Sorry for the light posting. There are days when one just does not want to read one more word about Donald Effing Trump and his comrades in criminality.
And yet we must. This will be a "mostly Manafort" post. Yes, it is long and discursive, but bear with me: I will argue that Robert Mueller may be pursuing an even bigger story than most observers realize.
Hold onto your hats (as they used to say back when men wore hats)...
Manafort's new lawyers.
Many have discussed Paul Manafort's apparently hostile separation from the law firm of WilmerHale. There are indications
that WilmerHale fired Manafort, not the other way around. The new legal team, Miller and Chevalier, has strong ties to Russia
-- and if you're surprised by that
development, you'll be absolutely astonished when I tell you that water is wet.
WilmerHale is a very high-powered DC firm with strong links to the CIA. A day or so ago, Rachel Maddow discussed the fact that this firm represented Iran-Contra figure and old-school Agency operative Clair George, convicted of lying to Congress. (He testified under oath that CIA had nothing to do with the Contra supply effort, a moment which caused spywatchers everywhere to do a classic spit-take.)
Actually, WilmerHale has a revolving door relationship with the Agency. For example, partner Stephen Preston
was a "former General Counsel of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)." Partner David S. Cohen served as a CIA Deputy Director from 2015 to 2017. In 2016, partner Shirley Woodward became the CIA Inspector General, an oversight role which generally goes to reliable "good old boys." Basically, WilmerHale seems to be the de facto
law firm for Spooksville.
Another WilmerHale alum was a fella you may have heard of: Robert Mueller. Yes. Manafort's lawyer and Robert Mueller worked for the same team.
It makes sense to presume that this conflict prompted the law firm to "fire" Manafort. But why was that firm representing that client in the first place? The potential conflict of interest should have been apparent from the start.
The more I ponder the situation, the odder it seems.
It should be noted that the lawyer formerly handling Manafort's case, Reginald Brown
, does not have any ties to the intelligence community, although his CV shows that he is an "active member" of the Federalist Society. This group of right-wing lawyers is hated by both progressives and by the Alt Right, since the Society played a large role in the "never Trump" movement.
Keep it on the state level!
It's clear now that Mueller is going after Manafort on financial charges. Many believe that if Manafort faces prison time, he'll sing a song displeasing to orange-hued ears.
Problem: Trump has the power of the pardon. If Manafort faces a federal charge, he will have every reason to want Trump to stay in office.
Mueller's only hope is to find something on Manafort that will allow state
charges to be filed against him. A presidential pardon cannot cover state-level offenses. In case you are wondering: Money laundering is usually prosecuted on the state level -- in fact, there were no federal money laundering laws until 1986.
Most people have forgotten that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
has been quietly investigating Manafort for months. We know that the NY AG has looked into loans made by Steve Calk -- a Trump campaign adviser who runs Chicago's Federal Savings Bank -- to Paul Manafort. Calk is said to have coveted the position of Army Secretary, although I have seen no indication that the loans themselves were shady.
I'm not persuaded that the Calk thing is going to go anywhere, but that doesn't mean Manafort is clean. There must have been some
basis for the issuance of a search warrant on Manafort's home.
The hacked messages of Manafort's daughters.
You may already know that Paul Manafort's daughters were hacked and published on the dark web. The story, which first made public on February 28
, has gained new interest in light of recent developments. This is pretty fascinating stuff
In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”
In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.
“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”
In another hacked exchange a few months later with someone else, Andrea Manafort wrote that her father’s “work and payment in Ukraine is legally questionable.”
In a text exchange in early April, Jessica Manafort tells her sister that her father, who maintained an apartment in Trump Tower, where the campaign is located, seemed to be thriving on the campaign.
“Dad and Trump are literally living in the same building and mom says they go up and down all day long hanging and plotting together,” Jessica Manafort wrote. “Gross,” Andrea Manafort responded, prompting Jessica Manafort to come to their father’s defense.
“Its really amazing opportunity at 67 years old. And he is basically running the campaign now He is so happy,” Jessica Manafort wrote.
When WikiLeaks released a massive tranche of hacked emails from the DNC ahead of Clinton’s nominating convention in late July, Jessica Manafort seemed to assume that it was her father’s doing, texting her sister “Dad is brilliant.” Andrea Manafort responded “Well it wasn't dads doing. It was hackers,” adding “But dad has to be thrilled about this. It's overshadowing the whole convention.”
I've had a gut feeling for a while that the evidence which may break this case already exists somewhere on the dark web.
Who are "The Protectors"?
Longtime readers know of my belief that our election systems not only can
be manipulated but have
been. I'm therefore surprised that this page
, published right after last November's election, has not come to my attention heretofore.
Regardless of Hillary Clinton’s concession, a close analysis must be done of the actual voting results (machine tabulations and paper ballots cast) versus the vote reporting (to the board of elections and Secretary of State offices). Some important facts collectively warrant this: 1) Russians have heavily influenced this election for the past six months and have successfully hacked into the election systems of more than half the states in the country; 2) Major public polls and the Clinton campaign's internal polls were historically off the mark, and in the campaign's case, didn't match the voter file records, which is unheard of to this level. This is especially odd considering that Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook is one the most brilliant in politics when it comes to micro-targeting and voter analysis. Even GOP strategist and pollster Frank Luntz called the 2016 exit polls “the worst and least accurate we’ve ever seen,” in a Tweet sent on election night.
Even more intriguing:
Homeland Security/DOJ teamed up with a group that is part of Anonymous based in Washington, D.C. called “The Protectors.” This group saw a lot of activity during Election Day from the Russians and believe that the voting results projected don’t match the internal and public polls because the voting results were manufactured in favor of Trump in heavily Republican counties in key states, and voting results may have been decreased for Clinton in key Democratic counties via malware that was placed by the Russians when they hacked the election systems of more than half our states. 4) Trump/Manafort set-up the “rigged election” narrative months ago preparing for exactly this scenario. This is straight out of Manafort’s playbook, and Putin’s, too — accuse the other side of doing what you’re doing so that you cannot be accused of doing it.
Everyone is overlooking the most compelling reason for Trump to accuse Clinton of rigging the election: A forensic examination of the machines might have revealed the presence of malware. The populace, conditioned by incessant propaganda to view Hillary as the very incarnation of deviltry, would have automatically presumed her
team to be behind the malefic code.
The above-quoted paragraphs are attributed to an anonymous writer, whom I was able to identify after a bit of Google-sleuthing. But before we get to that
, let's talk about "The Protectors."
Did such a group actually exist? Does it still
exist? I've found a few other scattered references, such as this one
On the morning after the election, Alexandra Chalupa, who led the Democratic National Committee’s Trump-Russia-ties research team, published a long comment on Facebook that reveals Russian sources had “successfully hacked into the election systems of more than half the states in the country” by or on our Election Day. Chalupa, a rising Democratic Party star who was featured in “16 in 2016: The people, places and moments that shaped the election,” a Yahoo News video, also wrote that “(Department of) Homeland Security/Department of Justice teamed up with a group that is part of Anonymous based in Washington D.C. called ‘The Protectors.’” She reports that the group saw multiple attempts by Russian hackers to break into state election systems on Election Day, and that The Protectors believe that the voting results we see today “don’t match the internal and public polls because the voting results were manufactured in favor of Trump in heavily Republican counties in key states, and that voting results may have been decreased for Clinton in key Democratic counties via malware that was placed by the Russians … “ In an interview with Gothamist, Chalupa stated that in Pennsylvania, a large number of voters voted for the Republican presidential and US Senate candidates, but then crossed parties down ballot. "That's usually not the pattern," Chalupa told Gothamist. An audit of state votes would be able to determine if this break from American voting norms occurred in other states as well.
The search for the earliest reference to this group takes us to Chalupa's Facebook page -- here
. That link presents the Ur-text which first unveiled the Protectors to the public. As the above excerpt makes clear, Chalupa is a serious person, not a fringe writer or a conspiracy crank. Here's her Twitter feed
After we learned about the meeting with that Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, right-wingers have attacked Chalupa for working with the anti-Putin Ukrainians for oppo research
, a charge she has denied
. The Trumpists pointed to Chalupa as a way of claiming that "both sides do it." That argument failed for a number of reasons -- for one thing, Chalupa didn't work for Hillary; for another, she didn't take secret meetings with an enemy; for a third thing, there were no quid-pro-quo
arrangements, as there obviously were in DJT Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya. (Everyone knows that "Russian orphans" is code for the Magnitsky sanctions.)
did a meaty (though overly hostile) piece on her in January.
Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the attention of a veteran Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa, who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration. Chalupa went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, though she also was paid by other clients during that time, including Democratic campaigns and the DNC’s arm for engaging expatriate Democrats around the world.
A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who maintains strong ties to the Ukrainian-American diaspora and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Chalupa, a lawyer by training, in 2014 was doing pro bono work for another client interested in the Ukrainian crisis and began researching Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russian oligarchs who funded Yanukovych’s political party.
In an interview this month, Chalupa told Politico she had developed a network of sources in Kiev and Washington, including investigative journalists, government officials and private intelligence operatives. While her consulting work at the DNC this past election cycle centered on mobilizing ethnic communities — including Ukrainian-Americans — she said that, when Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign began surging in late 2015, she began focusing more on the research, and expanded it to include Trump’s ties to Russia, as well.
She occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, Chalupa said. In January 2016 — months before Manafort had taken any role in Trump’s campaign — Chalupa told a senior DNC official that, when it came to Trump’s campaign, “I felt there was a Russia connection,” Chalupa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election,” said Chalupa, who at the time also was warning leaders in the Ukrainian-American community that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”
I've quoted this material at such length in order to make two points:
1. This story about "The Protectors" has a named source -- someone in a position to know.
2. Chalupa feels that Manafort would be Putin's point man when it comes to election rigging in the United States.
If she's right about that...well.
Well well well well well
My friends, that is THE prize. If Mueller gets Manafort's balls in a vise, then Manafort may well become the most important bean-spiller in the history of beans.
Since 2004, I've longed for the day when this nation recognized the reality of computerized vote-rigging. Not just the possibility
: The reality
. Frankly, I never thought I'd live to see that day.
Well, I survived long enough to see Season 3 of Twin Peaks
. I sure as hell didn't expect that
. Who knows what may be possible?
So much for the main course; time for the dessert. From Kurt Eichenwald
Russia has put its eastern air defense on alert in response to Trump's saber rattling at North Korea. But...her emails!
From Donald J. Trump
-- back in 2012:
are starting to look really bad for Obama. Looks like he'll have to
start a war or major conflict to win. Don't put it past him!
"Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see..."