Unmasking the blocked cell phone number that Trump Jr. called while working on plans to meet with Russian agents
With Democrats in the House of Representatives set to get subpoena power in January, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) tells USA Today that one of the first avenues that his party could pursue is unmasking the blocked cell phone number that Donald Trump Jr. called while working on plans to meet with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential campaign.
.. If it turns out that Trump Jr. called his father while he was arranging meetings with Russian officials, it could mean that he lied under oath when he told Congress that he never mentioned the meetings with his father.
As part of the plea, he agreed to coöperate with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Manafort will lose several properties, the money in several bank accounts, and a life-insurance policy, which appear to have value well in excess of ten million dollars. In exchange, Manafort was assured that he will spend no more than a decade in prison for the two charges, so long as he fully coöperates with Mueller.
.. The plea agreement specifically requires Manafort to disclose to the government “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities.”
.. But, even if Manafort had very little helpful to offer, he said, “this is a good deal for Mueller.” Mueller gets another guilty plea and avoids a potential loss at trial, which serves to undercut Trump’s repeated argument that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt.” Even if Mueller already knows everything that Manafort has to offer, it would be helpful to have another voice confirming details at some future criminal trial for some other defendant.
.. Among the Trump team, Manafort would be, by far, the most experienced in dealing with emissaries from Russia and its allies, and the one most likely to understand the various agendas of those present. He surely knows what he told Trump, Jr., Trump himself, Kushner, and others about the significance of the meeting.
.. Manafort can also potentially shed light on several key people and a number of events that the public still knows too little about. Was Manafort’s employee Konstantin Kilimnik a Russian intelligence asset? And did he serve as a channel between the Trump campaign and Moscow? When Manafort pondered giving Oleg Deripaska—a Russian oligarch close to Putin—insider access to the Trump campaign, what did he mean? What, if anything, did he end up offering Deripaska?
.. Rather than merely informing on others, this theory holds that he would be able to lay out the full story of collusion (if, indeed, there was any).
.. However, this plea agreement is not overly generous. It strips Manafort of much of his wealth and means that the man, who is sixty-nine years old, will likely spend a decade in prison.
.. This could be because Manafort doesn’t know as much as we might imagine, or, more likely, that Mueller already knows most of what Manafort could tell him.
.. the Mueller investigation will likely come down to one central question: Did senior members of the Trump campaign, with the explicit knowledge of Trump himself, actively work with Russian government actors to help sway the election so that Trump would win? If the answer is yes, then Trump will almost certainly be impeached and removed from office.
If Manafort were in a position to definitively answer that question, it seems unlikely he would have accepted this plea agreement. He would have been in a position to hold out for something far better.
A transcript of “that” meeting with the Russians surfaces — and a controversy is settled.
Manafort: O.K., shall we begin?
Natalia: We have very good dirt, as you say, on Clinton. You win election with this.
Manafort: Hold it, hold it. Wait a second. First off, that would be illegal. That would be conspiring with an enemy to commit election fraud.
Rinat: I thought that was what meeting about.
Natalia: Me too.
Don Jr.: What? Who told you that?
Rinat: What did you think it was about?
Don Jr.: I thought it was about adoption!
Manafort: Yes, adoption. We want you to rescind the ban. It’s taking a tremendous toll.
The Russians: (in unison) Ohh … well, this is big misunderstanding …
President Trump is a lawyer’s client from hell. He lacks self-control, cannot tell the truth and will not absorb legal advice he doesn’t like. Most clients don’t incriminate themselves in public. Again and again. Trump does, however.
.. he is worried that Trump Jr. may have unintentionally stumbled into legal jeopardy and is embroiled in [special counsel Robert S.] Mueller’s investigation largely because of his connection to the president.
.. That’s worse than acknowledging to NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired then-FBI Director James B. Comey. It’s worse than his nonstop attempts to obstruct the prosecutors — who are investigating an obstruction-of-justice case. (You cannot make this stuff up.)
.. Most important, Trump confirmed that the meeting with Russians was designed to obtain something valuable — previously undisclosed dirt on Hillary Clinton. That arguably would violate federal law prohibiting a candidate from asking for or receiving something of value from a foreign national. Put it this way: The most powerful evidence that Donald Trump Jr. violated campaign law comes from Donald Trump Jr.’s own email (“I love it” in anticipation of the Trump Tower dirt-finding meeting) and his own father’s tweet. Like father, like son.
.. Trump Sr.’s insistence that he did not know about the meeting in advance might, to an outside observer, suggest he knows it would be a problem if he did. But then again, he knew about the meeting after the fact and drafted a false statement, so it’s not as though prior knowledge is essential to the prosecutors’ obstruction case.
.. Trump fails to understand that the very meeting he is acknowledging is collusion — or conspiracy, if you will — to break campaign-finance laws. Insisting that it is legal to get dirt from a foreign national is politically and morally offensive (Trump was picked by the Kremlin) and contradicts his claim the Russians didn’t want him to win (another lie in the coverup). He knows they did — they had a meeting to help his campaign.
.. The email also suggests that Trump Jr. (allegedly with drafting help from his father) tried to conceal the true purpose of the meeting with a false cover story (it was all about adoption, you see.)
.. Trump Jr. may also have lied to Congress by suggesting his father was not intimately involved in drafting the false written statement.
.. Trump’s insistence that the meeting was perfectly legal and perfectly normal is wrong on both counts. No presidential campaign has gone to a hostile foreign power for help in winning an election. It’s a invitation for a foreign power to help pick our elected leaders, a constitutional abomination and a repudiation of the very concept of democracy (i.e., we pick our own leaders).
.. The political implications of Trump’s latest confession are quite stunning. Will the rest of the GOP go along with the position that it was perfectly fine for Russia to help Trump? That would sure be a change from “No collusion” (to “Collusion, so what?!”).
.. I don’t know how a major political party can maintain the view that hostile powers have carte blanche to influence our elections. Every Republican in elected office or on the ballot should be asked his or her view on the matter.
The notion that collusion with a hostile power is no big deal is so preposterous and unpalatable, you would think Republicans would not dare try to defend Trump on this point. But this crowd? They might just try it.