Editor’s Blog

Do We Remember That Manafort Picked Pence?

Do we remember that Mike Pence was Paul Manafort’s choice for Veep? Trump was set on Chris Christie and didn’t seem terribly comfortable with Pence. But Manafort was dead set on it and even resorted to tricking Trump about mechanical problems on his plane to keep Trump in Indianapolis to seal the deal with Pence.

From a 2016 report from CBS … Read More

Rep. Jordan Pressures Coaches to Get His Accusers to Recant

Seems very clear that Jim Jordan pressured his his ex-boss, former head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson to get his accusers to recant. This is hardly surprising since Jordan is orchestrating a far-ranging cover up of his lies and role in the original case. He even has a website attacking his accusers and a full time conservative PR firm helping him manage the cover up. One of the accusers says Hellickson told him, “I will defend Jimmy until I have to put my hand on a Bible and be asked to tell the truth, then Jimmy will be on his own.” Read More

I Don’t Buy This Explanation

This afternoon ABC published a story which purports to explain what was going on in the background (as I speculated here) that made President Trump dramatically up the ante in his push to end the Mueller investigation. According to ABC, within the last day President Trump had learned that Mueller had agreed to limit the scope of the questions he would ask Trump in an investigatory interview but would focus his questions on obstruction of justice.

I don’t buy this. Read More

Capone is No Accident

People are either surprised, incredulous or laughing about President Trump defending his former campaign manager Paul Manafort by comparing him to the notorious gangland killer Al Capone. They shouldn’t. To Trump, Capone was a winner. He was rich. Everybody gave him respect. But he was brought down on BS charges, mundane financial crimes. He was treated very unfairly, to use the President’s signature phrase. This isn’t hyperbole or a mere attack. Over a forty-plus year career, Trump was deep in business with some of the most notorious and violent mobsters of the late 20th century. Trump managed not to get in to trouble first because he had the right friends but just as much because he kept the relationships largely passive. He laundered their money. His main overt act was willful obliviousness. Trump Tower itself was a notorious haven for all sorts of organized crime figures, mostly from other countries. Mostly from Russia and the former Soviet Union.

If you want to learn more about this I strongly recommend reading Seth Hettena’s Trump/Russia: A Definitive History. As the title suggests it’s mainly about the backstory of the Trump’s relationship with Russia. But that story is inseparable from his ties to organized crime. If you want to hear more before buying it you can listen to my conversation with the author here.

Something Big Is Happening in The Background

It’s easy to see President Trump’s tweet today, which says Jeff Sessions should fire Bob Mueller, as yet more of the cacophony of mania and aggression that spews forth from his Twitter account daily like water flowing over a waterfall. But I fear that may not be the case. President Trump has criticized Jeff Sessions many times. His anger at him is notorious. But I don’t think he has ever so clearly in public told Sessions to fire Mueller or given him such a specific “cause” for doing so. I do not think this is an accident or a random escalation.  Read More

Possibly Craziest Story Ever (New Innovations in Pol Revenge Porn)

2018 has been a year with constant new innovations in the field of politician revenge porn. First Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. Later St. Paul Minnesota City Council candidate David Martinez posted a semi-nude photo of his estranged wife to his campaign website after she got a restraining order against him. He then got arrested. But this new story out of Illinois makes these other incidents sound almost run-of-the-mill by comparison. Meet rising star State Rep. Nick Sauer from Illinois.

Two years ago Illinois state Rep. Nick Sauer began a relationship with a California woman who he met on the dating app Tinder. It was at first a long distance relationship. But she eventually moved to Illinois to be closer to him. The two broke up in March of this year when the girlfriend Kate Kelly found out Sauer was dating other women behind her back. So far, it’s your average story of a rotten boyfriend.

But there’s more. Read More

Coming Up: Next Witnesses In Manafort Trial

Caitlin MacNeal sends in this dispatch from the Manafort trial. The next witnesses expected to take the stand are Maximillian Katzman (an NYC menswear retailer), Ronald Wall (presumably a vendor Manafort used) and Daniel Opsut (comptroller of the Alexandria, Virginia Mercedes Benz).

More to come this afternoon.

Big Picture

I’m not sure whether or not it’s prejudicial as a technical matter. But I agree with the larger point from TPM Reader NB

I read Tierney Sneed’s account of judge Ellis arguing that the term oligarch was derogatory and he didn’t want it used in front of the jury with some shock and dismay.

“We’re not going to have this case tried that he associated with despicable people,” Ellis said, referring to Manafort.

“That’s not the American way,” Ellis added.

Read More

What Is Up With Rudy?

So what’s up with Rudy? I tried to explain here.

Life Comes At You Fast

Rocket Docket

For Prime subscribers, Tierney Sneed’s account of a remarkably fast first day of trial for a high profile case: jury selection, opening statements, and the first witness all in under eight hours!

Mueller Pawns Off Possible FARA Cases

Important new reporting from CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has referred several cases of failure to register as a foreign agent to federal prosecutors in Manhattan:

Read More

Poll: Republicans Give Thumbs Up To Russian Help

It’s always a bit hard to know what to make of polls of such wild questions. But Yahoo Finance used SurveyMonkey to poll all voters and particularly Republicans about whether or not they think it’s okay for Russia to help the Republican party in US elections. Trumpers have long been edging their way toward a “collusion is awesome” defense for some time. They’re in luck. Republicans are basically already there. Here are the numbers.

Looking toward the 2018 midterm, 11% of Republicans say it’s “appropriate” for Russia to help the GOP maintain control of Congress. Another 29% say it’s “not appropriate but wouldn’t be a big deal.” So fully 40% of Republicans, according to this poll, either think Russian election is assistance is actually great or at least aren’t going to lose any sleep over it. Read More

Trump’s Theater of the Absurd

People frequently mock President Trump’s press strategies, or rather lack of strategies. They mock Rudy Giuliani’s floundering press appearances. Let’s put a finer point on this: I mock all of them! A lot. But recent days have seen a series of revelations that paradoxically show how relatively successful the President and his toadies have been in warning observers off more or less obvious conclusions about the President’s actions.

Consider the recent claims from Michael Cohen that President Trump knew about the Trump Tower collusion meeting in advance. Some pointed out that we shouldn’t take Michael Cohen’s apparent claims at face value. He lacks credibility. This is a massive understatement. Few people have more checks against his credibility than Cohen. Only President Trump is a more notorious liar. But an eagerness to believe the worst about President Trump isn’t the main reason many were and are inclined to believe this claim. Why would they? Because it’s really obvious that it is almost certainly true. Of course the President knew in advance. Read More

Tear Him All The Way Down

To have have any chance of acquittal, Paul Manafort is going to have to shred the credibility of Rick Gates, his former protege and the key prosecution witness against him, and his defense team lost no time in doing so in today’s opening statement to the jury.

Hiring: Reporter On TPM’s Investigations Desk

TPM is hiring a reporter to join our investigations desk. Full listing after the jump. Read More

Manafort Judge: Not A Crime To Be Rich

An interesting moment in the prosecution’s opening statement in the trial of Paul Manafort: The judge in the case interrupted the prosecutor, who was going on about Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, to note that it’s not a crime to be rich and implore him to focus on the alleged crimes. Our full report from Caitlin MacNeal.

Facebook Could Disappear And the Web Wouldn’t Change Much
The logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square,  Thursday, March 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

I wanted to share one more observation about Facebook and particularly how it compares to that other online behemoth, Google. As we’ve discussed, both these companies exercise various kinds of monopolistic power and anti-competitive behavior. But there’s one very big difference that is important to keep in mind as we assess their role in the 21st century cultural, informational and economic infrastructure.

Facebook has literally billions of users. Never in the history of the world has one thing had so many members or users or whatever else you want to call it. But if you set aside whatever loss would be suffered by people who want to use Facebook, Facebook could disappear tomorrow and it would have pretty little effect on the Internet as a whole. As I said, you might be bummed you can’t log on to see what your friends are doing. There would be a lot of broken “like” and “share” buttons around the web. Certain businesses, though many fewer than before, might tank because their business model was just an outgrowth of Facebook. But big picture, the Internet as we know it would be pretty much what it is today. Read More

Manafort Jury Seated

We have a jury seated in the first trial of the Mueller Russia probe.

Rudy Sure Says a Lot of Weird Things

As we’ve seen today, Rudy Giuliani, like his boss, says a lot of dumb or unguarded things when he speaks off the cuff. Back on July 28th of 2016 had this to say on The Mike Gallagher Show.

Remarking that if the Russian government “could get into the DNC server and be in there for one year, which they were, the DNC server is a more modern server, much better protected than the old equipment that Hillary had hanging around in the garage at home.”

“If they could get into that DNC server, they owned her server in Poughkeepsie,” Giuliani said, although the Clinton server was located in Chappaqua, New York. “And not only did they own it, you know, but so did the Russians, possibly the Israelis, maybe a couple of our other allies. And we do the same thing, so don’t get all upset.”

Read More

We’re on the Case

Here’s a Getty Images/AFP photo of journalists and others waiting to enter the Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia for the beginning of the Paul Manafort trial today. Jury selection starts today. And there’s TPM’s Tierney Sneed, our DC Investigations Desk Reporter who’s been following the ins and outs of the Manafort case since the beginning!

People wait to enter the Albert V. Bryan US Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia on July 31, 2018, for the opening of the jury selection for the Paul Manafort trial. – Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort on July 31, 2018 becomes the first member of the president’s election team to face trial on charges stemming from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 vote. Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud related to his lobbying activities on behalf of the former Russian-backed government of Ukraine. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Are you a TPM Prime subscriber? If you are, you make TPM possible. Thank you. Are you a reporter who’d like to join our Investigations Desk? Our award-winning investigative reporting team with over a decade of tenacious reporting. Well, we are hiring two new Investigations Desk reporters. The positions are open in DC or NY. Here’s a listing where you can apply.

Lawless

Grover Norquist and his friends at the Journal Oped page starting push this a few weeks ago: huge new tax cuts overwhelmingly for the wealthiest Americans by Presidential order. No Congress required. Can he do it? Who’s going to stop him?

Today’s Agenda: July 31, 2018 Prime Badge
Closer and Closer

Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, the guy who just got subpoenaed in the Michael Cohen probe, was deep in the Trump University scam too. Allegra Kirkland reports.

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