The worst kind of lies are the half-truths so often weaponized by the media.
A partial truth converted into propaganda by the omission of facts.
Kyle Griffin is a Producer at MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
Today he tweeted out the following:
This must be the first witch hunt in history that’s resulted in 5 guilty pleas.
4. Van der Zwaan
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 27, 2018
Griffin’s implication was clear.
There must be something real to the Mueller Investigation of Trump-Russia Collusion.
Griffin’s tweet was “liked” and “retweeted” thousands of times.
Technically, Griffin is correct. Mueller’s Investigation has resulted in five guilty pleas.
But Griffin omitted some salient facts:
The only two on this list tied to Trump who committed a non-process crime were charged in relation to work they did to lobby Capitol HIll Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s State Department. They lobbied them on behalf of Russian interests long before Trump. You forgot that part. https://t.co/6OvAJA0avc
— Richard Baris (@Peoples_Pundit) February 27, 2018
In reality, it’s just one person on this list – Rick Gates.
His crimes – occurring long before he joined the Trump Campaign – involved the Podesta Group and lobbying of Hillary Clinton’s State Department on behalf of the Russian government.
I’ll start with Van der Zwann, who will lead us to Gates – and Paul Manafort, who has been charged but has not plead guilty.
Alex Van der Zwaan is a Dutch lawyer who helped prepare a report for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice on ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2012. He worked at the time for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
He has no direct connection to the Trump Campaign – or to President Trump.
But he does have ties to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
According to the New York Times:
Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old Dutch citizen, acknowledged in federal court in Washington that he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide, over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. He also admitted that he deleted records of email exchanges that prosecutors had sought.
Mr. van der Zwaan’s lies involved a 2012 report prepared by Skadden and used to defend Mr. Yanukovych, then the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, from international criticism over the prosecution and incarceration of one of his political rivals, former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko.
From an earlier New York Times article:
Five years ago, Paul Manafort arranged for a prominent New York-based law firm [Skadden] to draft a report that was used by allies of his client, Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, to justify the jailing of a political rival.
Mr. Manafort played a central role in the effort to shield Mr. Yanukovych from international condemnation, according to consultants involved in the effort. He devised the strategy and recruited lobbyists, lawyers and public relations consultants from across the political spectrum, but left the day-to-day implementation of the campaign to others. Skadden’s report was one element of that strategy.
Its conclusions provided a counterpoint to international critics who said that Mr. Yanukovych’s government had prosecuted and convicted the former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, on corruption charges in 2011 for political reasons and without sufficient evidence.
Rick Gates is Paul Manafort’s long-time junior partner and protege.
Gates recently plead guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry and will probably provide evidence against Manafort.
Both Manafort and Gates were indicted on October 30, 2017. I discuss here.
From the article:
Manafort and Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, lying to investigators and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
The indictment asserts that Manafort and Gates served as unregistered agents of the Government of Ukraine, the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian Political Party) and Victor Yanukovych (President of the Party of Regions).
Manafort and Gates are alleged to have funneled approximately $75 million through offshore accounts and laundered more than $18 million through multiple corporations, partnerships and bank accounts.
The time-frame of “unregistered agent” activities is alleged to have been “between at least 2006 and 2015”. Money laundering activities are alleged to have occurred “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016”.
The indictment contained no links to President Trump or any Trump Campaign-related charges.
From the Manafort Indictment:
As part of the scheme, in February 2012, Manafort and Gates solicited two Washington D.C. firms (Company A and Company B) to lobby in the United States on behalf of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the Government of Ukraine.
At the direction of Manafort and Gates, Company A and Company B engaged in extensive lobbying. Among other things, they lobbied multiple Members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions, the validity of Ukraine elections, and the propriety of Yanukovych’s imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymonshenko.
To minimize public disclosure of their lobbying campaign, Manafort and Gates arranged for the Centre [European Centre for a Modern Ukraine] to be the nominal client of Company A and Company B, even though in fact the Centre was under the ultimate direction of the Government of Ukraine, Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.
Company A and Company B were paid for their services not by their nominal client, the Centre, but solely through off-shore accounts associated with the Manafort-Gates entities.
Company A and Company B are the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC.
The AP reported in 2016 that Manafort “helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy”.
From the AP article:
During the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president’s political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit [European Centre for a Modern Ukraine] that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.
The European nonprofit paid the Podesta Group $1.13 million between June 2012 and April 2014 to lobby Congress, the White House National Security Council, the State Department and other federal agencies, according to U.S. lobbying records.
Manafort and Gates were using the Podesta Group to lobby Congressional Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s State Department on behalf of Russia.
Within hours of Manafort’s indictment, it was reported that Tony Podesta would be stepping down from his role as Chairman of the Podesta Group.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, both Mercury and the Podesta Group have maintained they were unaware the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine was controlled by the Ukrainian government. Both firms claimed this was why they had not registered FARA disclosures from the start:
Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group, his powerful Washington firm, are now caught up in a federal criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. They may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by failing to properly disclose work completed on behalf of a pro-Vladimir Putin Ukrainian think tank to the Justice Department.
By filing a retroactive FARA disclosure this April, the firm admitted those lobbying efforts, which took place between 2012 and 2014 on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, may have principally benefited that country’s government.
Mueller’s Indictment presented direct evidence to contradict both the Podesta Group and Mercury.
It also sent a larger message to the denizens of the DC Swamp.
Intentionally or otherwise, Mueller was making it known that the Clinton Era of Influence Selling was finally coming to a close.
We move on to George Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos plead guilty to lying to the FBI about an earlier conversation.
From a New York Times article:
Papadopoulos, 30, first communicated with a professor in London with links to the Russian government, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
The professor was later identified as Joseph Mifsud, according to a Senate aide familiar with the case.
The relationship between Mr. Papadopoulos and Professor Mifsud would lead Mr. Papadopoulos to two other people with ties to the Russian government and to attempts to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the documents said. In April, the professor told Mr. Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in “thousands of emails.”
Mr. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty this month to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation when he was first interviewed in January. At the time, he told agents that Professor Mifsud was “a nothing.” But Mr. Papadopoulos now acknowledges that he knew the professor had “substantial connections to Russian government officials.”
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about a conversation. This is a process crime – an offense alleging criminal conduct related to an investigation of a crime – but not to the crime itself.
The Papadopoulos story is a bit odd.
As the Nunes House Memo detailed:
The Page FISA application mentions information regarding Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. There is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok.
But there was a problem.
The FBI did not even bother to interview Papadopoulos until January 15, 2017. The conversation in question took place in May 2016. The FBI knew of this conversation no later than July 2016.
If the Papadopoulos information was enough to open a FBI counterintelligence investigation in July 2016, why did the FBI wait until January 2017 to even speak with him.
3 Questions from your Papadopoulos story.
If May 2016 Conversation was origin why did:
1) FISA Application get denied in June/July 2016
2) Why did FBI wait until Jan 15 2017 to talk to him
3) Why did FBI w/hold from Congress for a year but release to NYT
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) December 31, 2017
And if the Papadopoulos information was so critical, why was there no mention of either the information or Papadopoulos in any of the three Intelligence Community Reports on Russian Election Interference. More on those Intelligence Reports here.
5. @maggieNYT If George Papadopoulos was so important to the FBI “investigation” why did all “intelligence” agencies released their final JAR report without ever speaking to him?
Not even once?
— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) December 30, 2017
You can read more on Papadoulos here. There are other strange details as well.
But Papadopoulos’ guilty plea had nothing to do with President Trump.
Now we come to General Michael Flynn. Like Papadopoulos, Flynn plead guilty to one count of lying to the FBI – a process crime.
General Flynn was found guilty of lying to the FBI – about conduct that was completely legal.
This fact was made odder still by an admission James Comey made to Congress.
On February 12, 2018, Byron York reported the following:
Comey told lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them, or that any inaccuracies in his answers were intentional.
Comey went to Capitol Hill in March to brief lawmakers privately. That is when he told them that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe Flynn had lied, or that any inaccuracies in Flynn’s answers were intentional. And that is when some lawmakers got the impression that Flynn would not be charged with any crime pertaining to the Jan. 24 interview.
There have been some strange events surrounding the Flynn Case.
On November 30, 2017, Flynn’s case was assigned to Judge Rudolph Contreras.
On December 1, 2017, Judge Contreras presided over a hearing where Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russia.
On December 7, 2017, Judge Contreras was recused.
Court spokeswoman Lisa Klem did not say why Contreras was recused. Judge Contreras did not “recuse himself”. He “was recused”.
One other thing.
Judge Contreras is also a FISA Judge.
Between the time of Judge Contreras presiding over the December 1, 2017 Flynn pleading and Contreras’ December 7, 2017 recusal, the following events occurred:
- December 2 2017 – Washington Post reveals existence of incriminating messages between Peter Strzok revealing anti-Trump biases.
- December 4 2017 – CNN reveals Strzok changed wording of Clinton investigation to avoid criminal charges.
- December 6 2017 – DOJ executive Bruce Ohr demoted after revelations he secretly met with Fusion GPS, which had secretly employed his wife Nellie.
- December 7 2017 – Fox News reveals DOJ’s Bruce Ohr was in contact with Fusion GPS at the same time the FISA application was submitted and granted.
- December 7 2017 – Rep. Jim Jordan grills FBI director Wray about the FBI’s use of the Steele Dossier to secure FISA warrant. Demands to see FISA Application material.
Representative Jim Jordan’s questioning of Director Wray occurred on the morning of December 7, 2017. Judge Contreras’ recusal occurred in the late afternoon per reports.
There’s another thing that’s always bothered me:
I’ve been wondering about this.
If Rogers went to FISA Court on October 26 ’16 w/Section 702 violations why wasn’t FISA Warrant – if already issued – reexamined or rescinded.
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) January 10, 2018
Why didn’t the FISA judge who issued the FISA Warrant on October 21, 2016 revisit the issue after hearing the litany of abuses laid out by NSA Mike Rogers on October 26, 2016.
And who, exactly, was that FISA judge.
On January 31, 2018, Special Counsel Mueller suddenly requested a postponement of Flynn’s sentencing.
On February 2, 2018, the Nunes House Memo was released. The Memo calls into question the validity of the October 21, 2016 FISA Application and Warrant.
On February 6, 2018, the Grassley Senate Memo was released. This Memo focuses even more tightly on the validity of the Dossier – and its role in obtaining the October 21, 2016 FISA Warrant.
There are a lot of things that aren’t right with the Flynn Case – more than can be explained here.
I covered them recently in Something Rotten in Denmark – The Michael Flynn Case.
I will be shocked if Flynn does not end up exonerated.
But right now, one thing is clear.
Flynn’s guilty plea in no way implicates President Trump or the Trump Campaign.
Lastly we have, Richard Pinedo.
Compared to the others, Pinedo is almost boring.
Pinedo has absolutely nothing to do with the Trump Campaign or President Trump.
From a New York Times article:
Mr. Pinedo pleaded guilty this week to identity fraud, according to a statement of offense, and has been cooperating with the special counsel investigation.
Pinedo, a Southern California computer science major, would open bank accounts in his name and sell them online to shadowy purchasers for cash. In other cases, he served as a middle man, buying accounts in other people’s names and flipping them on the internet.
The operation was illegal, “designed to circumvent the security features of large online digital payment companies,” according to court papers. The company Mr. Pinedo set up, Auction Essistance, brought in tens of thousands of dollars between 2014 and December 2017.
Some of that business, it now appears, was done with a Russian operation that used social media platforms to sow political discord around the 2016 presidential election.
The connection was revealed on Friday, when the special counsel investigating Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election unsealed two new indictments related to the case. One charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations with illegally seeking to disrupt the American political process. The other laid out a case against Mr. Pinedo, a 28-year-old computer enthusiast from Santa Paula, Calif.
Peter Carr, a Mueller spokesman, said that prosecutors had “no evidence and there is no allegation he [Pinedo] was a witting participant in the Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections and political processes.”
So there you have it:
Alex Van der Zwaan, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, General Michael Flynn and Richard Pinedo.
Five guilty pleas from the Mueller Investigation – none of them involving President Trump.
It seems the devil is in the details.
Griffin’s tweet, while factually accurate, leaves nearly the entirety of the picture left unseen.
Which is exactly as he wanted it.
Griffin knows most, if not all, of what I’ve laid out.
But that didn’t stop him from sending out a tweet that he knew would be seen and misinterpreted by tens of thousand of followers.
newer post A Telling Tweet from President Trump