Manafort Lying Confirmed; Sentence May Grow Longer

A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort intentionally violated the terms of his guilty plea by lying to federal prosecutors and a grand jury, The decision clears the way for special counsel Robert Mueller to push for a harsher sentence for the former Donald Trump campaign chairman.

A federal judge ruled that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort intentionally violated the terms of his guilty plea by lying to federal prosecutors and a grand jury, reports Politico. The decision clears the way for special counsel Robert Mueller to push for a harsher sentence. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson confirmed some of Mueller’s latest set of charges that Manafort lied during guilty-plea-stipulated cooperation sessions about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Jackson didn’t side with Mueller on all of the alleged lies the special counsel asserted. She said Mueller “failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence” that Manafort intentionally made a false statement about his contacts with the Trump administration. The 69-year-old political operative will likely get an even stiffer penalty at his March 13 sentencing. Jackson said Mueller’s office was “no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement” terms he’d reached with Manafort in September, including the special counsel’s pledge to recommend a less-stringent sentence. Jackson can give Manafort a maximum of only 10 years on the two charges he admitted, conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in exchange for Mueller’s dropping foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges. In a separate Virginia case, Manafort may get a term of seven to 10 years.

from https://thecrimereport.org

House Democrats Plan Extensive Trump-Russia Probe

Democrats don’t plan to depend on Robert Mueller for the last word on interference in the 2016 election. Instead, they will use their new subpoena power to produce a voluminous exposé of their own that could last into next year.

House Democrats plan a vast probe of President Trump and Russia — with a heavy focus on money laundering — that will include multiple committees and dramatic public hearings, and could last into 2020, reports Axios. The aggressive plans were outlined by a Democratic member of Congress at a roundtable for reporters. The member said Congress plans interviews with new witnesses, and may go back to earlier witnesses who “stonewalled” under the Republican majority.
House Democrats don’t plan to depend on Robert Mueller for the last word on interference in the 2016 election. Instead, they will use their new subpoena power to produce a voluminous exposé of their own.

At least three committees are involved: The House Intelligence Committee is taking the lead, coordinating with House Financial Services on money-laundering questions and with House Foreign Affairs on Russia. Democrats are considering ways to uncover what was said in a President Trump private meeting with Putin, “whether that’s subpoenaing the notes or subpoenaing the interpreter or other steps.” On Trump family finances, the member said, “If we didn’t look at his business, … we wouldn’t know what we know now about his efforts to pursue what may have been the most lucrative deal of his life, the Trump Tower in Moscow — something the special counsel’s office has said stood to earn the family hundreds of millions of dollars.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Judge May Issue Gag Order in Roger Stone Case

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told accused Trump confidant Roger Stone, “This is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign … “it behooves counsel and the parties to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings and not on the courthouse steps or on the talk show circuit.”

A federal judge has cautioned longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone not to treat the charges against him like a public relations campaign or book tour, and said she may issue a gag order in his case, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said, “This is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign … “it behooves counsel and the parties to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings and not on the courthouse steps or on the talk show circuit.”

Jackson did not immediately issue an order barring Stone or prosecutors from discussing the case, giving both sides until next week to weigh in. Stone, 66, who was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mueller Says Russians Obtained Evidence Files to Publish Online

A court filing by Robert Mueller’s office said more than 1,000 files that it shared confidentially with attorneys for indicted Russian hackers later appeared to have been uploaded to a filesharing site and promoted by a Twitter account.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office wants to deny access to discovery documents to lawyers for a Russian company, claiming files previously turned over to the defense turned up in an online disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting the investigation into Moscow’s interference in the presidential election, The Guardian reports.

A court filing by Mueller’s office said more than 1,000 files that it shared confidentially with attorneys for indicted Russian hackers later appeared to have been uploaded to a filesharing site and promoted by a Twitter account. Mueller disclosed the leak in a filing as part of his prosecution of Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company that allegedly funded hacking operations by Russia’s notorious Internet Research Agency (IRA).

from https://thecrimereport.org

Stone Charges Fit Pattern: It’s the Coverup, Not the Crime

The case against President Trump confidant Roger Stone is the latest brought by special counsel Robert Mueller to charge lying without alleging Russian collusion. What would constitute a conspiracy charge at the heart of the matter?

Roger Stone, President Trump’s confidant, is accused of lying and tampering with witnesses, but it’s notable what he’s not charged with: colluding with the Kremlin in a grand conspiracy to help Trump win the presidency in 2016, the Associated Press reports. The case is the latest in a series brought by special counsel Robert Mueller that focus on cover-ups but lay out no underlying crime. It’s a familiar pattern: scandals from Watergate to Iran-Contra and Whitewater have mushroomed into presidency-imperiling affairs due to efforts to conceal and mislead. In the Russia probe, one Trump aide after another has been accused of lying to investigators, or encouraging others to do so, about Russia-related contacts during the campaign and transition period.

The New York Times asked experts what would constitute evidence of a criminal conspiracy to violate laws such as as those outlawing illegal hacking or the improper foreign involvement in an American election. So far the special counsel has alleged that Russians stole Democrats’ emails and other documents and delivered it to Wikileaks as part of its effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but it has not revealed evidence that WikiLeaks acted as a Russian agent or that the Trump campaign knew of the Russian connection. Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor and senior FBI official, told the Times that Stone’s indictment might not be the final word on whether the Trump campaign conspired with WikiLeaks. “I wouldn’t take from the fact that they didn’t charge it that they can’t charge it or that they won’t charge it,” he said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Giuliani Calls Comments On Moscow Tower ‘Hypothetical’

Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, says comments he made on “Meet The Press” asserting that discussions about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow stretched as late as November 2016 were purely hypothetical and not based on conversations with the president.

Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, is trying to clarify comments he made over the weekend asserting that discussions about a potential Trump Tower in Moscow stretched as late as November 2016, reports the Washington Post. Giuliani said his comments were purely hypothetical and not based on any conversations with the president. Giuliani’s statement NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump associates had continued negotiations about the real estate project deep into the 2016 campaign again raised scrutiny into then-candidate Trump’s posture toward Moscow, including his call in July of that year for Russia to hack into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President,” Giuliani said Monday. “My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions. The timeline of the discussions of the potential Trump Tower project in Moscow is a central component of the ongoing legal case that has ensnared Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the matter. On Sunday, Giuliani said talks “went on throughout 2016 … can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations . . . about it.”  He continued: “The president also remembers — yeah, probably up — could be up to as far as October, November … anytime during that period, they could’ve talked about it.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why Mueller Rebuked BuzzFeed on Cohen Report

Special counsel Robert Mueller has kept mum on virtually all media reports on his investigation. He evidently responded to BuzzFeed News because of his ethical obligations as a prosecutor, says a legal expert.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s rebuke of BuzzFeed News for its report on President Trump and Michael Cohen was in line with Mueller’s criminal and ethical obligations, Robert Weisberg of Stanford Law’s Criminal Justice Center told the Washington Post. BuzzFeed said prosecutors had evidence that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, which could meet the definition of the “high crime or misdemeanor” needed to initiate impeachment proceedings. Under the federal rules of criminal procedure, evidence that comes before a grand jury is confidential. These rules apply only to grand jury secrecy and do not cover the investigation as a whole. A prosecutor can inform the public about general goals or themes of an investigation. While there is no bar on prosecutors commenting on pending cases, it is nevertheless rare for one to do so.

Mueller’s statement, which said that BuzzFeed’s description of statements made to Mueller’s office “are not accurate,” didn’t implicate the grand jury and “did not say what evidence was or was not presented, and it only vaguely referred to the investigation,” Weisberg said. Mueller did not mention which BuzzFeed details were false, but it still signaled at a minimum that the website did not have the facts straight. Legal experts believe Mueller would have preferred to say nothing, but he feared specifics of the BuzzFeed story would be imputed to the investigation.  Former acting attorney general Stuart Gerson called the Mueller statement “an anomaly.” He said, “Mueller’s staff must have felt that action might be taken in the House on the basis of this, or that it might affect the testimony of present and future witnesses.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mueller Denies BuzzFeed Story on Trump, Cohen

Special counsel Robert Mueller issued an unusual statement saying a story asserting that President Trump told lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was “not accurate.” BuzzFeed stands by the story, Trump calls it “a very sad day for journalism.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had evidence showing President Trump directed former lawyer Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow, the Washington Post reports. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Mueller spokesman Peter Carr.  The special counsel’s office speaks and the statement seemed to dismiss the sensational allegation that Democrats had suggested could spell the end of the Trump presidency. No other media organizations were able to verify the story.

The story attributed to two federal law enforcement officials an incendiary assertion that Mueller had collected emails, texts and testimony indicating Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of discussions about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. That project never came to pass, and Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about it. The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story involving its investigators. Trump criticized BuzzFeed, tweeting, “A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our country!”BuzzFeed insisted its story was correct. Editor Ben Smith said, “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Told Cohen to Lie About Moscow Tower: Sources

President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, two federal law enforcement officials tell BuzzFeed News.

President Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, two federal law enforcement officials tell BuzzFeed News. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign to meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen. Even as Trump said publicly he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen. In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about the deal in testimony. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Sources said Cohen the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie in order to obscure Trump’s involvement. Cohen’s testimony is the first known example of Trump’s explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia. On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. Behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits of $300 million. The law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Barr Won’t Commit to Releasing Full Mueller Report

President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his confirmation hearing that he wanted to release as much as possible of what special counsel Robert Mueller finds. But he said he needed to learn more about the report and the regulations that govern releasing information from it before deciding what to do.

The speculation surrounding the Russia investigation assumes that special counsel Robert Mueller will release a report of his findings that will serve as the definitive explanation of how Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether President Trump or his associates coordinated with Moscow. But there is no such guarantee, the New York Times reports. The law does not require the Justice Department to release a report, and Mueller has been silent on the issue. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said at his confirmation hearing that he wanted to release as much of what Mueller found as possible. He said he needed to learn more about the report and the regulations that govern his releasing information from it before deciding what to do about disclosing the findings. “I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be releasable,” Barr told Senators.  “I don’t know what Bob Mueller is writing.”

Senate Democrats will oppose Barr’s nomination unless he agrees to release the entire report Mueller produces, except for redactions of sensitive national security information. The current regulation instructs Mueller to give the attorney general “a confidential report” explaining his decisions about whom to prosecute and whom not to charge.

from https://thecrimereport.org