Saturday, August 15, 2020

Hot Seat

Image by vicnt (Getty Images/Stockphoto), via ETF Trends.

Well, well, well:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidante, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The [Los Angeles] Times, was signed by the panel’s then-chairman, Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner.

It also raised concerns about testimony provided by family members and confidants of President Trump that appeared to contradict information provided by a former deputy campaign chairman to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those it identified as providing such conflicting testimony were the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

"Has sent" actually about 13 months ago, to prosecutor Deborah Curtis in the DC US attorney's office (who transferred to Commerce Department in September 2019). DOJ didn't tell the paper what action they had or hadn't taken up to now.

The "former deputy campaign chairman" is Paul Manafort's right-hand man Rick Gates, who cooperated with Mueller and took a plea. Among other things,

Gates told the special prosecutor that in the days before the June 9, 2016, meeting, Trump Jr. announced at a “regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation,” according to the report of the investigation’s findings.

Which looks like something redacted from around here in the Gates 302

("After the news broke" meaning in July 2017, when NYT published the Goldstone-Junior letters.)

Junior, Kushner, Manafort, and Hicks all denied under oath to the Senate committee that such a meeting had taken place, so all four of them are suspected of lying to Congress about that at the least, and I would hope about the meeting itself, which Junior, Kushner, and Manafort all attended (and where I believe Manafort got some information about the forthcoming WikiLeaks DNC email dump from Aras Agalarov's US lieutenant Irakly Kavenadze.)

This would be material covered to some extent in the long-awaited Volume 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Russian active measures in the 2016 election, and this suggests it really is going to fill in some serious holes in our Mueller-based understanding of the whole racket. I'm excited!

The Bannon matter has to do with his and Erik Prince's interactions with Kirill Dimitriev, described in the Mueller report in connection with Petr Aven, CEO of Alfa Bank, and Putin's concern not long after the election)

that the United States would impose additional sanctions on Russian interests, including sanctions against Aven and/or Alfa-Bank.982 Putin suggested that Aven needed to take steps to protect himself and Alfa-Bank.983 Aven also testified that Putin spoke of the difficulty faced by the Russian government in getting in touch with the incoming Trump Administration.984 According to Aven, Putin indicated that he did not know with whom formally to speak and generally did not know the people around the President-Elect....

That confusion on Putin's part is a sign for me of how the collusion between Russian intelligence and the Trump operation was "not in the sophisticated ways imagined by [Trump's] detractors", as Michael Cohen put it, so much as a game of double-sided blind man's bluff in which the parties informally groped their way toward each other.

Aven’s description of his interactions with Putin is consistent with the behavior of Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian national who heads Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and is closely connected to Putin. Dmitriev undertook efforts to meet members of the incoming Trump Administration in the months after the election. Dmitriev asked a close business associate who worked for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal court, George Nader, to introduce him to Trump transition officials, and Nader eventually arranged a meeting in the Seychelles between Dmitriev and Erik Prince, a Trump Campaign supporter and an associate of Steve Bannon.989 In addition, the UAE national security advisor introduced Dmitriev to a hedge fund manager and friend of Jared Kushner, Rick Gerson, in late November 2016. In December 2016 and January 2017, Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin. Gerson provided that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The secret discussion, that is, for those of us not bound by journalistic rules to avoid saying things we don't know to be true, of how the incoming Trump administration was going to pay the Putin government back for its assistance in the election, of which the Flynn-Kislyak phone calls in late December 2016 were also a part.

There's also a reference to Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign co-chairman who recruited George Papadopoulos to the team, not for that but for lying about his interactions with lonely lunatic Peter Smith (and one Barbara Ledeen, a pal of General Flynn and spouse of his wingnut co-author Michael Ledeen) in the quest for the "missing emails" of Hillary Clinton's private server.

It's hard for me to guess what might have happened to any investigation prompted by the Senators' letter in the turmoil that's been going on in the DC US attorney's office since it arrived there, when Jessie Liu, who ran the prosecution of Roger Stone, was US attorney for the district; she got transferred to Treasury in January, after she found no grounds for indicting Andrew McCabe, and altogether fired from the government a month later (reported Jonathan Swan at Axios), after a vigilante group including Ginni Thomas and that very same Barbara Ledeen included her in a list of "disloyal" employees, in a big Trumpy dustup:

Shortly before withdrawing the nomination of the former D.C. U.S. attorney for a top Treasury role, the president reviewed a memo on Liu's alleged misdeeds, according to a source with direct knowledge.

  • Ledeen wrote the memo, and its findings left a striking impression on Trump, per sources with direct knowledge. Ledeen declined to comment.
  • A source with direct knowledge of the memo's contents said it contained 14 sections building a case for why Liu was unfit for the job for which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin selected her, including:
    • Not acting on criminal referrals of some of Justice Brett Kavanaugh's accusers.
    • Signing "the sentencing filing asking for jail time" for Gen. Michael Flynn (a friend of Ledeen's).
    • Holding a leadership role in a women's lawyers networking group that Ledeen criticized as "pro-choice and anti-Alito."
    • Not indicting former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
    • Dismissing charges against "violent inauguration protesters who plotted to disrupt the inauguration."

The Senators' complaint about Junior. Kushner, Manafort, Hicks, and Bannon could have gone somewhere during that time or not, or could have been quashed under her three-month replacement, Timothy Shea, who managed to lighten Roger Stone's sentence, attempt to withdraw Michael Flynn's prosecution altogether, and chop up the fraud and public corruption unit of his department during his short tenure before fleeing to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Or it could still be worming its way through the preliminary investigative processes of the FBI, for all I know.

I'm not fooling myself so much as to think Volume 5 is going to contain clearcut indictment cases against Junior and Kushner and the others—that document is in DOJ being redacted as we speak, I guess, and what we get will be less than what there is in any case—but it's lovely to see these perjurers and racketeers getting pointed toward the hot seat at last, and that wicked old Nazi Bannon being apparently one of them is a delightful surprise. Stay tuned!

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