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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Raiding Manafort

I'll soon have more to say about the Orange Oaf's spectacularly stupid handling of the North Korean situation -- although we must note, ominously, that the Oaf's current Twitter picture shows him in conference with FEMA. Heckuva job, Orangey: That's precisely the image likely to calm the nerves of a jittery nation.

Right now, let us note another bit of recent spectacle:
FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.
Additional reporting from the NYT indicates that "Mueller was seeking Manafort's tax documents and foreign banking records." Adam Goldman of the NYT says that it is likely that they are probing a violation of the Banking Secrecy Act. Translation: Money laundering.

We've been told that Manafort has been ever-so-cooperative with the Mueller probe. I guess they had reason to mistrust him. I posit that he said something misleading when he met with the Senate Committee.

Shortly after that raid on July 26, Trump tweeted the following:
Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got....big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!
He had no other pressing reason to be thinking of McCabe at 6:52 A.M. on that particular morning. The raid must have prompted Trump to emit those words. McCabe presumably gave the go-ahead for the pre-dawn operation, so Trump laid the groundwork for a possible retaliatory strike against McCabe.

(Incidentally, Trump's allegation was factually wrong: Clinton had no part in any donations to McCabe's wife. I wonder who helped Trump at that time of morning? It's not as though Trump is capable of doing his own oppo research -- even bad research. Perhaps he has access to a "dirt file" on potential enemies.)

Here's another development that should worry you:
Even as he has publicly criticized the special counsel in charge of the government’s investigation into Russia, President Donald Trump has used his lawyers to send more friendly private messages to the counsel's office, USA Today reported Tuesday.

Trump’s chief counsel John Dowd told the paper that Trump’s team has passed along messages of “appreciation and greetings” to special counsel Robert Mueller. Such overtures are seen as not very common.
Follow-up. While I was writing this post, the WP published an analysis which lists several likely rationales for the raid, including this:
Investigators could use him as leverage. Manafort's role in the Trump campaign isn't the only aspect of his life under federal investigation. The Wall Street Journal has reported the special counsel is investigating him for money laundering allegations. NBC has reported federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage Manafort took out on his home in the Hamptons. And The Post reports that Justice Department officials are also looking into whether he violated any laws by not fully disclosing his work as a foreign agent in Ukraine. (Manafort retroactively filed as one in June, which is how we know how much money he got paid by Ukrainian politicians.)

Much of that is now under Mueller's umbrella. That's significant leverage investigators have on Manafort. If they can't convince Manafort to cooperate on the Russia investigation — and this search warrant is evidence that they feel they couldn't — they could potentially force him to cooperate by threatening him with unrelated legal trouble. (Manafort has not been, nor do we have any indication he will be, charged with a crime.)

Snagging a big fish with an unrelated crime is a common tactic used by investigators, Jacobovitz said.
From another analysis, also published a short while ago in the WP:
Manafort's contemporaneous notes from that meeting, the existence of which The Post previously reported, seem to be one of the few windows we have into what exactly transpired.
Keep in mind that Congress now has copies of those notes.
Also, in a little-noticed report last week, CNN linked Manafort to possible collusion. Here's the paragraph at issue:
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the U.S. officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.
It's not clear that this report, which was anonymously sourced and which The Post hasn't confirmed, has anything to do with the search warrant. But it only adds to the mystery surrounding Manafort.
Comments:
Very good post, Joseph.

Could that be a predawn fragrance of RICO wafting out of the Mueller investigation?

Joseph, you write, “I posit that he said something misleading.” It must be the case.

These guys become accustomed to getting away with so much for so long, thinking that the laws no longer apple to them that they lose touch with reality (really, who do they think they are, Wall Streeters, who really are made of Teflon?). Losing touch includes being ignorant of the great probability the Mueller already knows a lot about their activities and thus knows a lie immediately.

A commenter on TPM referred to Manafort as a frog who’s starting to feel the heat. That’s not an apt comparison. Only humans are capable of submitting to intolerable discomfort and danger under the notion that they are standing up under pressure. It’s actually being in denial. As I wrote there (and sorry for editing and reposting but the point seems good), Actually, frogs know what to do when in a pond of warming water gets a bit too warm: they simply jump out, easy.

With sleazy people like Manafort, Trump and pals, they get into the warm water, it’s fine, now it’s hot. And they seem to like the increasing heat, think they thrive where the heat is; faces turning red, thinking the higher heat is good; starting to sweat, hey opens the pores! Love this fetid cesspool, money and heat go together so good, and I .... uunh... uh oh ...

It's 4:30 in the morning, who is that banging on the door?
 
To prowlerzee.
To prowlerzee, sorry for the delay.
In followup to the Matt Taibbi’s book _Smells Like Dead Elephants_. The chapters are reprinted journalism from Rolling Stone, and the title phrase does not, as far as I can tell (searching in google books) appear in the text of the book. It seems to me that the title is meant to refer to a coming backlash against the GOP due to their terrible job of governing in the Bush-Cheney-DeLay years.

Of course, in a normally functioning political system those years of catastrophe (which began with a group of GOP hacks on the Supreme Court putting a stop to the democratic process, in this case, counting the votes, and installing their guy as “President.”), would have lead to a decades long decline of GOP strength.

But times were not normal, and still aren’t. And it does seem that we have been getting “groomed” for this situation for a long time.
 
To modify your metaphor just a bit: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But the very act of getting out of the kitchen is a confession that you couldn't stand the heat. Thus, if you want to prove that you're the toughest of tough guys, you've got to stay in the kitchen well after any sane person would vacate.

Our entire planet could well be cooked because we are being run by insecure men who want to prove their masculinity.

Another point worth mentioning: Stone and Manafort were partners, and may still be. So whatever takes Manafort down could also take down Stone. Roger Stone strikes me as the kind of tough, tough guy who would sing like Caruso if placed under the right kind of legal pressure.
 
Joseph,

Yes. Must not admit weakness, though no sane person would have gone into that kitchen to begin with. Our overheated planet is very much the subtext or backstory. The game and its rewards seemed worth it to them. It would be something to see getting Stone under oath.

Just a note on being in denial. Not a simple state of avoiding an issue. Being in denial exerts a distorting field throughout the mind, causing strange effects throughout the personality and interactions in the world. Judgement deteriorates, ideas become fixed, mistakes are not corrected but become entrenched.
 
To prowlerzee, sorry for the delay.
In followup to the Matt Taibbi’s book _Smells Like Dead Elephants_. The chapters are reprinted journalism from Rolling Stone, and the title phrase does not, as far as I can tell (searching in google books) appear in the text of the book. It seems to me that the title is meant to refer to a coming backlash against the GOP due to their terrible job of governing in the Bush-Cheney-DeLay years.

Of course, in a normally functioning political system those years of catastrophe (which began with a group of GOP hacks on the Supreme Court putting a stop to the democratic process, in this case, counting the votes, and installing their guy as “President.”), would have lead to a decades long decline of GOP strength.

But times were not normal, and still aren’t. And it does seem that we have been getting “groomed” for this situation for a long time.

 
In order to raid the house, the FBI had to get a search warrant. To get the search warrant the FBI had to submit a probable cause affidavit. Mueller has a reputation as a straight shooter so the probable cause statement was probably quite specific. It must have alleged a crime and probable cause that evidence of that crime existed in the house. Manafort would have been given a copy of the warrant or, if no one was home, it would have been left in the house. There is nothing preventing Manafort from releasing the warrant, but I don't suppose that he will.
 
Glad you invoked Give-'Em-Hell Harry, Joseph. In "The Atomic Cafe", we see Truman as he awaits his cue to announce on to the world over radio, and for the Pathe Newsreels, that the first nuclear weapon had been dropped on Hiroshima. We see President Truman laughing, guffawing no less, just before he delivers his message. Funny stuff.
 
I heard another bit of speculation on the raid, although the speculator said that he did not personally believe it was likely. What if the raid were a ruse to disguise Manafort's total cooperation with the investigation?
 
OT
Spent a bunch ot time on old but always current topic in latest iteration, Damore; so late to news of the day.

Malcolm Nance's Twitter feed was rather strange in the early afternoon Friday regarding Trump pedophilia allegations. Possibly explains now widespread, very distracting war readiness.
 
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