As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call. Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.
Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.
White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation. Mr. Whitaker, who this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury. On Tuesday, after The Times article published, Mr. Trump denied that he had asked Mr. Whitaker if Mr. Berman could be put in charge of the investigation. “No, I don’t know who gave you that, that’s more fake news,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that the White House had not asked Mr. Whitaker to interfere in the investigations. “Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,’” said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.” The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.
It is a public relations strategy as much as a legal strategy — a campaign to create a narrative of a president hounded by his “deep state” foes. The new Democratic majority in the House, and the prospect of a wave of investigations on Capitol Hill this year, will test whether the strategy shores up Mr. Trump’s political support or puts his presidency in greater peril. The president has spent much of his time venting publicly about there being “no collusion” with Russia before the 2016 election, which has diverted attention from a growing body of evidence that he has tried to impede the various investigations. Julie O’Sullivan, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University, said she believed there was ample public evidence that Mr. Trump had the “corrupt intent” to try to derail the Mueller investigation, the legal standard for an obstruction of justice case.
But this is far from a routine criminal investigation, she said, and Mr. Mueller will have to make judgments about the effect on the country of making a criminal case against the president. Democrats in the House have said they will wait for Mr. Mueller to finish his work before making a decision about whether the president’s behavior warrants impeachment. In addition to the Mueller investigation, there are at least two other federal inquiries that touch the president and his advisers — the Manhattan investigation focused on the hush money payments made by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and an inquiry examining the flow of foreign money to the Trump inaugural committee.
The president’s defenders counter that most of Mr. Trump’s actions under scrutiny fall under his authority as the head of the executive branch. They argue that the Constitution gives the president sweeping powers to hire and fire, to start and stop law enforcement proceedings, and to grant presidential pardons to friends and allies. A sitting American president cannot be indicted, according to current Justice Department policy. Mr. Trump’s lawyers add this novel response: The president has been public about his disdain for the Mueller investigation and other federal inquiries, so he is hardly engaged in a conspiracy. He fired one F.B.I. director and considered firing his replacement. He humiliated his first attorney general for being unable to “control” the Russia investigation and installed a replacement, Mr. Whitaker, who has told people he believed his job was to protect the president. But that, they say, is Donald Trump being Donald Trump. In other words, the president’s brazen public behavior might be his best defense.
These are all articles about that NY Times story, which the top group are live links & any of the rest you could search:
Follow the Money
Even if Mueller does complete his final report here in February, the investigations would be far from over. House committees are following the money as seen in this article pulled from alternet.org/2019/02/heres-
Democrats have promised to follow the money relentlessly in their House Intelligence 2.0 probe of Donald Trump’s Russia ties, and Deutsche Bank is taking center stage in that inquiry. “Deutsche Bank is of great interest,” House Intelligence member Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois told CNN Monday. “Deutsche Bank was apparently the only bank willing to do business with the Trump financial world.” Quigley went to observe that “if the president was compromised, he was compromised from a financial point of view.” Deutsche Bank is widely suspected of engaging in a money laundering scheme for its Russian clients. German police raided the bank’s Berlin offices last November as part of a sweeping money laundering probe. The bank allegedly serviced more than 900 customers who did a total of about $350 million in business through a subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands.
As House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff noted in an NBC interview last year, Deutsche Bank has already paid “hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to the state of New York, because they were laundering Russian money. And this apparently is the one bank that was willing to do business with the Trump Organization.” In support of Schiff’s new probe into Trump’s financial entanglements with Russia, he has brought in more than a dozen new staffers for the panel with “expertise in corruption or illicit finance, or prosecutorial experience,” according to The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand. The House Intel panel’s number of dedicated staffers working on the financial inquiry now totals 24 people. By contrast, the Senate Intelligence panel has had just nine staffers dedicated to working the investigation, and they reportedly did not have the financial expertise that those joining the House panel do. If there’s one thing the first two years of Trump-Russia investigations have done, it’s that they’ve focused the mind on where the real trap doors lie. Trump’s long-time obsession with building a tower in Moscow and his dependence on both Russian money and Deutsche Bank lending are two areas that are poised to get a lot more scrutiny.
Southern District of NY is tracking this shady funding: salon.
Manhattan-based federal prosecutors can challenge Trump in ways Mueller can’t. They have jurisdiction over the president’s political operation and businesses — subjects that aren’t protected by executive privilege, a tool Trump is considering invoking to block portions of Mueller’s report. From a PR perspective, Trump has been unable to run the same playbook on SDNY that he’s used to erode conservatives’ faith in Mueller, the former George W. Bush-appointed FBI director. Legal circles are also buzzing over whether SDNY might buck DOJ guidance and seek to indict a sitting president.
The threat was highlighted when SDNY prosecutors ordered officials from Trump’s inaugural committee to hand over donor and financial records. It was the latest aggressive move from an office that has launched investigations into the president’s company, former lawyer and campaign finance practices. New York prosecutors have even implicated Trump in a crime. Add it all up and the result is a spate of hard-to-stymie, legally perilous probes that appears on track to drag on well into Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. SDNY stands poised to carry on Mueller’s efforts whenever the special counsel’s office closes shop, and it’s likely to draw even more attention if freshly confirmed Attorney General William Barr — who now oversees the Russia probe as DOJ head — clamps down on the public release of Mueller’s findings.
“When you combine their experience with the traditional independence of the southern district and the reputation it has, this is like another Mueller investigation going on,” said Nick Akerman, a former SDNY assistant attorney who also worked on the Watergate prosecution team. Mueller can take credit for spawning significant parts of SDNY’s work. The two DOJ units have shared staff, witnesses and leads, and SDNY has been well-positioned to pick up anything that is outside Mueller’s primary lane of investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. A Mueller referral to SDNY, for example, triggered an FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, according to Cohen’s former lawyer. And the fruits of that raid culminated late last year in Cohen’s guilty plea, in which the former Trump fixer and attorney admitted in federal court that Trump directed him to make hush money payments to sway the 2016 presidential election. The New York federal prosecutors are far from finished.
They’re still seeking interviews with Trump Organization executives, according to a source with knowledge of the probe. And Trump’s inaugural committee confirmed earlier this month that it had received a wide-ranging subpoena from SDNY for documents as part of a probe into how the group raised and doled out a record $107 million. Investigators are looking at everything from potential mail and wire fraud to illegal foreign contributions and money laundering. “This is why I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and former federal prosecutor, told ABC News earlier this month.
Elaborating on MSNBC, Christie said that SDNY, unlike Mueller, has “no restrictions on their purview.” “Bob Mueller has a task: It’s Russian interference and potential collusion in the 2016 election,” he said. “Southern District of New York is whatever the heck you want.” SDNY poses a potent threat because the office has accumulated a perfect storm of witnesses who have guided Trump throughout his career, from his businesses to his meteoric rise in presidential politics up through his inauguration to the White House. The list of cooperators includes Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer; David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer’s parent company who has admitted to working with Trump for years to kill incriminating media stories; and Rick Gates, who served as Trump campaign deputy and then de facto leader of the inaugural committee. Gates pleaded guilty in the Mueller probe to lying to the FBI last February but his sentencing has been delayed while he cooperates in “several ongoing investigations,” according to a filing last month from the special counsel’s office. Then there’s Cohen.
Corrupt Saudi Offer
A true human tragedy by unimaginable forces of evil:
Going it alone puts everyone at risk: