Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Czer, Jun 30, 2017.
Stormy Daniels' lawyer gives ominous warning to Michael Cohen's associates: 'Anyone that had any contact with this man in the last 20 years should be very concerned'
Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels's attorney, had an ominous warning for Michael Cohen's associates.
"Anyone that had any contact with this man in the last 20 years should be very concerned about what secrets of theirs are within these documents," he said.
His comments came at the end of a consequential day in court.
Porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, gave an ominous warning Monday to associates of President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen as he stood outside a federal courthouse in Manhattan.
Following a wild day of proceedings as part of a criminal investigation into Cohen — including the revelation that Fox News host Sean Hannity had been a client of Cohen's — Avenatti said none of the lawyer's associates are safe.
"I said last Friday and this weekend that Michael Cohen was radioactive, and that anybody that was associated with him in the last 20 or 30 years should be very, very concerned," Avenatti told reporters at an impromptu press conference following the day's proceedings. "What we witnessed earlier in the hearing with the disclosure related to Sean Hannity proved my point exactly. He is radioactive."
"Anyone that had any contact with this man in the last 20 years should be very concerned about what secrets of theirs are within these documents," he said, referring to documents obtained by the FBI in a series of raids last week on Cohen's home, office, and hotel room.
Daniels provided comment to reporters as well, saying Cohen as "for years" acted "like he is above the law" and has "openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump's fixer."
"He has played by a different set of rules or should we say no rules at all," she said. "He has never thought that the little man, or especially women or even more women like me, matter. That ends now."
Earlier Monday, a federal judge ordered the release of the name of Cohen's mystery third client: Hannity.
Cohen's attorneys said in a filing that Cohen had represented three clients in the past year, including Trump and Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser. The attorneys argued that the third client's name should remain anonymous.
In their letter to US District Judge Kimba Wood, Cohen's attorneys, Todd Harrison and Stephen Ryan, wrote that the third client did not allow them to disclose that they had used Cohen's services.
But that didn't hold up with Wood, who insisted the third client be disclosed publicly at Monday's hearing.
It was not immediately clear what legal work Cohen provided Hannity. In a tweet, Hannity said it was "almost exclusively about real estate."
Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, shortly before the 2016 election to ensure her silence about an affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. Cohen also facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who said Broidy had impregnated her, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Hannity and Cohen did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.
During his Monday radio show, Hannity said he had used eight attorneys in his life and insisted he "never retained" Cohen "in the traditional sense."
"Michael never represented me in any matter," Hannity said, adding: "I never received an invoice from Michael. I never paid legal fees to Michael."
But Hannity said he asked Cohen "brief" legal questions, adding that may have handed Cohen $10 and said, "I want privilege to cover me about this conversation."
I love Michael Avenatti
McConnell won’t allow vote to bill to protect Mueller
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t be holding a vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Donald Trump, essentially killing the bipartisan bill.
McConnell tells Fox News that the measure’s “not necessary” despite a push by Republican and Democratic senators to bring it forward.
McConnell says, “We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate.”
He says there’s “no indication” Trump will fire Mueller — and even if Congress was able to pass the legislation, he doubts the president will sign it.
McConnell says, “I don’t think he should fire Mueller, and I don’t think he’s going to, so this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary, in my judgment.”
Mike Pompeo, C.I.A. Director, Is Said to Meet With Kim Jong-un in North Korea
APRIL 17, 2018
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump dispatched the C.I.A. director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to meet with its leader, Kim Jong-un, over Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump, two people briefed on the secret trip said on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump alluded to Mr. Pompeo’s mission when he said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the United States was in direct talks with North Korea at “extremely high levels,” and that the White House was looking at five sites for a potential meeting of the two leaders.
The White House has used intelligence, rather than diplomatic channels, to communicate with North Korea, ever since last month, when Mr. Trump unexpectedly accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation to meet.
Mr. Pompeo, who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, has been dealing with North Korean representatives through a channel that runs between the C.I.A. and its North Korean counterpart, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, according to other officials. And he has been in close touch with the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon, who American officials said brokered Mr. Kim’s invitation to Mr. Trump.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump also said he would give his blessing to North and South Korea to “discuss the end of the war” when the leaders of those countries meet this month, opening the door to a peace treaty that would replace the armistice that halted the Korean War in 1953.
His statements, which came as he welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to his oceanfront estate here, were fresh evidence of a diplomatic thaw underway on the Korean Peninsula, and made a once-unthinkable encounter between him and Mr. Kim far more likely.
The president did not specify who in his administration was talking to North Korea, nor did he give any hint of the sites under consideration — adding to the aura of mystery that has enveloped this potential meeting. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Pompeo’s trip.
But his comments could raise other thorny issues. A peace treaty with North Korea would greatly increase pressure to ease economic sanctions on the North and to withdraw American troops from the Korean Peninsula. It would also complicate the already tangled diplomacy in East Asia.
In his meeting with Mr. Abe, however, Mr. Trump projected optimism. He described North Korea in language worlds away from the speech he gave in November in Seoul, when he called it cruel and barbaric, “the results of a tragic experiment in a laboratory of history.”
“I really believe there’s a lot of good will,” Mr. Trump said. “They do respect us. We are respectful of them.”
He even suggested that the North and the South might announce some kind of deal before he met Mr. Kim.
On Tuesday, a South Korean newspaper, Munhwa Ilbo, reported that the two countries were negotiating an announcement “to ease military tensions and end a military confrontation,” as part of the summit meeting planned between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.
That could involve pulling troops out of the Demilitarized Zone, making it a genuinely “Demilitarized Zone.” A South Korean government official later played down the report, saying it was too soon to tell what a joint statement by Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim would contain, other than broad and “abstract” statements about the need for North Korea to “denuclearize.”
But analysts said South Korea was aiming for a comprehensive deal, in which the North agreed to give up its weapons in return for a security guarantee, including a peace treaty. Mr. Trump’s comments suggested he backed that effort.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war,” he said. “People don’t realize that the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to war. Subject to a deal, they have my blessing.”
While Mr. Abe lavished praise on Mr. Trump for the sanctions campaign, which he said had brought North Korea to the table, he did not repeat the president’s words about an end to the Korean War.
“Donald,” he said, “you’ve demonstrated your unwavering determination in addressing the challenge of North Korea.”
Mr. Abe said only that he hoped that the talks with Mr. Kim would force the North to address the threats posed by its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its abduction of Japanese citizens — a politically resonant issue in Japan that Mr. Trump promised to raise with Mr. Kim.
“Abe put on a surprisingly brave face,” said Michael J. Green, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who advised President George W. Bush on North Korea. “The president of the United States just endorsed a peace treaty with North Korea, a declared nuclear weapons state, and they offered nothing in return.”
China, which is a signer to the 1953 armistice, has long favored a peace treaty. But Japan, which did not sign it, is suspicious of one — as are some foreign policy experts in the United States, who point out that the North has yet to take any tangible steps to give up its nuclear arsenal.
The idea of a peace treaty is not new. The United States and North Korea discussed it in the 1990s and again in 2005. But it has never gone anywhere, largely because North Korea has reneged on pledges to give up its nuclear program.
Most scholars and officials agree that North and South Korea cannot themselves announce an end to the Korean War. It has to involve the United States and China as well, since both were signers to the armistice.
In welcoming Mr. Abe to his estate, Mar-a-Lago, for two days of meetings, Mr. Trump clearly hoped to change the subject from tampered documents, confiscated legal files and other symbols of the political storm clouds that hover over both leaders back home.
After days of ominous reports about his personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and unflattering descriptions in a new book by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he ousted, Mr. Trump appeared to savor the prospect of discussing trade and the nuclear threat from North Korea with Mr. Abe, whom he described in Twitter as a “truly fine gentleman.”
The stakes are even higher for Mr. Abe, whose political survival is in doubt after two domestic scandals have sapped his approval ratings and raised questions about whether he will be forced to resign.
Mr. Abe has invested heavily in his relationship with Mr. Trump, whom he first visited at Trump Tower even before he was sworn in. Preserving that relationship, in the face of fresh challenges in trade and from North Korea, could affect Mr. Abe’s standing in Japan.
The White House sought to put a good face on the meeting, describing Japan as a great ally of the United States and Mr. Abe as a friend of Mr. Trump. But officials acknowledged there would be differences over trade, with Mr. Trump pushing for a trade deal between the two countries and Mr. Abe stung by Mr. Trump’s decision not to exempt Japan, like other American allies, from sweeping tariffs on steel exports.
“We have certain disagreements with respect to some of the trading issues,” Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters before the meeting. “We’ll iron those out, hopefully.”
Mr. Kudlow said he expected Mr. Abe to petition Mr. Trump to grant Japan an exemption, but declined to predict how he would respond. He also tamped down expectations about the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asian trade pact, now anchored by Japan, which Mr. Trump pulled out of during his first week in office.
“We are in the pre-preliminary stages of any discussions,” he said. “It’s more of a thought than a policy.”
Having met six times — including once before at Mar-a-Lago — and spoken by phone 20 times, Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe were likely to talk about the issues dogging them at home, officials said. But American officials said they did not believe that would dominate their discussions.
“It’s all part and parcel of the relationship,” said Matthew Pottinger, the senior director for Asia at the National Security Council. “Sometimes they talk about the respective politics in each other’s countries. They enjoy talking about it.”
I'm going to guess the media is reporting about a year behind what Mueller is engaged on based on how the Special Counsel's office and Comey both made remarks recently.
Nikki is on Boltons team
Kaine: Trump changing his mind more 'consistent' than Haley getting confused
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Wednesday defended U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley amid her clash with the White House this week, calling her "savvy" and taking a dig at President Trump.
Kaine agreed with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that Haley had been "thrown under the bus" by the White House when economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Haley must have had "some momentary confusion" when she discussed purported sanctions.
"Nikki Haley is pretty savvy. I don't think she got confused. I think the president either changed his mind or decided to overrule consensus advice of his top advisers, and that would be consistent with what we see from this president," Kaine said.
Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump's move would line up with the president's "unusual penchant to back off imposing stern consequences against Russia" and other adversaries.
The former Democratic vice presidential nominee has been one of the Senate's fiercest advocates for punishing Russia for its military aggression and interference in U.S. elections.
His comments come after Haley said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the Trump administration was preparing new sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow's support for the Syrian government after a suspected chemical attack on civilians in a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus.
That claim reportedly angered President Trump, who had no such plans to slap new sanctions on Moscow, according to the Times. The White House later pushed back on Haley's claim.
Haley rebuked Kudlow's remark, saying that she doesn't "get confused."
Trump on Wednesday said the administration would sanction Russia "as soon as they very much deserve it," walking back an apparent plan that Haley thought was in place.
Death of McMaster’s father being investigated as suspicious: report
Philadelphia authorities are investigating the death of the father of former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, ABC6 reports.
According to the Philadelphia department of health, the former official's father, H.R. McMaster Sr., died on April 13 of blunt force trauma to the head.
While health officials have ruled his death to be an accident, investigators have labeled the death suspicious, and are looking into whether there could have been institutional neglect in treating him by the retirement community where he lived.
The 84-year-old Korean War veteran reportedly did not receive proper care at the Cathedral Village retirement home, where he was living after suffering a stroke.
The Philadelphia police's homicide unit is looking into allegations that McMaster Sr. had fallen and was placed on a chair and neglected. Employees also reportedly told the McMaster family that records related to his death had been falsified.
Police are investigating the death as suspicious and have obtained a search warrant for the retirement community.
McMaster left the administration earlier this month, where he was replaced by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton after reports that President Trump and McMaster disagreed on certain policy issues.
Manafort Suspected of Serving as ‘Back Channel’ to Russia, DOJ Says
April 19, 2018
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a “back channel” between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge.
The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission -- to determine whether anyone in the Trump campaign had links to the Russian government.
Defense attorney Kevin Downing argued anew to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington that even Mueller’s appointment order permitting him to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” wouldn’t cover the political consulting work that Manafort did in Ukraine for a decade.
But Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said prosecutors were justified in investigating Manafort because he had served as Trump’s campaign chairman.
“He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,” Dreeben told Jackson. “Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.”
Prosecutors hadn’t previously used such explicit language to describe their suspicions about Manafort. In a previous court filing, Mueller also cited business ties between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Any investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign “would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs,” prosecutors said in an April 2 filing.
“It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities. Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution.”
At Thursday’s hearing, Downing argued that he was challenging whether Mueller “had the jurisdiction and the authority to conduct the investigation.” He focused on Mueller’s release of a memo dated Aug. 2, 2017, and signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that
spelled out the reasons for pursuing Manafort. Heavy redactions in the public version make it hard to tell all of the reasons.
Downing said that at the time of Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein apparently failed to put in writing his reasons for pursuing Manafort, even though regulations say the special counsel “will be provided with a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated.”
Downing said Rosenstein drafted the August 2017 memo because “he realizes he got something wrong” when Mueller was appointed nearly three months earlier. He said he’s received nothing in writing from prosecutors about the reasons then for the Manafort probe.
“In a case of such national importance, that’s being looked at all over the world, there’s no writing, there’s no memo?” Downing said. “I can’t believe the Department of Justice operates like that.”
Dreeben said the August 2017 memo serves as “confirmation” of what prosecutors suspected about Manafort at the time of Mueller’s appointment. He also said that order and underlying regulations require Mueller to report on his work to Rosenstein.
“It’s not a blank check,” he said. “It’s not carte blanche.”
Jackson heard similar arguments about Mueller’s authority at a hearing on April 4, when Downing defended his civil lawsuit that also said prosecutors had no authority to charge Manafort. The judge expressed deep skepticism then about whether a civil lawsuit was the proper legal step. She didn’t say when she would rule in either case.
Mueller has charged 19 people, including 13 Russians, since his appointment. Five have pleaded guilty, including Rick Gates, a former Trump deputy campaign chairman and longtime business associate of Manafort. Gates is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Aside from the Washington indictment, Manafort is also charged in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, with bank and tax fraud.
Dreeben, who is helping Mueller with the investigation, has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as deputy solicitor general.
The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
Rudy colluded with Flynn
Rudy Giuliani in Talks to Join Trump's Legal Team
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been in talks to join the President Donald Trump’s personal legal team, according to a person familiar with the matter. No decision is currently final.
A slew of foreign policy matters which Trump has had to deal with has slowed the process of expanding the president's legal team, according the person familiar with the matter. Trump’s time has been absorbed by North Korea and Syria, which has limited his availability to speak with potential new members of his legal team.
Giuliani did not immediately return a request for comment. But he is a close ally of the president, having campaigned closely with him during the 2016 election. Giuliani gave an impassioned speech in favor of Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“What I did for New York City, Donald Trump will do for America,” he said at the convention. “I have known Donald Trump for almost 30 years. And he has created and accomplished great things. But beyond that this is a man with a big heart. Every time New York City suffered a tragedy, Donald Trump was there to help.”
After Trump’s victory, however, Giuliani wasn’t selected for any cabinet post, leaving him on the outside of an administration he’d helped elect. Axios reported last summer that Trump had considered replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Giuliani. But that too never happened.
Giuliani previously represented Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman charged with participating in a scheme to evade American sanctions on Iran. Zarrab testified in federal court last November that two of his lawyers––presumably Giuliani and Michael Mukasey––tried to negotiate his release through a prisoner swap with Turkey. A federal judge called one of Giuliani’s affidavitsabout Zarrab’s alleged crimes “surprisingly disingenuous.”
Giuliani is not the only Trump campaign alum with Turkey ties. Former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, also cultivated close links with the country.
Kusher Co subpoenaed
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jared Kushner’s family real estate company routinely filed false documents with New York City claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when, in fact, it had hundreds.
Documents compiled by a tenants’ rights group and shared with The Associated Press show the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 construction applications over three years claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in 34 buildings. Tax records show those buildings actually had more than 300 rent-regulated units.
Tenant advocates say the tactic is used by landlords to avoid protections that prevent them from forcing out low-paying tenants.
The Kushner Cos. says it outsources the preparations of such documents and fixes any mistakes immediately. Records show the company did file some amended documents, often more than a year later.
RNC sending 'Lyin Lion' mascot to follow Comey around on book tour
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is sending a mascot — Lyin' Lion Comey — to trail former FBI Director James Comey on his cross-country book tour.
The lion mascot's mission was first reported Thursday by CNN, before the GOP itself appeared to confirm the news in a tweet.
The RNC later confirmed the effort in an email to The Hill.
The mascot plan is the latest in an effort by the Republican Party to discredit the former FBI director, who embarked this week on a media blitz following the release of his memoir, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership."
The book recounts Comey's time as the nation's top cop, including his experience with the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information and his interactions with President Trump.
The book casts the president in a negative light. Comey paints the president as an unethical, self-interested leader, who is ultimately "untethered to truth."
Ahead of the book's release on Tuesday, the RNC launched a website, LyinComey.com, which seeks to portray the former FBI director as a dishonest political operative seeking to undermine Trump's presidency.
Trump abruptly fired Comey in May, ostensibly for his handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State. He later acknowledged, however, that he took the FBI's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election into consideration when he dismissed Comey.
Fox News’ Kremlin Ties Go Much Deeper Than Just Sean Hannity
A few days ago, I addressed the troubling issue of Sean Hannity, the Fox News star, and his hidden ties to the Trump administration. With the revelation that Hannity shares an attorney with the president—namely the disgraced Michael Cohen, who’s now a key player in the Department of Justice’s investigation of the White House and its secret Kremlin links—it’s high time to ask exactly what sort of “journalism” Hannity is pushing at Fox News.
Moreover, when coupled with my previous revelations of Hannity’s “reporting” of rancid disinformation scripted by Russian intelligence as “news,” plus his clandestine relationship with WikiLeaks—said by President Donald Trump’s own CIA director to be a Kremlin front—Fox News is making itself a player not just in the Trump administration, but a target of any fair and balanced investigation of it. As I stated:
With the revelation that Cohen has been Hannity’s attorney, in some fashion that neither of them wished to disclose, it is even more imperative that Fox News explain why it keeps a Kremlin propagandist without any semblance of professional ethics on the air. If they fail to do so, that network is exposing itself to counterintelligence scrutiny as well.
To the surprise of nobody who has observed that network in action, Fox News quickly decided that Hannity’s ethical missteps regarding Cohen were no big deal. Per its statement on the case: “We have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support.” Nevertheless, the network’s own media analyst explained that Hannity was clearly in the wrong, ethically speaking, by commenting many times on-air about Cohen, invariably favorably, without divulging his relationship with him.
Other reports are even less favorable to the network and its ethical standards, rather lack thereof. Vanity Fair this week quoted anonymous staffers at the network about what it termed the Hannity-induced “crisis”: “This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen,” stated one. Another added, “This is bad. It violates every rule of journalism.”
That said, it’s not difficult to divine why Hannity remains on the air. He’s a headliner, the network’s most prominent talker and nighttime draw for its pro-Trump viewers. Moreover, Hannity’s astonishingly close relationship with this White House, viewed negatively as almost a parody of “access journalism” by outsiders, seems to only bolster his position at Fox News. As The Washington Postreported this week, Hannity talks frequently with Trump, serving as a senior advisor to the Oval Office and playing a pivotal role in the administration’s media war against Trump’s enemies—above all Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation of the president’s Kremlin ties. The Fox News star “basically has a desk” in the White House, explained one presidential adviser to the Post.
Normal journalism, this is not. Since I’ve castigated the mainstream media for its fawning over President Barack Obama, allowing his staff to play them like an instrument, particularly regarding foreign policy, let me add that the Hannity case outstrips even those low-points in terms of journalistic integrity. Clearly Fox News is happy to let its leading on-air personality act as a propagandist for Trump. It’s high time for the network to remove “news” from its title if Hannity is its idea of journalism.
Worse, Fox News seems untroubled by the fact that Hannity isn’t just a Trump superfan-cum-consigliere; he also has disturbing ties to the Kremlin and its agents. Since Hannity’s pushing of Russian-scripted disinformation on Americans has been reported for nearly a year, the network can’t say it didn’t know. Fox News therefore is making the unsettling—not to mention potentially politically hazardous—choice to serve as a witting cut-out for the Kremlin’s lie machine.
Perhaps there are no surprises here at all, however. This week, Latvian Public Broadcasting reported an astonishing story about how Fox News operates in their country. As unmasked by a local investigation, Russian-language versions of the network’s programming that are broadcast in Latvia aren’t merely translated; they’re edited for content in a pro-Kremlin direction. Per the report, which cites internal Fox News regulations:
Translators have to follow Russian subtitling guidelines requiring glossing over or ‘softening content’ concerning accidents, homosexual relationships, ‘anti-Russian propaganda,’ narcotics, extremist activities and suicides. For instance, the translators are instructed to ‘soften’ all negative language about the Russian military and space program, policies of the Russian president and government, while positive texts about same-sex relationships have to be made more generalized so they could be attributed to relationships of any kind.
Let’s be perfectly clear here: Fox News is requiring its content being broadcast in a country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union to be edited to be more pleasing to the regime of Vladimir Putin. This is no small matter in Latvia, a country of only two million people, more than one-quarter of whom are ethnic Russians. That minority is habitually exploited by Moscow in its propaganda aimed at NATO’s eastern frontier. For years, the Kremlin has waged an aggressive, full-spectrum information war against Latvia, attempting to foment divisions in that country by making its Russian minority feel alienated and more loyal to Moscow than to Riga. In extremis, many Latvians worry, this noxious disinformation campaign could be a precursor to an actual Russian invasion—an event that has happened several times in the small country’s history.
Fox News is unambiguously on the side of the Kremlin in this information struggle against little Latvia—and the entire Western world. It’s not just what Fox News is beaming into the Baltic states that merits scrutiny. The network’s reports on Latvia for Western audiences—for instance one last month pushed blatant Russian propaganda and cited the Centre for Research on Globalization, a notorious Kremlin disinformation front—likewise deserve investigation.
Above all, Americans should ask what Fox News’ relationship with Putin’s regime actually is. It’s one thing to allow known disinformateurs like Sean Hannity to push Russian-made lies on air; it’s even worse to give Moscow editorial control over its “reporting.” If Fox News is skewing the news in a pro-Kremlin direction for political effect in a free and democratic society like Latvia, they can do it anywhere.
John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst.
“MICHAEL COHEN IS GOING TO BE INDICTED”: STORMY DANIELS’S ATTORNEY IS NOW COOPERATING WITH THE FEDS
APRIL 19, 2018
A little more than a week ago, Michael Avenatti was, indisputably, overexposed. A lantern-jawed soundbite-master, Stormy Daniels’s attorney had been on every possible cable station flogging his long-shot legal case against the president and his sad-sack attorney, Michael Cohen. But the raid on Michael Cohen’s office and home has turned Avenatti from an obsessive into an expert. He is already far down the road that others are just getting started on—there’s no one who knows more about the Cohen case. This week, for instance, when it was revealed that Fox News host Sean Hannity was one of Cohen’s clients, Hannity tried downplaying his relationship to Trump’s lawyer as informal and insignificant, with no paper trail to speak of. But Avenatti’s view is different. As he explains it, when Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York demanded to know which of Cohen’s clients would be impacted by the F.B.I. raid of Cohen’s home and office on April 9, she specifically meant clients impacted by the seizure of documents or audio tapes. “There’s no question that among the documents that were seized are documents with Sean Hannity’s name on them,” said Avenatti.
What those documents may reveal is anybody’s guess, but the latest bombshell is yet more proof that Avenatti has become a major thorn in the side of Donald Trump. Most of the media presumed the Stormy Daniels case against the president and his lawyer would fade after the porn actress (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) appeared on 60 Minutes a month ago, claiming that she had an affair with Trump in 2006, was threatened by an unidentified “thug” who warned her to stop talking about the alleged affair, and later accepted $130,000 from Cohen to keep quiet in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Avenatti promoted the interview as a Watergate-level event, but it didn’t quite deliver, and questions were left unanswered, most notably the contents of a mysterious DVD Avenatti teased on Twitter, suggesting revelatory images or video were forthcoming.
The F.B.I. raid, however, re-invigorated the story, setting the stage for potential indictments against Cohen on charges of bank fraud, campaign-finance crimes, and money laundering—and, just maybe, corollary charges against the president himself. At this stage, Avenatti seems certain of one thing: Michael Cohen is under such urgent duress that it will be difficult for him not to flip on the president and turn state’s witness as soon as this summer. “There is zero question in my mind that Michael Cohen is going to be indicted for some very serious, pervasive conduct,” he said. Avenatti is not alone: according to a reportin The Wall Street Journal, a longtime counselor to Trump, Jay Goldberg, has told the president that on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is Cohen protecting the president and 1 is near-certain flipping, the chances Cohen will protect Trump are not even a 1.
Avenatti is still declining to talk about the contents of the DVD, but the F.B.I. investigation has elevated the case well beyond an alleged sexual liaison. Now the more important liaison is between Avenatti and the F.B.I. “There’s been three raids executed by the F.B.I. in the last eight days,” Avenatti said. “And there’s a significant level of cooperation between us and the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney’s office.”
Indeed, Avenatti is now alleging that he has evidence of bank fraud involving Michael Cohen, which he has almost certainly shared with the F.B.I. And Avenatti maintains the F.B.I. will soon return the favor: “We expect to have access to at least some of what was seized at some point in the near future,” he added. And what might that yield? Avenatti’s preferred scenario is that it would cough up proof that Trump not only knew about Cohen’s payments to Daniels and other women, but compensated Cohen from campaign funds. But he believes the true smoking gun is a so-called Suspicious Activities Report (S.A.R.) reportedly created by the Treasury Department earlier this year after a bank is reported to have flagged Cohen’s account for dubious transactions. (The Treasury Department and First Republic Bank did not provide a comment to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, while Cohen called it “fake news.”) “That is a critical document at this juncture of the case,” said Avenatti. If such a report existed it could very well describe a narrative of events in which monies were moved from bank account to bank account in an effort to cover up campaign payments to Trump’s alleged mistresses. “The importance of that document cannot be overstated,” he said.
While his request for the document has been met with radio silence by the Treasury Department, the F.B.I. may well have it—Avenatti speculates that it could be the blueprint for the entire investigation The way Avenatti talks about the report brings to mind Woodward and Bernstein’s discovery, in 1972, of the $25,000 bank deposit from a Nixon campaign-finance chairman into the account of one of the Watergate burglars.
A mysterious figure in the Cohen case is Keith Davidson, the Beverly Hills attorney who originally represented Stormy Daniels in the cash deal with Cohen to silence her story. Curiously, he also represented the Playboy model Karen McDougal, who had an alleged affair with Trump for 10 months in 2006-2007; and another Playboy model named Shera Bechard, who was paid $1.6 million to keep quiet about her affair with Republican donor Elliott Broidy—whose lawyer was also, lo and behold, Michael Cohen. Cohen and Davidson appeared to have had a brisk business transacting mistress money. “Probably the most charitable thing I could say is it appears to have been far too close of a relationship,” said Avenatti.
Avenatti insists, however, that Davidson himself is a red herring—it’s the money he’s interested in. It is his abiding belief that if F.B.I. investigators follow the cash trail, it will prove not only Stormy Daniels’s narrower case against Trump and Cohen, nullifying her 2016 N.D.A., but will also detonate a larger legal bomb in the Oval Office. Perhaps that is why Trump’s hired lawyer, Charles Harder, who sued Gawker on behalf of Peter Thiel and won $31 million, has threatened a $20 million lawsuit against Daniels for breaking the agreement: because he is trying to shut down the money trail exposed by Daniels’s lawsuit. Harder may have been bluffing, given that the suit has not materialized. Avenatti, meanwhile, has proceeded with what may be the most brazen gambit of his legal career: deposing Donald Trump in a U.S. district court in California. “Obviously we’re going to ask what he knew and when he knew it and who he talked to,” said Avenatti.
Trump has stated publicly that he knows nothing about Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Daniels. But if indeed Trump did know about the Cohen-Daniels transaction, “that could constitute evidence of a felony of federal campaign-finance law, as well as a host of other potential criminal conduct or charges,” said Avenatti. “And then it would be up to the special prosecutor or another prosecutor in law enforcement to bring those charges.”
Avenatti expects a ruling on the deposition by Judge James Otero in the first two weeks of May and, bold as ever, he’s putting the odds of success at “better than 50 percent—especially if Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen continue to engage in the mistakes that they have made over the last five or six weeks.” If Trump refuses to a court order to face a deposition, “that would set off a constitutional crisis,” he said, citing the landmark Supreme Court case of Clinton v. Jones, in which Bill Clinton’s attempt to rebuff Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case established that sitting presidents could be prosecuted in civil court for acts before or during their time in office.
Avenatti argues that what makes him particularly “dangerous” for Trump is that he is unconstrained by political considerations, like White House pressure on the F.B.I. or Robert Mueller—which explains why Cohen’s lawyer has tried filing for a stay of the lawsuit, arguing that Daniels’s case should be put on ice in light of the F.B.I. raids last week. “He wants the judge to pause our case pending the criminal investigation,” said Avenatti. “He wants to slow the case down because he realized the potential liability in our case.”
Cohen’s lawyers argue that he should be free to plead the fifth until the F.B.I. case is over. On Friday, April 20, a federal judge in Los Angeles will rule on Cohen’s bid for a stay, but Avenatti appears confident this show will go on. He argues in his counter motion that Cohen hasn’t proved a substantial relationship between the investigation and the Daniels’s case, and that Cohen waived his right to plead the Fifth when he gave an interview to CNN after the F.B.I. raid. “Mr. Cohen made the choice to make these public statements with full knowledge of the raids; he cannot now refuse cross-examination,” argued Avenatti in his filing.
Some observers have argued that Cohen may be counting on Trump to pardon him after any federal indictment. Avenatti calls it “a false hope.” For one, Trump has demonstrated loyalty to almost no one; but also, Cohen could just as well be tried on the state level, in New York, where Cohen is a resident and Trump’s federal pardoning powers are null and void. “He could be charged on the state level and prosecutors have wide-ranging discretion as it relates to charging decisions,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti says that what emboldened him to pursue this case was what he sees as Cohen’s alarming incompetence, first demonstrated by the badly drafted N.D.A. for Stormy Daniels using a third-party LLC in Delaware, Essential Consultants. It was so badly executed, Avenatti said, he understood immediately that he was dealing with a hack—Trump’s virtual Achilles’ heel. “If someone who worked for me had drafted that N.D.A., they would have been fired on the spot,” he said. “It’s a piece of garbage.”
If nothing else, the case has turned Avenatti into a full-blown celebrity, with possible book and film deals on the horizon. But Avenatti says his 24/7 media blitz of trash-talking his opponents—he tweeted this week that President Trump is “unhinged”—is crucial to his overall strategy. “This is a very unusual situation,” Avenatti mused, with presidential modesty. “I think what we’ve accomplished in that regard has been significant and dare I say unprecedented.”
Trump may be a master media manipulator, he said, but “our version is the new and improved 2.0 version that includes substance. And we do it a helluva lot better.”
Trump would be fine if he just stopped tweeting so much
I don’t have time to read all this stuff, so apologies if it’s already been stated, but the stuff that talkingpointsmemo has been coming out with about the Cohen family’s ties to the Russian mafia are really eye opening.
Separate names with a comma.