Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Criminality closes in on the White House as the Trump gang besmirches the U.S. presidency -- and it all has ties to Alabama's toxic political environment

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, and Michael Cohen

In perhaps the worst 24-hour period for the presidency in U.S. history, the Donald Trump administration yesterday was laid bare as a hothouse for grifters. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of financial crimes, and the president's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, reached a plea deal in which he admitted to discussing or making hush payments to two women who alleged they had extramarital affairs with candidate Trump. Cohen stated that he acted at the "direction of the candidate" for "the principal purpose of influencing the [2016 presidential] election" -- indicating Trump engineered a federal crime, a violation of campaign-finance laws.

No one should be surprised that this whole sordid tale has tentacles that reach Alabama, which often has been Ground Zero for conservative-driven corruption for more than 20 years -- dating at least to Karl Rove's effort to turn the Alabama Supreme Court over to the GOP in 1994.

How bad was Donald Trump's Tuesday? Perhaps no one put it more succinctly than U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who stated on Twitter:

White House looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise with the convictions today of President Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer—and the inclusion of the President as an unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator in the Cohen plea agreement.

What about Alabama ties to this sleazefest? Let's start with reports that Trump is enraged at Rudy Giuliani for failing to accept an attorney-general appointment, causing former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to take the job and leading (in Trump's mind) to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. From a report at

As Robert Mueller‘s investigation continues to loom over the White House, a new report suggests that President Donald Trump is blaming Rudy Giuliani for allowing the Russia probe to become such a headache for his administration.

Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman reports that several Trump administration officials have told him that the president has become increasingly panicked over the Mueller probe, resulting in an increased frequency of his tweetstorms on the subject. One adviser says that recent developments have especially caused Trump to rage more and more over Jeff Sessions‘ recusal from investigations on Russia.

Giuliani’s performances on television have been decidedly mixed since coming on board as the president’s attorney. Despite that, however, Trump — according to this new report — thinks Giuliani would have been effective in the attorney general role that he offered the former New York mayor.

From Vanity Fair:

According to a person to whom the conversation was described, Trump loudly said to his lawyer: “It’s your fault! I offered you attorney general, but you insisted on being secretary of state. Had I picked you, none of this would be happening.” (The White House declined to comment.)

As for Manafort, Alabama political insider Jill Simpson said his ties to the state go back at least 12 years and efforts to win a U.S. Air Force refueling-tanker contract for European interests with ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Among the Alabama conservative heavyweights involved in that effort were former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Gov. Bob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama president Bill Canary. Writes Simpson, on her Facebook page:

I have been after Manafort's bunch since I first came forward in fall of 2006, with how his firm with Rick Davis and the Alabama Gang ( the Riley and Sessions bunch) were working to sell our EADS refueling tanker to Putin through Oleg Deripaska. In 2008 Wayne Madsen helped me as an opposition researcher to get out the story of what they we're doing, and, folks, we are never letting up.

Yesterday's events could lead to more Alabama-related news, related to Chattanooga money man Franklin Haney and his efforts, with help from Michael Cohen, to get a stalled nuclear reactor off the ground in north Alabama. Writes Simpson:

I am hopeful that this results in Cohen telling on everyone involved in the nuclear deal in Scottsboro, Alabama. I am hopeful we learn how the Riley-Sessions Republican money man, Franklin Haney -- working for the Alabama Gang Crime Family -- tried to give Cohen $10 Million to get $5 billion from the U.S. government. Plus, Cohen could tell  how the idiots tried to sell access to the facility to Qatar, so that Qatar could become a full-blown nuclear power. 
Many of us in the Alabama Progressive Democratic Resistance have spent years tracking Cohen's buddy, Felix Sater, and his deals with AmCham Russia -- which is tied to the Riley-Session deals with Oleg Deripaska and EADS. 
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and the whole legislative gang running for national office from Alabama . . . well, we have been watching as they have tried to help put this nuclear-power plant deal through. One has to wonder why state attorney general Steve Marshall is not investigating that matter?

It's possible that no American has lived through a news cycle quite like the one we saw unfold yesterday. Charles P. Pierce, of Esquire, provides perspective:

Nobody can deny that this already is the single most awesome infrastructure week ever.

For a long moment on Tuesday afternoon, the Deputy Finance Director of the Republican National Committee (Michael Cohen), and the president*'s longtime fixer, was copping a plea; the president*'s former campaign manager was getting slugged for bank fraud; the president* himself was off to another wankfest, this time in West Virginia; and the folks at Hardball went to the electric Twitter machine and told us that Omarosa has another secret audiotape to reveal on that show Tuesday night.

I lived through Watergate. I lived through the Saturday Night Massacre, when it looked like the Constitution was being barbecued over an open flame. There never was anything like this.


Anonymous said...

Horrendously bad day for all the Trumpistas, who so enjoy keeping their heads in the sand.

Anonymous said...

Not that it matters much, but I can't figure out how the Manafort jury could not reach verdicts on 10 of the 18 counts.

It's not like he put on a great defense. He didn't put on any defense.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:09 --

I had the same thought, but after years of seeing "sausage being made" in the U.S. court system, I've concluded that juries are an unpredictable and inexplicable animal.

Anonymous said...

CNN is reporting that Manafort is facing up to 80 years in prison, and that doesn't include possible retrial on 10 counts, plus the second count. Ouch!

I think that boy winds up striking a deal and spilling his guts.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:27 --

Thanks for bringing up that issue. Here is an article from The Hill, with specifics about the possible punishment Manafort faces. And as you note, this is the just the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the GOP "leadership" seem to have something caught in their throats. They are more concerned about the midterms than they are about the welfare of the country?

Anonymous said...

I see you've been attacked again by Facebook trolls. How interesting that would happen today, after all the disastrous Trump news.

I doubt that is a coincidence. You probably have been targeted by Trumpies, maybe Russian Trumpies.

Anonymous said...

Manafort attorneys, curiously, did not say anything about an appeal. No way he can handle a retrial or second trial.

Worst possible outcome, so far, for Manafort.

Anonymous said...

As usual, top-notch reporting Mr. Schnauzer. So important that the Alabama element in this hits the public, and you are just the guy to do that.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:37 --

Thank you. Jill Simpson deserves a lot of props. She lends a big assist to my reporting on this subject.

Anonymous said...

Some analysts are saying yesterday's Manafort-Cohen bolo punch could sink the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for SCOTUS.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:42 --

Charles P. Pierce, of Esquire, is one of those analysts, and we quoted him in this post. Here's what Pierce had to say about Kavanaugh nomination:

"Brett Kavanaugh's nomination took a huge hit in two federal courthouses yesterday, and hardly anybody noticed. (His, shall we say, evolving opinion of special prosecutors will now be the object of even more thickly barbed questioning in a couple of weeks.) Is this even an administration* that has the moral credibility to be selecting Supreme Court justices at all, especially since we know that there will be fresh hell coming down upon it weekly from now until whenever this nightmare finally ends? And Robert Mueller, with no expression on his face, reaches across his desk for another document."

Anonymous said...

The Trump administration is white entitlement on steroids. These SOBs didn't think they would get caught, at anything. They were wrong. I think a bunch more of them will be wrong, too.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:58 --

That mindset is prevalent among many white conservative politicos in Alabama. They, too, think they can act with impunity, without fear of being caught. Hopefully, they will be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Jill Simpson bring up the Franklin Haney nuclear-plant deal in Scottsboro. Hope to see Cohen's role in that come fully to light. More Alabama connections to sleaze.

Anonymous said...

Trump and all his high talk. The more he talks the more he comes off as stupid. All hat and no cattle. He could have been a great president but not smart enough to know when to STFU, shut the f**k up!! It's going to be so funny to see little jeff putting the handcuffs on him.

e.a.f. said...

It certainly provided me with enough "entertainment" to keep me from watering the garden. You can't make this stuff up and given there isn't much on t.v., this is the best show around.

This is what happens when people don't look too deeply at their political candidates and buy the cool aid from the carnival huckster.

What is most unfortunate is we haven't heard from any prominent republicans on this, as in condemning Trump et al. What gives with Americans. Everything their country has built since their inception is being flushed down the toilet. The U.S.A. is starting to make Mexico look good.

Anonymous said...

Michael Cohen had many reasons to play ball last weekend when his legal team sat down to talk to federal prosecutors.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office had testimony from Mr. Cohen’s accountant and business partners, along with bank records, tax filings and loan applications that implicated not only Mr. Cohen in potential criminal activity, but also his wife, who filed taxes jointly with her husband. Prosecutors signaled Mr. Cohen would face nearly 20 criminal counts, potentially carrying a lengthy prison sentence and staggering financial penalties.

further down this little detail (which may be the cause of puckering sphincters all over Alabama)...

On April 5, days before the raids, Mr. Trump told reporters on Air Force One he didn’t know about the payment to Ms. Clifford, and referred questions about the matter to Mr. Cohen. “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Mr. Trump said. “Michael is my attorney.”

Mr. Cohen, who that night was staying aboard the yacht of Trump donor Franklin Haney, which was docked in Miami, grew irate on the ship soon after Mr. Trump made his remarks distancing himself from the Clifford payment, according to a person familiar with the episode. Mr. Cohen was swearing loudly as others on the boat were sipping their drinks, the person said.

The search warrant executed on April 9 sought materials and information related to a wide range of communications, including ones related to the payments to Ms. Clifford and Ms. McDougal. At the same time, investigators subpoenaed Mr. Pecker, American Media and the Trump Organization, Mr. Trump’s business.

Prosecutors had reason to be concerned that without raiding Mr. Cohen’s office, “records could have been deleted without record and without recourse for law enforcement,” according to a court filing.

legalschnauzer said...

@4:24 --

Thanks for an insightful comment. You gotta love a comment that includes the words "puckering sphincters." Can't go wrong with that. Made me LOL.

Anonymous said...

e.a.f. -- The Pot calling the Kettle black?