The Mueller Investigation Page 9
The special counsel accused Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman of breaching his plea deal in the ongoing Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller met a deadline on Friday to release a court filing explaining why he accused former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of breaching his plea deal with investigators.Former Trump lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Russian real estate deal involving the president’s business during the 2016 campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday did not recommend a specific sentence for President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, citing his continued cooperation. “The sentence imposed should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing Friday. “However, the defendant has made substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct, accept responsibility for his actions, and assist the SCO’s investigation. Accordingly, the Government respectfully submits that the Court should give due consideration to the defendant’s efforts set forth above and that it would be appropriate to allow the defendant to serve any sentence imposed in this case concurrently with any sentence imposed in United State v. Cohen.” Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about negotiations over a Russian real estate dealing involving Trump’s business during the 2016 presidential election. In a separate memo filed by the Southern District of New York on Friday, prosecutors recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen despite his cooperation into a probe of Trump’s past financial dealings.Paul Manafort allegedly lied to prosecutors about his communications with officials in the Trump administration, "information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation" and more, the government said in a court filing on Friday. Manafort met with prosecutors 12 times and testified twice before a grand jury, the Justice Department said. During that time, prosecutors say Manafort didn't tell the truth about key topics even though he had agreed to cooperate with the government in any way it wanted as part of his guilty plea. The office of special counsel Robert Mueller included the details in a document filed with a federal judge that argues that Manafort has violated that plea agreement. Manafort's statements "were not instances of mere memory lapses," prosecutors wrote. "If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is able to prove the false statements at a hearing."New York (CNN)Federal prosecutors in New York said in a court filing Friday that President Donald Trump's former longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, should receive a "substantial" prison sentence of roughly four years for tax fraud and campaign finance crimes, and prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller's office accused him in a separate filing of lying to them about his contacts with Russia. Mueller also revealed that a Russian national who claimed to be well-connected in Moscow spoke with Cohen in 2015 and offered "political synergy" with the Trump campaign. The pair of memos from two sets of prosecutors reflect their views of Cohen's criminality and utility to the federal investigations ahead of his scheduled sentencing on December 12. In their filing, prosecutors from the Manhattan US Attorney's office knocked Cohen's "rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes," noting his years-long willingness to break the law. "He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends," the filing said.Special counsel Robert Mueller said Friday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about five major issues after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, including his "contact with administration officials." In a heavily redacted document, Mueller also said Manafort lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik. Mueller has said Kilimnik has ties to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking the Democrats, and they've previously outlined how the two men may have worked together to tamper with witnesses following Manafort's arrest last year. The accusations by Mueller add to growing signs that the special counsel's team has a wealth of evidence about contacts between people close to Trump -- even in the White House -- and Russians during the 2016 campaign. The document also contains the stunning disclosure that Mueller can show, including with text messages, that Manafort was in contact with Trump administration officials early this year -- even after he was indicted in late 2017. The new and damaging information for the White House comes at a time when every move by Mueller appears to bring his investigation deeper into the White House and Trump's inner circle, and shows it has expanded well beyond what may or may not have happened in the 2016 campaign.Mueller says Manafort told ‘discernible lies,’ including about contacts with employee alleged to have Russian intelligence tiesSpecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III told a judge Friday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, told “multiple discernible lies” during interviews with prosecutors, including about his contacts with an employee who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence. The allegations came in a new court filing by the special counsel that pointed to some the questions prosecutors have been asking a key witness in their closely-held investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Mueller’s prosecutors filed a portion of the document under seal and redacted other key points from view. But they said that Manafort had told numerous lies in five different areas, including about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm who prosecutors have said has Russian intelligence ties. Manafort met twice during the campaign with Kilimnik.Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday said President Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen made “substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct,” and help Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigations. Mueller also said he was not taking a position on what sentence Cohen should receive next Wednesday when he is sentenced for the crime of lying to Congress.The special counsel’s office is expected to reveal more details on Friday about separate investigations that have ensnared President Trump’s personal lawyer and his former campaign chairman. Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will submit a sentencing memorandum in Manhattan federal court outlining how much time Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael D. Cohen should spend in prison for admitting he lied to Congress. Mr. Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced next week and has agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team as well as prosecutors in Manhattan investigating the president’s inner circle. In the case of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted of financial fraud and who agreed to cooperate with the special counsel rather than face a second trial, Mr. Mueller’s team has accused him of repeatedly lying to investigators. Prosecutors pulled out of their plea deal with him because, they said, he was repeatedly untruthful. They were expected to disclose details about his falsehoods on Friday. Mr. Mueller’s team has left open the possibility that it could file new charges for lying against Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers say he has been honest with prosecutors.White House chief of staff John Kelly was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team in recent months, three people with knowledge of the matter told CNN. Kelly responded to a narrow set of questions from special counsel investigators after White House lawyers initially objected to Mueller's request to do the interview earlier this summer, the sources said. Kelly is widely expected to leave his position in the coming days and is no longer on speaking terms with President Donald Trump, CNN reported earlier Friday. Kelly is the latest high-ranking White House official known to provide information for Mueller's investigation, though his interview marks a departure of sorts since Kelly didn't join the White House until July 2017. Most of the dozens of other interviews have been with people who were associated with the Trump campaign, were part of the transition or served in the early part of the administration.Imminent filings in Manafort and Cohen’s cases, plus the former FBI director’s upcoming congressional testimony, apparently put the president on edge. Donald Trump launched an early morning Twitter attack on Robert Mueller’s investigators Friday, hours before the special counsel’s team is set to deliver important court filings in his cases against the president’s former campaign chairman and his longtime legal fixer. The president quickly turned his eight-tweet rant into an analysis of Mueller and his team, who today will drop new public information in the cases of Paul Manafort and and Michael Cohen. James Comey, whom Trump dubbed “Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey,” will also testify before the House intelligence committee today. In total, Trump wrote nearly 300 words lambasting the men responsible for the Trump-Russia investigation over the past two years. “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest,” Trump began. “And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt [sic],” Trump continued, referring to Jeannie Rhee, who was appointed by Mueller to join his team.For the past two years, attempting to understand the complexities of the Mueller investigation and President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia has felt like stumbling through a smoke-filled landscape. For every news story that seemed to chart a path forward, a new layer of unanswered questions would cloud the way. The past seven days may have marked the point at which things began to change, when the smoke began to dissipate, if only the tiniest amount. One of the biggest developments of the past week, Robert Mueller’s Wednesday sentencing memo for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, can be read in a very straightforward way. Despite the insistence of the president and his surrogates, Mueller still has plenty to reveal, and a lot of it will get to the heart of the question of whether any Trump officials colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.Washington (CNN) In the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment at the time. They discussed a range of options, including the idea of Rosenstein wearing a wire while speaking with Trump, which Rosenstein later denied. Ultimately, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation even before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, the sources said. The obstruction probe was an idea the FBI had previously considered, but it didn't start until after Comey was fired. The justification went beyond Trump's firing of Comey, according to the sources, and also included the President's conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The new details about the genesis of the obstruction case into Trump that became a key element of the Mueller probe shed light on the chaotic week following Comey's firing and the scramble to decide how best to respond. They also help to explain the origins of the Mueller investigation that has stretched across 19 months, consumed Trump's presidency and is building toward a dramatic day of courtroom filings on Friday.Trump’s concealment of his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow raise a series of serious questions. After Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to lying to Congress about the details of his negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump reacted with his usual mix of scorn and lies. Trump suggested first, and falsely, that everyone had known about the project during the campaign, and second, that it was perfectly fine for him to pursue the project while simultaneously running for president. In fact, Trump’s pursuit of the project during the campaign was highly problematic and may very well have been part of a bribery scheme involving the president of the United States. For starters, Trump’s repeated lies about negotiations to build his dream tower could have left him susceptible to Russian blackmail attempts. Every single time Trump lied publicly about those negotiations, people in the know in Russia could have exerted leverage over Trump by threatening to expose his lies. That possibility — that Trump was vulnerable to blackmail by a hostile power —constitutes an intelligence and national security nightmare that should alarm Americans of any political stripe. Just as importantly, however, Trump’s concealment of his efforts to build the Trump Tower may suggest a criminal conspiracy that hasn’t gotten widespread attention yet. Cohen’s guilty plea indicates that Trump and his representatives were actively negotiating with the Kremlin over the planned Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the campaign, including “as late as June 2016” — in other words after Trump became the presumptive Republican Party nominee in May of 2016. Thus, Trump’s business entanglements with Russia coincided with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election and to undermine Hilary Clinton. And, of course, at the same time, Trump the candidate was talking about easing economic sanctions on Russia and generally taking a more favorable foreign policy stance toward Russia.Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, helped substantially with the special counsel’s investigation and should receive little to no prison time for lying to federal investigators, according to court documents filed on Tuesday. Prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, described Mr. Flynn as a key cooperator who helped the Justice Department with several investigations, sitting for 19 interviews with Mr. Mueller’s office and other prosecutors and handing over documents and communications. “His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight” into the subject of Mr. Mueller’s investigation — Russia’s election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing recommendation memorandum and an addendum that was heavily blacked out. In particular, they wrote, he may have prompted others to cooperate with the inquiry. “The defendant’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming,” prosecutors said.President Donald Trump took to Twitter to lash out at special counsel Robert Mueller and attack his former personal attorney Michael Cohen. But he offered praise to his former adviser Roger Stone, who is also under scrutiny by the special counsel. CNN's Ana Cabrera discusses with former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office is expected to file a sentencing memo for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, which will contain the special counsel's recommended sentence. The memo is also likely to lay out the extent of Flynn's cooperation with the government after he admitted last December that he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Beyond illuminating the extent of Flynn's cooperation with Mueller, the memo could provide a window into what the special counsel has found so far in its probe, which began in May 2017.One day after President Donald Trump’s pal Roger Stone crowed he would have to lie to “bear false witness against” POTUS, Stone instead invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself as he turned down a request to turn over documents and testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee’s top Dem, Sen. Dianne Feinstein posted the letter of response from Stone’s attorney Grant Smith, (read it here) in which he said, “Mr. Stone’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy.” Trump famously said during his race to the White House that “the mob take the Fifth; if you’re innocent, why do you take the Fifth Amendment?”Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean reacts to President Donald Trump's history of criticizing those who invoke their Fifth Amendment right.The president’s tweets appeared to be evidence of tampering with witnesses. For well over a year now, evidence has steadily accumulated that President Trump may have obstructed justice in connection with the investigation into his 2016 campaign. But Monday, Trump edged closer to an open display of obstruction and witness tampering: He urged potential witnesses against him to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement — and implied threats against those who do. Trump began by publicly attacking Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate project in Moscow and who has been cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump suggested in a series of tweets not only that Cohen is lying but also that he should receive no benefit for cooperating, as Cohen’s lawyers have requested: “‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? … He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”Trump demands stiff prison sentence for his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, accuses Mueller of seeking 'lies' from witnessesPresident Donald Trump on Monday called for his ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen to receive a stiff prison sentence for his admitted crimes. Trump accused Cohen of making up "stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself." Trump also accused special counsel Robert Mueller of seeking "lies" from witnesses about Trump, and praised his longtime associate Roger Stone as having the "guts" to withstand pressure from Mueller's prosecutors to "make up stories" about the president. - Donald J. Trump should watch what he says his time will come to pay for his crimes and all the bad things he has said will come back to haunt him as people taunt him with his own words.President Donald Trump is embracing a former campaign adviser who stated that he won't testify against him as part of Robert Mueller's investigation, while calling for a "full and complete" prison sentence for his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with the special counsel. In a series of tweets, Trump said Monday morning that Roger Stone, a Republican political operative and longtime Trump ally, has "guts" for saying that he won't testify against the President. "'I will never testify against Trump.' This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about 'President Trump.; Nice to know that some people still have 'guts!'" Trump tweeted Monday morning. Trump's politically charged tweets came as much of the nation's attention was on the late President George H.W. Bush, whose body was being transported from Houston to Washington, DC, to lie in state in the rotunda of the US Capitol until Wednesday morning. Stone has repeatedly said he won't testify against the President. Most recently, Stone told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that "there's no circumstance under which I would testify against the President because I'd have to bear false witness against him. - What did Donald J. Trump and company do that Trump is so afraid he is openly commit witness tamper it must be really bad.It appears that the Mueller investigation is reaching its endgame. After a two-month hiatus for the midterms, special counsel Robert Mueller's team is prepared to once again show its work. These developments are ominous for President Donald Trump. In short order, expect to see a case of conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election to be laid out in court. Defenders of the president have, despite the obvious progress of the Mueller investigation — more than 30 indictments or guilty pleas, including Trump’s campaign chairman, personal lawyer, national security adviser, deputy campaign manager and foreign policy adviser — consistently argued that “no collusion” has been proved. While it is true that the charges made public have not alleged conspiracy (there is no crime of “collusion”) it should be clear to all but the most obtuse by now that the endgame is drawing near. Mueller is laying out the predicate for a wide-ranging conspiracy case that will likely ensnare the president’s family and, quite likely, Trump himself.Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, who pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws, made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning to plead guilty to a new criminal charge, the latest turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle. At the court hearing, Mr. Cohen admitted to making false statements to Congress about his efforts to pursue a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. That real estate deal has been a focus of the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives. In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Cohen played down the extent of his contact with the Kremlin about the potential project and made other false statements about the negotiations, which never led to a final deal. Mr. Cohen’s new guilty plea comes at a particularly perilous time for Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been threatened by Mr. Cohen’s statements to investigators. In recent days, the president and his lawyers have increased their attacks on the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office. The expected new guilty plea in Federal District Court marks the first time the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has charged Mr. Cohen. In exchange for pleading guilty and continuing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, he may hope to receive a lighter sentence than he otherwise would. The move comes just two weeks before Mr. Cohen, 52, is scheduled to be sentenced for his earlier guilty plea. That case, which also included bank and tax crimes, was brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.Paul Manafort’s betrayal and double dealing against Robert Mueller and his special counsel team appears to be a desperate ploy designed to achieve a presidential pardon, which will fail, because Trump’s attorneys will advise him in ways similar to what I wrote here. I have long believed that the case for obstruction of justice involving efforts to impede the Mueller investigation is far stronger, based on publicly known evidence, than our public discussion would suggest. Additionally, I would assert that while a president can lawfully pardon almost anyone, for almost any crime, a pardon could also be crucial evidence in support of an obstruction of justice case, and potentially an additional count in an obstruction of justice case. If a pardon is offered to influence a witness in a criminal investigation, that pardon could indeed be a crime. There has been evidence that earlier in the case, Trump’s lawyers discussed a pardon with Manafort’s lawyers. It has been reported as well that Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, has spent many hours cooperating with Mueller and his team. Could McGahn have provided evidence about these alleged pardon discussions?Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi Pushed Seth Rich Lie After Privately Admitting Hackers Stole DNC EmailsNewly released email shows the Russia truthers knew full well who supplied Wikileaks. They kept blaming a murdered staffer, even after his parents begged them to stop. Russian hackers weren’t the ones behind the theft of Democratic emails that upended the 2016 presidential race, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi told his InfoWars fans last year. Instead, Corsi said, Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich had stolen the emails and was murdered in revenge for the heist. But Corsi was lying. In an email to Trump confidante Roger Stone in 2016, Corsi acknowledged that in fact hackers were behind the email theft, according to newly released messages. Despite that admission, both Corsi and Stone played key roles promoting the conspiracy theory about Rich. Stone became one of the first major figures in Trump’s orbit to suggest Rich was murdered over the emails, tweeting on August 10, 2016 that Rich had “ties to DNC heist.” In 2017, after Rich’s parents begged right-wing media personalities to stop pushing conspiracy theories about their son, Corsi put the blame for the email theft on Rich in a three-part InfoWars series.President Trump started Thursday on Twitter the same way he ended it on Wednesday, attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.Two days after the conspiracy theorist told the dirty trickster to go after Clinton’s fitness, one of their fellow Infowars contributors did just that. Weeks before WikiLeaks released emails in 2016 implying Hillary Clinton’s health was failing, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi emailed Trump associate Roger Stone about the forthcoming leak. In an August 2, 2016 email to Stone, Corsi suggested they should start spreading rumors about Clinton’s health, as the topic was likely to feature in the forthcoming WikiLeaks dump. Two days after Corsi’s email, Stone’s Infowars associate Paul Joseph Watson released a video accusing Clinton of having a host of ailments, including brain damage.Escalating his attacks on the special counsel investigation, President Trump said on Wednesday that a presidential pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is “not off the table,” casting him and other subjects of the inquiry as victims of prosecutorial abuse. Although Mr. Trump had not discussed a pardon for Mr. Manafort, “I wouldn’t take it off the table,” he said in an Oval Office interview with The New York Post. “Why would I take it off the table?” He said that prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had poorly treated Mr. Manafort, who was convicted of eight felonies this summer and pleaded guilty to two more. Though Mr. Trump is given to loose promises that go unfulfilled, the suggestion of a pardon was nonetheless remarkable. It came as his rhetorical attacks on Mr. Mueller have grown increasingly provocative — the president tweeted on Wednesday that prosecutors were “viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief” — and as leading Republican senators again thwarted an effort to protect Mr. Mueller from being fired.An associate of the former Trump campaign adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. released documents on Tuesday showing that as the presidential campaign heated up in the summer of 2016, Mr. Stone tried to dispatch him to find out what information WikiLeaks had that could prove damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The associate, Jerome Corsi, said in an interview that he might be indicted on a charge of lying to federal investigators because he told them that he refused Mr. Stone’s request when in fact he passed it on to an intermediary. He said he had refused a plea deal offered by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, because he did not intentionally lie, but merely forgot events of more than two years ago. Mr. Corsi’s dealings with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors have caused alarm among the president’s legal team, who were informed of developments by Mr. Corsi’s lawyer. President Trump’s lawyers were especially troubled by a draft statement of offense against Mr. Corsi that was passed on to them, according to people familiar with the situation. In it, prosecutors claimed that Mr. Corsi understood that Mr. Stone was “in regular contact with senior members of the Trump campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump” when he asked Mr. Corsi in late July 2016 to “get to” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.Sen. Chris Coons on Wednesday accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of protecting the president by blocking a vote on legislation that would shield special counsel Robert Mueller from White House interference. Asked directly on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe" whether McConnell (R-Ky.) was trying to protect the president, Coons (D-Del.) quickly replied "yes," citing support for legislation to shield Mueller from Senate Republicans across the ideological spectrum, including Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Calls to codify protections for Mueller and his investigation into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign have taken on more urgency this month after the president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him on an acting basis with Matt Whitaker, who has criticized the Mueller investigation in the past.Trump suggests he has inside information on the Russia probe, hours after Mueller said former campaign chief Manafort violated plea dealPresident Donald Trump fumes against special counsel Robert Mueller in a tweet storm, claiming his probe of Russian interference is "ruining lives." Trump's attack echoes the salvos against the investigation recently launched by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, who claimed a day earlier that he has rejected a plea deal offered by Mueller. The attacks also highlight lingering questions about the possibility of Trump granting pardons to some of the special counsel's targets — a notion the president's own lawyer appeared to entertain Tuesday.Draft court filings obtained by CNN outline significant insights into what special counsel Robert Mueller may know about Roger Stone's efforts to seek documents from WikiLeaks in 2016.
A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations. The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with Mueller’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal specialists speculated it was a bid by Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations effort against the special counsel’s office. For example, Giuliani said, Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Giuliani declared of Mueller.Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history.” On November 9, 2016, just a few minutes after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a man named Vyacheslav Nikonov approached a microphone in the Russian State Duma (their equivalent of the US House of Representatives) and made a very unusual statement. “Dear friends, respected colleagues!” Nikonov said. “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections, and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America, and I congratulate you on this.” Nikonov is a leader in the pro-Putin United Russia Party and, incidentally, the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov — after whom the “Molotov cocktail” was named. His announcement that day was a clear signal that Trump’s victory was, in fact, a victory for Putin’s Russia. Longtime journalist Craig Unger opens his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin, with this anecdote. The book is an impressive attempt to gather up all the evidence we have of Trump’s numerous connections to the Russian mafia and government and lay it all out in a clear, comprehensive narrative. The book claims to unpack an “untold story,” but it’s not entirely clear how much of it is new. One of the hardest things to accept about the Trump-Russia saga is how transparent it is. So much of the evidence is hiding in plain sight, and somehow that has made it harder to accept.
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