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Vince Alongi / Flickr

Toxic Trump Matters & Russia, Russia, Russia 

Manafort documents filed by Mueller!

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, lied to prosecutors repeatedly despite his plea deal to cooperate, but a judge allowed Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller to file a secret document describing the breach.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided Friday to allow Mueller to file the document under seal. A redacted version of the document, with a portion of the explanation, might still be filed.

So, we all wanted more information on what exactly Manafort has been doing.  Here’s a link to the document (lots of redaction, and I understand the other document is completely under seal).

Here’s some more from another source:

In the filing, Mueller says that his investigators confronted Manafort’s attorneys in November about what prosecutors believed were “multiple lies” Manafort had told them. Among the lies, Mueller said were about contacts he had or sought with administration officials. Mueller said he denied such communications, despite evidence prosecutors say they have showing that as late as February Manafort was claiming to be in touch with an administration official and a text in May, in which Manafort authorized someone else to contact an administration official on his behalf.

Mueller said Manafort lied about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who had worked closely with Manafort on his consulting projects in Ukraine, as well as about Kilmnik’s alleged efforts to obstruct justice via witness tampering. Manafort also lied about a wire transfer made by a firm working for him, according to Mueller, and about “information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”

For more, we may have to wait, although I’m sure others will parse out more detail.  However, with Cohen, we don’t have to wait!  Read on:

Michael Cohen receives the sentencing recommendations from the Southern District of New York — and from the Special Counsel (Mueller).  That’s right; if you haven’t been following everything, two courts.

And it’s not a good day for Michael Cohen — the Southern District of New York is recommending prison time between 51 to 63 months.

Cohen, an attorney and businessman, committed four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years. He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends. Now he seeks extraordinary leniency – a sentence of no jail time –based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement. But the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life (and was evidently hidden from the friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).

As set forth in the Probation Department’s Pre sentence Investigation Report (“PSR”), the applicable United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”) range is 51 to 63 months’imprisonment. This range reflects Cohen’s extensive, deliberate, and serious criminal conduct,and this Office submits that a substantial prison term is required to vindicate the purposes and principles of sentencing as set forth in Section 3553(a).

Note that this sentencing recommendation is not from Mueller.  Other remarks: Cohen was late in flipping, unlike Mike Flynn, and they were not impressed by some of his cooperation.  Four distinct federal crimes. Also, he had been committing these crimes for a long time.

I don’t have a problem with this. As Cohen was Trump’s fixer for years, and I want Trump to go down for his decades of criminality, Cohen deserves a substantial sentence too. If you want more on whether or not Trump deserves to be in prison for this, I recommend looking at this article, which takes a Twitter thread by Kurt Eichenwald and puts it into an easy-to-read format.

However, Mueller’s office does say that Cohen was of assistance in the Special Counsel’s investigation:

In a court document, Mueller also said he was not taking a position on what sentence Cohen should receive next Wednesday when he is sentenced for the crime of lying to Congress, which is the only charge to have been lodged against the lawyer by the special counsel.

Cohen is also due to be sentenced that same day to financial crimes and campaign violations lodged by federal prosecutors in New York, who have asked for a “substantial” term of imprisonment.

Mueller said any sentence for lying to Congress should be served concurrently with that that sentence.
The defendant’s assistance has been useful in four significant respects. First, the defendant provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts. For example, and as described above, the defendant provided a detailed account of his involvement and the involvement of others in the Moscow Project, and also corrected the record concerning his outreach to the Russian government during the week of the United Nations General Assembly. The defendant also provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign. For example, in or around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.” The defendant recalled that this person repeatedly proposed a meeting between Individual 1 and the President of Russia. The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” referring to the Moscow Project, because there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia].” Cohen, however,did not follow up on this invitation.
Second, Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign.
Third, Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017–2018 time period.
Fourth, Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it.
Also, more ties to Russia interfering in the election, using the term “political synergy” — which sure sounds a lot like polite-speak for collusion.  Apparently, at the direction of Trump. So that is the big piece, in my opinion, in the documents dropped on Friday.

Mueller investigating ties between Russia, the Trump 2016 campaign, and the NRA

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating the financial ties between the NRA and the Russians. It is illegal to use foreign money in American political campaigns.

With that in mind, let’s pivot to a new and troubling cooperative report from Mother Jones and The Trace who lay out strong evidence that the Trump campaign and the NRA illegally coordinated $30 million in political spending to boost Donald Trump in 2016.

Comey’s testimony was a waste of time

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, called former FBI Director James Comey’s closed-door testimony before Congress on Friday a “waste of time” meant only to give Republicans a chance to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“It’s a waste of time to start with,” he told reporters. “The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersion on the real investigation, which is Mueller. There’s no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense they’re talking about.”

Those Republicans can’t be kicked out of the majority soon enough. Why do we have to pay them to screw us?

Trump’s three major threats

President Trump faces three clear and imminent threats as he heads toward his 2020 reelection race — the economy slipping, Congress flipping and a Russia probe drip, drip, dripping. And few inside the White House feel he is yet prepared or staffed for the hell about to hit them.

Of course, we all hope he’s gone before 2020, but just in case, it’s nice to know that he would have a hard time if he’s still around.

From the Maddow Blog: Answering Mueller’s questions was not easy for the Donald

The Atlantic‘s Elaina Plott has a new report on Donald Trump’s team preparing for a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the degree to which those efforts aren’t going well. The piece has quite a few interesting insights, but this was one of the tidbits that stood out for me:

Giuliani said it’s been difficult in the last few months to even consider drafting response plans, or devote time to the “counter-report” he claimed they were working on this summer, as he and Trump confronted Mueller’s written questions about the 2016 campaign.

“Answering those questions was a nightmare,” he told me. “It took him about three weeks to do what would normally take two days.”

Rex Tillerson says Trump asked him to break the law

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,’ ” Tillerson said in rare public remarks in Thursday night in Houston at a fundraiser for the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Democrats Are Great; Republicans Got Nothing

Finally, a Republican investigating another Republican…?

Missouri’s Republican secretary of state has launched an investigation of its outgoing attorney general and Sen.-Elect Josh Hawley (R-MO), over accusations that Hawley misused public funds in order to help his political career.

The ADLF (American Democracy Legal Fund) complaint adds: “Under Hawley’s oversight and with his approval, political consultants appear to have used Missouri’s taxpayer-funded resources to construct a carefully-curated communications strategy that would puff up Hawley’s public image and prepare him for his Senate candidacy.”

Hawley defeated incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in November.

Wouldn’t surprise me if Hawley’s dirty. But will the MO SOS do a real investigation or not?  Wait and see.

McCready withdraws concession in NC09

Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready is withdrawing his concession in the race to represent North Carolina’s 9th District, telling local station WSOC that he believes his opponent, Mark Harris, knew a contractor for his campaign bankrolled “criminal activity.”

That contractor, McCrae Dowless, is accused of orchestrating widespread election fraud in order to help Harris. Absentee ballots in some areas are unusually — and improbably — tilted toward the Republican.

Even Kris Kobach thinks there was voter fraud in North Carolina!

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) said Thursday Republican voter fraud may have affected the House race in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

Kobach, an ally of President Trump who served on a voter integrity panel, became one of the most prominent Republicans to publicly express alarm in an interview with the Washington Post.

“Based on what I have read, I am very concerned that voter fraud did occur,” said Kobach, who recently lost the race for Kansas governor. He said it was unclear whether the alleged wrongdoing was broad enough to change the outcome of the election.

Yeah, I am not personally interested in Kobach’s opinion.  But his voice makes it easier for the Democrats in the House to refuse to seat Harris (if it comes to that). Why did Kobach do it? I think it’s because the evidence is so overwhelming.

Valadao concedes, giving the blue wave its 40th seat officially

Republican Rep. David Valadao conceded to Democrat TJ Cox in the race for California’s 21st District on Thursday, giving the Democratic Party a net gain of 40 seats in the US House of Representatives.

House Democrat refuses to give more money to lock up children

The Trump administration wants an additional $190 million in our money to continue detaining migrant children in a prison camp in Texas and other facilities, Congress member Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said, to which she offered an unequivocal response. “’The White House has had the audacity to ask Congress for more money, even though we are done with appropriations for the year,” she said during a press call, according to The Hill. “Over my dead body will we provide another nickel for these folks to do what they’re doing.”

This is why we elect Democrats.

Schadenfreude

Jeff Sessions has a sad

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally spoke publicly about a possible 2020 bid to reclaim his old Senate seat, but while he didn’t rule it out, he doesn’t sound very excited about the prospect. Sessions told Politico on Wednesday that he’ll “go to Alabama, do some things and then that will clarify things a little more before I worry about making a statement.” However, when asked if he missed the Senate the Republican responded, “No. I mean, no,” adding, “I could go back and spend time in the woods. I’ve got 10 grandchildren, oldest is 11.”

In case it wasn’t clear enough from his statements, there are more reasons to think that Sessions will likely prefer to spend the next two years scouring for the Sasquatch in the Choccolocco State Forest instead of competing in what could be a crowded GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Politico relays that Sessions has privately told former colleagues that running for the Senate could be viewed as a demotion after serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet. Considering how much public abuse Sessions absorbed from Trump as his beleaguered attorney general before being unceremoniously fired, it’s saying a lot that he still views that as more prestigious than another Senate campaign. But despite his apparent reluctance to run, Sessions says he won’t make a decision anytime soon.

Let’s hope the Mueller investigation sinks him, too.

James Alex Fields found guilty of first-degree murder.  He’s the guy who killed Heather Heyer during the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.  He’s expected to spend at least 20 years in prison.

Let’s Honor Truth

Immigrants are speaking up

As a Vietnamese refugee who came to the US with her family at the age of 5, Thu Quach understands firsthand how much of a lifeline food stamps and other government aid can be for new immigrants. “When we came to San Francisco, we had nothing,” she recalls. “We couldn’t even fill a suitcase.”

So as soon as she heard that the Trump administration wanted to expand the public charge rule—which penalizes certain immigrants if public benefits account for most of their income—Quach, the chief deputy of administration at California-based nonprofit Asian Health Services, knew she had to do something. Though refugees like her are exempt from the rule, Quach says that she believes everyone deserves a helping hand

Of course, the Trump administration is unlikely to respond to the 130,000 comments. But speaking up and protesting is the first step, especially when it is so hard.

Even the woman cleaning up after Trump is speaking up

With all of Donald Trump’s xenophobic racist huffing and puffing about border walls and Mexican rapists and marauding caravans, would you have ever imagined that he employed undocumented workers at his trash palaces? (Yes. One million times yes.)

The New York Times published a hell of a story today, in which Victorina Morales, a housekeeper at Trump’s Bedminster resort in New Jersey, and who is undocumented, is speaking out even though she knows full well she will probably lose her job and maybe even get deported for doing so. (NYT notes that Morales has applied for asylum, so Trump maybe will put her in a baby jail.) She’s hurt and freaked out by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, and she’s being very brave telling her story like this. God bless her.

I think a lot of us have learned to be a little braver in the last two years, but Victorina Morales is special.

This is from earlier in the year, but it’s still worth reading — the consequences of speaking truth to power

Speaking truth to power always has consequences for the speaker. It is dangerous. That is part of the definition of parrhesia, the ancient Greek word and concept of free or bold speech. There is an ancient Greek word for someone who speaks truth to power — parrhesiastes. To me, Rachael Denhollander is an excellent current example of a parrnesiastes.

As Denhollander writes in her recent (January 26, 2018) New York Times op-ed, “The Price I Paid for Taking On Larry Nassar,” as a result of her being the first to go public with her accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar, she lost her church, her closest friends, and her privacy.

“Predators rely on community protection to silence victims and keep them in power. Far too often, our commitment to our political party, our religious group, our sport, our college or a prominent member of our community causes us to choose to disbelieve or to turn away from the victim. Far too often, it feels easier and safer to see only what we want to see. Fear of jeopardizing some overarching political, religious, financial or other ideology — or even just losing friends or status — leads to willful ignorance of what is right in front of our own eyes, in the shape and form of innocent and vulnerable children.”

The European Union is raising funds to fight fake news coming out of Russia

The EU has launched a “war against disinformation” spread by the Kremlin in an attempt to protect next year’s European parliament elections.

As new funding and measures were announced in Brussels, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was accused of spending more than £1bn a year to “spread lies” as part of a military strategy to cause division in Europe.

“There is strong evidence pointing to Russia as the primary source of disinformation in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, vice-president of the European commission.

Let’s Celebrate Love

Chef José Andrés goes to the southern border to feed asylum seekers.

José Andrés’ latest humanitarian mission shows why he not only deserves his recent nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but also why he deserves to win it. The chef has taken his famed World Central Kitchen to the Mexican side of the southern border, where in the last few days he estimates he has fed as many as 3,000 refugees a day. He tells The Washington Post he’s there because he’s compelled to be there.

Odds & Ends

Universal 10-minute cancer test 

Scientists have created an experimental test that can detect cancer in less than 10 minutes. The test uses a DNA feature that seems to be common to all types of cancer and does not occur in healthy tissue.

Conversion in another Bundy. A little while ago, I reported that Trump lost Cliven Bundy, who thinks Trump’s wall is stupid. Now his son Ammon — the one who caused such a ruckus up in Oregon — is stepping away from patriot militia groups because of the anti-immigrant hatred.

“It’s like being in a room full of people in here, trying to teach, and no one is listening,” he told the outlet. “The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don’t want to associate myself with warmongers.”

Huh. That doesn’t mean that they don’t still have committed members, but it is possible to peel off some, even those we assumed would be the most committed.

Method to get coral to grow 40 times faster discovered and being implemented!

Dr. David Vaughan stumbled upon the groundbreaking discovery as he was working with corals at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. He had been trying to remove a coral from the bottom of a tank when it broke into a dozen pieces.

To his shock, all of the pieces regrew to the same size in just three short weeks, as opposed to the three years it had taken to grow the original coral.

Ordinarily, it takes coral reefs between 25 to 75 years to reach sexual maturity. This means that it can take up to 6 years just to plant 600 coral – but Vaughan’s process of breaking up corals for reproduction, which is called “micro-fragmenting”, helps them to grow 40 times faster than they do in the wild.   

Vaughan’s team now plans on planting 100,000 corals on the Florida Reef Track by 2019. The researchers also plan on sharing their method with conservationists around the world so they can collectively plant one million corals within the next few years.

Vox found four things that probably got better in 2018

  • Extreme poverty is falling
  • Child mortality is falling
  • We’re preventing preventable diseases
  • Clean energy got cheaper

Vox is liberal but tends to be very pessimistic, so the fact that they have done this is amazing.

Check out what we’re doing on Mars!

World’s oldest known bird in the wild becomes a mother for the 37th time

Wisdom, a 68-year-old Laysan albatross believed to be the world’s oldest known bird, has returned to her home at the Midway Atoll national wildlife refuge for yet another winter – and laid yet another egg to add to the already impressive brood that she has built up over an impressive lifetime.

Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service think the almost-septuagenarian has birthed and raised as many as 36 chicks over the years. Should her latest egg with her longtime lover, Akeakamai, hatch, fledge and take to the open sea, it will be her 37th.

What You Can Do to Rescue Democracy 

It turns out that participation in democracy is not just an every-four-years event but requires active participation, like, whenever you can find time. However, given that we have taken back the House, the tactics moving forward need to be different.  Indivisible has ideas to share.

Indivisible 2.0

This Guide is for what comes next. The 2016 Indivisible Guide was about using constituent power to defend our values, our neighbors, and our democracy. This Guide is about using our constituent power to go on offense.

Offense is exciting, but it’s more complex than defense. We have the opportunity to use congressional oversight to hold Trump and his cronies accountable. We can set the legislative agenda with a bold progressive vision rooted in inclusion, fairness, and justice. But none of this is automatic — we have to demand it of Congress.

And some other ideas:

You can relax and recharge.

You can join protests and freeway blog.

You can help register new voters (especially if you are in Florida).

You can smile.

You can get out the vote for special elections.

You can reach out to upset Republicans.  Remember, a lot of them crossed over in the midterms!  Get them to feel good about being blue.

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