Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos take body blows for Team Trump, but Jeff Sessions might prove to be the big loser as "Mueller Monday" kicks off with a bang

Jeff Sessions leads a Trump campaign foreign-policy meeting in 2016,
with George Papadopoulos two chairs to his left.
(From nbcnews.com)

"Mueller Monday" produced indictments against two Trump campaign officials, and a plea deal for a third. But the biggest loser might be a Trumpista who was not named in yesterday's criminal unveilings.

Trump attorney general and former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) might have had the worst day of all -- even though he is not facing criminal charges, yet. That's because the most damaging news for Team Trump was the guilty plea of campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. And his direct supervisor during the Trump campaign was . . . Jeff Sessions.

Multiple legal experts noted that Papadopoulos was described in legal documents as a "proactive cooperator" and suggest he likely has been helping gather evidence for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A former Watergate prosecutor "guaranteed" Papadopoulos has been wearing a wire and playing "dial-a-crook" for months. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin said Papadopoulous has been wearing a wire since his arrest in July, through October.

Legal journalist Marcy Wheeler writes that Papadopoulos could help prove that Sessions lied to Congress. And Jill Simpson, a prominent activist and opposition researcher, says that could shine a dreadful light on Alabama's toxic legal and political environment.

It all starts with close ties between Sessions and Papadopoulos, which are reflected in the photo at the top of this post -- showing Papadopoulos two seats to Sessions left. From an article by Lucia Brawley at verifiedpolitics.com:

Attorney General Jefferson “Jeff” Beauregard Sessions III swore up and down Congress that he did “not recall” having meetings with agents of the Russian government during Trump’s campaign, but his story just broke down completely.

Convicted Trump foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, who pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his dealings with Kremlin agents during the 2016 election, reported directly to Sessions — along with willing Russian spy asset, Carter Page, and other suspicious characters on the campaign’s foreign policy team.

During a press conference today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pretended that the Trump campaign barely had any dealings with “volunteer” Papadopoulos. The evidence that Papadopoulos reported to Sessions instantaneously put the lie to her assertions.

Gee, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied to the public? Who saw that coming? Lucia Brawley apparently did:

Sessions testified before the Senate in June, but as far back as March, The Washington Post had revealed that Sessions was Papadopoulos’ direct supervisor, as well as that of the rest of Trump’s bumbling foreign policy team:

For the first time, Trump also listed members of a team chaired by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that is counseling him on foreign affairs and helping to shape his policies: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Marcy Wheeler takes a deep dive into the Sessions-Papadopoulos muck. She comes up with an Intercept article titled "George Papadopoulos's plea deal spells very, very bad news for Attorney General Jeff Sessions":

Sessions has repeatedly testified to the Senate that he knows nothing about any collusion with the Russians. . . .

But the Papadopoulos plea shows that Sessions — then acting as Trump’s top foreign policy adviser — was in a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump, at which Papadopoulos explained “he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.” It also shows that Papadopoulos kept a number of campaign officials in the loop on his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, though they secretly determined that the meeting “should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal,” itself a sign the campaign was trying to hide its efforts to make nice with the Russians.

Papadopoulos also learned, on April 26, that the Russians “have dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” A key part of Papadopoulos’s cooperation must pertain to what he told the Trump campaign about these emails. According to his complaint, he originally claimed he hadn’t told anyone on the campaign about the dirt on Clinton because he didn’t know if it was real. But as his plea makes clear, after being arrested, he “met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.” There would be no reason for Papadopoulos to lie about the significance of the emails in January unless he did so to hide his discussions of them with the rest of the campaign.

That suggests the campaign knew, a month before Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Clinton, that the Russians had already told Papadopoulos about dirt in thousands of stolen emails.

That appears to put Sessions in an uncomfortable spot -- at the heart of RussiaGate, tied to a former underling who likely has been wearing a wire. Writes Wheeler:

Sessions’s claims about such meetings came in sworn testimony to the Senate. During his confirmation process, Sessions was asked a key question by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

The question, however, was about Sessions’s knowledge of such communications, and we now know he was in a meeting in which they were discussed.

In Jill Simpson's view -- and she has followed Sessions for years in Alabama -- the former senator deserves any typhoon that might be headed his way. From a post yesterday on Simpson's Facebook page:

Maybe all those conversations Jeff had with and about Russians helping with the campaign will come back to him. If not I am quite certain the young man who plead guilty has told Mueller everything Jeff did.

Simpson then points out that Sessions and his influence on the Alabama State Bar are big reasons the state's court system is monstrously corrupt:

The Alabama Bar needs to clean out Jeff's good old boys at the state bar office. They aided him in staying in office for months, doing large amounts of damage to our country,  when they knew he committed perjury -- not just once, not just twice, but three times. 
The Alabama State Bar members should throw Jeff's ethics folks out on their asses; to not do so, makes our state bar look like a bunch of idiots. Y'all know they are the same weasels who screwed with me and placed me on disability for missing a hearing while awaiting surgery. These creeps need to be brought before the Alabama Bar themselves for protecting Jeff Sessions; when complaints were filed, all they have done is sit on their ass and protect a Russian traitor.

George Papadopoulos might soon help prove that "Russian traitor" is not just a figurative term when it comes to Jeff Sessions. We might soon learn that Sessions did, in fact, sell out his country to a foreign adversary -- and then lied about it to Congress.

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