Manafort. Cohen. Trump? Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

OMG! We witnessed on Tuesday August 21, in little more than an hour, a confluence of events that a political thriller screenwriter would reject as too far-fetched. But the head-spinning news was true, and, if you’re Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen or Donald Trump, the truth was astonishingly bad.

At almost exactly the same moment, in two courthouses only a few hours drive from each other, two of Trump’s key associates were found guilty on multiple counts for federal crimes.

In Virginia, at the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a jury found the defendant guilty on eight counts of tax fraud and bank fraud. Since this was the first jury conviction in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, you might think this would be the worst news of the day for Trump and his base and enablers.

You’d be wrong.

At the same time as the Manafort jury delivered the guilty verdicts, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen stood in a federal courtroom in New York City and pled guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, and, most critically for potential impact on Trump, a count of having violated campaign finance laws “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Trump isn’t named, but Cohen’s court filing refers to “Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.” The violation refers to payments Cohen made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to prevent them from going public with their salacious stories in the weeks before the 2016 election.

Tuesday’s events echo one of Doonesbury’s most memorable comic strips about Watergate:

Doonesbury.jpg

While no one expects Trump to admit it, the day’s events put the lie to any notion that the Mueller investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” or “hoax.” Quite the contrary.

We can’t overstate the shattering implications of what went down on Aug. 21. For starters, Cohen stated under oath in open court that “Individual-1” (evidently He Whose Name May Not Be Spoken, but who we all know is Donald J. Trump) conspired with him to commit a federal crime. Cohen further said that the charge linked to McDougal was done “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” In normal times, this alone would be sufficient to initiate impeachment proceedings. Sadly, these are not normal times. Rather, these are times when a gutless GOP-controlled Congress won’t even think the “I” word for fear of Trump and his base turning on them.

Meanwhile, 69-year old Manafort faces a sentence that legal experts estimate from seven to 10 years, and a second trial on separate Russia-related charges due to start next month. The pressure for him to cut a deal for leniency in exchange for info about Trump appears immense.

Which is why Aug. 21 shoved us a huge step closer to the precipice of a constitutional crisis! Trump could pardon Manafort and/or Cohen. Most likely? A pardon of Manafort to try to keep his former campaign manager from “flipping.” And Manafort’s steadfast refusal (preceding his convictions) to bargain with prosecutors suggests he is counting on a pardon. Conversely, appearing on the Today show the Day After, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis stated that his client would not accept Trump’s pardon, elaborating that Cohen “. . . considers a pardon from someone who acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept.”

Trump’s pardon of a key witness would be a serious, crisis-precipitating obstruction of justice; an attempt to impede the investigation into crimes his co-conspirator has plead guilty to, crimes that may have altered the outcome of the election and thus call into question the legitimacy of his victory.

This is one of the “red lines” on the list issued by MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups, that will trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • Firing Mueller
  • Pardons of key witnesses
  • Actions that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s current supervisor, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Doonesbury comic strip © Garry Trudeau
Photo-montage of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, and Paul Manafort © Getty Images

Ted Landau contributed to this article. Ted is a retired professor of psychology. He has also spent several decades as a tech journalist/author — writing primarily about Apple products. He has been politically active in the East Bay since moving here in 2004.

 

“Mission Accomplished” in Syria? Tell Trump He’s Not Above the Law

By Alice Towey

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Current Occupant of the White House announced that the United States was launching a missile strike against Syria. Trump said that he had ordered U.S. armed forces to launch strikes on targets associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. It was the culmination of a tumultuous week in the White House. But the military strike on Syria did not eliminate concerns about Trump and the rule of law; rather, it added to them.

The previous week had been rough for Trump. On Monday April 9, the FBI raided the office and home of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seizing information that – we later learned – might include recordings of private conversations. Later in the week, it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Cohen had visited Prague in 2016, lending credence to the Steele Dossier. On Wednesday House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he will not seek reelection. And on Thursday, excerpts of former FBI Director James Comey’s forthcoming memoir leaked to the press, including salacious details about his time working for Trump. By Friday, America was poised on the edge of its seat, and there were rumors that Trump might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In the midst of the chaos the White House abruptly scheduled a press conference, and Trump announced that the U.S, France, and Great Britain were launching missile strikes on Syria, in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Make no mistake: the Assad regime has committed repeated atrocities against its own people, and the use of chemical weapons is inexcusable. However, the timing of this action, and Trump’s process for implementing it, are highly troubling:

  • Just last week, Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from Syria. Why become even more enmeshed now? Was the decision to use military force influenced by a desire to distract the country from the ongoing scandals and legal turmoil surrounding him?
  • Trump’s sudden concern for Assad’s victims is highly suspect in light of his repeated efforts to ban Muslims and Syrian refugees from entering this country. So far this year, only eleven Syrian refugees have been accepted for resettlement in the U.S. (compared to almost 800 by this time in 2016).
  • Trump blatantly circumvented Congress in launching this hostile military act. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the authority to declare war; not the President. Unless the U.S. is in imminent danger, the President must seek Congressional approval before undertaking military action. So far, the Trump administration has neither sought Congress’s approval nor explained its rationale for bypassing Congress to strike Syria.
  • Trump is not above the law. Every illegal action that he is allowed to get away with sets a dangerous precedent, bringing us a step closer to Mueller or Rosenstein getting fired.

What You Can Do Now:

Our Members of Congress (MoCs) must make sure Trump knows that they hold him accountable, now. They need to assert their role in our government and insist that Trump not launch military offensives without consulting Congress, and they need to press for an actual strategy on Syria that includes diplomacy and real, significant humanitarian aid. And they need to make Trump understand clearly that any action to interfere with or distract from the Russia investigation will not be tolerated. 

Call or email your Members of Congress. The following actions are based on the statements each of our MoCs has made, beginning with their tweets immediately following the bombing:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Thank Senator Feinstein for her statement that Congress “must be consulted about the use of force,” which is an improvement over her statements following last year’s missile strikes. Ask her to insist that Trump come before Congress prior to launching any further action in Syria, and to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy. Thank her for her opposition to Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Senator Harris tweeted from her personal account: “The president needs to lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress — and he needs to do it now.” Please call Senator Harris and thank her for this statement, and tell her you’d like her to make a stronger, official statement condemning Trump for bypassing Congress. And please ask her to vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy, and to vote against Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who does not think Trump needs Congress’ approval to strike Syria.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Representative DeSaulnier penned a very thoughtful piece in the Chronicle about the president needing Congressional approval for further military involvement in Syria. Please call Rep. DeSaulnier and thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

As ever, Barbara Lee comes through; please thank her for her strong statement criticizing Trump’s use of military force without Congressional authorization. Tell her you agree that only Congress has the power to authorize use of force and that you want her to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Rep. Swalwell also made a strong statement condemning Trump’s action; please thank him and tell him that you agree that we need a cohesive strategy around Syria, and that you want him to push for hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world.

Concerned About the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria?

Consider supporting a group like the International Rescue Committee that is providing vital support to people within Syria, as well as to refugees around the world fleeing violence. Here is a list by Charity Navigator of charities providing humanitarian aid in Syria, along with their ratings of the charities’ efficacy.

Alice Towey is a Civil Engineer specializing in water resource management. She lives in El Cerrito, where she and her husband are active in Indivisible CA-11 United.

Nobody Is Above the Law

Update 5/1/18:  On April 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate bill 2644 , the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. Senator Grassley, chair of the committee, asked for a prompt vote by the full Senate. Majority Leader McConnell has previously said he would not bring a bill to protect the Mueller investigation to the Senate floor for a vote, however if 51 senators want to receive a vote, they can force one over McConnell’s obstruction. Please call your Senators to urge that they demand a floor vote on S. 2644.

Use Stand Up America’s resource to plan a visit to your Senator’s office, to speak to them or their staff in person.

Indivisible Guide is on high alert, and has prepared this updated page to guide us through what we need to do if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. As they explain, “By firing Rosenstein—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s boss, the person overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election—Trump is obstructing justice. This means we are facing a full-on threat to our democracy and a constitutional crisis.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups are using these basic “red lines,” which would trigger mass protest if Trump crosses one:

  • If Trump fires Mueller
  • If Trump issues pardons of key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Mueller’s current supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

  • Read the Indivisible Guide toolkit
  • See MoveOn’s Mueller’s Firing Rapid Response – The Plan. It includes the general plan, and also addresses something that we’re all wondering — what happens AFTER we hit the streets?
  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you (800 events as of April 10, 2018)
  • No local rally? Sign up to host one
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who’d be interested
  • Call your Members of Congress, and urge them to do all they can to protect the Special Counsel.
    • Updated 4/30/18: call your Senators to ask them to demand a vote on and support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation.
    • This is a historical overview of the bills introduced to protect the investigation, none of which have progressed:
      • As of April 11, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward with legislation to limit Trump‘s ability to fire Mueller. The bill merged S. 1735 and S. 1741 (see below). 
      • Senate: S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker
      • Senate: S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis
      • House: H.R. 3654, led by Representative Jackson Lee –thank Reps Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell for co-sponsoring,
      • House: H.R. 4669, Discharge Petition to Require Speaker to Call a Vote on Special Counsel Integrity Act. Info here.
  • See Indivisible’s earlier article with info and a great call script.
  • See the Wall of Us action
  • Read background info at our original article, and our updated article
  • Read the Lawyers for Good Government 33-year timeline of Trump-Russia connections here

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Resistance go bag

Here’s some background: John Oliver dubbed it “Stupid Watergate,” but many believe the lies and smear campaigns Trump and many Republicans are flinging to discredit the FBI and derail investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and Congressional committees into Trump/Russia have already done more damage to our democracy than the GOP’s bungled break-in, attempted cover-up, and Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973.

As Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice allegations closes in on the Current Occupant of the White House, fears of a constitutional crisis mount. Initially, the triggering event for a crisis was seen as Trump firing Mueller, mirroring Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But in what is more like “Evil Watergate” the strategy has morphed into escalating assaults on the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others. The Current Occupant, several GOP toadies, and right-wing media are sowing chaos, pushing fake scandals, and besmirching reputations, in not-even-thinly veiled attempts to divert, curtail, or shut down the investigations.

 

Destroying Democracy: Worse than Watergate, More than Mueller

This article is current as of April 12, 2018, and includes background information (below). For latest developments, please see our updated article at: https://indivisibleeb.org/2018/04/12/nobody-is-above-the-law

On April 9, the FBI served a no-knock warrant on the office and hotel room of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid $130,000 to hush up Stormy Daniels. Hours later an enraged Trump spoke about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a White House briefing on April 10 that Trump believes he has the power to fire Mueller. If you’re not up to speed, see our “background” section below.

MoveOn, Indivisible, and many other groups are calling for all of us to flood the streets if Trump fires Mueller, or if another “red line” is crossed:

  • If Trump fires Mueller
  • If Trump issues pardons of key witnesses
  • If Trump takes another action that would prevent the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Mueller’s current supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or repealing the regulations establishing the office

What you can do now:

  • See MoveOn’s Mueller’s Firing Rapid Response – The Plan. It includes the general plan, and also addresses something that we’re all wondering — what happens AFTER we hit the streets?
  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you (800 events as of April 10, 2018)
  • No local rally? Sign up to host one
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who’d be interested
  • Call your Members of Congress, and urge them to do all they can to protect the Special Counsel. This is a list of legislation pending in the Senate and House:
    • As of April 11, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee is moving forward with legislation to limit Trump‘s ability to fire Mueller. The bill merges S. 1735 and S. 1741 (see below). Ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to back this merged bill.
    • Senate: S. 1735 led by Senators Graham and Booker — ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to co-sponsor,
    • Senate: S. 1741 led by Senators Coons and Tillis — ask Senators Feinstein and Harris to co-sponsor,
    • House: H.R. 3654, led by Representative Jackson Lee –thank Reps Lee, DeSaulnier and Swalwell for co-sponsoring,
    • House: H.R. 4669, Discharge Petition to Require Speaker to Call a Vote on Special Counsel Integrity Act. Info here. Ask Reps Lee, DeSaulnier, and Swalwell to sign the Discharge Petition.
  • See Indivisible’s article with info and a great call script.
  • See the Wall of Us action
  • Read background info at our original article, and our updated article
  • Read the Lawyers for Good Government 33-year timeline of Trump-Russia connections here

And prepare if we need to hit the streets:

  • Read the ACLU’s article Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations
  • Download the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app to record police activity and send it immediately to the ACLU affiliate nearest you. Get the California app, MobileJusticeCA
  • Put the National Lawyers Guild hotline numbers into your phone, and write them on your arm in ink:
    • to call from local jails ONLY: 415-285-1011
    • outside of jail calls, call NLG hotline volunteers: 415-909-4NLG (4654)
    • if no answer, send an email to the NLG Demonstrations Committee at nlgsfhotline@protonmail.com
  • Prepare a go-bag with:
    • charged cell phone and portable power if you have
    • water bottle and energy bars or other portable food
    • layers of clothing to add if it gets cold
    • a sign with your message

Resistance go bag

Here’s some background: John Oliver dubbed it “Stupid Watergate,” but many believe the lies and smear campaigns Trump and many Republicans are flinging to discredit the FBI and derail investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and Congressional committees into Trump/Russia have already done more damage to our democracy than the GOP’s bungled break-in, attempted cover-up, and Saturday Night Massacre did back in 1973.

As Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice allegations closes in on the Current Occupant of the White House, fears of a constitutional crisis mount. Initially, the triggering event for a crisis was seen as Trump firing Mueller, mirroring Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. But in what is more like “Evil Watergate” the strategy has morphed into escalating assaults on the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and others. The Current Occupant, several GOP toadies, and right-wing media are sowing chaos, pushing fake scandals, and besmirching reputations, in not-even-thinly veiled attempts to divert, curtail, or shut down the investigations.

See our previous articles here and here.

 

No One Is Above the Law

It’s been a month since we began talking about reports that Trump was considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. As Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election continues, speculation is that he’s lasering in on Trump and his cronies’ ties to and collusion with Russia, and that the current occupant of the White House will try to kill the investigation before it gets too close …

After Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russians, attacks against the FBI, former FBI director James Comey, and Robert Mueller have sharply escalated. In seemingly coordinated attacks over the past few days, Trump, Republican mouthpieces, and Fox (fake) News have all been trying to discredit Mueller and shut down the investigation.

As Indivisible National plainly states (and oh yes, they hit caps lock on purpose): “FIRING COMEY CREATED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. FIRING MUELLER WOULD BE A CRISIS TIMES TEN.”  Further: “[f]iring Comey was obstruction of justice, pure and simple. But firing Mueller would be far worse—because the entire reason Mueller has this job is to protect the investigation from political interference. No one is above the law, especially not the President of the United States.”

MoveOn, Indivisible, and other groups are working in coalition to activate emergency rallies if Mueller is fired. Although we all hope it won’t happen, the threat is real enough to justify preparing an immediate, strong response.

What you can do now:

  • Find and RSVP to attend a Nobody Is Above the Law rapid response rally near you if Mueller is fired (see partial list below);
  • No local rally near you? Sign up to host one;
  • Spread the word by sending the link to everyone who may be interested;
  • Ask Congress to prevent Mueller from being fired. See Indivisible’s call script here;
  • Read our earlier article, with more info and actions.
  • Note that for any specific event, the timing may vary from the general MoveOn suggested timing (and all involve your local time), so please check the event you RSVP’ed for: if news of the firing occurs before 2 PM, the rally begins that day at 5 PM; if news occurs after 2 PM, the rally will begin the following day at noon.
  • AND NEW! Also general guidelines from MoveOn, check your local event: because of the holidays, if Mueller is fired between December 23 and December 26,  the rally will be held on December 27 at 5:00 PM.  Any other firing date will be treated as above.

nobody is above the law mueller firing.jpgAs MoveOn, the primary organizer behind the rapid response rallies, states: “This is our moment to stand up to protect our democracy. Let’s mobilize to show that we won’t let Donald Trump become the authoritarian that he aspires to be. The law applies to all of us, and it’s essential that it also applies to the most powerful people in our country.  Our response in the minutes and hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next, and whether Congress—the only body with the constitutional power and obligation to rein Trump in from his rampage—will do anything to stand up to him.”

********************************************

Please check this link for additional locations, and RSVP to receive updates.

No Saturday Night Massacre 2017

Word leaking from the White House is that Trump is losing his shizzle as Special Counsel Robert Mueller & Team close in on the president and his friends & family in pursuing the Russia investigation. The October 30 bombshell unsealing of the 12 count indictments against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, and an eye-popping guilty plea by Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI has ratcheted up the pressure.

Some Republicans are trying to diminish, obstruct or outright kill the investigations into Trump’s Russia ties. A resolution was introduced on November 3 to remove Mueller, and Fox News and other right wing media are pushing for firing. Meanwhile, Democrats have introduced legislation to protect Mueller or bolster the investigation, including Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) Special Counsel Integrity Act (H.R. 3771).

There’s much you can do:

  • Call your MoCs and say: My name is ___, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can to combat Republican efforts to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and to support Democratic efforts to protect it. Thank you.
  • Send an e-letter: Join the Action Network’s online letter-writing campaignRead more details and use the easy form to have letters sent to your MoCs.
  • Hit the streets if Mueller is fired!  MoveOn is calling for emergency Nobody is Above the Law rallies nationwide if Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Search by zip code to find an event. At this time, local rallies set for San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

Stayed tuned for further news!