EDITOR’S BLOG
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Rudy Ups the Ante

Seemingly using the opportunity of the disputed Buzzfeed story, Rudy Giuliani is now conceding a maximal version of President Trump’s attempts to get a multi-hundred million dollar payday from Vladimir Putin for the length of the 2016 presidential campaign. Giuliani quotes Trump saying that negotiations for the Moscow Trump Tower deal were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”

During the time Trump was singing Putin’s praises on the campaign trail and getting Putin’s help with hacking and information campaigns, Putin was dangling a few hundred million dollars in front of Trump.

The Hotel Deal Is Really All That Matters

I still do not think we have a clear read of just what happened or is happening with that disputed Buzzfeed story about President Trump telling Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. My best guess is that it is some dispute about Trump ‘directing’ Cohen to lie versus simply having him, allowing him to lie, having his lawyers concoct a false story line with Cohen, etc. If you listen to Giuliani’s words today it sounds like he’s trying to pry open the possibility that Trump knew Cohen was telling Congress things we now know were lies but simply didn’t remember or didn’t realize they were lies. Those can be meaningful distinctions as far as Trump’s criminal liability goes. They are not terribly important distinctions in terms of our getting to the heart of what happened in the 2016 election or Trump’s relationship with Russia. None are as important as what Rudy Giuliani again freely admitted today, which is that throughout 2016 Trump was trying to finalize a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow from which he believed he’d reap hundreds of millions in profits over the coming years.

Few Quick Questions About Books

This survey is now closed. The link to the survey has been removed and the original post is in italics below.

Could you answer four quick book questions for me? Super simple. Literally four questions. Takes under a minute. It’s some information that would be helpful for a few projects we’re considering, still very much in the brainstorming phase. Just click here. Thanks.

I closed this survey after we got over 6,000 responses. First, thank you to everyone who took a moment to fill out the survey. The results are fascinating to me and very helpful. I’m sharing the results after the jump.

Don’t Expect the Mueller Probe To Do What Isn’t Its Job

The Buzzfeed brouhaha and the Mueller denial recall a basic point. Our most critical national and civic need is to find out the truth of what happened in the 2016 election and who President Trump really works for today. That imperative is far more important than whether any individual person or group of individuals is incarcerated or otherwise punished for crimes. But that is not the purpose of the Mueller probe. It never has been. The Special Counsel investigation is a criminal and counter-intelligence investigation. Its goal is to find out whether crimes were committed and to prosecute them.

What Does Mueller’s Statement Mean?
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The Special Counsel’s Office has just released an almost unprecedented statement disputing at least parts of the Buzzfeed story that has roiled the national political discussion for the last twenty four hours. The statement is as follows: “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

The first thing to note here is that I don’t think the Mueller office has ever issued a statement like this. They hardly ever say anything at all beyond terse and procedural statements about court cases. I cannot recollect any other time when they’ve publicly disputed a story. If it’s happened once or twice, it’s extremely rare.

The other point to note is that this is not a blanket refutation of the story. The statement is carefully worded and disputes “description[s] of specific statements” and the “characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office.” It’s possible to interpret this as disputing specific subsidiary points in the story, while leaving the central claims intact. But that seems like a stretch.

Team Mueller Calls Into Question Buzzfeed Report

In an unusual move, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller has issued a statement denying key elements of the Buzzfeed blockbuster that alleged President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress:

Trump’s Dangerous Game of Chicken with Michael Cohen
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I want to discuss some details in the background of that new Buzzfeed reporting about Trump, Cohen and the Trump Tower Moscow deal. It’s more a matter of deduction, inference and some speculation. But you can’t understand what’s happening between Trump and Cohen without this part of the story.

As noted in last night’s post, the most logical source of this story is federal law enforcement centered out of New York City. But Michael Cohen also appears to be talking extensively to congressional investigators. In any case, President Trump obviously knows whatever it is he himself did. He doesn’t need to hear about it from Buzzfeed or sources on Capitol Hill. For all these reasons, President Trump clearly has a lot to fear from Michael Cohen, about topics that go far beyond the details of his hush money payments and campaign finance law violations. Trump wants to punish Cohen and shut him up.

Next consider that ABC News reported yesterday that Cohen was thinking of rolling back his congressional testimony because he feared President Trump’s escalating attacks are endangering his family. I checked in on this and Cohen’s worries seem to be two-tiered. One is the standard and understandable fear that the President’s railing could trigger some unhinged person to do something violent and rash. But it’s hard to figure where Trump’s comments are more likely to do that this week than they were last week or last month. The other concern – I suspect the driving concern – is that Cohen worries that Trump is trying to endanger his family, specifically his father-in-law, either legally or through violence.

This requires closer attention.

Today’s Agenda: Did The President Tell Cohen To Lie?
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Buzzfeed’s late-night article, reporting that Trump instructed Cohen to lie about their work on Trump Tower and received 10 updates on it, is having ripple effects this morning. Here’s more on that story and others we’re following.

A Close Look at Buzzfeed’s Russia Blockbuster
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As you may have already seen, Buzzfeed published a major story tonight on the Russia probe: President Trump directly and repeatedly instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.

I am going to share what I think are the key claims in the piece and some observations about the nature of the evidence. But before getting to those points an observation. The big news tonight is that President Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress. That’s a great scoop and it’s a big deal. But the issue isn’t really the lying. That flows almost inevitably from the original bad act. The President betrayed his country for the hope of a few hundred million dollars. He continues to do so today from the White House. This isn’t a crime that’s being uncovered. It’s one we’re still in the midst of. Whatever the criminal law makes of the lying, it is most important not because it is a crime in itself but because it is additional evidence of the conspiracy with Russia that propelled Trump into office and continues to this day.

Let’s go over the key points …

Trump Moscow Timeline

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that conversations about a potential Trump Tower deal in Moscow — conversations involving then-candidate Trump — occurred “as far as October, November” of 2016.

President Trump may have ratcheted up his anti-immigration efforts in recent months, but his family companies appear to be using foreign workers at a higher rate than ever before.

LIVEWIRE
Pence Quotes From King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech In Pitch For Wall Money

Pence cited the quote — “Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy” — while promoting President Donald Trump’s latest effort to get congressional Democrats behind a $5.7 billion border wall appropriation.

Trump Uses Climate Change As A Punchline Again

Hilarious!

WATCH LIVE: Trump Makes Shutdown Statement From WH At 4 PM ET

The President is expected to speak soon from the White House. Watch below via NBC News:

‘Senior Dem Aide’ Throws Cold Water On Reported Trump Offer: ‘This Cannot Pass’

Trump will reportedly offer Democrats certain concessions in exchange for border wall funds during remarks scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday.

Gillibrand On Calling For Franken To Resign: ‘Enough Was Enough’

At a campaign stop in Iowa Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who said Tuesday that she will run for President, was asked about her December 2017 call on former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign in light of multiple groping allegations.

Dozens of Democratic senators ultimately called on Franken to resign, and he did eventually announce his resignation in December 2017.  In her response to the question Friday, captured below by The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, Gillibrand said that in light of mounting credible allegations against Franken, “I couldn’t remain silent anymore.”

Trump Teases ‘Major Announcement’ On Border Set For Saturday Afternoon

Trump And North Korea’s Kim Will Have A Second Summit At The End Of February

The White House announced Friday afternoon that President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will have a second summit at the end of February, according to MSNBC. The location is still to be announced.

The summit was announced soon after Trump met with Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official in the North Korean government.

Trump Reacts To Cohen Bombshell: He’s ‘Lying To Reduce His Jail Time!’

President Donald Trump on Friday morning reacted to a bombshell report that said he directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Pelosi Chief Of Staff: Trump ‘Traveled To Iraq During’ Shutdown

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) chief of staff responded to President Trump’s cancellation of Pelosi’s trip to Brussels, Afghanistan and Egypt — which was set to take off Thursday afternoon — by explaining the intent of the trip and pointing out that Trump and another Republican had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown.

Trump Campaign Fundraises Off Of Pelosi’s State Of The Union Snub

The Trump 2020 campaign sent out a fundraising email Thursday raging over the President’s withdrawn invitation to deliver a State of the Union address — inaccurately saying it was “illegitimate” and unconstitutional for Pelosi to cancel the speech — and asking supporters to help raise $1,000,000. The email’s subject asked, “I’m disinvited?”

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