The Thriller That Predicted the Russia Scandal

Politico notes that The People’s House by David Pepper is “a quick, lively thriller full of labyrinthine scandal and homey Rust Belt touches—reads like a user’s guide to the last two years in U.S. politics.”

“And Pepper wrote the book before any of it actually happened.”

“The People’s House centers around a Russian scheme to flip an election and put Republicans in power by depressing votes in the Midwest. Pipeline politics play an unexpectedly outsize role. Sexual harassment and systematic coverups in Congress abound. But it’s no unimaginative rehash. Pepper released the book in the summer of 2016, just as the presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was heating up—and before Russia’s real-life campaign to influence the election had been revealed. In fact, the heart of the story had been written for three years when Russian government sent hackers to infiltrate the Democratic National Committee and sent their trolls to influence the election on social media. The Putin-like oligarch Pepper portrays as pulling the strings of U.S. politics had been fleshed out for two.”

Mueller Knows Much More Than He’s Shown

Lawfare: “The indictment is yet another reminder of something that’s been made clear over the past several months repeatedly: Mueller and his team know much more than is public, and they are unusual in Washington in being fully capable of keeping secrets.”

“The special counsel’s office not only appears to be decidedly leak-resistant, everything that has emerged of the investigation so far suggests that the special counsel’s office has information well beyond that which it has made public. This is another reason to avoid making predictions about the innocence of the Trump campaign—or its guilt, for that matter—based on the limited scope of the indictment. Nobody knows how much more to come there is, and anyone pretending to, either by way of claiming vindication for those not yet indicted or by way of asserting confidently what the next shoe to drop will be, deserves a healthy measure of skepticism.”

New White House Policy Could Impact Kushner

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that beginning next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information — a move that could threaten the standing of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law,” the Washington Post reports.

“Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, has been able to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets even as his background investigation has dragged on for more than a year.”

“White House officials have privately discussed concerns that Kushner’s clearance faces obstacles… Among the potential problems: repeated amendments that he had to make to a form detailing his contacts with foreign officials. Two U.S. officials said they do not expect Kushner to receive a permanent security clearance in the near future.”

Mueller Says Manafort Also Committed Bank Fraud

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has told a federal judge it has found evidence that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, committed bank fraud not addressed by the indictment last October in which he was charged with money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent,” Politico reports.

“As legal wrangling continues over a $10 million bail package for Manafort, prosecutors this week accused him of submitting false information to a bank in connection with one of his mortgages.”

Trump Has Helped Putin Cover Up a Crime

David Corn: “This means that Mueller’s probe could yield additional information regarding the details and breadth of the Russian campaign to intervene in the election to assist Trump. The president, who has yet to say anything in public showing he is committed to preventing Russian meddling in this year’s election, can continue to dismiss such material as ‘fake news’ produced by a ‘witch hunt.’ (According to the Washington Post, in his first year as president, Trump said the Russia probe was a Democratic hoax 44 times.)”

“Hours after Friday’s indictment, Trump issued a statement once again dismissing the Russia investigation for producing ‘outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories.’  But with this indictment—and possibly others—Mueller has demonstrated that Trump, by refusing to acknowledge fully the Russian assault of 2016, has been helping Putin cover up a crime. “

U.S. Man Pleads Guilty to Helping Russians

“A California man pleaded guilty to identity fraud in a second case unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the US presidential election,” CNN reports.

“Richard Pinedo’s guilty plea was unsealed by the federal court in DC on Friday, minutes after the Justice Department announced charges against 13 Russian nationals.”

13 Russians Indicted for U.S. Election Interference

“The Justice Department announced the indictment of a notorious Russian troll farm — naming more than a dozen individual suspects who allegedly worked there — as part of the special counsel’s investigation into criminal interference with the 2016 election,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “The indictment charges that the foreigners falsely posed as American citizens, stole identities and otherwise engaged in fraud and deceit in an effort to influence the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential race.”

“Though the Russians are unlikely to be immediately arrested, they are now wanted by the United States government, which will make it hard for them to travel or do business internationally.”

Commerce Recommends Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum

Jonathan Swan: “The Department of Commerce will recommend tariffs on steel and aluminum that, if applied, would be the first shots in a global trade war.”

“The fight over whether to use the Section 232 law to impose tariffs has already become the hottest trade fight inside the Trump White House. Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis have all been fighting against these tariffs on steel and aluminum — arguing they would harm the global economy and damage relationships with allies.”

Scott Leaning Towards a Senate Bid In Florida

“Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), in conversations with major Republican donors over the past week, has signaled that he is moving closer to challenging Sen. Bill Nelson and has mapped out financial and political plans that could guide his potential bid,” the Washington Post reports.

“Scott’s study of the race’s dynamics and his confidence that the veteran Democrat is vulnerable has led those donors to conclude that the governor is now leaning toward running, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss private exchanges.”

Said one donor: “He thinks Nelson isn’t ready for the velocity of a 2018 campaign.”

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think that the campaign colluded in some meaningful way. I don’t think that they were organized enough, or competent enough as a campaign to do that.”

— Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), in an interview with CNBC, doubting that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.