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Robert Mueller Made One Mistake: He Trusted Bill Barr -

Robert Mueller Made One Mistake: He Trusted Bill BarrPhoto Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyTwo days before the 50th anniversary of Robert Mueller being seriously wounded while leading his platoon against a numerically superior enemy in Vietnam, his latest service to the nation was released—in the form of the Special Counsel’s Report.In a morning press conference before the release, Attorney General William Barr seemed to give a friend of three decades his due after two years of lies and slander by our president.“I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral process,” Barr said.A few breaths later, Barr committed one of the great public betrayals of our history.The country’s most senior law enforcement officer actually sought to justify President Trump’s mendacious attacks against Mueller and the investigation he had been appointed to conduct.“As the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said.In fact, the report acknowledges no such thing.What the report does demonstrate is that Mueller conducted an exceedingly fair, determinedly thorough investigation.Just as he had on the battlefield a half century ago, Mueller performed brilliantly.His one mistake was to trust his supposed friend Barr.To call Barr a human hedgehog would be unfair if the resemblance were confined to his appearance. But he also shares a hedgehog’s unique “self-anointing,” a behavior that involves licking an object whose smell the creature finds attractive until it works up a froth that it then rubs on itself.Barr must have worked up considerable froth in the presence of the president. He smelled like pure Trump on March 24, when he offered a four-page document that was was supposed to be an honest appraisal of the evidence Mueller so carefully gathered under such trying circumstances.Barr reeked of The Donald when he subsequently spoke of the FBI “spying” on the Trump campaign. During his public betrayal of Mueller at Thursday’s press conference, Barr twice said there was “no collusion.” He implicitly excused even Trump’s demonstrable lies concerning an effort to fire Mueller because of fictitious “conflicts.”As he exonerated Trump, Barr failed to note that page two of Volume II of the very document he was releasing states, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”The report further states, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”Mueller apparently did not foresee that Barr would effectively see Trump exonerated anyway. Mueller also did not likely anticipate that when releasing the report, Barr would say Trump’s behavior must be put “in context” and accepted.The report documents that Trump lied, lied, and lied again—and pressured his subordinates to do the same.The true source of the frustration and anger that Barr describes was partly the refusal of several staffers to be as unprincipled as their president.The most prominent of those who stood up to the president was White House Counsel Don McGahn, nephew of the late Atlantic City lawyer/fixer Paddy McGahn. The uncle cleared the way for Trump’s casinos and the nephew might therefore have been expected to be situationally flexible. But the uncle was also a thrice-wounded Marine and recipient of the Navy Cross. The report describes the nephew as responding more like a Marine than a fixer/lawyer.The big test for Don McGahn came after Trump instructed him to have Mueller fired for supposed “conflicts,” in June 2017. Mueller would subsequently find himself in the bizarre position of investigating an attempt to stop him from investigating. “The president cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as special counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the president, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course in Northern Virginia,” the report notes.The report adds that Steve Bannon told Trump the purported conflicts were “ridiculous.” Mueller had never been interviewed for the FBI Director. He had not represented any Trump people, even if others at his very large law firm had. As for the supposed golf course fee dispute, the report says:“In October 2011, Mueller resigned his family’s membership from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, in a letter that noted that, ‘We live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the Club,’ and that inquired ‘whether we would be entitled to a refund of a portion of our initial membership fee,’ which was paid in 1994.”The report adds, “About two weeks later , the controller of the club responded that the Muellers’ resignation would be effective Oct. 31, 2011, and that they would be ‘placed on a waitlist to be refunded on a first resigned / first refunded basis...’ The Muellers have not had further contact with the club.”McGahn said he would quit rather than fire Mueller on fictitious grounds, and went so far as to pack up his office. Trump relented, and that might have been that, had the “fake news” not reported the truth.“In early 2018, the press reported that the president had directed McGahn to have the special counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order,” the report says. “The president reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate in stating that the president had directed McGahn to have the special counsel removed. The president then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports.”The report continues, “The president asked McGahn whether he would ‘do a correction,’ and McGahn said no.“The president also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel’s Office investigators that the president had told him to have the special counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to, and that his conversations with the president were not protected by attorney-client privilege.”Trump inquired about McGahn’s habit of jotting down what was said during meetings with him. The report says, “The president then asked, ‘What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.’ McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The president said, ‘I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.’”Anybody who was around Roy Cohn knew that he did not want to be hampered by a record and that he always sought to make the truth whatever best suited him at the moment. And Cohn was not just Trump’s lawyer; he was young Donald’s mentor.** read the litany of Trump’s lies as detailed in the Mueller report is to feel that Cohn’s spirit has risen from the crypt in Queens that he shares with his mother. Trump also lies about the successful firing of FBI Director James Comey. Then there are the lies about the Mueller investigation itself. The report describes a moment on the south lawn last August: “In an impromptu exchange with reporters that lasted approximately five minutes, the president twice called the special counsel’s investigation a ‘rigged witch hunt.’”So said the president who sought to rig the firing of a resolutely honest prosecutor.At another moment, the report says, “The president described the special counsel’s investigation as ‘a witch hunt that ends in disgrace.’”The actual disgrace belongs to Trump and to Barr. In assuming the scent of the president, the human hedgehog seems to have also assumed the scent of Trump’s mentor. Cohn spoke endlessly about loyalty, but was always ready to betray a friend.In Barr’s case, that is Mueller, whose only big mistake in the investigation was trusting him. It’s nearly 50 years since Mueller led his platoon from potential disaster, despite a bullet wound to the thigh. This is one of the qualities that has long made America great. Barr, and Trump, and his truth-indifferent supporters, all owe Mueller an apologyRead more at The Daily Beast.

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 04:41:00 -0400

Views of the Notre Dame Cathedral before, after, and during blaze -

Views of the Notre Dame Cathedral before, after, and during blazeThe beloved landmark has been declared saved after suffering extensive damage

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 20:30:34 -0400

Mueller Report’s Unwritten Chapter: Why Russians Were Courting Trump World -

Mueller Report’s Unwritten Chapter: Why Russians Were Courting Trump WorldPhoto Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyThe Mueller report answers lots of questions but leaves one big one lingering: Why were so many Russians so eager to ingratiate themselves with Trump World?The report is in one sense a story of meetings, pitches, and introductions that were entertained but ultimately unfulfilled. “In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offers” of Russian help, “while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away," the report says. In any case, no one broke the law with a criminal conspiracy. Special counsel Robert Mueller reaffirmed the intelligence community’s conclusions that the Russian government directed an online campaign of hacking and trolling to help Donald Trump in 2016. What’s less clear are the intentions of the many Russians who reached out to the Trump campaign offline and whether they were well-connected covert emissaries of the Kremlin or just hucksters trying to latch onto the coattails of a potential president.  Parsing the motivations of the various Russian supplicants is difficult in part because many of them were a mirror image of their counterparts in Trump World: D-listers in their own political hierarchy for whom the line between state policy and personal gain is unclear. In previous court filings and in the special counsel’s final report, prosecutors wrote that the FBI believes Konstantin Kilimnik, a former partner in Paul Manafort’s consulting business in Ukraine who had worked for the Soviet army as a translator in the 1980s, has “ties to Russian intelligence.” Kilimnik held a Russian diplomatic passport as recently as 1997, and a number of his former associates relayed their belief that the dual Russian-Ukrainian national was, at least at some point, a spy.Kilimnik, the report reveals, received not just a single briefing from Manafort on Trump campaign polling and messaging strategy in August 2016 but continuous updates via text messages from Manafort’s aide Rick Gates. In turn, Kilimnik passed along a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort himself recognized as a “backdoor” to recognizing Russia’s de facto annexation of rebel-held parts of the country. Prosecutors concluded they could “not reliably determine” why Manafort passed along the polling data. Viewed in one light, it certainly can appear as though Kilimnik, a former intelligence officer, was a mere cutout for Manafort to pass Trump campaign information to the Russian government. But prosecutors couldn’t determine what Kilimnik did with the information, and both Manafort and Gates suggested an alternate explanation for the exchange: money.Manafort had run afoul of Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian oligarch, when an investment fund  he tanked lost Deripaska millions and prompted a lawsuit. The report says Manafort had been trying to get back in his good graces ever since he’d taken a job at the Trump campaign. At the Aug. 2, 2016, meeting where Manafort had raised polling and fielded a peace plan, he also discussed the possibility that Deripaska could drop the lawsuit filed after the collapse of the investment fund. Kilimnik, in that sense, was Manafort’s way to kiss up to Deripaska again.Deripaska’s deep pockets and litigiousness may have drawn Manafort’s focus, but he’s more than just a money man. The Trump administration sanctioned him in 2018 for acting as a representative of the Russian government. His aide, Victor Boyarkin, who the report says ferried messages to Manafort via Kilimnik, is a former GRU officer whom the Treasury Department sanctioned for “providing Russian financial support to a Montenegrin political party ahead of Montenegro’s 2016 elections” shortly before Russia allegedly tried to pull off a coup in the country. Deripaska’s interest in Manafort may have not been just money either. In January 2017, the report says Manafort traveled to Madrid to meet a Deripaska aide and discuss “recreating [the] old friendship” between the two men but also “global politics.” Manafort sent an email to Trump’s incoming deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, when he got back to the U.S. three days later about “important information” he had picked up “on my travels over the last month.” Manafort claimed it was about Cuba; the special counsel’s office couldn’t say whether that was true. In any case, no one appears to have followed up.Not all of the Russians pitching the Trump campaign had sinister backgrounds in the spy world.When the special counsel’s office charged Michael Cohen with lying to Congress, it offered the tantalizing detail that he had met with someone who promised “political synergy” from the Russian government and the ability to set up a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and then candidate Trump. Stripped of his anonymity, synergy man seems a far less impressive operator. Mueller’s final report identifies him as Dmitry Klokov, the director of public relations for a Russian electrical transmission company who had once been a spokesperson for a former Russian energy minister. If he could’ve set up a Putin meeting, he didn’t try very hard—Cohen dumped him after a few phone calls.  Or Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016. The Trump side of that meeting’s intentions were obvious enough from Donald Trump Jr.’s exclamation of “I love it” when Veselnitskaya claimed that she had dirt on the Clintons compliments of the Russian government. Her hints at government sources have since been borne out by an indictment in New York that alleges that she lied about ghostwriting correspondence for Russian officials to send to their American counterparts. And her clients—wealthy Russians who’ve had money seized on corruption charges—have interests that dovetail directly with one of Moscow’s most pressing foreign policy priorities: the removal of sanctions against Russian nationals and companies. So was she representing her clients at that meeting or the broader interests of the Kremlin? Mueller doesn’t say, but the bait she offered—unsupported allegations about money laundering she couldn’t connect to Hillary Clinton—was far short of tempting. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 18:32:16 -0400

Detail-minded architect left guide for restoring Notre Dame -

Detail-minded architect left guide for restoring Notre DameCHARENTON-LE-PONT, France (AP) — Eugene Viollet-le-Duc is still the man to go to when it comes to restoring Notre Dame, even though he died nearly 140 years ago.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 16:36:27 -0400

UPDATE 2-Sears sues Lampert, claiming he looted assets and drove it into bankruptcy -

UPDATE 2-Sears sues Lampert, claiming he looted assets and drove it into bankruptcySears Holdings Corp sued longtime former Chairman Eddie Lampert, his hedge fund ESL Investments and others like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, claiming they illegally siphoned billions of dollars of assets from the retailer before it went bankrupt. The lawsuit, made public on Thursday, was filed by the restructuring team winding down Sears' bankruptcy estate and suing on behalf of creditors, many of whom blame Lampert for the retailer's downfall. The complaint seeks the repayment of "billions of dollars of value looted from Sears," including while it was in what Lampert would later call a "death spiral" where it sold core assets to meet daily expenses with no real plan for becoming profitable.

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