Trump Doesn’t Know How Much WH Lawyer Told Mueller

The president’s personal lawyers don’t know what White House counsel Donald McGann told the special counsel in 30 hours of interviews. Is everyone telling the truth? Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani said, “Truth isn’t truth.”

President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much White House counsel Donald McGahn told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, the New York Times reports. The lapse has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake. The president’s lawyers say they are confident that  McGahn said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews.  McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what McGahn told the investigators. That has prompted concern among Trump’s advisers that McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by special counsel Robert Mueller that the Justice Department could send to Congress.

After McGahn was initially interviewed by the special counsel’s office in November, Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what McGahn had said. McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what McGahn said in subsequent interactions with the investigators. McGahn and Burck feared that  Trump was setting up McGahn to take the blame for any possible wrongdoing, so they embraced the opening to cooperate fully with Mueller in an effort to demonstrate that McGahn had done nothing wrong. On Sunday, Trump’s lead lawyer dealing with the special counsel, Rudolph Giuliani, said he had been told by former Trump lawyer, John Dowd, that “McGahn was a strong witness for the president.” Legal experts and former White House counsels said the president’s lawyers had been careless in not asking McGahn what he had planned to tell  Mueller’s prosecutors. Giuliani created a stir on Sunday when he said different versions of the truth are being offered to Mueller. Giuliani concluded, “Truth isn’t truth.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Will Manafort Case End in ‘Jury Nullification’?

A former prosecutor says that high-profile cases like that of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are more likely to end with jurors’ basing their votes on personal beliefs and not the evidence or judge’s instructions.

Former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig believes that the ongoing trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will be seen as a referendum on the Mueller investigation as a whole. “This is really the first thumbs-up or thumbs-down test for the Mueller team,” Honig tells NPR. A conviction would amount to cementing the legitimacy of the Mueller team, he says. An acquittal or a hung jury will have President Trump rejoicing.

Honig says the Manafort case could prove to be one of “jury nullification,” in which juries disregard the evidence and the judge’s legal instructions and instead decide the case based on some personal belief, whether it is a political belief, a religious belief or a personal feeling about the case. Jury nullification is extremely rare, but there is a “higher likelihood in a high-profile case and especially here,” Honig said. He recalled prosecuting John Gotti Jr. in New York City  a decade ago. He had been tried three times previously, and each time the jury hung. A few years later, he was charged again, and the jury hung 6-6. “The jurors who were for acquittal essentially said, yeah, we don’t doubt that he was guilty. We just think it’s unfair to try someone four times,” Honig said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Would Still Agree to Mueller Interview

President Trump asks his lawyers to agree with special counsel Robert Mueller on ground rules for an interview in the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, the president suggests that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “shout stop this rigged witch hunt right now.”

President Trump has pushed his lawyers to reach an agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office about him sitting for an interview, flouting their advice that he should not answer investigators’ questions, the New York Times reports. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing. In effect, he believes he can convince Mueller’s investigators of his belief that their own inquiry is a “witch hunt.” Mueller sent his latest proposal in a letter Tuesday night.

Investigators stood firm on the scope of and topics for their questions for Trump: possible coordination between his associates and Russia’s election interference and whether he tried to obstruct the investigation. They did shift slightly on format, agreeing to accept some written answers, including matters in which they want to preserve the ability to have Trump answer follow-ups in person. The president’s lawyers are unwilling to concede to follow-ups in person, citing concerns that Trump will increase his legal exposure. Trump believes that he needs a daily drumbeat of criticisms against the investigation in order to sway public opinion in his favor. On Wednesday, Trump fired off a string of tweets, including a call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end Mueller’s investigation. “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” Trump wrote. He ignored that Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, which is overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Is Collusion a Crime? It’s a Question of Synonyms

Chuck Rosenberg, FBI chief of staff under former director James Comey, said collusion is “ absolutely a crime,” a day after President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said it was not. “Collusion is a crime,” said Rosenberg, who formerly headed the Drug Enforcement Administration. “We just happen to call it something else, we call it conspiracy, but it is absolutely a crime.”

Chuck Rosenberg, FBI chief of staff under former director James Comey, said collusion is “ absolutely a crime,” a day after President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said it was not, reports The Hill. “Collusion is a crime,” said Rosenberg, who formerly headed the Drug Enforcement Administration. “We just happen to call it something else, we call it conspiracy, but it is absolutely a crime.” “You probably won’t find the crime ‘bank heist’ in the criminal code but bank robbery is a crime too and so I am sort of perplexed that it has come down to synonyms,” Rosenberg said.

“If these folks don’t know that collusion and conspiracy are synonyms for one another and this is a legal strategy then they might want to consider changing horses in this race,” Rosenberg added. In several interviews on Monday, Giuliani asserted that collusion is not a crime. “I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Giuliani said on “Fox & Friends.” “Collusion is not a crime.” Trump himself on Tuesday tweeted that collusion was not a crime, adding that it didn’t matter anyway because there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, which intelligence agencies have concluded meddled in the 2016 election. “Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Cohen Claim on 2016 Meeting Could Implicate Trump

President Trump tweeted an adamant denial of CNN’s report that estranged lawyer Michael Cohen is prepared to testify that Trump knew of and approved the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it happened.

President Trump tweeted an adamant denial of CNN’s report that estranged lawyer Michael Cohen is prepared to testify that Trump knew of and approved the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before it happened, the Washington Post reports. Trump has regularly insisted he did not know of the meeting, which Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials held in the expectation of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton furnished by the Russian government. The new revelation, if true, would directly implicate Trump himself in an effort to conspire with a foreign power to tip the election to him, and a subsequent effort to cover that up. Trump helped dictate a statement lying about the real purpose of the meeting. If Cohen is right, the coverup would also include falsely denying not just knowledge of the meeting, but also his approval of it.

The importance of this story may not lie in what Cohen is willing to say about Trump’s alleged knowledge of this meeting. Rather, its real significance may be that it signals a further unraveling of the Cohen-Trump relationship that could lead Cohen to share previously undisclosed information about other matters related to Trump and Russia that remain shrouded in mystery. There are several reasons Cohen’s willingness to testify to Trump’s alleged awareness may not be significant. First, it might not be true. Second,  special counsel Robert Mueller can verify it with better sources. McClatchy reported in April that Mueller has amassed evidence that Cohen secretly traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016. Cohen has denied this, but if it were true, it would lend support to the claim in the so-called Steele dossier, which reported on extensive Trump-Russia ties, that this meeting did happen.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Feds Charge Woman in ‘Russian Influence Operation’

Authorities have been investigating whether Mariia Butina and Alexander Torshin, both gun enthusiasts who attended NRA events together, were part of a plot to funnel Russian money through the NRA to the Trump campaign.

Federal authorities charged a Russian citizen living in Washington, D.C., with conspiracy to act as an illegal agent of the Russian government, including attempting to establish “back-channel” relationships with U.S. officials on behalf of the Kremlin, Politico reports. Mariia Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday in connection with what an FBI agent described as a “Russian influence operation.” U.S. officials allege that Butina, while attending a university, worked from 2015 until at least February 2017 as a Kremlin agent under the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government and Russian central bank. The complaint appears to refer to Alexander Torshin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and longtime supporter of the National Rifle Association who reportedly also has ties to Russian security services and organized crime figures.

Authorities have been investigating whether Butina and Torshin, both gun enthusiasts who attended NRA events together, were part of a plot to funnel Russian money through the NRA to the Trump campaign, perhaps through NRA entities that were not required to disclose their funding sources. Butina’s lawyer denied that on Monday, and Torshin also has denied any wrongdoing. Butina’s arrest and the details disclosed in the complaint suggest that the investigation into ties between NRA officials and Russian operatives isn’t over and could figure into the broader probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “The Maria Butina criminal charge strongly suggests that the Justice Department is far from done with the Russian Rubik’s Cube,” said Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor. Court filings unsealed Monday detail efforts by both Torshin and Butina to enable her to “act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Putin Again Denies Cyberspying Despite New Details of 2016 Hack of Dems

As Presidents Trump and Putin met Monday in Helsinki, Finland, Trump said the Russian leader’s denial of interference in the 2016 election was “extremely strong and powerful.” Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that Trump’s “press conference performance” was “nothing short of treasonous.”

President Vladimir Putin’s denial of interference in the 2016 elections was called “extremely strong and powerful” by President Trump as the two held a press conference Monday following their meeting in Helsinki. Former CIA Director John Brennan called Trump’s position “nothing short of treasonous,” CNN reported. The meeting between the two presidents was overshadowed by the federal indictment Friday of 12 front-line Russian intelligence agents who U.S. officials believe hacked the 2016 presidential election. Friday’s indictment also shows how they did a lot more than steal and disseminate embarrassing emails from Democratic party officials, Politico reports. U.S. intelligence officials say the agents, posing as a Romanian hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, were asked by Wikipedia to send anything ‘hillary-related,” according to The New York Times. 

The indictment provides never-before-seen detail of how the Russian cyberspies operated, based on intercepts that had to have come from American, British or Dutch intelligence, interviews in recent months show. All three eventually got into the Russian networks, but it was the British who had first warned the National Security Agency that they were seeing the D.N.C.’s messages running through communications lines controlled by the Russian military intelligence service, called the G.R.U. The operatives from two units in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency meddled in the election through an elaborate series of coordinated high-tech influence operations, and by using a global network of anonymous servers, bitcoin purchasers and other unwitting cutouts to cover the digital tracks. That kind of extraordinary capability allowed the Russians “to virtually look over the shoulders of Democratic campaign staffers in real time throughout most of the 2016 campaign,” said Ed McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How 2016 Hackers Watched Dems In Real Time

Members of a Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU and are accused of engaging in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of Democratic organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The federal indictment of 12 Russian officials described them as midlevel functionaries staring at computer screens in windowless offices in the bowels of the vast Kremlin bureaucracy. Friday’s indictment also shows how the front-line Russian intelligence agents who U.S. officials believe hacked the 2016 presidential election operate, and how they did a lot more than steal and disseminate embarrassing emails from Democratic party officials, Politico reports. The operatives from two units in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency meddled in the election through an elaborate series of coordinated high-tech influence operations, and by using a global network of anonymous servers, bitcoin purchasers and other unwitting cutouts to cover the digital tracks. Russians deeply infiltrated two key Democratic Party organizations and key aspects of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign—watching their every move via real-time digital surveillance until just weeks before the election, the indictment said.

That kind of extraordinary capability allowed the Russians “to virtually look over the shoulders of Democratic campaign staffers in real time throughout most of the 2016 campaign,” said Ed McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor. He attributed the “extremely high level of sophistication of the Russian GRU hackers” to their ability to combine sophisticated social engineering techniques and custom-designed malware with more simple spearphishing techniques used to obtain passwords of more than 300 unsuspecting victims from the Democratic party. “These GRU units are dedicated, well-organized and well-funded, and they’re perfectly capable of causing havoc in our electric grid as well as insecure election systems,” said Joel Brenner, a top official at the National Security Agency and Directorate of National Intelligence during the Bush and Obama administrations. “Nasty,” was how Brenner described the GRU activities laid out in the 29-page indictment, which disclosed the names of the 12 Russian military officers who allegedly led the campaign.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Manafort Jail Switch Ordered; Trial Set for July 25

A federal judge ordered former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort transferred to a detention center in Alexandria, Va., near Washington, D.C., and rejected a request from his attorneys to let their client stay at a rural jail called Northern Neck where Manafort told people he is treated like a VIP. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is monitoring Manafort’s calls at the jail.

A federal judge ordered former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort transferred to a detention center in Alexandria, Va., near Washington, D.C., and rejected a request from his attorneys to let their client stay at a rural jail called Northern Neck where Manafort told people he is treated like a VIP, Politico reports. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is monitoring Manafort’s calls at the jail. Manafort has been in a private cell with his own bathroom and shower, a personal telephone and daily access to a workspace where he can meet with his lawyers and prepare for his upcoming criminal trials.

Manafort’s team offered a very different picture of Manafort’s confinement conditions, telling a judge that he is “locked in his cell for at least 23 hours per day (excluding visits from his attorneys)” and that he was in “solitary confinement because the facility cannot otherwise guarantee his safety.” For now, Manafort’s Northern Virginia trial on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and failure to report foreign bank accounts is scheduled to begin July 25. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has scheduled oral arguments for Tuesday on Manafort’s motion to postpone the proceedings, as well as a related request for a change of venue from Alexandria to Roanoke, Virginia.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Sets New Conditions on Mueller Interview

Before Trump would agree to an interview, Mueller needs to show he has evidence Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer.

President Trump’s lawyers have set new conditions on an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller and said that the chances that the president would be voluntarily questioned were growing increasingly unlikely, the New York Times reports. Before Trump would agree to an interview, Mueller needs to show he has evidence that Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer. His declaration was the latest sign that the president’s lawyers, who have cooperated with the inquiry even as their client attacked it, have shifted to an openly combative stance.

Giuliani acknowledged that Mueller was unlikely to agree to the interview demands. Mr. Mueller could subpoena Trump to answer questions if he does not agree to sit for an interview. Giuliani left open the possibility that the president, who has said in the past that he would be eager to sit down with the special counsel, would still agree to be interviewed. Giuliani appeared to be trying to shift responsibility onto the special counsel for the lengthy negotiations over an interview. “If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity,” Giuliani said. The gambit by Giuliani was the latest maneuver in an all-out assault by the president and his legal team to alter public opinion about the inquiry. They have come to believe that, if the Democrats win control of the House in November, the chamber will vote on whether to begin the impeachment process no matter the outcome of Mueller’s investigation.

from https://thecrimereport.org