Robert Mueller

The Plot Twist (Squeaky Gates)

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is hard to overlook. Los Angeles Times reports:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days—and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

Rick Gates departs U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

Caroline Orr, meanwhile, rightly recalls that “Gates was still making regular trips to the White House through at least June 2017”, noting the Daily Beast, circa June last:   (more…)

What Rosenstein Said

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Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Via Bloomberg:

Beyond the 13 people indicted, Mueller announced the Feb. 12 guilty plea of a California man for identity theft, Richard Pinedo, who is cooperating with prosecutors. The indictment of Russian individuals and companies also suggests a broader conspiracy than Mueller charged, saying grand jurors heard about others involved in the scheme.

Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said the lack of any evidence of collusion in the indictment wasn’t the final word by prosecutors.

“They’re charging what they know,” he said. “The contact with the Trump campaign might be unwitting in this case, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration issue is finished.”

Now, just to make certain: We should probably bear in mind that neither, really is the question of this or that contact being unwitting truly closed. It seems a tawdry hair to split, except there is also the part about how—

This “information warfare” by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and have denied any collusion. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign.

—and this is important: Rosenstein did not say the information warfare “didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election”.

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What They Voted For: Jeopardy

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Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

“Trump’s lawyers are cognizant of the fact that the president lies with such incredible frequency that allowing him to have a conversation with federal investigators would likely put him in legal jeopardy.”

Steve Benen

There are many standards by which we might consider the daily grind of life during the Trump administration, and perhaps some ought not complain so much if it is not a daily question of life and death, or, maybe, freedom, necessity, and serious impairment thereof; nonetheless, there is still just the general indignity of how long the spectacle must persist, and within that context we might note that circumstances do continue, as circumstances will, apace. Via msnbc:

Three weeks ago today, Donald Trump surprised White House reporters by making unscheduled comments about a provocative subject: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal. More specifically, the president made a variety of comments about how much he’s looking forward to speaking to Mueller and his team under oath.

“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump said, adding that he’d “love to” talk to the special counsel investigators. The president went on to say he’s “absolutely” prepared to answer questions under oath.

And, yes, President Trump did go on to say two or three weeks.

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The Killer Death Wish Perjury Trap Suicide Mission

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#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

That Special Counsel Robert Mueller might wish to speak with President Donald Trump is no particular surprise; nor is the president’s cheap façade of confidence unexpected. Late paragraphs in Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey’s report for the Washington Post, however, are worth the moment, at least:

However, some of Trump’s close advisers and friends fear a face-to-face interview with Mueller could put the president in legal jeopardy. A central worry, they say, is Trump’s lack of precision in his speech and his penchant for hyperbole.

People close to Trump have tried to warn him for months that Mueller is a “killer,” in the words of one associate, noting that the special counsel has shown interest in the president’s actions.

Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to Trump, said he should try to avoid an interview at all costs, saying agreeing to such a session would be a “suicide mission.”

“I find it to be a death wish. Why would you walk into a perjury trap?” Stone said. “The president would be very poorly advised to give Mueller an interview.”

Laura Silverman asks the obvious: “Does this sound like they’re talking about a ‘stable genius’ who is innocent?”

To the other, this is Roger J. Stone we’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter to Mr. Stone whether what he says is helpful; his priority seems to be elsewhere and otherwise.

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Image note: #PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

Leonnig, Carol D. and Josh Dawsey. “Mueller seeks to question Trump about Flynn and Comey departures”. The Washington Post. 23 January 2018.

Silverman, Laura. “Does this sound like they’re talking about a ‘stable genius’ who is innocent? It doesn’t to me. Yikes.” Twitter. 23 January 2018.

Important and Inevitable

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is one of the important parts:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in Washington, D.C., on 29 November 2016. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)In response to questions from The New York Times, the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview occurred. Mr. Sessions was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview.

(Schmidt)

The New York Times article goes on to sketch the drama so far, including a declaration that, “Mueller’s interest in Mr. Sessions shows how the president’s own actions helped prompt a broader inquiry”, but this is also part of setting up a seemingly obvious statement:

For Mr. Mueller, Mr. Sessions is a key witness to two of the major issues he is investigating: the campaign’s possible ties to the Russians and whether the president tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

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A Question of Presupposition (Graham Cracked Edition)

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#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

“I always said he had a blindspot to Russia but things are changing for the better. He finally allowed the Ukraine to be given defensive weapons. But when it comes to Russia, I’ve said on your show a million times, he has an attitude toward Putin that I think is counterproductive. The president does believe his intel agencies.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

It really is easy to pin a lot on the quote; Steve Benen offers this take:

Now, it’s quite likely that Trump and Graham, who appear to now be rather close allies, have had private conversations in which the president has said things to the senator that he hasn’t shared with the public. But if Trump told Graham he now believes Russians stole Democratic documents, it would represent a dramatic change of heart.

As recently as mid-November—not quite two months ago—Trump told reporters that Vladimir Putin personally assured him that Russia didn’t meddle in the American election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” the American president said in reference to his Russian counterpart.

It was part of a lengthy pattern in which Trump refused to accept U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings. “Nobody really knows for sure” whether Russia intervened in the American elections, the president said in July—after intelligence professionals told him they do know for sure.

But according to Lindsey Graham, sometime between mid-November and early-January, Trump changed his mind, and if the senator is right, the shift is a pretty important development.

The analysis is not wrong; we should always bear in mind, however, questions of presupposition.

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A Threshold (Trumping Transformation)

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President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, 22 August 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

There is breaking report today via NBC News explaining that Donald Trump’s lawyers are reportedly negotiating with Robert Mueller and the Office of Special Counsel, both for the terms of a presidential interview and in hopes of avoiding one altogether. We ought to mark the point simply as a matter of threshold: Last year, or, that is to say, last month, we heard from the president’s lawyers an expectation that Mueller and OSC would be wrapping up their investigation and clearing the president. Today we hear chatter that they are maneuvering to drag out the inquiry by trying to keep Special Counsel Mueller away from President Trump.

Say what we will about inevitability, but the transformation would seem to mark a threshold.

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Image note: President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, 22 August 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Welker, Kristen, Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley, and Hallie Jackson. “Initial talks underway about Trump interview in Mueller Russia probe”. NBC News. 8 January 2018.