Sunday, February 25, 2018

While Trump Attacks Clinton, Mueller Steadily Builds His Case

Gates with Der Trumpenführer.
Yesterday the cheeto colored occupant of the White House attacked Hillary Clinton yet again at the CPAC gathering of the mentally unhinged, white supremacists - check out the major set to by former RNC chair Michael Steele here over racist remarks about him at CPAC - and Christofascist extremist.  One would think that it was still back during the 2016 presidential campaign to listen to the liar-in-chief.  Of course, the unwashed at CPAC ate it up, even as Robert Mueller seemingly continues to quietly and relentlessly works on building his case.  Obviously, Paul Manafort is a major target for Mueller and, as many suspect, Manafort may have been the lead interface with Russians if collusion to throw the 2016 election to Trump.  A piece in the New York Times provides an overview of developments and how the noose may be tightening.  Here are article excerpts:
In a fiery speech to supporters on Friday, President Trump went after his vanquished opponent from 2016. “We had a crooked candidate,” he declared. The crowd responded with a signature chant from the campaign trail: “Lock her up!”
About three hours later and 10 miles to the north, Mr. Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, who helped put him in the White House, arrived at a federal courthouse in Washington to plead guilty to being crooked and face the prospect that the authorities will now lock him up.
With each passing day, Robert S. Mueller III, . . . . seems to add another brick to the case he is building — one more indictment, one more interview, one more guilty plea. Mr. Trump and his advisers insist they are not worried because so far none of the charges implicate the president. Yet no one outside Mr. Mueller’s office knows for sure where he is heading and the flurry of recent action seems to be inexorably leading to a larger target.
“When you put that all together, the White House should be extremely worried,” said Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of Lawfare, a blog that analyzes legal issues, . . . . . “You have to ask the question about whether there is a certain measure of self-delusion going on here.”
Mr. Trump is correct that nothing produced publicly by Mr. Mueller to date has claimed any wrongdoing by the president nor any illegal collaboration with the Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election.  . . .  The charges against Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates depict an expansive money-laundering and fraud operation stemming from their work for Ukrainian leaders aligned with Moscow, not from their involvement in the campaign. Still, as the pileup at the courthouse indicates, allies of Mr. Trump acknowledged that the investigation had taken a toll. . . . . Inside the White House, officials expressed calm resignation on Friday as Mr. Gates marched into the courthouse. But there was low-grade concern out of recognition that Mr. Gates was in a lot of meetings over a long period of time. The fact that Mr. Gates was allowed to plead guilty to just two relatively lower-level charges indicated to legal experts that he must have something of value for Mr. Mueller. The presumption in Mr. Trump’s circle is that Mr. Gates may not have any incriminating information about the president but could be a dangerous witness against Mr. Manafort, who in turn could threaten Mr. Trump. Mr. Manafort participated in a meeting in June 2016 along with Donald Trump Jr., the candidate’s son, and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, with a Russian lawyer on the promise of receiving incriminating information about Hillary Clinton on behalf of Russia’s government. Mr. Manafort also reportedly offered during the campaign to give “private briefings” to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch allied with President Vladimir V. Putin . . . Prosecutors are interested in learning how a Republican convention platform plank on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine was watered down. [B]eing surrounded by people who are prosecuted has damaged other presidents even when they were not directly implicated. . . . In the current case, the targets so far have included not just a “coffee boy,” as Mr. Papadopoulos was described by an adviser to Mr. Trump, but the president’s top two campaign officials and national security adviser. While Mr. Trump has dismissed the relevance of allegations against Mr. Manafort because they involved business dealings before the campaign, the latest indictment claims that he was scheming to defraud banks while serving as Mr. Trump’s chairman. Mr. Wittes said Mr. Mueller’s actions could be seen as building a pyramid — establishing that there was a Russian influence campaign and assembling a group of cooperating witnesses. But the special counsel has not tipped his hand yet.
“The basic contours of the puzzle is that he’s constructed his actions in a way that we don’t know where it’s leading,” he said, “and that’s on purpose.”

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