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Trump’s former campaign manager has just been subpoenaed

July 25, 2017 aurorax 0

The spotlight on Trump-Russia connections has never been brighter.

In this June 22, 2016 photo Paul Manafort appears on stage ahead of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The day after White House adviser Jared Kushner testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, another Trump campaign official who attended the June 9, 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who promised to provide them with incriminating information about Hillary Clinton has been subpoenaed to testify before Congress..

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) issued the subpoena after the committee was unable to reach an agreement regarding Manafort’s “accommodation.” Manafort was only willing to provide a single transcribed interview to Congress, which would not be made available to the Judiciary Committee.

🚨 Judiciary Committee Issues Subpoena for Paul Manafort

 — @BraddJaffy

Until recently, Republicans in Congress have been fairly accommodating of the Trump administration. Republicans in the House have repeatedly blocked motions in Congress when it favors the president, like investigating Jared Kushner’s security clearance, for example. Calling on Kushner to testify and subpoenaing Manafort shows Congress is starting to hold the president accountable.

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is just one of several Trump campaign associates being questioned as part of this investigation. During his time on the Trump team, he repeatedly denied having any connections with the Russian government, calling any links to him and Putin “crazy.

Those links to the Russian government were exactly what ultimately did Manafort in, however. In the days leading up to his exit from the campaign, The New York Times reported a pro-Russian Ukranian political party had earmarked cash payments of about $5.7 million to Manafort. The Associated Press reported Manafort made $17 million dollars working on behalf of the Ukranian government for a Washington-based lobbying group. Neither Manafort, nor the lobbying groups he worked with registered with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent. Although, Manafort finally did ultimately register as a foreign agent nearly a year after he left the campaign. Manafort was the second Trump campaign official to retroactively disclose foreign lobbying after Michael Flynn.

The same month Manafort left the campaign, Trump adviser Roger Stone was exchanging direct messages via Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, an account identified by the intelligence agencies as a front for Russian hackers. Manafort and Stone have a storied relationship that has lasted decades. Together they were partners at Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, a lobbying firm that existed until 1996.

The Associated Press revealed in March Manafort had “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.” Last month, The New York Times reported Manafort had $17 million dollars worth of debt to pro-Russian interests prior to joining the Trump campaign, according to Cyprus bank records.

In response to the damaging reports on Manafort, the White House’s only response has been to distance themselves from the man who once run the president’s campaign. At a White House press briefing in March, former press secretary Sean Spicer said of Manafort’s role: “he played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

Trump’s former campaign manager has just been subpoenaed was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Trump publicly humiliates Jeff Sessions, demands arbitrary prosecution of political opponents

July 25, 2017 aurorax 0

The president escalates his war on the rule of law.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Less than a week after President Trump declared war on the rule of law by launching highly unusual attacks against the country’s three top law enforcement officials during an interview with the New York Times, Trump took news shots at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in a series of tweets posted Tuesday morning.

On the heels of those attacks and amid reports that Trump is considering firing Sessions, the president’s latest incendiary tweets — which trash Sessions for not being hard enough on Hillary Clinton — seem intended to force his hand-picked attorney general to resign.

Trump began by asking why Sessions isn’t investigating the baseless notion that the Clinton campaign colluded with Ukraine — a claim Sean Hannity has been pushing on his Fox News show.

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

 — @realDonaldTrump

Within 10 minutes, Trump posted another tweet suggesting he doesn’t think Sessions is being hard enough on Clinton in general.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Because Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after he misled senators during his confirmation hearing about whether he met with Russian officials, he is thus unable to protect Trump from the ongoing investigation. A new attorney general in Sessions’ role could make decisions that influence the ongoing probe, such as firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In the recent New York Times interview, Trump expressed frustration with the fact that Sessions has recused himself from the probe — saying that if he had known Sessions would render himself unable to protect him, Trump would have chosen someone else to be the attorney general.

Ordered by court to disclose his Russia contacts, Sessions releases blank sheet of paper

On Tuesday morning, Trump made clear he wants the Department of Justice and FBI to launch new, arbitrary persecutions of his political opponent Hillary Clinton.

Former FBI Director James Comey closed an investigation into Clinton’s email practices more than a year ago. Trump abruptly fired Comey in May.

Trump also blasted the person who would oversee any new hypothetical Clinton investigation — Acting FBI Director McCabe — falsely asserting that McCabe’s wife, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in Virginia, received money from Clinton.

Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Trump went on to praise White House adviser Jared Kushner’s closed-door, unsworn testimony on Monday, and indicated that despite evidence showing that his campaign was eager to collude with Russia, he still thinks the multiple Russian probes are nothing more than a “witch hunt.”

Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!

 — @realDonaldTrump

The White House has also been making a concerted effort to undercut the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia by attempting to paint Mueller as a Democratic operative. White House officials have repeatedly highlighted that members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democratic candidates.

In reality, Mueller was appointed FBI Director by Republican President George W. Bush, and Trump has in fact given more money to Democrats than Mueller’s team combined.

Since firing him in May, Trump has also smeared former FBI Director James Comey as a liar and a leaker.

In this context, the message that emerges from Trump’s repeated attacks is clear — Trump will not tolerate law enforcement officials who refuse to do his bidding, are unable to protect him, or try to operate independently of his political prerogatives.

Trump publicly humiliates Jeff Sessions, demands arbitrary prosecution of political opponents was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The White House’s attack on special counsel’s team for donating to Democrats doesn’t add up

July 24, 2017 aurorax 0

Donations are not, apparently, destiny.

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 13, 2013, as the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on the FBI. Mueller is nearing the end of his 12 years as head of the law enforcement agency that is conducting high-profile investigations of the Boston Marathon bombings, the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and leaks of classified government information. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said when it comes to national security leaks, it’s important to balance the need to protect secrecy with the need to let the news media do their job. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Friday that “America needs to know” about political donations made by members of the team led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which is investigating potential Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump’s financial dealings, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

Three members of Mueller’s team have given $56,000 to Democrats over the course of the last three decades, more than half of which was donated by just one lawyer. The other two donated the maximum donation of $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to a CNN report.

“People should know what folks’ pasts and motivations and political motivations are,” Conway said on Fox and Friends Friday. “These weren’t minor donations as I have said on this show and elsewhere before, under a hill of criticism. These are significant donations by members of that team. They clearly wanted the other person to win.”

Conway Responds to Mueller Probe Widening to Look at Trump’s Finances

Conway’s insinuation is that the donations to Democratic candidates prove bias against the Republican Trump administration and is certainly part of efforts by Trump lawyers and aids to delegitimize Mueller’s investigation, as The New York Times reported last week.

But Trump’s own history of campaign donations is proof that political donations are not political destiny.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Trump himself has donated more to Democrats than all three members of Mueller’s team combined, with donations to Democratic candidates and to political action committees supporting Democrats totaling more than $260,000 over the last 20 years.

Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom now serve in the White House as advisers to the president, and Trump’s newly-installed communications director Anthony Scaramucci have all also individually made donations to Democrats and Democratic PACs greater than the total donated by members of Mueller’s team.

Since 1997, Ivanka Trump has donated more than $96,000 to Democrats, Kushner more than $130,000, and Scaramucci nearly $380,000, according to FEC records.

Interestingly enough, both Trumps, Kushner, and Scaramucci have all also donated to Hillary Clinton over the years. Trump donated $4,800 to his former rival between 2002 and 2009, while his daughter donated $4,400 to the former Secretary of State between 2006 and 2007.

Kushner donated $6,000 to support Clinton’s Senate campaign between 2000 and 2003, and Scaramucci donated $6,600 to Clinton between 2005 and 2007.

The Trumps, Kushner, and Scaramucci all donated to current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as well.

President Trump also donated to Former Vice President Joe Biden’s (D-DE) campaign in 2001, to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) campaign in 1998, and to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

Both Trumps, Kushner, and Scaramucci have also been active donors to Republican candidates, according to FEC records.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) defended Mueller on Monday, saying on a Wisconsin-based radio show that Mueller was “anything but” a Democratic partisan.

The White House’s attack on special counsel’s team for donating to Democrats doesn’t add up was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Kushner admits to four contacts with Russians that the White House previously denied

July 24, 2017 aurorax 0

“I did not collude.”

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, sits next to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Treasury Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Ahead of his closed-door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday morning, Jared Kushner released an 11-page opening statement attempting to exonerate himself, writing: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.” In his first public statements detailing his contacts with Russians during the Trump campaign and into the transition, Kushner describes himself as an overworked, non-politician who was unprepared for the spotlight placed on him. After Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, Kushner became what he describes as a “point of contact for foreign government officials,” taking on responsibilities he didn’t have while on the campaign.

While the statement offers insight into 4 key meetings with Russian foreign nationals, many of the details contradict previous remarks from White House officials, including their initial, categorical claim that there was no contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel on April 27, 2016

The first documented meeting with a Russian foreign national that Kushner remembers occurred in April of the election. Then-candidate Donald Trump gave a speech on foreign policy, described as “pathetic” and “not conservative” by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), before a crowd that included Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Sessions is reported to have had a meeting in a VIP room at the hotel with Trump and Kislyack, something Sessions has yet to firmly deny. Sessions contacts with foreign nationals eventually led to his recusal from the Russia investigation and the appointment of special prosecutor, Robert Mueller.

Kushner, however, maintains he was mainly in charge of executing the event and did not have any contact with ambassador Kislyak, aside from a handshake and what he describes as, “thank[ing] them for attending the event and [hoping] [the ambassadors] would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy.”

The meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016

The only other meeting with Russian officials during the campaign Kushner can remember is the one detailed in Donald Trump, Jr.’s recently published email exchange. The emails reveal Kushner, along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, Jr., attended a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. Also in attendance were a Russian lobbyist, a translator, and Rob Goldstone, the music producer who had brokered the meeting.

Kushner claims that as part of his busy position on the Trump team, he receives hundreds of emails a day and can never read them all. This is his defense for not knowing about what the meeting would entail or who he would meet. The subject line of the email, however, made the premise of the meeting clear: “Russia -Clinton -private and confidential.”

The meeting as described by Donald Trump, Jr. and Kushner himself in the statement, was about Russian adoption policy. The emails reveal, however, that Trump Jr. and company attended the meeting after being promised compromising information about their opponent, Hillary Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Even if the meeting did end up being about adoption, however, the talking point is insincere. The adoption program was halted by the Russian government in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, in which Congress imposed sanctions on certain Russian figures over human rights issues after the arrest and suspicious death of Russian tax attorney, Sergey Magnitsky, who uncovered fraud committed by the Russian government.

The second meeting with Kislyak in Trump Tower on December 1, 2016

The second meeting with ambassador Kislyak was Kushner’s first in his capacity as senior adviser to the president. The 23 minute long meeting was also attended by retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who later went on to briefly serve as Trump’s National Security Adviser before being fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence — on the issue of campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Kushner writes in his opening statement that he took the meeting at the request of Russian Ambassador Kislyak and asked Kislyak if “he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President,” he then adds, in bolded text: “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day” — a roundabout denial which acknowledges an existing relationship between the campaign and Russia that Kushner was not aware of.

This is also the meeting that according to a Washington Post report in May, Kushner discussed creating a secret back-channel with Russia, supposedly to discuss Syria and other foreign policy issues.

The meeting with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov on December 13, 2016

The second meeting Kushner attended in his capacity as a White House official was with a Russian foreign national and Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov. Kushner claims ambassador Kislyak requested he take meeting, as Gorkov is someone with a “direct line to the [Russian] President.” Kushner accepted, hoping to gain “insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together,” even though the “administration” was in its infancy, only a month after the election and over a month before Trump’s inauguration.

The timing of the meeting was dubious as well. In December, Jared Kushner was still the head of Kushner Copmanies and was looking for investors to redevelop his 666 Fifth Avenue property for which he paid $1.8 billion for in 2007. Kushner denies in his statement “any notion that [he] tried to conceal this meeting or that [he] took it thinking it was in [his]capacity as a businessman is false.”

Vnesheconombank, the bank Gorkov oversees, however, told a different story. In a statement emailed to Reuters, the sanctioned espionage-linked bank said that the Putin-appointed Gorkov met “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.”

Kushner admits to four contacts with Russians that the White House previously denied was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Kellyanne Conway thinks Donald Trump’s lies are ok because ‘he doesn’t think he’s lying’

July 23, 2017 aurorax 0

The White House would rather be portrayed as clueless than criminal.

CNN host Brian Stelter with White House advisor Kellyanne Conway. Credit: CNN

On Sunday morning’s broadcast of CNN’s Reliable Sources, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway continued to wage war on the media—and CNN specifically—by arguing the network shouldn’t be so critical toward the president because Donald Trump simply doesn’t know any better.

Conway took umbrage with the media’s insistence on covering such “non-stories” as the president of the United States continually lying to the American public. After host Brian Stelter argued that his network was committed to covering the many scandals emanating from the White House, an incredulous Conway pushed back, demanding to know what “scandals” Stelter was referring to.

“The scandals are about the president’s lies,” replied Stelter. “About voter fraud; about wire-tapping; his repeated lies about those issues. That’s the scandal.”

Despite overwhelming evidence that the White House is indeed lying in both of those cases—there is zero evidence to support Donald Trump’s claim that 3 million people voted illegally, or that his office was wire-tapped—the administration continues to promise “investigations” into both matters. But Conway’s response on Sunday was a new approach to how the administration handles allegations of lying.

“[Donald Trump] doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it,” she said.

As Stelter quickly pointed out, just because a person doesn’t know they are lying doesn’t mean what they said isn’t a lie. The argument closely resembles the administration’s latest tactic of excusing impropriety by suggesting that the parties involved are simply incompetent.

Trump backers try out the incompetence defense against obstruction concerns

When Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian officials was revealed in news reports, allies in the conservative media covered for the younger Trump by suggesting he was staggeringly incompetent rather than engaged in active collusion with Russia. And Republicans in Congress offered a similar excuse for the president himself after he fired former FBI Director James Comey in an apparent attempt to stymie the agency’s investigation into him and his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Kellyanne Conway thinks Donald Trump’s lies are ok because ‘he doesn’t think he’s lying’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.