FEC chair to Trump: Not so fast

Ellen Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Commission, tweeted her response to Donald Trump’s admission that he’ll accept foreign help in 2020. She expressed incredulity at the necessity of it, then stated in no uncertain terms that “it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”

When foreign meddlers talk in 2020, Trump will listen

It’s official: Donald Trump has welcomed foreign interference in his next run for president, telling George Stephanopoulos he may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offer dirt on his rivals. “Oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said, disputing the idea that it would be considered election interference. Nobody’s flabbergasted by it, but that’s the problem. Since he hasn’t really paid a price for Russia’s assistance in his 2016 win, he’s sticking with the playbook.

Trump attacks Mueller after admitting for first time that Russia helped elect him

The president can’t seem to make up his mind. In the wake of Robert Mueller’s comments yesterday, he has predictably insulted the special counsel and implied that both Mueller and his investigation were “compromised.” But in the midst of that, he made a stunning admission—for the first time he acknowledged that Russia helped him get elected. He later walked it back, but his apparent Freudian slip is one of the most truthful things he’s ever said on the matter.

The truth behind the Trump Tower Moscow

We’ve heard a lot about the Trump Tower Moscow, but here’s a new angle: The potential deal came with far greater risk—and far less reward—than previously understood. So why would an “extremely stable genius” with storied dealmaking skills jeopardize his eventual presidency on a mediocre deal with Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints all over it? Good question. The answer is likely that Trump isn’t much of a businessman, but he really, really wanted to do business with Putin.

Just Security: The complete guide to collusion

“[T]he more analytically precise issues to consider are whether Trump campaign associates ‘coordinated with, cooperated with, encouraged, or gave support’ to the Russia/WikiLeaks election interference activities. Those are important questions regardless of whether such activities amounted to crimes, …whether individuals’ actions and intentions can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, …whether Americans acted as unwitting Kremlin assets in support of Russian operations, and …whether individuals and organizations can be prosecuted without endangering First Amendment interests.”

Steven L Hall: I managed Russia operations for the CIA. There’s collusion.

“Russia did in fact attempt to influence the presidential elections (a fact that Barr accepts, despite Trump’s continued denials). Trump stood with the leader of this adversarial, autocratic government and publicly sided with him over his own intelligence community. Some Trump appointees will be spending time in prison. Even if the Mueller report had thoroughly exonerated the president, this would not be a great day for American democracy. Putin, on the other hand, can be proud of what he has helped bring about in this country: a divided, weakened America.”

Jed Handelsman Shugerman: Yes, Trump conspired with Russia

“High crimes and misdemeanors are not limited to felonies. One does not have to conclude that Mr. Trump committed a felony to vote for impeachment. The key points are that the report should not be interpreted as disproving the core Russian allegations. The opposite appears true, even with the redactions: It shows illegal coordination and conspiracy by a preponderance of the evidence. And this evidence is relevant for further subpoenas, for an impeachment inquiry based on the Russian campaign and for proving obstruction with corrupt intent beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Tom Nichols: Trump failed as commander-in-chief

“Russia attacked our democracy. Trump and his cronies knew it and were glad for it. As president, Trump has steadfastly refused to accept his responsibility to do anything about this assault on our institutions. This is a dereliction of duty, and it continues even now. Donald Trump is the president and the commander in chief until the Congress or the voters say he is not. But nothing will ever change the fact that Robert Mueller has dragged into the light one of the greatest and darkest stains on a presidency in American history.”

Mueller considered charging Junior

Special Counsel Robert Mueller said he considered charging Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and other participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with campaign-finance violations but chose not to because of a high bar to prove they intended to break the law. His decision was based on a lack of evidence about their state of mind when they agreed to meet a Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to the Mueller report.

Why did the Russians court Trump?

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller reaffirmed the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russian government directed an online campaign of hacking and trolling to help Donald Trump in 2016. What’s less clear are the intentions of the many Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign offline and whether they were well-connected covert emissaries of the Kremlin or just hucksters trying to latch onto the coattails of a potential president. “

He’s just plain loony Nunes

The House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, plans to meet privately with Attorney General William Barr to push the Justice Deparment to pursue criminal charges against officials involved in the investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. His accusations of misconduct are aimed at a slew of former FBI and DOJ officials, who he alleges committed crimes in their pursuit of allegations that Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russians to influence the election.

Barr forms team to investigate FBI, DOJ

Attorney General William Barr has assembled a team to review controversial counterintelligence decisions made by Justice Department and FBI officials, including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016. This indicates that Barr is looking into allegations made by Republican lawmakers that the investigation into Donald Trump and possible collusion with Russia was tainted at the start by anti-Trump bias in the DOJ.

Max Boot: The post-Mueller speech we deserved

“I hope everyone accepts Mueller’s findings. I certainly do. I once called the Russian interference in our election a ‘hoax.’ I now accept it was a fact, and I strongly condemn the Russian actions. President Putin, if you’re listening, I hope you hear me loud and clear: What you did was unacceptable, and you will pay a heavy price should you ever mess with our democracy again. I want to assure all Americans that I was and will be as tough as necessary in countering Russian aggression while, at the same time, holding out the hand of friendship to the Russian government should it decide to improve its behavior. Russia can start by freeing the Ukrainian sailors it captured in November.”

Susan Glasser: Donald Trump, grievance president

Donald Trump and the House Intelligence Committee Republicans’ standoff with committee Chair Adam Schiff on Thursday “was all a reminder that the story of Trump and Russia won’t go away. For Trump, it’s a key to his victimization narrative—look at what the evil deep state tried to do to me. The president is all about the politics of grievance. For Democrats, even if the politics of impeachment have fizzled, the Trump-Russia story remains proof of Trump’s unfitness for office. It also remains unresolved by [Attorney General William] Barr’s short summary, which, after all, is just a few paragraphs of declarative legalese after two years of waiting. … The fight will go on.”

Papadopoulos pleads for a pardon

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser charged in the Mueller investigation has applied for a pardon from President Trump through his lawyers a few days ago and is considering withdrawing his guilty plea. Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, was sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined $9,500 after he lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries before the 2016 election. He also pleaded guilty to federal investigators in a January 2017 meeting.

Barr: Mueller report in ‘weeks, not months’

Attorney General William Barr will make a version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report publicly available in “weeks, not months,” a Justice Department official said on Tuesday. There are no plans to give a copy of the report to the White House in advance of the public release, the official said. Six Democratic committee chairs in the House have sent a letter to Barr requesting that he submit the full report from Mueller to Congress by April 2.

Greg Sargent: Trump won with help. He doesn’t want you to know that.

“We know [Donald] Trump has long opposed a full accounting of that Russian attack — not just because he denies collusion but also because he reportedly saw the very existence of that attack as undermining the greatness of his victory. Indeed, it’s been documented that this is why he did so little to secure the country against the next Russian attack. Thus, what [William] Barr’s letter really tells us is that, without the Mueller report, we are being denied a full reckoning into that subversion of our democracy and a full public airing of Trump’s efforts to prevent that reckoning from happening.”

Congress at war over Mueller report

As Democrats plan to charge ahead with their investigations of Donald Trump, House conservatives are intensifying their demands for scrutiny of Department of Justice decisions regarding Robert Mueller’s probe. In a letter sent to President Trump on Monday, eight House conservatives asked him to declassify the documents underlying the Mueller investigation.

Charlie Sykes: No collusion. No exoneration.

“There are still so many unanswered questions: If indeed there was no collusion, why all the lies? What were all those meetings about? What was Paul Manafort really up to? And what were the actual connections between TrumpWorld and WikiLeaks? Why did [Robert] Mueller choose not to interview [Donald] Trump? What role did the negotiations over a Trump Tower in Moscow play in the campaign? And we still do not know why the president of the United States fawns on and kowtows to Vladimir Putin.”

Ken White: Barr’s letter leaves more questions

“When prosecutors say that an investigation ‘did not establish’ something, that doesn’t mean that they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means that the investigation didn’t produce enough information to prove that it happened. Without seeing [Robert] Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this is a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it might determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.”

Trump-Russia dossier partially endorsed

A May 2018 report from a retired FBI agent, submitted as expert testimony in a civil lawsuit, was unsealed this week, and sheds more light on the infamous Steele dossier. While the most salacious allegations in the dossier still remain unverified, the report lends additional credence to Christopher Steele’s claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw an effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and that Russian operatives engaged with Trump’s team during the campaign.

Manafort, Cohen, and Whitaker, oh my!

Wednesday was another bad day for Donald Trump. Is a pardon for Paul Manafort next? Analyst Stephen Collinson writes: “For the second time in a week, a Manafort attorney emerged from a sentencing hearing and appeared to twist a judge’s words in a way that raised suspicions he was bolstering Trump’s claims that there was ‘no collusion’ in return for a pardon for his client. Trump did little to stem speculation he might act in such a manner by saying he felt ‘very badly’ for Manafort…”

Did Erik Prince lie to Congress?

Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a big-time donor and vocal supporter of Donald Trump, denied any formal connections to the Trump campaign before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017. But in May 2018, the New York Times reported that Prince had arranged a meeting in Trump Tower in August 2016, with Donald Trump Jr., Stephen Miller, George Nader, and Joel Zamel. Which is the truth?

Did Trump get a heads-up about WikiLeaks?

What happened between July 16 and July 20, 2016? That’s the window of time when Michael Cohen suggests that Donald Trump was alerted about an upcoming data dump by WikiLeaks. If true, Cohen’s account, provided in sworn testimony to the House Oversight Committee, would be a dramatic revelation — indicating that Trump misled the public about his knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans and provided false written testimony to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Jonathan Chait: The beginning of the impeachment

“The persistent nagging skepticism that has surrounded President Trump’s legal travails arose again in recent days when reports claimed that Robert Mueller would soon publish his final report. If Mueller was almost done, he couldn’t have much more, and none of it would touch Trump directly. Michael Cohen’s testimony destroys that presumption completely. Trump’s former fixer alleges not only systematic criminality by his former boss, but deep culpability in the Russia scandal itself. There is no longer any serious chance that Trump will avoid impeachment proceedings. Cohen’s testimony should be seen as the first hearing.”

The known unknowns of the Mueller Investigation

What do we know that we don’t know about TrumpRussia? A lot. Did Donald Trump know about the Trump Tower meeting? Did Trump encourage Roger Stone to coordinate with WikiLeaks? Did Paul Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik demonstrate coordination? Why didn’t Robert Mueller interview Donald Trump, Jr.? Hopefully the special counsel’s report will clear up some of these questions soon.

McCabe: Trump may be a Russian asset

A shocking comment about a sitting U.S. president. In an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Cooper asked, “Do you still believe the president could be a Russian asset?” “I think it’s possible,” former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe replied. “I think that’s why we started our investigation, and I’m really anxious to see where [Robert] Mueller concludes that.”

Roger Stone directly colluded with Russians

Prosecutors said for the first time that they have evidence of Roger Stone communicating with WikiLeaks, according to a new court filing from special counsel prosecutors. The filings show Robert Mueller’s team has correspondence between Donald Trump’s long-time confidant and Russian intelligence. The walls are closing in.

‘The American people deserve to know’

Someone had to say it. On Thursday, Sen. Bob Menendez took the plunge. In a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, he said, “I’m talking about the entirely legitimate question of whether Donald Trump could be compromised by the Russian government. It’s more than a legitimate question.” He continued, “The American people deserve to know who they elected to be their president. They deserve to know if he is in fact putting American interests first.”

Analysis: Where collusion might have occurred

Though a criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump and the Russian government hasn’t yet been proven, there are at least five areas where it could have occurred — through Paul Manafort’s dealings with Konstantin Kilimnik, in Roger Stone’s outreach to WikiLeaks, at the Trump Tower meeting, via George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, or as told in the Steele dossier.