It is a rainy Wednesday and Blogger Candidate Forum is back in action. Before we get started, be need to pause and acknowledge the snub seen around the world--former Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton refused to turn her head and acknowledge or shake the hand of Mr. Donald Trump. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, despite never forgiving the president for spreading all those Birther stories, showed she could rise above the animus and shook her husband's successor. What was also obvious was the awkwardness on display as the president took his place among the former president's in the front pew. The Candidate Forum believes that once Mr. Trump finally leaves office, he will never enjoy the same camaraderie that the current ex-presidents enjoy and the reason is all him. Onward.
What about her emails? Madame Secretary's emails? No, first daughter and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump's emails. The Candidate Forum was so hoping to finally retire that whiny "but her emails." According to the emails released by watchdog group American Oversight, Ms. Trump used her personal account to emails members of the Cabinet, aides, and assistants (cnn.com; Nov. 20, 2018; date Dec. 5, 2018). She defended her use of her personal account as "there was no equivalency to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, which became a central rallying cry for her father's campaign" (Ibid; Nov. 28, 2018). She also told ABC's Deborah Roberts that everything was preserved, there were mass deletions of Secretary Clinton's emails after a subpoena (Ibid). Well, it is a good thing everything was preserved and hope her personal accounts were not hacked. Imagine if a hacker got hold of extremely sensitive documents. Moving on.
The end is near. The endgame of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, that is. Yesterday, the special counsel's team filed its sentencing recommendation memorandum and a heavily redacted addendum which suggests that former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn receive little or no prison time for lying to federal investigators (nytimes.com; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). Prosecutors wrote,
His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and first investigation. (int.nyt.com; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018)
Prosecutors also indicated that Mr. Flynn was most helpful in other investigations. Sentencing memos for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Cohen are due in the next few days. Mr. Flynn's cooperation with the special counsel should worry the president because the wealth of information Mr. Trump's former campaign foreign policy adviser provided lays the groundwork for a criminal case. Mr. Mueller has sought to establish that many people, within Mr. Trump's campaign, had contact with Russians and their allies and were deceitful about their contacts (cnn.com; Dec, 5, 2018). There was one line in the Flynn memo that was unmissable.
While Robert Mueller acknowledged Michael Flynn's exemplary military service, he added senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. (Ibid)
This should worry the president and his top aides because as Mr. Mueller wrote,
His early cooperation was particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-tern and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation....Additionally, the defendent's decision to plead guilty and cooperate likely affected decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate.... (Ibid)
Paging Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, who earned the president's praise on Twitter for not cooperating with the special counsel. Perhaps, they are angling for a presidential pardon. The president seems to be dangling pardons in front of his associates, who cooperate with the special counsel as some sort of inducement. Witness tampering? You may ask? Maybe? The prospect of a pardon was certainly in Paul Manafort's mind when before he confessed to being less than forthcoming about his contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
The Guardian reported that Mr. Manafort secretly met with Mr. Assange, in the Ecuadoran embassy, where he has been hiding out from extradition to the United States, in London in 2013, 2015, and 2016 (theguardian.com; Nov. 27, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). If this is indeed true, it would establish the first direct contact between a member of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in the summer 2016 (washingtonpost.com; Dec 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). The emails were stolen by Russian agents and passed to Wikileaks and proved to be embarrassing to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (Ibid). The Guardian reported " that the alleged Manafort-Assange meeting could shed new light on he events leading up to the leaks and might indicate coordination among WikiLeaks, Trump's campaign and Russian hackers" (Ibid). The president has repeatedly stated "no collusion." Then there is Michael Cohen.
Word of advise to Paul Manafort, do not hold your breath about a pardon. Then there is Michael Cohen.
Last Wednesday, Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress, in 2017, about about his role in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Mr. Cohen originally told Congress that the project ended in January 2016, just before the Iowa caucuses, adding that he lied out of a sense of obligation to his former employer. This was not true, negotiations continued into June 2016, once it became clear that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. He told a federal court,
I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1's [the president] political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual -1. (cnn.com; Nov. 29, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018)
Michael Cohen's guilty infers that Mr. Trump's business entanglements with Russia coincided with Russian attempts to meddle in the presidential elections and undermine Madame Secretary. This also coincided with candidate Trump's talking point about easing economic sanctions on Russia (npr.org; June 2, 2017; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018) and more favorable relations (nbcnews.com; Dec. 4, 2018; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018). Mr. Cohen's guilty plea lays bare the possibility that Mr. Trump was vulnerable to blackmail by a hostile power, creating an intelligence and national security nightmare of epic scale (Ibid). Mr. Trump's repeated lies about his involvement with the proposed Trump Tower Moscow suggests a still under the radar criminal conspiracy (Ibid).
Basically, help securing a commitment to build Trump Tower Moscow, from the Russians, is something of value and a violation of the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C Section 201. This statute makes it a crime for a public official or person selected to be a public official "to directly or indirectly corruptly seek, or receive anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance (or omission) of any official act (Ibid, law.cornell.edu; date accessed Dec. 5, 2018).
As things stand, the situation looks grim for the president and adding to his woes is the incoming Democrat majority House of Representatives, where any impeachment proceedings begin. However, impeachment is a lengthy political process and right now there is no will to begin it. The special counsel's final report may not even implicate the president at all. If anything, it will certainly make the Trump-Pence ticket more vulnerable to challengers from within the Republican Party. This story is not over and no doubt there will be more to say in the coming year.