New York Times: “For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack: hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies — and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means.”
Former FBI Director James Comey told St. Louis Public Radio that he thinks that with the plea deal and cooperation by Paul Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller may be in “the fourth quarter” of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Said Comey: “The reason I’m hesitant to even say that is because Bob Mueller’s conducted his investigation like a pro — you know nothing about it except through his public filings, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And so I can’t say with certainty where he is.”
President Trump “ordered the Justice Department to declassify significant materials from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including portions of a secret court order to surveil one of his former campaign advisers and the text messages of several former high-level FBI officials, including former FBI director James B. Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe,” the Washington Post reports.
NBC News: “Trump is making the extraordinary move in response to calls from his allies in Congress who say they believe the Russia investigation was tainted by anti-Trump bias within the ranks of the FBI and Justice Department.”
“He’s not going to survive Manafort’s testimony… I think there’s a substantial possibility that this evidence that Manafort is offering will implicate somebody up the chain.”
— Former White House ethics lawyer Norman Eisen, in an interview on ABC News, saying that he believes this is “not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t know that, but I believe very strongly that the answer to the Russian collusion story is in Russia… If somebody who is really going to get to the bottom of the root Russian collusion issue, the answer is in Moscow… If I were to go there, I don’t think I would ever come back.”
— Bob Woodward, in an interview in New York magazine.
Washington Post: “Manafort’s plea could be a key cog in pushing Mueller’s case toward its ultimate end. Legal analysts say Manafort must have something valuable to share with Mueller’s team, which agreed to drop five of the seven charges he faced and potentially urge leniency at his sentencing, if his cooperation is helpful.”
“Generally, those who plead guilty sit down with prosecutors to detail what they know in a ‘proffer’ session, so the government knows what it will get in the bargain. Manafort’s plea makes reference to a written proffer agreement on Tuesday — showing he has been in talks with the special counsel’s office at least for several days.”
“Whether Manafort ultimately implicates the president remains to be seen.”
CNN: “There are still many unanswered questions regarding the infamous dossier written in 2016 by former British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges widespread collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. CNN has reported that investigators corroborated some aspects of the dossier, but it’s still unclear whether any of the explosive claims in the memos have any merit.”
“The memos mention Manafort several times and accuse him of leading a collusion conspiracy. His lawyers have denied there was any collusion. But if Manafort can shed any light on the dossier memos, investigators would want to know. The FBI considered Steele a reliable source, but investigators can bolster any collusion case if Manafort can corroborate any of the claims.”
BuzzFeed News: “The June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower has become one of the most famous gatherings in American political history: a flashpoint for allegations of collusion, the subject of shifting explanations by the president and his son, countless hair-on-fire tweets, and boundless speculation by the press.”
“But secret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.”
USA Today: “In one passage from Fear: Trump in the White House, Woodward described a scene in which then-candidate Trump summoned Christie to Trump Tower along with campaign CEO Steve Bannon. Trump was angry to learn that Christie, whom he made head of his transition team in May 2016, was raising money for the team’s operations.”
Said Trump: “Where the fuck is the money? I need money for my campaign. I’m putting money in my campaign and you’re fucking stealing from me.”
“Christie explained the money was necessary for the transition team to do its job of preparing Trump to smoothly take over the executive branch of the government should he defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.”
Responded Trump: “You’re jinxing me. I don’t want a transition. I’m shutting down the transition. I told you from day one it was just an honorary title. You’re jinxing me. I’m not going to spend a second on it.”
George Papadopoulos told ABC News that he floated the idea of a summit between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin at a campaign security team meeting on March 31, 2016. Jeff Sessions, now the Attorney General, later told Congress he shut down the idea of a summit at that meeting.
“Papadopoulos said there were mixed reactions to the summit idea among Trump’s advisers, but that many in the campaign supported his efforts, including Corey Lewandowski, the then-campaign manager, Sam Clovis, a senior aide, and Trump himself. He recalled Trump nodding his head when Papadopoulos proposed the meeting, but then appeared to defer to Sessions.”
Said Papadopoulos: “He was open to this idea. And he deferred, of course, to then senior Senator Jeff Sessions, who I remember being quite enthusiastic.”
“On the day Donald Trump’s former foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in jail for lying to investigators about his contacts with a U.K. professor peddling dirt from Russian officials about Hillary Clinton, lawyers in an unrelated case raised the prospect the professor, Joseph Mifsud, may be dead,” Bloomberg reports.
George Papadopoulos, a once low-profile foreign policy campaign adviser whose offhand remark in a London bar helped trigger an FBI investigation into President Trump’s campaign, was sentenced to 14 days incarceration, the Washington Post reports.
New York Times: “He is the first Trump campaign adviser to be sentenced as part of the continuing investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Three others pleaded guilty or were convicted of felonies and await sentencing.”
In an interview, Papadopoulos told CNN that he doesn’t remember telling anyone on the campaign that Russia had damaging emails about Hillary Clinton, but “can’t guarantee” that he kept the bombshell from his campaign colleagues.
“George Papadopoulos, the novice, unpaid foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump who rose to prominence when he became the first former campaign adviser arrested as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian-influence probe, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Washington,” ABC News reports.
“Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to FBI agents about his correspondence with Russian nationals and attempts to arrange a meeting between the campaign and Russian officials. He faces up to six months in prison.”
Hollywood Reporter: “Yes, he acknowledges factors like Russian President Vladimir Putin and former FBI head James Comey, but asserts that the person most responsible for the Trump presidency is… Gwen Stefani. ‘You hadn’t heard that before, have you?’ Moore asks, delighted with the audacity of the claim.”
“Moore posits that when Trump realized Stefani’s performance fees as a coach on ‘The Voice’ were larger than his own on ‘The Apprentice’, he staged his now-infamous Trump Tower campaign announcement to prove his popularity to NBC, which aired both shows… After Trump’s accusation that Mexico was sending rapists across the border, NBC cut ties with him. But Trump, suddenly finding himself cheered on by massive crowds and an indulgent media, figured why not make a serious run for the highest office in the land?”
Said Moore: “He’d been talking about running for president since 1988, but he didn’t really want to be president. There’s no penthouse in the White House. And he doesn’t want to live in a black city. He was trying to pit NBC against another network, but it just went off the rails.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name for interfering in the 2016 US election, calling it a “direct attack” on U.S. democracy, CNN reports.
Said Nielsen: “At Vladimir Putin’s direction, Moscow launched a brazen, multi-faceted influence campaign to undermine public faith in our democratic process and to distort our presidential election. Although no actual ballots were altered by this campaign, make no mistake: This was a direct attack on our democracy.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller “will accept written answers from President Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told Mr. Trump’s lawyers in a letter,” the New York Times reports.
“But on another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter.”
“Mr. Mueller did not say that he was giving up on an interview altogether, including on questions of obstruction of justice. But the tone of the letter and the fact that the special counsel did not ask for written responses on obstruction prompted some Trump allies to conclude that if an interview takes place, its scope will be more limited than Mr. Trump’s legal team initially believed.”