counsel will be. Before Mueller, there was previous scrutiny. That is why it is strange that Trump made him campaign chairman. But it was brazen activity for a long period of time, dealing with huge amounts of money. “There wasn’t a whole lot of secret about who Manafort was.” The illegal conduct runs into January of 2017.
During the last speech of the first day of the CPAC conference today, given by Ben Shapiro, Ed in Chief of Daily Wire, he mentioned how Hillary Clinton will never be president, and a chant broke out, “lock her up,” “lock her up.” How ironic. Today the first-term GOP governor of MO, Eric Greiten, was led away in handcuffs for having an affair, secretly photographing the woman while she was naked, blindfolded, and her hands were bound, then using the photo to blackmail her if she ever spoke about the affair. He was considered to be someone who might run for president in 2020, fmr Navy Seal, Rhodes scholar. “He burned a lot of bridges in his first year.” And… Mueller filed even more charges against 4 Trump campaign officials.
Wayne LaPierre called the left “European style socialists.” Pointless to argue with the NRA because they are not about making good faith arguments. They are the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers.

Manafort and Gates were charged in the Eastern District of VA, by a different grand jury, producing a 37 page indictment of 32 more counts. A few months ago, P Manafort wrote a letter to pitch his services to the Trump campaign. He had no experience, he wasn’t on anyone’s list. His pitch was to Tom Barrick. The last part of the letter was talking points:  he was not looking for a paid job. Why? In the months leading up to Mar 2016, he was in financial desperation. He was scrambling to get his hands on cash. There was a 2 part scheme. Part 1:  between 2006 and 2015, Manafort and Gates earned millions of dollars. They hid it in offshore bank accounts. They laundered that money and didn’t report it to the IRS. Part 2, 2015-Jan 2016:  when the Ukraine money dwindled, Gates extracted money from the property and false representation in various documentation. They also had a conspirator who worked for the bank. This all is happening in the lead up to the campaign. In Feb 2016, he offered to work for Trump for free. Why did they need all this cash for Manafort?
But then, for some reason, Trump offered himself to the campaign, and suddenly his money problems turned around. Before that illegal attempts to borrow money failed, but after, loans appeared. They doctored those papers, too. Starting July 2016, “jackpot.” Lender D in the indictment was most likely The Federal Savings Bank, that small bank that loaned out a huge amount of the capital. $16m. The people who work there questioned the propriety of the loans at the time. Mueller is investigating that loan and an employee is cooperating. That person felt pressured to approve the loan. Did the bank give the money to Manafort because the bank CEO, Steve Calk, think that he would be appointed Sec of the Army? He made a lot of calls that seemed to indicate he wanted to prepare for such an interview.
The amount of money laundered went up in the new indictment. Chuck Rosenberg said that there are two different venues because of jurisdiction. There will be two different trials. The tax cases are more cumbersome to bring. It takes more time to get approval, so that is why they are lagging. As for incarceration and bail, the judge by law has to find the least restrictive situation that will assure that the person will appear in court. That is the standard in all bail cases. There may mean third part signatures and a combination of bail and properties. So far there is nothing about collusion in any of these indictments.
Earlier, reporters were saying and hearing that Gates would cooperate and plead guilty, but now it’s possible that he may not have enough to offer.
The First National Bank of Omaha is cancelling their NRA Visa Card.
Rick Scott is going to announce some reforms in FL. The age may go up to 21, but the NRA is opposed to any such restriction. Four states are starting a regional effort to regulate guns. Gun violence research for one thing, which has been banned for 20 years at the federal level.

Govenor Andrew Cuomo, D-NY:  You can’t do just a few things. It takes a fire hose of reform is needed. After Sandy Hook, NY passed several laws, but states are limited by their own borders. But if you can’t get the government to do it, do what you can. They have databases that can be shared with other states. Money is tight, especially with the new tax bill where they targeted 13 blue states. But they are doing it. They are not going to wait for the federal government. They are throwing out crumbs for the crowds. Shooting is a societal problem. People can be shot anywhere. The problem is mentally ill people with access to guns. [the people don’t have to be mentally ill, just angry and dysfunctional.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 21

Weds Feb 21
I thought I might get a break today from notes, but no. Fox News is agitating for Michael Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea. They say it was a mistake. The judge in Flynn’s case just issued an order that the prosecutors must turn over any evidence in the case to Mike Flynn’s attorneys if it might be favorable to his case. This is the 2nd time that the judge issued that reminder.
Chuck Rosenberg:  There are probably new charges or a new defendant. We’ll probably see what it means soon. What the right is saying is “much ado about nothing.” In every case, the judge will remind the prosecutors of this. There’s nothing to it. There’s no indication that the prosecutors have misbehaved, or that Flynn wants to withdraw his guilty plea. It’s hard to do.
The fact that van der Zwaan doesn’t want to cooperate, doesn’t mean they can’t get information from him after he has been sentenced. They can freeze any other charges against him and compel him to cooperate.
A new sealed filing (one page) against Manafort and Gates. That binder is being watched by journalists “like hawks watch mice,” because it indicates something new is afoot.
Miami Herald said that the demonstration of High School kids was the largest there in 20 years. It was huge, but there were demonstrations of HS kids all over. [For Congress to ignore these kids, they must have hearts of stone.] The FL GOP is extreme and pro-gun. Rick Scott said he will propose a package of reforms by Friday, but they will probably be modest. Without these demonstrations, there would be no chance at all for any reform “in this gun-shaped state.” They are reminding politicians that many of them are 18 or close to it, and they will VOTE.
At the federal level, Trump’s suggestions are pretty impractical. He has said we need to ban bump stocks and strengthen background checks. But Trump has a way of waffling. Trump has done a lot to weaken background checks. Felons and people adjudicated mentally ill can get guns. They slashed millions of dollars from the background check system. Last night, Trump said he would ask the DOJ to come up with regulations for assault weapons. The Dems have been asking for 5 years for regulations against bump stocks or trigger cranks or other accessories, but the DOJ has said that Congress has to do that. So why is Trump asking DOJ to do it? Rachel:  Watch what they do and not what they say.
Video of HS student sharing his story in WH with Trump there. Very eloquent. He passed the mic to a mom who lost her 6 year old at Sandy Hook. Trump at least pretended to listen, but then he suggested arming teachers. The Rachel interviewed that mom, Nicole Hockley, manager of Sandy Hook Promise, a pro-regulation organization.  
The transcript for the court hearing for van der Zwaan came out today. He plead guilty, but did not agree to cooperate with prosecutors. His Russian in-law family may have a little something to do with that. There have been questions raised as to whether Alfa Bank had anything to do with the Russian interference.

About the US State Dept story where they said, “Go ask Russia.” Well, before Obama left office, when he was detailing his sanctions, he named 4 individuals from the GRU who participated in the attack. That included the head of the GRU. But at the end of last month, Russia’s Twitter account bragged that Sergey Naryshkin, the director of foreign intelligence (the SVR), “has visited the US for consultation with US counterparts on the struggle against terrorism.” After that, our news agencies began to report that he came with the head of the FSB. Odd that they all came at once. Odd that we had to learn of it from the Kremlin. Odd that 2 of the 3 are sanctioned and can’t get there without some kind of pass. The SVR guy was sanctioned, but we know what he was doing, so he obviously got some kind of waiver. So today a senior US official said, “Reports that the GRU head was in the United States are inaccurate.” TRMS did reach out to the Russian embassy in the US, but they haven’t answered. WP and Reuters and others reported that he was here. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MSNBC Journal, Feb 20

Tues Feb 20
A new indictment dropped today, so now there are 19 indictments and 4 guilty pleas. Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Rick Gates and Person A. There is a Ukrainian connection, funding, lying to the FBI, and destroying evidence. His father-in-law is a Russian oligarch connected with Alfa Bank. That in-law is suing Buzzfeed for publishing the Steele dossier last year and mentioning the bank.
Today SHS ran another typical press briefing. Trump says bizarre false stuff, all of which is the opposite of reality, and she tries to make it sound sane. No one buys it. Watching her is like “1984” in real life.
Trump still has not imposed sanctions.
Two organizations never leak:  SCOTUS and Team Mueller. When Mueller moves, it’s like a bomb going off. Don McGahn should grab a clue here.
Malcolm Nance, fmr Naval Intel:  They must be trying to connect Manafort as an agent of Russia…in the worst sense of the word. It’s not a matter of collusion, but conspiracy. Was Manafort an asset or an actual foreign agent? Was it all to influence Trump’s campaign for the benefit of Russia.
It is clear today that Jared Kushner will not be impacted by Kelly’s memo. He will work with no pretense of a clearance. Carol Leonnig, WP, says here is an opportunity for Kushner to bow out. How could you do anything in the WH without one? The Daily Briefing has serious information in it that could do great damage if shared inappropriately. [I predict that the WH will do nothing and GOP will do nothing.]
Ten members of the NSC have interim clearances. Kushner, Ivanka, and McGahn. 47 Wh employees without clearances report directly to the president. [Where is the GOP outrage? Where is Paul Ryan’s great leadership? Why isn’t Mitch McConnell angry about this? What the hell happened to the Democrat response to the Nunes memo? Why no headline about Our President handling sensitive intel in a lackadaisical manner on The Elijah List?]
There is a circumstantial case that Jared will never get a security clearance. His interim expires next week.
A woman named Rachel Crooks said that Trump cornered her in an elevator bank in 2006 and pushed himself on her with questions and kisses. It was not welcome. Trump denies it. She said it lasted 2 minutes. Jess McIntosh, fmr HRC aide:  The first 18 women to accuse Trump now have a support network to catch them. When Crooks spoke out, there was no #metoo movement. She is running for office now. Another woman running in Ky flipped a seat that Trump won by a big margin in 2016. She ran at that time and lost, but then recently ran again and won by a large margin.
The CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is meeting this week in Maryland. Trump, Pence, Sean Hannity, and the niece of Marine Le Pen will be speakers. [What a rogue’s gallery they are. Like characters from Alice in Wonderland.] Wayne LaPierre of the NRA will be there and speak, although his name was not on the official speaker schedule. The outrage of anti-gun emotion wouldn’t look good.
The Florida House overwhelmingly voted down a resolution to vote on a gun law today.

Tonight, Kelly put out a statement today praising Kushner and saying that he will be continuing his duties in the WH.
In July 2004, Victor Yushcenko ran for president of Ukraine. A picture of him in July 2004 and another in December showed an astonishing transformation. He was poisoned with dioxin and it affected his appearance and caused tremendous damage to his health. He was running against Victor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian dictator for whom Paul Manafort worked for a decade before becoming Trump’s campaign chair. Manafort was hired in 2004. The lock her/him up campaign originated in Ukraine. They locked up the prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was combating a massively corrupt gas deal between Russia and Ukraine. In 2010, she ran for president against Yanukovych and almost won. So they accused her of several crimes and put her in prison for 7 years. She was still there in 2014, but by that time, the people of Ukraine had had enough. They overthrew the Yanukovych government. He fled to Moscow for safekeeping, and that was the occasion of Tymoshenko getting out of prison. That was 4 years ago during the Sochi winter Olympics. People took over the palace because he was gone. The palace was incredibly luxurious. Yanukovych is a cross between Al Capone, Whitey Bulger, and Pablo Escobar, looting his country, so it’s a difficult thing to make that person look legitimate, but Manafort is guy for that kind of task. So Manafort wanted to hire an effective PR firm that had bi-partisan credentials. He also hired the Skadden, Arps, Meagher, and Flom law firm, a big international NY firm, and a guy named Greg Craig (Obama’s former attorney) to explain how Yulia Tymoshenko got locked up. That report was called “a nasty piece of work.” In the process, Manafort’s daughter got hired by the firm. That report is what produced Alex Van der Zwaan’s indictment. He was interviewed by the special counsel about these dealings and lied and withheld emails and recordings. The problem is that Mueller already had already captured all that. Today he pleaded guilty when arraigned in court today. Person A is still out there in the wind. Last year he got married to one of the richest men in Russia. He speaks four languages, English, Dutch, French, and Russian. Skadden Arps just fired him.
Ukraine today is angry about what Manafort and his cohorts did to their country and have been investigating the law firm. They asked the DOJ for “help in questioning eight lawyers who the Ukrainians believed were involved, including Mr van der Zwaan…” If he cooperates, he may not serve any time, but if not, he could serve 5 years. His wife is pregnant, so he should have great incentive to cooperate.
Linda Belcher’s win in KY is the 37th seat that Dems have flipped from red to blue.
In 2003, BP announced a deal with Russian Alfa Group and another called Access-Renova. Alfa Group was run by 4 Russian oligarchs. It was the largest deal in Russian history. But after a few years, BP began to be harassed by the Russians. Employees were harassed by authorities. Russian police raided their offices. More than a hundred had their visas pulled, so BP pulled them out of the country. That included Bob Dudley, CEO of the Russian side of the deal. He had to flee the country and go into hiding, and it was determined later that he had been poisoned. BP had to cash out of that deal and sell to the Russian state oil company Rosneft. This deal was brokered by Putin. BP’s oligarch partners did well in the sell out. They got $27b. One was a guy named German Kahn. He is mentioned in the Steele dossier. He is the father-in-law of Alex van der Zwaan.
In March 2014, Obama imposed sanctions on Russia due to their invasion of Crimea. They sanctioned several oligarchs, including one who rose in the ranks of Russian intelligence, the SVR. If you are on the list, you can’t come to the US. But in this case, he was just here last month. He came with the head of the FSB. They met with Coats and Pompeo. The head of the GRU was here as well, although he is also under sanctions. Schumer sent a letter to Dan Coats asking how he got in. The answer was that he was allowed in in full accordance with the law. The State Dept must have given him a pass. Ee don’t know what the GRU man did when he was here. The Rachel Maddow Show asked the State Dept about that, and their answer was, we refer you to the Russian government. Maybe the Russian government will answer the question.
Ken Vogel, NYT gave an explanation of two other PR firms that are in the fish barrel, but it’s too complex to lay out here. Part of what he said tonight is in this article:

[Twitter today was showing links between Trump servers, Alfa Bank servers, Russian Intel servers, and Spectrum Health servers (owned by the de Voss and Mercer families). I think in time, those connections will become more clear.]