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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of April 15 – 21, 2018

Mueller Investigation

At a hearing on Thursday, prosecutors revealed that the DOJ believes Manafort served as a “back channel” between the Trump campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election.

Trump asked a judge to block prosecutors from reviewing materials seized from Michael Cohen until after he had a chance to determine which documents needed to be withheld due to attorney-client privilege. Judge Kimba Wood of federal District Court in Manhattan denied his request.

Trump and Cohen are also asking Judge Kimba Wood to appoint a ‘Special Master’ to review the materials, separate from prosecutors and FBI agents, and determine which – if any – are protected by attorney-client privilege. This matter has not yet been decided (and might not until late May), but each side has submitted names of those who they’d prefer to take on the role.

  • Cohen and Trump have suggested: Bart Schwartz, former assistant U.S. attorney for Rudy Giuliani, and three candidates that are partners in New York law firms – Joan McPhee, Tai Park, and George Canellos.
  • Prosecutors have suggested three retired judges from the Southern District of New York.

At the same hearing, Judge Wood forced Michael Cohen’s lawyer to reveal the identity Cohen’s third client (other than Trump and Elliott Broidy), who “was desperate to remain anonymous”: Sean Hannity.

  • Hannity has spent hours railing against the FBI and federal prosecutors for the raid on Michael Cohen, never telling viewers – or his employers – of his connection to Cohen. Fox News, for their part, said they were “surprised” by the announcement but still give their “full support” to Hannity.
  • Hannity has minimized his relationship to Cohen, tweeting: “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any manner.”
  • Later, Hannity added that he used Cohen for his real estate knowledge.The Guardian investigated and uncovered thousands of pages of public records that link Hannity “to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade.” Additionally, Hannity “amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development (Hud), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson.”

Michael Cohen has dropped libel lawsuits against Fusion GPS and Buzzfeed over the creation and publishing of the Steele dossier, respectively.

  • This move “could help Cohen avoid being questioned by lawyers from Fusion GPS or having to turn over evidence related to the case — both steps that could undercut his defense in the criminal probe.”

Not only is Stormy Daniels’ current lawyer cooperating with the federal probe into Michael Cohen and the payments to silence women Trump slept with, her former lawyer is cooperating too. This is important because this man, Keith Davidson, is accused of working with Cohen behind his client’s back to essentially silence them.

  • Davidson negotiated a confidentiality agreement with Cohen in October 2016 on behalf of Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, for which she was paid $130,000. Davidson also represented McDougal, a Playboy model, in an agreement she reached with the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, for her story.

After pressuring the DOJ to release Comey’s memos, including threatening to subpoena and even impeach Rod Rosenstein (e.g. Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan), the DOJ suddenly turned the memos over to Congress Thursday night. Hours later, the memos leaked to the press.

  • If the GOP expected these memos to destroy Comey’s credibility, it seems their release has done the opposite: the memos match Comey’s claims. The other reason the GOP wanted these memos released could have been to further their allegations that Comey leaked classified information when sharing these memos with Professor Daniel Richman. Richman was acting as Comey’s lawyer at the time. Comey shared four memos with him – one was classified, but Comey redacted any confidential information. The other three were not classified at the time, but were classified after Comey had provided them to Richman.
  • Here are some summaries. The following are a few takeaways from the memos:
    • Trump seemed preoccupied with Steele dossier, at least twice trying to convince Comey that he did not stay overnight in Moscow in 2013, despite the fact that Schiller testified that he did.
    • In a February 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Comey the “hooker’s thing” was nonsense, but added that Putin told him [Trump] “we [Russia] have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”
    • Comey explained to Trump that portions of the Steele Dossier had been corroborated by other intelligence.
    • Trump told Comey in March 2017 that he would personally sue Christopher Steele and that “the cloud” around Russia kept the House from passing AHCA in March.
    • Trump made multiple mentions of reporters going to jail over leaked information. In one instance, Trump told Comey “we need to go after the reporters” after leaks of transcripts of calls with foreign leaders.
    • Comey recounts an instance when Trump was very upset with then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for a delay in informing him of a congratulatory phone call from Putin. Trump learned of it six days after the fact, which was too long in his opinion. This prompted Trump to tell Comey that “they guy has serious judgement issues.”

Rudy Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team. Reportedly, his role is to “quickly resolve” Mueller’s investigation. He also added a husband-wife legal team, former federal prosecutors Jane and Marty Raskin.

  • Giuliani once made a comment during an Oct. 26, 2016, Fox News interview that implied he had insider knowledge about the federal probe into Clinton’s use of a personal email server as secretary of State. Two days later, Comey announced the FBI had resumed its investigation into Clinton’s emails – leading Comey to direct the FBI to ;launch an inquiry into whether Giuliani was tipped off. This could cause problems as Giuliani tries to negotiate with the FBI.
  • Jane and Marty Raskin’s website “highlights ‘significant experience’ handling search warrants and touts its work in litigating the return of thousands of pages of documents protected by attorney-client privilege to a national law firm.”

Russian Interference

The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

Trump changed his mind about implementing new sanctions against Russia, but did not tell UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Instead, he told Putin and the Russians. As a result, the next day Nikki Haley announced the sanctions that weren’t going to happen on live tv. The White House initially blamed Haley for ‘being confused’, but eventually were forced to admit that she was not informed of the change.

  • Russian stocks trading in the U.S. and the ruble jumped after the report that President Donald Trump would not extend further economic sanctions on Russia.

Russia claimed that it told the U.S. where it could not bomb during airstrikes in Syria last week.

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated, “They were informed about where our red lines are, including red lines on the ground, geographically. And the results show that they did not cross these red lines.”
  • The U.S. fired 66 Tomahawks in the airstrikes. Each Tomahawk missile costs $1.4 million, meaning U.S. taxpayers paid $92.4 million for those missiles alone (about 105 missiles were launched total).
  • Israeli officials allegedly characterize the Syrian strikes as a failure, saying “it’s doubtful” that Assad’s ability to launch chemical weapons has been paralyzed or that he’s been deterred from future use. Further, “the Israeli officials seemed to take issue with Trump’s talking about plans to strike before doing so.”

Russian investigative journalist Maksim Borodin died after “falling” from the 5th floor balcony of his apartment in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Borodin had been investigating the activities of Wagner, a shadowy private military firm that deploys mercenaries in Syria. He confirmed the deaths of Russian mercenaries in an attack on a base held by US-led troops in the war-torn country.

A top U.S. counterintelligence officials said he knows “there are still a handful” of Russian intelligence officers operating undercover on U.S. soil.


New York state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would change the state’s criminal laws so that potential pardons by President Trump wouldn’t necessarily protect people from being charged in the state system. New York Attorney General stated that this act would close a loophole, writing:

  • “…if a federal defendant pleads guilty to a federal crime, or if a jury is sworn in a federal criminal trial against that defendant, and then the president pardons that individual, this New York statute could be invoked to argue that a subsequent state prosecution is barred.”

In recent days, Trump has reportedly been complaining to several aides that James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Hillary Clinton should be “charged with crimes for misdeeds alleged by Republicans.” Trump has also complained that Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch has proven to be too liberal, particularly in response to his vote against the Trump administration on an immigration case.

It has been revealed that the Trump campaign is paying the lawyers of his former bodyguard Keith Schiller. This is important because Schiller has been Trump’s only alibi for the hookers incident in Moscow 2013, stating that Trump turned down the offer. Paying your alibi, essentially, could be seen as a way to keep him under thumb, so that his story doesn’t change.

To note…

Jared Kushner’s family real estate company received a federal grand-jury subpoena over tenant records. This comes after the Associated Press reported the company filed documents that said it had zero rent-regulated tenants, when in fact it had hundreds. This omission “relieved them of certain rules governing developers.” The Attorney General and New York City Council are also looking into the matter. Kushner blames the mistakes on a third party that did the paperwork.