Trump tweets to declare he was cleared by filings that named him as unindicted co-conspirator

After being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in legal filings by federal prosecutors, President Donald Trump claimed total vindication.

“Totally clears the President,” Trump tweeted Friday.

[Raw Story]

Cohen claims ‘regular contact’ with Trump legal team when crafting false statement to Congress

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Friday he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s White House staff and legal team when he prepared a statement for Congress that he now says falsely downplayed Trump’s effort to land a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a filing seeking a lenient sentence, Cohen’s attorneys say his false statement to Congress — which Cohen pleaded guilty to on Thursday — was based on Trump and his team’s efforts to “portray contact with Russian representatives” by Trump, his campaign or his company “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”

“Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016, when a general inquiry he made to the Kremlin went unanswered,” Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester write.

But “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications,” they wrote. “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”

They also say Cohen kept Trump “apprised” of his contacts with Russia during the campaign.

In the filing, Cohen’s lawyers say his false statement to Congress arose out of loyalty to Trump, who they refer to throughout as “Client-1.”
“Furthermore, in the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1,” his lawyers wrote.

Cohen’s filing also explicitly describes his efforts to silence two women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to making hush-money payments to one woman and arranging an effort with the National Enquirer to bottle up the other’s story in violation of campaign finance laws.

Cohen’s lawyers explicitly describe the payments as “centered on extramarital affairs of a presidential candidate.”

They also repeatedly refer to Cohen, 52, as “Michael,” an attempt to cast him in a softer light as he prepares to be sentenced. The filing includes two dozen letters of support from Cohen’s family, friends and associates attesting to his character.

Petrillo and Lester say Cohen should be sentenced to “time served” rather than face incarceration based on his remorse and his ongoing cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Michael participated in seven voluntary interview meetings with the Special Counsel’s Office of the Department of Justice,” they wrote. “He intends to continue to make himself available to the SCO as and when needed for additional questioning. He also agreed to plead guilty to an additional count, namely, making false statements to Congress, based in part on information that he voluntarily provided to the SCO in meetings governed by a limited-use immunity proffer agreement.”

Petrillo and Lester say Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller, as well as New York prosecutors investigating the Trump Foundation, underscore his “personal resolve, notwithstanding past errors, to re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law abiding life.”

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, who once called Cohen an “honest” person, has repeatedly slammed him as a self-serving liar since he turned on Trump over the summer.

After Cohen’s second guilty plea this week, Giuliani reemphasized Cohen’s history of lying.

“It’s no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress. He’s a proven liar who is doing everything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud that had nothing to do with the Trump Organization,” Giuliani said in a statement. “It is important to understand that documents that the Special Counsel’s Office is using to show that Cohen lied to Congress were voluntarily disclosed by the Trump Organization because there was nothing to hide.”

Giuliani said Trump had been “open and transparent” about his efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow. In fact, Trump had long sought a deal to build in Russia but as his campaign gained traction, he downplayed his business relationships there and repeatedly insisted he had nothing to do with Russia, a denial he underscored repeatedly after the discovery of Russia efforts to interfere in the election.

[Politico]

Trump Organization planned to give $50 million penthouse to Putin amid Moscow deal

The Trump Organization planned to offer a $50 million penthouse suite to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid negotiations over a real estate deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to a report by BuzzFeed News. 

The bombshell report includes Felix Sater, a longtime Donald Trump associate accused of having Russian mafia ties, telling BuzzFeed News that he and Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer, thought giving the suite to Putin could help sell other apartments.

“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”

BuzzFeed notes other unnamed officials confirmed the existence of the plan and the officials said Cohen discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware of the plan, which never came to fruition due to the Trump Tower deal in Russia falling through.

Sater, a Russian immigrant who spent a year in prison for a 1991 stabbing, told the news organization that Cohen, at the time, remarked that it was a “great idea.”

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the report when reached by USA TODAY. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Trump, said the story was “unknown to the president.”

Giuliani added the project was “too premature for anything like that” and called the idea to give Putin a suite “crazy.”

The revelations come at a time where the president’s Trump Tower deal in Moscow has come under intense scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On Thursday, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to lying to Congress about the plan to build a Trump Tower in Russia all in the hope of shielding Trump from criticism.

Court documents filed as part of Cohen’s plea deal detailed Trump’s business dealings in Russia lasted longer during his campaign than previously acknowledged.

Federal prosecutors said Cohen lied when he submitted an Aug. 28, 2017, letter to the Senate and House intelligence committees. The letter said the project had ended by January 2016, when planning continued months longer during the presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said that Cohen lied to the committees to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and (Trump) and give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before the Iowa caucus and the very first primary in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Sater, who had a large role in developing the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York, is also under scrutiny in Mueller’s investigation.

He wrote an email to Cohen in 2015 bragging about his ties to Putin, according to the New York Times. “Our boy can be president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in one of the emails. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”

The Times noted that Cohen never replied to the emails and viewed them as “puffery.” Sater, who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia, said he was simply expressing “enthusiasm” for the Trump Organization.

[USA Today]

Trump Dismisses Report on Ivanka: She ‘Did Some Emails,’ They Weren’t Classified Like Hillary’s

President Donald Trump dismissed the Washington Post report on his daughterIvanka Trump, accessing and sending government-related emails on her private email account.

“Early on, and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some emails,” the president said. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33 [thousand] … She wasn’t doing anything to hide her e-mails.”

Trump claimed that his daughter’s emails were in the presidential record. The Washington Post piece was unclear on that point.

“Using personal emails for government business could violate the Presidential Records Act, which requires that all official White House communications and records be preserved as a permanent archive of each administration,” the piece read.

“What Ivanka Trump did, all in the presidential records, everything is there,” Trump said. “There was no deletion, no nothing. What it is is a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails, she had a server in the basement, that is the real story.”

[Mediaite]

Betsy DeVos sued for allegedly refusing to follow court order

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is being sued for refusing to follow a judge’s order to implement Obama-era regulations. The lawsuit claims DeVos was required to “discharge,” or stop collecting on loans of students who attended for-profit schools and colleges if the institution or their campus had shut down, as The Hill reports.

“It has been nearly two years since these rules should have taken effect, and Secretary DeVos is still dragging her feet and hurting tens of thousands of borrowers through her inaction,” National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN) President Aaron Ament said in a statement.

“The students we are trying to help have been doubly victimized – first by the for-profit colleges that deceived them, and now by the federal government that refuses to help.”

The lawsuit says the Education Dept. continues to collect on debts the students should not owe.

The Hill adds that a federal court in October “ruled that the Obama-era debt regulations had to be implemented after over a year of delays by DeVos.”

The Washington Post notes that Secretary DeVos “said that the rule made it too easy for students to cancel their debts and that she intended to replace it with her own version to take effect next year.”

In August the LA Times Editorial Board charged that DeVos “sides with predatory for-profit colleges over America’s students.”

[Raw Story]

Pentagon to deploy 5,200 active duty troops to Mexico border as Trump escalates threats against migrant caravan

A week out from the midterm elections, the Pentagon said Monday it is sending 5,200 troops, some armed, to the Southwest border this week in an extraordinary military operation to stop Central American migrants traveling north in two caravans that were still hundreds of miles from the U.S. The number of troops is more than double the 2,000 who are in Syria fighting the Islamic State group.

President Donald Trump, eager to focus voters on immigration in the lead-up to the elections, stepped up his warnings about the caravans, tweeting: “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

His warning came as the Pentagon began executing “Operation Faithful Patriot,” described by the commander of U.S. Northern Command as an effort to help Customs and Border Protection stiffen defenses at and near legal entry points. Advanced helicopters will allow border protection agents to swoop down on migrants trying to cross illegally, he said.

“We’re going to secure the border,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Northern Command leader, said at a news conference. He spoke alongside Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Eight hundred troops already are on their way to southern Texas, O’Shaughnessy said, and their numbers will top 5,200 by week’s end. He said troops would focus first on Texas, followed by Arizona and then California.

The number of people in the first caravan has dwindled to 3,500 from about 7,000, though a second one was gaining steam and marred by violence. About 600 migrants in the second group tried to cross a bridge from Guatemala to Mexico en masse on Monday but were met by ranks of Mexican federal police who blocked them from entering. The riverbank standoff followed a more violent confrontation Sunday when the migrants used sticks and rocks against Mexico police. One migrant was killed Sunday night by a head wound, but the cause was unclear.

The first group passed through the spot via the river — wading or on rafts — and was advancing through southern Mexico. That group appeared to begin as a collection of about 160 who decided to band together in Honduras for protection against the gangs who prey on migrants traveling alone and snowballed as the group moved north. They are mostly from Honduras, where it started, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala.

Overall, they are poor, carrying the belongings that fit into a knapsack and fleeing gang violence or poverty. It’s possible there are criminals mixed in, but Trump has not substantiated his claim that members of the MS-13 gang, in particular, are among them.

The president’s dark description of the caravan belied the fact that any migrants who complete the long trek to the southern U.S. border already face major hurdles, both physical and bureaucratic, to being allowed into the United States. Migrants are entitled under both U.S. and international law to apply for asylum, but it may take a while to make a claim. There is already a bottleneck of asylum seekers at some U.S. border crossings, in some cases as long as five weeks.

McAleenan said the aim was to deter migrants from crossing illegally between ports, but he conceded his officers were overwhelmed by a surge of asylum seekers. He also said Mexico was prepared to offer asylum to the caravan.

“If you’re already seeking asylum, you’ve been given a generous offer,” he said of Mexico. “We want to work with Mexico to manage that flow.”

The White House is also weighing additional border security measures, including blocking those traveling in the caravan from seeking legal asylum and preventing them from entering the U.S.

The military operation drew quick criticism.

“Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money, but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorize and militarize our border communities,” said Shaw Drake of the American Civil Liberties Union’s border rights center at El Paso, Texas.

Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement. The troops will include military police, combat engineers and others helping on the southern border.

The escalating rhetoric and expected deployments come as the president has been trying to turn the caravans into a key election issue just days before the midterm elections that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of Congress.

“This will be the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts, and you know what else? It’s going to be the election of common sense,” Trump said at a rally in Illinois on Saturday night.

On Monday, he tweeted without providing evidence: “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border.”

“Please go back,” he urged them. “you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol, but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border, officials said. One U.S. official said the troops will be sent initially to staging bases in California, Texas and Arizona while the CBP works out precisely where it wants the troops positioned. U.S. Transportation Command posted a video on its Facebook page Monday of a C-17 transport plane that it said was delivering Army equipment to the Southwest border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

The U.S. military has already begun delivering jersey barriers to the southern border in conjunction with the deployment plans.

[CNBC]

Trump Casually Suggests He Could Blackmail a U.S. Senator, But Will Save It For His Next Book

October 1, 2018, was your typical day for the Trump administration and its various hangers-on. Donald Trumpbragged about a “historic” achievement—in this case, the “new” NAFTA agreement—while failing to mention that the pact, which he wrecked diplomatic relations with Canada to secure, is essentially a rebrand with some minor changes cribbed from Barack Obama. Sarah Huckabee Sanders ripped a reporter’s head offand used it for batting practice. Donald Trump Jr. proved once and for all that he’s a sentient bottle of Axe body spray. Oh, and the president of the United States suggested he has incriminating dirt on a U.S. senator that could be used for blackmail, if he so chooses.

During a press conference in the Rose Garden to discuss the deal struck with Canada and Mexico last night, the conversation naturally turned to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh,who, in retrospect, showed enormous restraint not showing up to last Thursday’s hearing wearing a beer helmet. Asked if he would empower the F.B.I. to widen its investigation into allegations against the judge, Trump initially responded that “the F.B.I. should interview anybody that they want within reason.” But, of course, he wasn’t finished. Trump claimed that if Kavanaugh were really guilty of the things he’s been accused of, they would have come up “over the last 20, 30 years of his career,” and that it’s just so unfair that people are “going back to high school and . . . saying he drank a lot one evening” (fact-check: they’re saying he spent most of high school and college blackout drunk and engaged in sexual assault). The president then told the press that he’s got way, way worse dirt on a Democratic member of Congress, and seemed to suggest that he might have to air said dirt if Democrats don’t lay off his pal Brett.

“I happen to know some United States senators,” Trump said, “one who is on the other side, who is pretty aggressive. I’ve seen that person in very bad situations. O.K.? I’ve seen that person in very, very bad situations. Somewhat compromising. And you know, I think it’s very unfair to bring up things like this.”

Later, because he’s extremely presidential, Trump declined to identify the senator in question, saying he’d save it for his post–White House memoir.

And in case you were wondering, yes, this all happened during the same press conference in which the president both insulted a female reporter, telling her, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” and accidentally admitted that anyone watching the Kavanaugh hearing came away with the impression that Tobin, P.J., and Squi’s buddy was a raging drunk, at least during his Georgetown Prep and Yale years. All in all, a red-letter day for POTUS!

[Vanity Fair]

Media

 

Now Trump is targeting Vietnamese refugees

In its insatiable quest to rid the U.S. of immigrants, the Trump administration has been rounding up Vietnamese refugees who have been in the country for more than a quarter of a century and trying to send them back to Vietnam — despite a formal bilateral agreement that refugees who arrived here prior to the 1995 normalization of relations between the two countries would not be sent home.

In a number of cases, the refugees have been held in detention centers for months as the government sought to obtain travel documents from the Vietnamese government, and despite a Supreme Court decision that said the government could not detain someone for an extended period of time if it was unlikely the home country would accept the deportee.

After the end of the Vietnam War, and after the North Vietnamese communist government unified the country, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese — many of whom fought alongside or cooperated with American forces — fled for safety, often boarding rickety boatsto cross the South China Sea. In many cases, the refugees were stateless, because they were citizens of South Vietnam, a country that dissolved with the end of the war.

Nearly 1.3 million eventually settled in the U.S., some 200,000 in and around Orange County’s Little Saigon.

That large a population is bound to include some people who break the law, and upward of 10,000 Vietnamese have been ordered deported by immigration judges after being convicted of often serious crimes in American criminal courts. But for more than three decades after the war ended, the Vietnamese government refused to accept deportees from the U.S., viewing the refugees as political enemies or possible American spies.

That changed in 2008, when the George W. Bush administration reached an agreementunder which Vietnam would accept the return of deportees who had arrived in the U.S. after July 12, 1995. The wording of the pact is significant:

“Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this Agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, the date on which diplomatic relations were re-established between the U.S. Government and the Vietnamese Government. The U.S. Government and the Vietnamese Government maintain their respective legal positions relative to Vietnamese citizens who departed Vietnam for the United States prior to that date.”

For a decade that has been interpreted as a flat protection for the refugees. But the Trump administration argues in court filings — immigrant rights organizations are suing to halt the detentions and deportations — that the second sentence in effect negates the first, so the U.S. can deport Vietnamese refugees if they have committed acts that render them ineligible to remain in the U.S.

“The agreement does not in fact prohibit such removals,” the government argued in court documents. “Rather, it provides merely that pre-1995 aliens cannot be removed under the terms of the agreement itself.”

That’s a specious argument. Until the agreement, Vietnam would not accept any deportees from the U.S.; after the agreement, it began accepting what are called post-1995 deportees. So the only mechanism for returning people to Vietnam falls under the agreement, regardless of U.S. laws. The Trump administration is simply trying to break the terms of the deal — and so far has been successful in at least 11 cases, though it’s unclear why Vietnam agreed to let the deportees in. According to reports, the deportees have had trouble finding places to live and getting permission to work in Vietnam.

News accounts of the efforts have focused on refugees who arrived here as young (usually) men with limited social or family structure. A number of them fell in with gangs or individually committed crimes of varying seriousness, from drug possession to robbery and a few rare murders. Yet the issue here isn’t the crimes some refugees committed, but the circumstances of their arrival in the U.S., and the letter of the agreement with Vietnam.

This is yet another instance in which the Trump administration has just bulled its way forward to try to reduce the number of immigrants living in the U.S. If the government believes that it is in the nation’s best interest to deport Vietnamese refugees convicted of crimes, then it should reopen the 2008 agreement and create a lawful mechanism to do so.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump Weighs in on New Kaepernick Ad: Nike is a ‘Tenant’ of Mine Paying ‘A Lot of Rent’

President Donald Trump appeared to explain why he hasn’t attacked Nike yet for partnering with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernicktoday, as he told the Daily Caller that “Nike is a tenant of mine.”

Over the weekend, Nike announced that it’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign would focus on Kaepernick, who claims he was forced out of the league for protesting police brutality by kneeling during pregame national anthems. Conservative were quick to attack Nike for the advertisement push — which shows Kaepernick alongside the quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” — with some even burning their Nike shoes and cutting the swoosh logo off their socks and shorts.

Surprisingly, Trump did not immediately join in on the attacks, but told the Daily Caller today, “I think it’s a terrible message. Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent.”

The former real estate investor remark about Nike paying him rent is a reference to the location of Niketown New York.

Trump continued:

“But I think it’s a terrible message that they’re sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it… As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it.”

“In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do,” he added. “But I personally am on a different side of it.”

Trump sparked a mini culture war last year after he attacks NFL players for protesting police brutality while in uniform, calling the athletes that do kneel for the anthem sons of bitches.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Donald Trump is breaking the law. Specifically 18 U.S. Code § 227, “Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch,” which includes the President or anyone else in the Executive Branch.

Trump Warned Evangelical Leaders: If GOP Loses Midterms, Left Will ‘Violently’ Overturn Everything

President Donald Trump hosted evangelical leaders at the White House last night and, apparently rather bluntly, laid out high stakes for the midterm elections.

Despite Trump’s personal background and style, these religious leaders are mostly on the President’s side. Robert Jeffress said last night on Fox News, after the White House event, “We don’t support extramarital affairs, we don’t support hush money payments, but what we do support are these president’s excellent policies.”

Per NBC News, Trump talked to these leaders about being on the same side and laid out the midterm stakes in dramatic fashion:

“The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my family, but I’ve done them….This November 6th election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment.”

If the GOP loses, he said, “they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.”

The New York Times‘ report on the meeting confirms these quotes, and notes that he also encouraged religious leaders to be vocal ahead of the midterms:

“You have people that preach to almost 200 million people — 150 to, close, depending on which Sunday we are talking about, and beyond Sunday, 100, 150 million people,” he said.

And in addition to the midterms, Trump also took a moment to address an issue he has exploited politically since the campaign days:

“Little thing – Merry Christmas. You couldn’t say Merry Christmas,” Trump said. “I’m telling you — when I started running I used to talk about it and I hate to mention it in August, but I used to talk about it. They don’t say Merry Christmas anymore.”

Trump added, to applause:

“They say merry Christmas a lot right now. It’s all changed. It’s all changed.”

Trump brought up the “war on Christmas” talking point again just last month at a rally.

[Mediaite]

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