“Watch for the defense to become the thing they’ve denied, because the truth is worse,” said Wallace, noting that originally, the Trump team tried to flat-out deny there was any collusion with Russia. “They’re not even denying, because they’ve pleaded guilty to these contacts with Russians … this is a campaign whose defense to collusion is, ‘we couldn’t collude with our press office.’ That’s what Brad Pascale and Jared Kushner say.”
.. “They could collude, they were colluding, and all of this is so nefarious,” said Kirschner. “It’s not reckless, it’s not happenstance, it’s not careless … what I found remarkable in what [special counsel prosecutor] Andrew Weissman was saying to the court, when they were trying to decide whether Paul Manafort’s plea agreement should basically be torn up because he lied. As a cooperating witness, he kept lying to the special counsel.”
.. What I find remarkable is that Manafort gets charged, right, federally indicted. What does he do after that? He starts tampering with witnesses. And he was charged for tampering with witnesses. After that we have now learned through this litigation, albeit in highly redacted form, that he continued to conspire with [suspected Russian agent Konstantin] Kilimnik.”
“What is it that they so desperately want to cover up?” said Kirschner. The answer, he said, was in the fact that Weissman told the judge that the Kilimnik interactions go “right to the heart of what the special counsel is investigating.”
This is the first time the special counsel has indicated publicly that it thinks a witness or target in the investigation might be angling for a pardon. Many have speculated that the pursuit of a pardon could explain Manafort’s otherwise puzzling behavior.
But since a pardon for federal crimes could only come from the president, the special counsel’s acknowledge of this possible motive is remarkable. It means the special counsel believes Manafort could increase his chances of a pardon by with a criminal lie. This, quite directly, implies that Trump has an interest in one of his former aides engaging in a criminal cover-up — a circumstance that is hard to imagine unless the president himself is at least indirectly implicated in criminal behavior.
While many have long suspected and argued as much, it is still a stunning turn of events to have it confirmed by prosecutors in court.
The transcript also reveals that Manafort met with Kilimnik at Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, which is reportedly under investigation separately by the Southern District of New York. There, they discussed the promotion of a Ukraine peace plan, prosecutors said, which is believed to favor Russian interests. This shows that, despite Trump’s attempt to distance himself from Manafort after firing him in August of 2016, Manafort at least believed he had the chance to promote a political agenda under the Trump administration... After Manafort had agreed to cooperate, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, revealed that the ex-campaign chair had stayed in his joint defense agreement with the president, a situation legal experts said was extraordinary and posed the risk that he could innappropriately share sensitive information.
“Was directed”? Naturally, you’re thinking, “was directed by whom?” By Trump? Could be . . . Stone says it was not, but who knows? The point, however, is not who did the directing but why it was thought necessary to reach out to Stone. The Trump campaign had to ask Stone because it was in the dark.
.. Plainly, the campaign was not involved in the hacking, so it did not know what the Russians gave Assange. And it had no involvement with WikiLeaks’ operations, so it turned to Stone, who had held himself out as a knowledgeable source. But Stone, too, was unsure. Mueller alleges: “STONE thereafter told the Trump campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks]” (emphasis added). The prosecutor has to say “potential” because Stone did not have solid knowledge of Assange’s intentions — he tried to find out from others (including Credico, who had contact with Assange), but they did not know for sure exactly what Assange had and whether or when he would publish it.
.. 1. It is standard government practice never to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
2. This is especially true of counterintelligence investigations, which target foreign powers, not individuals, and which are classified.