Jeff Bezos stands his ground

Much remains mysterious about the Enquirer’s actions, and in particular its connections, if any, with President Trump and the government of Saudi Arabia — a possibility that Bezos alluded to in his blog post. Both the Saudis and Trump are aggrieved at The Post, and Trump wrongly blames Bezos for the newspaper’s accurate but unflattering coverage of him. When the Enquirer’s initial article about Bezos’s extramarital relationship was published, the president gloated in a tweet: “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

The president would obviously love to see a sale of The Post to a friendlier owner — perhaps Trump pal David Pecker, the chairman and chief executive of AMI. (One is reminded of autocrats such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have benefited from bullying media organizations into submission in their own countries.) The Enquirer was threatening Bezos in order to get him to affirm that its coverage was not “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Might the Enquirer have, at a minimum, pursued the story to curry favor with Trump?

.. This is apparently not the first time the publication has been accused of extortionate demands. Other journalists, including Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, have said they were threatened by the Enquirer’s lawyers while investigating the tabloid’s relationship with Trump. And Bezos wrote that “numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI.” These machinations are now being exposed because of Bezos’s smart and courageous decision to confront the Enquirer rather than give in. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,

.. I suspect David Pecker will rue the day that his friend Donald Trump became president — if he does not already. And he is not alone.

  • Paul Manafort had a flourishing business as an international influence-peddler before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. He now faces a long stretch in prison after having been convicted of felony financial charges. Trump’s friend
  • Roger Stone has now been indicted for the first time after a long career as a political dirty trickster.
  • Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, has gone from well-respected general to felon.
  • Michael Cohen had a cushy career as Trump’s personal lawyer before his client became president. Now Cohen, too, is a felon. Numerous other Trump associates and family members are facing, at a minimum, hefty legal bills and, at worst, serious legal exposure.

Every organization Trump has been associated with — the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump campaign, the Trump administration — is being investigated by prosecutors and lawmakers. His name, long his biggest asset, has become so toxic that bookings are down at his hotels. And Trump, a.k.a. Individual 1, faces a serious threat of prosecution once he leaves office. Before it is all over, Trump himself may regret the day he became president. His unexpected and undeserved ascent is delivering long overdue accountability for him and his sleazy associates. We have gone from logrolling to having logs rolled over — and it’s about time.

Sen. Mike Lee blocks proposed legislation to protect Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. election

Lee cited a 30-year-old dissent by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia arguing that protecting an independent counsel from presidential power creates a “fourth branch of government.”

Lee warned that the bill to protect Mueller would “fundamentally [undermine] the principle of separation of powers.”

“Prosecutorial authority in the United States belongs in the Department of Justice.” Lee said.

.. Lee and fellow Republicans, including longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have said there’s no need for legislation because Trump wouldn’t fire Mueller or end his probe. Sen.-elect Mitt Romney, who will succeed Hatch, says the investigation must continue unimpeded, though he isn’t sure if legislation is necessary.
.. Flake, who is leaving office, said Wednesday that his colleagues are blind if they can’t see Trump is already angling to halt Mueller’s investigation.

.. “With the president tweeting on a regular basis, a daily basis, that the special counsel is conflicted, that he is leading the so-called 12 angry Democrats and demeaning and ridiculing him in every way, to be so sanguine about the chances of him getting fired is folly for us,” Flake said on the Senate floor.

.. Coons pointed out that the Scalia opinion Lee cited was a dissent on a 7-1 decision by the high court and that the justices ruled the law creating an independent counsel was constitutional. (The law has since expired and the special counsel now is supervised by the attorney general.)

.. “At the end of the day, leader McConnell has gotten reassurances from the president that he won’t act against Mueller, but those assurances are undermined every single day when President Trump both tweets untrue criticisms of Robert Mueller and his investigation and does other things that are unexpected or unconventional or unjustified,” Coons told MSNBC.

Manafort Lied About Business Dealings, Mueller’s Team Believes

Investigators alleged that Mr. Manafort made inaccurate statements in interviews with Mr. Mueller’s team about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, said the people familiar with the matter.

.. Mr. Kilimnik, who Mr. Mueller charged earlier this year along with Mr. Manafort with trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses against Mr. Manafort, had worked for Mr. Manafort’s lobbying firm in Ukraine. Messrs. Manafort and Kilimnik communicated earlier this year about contacting others who worked with them in an alleged effort to coordinate their stories

.. Mr. Mueller has long been interested in the relationship between Messrs. Manafort and Kilimnik.

.. He has questioned witnesses about a boat trip that Mr. Manafort took with Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, after Mr. Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign in August 2016, say people familiar with the matter. Witnesses believed investigators were seeking to determine whether Mr. Manafort ever met with Mr. Kilimnik on that trip.

.. With the Mueller-Manafort dispute breaking into public view, some legal experts believe Mr. Manafort’s best hope for leniency is to obtain a presidential pardon. On Wednesday Mr. Trump told the New York Post a pardon for Mr. Manafort was “not off the table.” Any pardon would likely spark a firestorm among Democrats, who are preparing to take control of the House.

.. Senate Republicans Wednesday blocked an effort to pass legislation protecting Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

For the second time this month, Sens. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz) and Chris Coons (D., Del.) tried to pass by unanimous consent legislation designed to protect Mr. Mueller from being fired. They were blocked by Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) on Wednesday. Two weeks earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) had objected, blocking the bill.

Donald Trump’s band of losers: Getting desperate as Mueller closes in

Rudy Giuliani has confirmed that Manafort’s team has been feeding information about the Mueller investigation to Trump’s team.

.. Corsi — who has spent the past few weeks in a panic, clearly calling reporters repeatedly in an effort to spin his legal situation — looks an awful lot like he’s squealing on his buddy Stone to the press.

.. obtained court documents that appear to show Corsi communicating with Stone about working with WikiLeaks to publish stolen Democratic Party emails online during the 2016 campaign, in a deliberate effort to hijack the news scandal and create a fake air of scandal around Hillary Clinton. These hacked emails, as earlier reporting has demonstrated, were stolen by Russian intelligence services.

.. A betting woman would say that this is Corsi’s attempt to get the heat off him by throwing Stone under the bus. If so, it’s a poor attempt: The emails make them both look guilty and Mueller’s office appears confident that Corsi’s cries of innocence are so many lies.

.. there’s an upside to the fact that Trump has attracted a bunch of sleazes with no loyalty to anyone but themselves. Once things start really going south for such folks, they tend to turn on each other. Hell, Corsi appears to be turning on Stone for no discernible reason, beyond a general feeling that throwing bodies under the bus will slow it down long enough for him to escape

.. Trump, on the other hand, has been close to Roger Stone for years, and the latter had encouraged Trump to run for president as far back as the late ’90s.

.. It seems likely that Stone, his old lobbying partner Manafort and Corsi saw Trump as their ticket out of the sidelines and back into the mainstream of Republican politics. After all, Trump was not only mainstreaming the filthy, conspiracy theory-laden side of Republican politics, he was rapidly displacing what little was left of respectable Republican politics with circus antics. It’s hard to imagine that men so eager to ingratiate themselves would be anything less than eager to impress their boss and benefactor with news of their corrupt shenanigans involving stolen emails.

.. That Manafort and Corsi both appear to be leaking information about the investigation to Trump is just another reminder that conspiracy is second nature to these folks. Trump may act like a doddering old fool in public, but as the recordings of his discussions about paying off women to cover up affairs make clear, in private he likes to conduct himself like a high-level mafioso. No wonder Trump’s starting to panic, spraying more defensive nonsense about the “Angry Mueller Gang” on Twitter. Because the people he’s surrounded himself with, who are all amoral and self-serving, realize that they’re no longer outrunning the law.