Hope Hicks Abandons Donald Trump

Hope Hicks, the White House Communications Director, was one of Trump’s most trusted advisors, like “family.”  But she got herself into big trouble during congressional testimony the other day when she admitted that she told “white lies” for Trump.  She also refused to say whether a long list of Trump’s family members and close associates also asked her to lie.  In other words, they asked her to lie for them, and she lied for them, but didn’t want to admit it to Congress:

After Hicks provided that answer, [Congressman] Rooney said [Congressman] Swalwell “went through the phone book,” asking Hicks whether a “litany of 50” people, including “the entire Trump family,” had ever asked Hicks to lie. The list of names, both Rooney and Swalwell said, included Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Corey Lewandowski, Michael Cohen and others. Swalwell also asked Hicks whether she heard Mr. Trump ask others to lie for him.

Hicks gave a “blanket” response by declining to answer in each instance, Rooney said . . .

Beyond this latest screw up, Hicks has been in hot water for some time now.  She interviewed with Mueller for two days in December 2017.  Then in January 2018, Trump’s former legal team spokesman Mark Corallo said he thought Hicks was trying to figure out how to obstruct justice by making sure records regarding a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence agents would be destroyed and “never found” by investigators:

Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting . . . “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.

And the comments were not privileged because no lawyers were present during the conversation:

Mr. Corallo . . . told colleagues he was alarmed not only by what Ms. Hicks had said — either she was being naïve or was suggesting that the emails could be withheld from investigators — but also that she had said it in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone and that the conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege.

After the alarming conversation, Corallo then reported the incident to Steve Bannon:

Corallo, who previously served under Attorney General John Ashcroft, reportedly got off the phone, advised Trump to continue the discussion with lawyers present, took notes about the call, and told then-chief strategist Steve Bannon what had happened.

Bannon completely lost his shit in response and blew up at Hicks, which Triggered Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (Fire and Fury, pp. 261-263:

. . . In time, he had come to see the twenty-eight-year-old as nothing more than a hapless presidential enabler and poor-fish Jarvanka flunky – and he believe she had deeply implicated herself in the entire disaster by participating in the Air Force One meeting. The next day, with more inquiries coming from reporters, he confronted Hicks inside the cabinet room, accusing her of doing Jared and Ivanka’s dirty work. The face-off quickly escalated into an existential confrontation between the two sides of the White House – two sides on a total war footing.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” shouted a livid Bannon at Hicks, demanding to know who she worked for, the White House or Jared and Ivanka. “You don’t know how much trouble you are in,” he screamed, telling her that if she didn’t get a lawyer he would call her father and tell him he had better get her one. “You are dumb as a stone!” Moving from the cabinet room across the open area into the President’s earshot, “a loud, scary, clearly threatening” Bannon, in the Jarvanka telling, yelled, “I am going to fuck with your little group!” with a baffled President wanting to know, “What’s going on?”

[. . .]

For Bannon, this was just more Jarvanka desperation – they were the ones, not him, saddled with Comey-Mueller. They were the ones panicking and out of control.

For the rest of his time in the White House, Bannon would not speak to Hicks again.

Bannon saw the writing on the wall and apparently tried to scare some sense into Hicks.  So why would Hicks want to destroy records that could show that Team Trump was coordinating and conspiring with the Russian government to derail Hillary Clinton?  It might have something to do with a major criminal investigation that has already netted a number of indictments and criminal guilty pleas:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe.

President Trump seems to be unable to get away from the original sin of his presidency: his cooperation, coordination, and conspiracy with the Russian government to make hacked Hillary Clinton and DNC emails public and to do it in a way that did maximum political damage to Clinton while providing Trump with maximum political assistance.


Wave of Republican Retirements Grows

We’ve heard recent news that there is a “wave” of Republicans retiring from Congress and refusing to run for reelection in 2018.  In fact, some are calling it a record number of retirements, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a hundred years.  The conventional wisdom is that there is a Democrat “wave” coming in the mid terms and the Republicans would rather go back to the private sector (or wherever) rather than battle it out.

But buried in this news story is the fact that, in addition to low level congress critters, high level and extremely powerful committee chairs (and even the Speaker of the House!!!) are also announcing their retirement at an extraordinary pace.  The committee chairs usually come from safe districts, are very well funded, and stand a very strong chance of winning reelection even in a tough political climate.  So why are 9 of the most powerful politicians in the U.S., including the the person third in line to be president, also retiring and walking away?

It could be the “wave” everyone is talking about.  Or it could be that these more powerful Republicans, who see a lot more information than the low level congress critters, know that there is big trouble brewing for the Republican party in terms of the Mueller investigation.  Could it be that a slew of indictments against the President’s team are coming down such that they will destroy Republican chances of reelection and fundamentally destroy Trump’s presidency?  Could it be that for congressmen like Nunes and Gowdy, two retiring chairmen who were also members of Trump’s political campaign and/or “transition team,” also see that they may personally have some exposure if Trump’s team goes down?

We don’t know, but there is a strong possibility that these retirements are due to something far more interesting than an upcoming “tough election.”

Trump Increases Attacks on FBI

During the last few weeks, Trump and his allies have been increasing their attacks on the FBI.  Besides the absolutely stunning turn of events in which a “conservative” is attacking American law enforcement and siding with the Russian government, there has to be a motive behind the attacks.

We learned today that Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the Mueller investigators very recently.  This is yet another extraordinary step, where a sitting attorney general is interviewed during an active criminal investigation into the president he serves.  This coupled with recent news that Mueller wants to also interview Trump, and somewhat less recent news that Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner hired a crisis management public relations team, suggests that we are nearing the end of the investigation (perhaps a few months away), and that Team Trump is very concerned about unfavorable results.

Logically, you would not interview a senior official like the attorney general or the president or the president’s son in law unless most of your investigation was wrapped up.  You don’t go after the big dogs without first having all of your ducks in a row.

If I had to guess I would say that Jared Kushner is looking at criminal liability, and Eric Trump Jr., may also be looking at criminal charges.  Unclear if this will reach to the President.  If the investigation turns away from alleged campaign improprieties with the Russians (that, while nefarious and unethical, may be difficult to criminally prosecute), and instead turns to money laundering for international organized crime (which is where Trump’s former brain trust Bannon thinks this is going), things will probably look worse for president Trump.

Russian Money Laundering Bank Turns on Kushner

It’s well known that Deutsche Bank moves dirty Russian money around for corrupt Russian officials and gangsters.  A few weeks ago we learned that Mueller’s investigators subpoenaed bank records from Deutsche.  Now we are learning that Deutsche is willing to turn in Kushner’s “suspicious” transactions.

As Bannon said recently, the “Kushner shit is greasy.”


A German bank reportedly has evidence of “suspicious transactions” related to Jared Kushner’s family accounts and is willing to hand the information over to Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller.

The board chairman of the banking giant Deutsche Bank, Paul Achleitner, called for an internal investigation and found troubling results, German business magazine Manager Magazin reported in its print edition released on Friday.

The Kushner Shit Is Greasy

Looks like people are starting to realize that Kushner is just a big fraud and a money launderer.  In other words, he moves money around for criminals and takes a little off the top for his troubles.  He’s going to get caught.  As Steve Bannon said recently, the “Kushner shit is greasy!

Deutsche Bank is looking at evidence that companies related to Jared Kushner may have moved “suspicious” money through the German lender, according to a report.

Trump’s Dirty Money and How It Will Bring Him Down

Imagine you had a lot of money—say billions of dollars of dirty money stolen from businesses, banks or taxpayers. Money that is totally illegal to move around internationally, but is TOO MUCH MONEY to ignore.  How do you clean that money up?

Enter Donald Trump.

Trump had two plans that he repeated over the years to steal money from people. The first one went like this:  Trump would say, people love my brand and trust my name, so much so that they are willing to put up big money for one of my projects because they “trust” that they will get their money back or get the product they are putting the money up for—say a condo or luxury apartment in a high-rise building.

Trump would put his name all over the marketing materials, put a picture of himself with his daughter on the cover of a fancy binder used to sell the product, maybe even put his name on the top of a high-rise building. People would put up big deposits or otherwise invest money.  But oops!! the deal would fall through–and never because it was Trump’s fault of course, and those deposits–sometimes millions of dollars worth, would disappear.  Never into Donald’s pocket though, of course.

If you want an example of this, see Trump’s Baja California condo scam.

But that’s small potatoes.  The big money for Trump–the billions–came from helping people with lots of dirty money take that money, like money stolen from Russian oil companies or Georgian banks, and make it “clean.”  In exchange for a fee, of course.

Here’s how it worked: the people with the dirty money would come in, “invest it” in a project that of course had Trump’s name all of over it, so it could be trusted as totally legitimate.  The money, however, would all get funneled through the project and back into the scammer’s own pockets as “profits” from the construction.  Trump, meanwhile, would get a 12% cut just for letting them use his name and his reputation as a way to sell it.  In exchange, Trump would never ask a question about where that money came from.

The project would then fail, either before it got started or after it was built.  But by that time it wouldn’t matter, because all of the real money would have been “cleaned” through the project and Trump would have been paid.  In fact, that would be the real point, to clean the money, not to build an actual successful project.

This type of repeated business of failure wasn’t just “bad luck” or “bad business.”  The failure was intended all along because nobody investigates failure.  And Trump’s construction projects and construction licensing deals repeatedly failed. But of course, Trump still made money off the deals.  They didn’t fail because they sucked (perhaps some did), they instead purposely and intentionally failed because people never look closely into a failed project.  That makes a failed project a perfect cover for laundering money, committing fraud, making “dirty” money into “clean” money, or using the project as a fake failure to shield illegal acts.  Nobody would bother to look at a failed business.

So now let’s say you are a foreign government and you are looking for dirt on Trump either because he’s running for president or just because you always keep track of the big shots who do business in and around your country.  Trump would have qualified as far back as the 1980s.

And let’s say now that you discovered a deal (or several) where someone was taking money stolen from a bank or secretly taking money from a bank they work for as an executive and investing it in their own personal side business in order to put the money in their own pocket.  And let’s say you figured out that person wanted in on the Trump money laundering train in order to “clean” the “dirty” money.

And now you, as the foreign government, discover and get all the evidence to prove the following: A man came up with a big fancy building in a former soviet country like Georgia, even though nobody in Georgia wanted to buy units in a big fancy building. But who cares, the point was to use the project as a shell to cover up the “cleaning” of “dirty” money.  The guy brought in Trump to slap his name on it, and take 12% of the money.  Meanwhile, with Trump’s protection making it look like “legitimate business” the guy ran the rest of the money through the project to make the “dirty money” into “clean” money.

The deal, however, fell through after Trump got elected and then had to pull out of the deal because the spotlight was too bright.  But in the years before that, while the deal was moving forward, all of the documentation on the deal got into the hands of the foreign government, who went over all of it and figured out the entire scam and how Trump would directly profit from it and participated in financial crimes.

Now say that foreign government was actually the Russian government.

If you are the Russian government, you use that information to put pressure on Trump to do the things you want him to do.  Imagine you have information on multiple projects that were only shell projects with Trump’s name on them with the only purpose of “cleaning” money that is “dirty.”  It not only would make Trump look bad, but it would be clear undisputed evidence of financial crimes by Trump that could send him to jail.

If that sounds too crazy of a story, it’s not.  It’s a true story.

And this is where the Mueller investigation is going—into all of the shady deals Trump did, all of the dirty money Trump made clean, all of the fraud Trump covered up or participated in. You might ask yourself, what does that have to do with Trump being president?

It has to do with the fact that the information can be used against him.  Either to make him do stuff or pressure him not to do stuff…. “If you do X, we’ll release documents showing how you committed fraud and will go to jail.”

Russia knows about a lot of Trump’s illegal scams and has all the evidence to bury Trump.  And Russia is using that evidence to try to force Trump to do things that help Russia.  Why turn someone in when you can blackmail them instead and get even better things from it?

This would not only be grounds for locking Trump up, it would be grounds for impeachment–a president doing something for a foreign government that is extorting him and paying him at the same time wouldn’t make it.

It’s all about the money.


Now That Michael Flynn Pled Guilty, What’s next for Donald Trump?

Now that Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn has pled guilty to a felony, people are wondering what it means.

The big ticket conversation item right now is that Trump tried to influence a foreign government before he took office and was a private citizen.  This would be a violation of the Logan Act.  The Logan Act, however, is a 200 year old criminal law and has never been used to prosecute or convict anyone in its entire history.  In fact only two people have even seen charges under the Logan Act, and neither were convicted.

So if the fact that Trump was conspiring with Flynn and others to influence Russia to take certain foreign policy actions before the election is not enough to go the distance, what else is there?

The second, stronger, but still fairly weak theory is that Trump and his team conspired with the Russian government to steal electronic data from Democrats.  This would be a computer crime.  But the record indicates that Trump and his flunkies only made contact with the Russians on this specific topic after the data was already stolen.  So without more information, it does not look like Trump asked Russia to steal the data (before the fact) or planned or conspired to steal it.

A sub-category of potential crimes in this area is a violation of campaign finance law.  It is illegal for a U.S. political candidate to take something of value from a foreign government during a campaign.  Something of value usually equates to campaign money or other assistance.  There’s evidence that Russia spent a lot of money on social media ads that directly benefited Trump.  There was also the famous meeting between one of Putin’s lawyers and Trump’s top campaign officials in Trump Tower.  And of course, Trump’s campaign directly benefited from all of the leaked Democrat emails.  So this could go somewhere, but the question would be how much involvement did Trump’s team have with the actions of the Russians?

Trump’s obvious defense would be, “I can’t tell the Russians how to spend their money, that’s up to them and I didn’t tell them how to do it during the campaign.”  There is some evidence suggesting he did try to tell the Russians how to help him during the campaign, but proving it beyond a reasonable doubt to get a criminal conviction, with what we know right now, would be difficult.

The third option goes back to Paul Manafort, who was indicted for, essentially, corruption and fraud by taking millions from a foreign government and laundering the money and taking a cut.  This could be why Trump has absolutely refused to release his tax returns–because they could show that he is on Russia’s payroll.  If it is the case that Trump was also on the take, and worked with Paul to take millions from the Russians in exchange for influence and favorable policy decisions, this would be a very serious criminal case of corruption, fraud, money laundering, and perhaps even treason against the president.

The third option would also go far to explain why Flynn, and Papadopoulos before him, intentionally lied to the FBI–a felony–about the campaign’s contacts with the Russians.  If Flynn and Papadopoulos knew that Trump and his team were taking millions from the Russians in exchange for helping the Russians (and it looks like Flynn was also taking money from the Russians), then any action taken on behalf or in coordination with Russia is clear evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing.  And the FBI would be the last people you would want to talk to about that.

If, on the other hand, we were still discussing potential Logan Act violations, it seems like the Trump Team, given their willingness to be loud mouths, would have basically said, “Yeah so what we talked to the Russians, we were about to take over the White House and we didn’t want Obama’s stupid decisions to get us off to a bad start.  So of course we talked to the Russians during the transition.  Of course we were talking to them a few weeks before we took office.  We were going to be in charge, so why wouldn’t we do that?”

This is probably why the Logan Act, while still good law, has never been effectively used in over 200 years and is doubtful to be the main dish in the Mueller investigation.  It’s all about the money at this point.