Posts tagged with "Russia investigation"

Schiff says Barr misled the American public and ‘should step down’

May 2, 2019

The attorney general of the United States is a liar and he should resign. So said the Chairman Adam Schiff  (D-California) of the House Intelligence Committee on May 1, following the release to The Washington Post of a March 25 letter written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In that correspondence, the Russia investigator voiced grave concerns about the nature of the four-page summary of his team’s report written by AG William Barr and released the day before.

“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote in the letter, which he also saved to his files for posterity.

“We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25,” Mueller continued, noting, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

The special counsel went on to urge the attorney general to distribute the executive summaries of the report prepared in advance by his team. “Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would anser congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation,” he said.

Mueller also followed up his correspondence with a call to Barr, during which he expressed similar concerns.

However, not only did Barr refuse to release the executive summaries in a “piecemeal” fashion, but, according to a May 1 report by the Post, “he disclaimed knowledge of the thinking of Special Counsel Robert Mueller” during two separate, back-to-back hearings on April 9 and April 10.

“No, I don’t,” Barr said, when asked by Representative Charlie Crist (D-Florida) whether he knew what was behind reports that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated by the attorney general’s summary of their top-level conclusions.

“I don’t know,” he said the next day, when asked by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) whether Mueller supported his finding that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice.

Now, Schiff has a case against AG Barr:  “I think his statement is deliberately false and misleading, and yes, most people would consider that to be a lie,” Schiff said on CBS This Morning, as reported by The Hill.

“Look, there’s no sugar- coating this, I think he should step down,” Schiff said. “It’s hard, I think, for the country to have confidence in the top law enforcement official in the country if he’s asked a direct question as he was and he gives a directly false answer, so this is serious business.”

“After two years and work and investigation implicating the president of the United States, for the attorney general to mislead the public for an entire month before releasing that report is inexcusable.” 

Schiff is the highest-ranking Democrat on Capitol Hill so far to call for Barr to step down. He follows Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s call for Barr to resign.

Tuesday’s revelation upped the ante for Barr’s appearance Wednesday morning in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and led to a cavalcade of criticism from House and Senate Democrats, The Hill reported.

“The Special Counsel’s concerns reflect our own. The Attorney General should not have taken it upon himself to describe the Special Counsel’s findings in a light more favorable to the President. It was only a matter of time before the facts caught up to him,” Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Tuesday, demanding that Barr hand over Mueller’s letter to Congress by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

According to Politico, in a separate statement on Wednesday, on CNN claimed Barr’s statements might be considered perjury “for an ordinary citizen.”

“It’s worse when it comes from the attorney general of the United States because it means the public cannot have confidence in what he says,” Schiff said. “It means that we cannot have confidence in how he administers justice.”

And in a separate tweet, Schiff wrote, “No one can place any reliance on what Barr says. We need to hear from Mueller himself.”

Research contact: @RepAdamSchiff

A racist, a con man, and a cheat: Michael Cohen characterizes Donald Trump in House testimony

February 28, 2019

President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27 to “correct the record.”

In the process, Cohen characterized his former boss as “a racist, a con man, and a cheat”—and said he regretted his loyalty to the man for whom he had worked for ten years.

Cohen admitted last year that he lied to the House Intelligence Committee in his September 2017 testimony about his machinations on behalf of the Trump Organization.

Specifically, he misrepresented facts about the timing of his negotiations with the Kremlin for a Moscow Trump Tower; as well as about Trump’s relationships with Felix Sater and Roger Stone, who are targets of the Russia investigation; about a “massive dump” of Democratic National Committee emails; and about payoffs to Trump’s paramours.

Cohen also said that he was in the room both when Stone told Trump via speaker phone that the email dump was coming shortly; and when Donald Trump, Jr., told his father that he had confirmed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that would provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience,” Cohen said in his own opening statement. adding, “ I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat. He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

Cohen admitted, “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell  me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me ‘How’s it going in Russia?’– referring to the Moscow Tower project.”

He added, “You need to know that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.”

In discussing his career at the Trump Organization, Cohen said, “At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.”

Among the tidbits that he dropped about the president’s character during his testimony are the following:

  • “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen testified. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation—only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”
  • While Cohen was in a limousine with Trump, driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, Trump commented that only black people could live that way. “And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid,” Cohen said.
  • Trump directed Cohen to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. “Mr. Trump [then] directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself,” Cohen said.
  • Trump directed Cohen “to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and [tell] them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.”
  • “He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly—and she did not deserve that,” Cohen said.
  • Trump tasked Cohen with handling the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. “Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery,” Cohen remarked. “He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters, but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’

Cohen was reviled by the Republican members of the committee, who said they wondered why they were listening to additional testimony from a convicted liar who would be going to prison soon.

In addition to apologizing for his lies, Cohen stated, “I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.”

Research contact: @RepCummings

House chairs to AG Barr: Trump is ‘not above the law’ and Mueller report should be public

February 24, 2019

On February 22, the chairs of six House committees wrote to newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General William Barr to inform him of their expectation that he will make Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.” The letter follows news reports that suggest the Special Counsel investigation is nearing an end.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Committee on Financial Services Chairperson Maxine Waters, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

“As you know,” they said, “Department of Justice regulations require that, ‘[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.’”

The American people, they said, have a right to see the findings—noting, “After nearly two years of investigation—accompanied by two years of direct attacks on the integrity of the investigation by the President—the public is entitled to know what the Special Counsel has found.  We write to you to express, in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you—without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

In addition, they said, there is “significant public interest” in the full disclosure of information learned by the Special Counsel about the nature and scope of the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our democracy.

Therefore, “…[if] the Department believes that certain aspects of the report are not suitable for immediate public release, we ask that you provide that information to Congress, along with your reasoning for withholding the information from the public, in order for us to judge the appropriateness of any redactions for ourselves.”

Specifically addressing comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concerning the agency’s reluctance to release materials on individuals who are not under indictment, the committee chairpersons wrote, “Finally, although we recognize the policy of the Department to remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of individuals who will not face criminal charges, we feel that it is necessary to address the particular danger of withholding evidence of misconduct by President Trump from the relevant committees.”

They concluded with a strong demand—stating that, “If the Special Counsel has reason to believe that the President has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the President must be subject to accountability either in a court or to the Congress.

“But because the Department has taken the position that a sitting President is immune from indictment and prosecution,” the chairpersons said, “Congress could be the only institution currently situated to act on evidence of the President’s misconduct.  To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the President will not be charged, is to convert Department policy into the means for a cover-up.  The President is not above the law.”

Research contact: @HouseIntel

Warner counters Burr: Committee cannot rule on collusion until investigation wraps up

February 14, 2019

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia—who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee—broke ranks on February 12 with committee Chair Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Warner contested his Republican colleague’s assessment that the panel had found no evidence of collusion to date during its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Respectfully, I disagree,” Warner said, according to CNN. “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I’ve reached because my basis of this has been that I’m not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back.”

His statement came just hours before President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal lawyer Michael Cohen told the committee that he would defer his testimony “due to post-surgery medical needs.”

Cohen had been subpoenaed by the committee on January 24 as a key source of information on the campaign’s contacts with Russia—one of the few individuals with a behind-the-doors perspective on Trump’s campaign machinations—but he has backed out three times. At least one of those times, Cohen claimed he was reluctant to talk  because of “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani.”

On Tuesday night, CNN reported, Burr told reported on Capitol Hill, “I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone.”

Burr reiterated that his committee had “no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” but that he wanted to interview Cohen before the former lawyer for President Donald Trump reports to federal prison next month.

“I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison, but you know, the way he’s positioning himself, not coming (to) the committee, we may help him go to prison,” Burr said.

However, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said the surgery excuse was accurate. “Mr. Cohen was expected to and continues to suffer from severe post shoulder surgery pain, as confirmed by a letter from his surgeon, which was sent to Senator Burr and Senator [Mark] Warner,” Davis said. “The medication Mr. Cohen is currently taking made it impossible for him to testify this week.”

The split in public comments between Burr and Warner marked a rare instance of a partisan divide between the two committee leaders.

Another panel member, Senator Angus King (I-Maine), backed Warner up, telling The Hill that the Intelligence Committee “has not concluded anything.”

“Several of the individual members have made statements, but I certainly am not prepared to make a statement as to what was found or not found,” he said.

Warner told CNN that lawmakers are still hoping to speak with a few witnesses, including Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. The longtime Trump associate was scheduled to testify Tuesday, but postponed his appearance, citing medical reasons after a recent shoulder surgery.

Trump has repeatedly maintained that his campaign did not collude with Russia and he has welcomed Burr’s  comments as proof of that fact.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

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

Flake: Mueller protection bill has votes to pass Senate

December 3, 2018

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) said on November 30 that he believes legislation protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller—and prevent President Donald Trump from carrying out another Nixon-style Saturday Night Massacre—could pass the Senate, if Republican leadership would agree to bring it up for a vote, The Hill reported.

“I do believe the votes are there on the floor if we can just get a vote, and that’s what I’m calling, let’s just have a vote,” Flake told CNN, asked about a measure that would protect Mueller from being fired without good cause.

The legislation—originally drafted by Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)— has been given the cold shoulder for months by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

At a press conference last week, McConnell characterized it as “A solution in search of a problem,” adding that “The president is not going to fire Robert Mueller.”

“I don’t know how we can be sanguine about what’s going on over at the Department of Justice in terms of the Mueller probe. It’s important to protect it,” Flake added on Friday. 

Flake, joined by Coons and Booker, appeared on the Senate floor twice in November, attempting to get a vote,  and has been blocked both times. Flake is pledging to oppose all of Trump’s judicial nominees until he gets a vote on the bill, rankling his colleagues who have made confirming the president’s picks their top priority.

Flake and Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) are joining all 49 Democrats to oppose Thomas Farr’s district judge nomination— denying him the 50 votes needed to let Vice President Mike Pence break a tie.

“We need to protect the special counsel; it’s important. Confirming judges is important,” Flake, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said, according to The Hill report. “I want to confirm more judges … but this has to be priority now. And you have to take a stand. I have leverage because we have a narrow majority on the Judiciary Committee, so I’m using it.”

Research contact: @jordainc

In 2016, Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks’ Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

November 28, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had sought asylum—and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, The Guardian reported on November 27.

Manafort’s March 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, a source told the news outlet. Just two months later, in June 2016, WikiLeaks emailed Russian intelligence (the GRU) via an intermediary—seeking DNC materials. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the Democrats’ documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

What’s more, this was not Manafort’s first visit to Assange. The Guardian’s “well-placed” source said that Manafort previously had visited Assanage at the embassy in 2013 and 2015.

Indeed, The Guardian reported, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

However, it is the 2016 encounter that is especially likely to come under scrutiny by Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Just this week, Mueller said that Manafort had “repeatedly lied to the FBI” after he promised to cooperate with the probe in mid-September. The former campaign manager now has been referred by Mueller to the court for sentencing. Whether the secret tête-à-tête in London already has been investigated Mueller’s team is unknown.

According to The Guardian’s report, Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

His defense team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

One key question is when the Trump campaign, itself, became aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation—and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. President Trump repeatedly has denied collusion

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential U.S. State Department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

According to the dossier written by the former MI6 Officer Christopher Steele, The Guardian reports, Manafort was at the center of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared.”

Research contact: @lukeharding1968

Standoff on Special Counsel Act persists between Flake and McConnell

November  19, 2018

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona)—who is leaving the U.S. Congress in December, but flirting with a primary run against President Trump in 2020—has everything to win and little to lose. Last week, he pushed that advantage by taking to the Senate floor with across-the-aisle colleague Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware.) in an attempt to secure immediate passage of S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April by a bipartisan vote of 14-7, once again was blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who continues to say that the legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is not necessary because the probe is not under pressure.

However, following the president’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions one day after the midterm elections—and subsequent appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a White House acolyte—Flake asserted, “The president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it.”

And he backed that assertion with two threats: One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor. And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.”

At a closed-door lunch on the following day, November 15, both Flake and McConnell were equally implacable. “It’s a standoff,” said a Republican senator who attended the lunch, in an interview with The Hill.

According to the political news outlet, McConnell argued at the lunch meeting that the legislation would chew up precious floor time during the lame-duck session and leave less time for must-pass bills such as the unfinished spending bills and the farm bill, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Flake, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, didn’t buy that argument. Flake argued that the bill could be dealt with in a day as long as other members of the GOP conference didn’t object to it and force McConnell to waste time getting through a filibuster.

Some Republican senators floated the compromise of crafting some kind of non-binding resolution that would express support for protecting Mueller and future special counsels from unjustified dismissal. But Flake rejected that option, too, The Hill reported.

Asked Thursday if fellow GOP senators are unhappy with his hardball approach to getting a vote, Flake said, “That’s a safe assumption.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held over 15 judicial nominees at a committee business meeting Thursday after Flake declared he would block them. Speaking to reporters afterward, Grassley said he didn’t think he could move any more nominees without Flake’s support, unless he can convince Democrats on the panel to vote with him.

As the impasse continued, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that 40% of likely U.S. voters believe Mueller’s investigation should be closed. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election should continue.

Research contact: @alexanderbolton

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