Last week in one sentence: A former federal prosecutor has suggested that Mueller may have already subpoenaed Trump to testify before the grand jury; the next person in line to supervise Mueller's investigation, Noel Francisco, was secretly given a waiver earlier this year allowing him to get involved despite clear conflicts of interest; Mueller subpoenaed multiple recordings of Roger Stone from 2016 in which he spoke of Wikileaks' plans to release info that would affect the presidential election and claimed to be in touch with Assange; Mueller has emails in which Roger Stone not only talked to the Trump campaign about Wikileaks during the 2016 election, but he sold himself as a conduit to Assange; Mueller is looking into whether Stone committed perjury before the House Intelligence Committee. Bannon was interviewed by Mueller about Stone; George Papadopoulos' wife has had her work visa "paused" after his own family reported her to ICE; the Kremlin announced Putin and Trump will meet for a "lengthy and substantive" session at G20 in Argentina November 30; the Senate intelligence committee has requested documents from the NRA related to its connections to Russia; a federal judge denied Trump's request to pause the emoluments lawsuit against him; and the RNC has spent more than $1.5 million at Trump properties during the 2018 election cycle.
Presidential subpoena? Nelson W. Cunningham, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, wrote a piece for Politico suggesting that Mueller may have already subpoenaed Trump to testify before the grand jury as far back as August. The basis of his suggestion is a very secretive on-going court fight between Mueller and an unknown witness, who Cunningham suggested is the president.
- Cunningham writes that the exceptionally fast speed of proceedings involving this witness is significant: "At every level, this matter has commanded the immediate and close attention of the judges involved—suggesting that no ordinary witness and no ordinary issue is involved. But is it the president? The docket sheets give one final—but compelling—clue. When the witness lost the first time in the circuit court (before the quick round trip to the district court), he petitioned, unusually, for rehearing en banc—meaning the witness thought the case was so important that it merited the very unusual action of convening all 10 of the D.C. Circuit judges to review the order."
- Additionally, the only Trump appointee on the D.C. Circuit court, Gregory Katsas, recused himself.
- Finally, the proceedings described above started literally the day after Giuliani said, "[w]e're pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena."
Rosenstein replacement? If Rosenstein were to quit or be fired, the next person in-line to supervise the Mueller investigation is Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Francisco previously worked for Jones Day, the law firm that is currently representing Trump's campaign in Mueller's investigation. An Executive Order Trump signed in early 2017 requires Francisco not to participate in any investigation in which Jones Day represents a client. Friday, the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility (CREW) revealed that Trump secretly provided a waiver in April allowing Francisco to circumvent his executive order.
- More troubling, the waiver "isn't posted on an Office of Government Ethics website that lists 28 other Trump administration officials who have so far received waivers to work on matters related to their previous employers."
- The signature on the waiver belongs to Don McGahn, who also comes from Jones Day and pledged "not to participate in any investigation in which Jones Day is representing a party. By authorizing Mr. Francisco to participate in the investigation, Mr. McGahn himself participated in the investigation."
- If Francisco is not chosen to oversee Mueller, the next in line is Steven Engel, the director of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. Engel has his own problems – he worked as a lawyer on Trump's transition team and used to work at the law firm that is currently representing James Comey.
Roger Stone deluge. Multiple stories were published last week about Roger Stone. The feeling one is left with after the news of the past few weeks is that Stone is first up on the indictment block post-midterms. Here is the news from last week:
- Mueller's team subpoenaed recordings of bi-weekly conference calls Roger Stone participated in during the summer of 2016. The recordings show Stone spoke of "Wikileaks' plans to release information that he said would affect the 2016 presidential campaign before the election." This was after the first DNC drop, but before the stolen Podesta emails were released (link to timeline). Stone also claimed to be in touch with Assange and told callers in an Aug 4th, 2016 recording that Russia had "nothing to do with" the hacked DNC materials WikiLeaks released.
- WSJ: "The Aug. 4, 2016 conference call marks one of Mr. Stone's earliest known predictions that WikiLeaks would release more hacked emails before election day, beyond the ones published in July 2016. Hours before the call, Mr. Stone emailed an associate, saying, "I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite," the Journal previously reported."
- A trove of emails obtained by the media reveal that Roger Stone not only talked to the Trump campaign about Wikileaks during the 2016 election, but he sold himself as a conduit to Assange. In one particular exchange with Steve Bannon, Stone stated Assange would be releasing documents on Clinton "every week going forward." Days after this exchange (and 30 minutes after the pussy-grabbing Access Hollywood tape dropped), Wikileaks published the stolen Podesta emails. In another email, "Stone encourages Bannon to have Trump campaign surrogates tout a story — without any evidence — that Bill Clinton has a love child."
- The Atlantic reported Mueller is looking into whether Stone committed perjury before the House Intelligence Committee, where he testified that he never had a direct line to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Since that hearing, Stone has "amended his testimony three times as new reports have emerged."
Bannon questioned. On Friday, Steve Bannon was interviewed for at least the third time by Mueller's investigators. He was questioned about Roger Stone's interactions with the campaign and about "instances in which Stone was reported to have made private comments that matched his public declarations of having knowledge of WikiLeaks's plans." People with knowledge of the discussions report Bannon was "briefly" asked about Trump's obstruction of the Russia investigation.
Papadopoulos update. Last Sunday, George Papadopoulos tweeted that the US government "paused" his wife's work visa "as a result of [his] wife speaking out in [his] defense." Then, Saturday, the Observer reportedPapadopoulos' own family reported his wife, Simona Mangiante, to ICE. A close relative reportedly blames Mangiante for damaging their relationship with George.
- Mangiante has been under scrutiny lately for possibly being a Russian spy or handler. She definitely hasn't helped her case, providing official documents to the media that contradict each other. A photo of her Italian passport shows her age as 34 years old, yet a copy of her marriage certificate lists a different date of birth – 3 years different. Mangiante said she altered the date in order to appear younger.
- Even Mueller's team was suspicious of her. They reportedly asked her "whether she spoke Russian or had ever traveled to Moscow." Papadopoulos said his parents also "thought that she might have been some sort of Russian spy." He continued, "Of course I never believed anything like that. I don't think every beautiful blonde person necessarily has to be a Russian agent. You know, there are many blonde Italians as well."
Failed smear. Right-wing conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl attempted to pay a woman to fabricate sexual assault allegations against Mueller. Working with right-wing lobbyist Jack Burkman, Wohl created a fake intelligence firm to vouch for the woman's claims. The plot was so ridiculous and so amateur that it's really not worth recounting here. Suffice it to say, the woman never showed up at their press conference and their story has fallen apart.
Putin Summit v 2.0. On Friday, the Kremlin announced Putin and Trump will meet for a "lengthy and substantive" session at G20 in Argentina November 30. This is in addition to the Nov. 11th meeting the two have scheduled in Paris. The White House had no comment, with the Kremlin again being the first to inform the American people of our president's activities.
- Obama had only 5-6 formal meetings with Putin (depending on how you define "formal"). The planned Nov 30th meeting will be Trump's 5th meeting with Putin, with a sixth planned for early 2019 when Putin is invited to visit D.C.
Giuliani mystery. ProPublica's "Trump, Inc." podcast did an investigation into Rudy Giuliani's trips to Russia and other Soviet states, which have been increasing in frequency since Trump was elected. He most often travels as a guest of "powerful players" and gives speeches to crowds that sometimes don't speak English. It is not clear who is paying him, if he's being paid at all.
- The entire podcast is worth a listen. The most recent instance of this Soviet travel was Giuliani's trip to Armenia just last week. He was invited by Ara Abramyan, an Armenian businessman who lives in Russia and has received a medal from Putin himself. Additionally, on a local Armenian TV show, "Abramyan implied that he expected Giuliani to carry a message for him to Trump."
Troll Watch. Russian trolls and bots have been amplifying a fake story about Beto O'Rourke's campaign supposedly "illegally funding the migrant caravan." Hours later, Ted Cruz repeated the story in a speech.
NRA and Russia. The Senate intelligence committee has requesteddocuments from the NRA related to its connections to Russia, including a 2015 trip some of its leaders made to Moscow. On that trip, NRA leaders met with Marina Butina's Russian gun-rights group, led by now-sanctioned Alexander Torshin, and with the former deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Emoluments. On Friday, a federal judge denied Trump's request to pause the emoluments lawsuit against him, which alleges that he's violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments. By not pausing the case, the judge is allowing discovery to proceed.
- WaPo: "This is the second civil case in which Trump's business is now subject to discovery, after Trump agreed Tuesday to produce portions of his calendar from 2007 and 2008 in a defamation lawsuit brought by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos."
Trump's unofficial salary. The RNC has spent more than $1.5 million at Trump properties during the 2018 election cycle. This includes a $367,365 bill at the Trump National Doral Golf Club for the RNC's Spring Meet. Before Trump took office, the RNC spent dramatically less at Trump properties, typically not visiting more than one in a year. For example, in 2011 the committee spent less than $40,000 total at only one Trump property.
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