After President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Chair Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 counts of federal criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he decided to try his luck and avoid a second trial by becoming a cooperating witness in the Russia investigation. It didn’t work out — in November 2018, Mueller’s team revealed that they believed Manafort was lying about key facts in their interviews, nullifying his cooperation deal.
Since then, details about his alleged lies have slowly emerged in various court documents. And a new transcript of closed-door hearing in the case released Thursday exposed stunning new details about the Mueller team’s thinking and its progress in the investigation.
Despite reports that Mueller’s investigation is going to be wrapping up soon, the transcript suggests that, at least recently, the special counsel was still pursuing key parts of its mission in the Russia investigation. And though he isn’t mentioned by name, the transcript contained a particularly revealing detail about the president with damning implications.
While many conservative critics of the investigation — most notably Trump — have dismissed the idea that there was any “collusion,” criminal or otherwise, between the campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election, the special counsel’s office made clear in the hearing that it is still interested in these questions. Discussing the importance Manafort’s lying about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant, prosecutor Andrew Weissman said:
So, I mean, this goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think the motive here is.
This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating. And in 2016. there is an in-person meeting with someone who the government has certainly proffered to this court in the past, is understood by the FBI, assessed to be — have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is [redacted]. And there is an in-person meeting at an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman to be spending time, and to be doing it in person.
The meeting and what happened at the meeting is of significance to the special counsel.
To make explicit what the special counsel’s office is saying here: Manafort’s meeting with a man with ties to Russian intelligence during the heat of the 2018 campaign is at “the heart” of the Russia investigation. The meeting is important to the special counsel. And the special counsel thinks that these facts give Manafort a motive to lie about it — suggesting he’s covering up incriminating behavior.
A previous court filing revealed that in one of his meetings with Kilimnick, Manafort provided him with polling data, indicating the meeting was directly related to the election.
And even The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, a frequent critic of the Russia investigation, pointed out Thursday that the meeting with Kilimnick Weissman referenced was on Aug. 2 — a month after Manafort sent a Kilimnick an email offering private briefings to Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was reportedly in debt.
The above section of the transcript is followed by significant redactions, suggesting sensitive material that the government still wants secret lies beneath. And Weissman was also careful to note to the judge that there were certain facts he wasn’t willing to reveal in court.
At another point in the transcript, a prosecutor tells the judge that one of Manafort’s motives for lying to investigators about something he told to Rick Gates, another former Trump aide who is cooperating in the probe, was that he was trying to “augment his chances for a pardon.” (NBC News noted that the transcript appears to incorrectly attribute this remark to one of Manafort’s lawyers, when it is, in fact, clearly a prosecutor speaking.)
This is the first time the special counsel has indicated publicly that it thinks a witness or target in the investigation might be angling for a pardon. Many have speculated that the pursuit of a pardon could explain Manafort’s otherwise puzzling behavior.
But since a pardon for federal crimes could only come from the president, the special counsel’s acknowledge of this possible motive is remarkable. It means the special counsel believes Manafort could increase his chances of a pardon by with a criminal lie. This, quite directly, implies that Trump has an interest in one of his former aides engaging in a criminal cover-up — a circumstance that is hard to imagine unless the president himself is at least indirectly implicated in criminal behavior.
While many have long suspected and argued as much, it is still a stunning turn of events to have it confirmed by prosecutors in court.
Legal analyst Luppe Luppen speculated on Twitter that, in a redacted portion of the transcript, prosecutors may have listed the possibility of a presidential pardon as an “unusual factor” in Manafort’s plea agreement.
The transcript also reveals that Manafort met with Kilimnik at Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, which is reportedly under investigation separately by the Southern District of New York. There, they discussed the promotion of a Ukraine peace plan, prosecutors said, which is believed to favor Russian interests. This shows that, despite Trump’s attempt to distance himself from Manafort after firing him in August of 2016, Manafort at least believed he had the chance to promote a political agenda under the Trump administration.
Other portions of the hearing also referred to connections between Manafort and the president since the inauguration. Prosecutor Greg Andres said that Manafort “constantly either minimizes the information he has about the administration or contact with the administration.”
He adds: “So there’s an issue whether or not during cooperation he’s communicating with [redacted] or perhaps providing information about questions or other things that are happening in the special counsel investigation, whether’s he’s sharing that with other people.”
After Manafort had agreed to cooperate, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, revealed that the ex-campaign chair had stayed in his joint defense agreement with the president, a situation legal experts said was extraordinary and posed the risk that he could innappropriately share sensitive information.
Image via Wikimedia
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‘Beyond Horrific’: Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Producer Is an Out Gay Man Helping ‘Ramp Up’ Hate Says LGBTQ Journalist
Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show frequently has the largest reach of any on cable news, regularly attacks the LGBTQ community with fear-mongering and hate-filled segments about gay people, transgender people, “groomers” and the latest target: “drag queen story hours.”
His senior executive producer, who oversees Carlson’s media empire at Fox News, is a married, out, gay man named Justin Wells, according to veteran journalist and SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile, who is calling it “beyond horrific to think a gay man has helped to shape and widely disseminate a message of hate against LGBTQ people.”
Last week, in the wake of the horrific anti-LGBTQ hate crime mass shooting Carlson hosted a guest, the head of the so-called “Gays Against Groomers,” who told Fox News viewers the attack on LGBTQ people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs was “predictable” and warned that these hate crime massacres will continue, “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.
Tucker Carlson guest: Shootings like the Club Q shooting are going to keep happening “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care. pic.twitter.com/4ajSonqlug
— Kat Abu (@abughazalehkat) November 23, 2022
Carlson has repeatedly hosted Jaimee Mitchell, the Gays Against Groomers founder who fear mongers against LGBTQ people, with the apparent consent of Wells, who “helped promulgate the kind of hate that leads to violence,” says Signorile.
“It’s unlikely that any narrative would get broadcast by Tucker without significant buy-in from Justin,” Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters, told Signorile.
Indeed, referring to the Colorado Springs mass shooting massacre, Signorile noted it is “the same kind of nightclub at which Wells, in years past, danced the night away in Miami Beach and elsewhere, liberating himself from the world outside and surely never imagining he’d be shot dead.”
“Now he’s aided the extremists who deny that sense of safety and liberation to every future generation of queer people,” says Signorile, explaining that “Wells runs the entire Tucker Carlson operation, and is responsible for imprinting the Tucker Carlson brand, which is all about emboldening white heterosexual male grievance, furthering the racist conspiracy of ‘replacement theory’ and pushing an increasingly virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda.”
One of Carlson’s frequent LGBTQ targets is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who he has called an “unqualified ‘kid’ who ‘breastfeeds,’ and has no business running the agency,” as Mediaite reported.
“And as Carlson further pushed white nationalism, attacked transgender people and embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban,” Signorile reports, “Wells, in 2021, was named a Vice President at Fox News, in charge of all Carlson product that airs on Fox News TV as well as on Fox’s streaming network, Fox Nation.”
Signorile says, “it’s quite stunning that Wells would work for Carlson, who has a well-known history of visceral homophobia. That’s something that came to light again last year when it became known that Carlson had offered a tribute to Dan White, the assassin of San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, in his college yearbook back in 1991, as well as to the late vociferously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who whipped up homophobia during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”
“I wrote about those jarring revelations when they surfaced last year,” he continues, “as well as about what I dubbed Carlson’s ‘pathological obsession with homosexuality’ throughout his career. Carlson has expressed revulsion at homosexuality, and in one incident he reveled in a violent response. In a TV interview in 2007 he described having smashed a man’s head ‘against the stall’ in a public rest room, after the man ‘bothered’ him.”
“Wells, as a gay man, only emboldens Carlson further,” Signorile concludes. “He gives him permission to launch the ugly attacks and helps Carlson validate, for himself (and likely for executives at Fox News), the vitriol he espouses. That makes Justin Wells’ presence as the powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson all the more newsworthy. And all the more dangerous.”
Signorile notes that his reporting is not an outing.
“This story is not, however, about a warped closet case, tormented by self-loathing, hiding his true self while bashing those like him. And thus, this story is not an outing, which involves exposing someone who covers up their sexual orientation while publicly presenting as heterosexual — though it certainly may be a startling revelation to a great many. It is, rather, about connecting the dots regarding a reality that seems to have been hiding in plain sight.”
You can read Signorile’s entire report on his Substack newsletter.
Questions Swirl Around Herschel Walker as New Report Shows His Georgia Residence Was Rented Out for Over a Decade
Where Herschel Walker lives has been a question since before he officially announced his candidacy as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. Numerous reports have looked into claims he lives in Texas and not the Peach State, which some Georgia voters might find problematic, but new reporting exposes what could lead to tax or voting fraud investigations.
Walker’s Georgia home, according to reporting from The Daily Beast‘s Roger Sollenberger, is owned by his wife, who for years has rented it out.
When Walker announced his candidacy, after a strong push from Donald Trump, it “was widely known at the time that the Republican hopeful had been living in Texas for decades, though he has claimed to maintain a residence in Atlanta for ’17 years.’ Less widely known, however, was that Walker’s wife collected tens of thousands of dollars in rental income for that residence, according to his 2021 financial disclosure forms.”
While it is unclear if the home was rented out when Walker officially launched his Senate run, the “house doubled as the Walker campaign’s first official address when he launched his bid in August 2021. Fulton County tax and property records show the home is solely owned by Walker’s wife, Julie Blanchard, who also collected rental income from 2020 and 2021 ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, according to the disclosure—defining the asset as ‘Georgia residence.'”
CNN last week reported that “Republican Herschel Walker is getting a tax break intended only for a primary residence this year on his home in the Dallas, Texas, area, despite running for Senate in Georgia.”
“In Texas, homeowner regulations say you can only take the exemption on your ‘principal residence,'” CNN’s K-File reported. “Walker is listed to get a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1,500 and potentially running afoul of both Texas tax rules and some Georgia rules on establishing residency for the purpose of voting or running for office.”
Even after he launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate Walker still filed for the Texas tax exemption.
The complaint alleges “Herschel Walker appears to have committed a felony in August 2021 when he registered to vote in Georgia,” and “Herschel Walker appears to have committed a felony when he voted in the 2022 Georgia primary and general elections.” These are allegations and have not been investigated by authorities.
When he announced is candidacy, “Walker’s main GOP rival challenged him to ‘move here, pay taxes here, register and vote in some elections’ before running,” The Journal-Constitution notes. “Warnock’s allies have taken a similar line of attack, framing the Republican as an out-of-state charlatan.”
Trumps Latest Tactic? Attacking Special Counsel’s Sister-in-Law
Donald Trump is going all-in on attacks against the family of special counsel Jack Smith. Instead of mounting a defense for his actions, Trump deployed one of his top tactics: attacking anyone trying to hold him accountable.
One of Trump’s right-wing allies posted a claim that Smith’s sister-in-law, who is allegedly a psychologist and whose patients were “crying” and “sobbing” over Trump’s 2016 election.
“And I’m supposed to get a fair shake from this person, who’s under tremendous pressure from his family, but he is actually worse than they are?” Trump rambled on his personal social media site. “Can Republicans, and fair-minded people, generally, allow this to happen? Jack Smith is nothing less than a hit man for Obama, his Attorney General Eric Holder, and Andrew Weissmann. Weaponization. Our Country is in big trouble, a real mess!”
Smith was hired by Trump’s administration to serve as an acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee during Trump’s first year in office, his biography states. During this same time, the new Trump Justice Department was firing most of the U.S. Attorneys hired under President Barack Obama’s administration. One of those biggest names was Preet Bharara, who helped Trump with the transition while serving as the U.S. Attorney Southern District of New York. He was fired the same month that Trump hired Smith in 2017.
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