U.S. investigators seek to turn Manafort in Russia probe

Reuters reports: U.S. investigators examining money laundering accusations against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort hope to push him to cooperate with their probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is examining Manafort’s financial and real estate records in New York as well as his involvement in Ukrainian politics, the officials said.

Between 2006 and 2013, Manafort bought three New York properties, including one in Trump Tower in Manhattan. He paid for them in full and later took out mortgages against them. A former senior U.S. law enforcement official said that tactic is often used as a means to hide the origin of funds gained illegally. Reuters has no independent evidence that Manafort did this.

The sources also did not say whether Mueller has uncovered any evidence to charge Manafort with money laundering, but they said doing so is seen by investigators as critical in getting his full cooperation in their investigation. [Continue reading…]

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Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

The Washington Post reports: Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous. [Continue reading…]

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Congress likely to tie Trump’s hands on Russia sanctions

Politico reports: A White House effort to secure changes to a Russia sanctions bill constraining President Donald Trump appears likely to fall short, in a major rebuff by the GOP-led Congress to the leader of its own party.

Senior Republican lawmakers and aides gave their clearest comments yet Thursday that the bill would ultimately move forward without changes sought by the White House, potentially undermining Trump’s ability to warm relations with Moscow.

The Senate already passed the bill on a 98-2 vote. And while it’s stalled in the House amid partisan finger-pointing, most Republicans are joining Democrats to support adding new sanctions while curbing Trump’s power to roll back the penalties against Russia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pushed back against the bill for not providing the administration with “flexibility” to deal with Vladimir Putin’s government, but his words don’t appear to be resonating. GOP lawmakers are loath to be seen as watering down efforts to punish Putin for meddling in the 2016 election, even if many brush off the growing controversy over the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Tillerson is “a good friend, and I really love my relationship with him, but that’s not likely to occur,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said Thursday when asked about the White House’s request for changes to the sanctions bill.

Language empowering Congress to block Trump from any attempt to ease or end sanctions “is going to stay in this bill,” Corker told reporters. “And we’ve had very constructive meetings with the House — there’s no attempt whatsoever to move away from” that provision, the Tennessee Republican added. [Continue reading…]

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Putin’s hackers now under attack — from Microsoft

The Daily Beast reports: A new offensive by Microsoft has been making inroads against the Russian government hackers behind last year’s election meddling, identifying over 120 new targets of the Kremlin’s cyber spying, and control-alt-deleting segments of Putin’s hacking apparatus.

How are they doing it? It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow’s malware: Lawyers.

Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft’s trademarks. The action, though, is not about dragging the hackers into court. The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls “the most vulnerable point” in Fancy Bear’s espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers. These servers can be thought of as the spymasters in Russia’s cyber espionage, waiting patiently for contact from their malware agents in the field, then issuing encrypted instructions and accepting stolen documents. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s lawyers and aides look for ways to undermine the Mueller investigation

The New York Times reports: President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller, who has assembled a team of high-powered prosecutors and agents to examine whether any of Mr. Trump’s advisers aided Russia’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides. Both Mr. Trump and his aides have said publicly they are watching closely to ensure Mr. Mueller’s investigation remains narrowly focused on last year’s election.

During an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he was aware that members of Mr. Mueller’s team had potential conflicts of interest and would make the information available “at some point.” [Continue reading…]

Politico reports: The spokesman for President Donald Trump’s legal team has resigned within two months of being on the job, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mark Corallo, the spokesman, had grown frustrated with the operation and the warring factions and lawyers, these people said. Corallo also was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters, one of these people said.

Corallo has been close to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and has praised him publicly. He didn’t like the strategy to attack his credibility, one person who spoke to him said. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s fury erodes his relationship with Sessions, an early ally

The New York Times reports: President Trump’s staff is used to his complaints about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but the Republican senators who attended a White House dinner on Monday were stunned to hear him criticize the man who was once Mr. Trump’s most loyal supporter in the Senate.

It turned out to be a preview of even more cutting remarks Mr. Trump would make two days later in an interview with The New York Times: an extraordinary public expression of dissatisfaction with one of his top aides based on Mr. Sessions’s decision in March to recuse himself from the expanding federal investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Despite Mr. Trump’s avowal in the interview that he would not have picked Mr. Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself, Mr. Sessions said on Thursday that he intended to serve “as long as that is appropriate.” And a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to moderate her boss’s remarks, telling reporters later, “Clearly, he has confidence in him, or he would not be the attorney general.”

But even if Mr. Sessions remains in his job, the relationship between him and Mr. Trump — the Alabama lawyer and the Queens real estate developer, an odd couple bound by a shared conviction that illegal immigration is destroying America — is unlikely to ever be the same, according to a half-dozen people close to Mr. Trump. And this is not the typical Trump administration feud. [Continue reading…]

David Graham writes: [Trump] expects absolute personal loyalty from his aides, but aides cannot expect that the president will return the favor. Perhaps no humiliation is as great as Sessions—the long-time backer thrown to the wolves in an interview with the press—but Trump has repeatedly undercut other top aides.

For example, Trump has repeatedly made public statements at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s effort to broker a resolution between Qatar and several other Gulf States.

When Trump fired Comey, the administration initially claimed that he had been fired for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey’s approach had been widely criticized as improperly harsh, but Trump had said it was unduly easy, making the excuse nonsensical. Nonetheless, Vice President Pence went out and publicly insisted that Comey was fired because the Justice Department had recommended it in light of the Clinton case. The following day, Trump told Holt that actually he’d decided to fire Comey on his own, because of the Russia case.

After meeting with Putin at the G20, the U.S. and Russia announced the creation of a joint cybersecurity task force. Given Russian interference in the election, the idea was widely mocked—like partnering with Bashar al-Assad to stop chemical weapons, quipped Senator Marco Rubio. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin nonetheless played the good soldier, appearing on ABC’s This Week to defend the idea. That evening, Trump torpedoed the joint push with a tweet.

Trump’s willingness to humiliate his aides seems to connected to the same lack of interest in principle that animates his fury at the ones he believes have betrayed them. Just as he sees no excuse for prioritizing rule of law, longstanding alliances, or treasured norms over personal loyalty to him, his policy positions seem to be grounded not in ideology but in a simple calculus: What’s best for Donald J. Trump? [Continue reading…]

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Rohrabacher staffer removed from House Foreign Affairs Committee job amid Russia questions

The Wall Street Journal reports: A Capitol Hill staffer has been removed from his job on the House Foreign Affairs Committee amid questions about his contacts with pro-Russian operatives and lobbyists.

Paul Behrends, who serves as a top aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), left his job as a staff director on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the committee revealed this week. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Behrends was fired over concerns about his Russia contacts.

Mr. Behrends, who hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, declined to comment.

Mr. Behrends is a former Marine who has worked in politics on and off for decades. He worked for Mr. Rohrabacher as a Capitol Hill staffer in the 1990s before embarking on a career as a lobbyist. During his time in the private sector, he was the chief lobbyist for Blackwater, the military contractor that is now part of Constellis Holdings. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill.

The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened and agreed to allow a hearing on Russia at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness, according to multiple congressional aides.

An email reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that before that June 14 hearing, Rohrabacher’s staff received pro-Kremlin briefings against Browder, once Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and his tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky from a lawyer who was working with Veselnitskaya. [Continue reading…]

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Mueller investigating possible money laundering by Paul Manafort

The Wall Street Journal reports: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as part of his criminal investigation into what U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Kremlin-backed campaign to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The inquiry into the issue by Mr. Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and his team began several weeks ago, this person said. A spokesman for Mr. Manafort, Jason Maloni, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mr. Mueller. [Continue reading…]

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Mueller expands probe to Trump business transactions

Bloomberg reports: The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email. [Continue reading…]

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Exxon sues U.S. over fine levied for Russia deal under Tillerson

Reuters reports: Exxon Mobil Corp sued the U.S. government on Thursday, blasting as “unlawful” and “capricious” a $2 million fine levied against it for a three-year-old oil joint venture with Russia’s Rosneft.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday morning slapped the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer with the fine for “reckless disregard” of U.S. sanctions in dealings with Russia in 2014 when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s chief executive.

The lawsuit and the Treasury’s unusually detailed statement on Exxon’s conduct represented an extraordinary confrontation between a major American company and the U.S. government, made all the more striking because Exxon’s former CEO is now in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

Exxon took the government to court despite the fact that the fine, the maximum allowed, would have a minor impact on the company, which made $7.84 billion in profit last year.

The fine came after a U.S. review of deals Exxon signed with Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, weeks after Washington imposed sanctions on Moscow for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region. [Continue reading…]

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Manafort was in debt to pro-Russia interests, Cyprus records show

The New York Times reports: Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.

The records, which include details for numerous loans, were certified as accurate by an accounting firm as of December 2015, several months before Mr. Manafort joined the Trump campaign, and were filed with Cyprus government authorities in 2016. The notion of indebtedness on the part of Mr. Manafort also aligns with assertions made in a court complaint filed in Virginia in 2015 by the Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, who claimed Mr. Manafort and his partners owed him $19 million related to a failed investment in a Ukrainian cable television business.

After The Times shared some of the documents with representatives of Mr. Manafort, a spokesman, Jason Maloni, did not address whether the debts might have existed at one time. But he maintained that the Cyprus records were “stale and do not purport to reflect any current financial arrangements.”

“Manafort is not indebted to Mr. Deripaska or the Party of Regions, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign,” Mr. Maloni said. “The broader point, which Mr. Manafort has maintained from the beginning, is that he did not collude with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.” (Mr. Manafort resigned as campaign manager last August amid questions about his past work in Ukraine.)

Still, the Cyprus documents offer the most detailed view yet into the murky financial world inhabited by Mr. Manafort in the years before he joined the Trump campaign. [Continue reading…]

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Bill Browder on past dealings with Russian lawyer in Trump Jr. meeting

 

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Trump’s war against ISIS in Syria: Why Putin, Assad, and Iran are winning

Robin Yassin-Kassab writes: In his inaugural address, U.S. President Donald Trump promised to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”

To be fair, he’s had only about six months, but already the project is proving a little more complicated than he hoped. First, ISIS has been putting up a surprisingly hard fight against its myriad enemies (some of whom are also radical Islamic terrorists). The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, has concluded, but at enormous cost to Mosul’s civilians and the Iraqi army. Second, and more importantly, there is no agreement as to what will follow ISIS, particularly in eastern Syria. There, a new great game for post-ISIS control is taking place with increasing violence between the United States and Iran. Russia and a Kurdish-led militia are also key players. If Iran and Russia win out (and at this point they are far more committed than the U.S.), President Bashar al-Assad, whose repression and scorched earth paved the way for the ISIS takeover in the first place, may be handed back the territories he lost, now burnt and depopulated. The Syrian people, who rose in democratic revolution six years ago, are not being consulted.

The battle to drive ISIS from Raqqa—its Syrian stronghold—is underway. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by American advisers, are leading the fight. Civilians are paying the price. United Nations investigators lament a “staggering loss of life” caused by U.S.-led airstrikes on the city.

Though it’s a multiethnic force, the SDF is dominated by the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, whose parent organization is the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States (but of the leftist-nationalist rather than Islamist variety) and is currently at war with Turkey, America’s NATO ally. The United States has nevertheless made the SDF its preferred local partner, supplying weapons and providing air cover, much to the chagrin of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Now add another layer of complexity. Russia also provides air cover to the SDF, not to fight ISIS, but when the mainly Kurdish force is seizing Arab-majority towns from the non-jihadi anti-Assad opposition. The SDF capture of Tel Rifaat and other opposition-held towns in 2016 helped Russia and the Assad regime to impose the final siege on Aleppo.

Eighty percent of Assad’s ground troops encircling Aleppo last December were not Syrian, but Shiite militiamen from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, all armed, funded and trained by Iran. That put the American-backed SDF and Iran in undeclared alliance.

But those who are allies one year may be enemies the next. Emboldened by a series of Russian-granted victories in the west of the country, Iran and Assad are racing east, seeking to dominate the post-ISIS order on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Iran has almost achieved its aim of projecting its influence regionally and globally through a land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In this new context, Assad and his backers are turning on the SDF. On June 18, pro-Assad forces attacked the SDF near Tabqa, west of Raqqa. When a regime warplane joined the attack, American forces shot it down. [Continue reading…]

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Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow

The Washington Post reports: President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.

Just three months ago, after the United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons, Trump launched retaliatory airstrikes against a Syrian air base. At the time, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said that “in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.”

Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin. [Continue reading…]

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Did Trump campaign collude with Russia to defeat Republican opponents in GOP primary?

Ryan Goodman writes: Russia’s election interference began well before the general election. It started during the GOP primaries and clearly in support of Donald Trump over his GOP opponents. Thanks to investigative reporting by the New York Times, we now know, at the very least, the Trump campaign was open to support from the Russian government by early June 2016 when senior campaign members met with Russians purporting to have information from the Kremlin that would harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, discussed timing for implementing Russian support, and failed to report any of this to U.S. authorities. Many have raised the question whether the Trump campaign’s knowledge of Russian government support and these kinds of exchanges began before June 2016. Yet to truly understand the scope of Russian interference in the U.S. election, we must ask a more specific question: did the Trump campaign know about, accept, or work with the Russian government when the Kremlin interfered in the GOP primary?

The publicly available information on this matter should prompt Congress, Robert Mueller, news media, and others to pursue that question with utmost concern. Let’s take a closer look.

I. Russia’s election interference during the Republican primary

Before we explore whether the Trump team was working with Russia during the primaries, it’s worth briefly reviewing the Russian government’s overall involvement in in the 2016 GOP primaries. Russian election interference reportedly took effect during the primaries in an effort to undercut GOP candidates whose positions were hostile to Moscow’s interests and, more specifically, in an effort to boost Donald Trump. The Russian operation included (at least) two prongs: a propaganda effort to spread fake news and cyber operations to steal confidential information.

When exactly did the Russian influence campaign begin? In an interview with Just Security, former FBI special agent Clint Watts explained that the Russian approach to its influence campaign involved an earlier starting point than many assume. [Continue reading…]

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Ian Bremmer talks about Trump’s second, previously undisclosed, meeting with Putin at G-20

 

The New York Times reports: The evening after his two meetings with Mr. Putin — the first lasting 135 minutes and the second an hour — Mr. Trump returned to Washington. On the Air Force One flight back, his top advisers helped draft a statement about a meeting his son Donald Trump Jr. attended last year with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

“We have the worst relationship as a country right now with Russia that we have in decades, and yet we have these two leaders that, for reasons that do not make sense and have not been explained to anyone’s satisfaction, are hellbent on adoring each other,” Mr. Bremmer said. “You can take everything that’s been given to us, and it doesn’t add up.”

On Tuesday, the Kremlin intensified its demands that the Trump administration return two compounds in the United States that the Obama administration seized from Russia last fall in retaliation for the election meddling. After meeting with Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the under secretary of state for political affairs, Sergei A. Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said he had warned the Americans that there must be an “unconditional return” of the property or Moscow would retaliate. [Continue reading…]

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Trump sees truthfulness as his enemy

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal says: Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Denouncing leaks as “fake news” won’t wash as a counter-strategy beyond the President’s base, as Mr. Trump’s latest 36% approval rating shows.

Mr. Trump seems to realize he has a problem because the White House has announced the hiring of white-collar Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to manage its Russia defense. He’ll presumably supersede the White House counsel, whom Mr. Trump ignores, and New York outside counsel Marc Kasowitz, who is out of his political depth.

Mr. Cobb has an opening to change the Trump strategy to one with the best chance of saving his Presidency: radical transparency. Release everything to the public ahead of the inevitable leaks. Mr. Cobb and his team should tell every Trump family member, campaign operative and White House aide to disclose every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations.

That means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years. This should include every relevant part of Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr. Mueller is sure to seek anyway.

Then release it all to the public. Whatever short-term political damage this might cause couldn’t be worse than the death by a thousand cuts of selective leaks, often out of context, from political opponents in Congress or the special counsel’s office. If there really is nothing to the Russia collusion allegations, transparency will prove it. Americans will give Mr. Trump credit for trusting their ability to make a fair judgment. Pre-emptive disclosure is the only chance to contain the political harm from future revelations. [Continue reading…]

It’s nice to believe that the truth will always prevail, but just like every other small-time and big-time crook, Donald Trump has an inflated estimation of his capacity to beat the system.

Apart from the fact that he would regard complete transparency as demeaning, there’s little reason to doubt that Trump’s choice is rational: that the information he continues to conceal, will, if revealed, have a more damaging effect on his presidency than does his unremitting effort to deflect, distract, and obstruct the ongoing investigation.

And as Trump could say: “I didn’t get to where I am today by being honest.”

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