Day 505


(Matt Kiser) #1

Updated 6/8/2018 8:51 AM PDT

1/ The Trump administration will not defend the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate against a legal challenge to its constitutionality brought by Texas and 19 other states. The Justice Department said the ACA provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance has become unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012 as the government's power to tax. The Justice Department argues that since Congress repealed the tax last year, the mandate and the law's consumer protections are longer justified. California and 15 other states have filed a brief defending the law and its consumer protections. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Axios)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com/2018/06/08/day-505/

(Matt Kiser) #2

Curt Weldon, a Republican and former Pennsylvania congressman, lost his reelection campaign more than a decade ago following an FBI probe into his ties to two Russian companies. He has “connections to both Russia and the Trump campaign” that are raising suspicions among senators, a spokeswoman for Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said. Feinstein is the committee’s ranking member, and wants to interview Weldon, the spokeswoman said.

The reasons for the committee’s interest in Weldon are murky, but his ties to Russia are significant. Members of Congress believe, for example, that Weldon may lead to answers about why the Trump administration sought to lift sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the 2016 election despite a public statement by intelligence agencies that the Kremlin tried to help Trump win. Weldon may also have information about the role a Russian oligarch may have played in trying to influence the Trump administration—though Weldon denied this when I asked him about it.

Additionally, Weldon appears to have knowledge of a key instance in which a foreign national sought to influence the president through one of his closest advisers—a central theme of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s election interference.

At issue is the question of whether the president and his associates have sought to trade favors with foreign entities for personal gain. Mueller has been investigating, for example, whether Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, tried to use his position to repay old debts to a Russian oligarch, and whether Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have influenced Trump’s foreign-policy decisions based on their business interests. Mueller is also investigating foreign-linked donors to Trump’s inauguration fund.


(Matt Kiser) #3

The special counsel’s accusation this week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, tried to tamper with potential witnesses originated with two veteran journalists who turned on Mr. Manafort after working closely with him to prop up the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, interviews and documents show.

The two journalists, who helped lead a project to which prosecutors say Mr. Manafort funneled more than $2 million from overseas accounts, are the latest in a series of onetime Manafort business partners who have provided damaging evidence to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Their cooperation with the government has increasingly isolated Mr. Manafort as he awaits trial on charges of violating financial, tax and federal lobbying disclosure laws.

Prosecutors assert that Mr. Manafort’s fight included trying to shape the accounts that former business partners offered prosecutors. In court filings this week, they said that starting in late February, Mr. Manafort repeatedly tried to reach the two journalists — with whom he had fallen out of contact until recently — to coordinate their accounts about their work to tamp down international criticism of Mr. Yanukovych for corruption, persecuting rivals and pivoting toward Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. The prosecutors did not name the journalists, but three people familiar with the project identified them as Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager.


  • Alleged attempts by Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign, to tamper with witness testimony may indicate Manafort was trying to evade a separate charge accusing him of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
  • Experts say witness tampering, particularly by someone in Manafort’s position, is highly unusual and risky.
  • Manafort’s alleged activities suggest he is resorting to any methods available to try and avoid pleading guilty to other charges brought against him.

President Donald Trump on Friday declined to rule out the possibility that he could pardon his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

The President also reiterated his belief that he has the power to pardon himself, though he again said he would not do so.
‪"I haven’t even thought about it," Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn, referring to Manafort and Cohen. “I haven’t thought about any of it. It’s certainly far too early to be thinking about that.”
He added, "They haven’t been convicted of anything. There’s nothing to pardon."


#4

From Vox:

Texas is arguing that the individual mandate is so central to Obamacare that, if it is unconstitutional, then the rest of the law is too. Courts usually decide that question by looking at Congress’s intent — and that’s where the conservative case falls apart.

It is actually quite simple, legal scholars say: Congress passed a law, the tax legislation, repealing the individual mandate and leaving the insurance protections in place. So, clearly, Congress intended in the tax bill to eliminate the mandate penalty while keeping the ACA’s insurance reforms. That is exactly what the tax law they just passed does.


#5

Democrats request the FBI open a criminal investigation into Scott Pruitt. I hope they do.

A group of House Democrats have requested that the FBI and Department of Justice launch a criminal investigation into embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.


#6

New charges against Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort. :nerd_face:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office obtained a new indictment Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, adding a pair of charges that he and a longtime aide alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, obstructed justice by attempting to tamper with witnesses.

The new charges — the first public ones against Kilimnik — track with allegations Mueller’s team leveled earlier this week that Manafort and an associate tried to influence the testimony of two men involved in a public relations campaign several years ago to buff up the image of Ukraine and its president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.

https://www.justice.gov/file/1070326/download


#7

@Pet_Proletariat Go Mueller!

Brief Kilimnik FAQ

Q. Kilimnik is a citizen of what country?
A. Russia.

Q. Where does Kilimnik live?
A. Russia.

Q. Where did Kilimnik study?
A. Russian spy school.

Q. What does the FBI say about Kilimnik’s ties to Russian intelligence services?
A. Most recent documented ties are in 2016.

“No collusion” my ass. (Please excuse my French – I just can’t help it.)

For more on Kilimnik, see:
Day 502 @Keaton_James
Day 504 @SEPTGUY
Op-Eds @Keaton_James


#8

@Pet_Proletariat The piece on the new indictment of Kilimnik that you posted represents a huge development in the investigation and excellent reporting from Politico.

I do take exception, not with Politico, but with one of the sources they quote.

A source familiar with the case called the indictment “brutal” for Manafort.

“Paul’s problem is he doesn’t actually have anything to trade,” the source added. “Cooperating isn’t an option because he really didn’t collude with the Russians at the Trump campaign’s request.”

I’m skeptical of the source’s statement that Trump’s campaign did not request collusion. They certainly seem capable of making such a request – we know Donald Trump Jr. was actively colluding (Trump Tower meeting). And even if they didn’t request the collusion, they may have helped coordinate it. And even if they didn’t coordinate it and simply knew about it and covered it up, then that is a crime. So I feel Manafort must actually have vital information about collusion that he could trade in a plea deal. I want to see that scumbag in prison, but if giving him a lighter sentence is the price to pay for uncovering the truth about Trump’s involvement, then (in my opinion) so be it.


#9

I didn’t know you spoke French!


#10

While not impossible, it would be very surprising to find out all these crimes are unrelated. It was Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover up, not the actual crime that took him down. It’s super suspicious to say the least. Mueller should just keep squeezing. :smirk:


#11

Wow – just, wow. Fantastic reporting by Natasha Bertrand – she’s also very impressive as a regular guest on Rachel Maddow’s show.

Things are breaking so fast, it’s hard to keep up. The dots connected here are astounding:

  • Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg -->
  • His company, Renova -->
  • $500,000 in payments to Cohen -->
  • Slush fund to promote Cohen’s plan to lift sanctions on Russia that would benefit -->
  • Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg

And we’ve come full circle!

To be sure, these are currently “connected dots,” not a case being argued in court by one of Mueller’s prosecutors, but time will tell. And to think that a former Congressman, Curt Weldon, may have known all about this – we shall see.


(Matt Kiser) #12

Nice job closing the loop on this!


(nina) #13

Glad Mueller slapped another indictment on Person A, Kilimnik today.

Here is a basic chart laying out who’s been indicted and for what. Aside from Obstruction, am seeing the word Conspiracy and not the world Collusion for what the indictments are for.

Another banner day for Manafort by keeping the indictments coming.


#14

Here’s McCain’s succinct tongue lashing in full:

Vladimir Putin chose to make Russia unworthy of membership in the G-8 by invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Nothing he has done since then has changed that most obvious fact. Every day, Russian-led separatist forces are killing Ukrainians in the Donbass. Every day, Putin’s forces are helping the Assad regime slaughter the Syrian people. And every day, through assassinations, cyber-attacks, and malign influence, Russia is assaulting democratic institutions all over the world.

The President has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies. Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt. This is the antithesis of so-called ‘principled realism’ and a sure path to diminishing America’s leadership in the world.

Well put, John. And then, of course, this shutdown from the Brits is not surprising, but is still sad and disturbing:

How can this possibly be a good thing? What’s next? War with Canada?


#15

Aaannnd, John Kelly’s phone was hacked during the transition. Connecting to an unsecured WiFi network is never a good idea.

Which confirms this story :point_down: from last year


(nina) #16

Swiss cheese barrier I’d say - keeping hackers away from personal phones. What a joke.


#17

What’s the Weldon connection?


#18

@SEPTGUY
What’s the Weldon connection?

According to Natasha Bertrand’s reporting, former Congressman Curt Weldon is involved due to his knowledge of (or even participation in) the “loop of connected dots” outlined in my previous post. Since I’ll be referring to those dots, I’ll repeat them here:

  • Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg -->
  • His company, Renova -->
  • $500,000 in payments to Cohen -->
  • Slush fund to promote Cohen’s plan to lift sanctions on Russia that would benefit -->
  • Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg

Before discussing Weldon’s involvement, we need to introduce another character in this motley crew: Andrii Artemenko, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament. He’s the guy, along with Cohen (Trump’s lawyer), and Felix Sater (convicted felon and Trump associate) who hatched the plan to lift sanctions which were imposed on Russia after they annexed Crimea. This plan is of great interest to Mueller since it may represent a quid pro quo between Putin and Trump. (“I’ll help you win the election, Donald, but then you’re going to lift sanctions on my companies.”)

Here’s where Weldon comes in: he’s a long-time acquaintance of Artemenko. One of Bertrand’s sources says that Weldon claimed he and Artemenko had secured financial backing for the promotion of Artemenko’s plan from “Viktor Vekselberg’s fund in New York City.” And the source further identified this fund as Columbus Nova which is a subsidiary of Vekselberg’s Russian company, Renova. So if this source can be believed, Weldon, at the very least, had knowledge of a plot to secretly use funds funneled from Russian to New York to lobby in the U.S. (a crime) and he may have even actively participated in this crime. Further, there’s the question of the possible quid pro quo between Putin and Trump – we don’t know what Weldon may have known about that. (I’m paraphrasing here, so you may want to refer to the article for the exact quotations and additional details.)

Bertrand’s source is backed up by more recent reporting. Here’s more from the article:

Columbus Nova gave more than $500,000 to Cohen’s LLC, Essential Consultants, over a seven-month period in 2017. Weldon’s alleged reference to Columbus Nova, and his comment about Vekselberg’s role in funding the plan’s promotion, renews questions about what that $500,000 was actually for.

So now we can look again at the “connected dots” above. In the second dot, recall that Vekselberg’s Russian company, Renova, owns Columbus Nova in New York which made the payments to Cohen. Weldon appears to have strong connections to dots three and four – either because he knew about the movement of these payments or he actually helped facilitate them.


#19

@Keaton_James Well done, excellent posting, I award you three :male_detective:️‍♂️:male_detective:️‍♂️:male_detective:️‍♂️! Have you considered creating a curated character thread? Like profiles and known connections. Title: Team Crime


(nina) #20

Super clear…thanks for clearly connecting the dots here @Keaton_James

Well done incorporating the players, motives, cash and quid pro quos in this murky mess. :mortar_board: