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National Govt & Politics
New documents spur new questions on Trump-Russia probe
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New documents spur new questions on Trump-Russia probe

New documents spur new questions on Trump-Russia probe
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

New documents spur new questions on Trump-Russia probe

Donald Trump Jr. told Senate investigators that he did nothing wrong in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting which had been advertised as one that might give the Trump Campaign "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, as an unexpected document dump by a Senate committee on Tuesday released new information about the investigation, spurred new questions, and filled in some blanks about the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did," Trump Jr. said flatly in his interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the panel released transcripts of Trump Jr. and others involved in that controversial Trump Tower gathering, handing out no information which showed any direct links to President Donald Trump, but raising more questions about contacts with Russians during the election.

It was the first time official testimony had been made public from a Trump family member on the Russia probe, as Trump Jr. made no bones about declaring his innocence, but sidestepped dozens of queries by saying he didn't remember or recall what had happened.

Here's some of what we learned, and some questions raised Tuesday in the Russia investigation:

1. Senate Judiciary documents provide more detail on Russia probe. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday dropped over 2,000 pages of transcripts, emails, text messages, and other documents from that panel's review of the Russia probe. No final report was issued by committee Republicans, but it didn't take long to find new nuggets in the fine print, especially in the interview done with Donald Trump Jr., which focused a great deal on the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between campaign officials and a group of Russians. Trump Jr. denied any wrongdoing.

2. Wikileaks asked Trump Jr. to leak his father's tax returns. Among the questions asked of the President's son, were there contacts between the campaign and Wikileaks, the internet group which ended up leaking large amounts of emails from Democratic Party staffers and officials, and which U.S. Intelligence regards as a pawn of Russian Intelligence. Trump Jr. revealed that he had been in contact with Wikileaks via Twitter, and revealed one interesting request - they wanted Trump Jr. to forward his father's tax returns, in order to be leaked out by Wikileaks.

3. Jared Kushner not pleased with Trump Tower meeting. While Kushner, the President's son-in-law, refused to sit for an interview with investigators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, there was an interesting insight provided about him from Rob Goldstone, who had helped set up the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Campaign officials and a woman who was characterized as a "Russian government attorney." Before the meeting, there had been a promise of "dirt" which would incriminate Hillary Clinton, but instead, the presentation centered more on changes in adoption policies dealing with Russians. Goldstone told investigators that Kushner seemed agitated, and then infuriated, when there was no 'smoking gun' on Clinton presented in the meeting.

4. Scramble as details of Trump Tower meeting emerges. When press reports in July of 2017 began to detail who was involved in the meeting, and the focus on opposition research involving Hillary Clinton, emails and text messages from some of the participants show them scrambling to figure out what to say as reporters zeroed in for comment. While Trump Jr. had maintained the meeting was only about Russian adoption policies, that changed when he released email traffic from before the meeting, just before it was being published by the New York Times. In one email to Ike Kaveladze, who was in the meeting, an unidentified acquaintance wondered if the President's son had caused himself trouble. "Why did he release this e-mail admitting to collusion?" the person wrote.  One other thing - if you note the attachment listed on the below email, you can find that same identifier string by going to a tweet by Donald Trump Jr., when he released his email traffic about the Trump Tower meeting. So this email is clearly about that tweet.

5. Trump Organization lawyers coordinated press response. As details of that Trump Tower meeting emerged in July 2017, putting Trump Jr. and others on the defensive, emails released by the Judiciary Committee show that the Trump Organization stepped in to put together a response. Rob Goldstone, who helped facilitate the meeting, pleaded with a top legal official for the Trump Organization for guidance as the press coverage intensified. "Can I please at least now see the statement you guys put out?" A day later, everyone seemed to be on the same page, as Goldstone sent out an email with the subject line, "Here is statement drafted by Trump lawyers which they have asked me to release."

6. Senate Intelligence Committee at odds with House on Russia probe. Just as the Senate Judiciary Committee made its document dump, the Senate Intelligence Committee released an overall statement on how the U.S. Intelligence Community assessed the threat from Russia, during the 2016 campaign. Taking a much different path than their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said their investigation agreed with the findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community, that Russia was not only trying to interfere in the 2016 election, but trying to help one particular candidate. "The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

7. FBI Director: Russia probe not a witch hunt. A few hours later on Capitol Hill, the FBI Director was before a Senate panel for a regular budget hearing, but fielded questions on a variety of topics, one of them being the Russia investigation. FBI chief Christopher Wray defended the work of his agents, and specifically stood by his statement of July 2017, when he disagreed with President Trump's charge that the Russia probe is a "witch hunt." Wray did that again on Tuesday.

8. Trump formally admits paying Michael Cohen, who paid Stormy Daniels. In a submission to the Office of Government Ethics, President Trump's financial disclosure form for 2017 had a small footnote added, confirming that Mr. Trump had "reportable liabilities" in 2016 to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. "Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 - $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero," it said. Maybe of more interest was that OGE officials then sent a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, advising him of the addition. Acting OGE Director David Apol wrote, "you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the President's prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017. It almost sounded like a criminal referral for a false statement.

9. Cohen still battling with lawyer for Stormy Daniels. As the lawyer for Daniels, the outspoken Michael Avenatti, tries to get involved in the case surrounding the April 9 FBI raid on Cohen, a federal judge in New York ordered Cohen to weigh in on why Avenatti should not be allowed to be heard in the case. Avenatti has already uncorked a series of revelations about payments to Cohen, which brought an unprecedented release of banking records, supposedly from a financial whistleblower, who told the New Yorker of the movement of large amounts of money through accounts linked to Cohen. Does it have anything to do with the Russia probe? Something to think about.

10. The Rolling Stones and Donald Trump. Reporters who have regularly covered President Trump on the road are very familiar with the songs played for the crowd, both before and after Mr. Trump speaks. When his events end, the Rolling Stones blares with the song, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want.' Ironically, the FBI nicknamed the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election after another Stones song - according to a report in the New York Times, the investigation was named Operation Crossfire Hurricane. For you Stones fans out there, that's from the first line of the song Jumpin' Jack Flash. This is from Madison Square Garden in 1969. I wonder if the name of the operation is a play on Five Eyes, and the reach of U.S. Intelligence partners.

 

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

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  • Game dates and kickoff times for Orlando’s Camping World Bowl and Citrus Bowl games were announced Thursday as part of ESPN’s 2019-20 college football bowl schedule. This year, the Camping World Bowl, which traditionally features teams from the ACC and Big 12 conference will be broadcast on ABC for the first time in the bowl’s 30-year history.  It is set for Saturday, December 28 at Noon.  Last year’s contest saw Syracuse beat West Virginia 34-18 which helped guide the Orange to a 10-3 record, the team’s best finish since 2001.  The Citrus Bowl, which typically features teams from the ACC, SEC and Big Ten conference will continues its News Years Day tradition, kicking off at 1 o' clock on January 1, 2020.  It will also be broadcast on ABC.  In last year’s game, Kentucky defeated Penn State 27-24.  “We are thrilled to present two big-time bowl games from Orlando on national television this season,” Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase the Central Florida community twice in five days this postseason.”  The Cure Bowl, Orlando’s third bowl game, had already announced that this years game will be played at Orlando City Stadium, on Saturday, Dec. 21.
  • A judge sentenced the man who admitted to killing a Wisconsin couple last year before holding their 13-year-old daughter captive for three months to life in prison without the possibility of supervised release. >> Read more trending news Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, appeared before a Barron County judge for sentencing in the killing of James and Denise Closs and the kidnapping of their daughter, Jayme, according to the Duluth News Tribune. He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of intentional homicide for gunning down James Closs, 56, and Denise Closs, 46, in the early morning hours of Oct. 15. He also pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping for abducting Jayme. >> Man pleads guilty to kidnapping Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs, killing her parents Update 4:30 p.m. EDT May 24: A judge sentenced Patterson to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each of the intentional homicide charges to which Patterson pleaded guilty. The judge also gave Patterson the maximum sentence -- 40 years -- for kidnapping Jayme. Update 4:20 p.m. EDT May 24: In a brief, tearful statement in court, Patterson said he “would do like, absolutely anything to take back what I did.” “I would die,” he said. “I would.” Patterson’s attorneys asked a judge to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole until 2072 for the killings of James and Denise Closs. The sentencing hearing is ongoing. Update 3:30 p.m. EDT May 24: In a statement read by an attorney Friday in court, Jayme said Patterson took many things from her but that, “He can never take my spirit away.” “He thought he could make me like him, but he was wrong,” she said. “He can’t stop me from being happy and moving forward with my life. I will go on to do great things in my life, and he will not. Jake Patterson will never have any power over me.” Chris Gramstrup, an attorney representing Jayme, read the victim impact statement in court. “He stole my parents from me,” Jayme said in the statement. “He stole almost everything I loved from me. For 88 days, he tried to steal me, and he didn’t care who he hurt or who he killed to do that. He should stay locked up forever.” Prosecutors said Jayme and her mother heard Patterson shoot and kill James Closs as they huddled together in a bathtub. Denise Closs called 911 as Patterson tried to batter down the bathroom door. Once he broke down the door, he wrestled the phone from Denise Closs and ordered her to tape Jayme’s mouth, hands and feet, prosecutors said. He told authorities that he thought she was doing a bad job, so he put down his shotgun to do it himself. Once Jayme was restrained, authorities said he picked up his shotgun again and, with Jayme feet from her mother, shot Denise Closs in the head. He then dragged Jayme to his car, threw her in the trunk and drove her to his home, where she was held captive for 88 days. Through Gramstrup, Jayme said her parents “did all they could to make me happy and protect me.” “He took them away from me forever,” Jayme said. “I felt safe in my home and I love my room and all of my belongings. He took all of that too. I don’t want to even see my home or my stuff because of the memory of that night. My parents and my home were the most important things in my life.” She said that since her escape in January, “It’s too hard for me to go out in public.” “I get scared and I get anxious,” she said. Prosecutors said Jayme escaped from Patterson’s home Jan. 10 after he left her alone. Original report: Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said members of Jayme’s family are expected to give statements at Friday’s hearing, MPR News reported. The court proceeding is expected to last several hours, according to CNN. Under Wisconsin law, Patterson will face a mandatory life sentence for each of the homicide convictions, the Duluth News Tribune reported. The main question for Friday will be whether Patterson will eventually be eligible for parole, according to the newspaper. >> Who is Jake Thomas Patterson? Suspect in Jayme Closs kidnapping identified Authorities said Patterson admitted to targeting Jayme after seeing her get on a school bus while he was driving home from work one day. He told investigators he did not know the Closses before the attack. Jayme told authorities she woke early on the morning of Oct. 15 when the family dog started barking. She woke her parents and then hid with her mother in a bathroom. Investigators said Patterson shot and killed James Closs before he found Jayme and Denise Closs in the bathroom. >> Jayme Closs kidnapping: Suspect charged in Closs murders, bail set at $5 million Jayme said Patterson killed her mother before dragging her to his car and driving her to what would turn out to be his home in Douglas County. He was arrested after Jayme escaped Jan. 10 from his home and flagged down a woman walking her dog. >> Jayme Closs to be given $25K reward after she saved herself from accused kidnapper Jayme told investigators Patterson made her hide under the bed in his bedroom for as many as 12 hours at a time without food, water or bathroom breaks. She escaped after Patterson left her alone in the home 88 days after he first abducted her. Jayme is living with her aunt and uncle, the Stevens Point Journal reported.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said he was OK on Friday after he appeared to nearly faint during a news conference in New York City. >> Read more trending news Nadler, D-N.Y., was appearing Friday at a news conference about plans to expand the city’s use of speed cameras in school zones when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to notice he looked pale, WABC-TV reported. Video from the news conference showed Nadler looking ill and weak as the mayor asked him if he wanted some water.  The New York Daily News reported that paramedics called a code blue emergency after Nadler appeared to suffer from a brief dizzy spell. He was given water and an orange and later taken by ambulance to Lenox Hill Hospital, according to the Daily News. “Appreciate everyone’s concern,” Nadler said in a statement posted later Friday on Twitter. “Was very warm in the room this morning, was obviously dehydrated and felt a bit ill. Glad to receive fluids and am feeling much better. Thank you for your thoughts.”
  • A Colorado man arrested in Utah earlier this year for threatening to “kill as many girls as (he saw)” has been sentenced to serve up to five years in prison, despite prosecutors’ recommendation that he serve probation.  Christopher Wayne Cleary, 27, of Denver, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempt to make a terroristic threat as part of a plea deal with Utah County prosecutors, according to The Deseret News. Cleary, who was arrested in Provo in January, was already on probation in Colorado on two previous convictions of stalking women, the newspaper reported.  Cleary expressed remorse over his words. “I’m just sorry for what happened,” Cleary told the court, according to the News.  Prosecutors in Utah negotiated a plea deal with Cleary for a third-degree felony charge instead of the second-degree felony with which he was initially charged, the News reported. In exchange for his plea -- which would let them secure a felony conviction -- they agreed to recommend no jail time. The plea bargain was aimed at helping Colorado authorities send Cleary to prison for violating his probation in the stalking cases, the News reported.  >> Related story: Man upset over not having girlfriend accused of mass shooting threat to girls Fourth District Judge Christine Johnson on Thursday declined to take the state up on its recommendation, citing her uncertainty of whether Cleary would serve any jail time for probation violation in Colorado, the newspaper said. “I don’t want to be in the position of guessing what Colorado is going to do,” Johnson said during Cleary’s sentencing hearing.  Cleary was arrested Jan. 19, the same day multiple women’s marches were being held in Utah and throughout the country, based on an alarming Facebook post he wrote the night before, the News said. In the post, he bemoaned his lack of romantic prospects and, like several mass shooters who have targeted women, blamed the opposite sex for his plight. “All I wanted was a girlfriend,” Cleary wrote, according to a police affidavit obtained by The Denver Post. “All I wanted was to be loved, yet no one cares about me. I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend before, and I’m still a virgin. This is why I’m planning on shooting up a public place soon and being the next mass shooter ‘cause I’m ready to die and all the girls the turned me down is going to make it right by killing as many girls as I see.” Another post stated, “There’s nothing more dangerous than (a) man ready to die,” the Post reported.  Cleary’s threats alarmed state and federal authorities in Colorado and neighboring Utah, where they traced his cellphone the following day. He was arrested at a McDonald’s in Provo and charged with making a terroristic threat.  Following his arrest, Cleary told investigators he was “upset and not thinking clearly” when he wrote the Facebook posts. According to the Post, he deleted the threats after other people called him and threatened him. Court records obtained by multiple newspapers paint a disturbing portrait of Cleary, who was accused of stalking and harassment by at least eight women and girls dating back at least seven years. The News reported that Cleary was also accused of threatening to bomb a grocery store in 2013 and threatened to commit a mass shooting at a mental health facility in 2016.  >> Read more trending news An 18-year-old Arvada woman called police on New Year’s Eve 2015 and reported that Cleary, with whom she’d been chatting on Facebook, began harassing her online and over the phone after she declined to go on a date with him. According to the Post, the woman told detectives he would use aliases, including one alias on Facebook named John Coleman. “I’ve been watching you,” the person claiming to be Coleman wrote to her on Facebook. “Soon here, you’ll be lying in your deathbed.” During that investigation, Arvada detectives found details of a previous criminal investigation in which Cleary told another woman who spurned his advances she should kill herself, the Post reported. He also posted her name and phone number in an online sex ad, offering her services for $20, court records show. In a prior misdemeanor harassment case from earlier in 2015, Cleary was convicted after talking a woman into posing naked for him and then posting the picture to a fake Facebook page in her name, the newspaper reported.  A harassment case from Denver found Cleary accused of writing threatening messages to a 17-year-old girl, including a message that said, “I own multipul (sic) guns. I can have u dead in a second. One day I’ma snap and kill everyone,” according to court documents. A second Denver case involved a 19-year-old woman who said she lived with Cleary in a hotel room for two weeks, during which time he choked her and urinated on her, the court documents said.  Cleary was convicted in October 2016 on two counts of stalking and harassment involving two of the three alleged victims in Arvada, the Post said. He was sentenced to two years of probation.  Cleary was arrested in yet another stalking case less than a year later. A 43-year-old Lakewood woman who had dated him called 911 Aug. 5, 2017, to report Cleary was stalking her. He was arrested outside the woman’s house. According to the Post, Cleary told investigators the woman was the only person who loved him and he was lonely without her. The woman told police she and Cleary had a sexual relationship -- contradicting Cleary’s claim earlier this year that he was a virgin. The victim told police Cleary, who began stalking her when she broke off the relationship, had called her 45 times that day, threatening her and telling her he hoped she would die.  “I am going to burn your house down,” Cleary told her, according to court records. “I am going to send people to your house to kill you.” Cleary also posted her phone number and address on Craigslist “soliciting sexual acts and rape,” according to a probable cause statement in the case. The woman said she’d received multiple phone calls from strangers due to the ad. The woman told police she lost 20 pounds and began having nightmares and anxiety attacks because of the stalking, the Post reported.  Cleary pleaded guilty to charges of felony stalking and making threats, the newspaper said. A judge in Jefferson County sentenced him last May to three years of probation.  Despite having violated his probation on the Arvada cases, he was not jailed following his guilty plea in the case involving the Lakewood woman, the Post reported. Pam Russell, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, said Cleary’s mental health played a part in his sentencing in that case, as well as in his 2016 stalking conviction, which was handled in Adult Mental Health Court.  “The courts decided to let his mental health issues be a big component of his treatment,” Russell told the Post.  Cleary’s defense attorney in the most recent case, Dustin Parmley, said this week that his client’s violent words are related to his mental illness, which he was reportedly diagnosed with at age 10. Cleary told investigators he takes medication for an impulse control disorder.  Parmley said Cleary’s words have never turned to action. Investigators found no evidence that Cleary had weapons or attempted to obtain any, the Post said.  The newspaper reported that four of the criminal investigations into Cleary ended without charges filed against him.  Cleary will serve his time in Utah before being transferred to Colorado to face probation violation charges there, the News reported. An official with the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole told the paper his earliest hearing could take place as soon as September. The News said the board could potentially set a release date at that time, or members could decide to keep him in prison. Cleary could serve the entire five years of his sentence before being returned to Colorado. 

Washington Insider

  • Victims of Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters will have to wait into next month for Congress to give final approval to a $19.1 billion relief bill, as final passage of the plan in the House was blocked on Friday by a lone Republican lawmaker, forcing a delay until Congress returns for legislative business in the first week of June.   “I respectfully object,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a more conservative Republicans who stayed in town after the House had completed its legislative business on Thursday, and came to the floor Friday morning to object to acting on the plan without a full roll call vote.   The House had approved $19.1 billion in disaster aid in early May; the Senate on Thursday amended the plan with the backing of President Trump – but it wasn’t good enough to get unanimous consent for approval in the House. “If I do not object, Congress will have passed into law a bill that spends $19 billion of taxpayer money without members of Congress being present here in our nation’s capital,” Roy said on the House floor, forcing a further delay on the disaster aid measure. One of Roy’s objections was that no money was included in the plan for the immigrant surge along the southern border - President Trump had backed off of that in order to secure a deal on Thursday. Roy’s maneuver drew the scorn of fellow Republicans from states which are need of aid - like Georgia - where farmers suffered devastating losses from Hurricane Michael. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) tweeted that “our farmers need aid today,” as this move by his GOP colleague will delay that process into June, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fellow Republicans with farmers in need of assistance.   Democrats were furious. “House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need,” Pelosi added in a statement. “This is a rotten thing to do,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who noted to reporters that Roy was blocking aid for his own home state of Texas. “We should have passed this months ago,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who asked for approval of the measure on the House floor. “I am beyond fed up. This is wrong,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA).  “This bill is about helping people – not about playing Washington politics.” “Republican politicians are playing games while people’s homes are literally underwater,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).   Unless Republicans relent next week, the House would not be able to set up a vote on the disaster aid measure until the week of June 3. “There are people who are really hurting, and he’s objecting,” Shalala said.  “He’s holding hostage thousands of people.”  The House has two ‘pro forma’ meetings scheduled for next week - on Tuesday and Friday.  Republicans could object to passing the bill at those times as well.