Tag Archives: Kushner

MUELLER REPORT PART I – TRUMP CANOODLING WITH RUSSIA – D

D. The Curious Handling of the Trump Tower Meeting

Jared Kushner in fact received information about Clinton offered by Dimitri Simes, the head of a Washington think-tank, but didn’t find it useful due to its apparent staleness. The alleged source of the information was apparently not interviewed by Mueller – WHY NOT?  I-MR 108-110. Kushner never seemed to be concerned about the issue of Russian sourcing and was all too happy to meet with everyone claiming to have dirt on Clinton. I-MR 108, n. 651

Like Kushner, Trump Jr. was happy to meet with Russians in Trump Tower to get dirt on Clinton.  Trump himself, as usual, claimed to have no knowledge of the meeting and, not surprisingly, Mueller uncovered no documents indicating otherwise. I-MR 110. The Russian attorney could not produce hard evidence of Clinton wrongdoing and the Campaign then lost interest in her claims. I-MR 110

The Mueller-reported record on Trump Tower is very thin. Much of the most important information about the Trump Tower meeting appears to be redacted because it was collected through Grand Jury testimony. I-MR 110-112 Yet this is one of the most obvious cases of overt willingness of high-ranked Campaign officials to use Russian sources to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Why was the Grand Jury the chosen instrument for investigating this crucial meeting since it would have been known by Mueller’s team that it was going to withhold the resulting testimony from public disclosure?

Rob Goldstone was then a music/events promoter and the publicist for a Russian businessman with ties to Putin. It was Goldstone who proposed the Trump Tower meeting by email to Trump Jr.  The email proposing the Trump Tower meeting refers to “Rhona” by first name only. I-MR 113. This is a reference to Rhona Graff, long- time assistant to Donald Trump, who was apparently well-known to Goldstone. THAT fact was not discussed or explained in Mueller Report.  WHY NOT? Why/how was Goldstone so familiar with Rhona Graff???

On June 6/7, Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov (Russian real estate developer and pop singer) had “multiple brief calls,” I-MR 114, but no indication is given in the Report about what was discussed. Trump Jr. announced the meeting regarding dirt on Clinton at a regular meeting of senior Campaign staff and Trump family members, sourcing the information to Russia. Yet again, the Trump team had memory failure regarding their knowledge of the Tower meeting. I-MR 115. Trump Jr denied he had told Trump about the meeting.

WHAT are the chances that such a momentous event, as it then appeared, would not have been communicated to Trump? Of course, Manafort, Kushner and Trump himself claimed not to recall Trump being made aware of the upcoming meeting. I-MR 116. Cohen, on the other hand, understood from the tenor of the conversation that Trump had been told. I-MR 115. Trump’s general history is that he rules with an iron hand, a fact that suggests it is extremely unlikely that the possibility of acquiring killer information about his election rival would not have been communicated to him beforehand.

Trump announced on June 7 he would give a major speech the following week, likely on Monday, June 13, on “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” but after the June 9 meeting, the subject was changed to national security. Trump, in his written answers to Mueller’s questions. claimed this was because of the Pulse nightclub shootings that occurred on June 12.

Mueller gives him the benefit of the doubt on this without discussing how the subject was changed and a speech prepared on one day’s notice. Trump’s written responses also claimed that the original speech was planned based on publicly available information and was in fact delivered on June 22.  I-MR 116. Such after-the-fact rationalizations deserve little credence in light of the circumstances surrounding these events and the consistent history of attempts by multiple Campaign officials to cover up or minimize the significance of contacts with Russians.

Trump Jr refused to be interviewed about the Trump Tower meeting – all other participants were interviewed except Veselnitskaya herself, she being the Russian lawyer that purportedly had the dirt on Clinton. I-MR 117.  The Report shows many Grand Jury-based redactions about what transpired at the Trump Tower meeting. Kushner left early because the promised dirt was not delivered, calling it a “waste of time.”  I-MR 118. The clear implication is that if the dirt had been forthcoming Kushner would have been pleased to accept and use it. But Veselnitskaya appeared to have nothing of substance on Clinton. Or, she was holding it back to see what leverage she could get before disclosure.

Since neither Veselnitskaya nor Trump Jr were interviewed, it is impossible to conclude that this dance with the devil was prematurely ended with no crime and no foul. In any case, this seems to be a clear case of attempted coordination. Why Mueller declined to say that remains unexplained.

In a July 2017 interview, Trump Jr, ever the law-abiding citizen, made no apologies about his role in the Trump Tower meeting, claiming he should have been able to hear what was being proposed, then consult with counsel, etc. regarding what to do next. I-MR 119. This is a perfect example of the son mimicking his father in making after-the-fact claims of honesty when his prior attempts at dishonesty have been exposed.

When public coverage of the Trump Tower meeting surfaced in July 2017, lawyers for the Trump Organization tried to engineer statements from Rob Goldstone that exonerated Trump Jr of any wrongful act or intention. Goldstone declined to issue the statements. I-MR 122.

Again, it is difficult to understand the full picture because of so many Grand Jury-based redactions, but it is highly doubtful that the lawyers were acting on their own initiative without consulting their client(s). If they in fact did act on their own, there should be no grounds for withholding information on grounds of attorney-client privilege. Again, a road not traveled by the SCO for reasons not made clear.

Next: Evidence of Conspiracy Everywhere But No Conspiracy?

The Sound of Fear, Starring the Trump Family Deniers

The latest revelation about the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is about a meeting attended by the campaign manager Manafort, Trump Son No. 1, Donald Jr., and Trump-in-Law Jared Kushner. I won’t waste your time with the details which were first reported by the New York Times, a newspaper of global fame to which the Trump family has been notably hostile. Maybe not a good move on their part.

I want instead to focus on the narrative that the Trump Family, and its enablers like Kellyanne Conway, have tried to spin in response to the now-admitted meeting whose stated-in-advance purpose was to secure dirt on Hillary Clinton that was sourced in the Russian government. That narrative has a familiar ring as it seems to follow almost exactly the concept of “alternative pleading” that law students learn about in courses on trial practice.

The idea of alternative pleading is that since, in the early stages of a lawsuit, you don’t know for sure how things are going to play out, you, as the defendant accused of some wrongdoing are entitled by rules of court to plead alternative defenses, including defenses that are inconsistent with each other. The evidence will then show what it shows and some defenses will fail while others may succeed. To some extent it resembles the old saw about throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

To illustrate, suppose a lawsuit is filed against D claiming D’s conduct was the proximate cause of injury to plaintiff P resulting in damages of X amount, which P therefore is entitled to recover from D. D’s typical first step is to move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. That is, in simple English, even if everything alleged by P is true, there was nothing wrong with D’s conduct and thus the suit should be dismissed. A “fake suit” in current Trumpian parlance.

Kellyanne Conway, among others, has made this precise argument: even if Junior was seeking dirt on Clinton, this is politics and there was nothing wrong with seeking such dirt that might help the Trump campaign. But this argument ignores the fact that the source of the information was the Russian government, which suggests conspiracy with a foreign power to affect the outcome of an American election. Most rational people consider that seriously wrong, possibly criminally wrong.

So, what next? Faced with the revelations about Junior’s meeting, to which he has confessed publicly via the Family’s chosen medium, Twitter, the Trump Family Deniers change the tune, moving toward classical alternative pleading. First, the story was “there was no such meeting,” Then, if there was a meeting, I didn’t attend it. But if I did attend a meeting, it was a waste of time because we didn’t learn anything with which to smear Clinton so I left the meeting empty-handed. So, even if I did attend the meeting with the intention to do harm to Clinton, no harm to Clinton arose from my conduct, so everything is okeydokey. No harm, no foul. Finally, even if there were some harm, we were just amateurs at politics so we can and should be forgiven our sins and let bygones be ….

In a lawsuit, this sort of stairway to the basement approach is perfectly acceptable practice and the Trump Family Deniers’ playbook appears to follow it quite closely. The problem, of course, is that this is not a lawsuit, not yet anyway.

Instead, it is the early-to-middle stage of investigation into one of the greatest scandals in the history of American politics. One of the singular features of the scandal is that, from the very outset, during the campaign itself, Trump made no secret of his desire for assistance from Russia among others and no secret of his desire to buddy-up with Vladimir Putin (who will be featured in my next blog post). At the same time. Trump repeatedly denied there was any connection between him and Putin or between his campaign and anyone connected with the Russian government. His fame as liar-in-chief, thoroughly documented by many observers, led many to suspect that the denials were false.

Slowly but surely, more revelations of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign have emerged.  All the while Trump and his enablers, including Attorney General Sessions as well as several family members and key campaign players, have denied there is anything there. Their stories have changed over time, of course, as new revelations undermine the previous denials. This is starkly shown by the latest stories about Junior and Kushner meeting with a promised source of incriminating evidence on Clinton.

Even if it is true that the Russian lawyer with whom Junior/Kushner/Manafort met did not actually have any useful information and was really trying to influence Trump on the issue of adopting Russian children or to blunt the move to increase U.S. sanctions on Russia, the fact remains, and at this point appears to be undeniable and undenied, that the purpose of the gathering, from Junior’s point of view, was to seek Russian help in the battle with Clinton. And, of course, he wants everyone to believe that the President knew nothing of the meeting.

So craven are the enablers of the Trump Family Deniers that Ed Rogers, in an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning, http://wapo.st/2uaPmNy, singing the familiar tune “hysteria among the media,” argues that,

No senior campaign official, much less a family member of the candidate, should take such a meeting. Having the meeting was a rookie, amateur mistake. Between human curiosity and a campaign professional’s duty to get the dirt when you can, Trump Jr. likely felt that the person had to be heard. However, the meeting should have been handed off to a lackey. Said lackey would have then reported the scoop — or lack thereof — and awaited further instruction. [emphasis added]

What can one say after that? A fair reading of it, I suggest, is (1) perfect execution of “we were just amateurs at politics” defense, and (2) in a play right out of the Godfather, never send anyone from the family to do the dirty work and leave fingerprints; send in one of the stooge soldiers who can be sacrificed if necessary to protect the family, (3) seeking dirt from dirty sources like the Russian government is just good political fun, so what’s the problem?

This “win at any cost” mentality may be part of what led Trump to confess to Lester Holt in the now famous interview that he was going to fire FBI Director Comey because of Comey’s pursuit of the Trump-Russia connection regardless of what the leadership of the Department of Justice recommended. Trump and his very very rich family are accustomed to getting their way without arguments and if you do argue, you’re fired.

Maybe I’m being naïve about politics but I continue to struggle with understanding how the Republican Party can continue to support this president, given that he has no real connection to conservative political values that have driven the Republican Party historically and is making a complete hash of the office of the President. He has accomplished nothing of positive significance since taking office six months ago while destroying international relationships that have sustained world peace for decades. More about this in the next post.