Posts tagged with "Paul Manafort"

Giuliani: ‘I never said there was no collusion’

January 18, 2019

And now, from the same man who told Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” that “The truth isn’t the truth” last August comes a new pronouncement.

Referring to the Russia probe, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on January 16, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign.”

He added, “I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.”

Indeed, according to CNN, “It’s another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

The cable news network noted, “A person familiar with the matter told CNN last week that [Paul] Manafort, while serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, tried to send internal polling data from the Trump campaign [to] two Kremlin-supporting Ukrainian oligarchs through his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who is linked to Russian intelligence.

When Cuomo asked whether the sharing of this data by Manafort constituted collusion, Giuliani said Trump never shared the polling data himself and only found out about it recently in the news.

“Donald Trump wasn’t giving polling data to anyone,” Giuliani said, adding, “he did not know about it until it was revealed a few weeks ago in an article.”

Giuliani attempted Thursday morning to clean up his remarks, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that he did not intend to send any new signals regarding the Trump legal team’s understanding of the investigation.

“The President did not himself, nor does he have any knowledge of collusion with Russians. If anyone was doing that, he is unaware of it and so am I,” Giuliani said. “But neither he nor I can possibly know what everyone on the campaign was doing.”

Giuliani said collusion is not a crime and the term is now being used broadly to describe contact with Russians.

“I can’t possibly say no one had contact about something or in some way,” he said.

Research contact: @caroline_mkelly

Feds look at Trump inaugural fund and super PAC for illegal foreign donations

December 17, 2018

When President Donald Trump was sworn in on January 22, 2017, his first instinct was to place his right hand on his own book, The Art of the Deal, rather than the Bible. Looking back, some might say that the how-to book would have been the better choice, in light of the financial machinations that allegedly took place leading up to that day.

Federal prosecutors in New York now are investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and to a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of “buying influence” in the administration, The New York Times reports.

That would pose a big problem for the White House, because U.S. law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds.

The inquiry has focused in on money emanating from nations in the Middle East—including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors are interested in finding out if entities from those nations used “straw donors” to disguise their donations to the two funds.

Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and a longtime associate of Trump’s, raised money for both funds—but his spokesperson, Owen Blicksilver, told the news outlet, “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to … the campaign, the inauguration, or any such political activity.”

The super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was formed in June 2016—during a period when the Trump presidential campaign reportedly was short of cash and out of favor with Republican donors. While Trump was adamant that he could finance his own campaign, he refused to dig too deeply into his own pockets.

According to several Times sources, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time, suggested that Barrack step in to raise funds for the PAC, which could collect unlimited amounts of money as long as it avoided coordinating closely with the candidate.

However, in an interview with investigators a year ago, the Times said, Barrack commented that Manafort seemed to view the political committee as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent such coordination, according to a person familiar with the interview.

In fact, Manafort asked two campaign aides, Laurance Gay and Ken McKay, to help run the operation. A press officer said at the time that the committee violated no rules because the campaign never paid the two men. Neither man returned repeated phone calls from the Times seeking comment.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the committee raised $23 million and provided funds for Trump advertisements, polls, and other political expenditures. While most of the money came from U.S. donors, prosecutors have asked witnesses whether anyone from the Middle East also contributed to the kitty, perhaps using American intermediaries to cover the transactions.

After the election, the Trump campaign had money rolling in, raising an astounding $107 million for the inauguration—four times as much as the pro-Trump PAC and twice as much as the amount raised for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Today, the question remains, how was that money used for Trump’s much smaller-scale inaugural event—and what happened to any unspent dollars?

Last week, for the first time, Ivanka Trump became publicly involved in the POTUS’s election probe.  According to reports by Newsweek and ProPublica, she hiked the rates for the meeting rooms and the ballrooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC specifically during the days that visitors to the inauguration would be in the city. Any extra profits would have gone straight to the Trump Organization.

The inaugural committee complied with all laws and “has not been contacted by any prosecutors,” Blicksilver, who is also a spokesman for the fund, told The New York Times. Its finances “were fully audited internally and independently,” and donors were fully vetted and disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, as required, he said.

That remains to be seen. If there has been an audit, there is no external evidence of it. Although many news outlets, including the Times, have requested a copy of the financial analysis, none has been made available.

However, prosecutors certainly would be able to obtain those documents, if they exist.

Research contact: @nytimes

CNN poll: 50% of Americans think probe will implicate the president

December 12, 2018

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election focuses in on the denizens of the White House, approval of the president’s conduct has dwindled—matching its all-time low in CNN polling, the cable news network reported on December 11.

In the new poll, Trump’s approval rating for handling the Russia investigation has dipped to 29%, matching a low previously hit in June of this year.

The findings, from a poll fielded on behalf of CNN by SSRS, come as half of Americans say they think it is likely that the Mueller investigation will implicate the president in wrongdoing.

The survey was conducted December 6-9—at a time when court filings in cases against Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen revealed the alleged lies that Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and former personal lawyer, respectively, told either publicly or to the special counsel’s investigators.

President Trump claimed last weekend that the filings by the SCO and the federal court in the Southern District of New York cleared him of any wrongdoing and called for the investigation to end, CNBC reports.

However, the news outlet says, the Cohen filing implicates Trump in the scheme to pay off at least two women who alleged they had had affairs with Trump in order to keep them silent during the campaign; and the Manafort filing suggests the former campaign chair continued to lie about his contacts with the White House this year.

Interestingly enough, Mueller’s approval rating also is down in the poll: 43% approve and 40% disapprove. That compares to a 48% approve to 36% disapprove split in early October. The dip in Mueller’s numbers comes almost entirely among Independents, among whom approval has fallen 10 points to 36%. Among partisans on both sides, Mueller’s approval holds about even with where it was in an October survey: 71% of Democrats approve as do 21% of Republicans.

Trump’s approval rating drop, however, comes among his own partisans as well as among independents. Among Republicans, 51% approve of Trump’s handling of the investigation, a new low by one point, while among independents, 26% approve, also a new low. Just 15% of Democrats approve of the president’s handling of the investigation, up from October but about on par with the level who felt that way earlier this year.

Overall, a majority (54%) continue to say that most of the things Trump has said publicly about the Russia investigation are false, while just over one-third say they are mostly true (36%). That’s largely unchanged since August.

There has also been no meaningful change on whether the investigation itself is a serious matter or mainly an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency: 59% say it’s a serious matter, 35% an effort to discredit Trump.

Half of Americans think it is very or somewhat likely that the Mueller investigation will implicate Trump personally in wrongdoing. That figure is higher among Democrats (78% say it’s likely), but still, nearly a quarter of Republicans think Trump is likely to be personally implicated (23%) as do about half of independents (47%). Aside from partisanship there’s a stark divide here by education among whites, with 58% of whites with college degrees saying they think Trump is likely to be implicated vs. 43% of whites without degrees.

Looking at Michael Cohen’s recent revelation that work continued on a potential project in Russia during the 2016 campaign, 44% believe Trump acted unethically in considering projects in Russia during the campaign, 26% say it was unwise but not unethical, and 23% say there was nothing wrong with Trump’s action.

Trump’s overall approval rating for handling the presidency matches its pre-election level just about exactly, 39% approve and 52% disapprove. Trump’s favorability rating is also steady at 40% favorable to 55% unfavorable.

Research contact: @jennagiesta

Paul Manafort will cooperate with Mueller probe

September 17, 2018

Paul Manafort—who held out far longer than most Trump confidantes who’d been caught in the high beams of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation—flipped on Friday, September 14.

The POTUS’s  former campaign chairman pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann called Manafort’s plea deal a cooperation agreement during an 11 a.m. hearing at the federal courthouse in Washington, NBC News reported.

A charging document filed Friday in the District of Columbia accuses Manafort, 69, of participating in a conspiracy against the United States—involving, the network news outlet said, money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice.

The second charge, conspiracy to obstruct justice, is tied to his efforts to guide witness testimony after he was indicted last year.

President Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had dangled a pardon for Manafort, provided that he remained “loyal” to the administration. In August, Trump praised Manafort for having “refused to break” in order to get a deal, and said he had “such respect for a brave man.”

Reacting to Friday’s guilty plea, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated.”

Giuliani commented, as he has for weeks, … “The President did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

Giuliani later amended the statement to omit “and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

Earlier this week, NBC News said, Giuliani told reporters that Manafort and President Trump had a joint defense agreement, meaning defense attorneys for the two men were sharing confidential information. He said he was unconcerned about a potential plea because Manafort had nothing damaging to say about Trump.

As part of the plea, Manafort will be required to admit to the conduct outlined in the charging document, which describes a criminal scheme to launder money, defraud banks, evade taxes and violate lobbying laws. The document describes the conduct Manafort was charged with in both Virginia and Washington and additional criminal conduct.

With his guilty plea, the network’s report said, Manafort will forfeit three properties in New York—his home in the Hamptons, a property in Manhattan on Howard Street, and a property in Brooklyn—as well as a property on Edgewood Street in Arlington, Virginia, according to the filing.

In addition, Manafort forfeits all funds contained in four bank accounts, as well as a life insurance policy.

Research contact: @Tom_Winter

Mueller rejects Manafort plea deal before second trial

August 29, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort tried to make a deal with the Special Counsel ahead of his second trial in Washington, D.C., but the talks fell apart, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

Manafort’s defense team reportedly held plea discussions with prosecutors last week— hoping to help their client “flip” before he was held accountable for helping Russia interfere in the 2016 elections—but the talks stalled over objections raised by Robert Mueller.

The Journal was unable to determine the nature of those objections, and representatives for Manafort and Mueller declined to comment for the report.

Manafort is facing a second set of charges in D.C. related to his work for a Russia–backed political party in Ukraine, as well as his offer of reports on the campaign to a wealthy Russian to whom he owed money. He is being accused of failing to register as a foreign agent, among other charges.

The former Trump associate was convicted by in an Alexandria, Virginia-based federal jury trial on eight felony counts in the first legal victory for Mueller’s team. The jury found Manafort guilty on five charges of filing false income tax returns, one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. They deadlocked on the other 10 of 18 counts, with one juror holding out.

According to Politico, Mueller’s team in recent days has shortened its estimate of the length of Manafort’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled to start on September 17. The special counsel’s prosecutors wrote it could be completed in around two, rather than three, weeks.

Research contact: @aviswanatha

Trump tied to Cohen’s guilty plea; Manafort considers next steps

August 23, 2018

“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” President Donald Trump tweeted early on August 22, following a day in which his former “fixer” surrendered to the FBI in New York City and pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax, and campaign finance laws–implicating the POTUS in the process.

The feeling is mutual: For years, one of Trump’s most trusted confidantes, as well as his personal attorney, Cohen made it abundantly clear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that he has flipped and is willing to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team about the Russia case—less than a year after he said he “would take a bullet for” the president.

His only loyalty now, he has said, remains with his wife, his children, and the American people.

Specifically, in court, he said that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump [referred to as a candidate for federal office] directed him to make payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with the president in exchange for their silence.

According to his lawyer Lanny Davis—who also represented President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal—Cohen has information that would be of “significant interest” to Mueller’s team. Davis told MSNBC that the information pertains both to “knowledge of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the Russians and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI.”

Although Cohen’s recommended sentence for his crimes currently stands at five years, the implication is that—if he is of sufficient use to the Mueller team—that sentence may be reduced.

Also on August 21, Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort was found guilty by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on eight out of 18 tax and bank fraud charges leveled against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a case meant to bring pressure against the defendant to turn on his former boss.

Manafort is due back in court in Washington, D.C., next month for a second trial centered on allegations of lying to the FBI, money laundering and foreign lobbying, according to the Washington Post. Pundits said he “had plenty to think about” on Wednesday night.

Trump has continued to call Manafort’s prosecution “sad” and to insist that his former campaign aide has been swept up in a “witch hunt” instigated by the Democratic Party.

“Paul Manafort’s a good man,” Trump told reporters in West Virginia. The verdict, he said, “doesn’t involve me, but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened.”

On August 22, according to Gallup, Trump’s favorability rating remained stable, at 42%.

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

The knives are out: Cohen says former boss knew about Trump Tower meet, POTUS issues denial

July 30, 2018

The knives are out. The confrontation between President Donald Trump and his former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen has escalated, with Cohen claiming to CNN on July 26 that he was with his then-boss and several other Trump Organization executives in 2016 when Donald Trump, Jr., told his father he could “get dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton from the Russians.

On Twitter early on July 27, President Trump strongly denied the story, writing: “… I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?)”

Sources told CNN that not only does Cohen claim that President Trump had advance knowledge of the meeting in Trump Tower involving Donald Trump Jr., as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, but he is willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller all about it in support of collusion claims for the Russia investigation. The sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account.

It already has been established—in an admission by Trump Jr.—that Trump’s campaign staff expected to receive dirt, which they labeled as “opposition research,” on Clinton at the June 2016 meeting. However, unlike the Trumps, US intelligence agencies say Russia interfered to support Trump’s candidacy.

Cohen is under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York because of his business dealings and efforts during the 2016 campaign to suppress negative stories about Trump. An FBI raid on Cohen’s office in April sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Cohen, CNN has reported.

Cohen has hired Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, to represent him.

“(Cohen) even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s (Clinton) lawyer,” Trump also wrote, referring to Davis. “Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

Trump did not respond to shouted questions about Cohen from reporters after speaking about the economy at the White House Friday morning.

In an interview on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Thursday night, Trump’s lawyer in the Russia investigation, Rudy Giuliani, called Cohen a “pathological liar.”

“I don’t see how he’s got any credibility,” the former New York City mayor said.

In a poll released last week by The Hill, Americans said that they believe that Russia continues to want to interfere in U.S. elections and will do so in the lead-up to the midterms. Jointly conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist, the poll found that 57% of Americans said they believe Russia is likely to attempt to interfere in November; versus 38%, who said the Kremlin is not likely to do so.

Research contact: @maristpoll

Corruption scandal: Trump lawyer Cohen was ‘paid by Ukraine’ to arrange White House talks

May 25, 2018

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been running a corrupt pay-to-play scheme, charging foreign governments and companies for access to the POTUS, according to a May 23 report by Paul Wood of the BBC.

In fact, the U.K.-based news outlet disclosed, Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Trump last June, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.

Cohen was contacted by the Ukraine, the sources told BBC’s Wood, because that nation’s registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington D.C. could get President Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with  Trump. Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as “talks”.

And in a tit for tat fashion, shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home from those “talks” last June, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort—who has been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia investigation.

Cohen denies the allegations and is not registered as a representative of the Ukraine, as he should be under U.S. law, if he negotiated on their behalf, the BBC says.

However, in recent days, Trump’s “fixer” also has been accused of arranging secret access to the POTUS for U.S. telecom giant AT&T (which allegedly paid $200,000 to a shell company created by Cohen called Essential Consultants) and for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Norvartis (which paid $100,000 into the same account).

The Daily Dot reports that, in all, businesses and bodies politic paid $4.4 million into the Essential Consultants account in hopes of getting something in return from the new U.S. administration.

What’s more, this month, Trump, himself, reportedly made a suspicious deal—instructing the U.S. Commerce Department to help save China’s telecom company, ZTE, following an investment by a Chinese state-owned company, Metallurgical Corporation of China, in a project connected with the new Trump hotel and golf course in Indonesia.

Although Trump campaigned on promises of “draining the swamp” in Washington, a poll conducted by Transparency International at the end of 2017 found that the American public doesn’t think he is cleaning up the government. The results of the US Corruption Barometer 2017 show that:

  • 44% of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House, up from 36% in 2016;
  • 58% say the level of corruption has risen in the past year, up from 34% who said the same in January 2016;
  • Almost 70% believe the government is failing to fight corruption, up from 50% in 2016;
  • 55% gave fear of retaliation as the main reason not to report corruption, up from 31% in 2016; and
  • 74% think that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, up 4 percentage points from 2016.

As news of Cohen’s pay-to-play dealings and Trump’s ties to his old business continues to come in, Americans are worried, according to Zoe Reiter, U.S. Representative at Transparency International.

Reiter commented, “There is a clear sense that people feel corruption has gotten worse. In January 2016, Americans were already distrustful of Washington. Last year, Congress fared the worst in this survey. This year, it is the White House, followed by Congress. Our elected officials are failing to build back trust in Washington’s ability to serve the people, and still appear to represent elite corporate interests.”

Research contact: linkedin.com/in/paul-wood-83a75427