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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Are President Trump’s former top campaign aides already cooperating with federal investigators looking into collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, and possibly, Trump’s private business deals with wealthy Russians?

There are telling clues that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are involved in the dicey dance of seeking cooperation agreements with various federal law enforcement agencies—or have already made a deal to testify in closed proceedings. That’s the conclusion of investigative reporters who have exposed foreign agents and a career public defender with long experience negotiating deals to avoid federal indictments.

“It’s a more than reasonable question, whether Paul Manafort, who was on Moscow’s payroll and that of the pro-Moscow Ukrainian government before it was overthrown, is cooperating with federal investigators,” said David Cay Johnston, a Trump biographer and editor of DCReport.org. “Because he has not registered as a foreign agent, a law that has incredibly tough tools that could strip him of every dollar he has—as well as prison. And it’s significant that Michael Flynn has asked for immunity in return for telling his story.”

“They could already have a plea,” said Miles Gerety, a career death penalty public defender now in private practice including negotiating pleas with federal prosecutors. “They [the Justice Department and other agencies] could seal it for a period of time. A lot of stuff could have already happened.”

The prospect that some of Trump’s top aides may have already turned adds a twist to the dizzying disclosures that have Washington talking about impeachment, tied to Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice by pressing former FBI director James Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. The drama entered a new phase Wednesday with the Justice Department’s announcement it was appointing an independent special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, to take over the investigation.

Flynn was the Trump campaign’s top foreign policy expert and was appointed national security adviser. In mid-February, Trump was forced to dismiss him because Flynn’s apparent ties to Russia exposed him to blackmail and appeared to break federal laws, according to Sally Yates, the acting U.S. attorney general who ran the DOJ until late January, when Trump fired her.

There’s a timeline that lays a backdrop for Flynn and Manafort’s possible cooperation. The Obama administration had warned Trump’s transition team not to trust Flynn. After the Trump team ignored Obama’s warning, Yates went to the White House on January 26 to tell the president’s counsel about Flynn. She was fired on January 30 for not implementing Trump’s immigration executive orders—at least, that was the publicly given reason. Jeff Sessions was not sworn in as attorney general until February 9, meaning those at the DOJ and other intelligence agencies continued their investigations. Trump fired Flynn on February 14. The meeting where Comey took notes of Trump urging him to drop the Flynn investigation because “he is a good guy” was a day later, February 15.

Comey would know about all the Trump-Russia investigations. His memos of meetings with Trump weren’t just careful. They came amid a leadership change at DOJ and an ongoing investigation in Trump’s campaign, team and possibly business deals with many Russian oligarch partners. Comey protected himself and the FBI by sharing his notes with senior colleagues, and one leaked to the New York Times.

“Mr. Comey shared the existence of the [February 15] memo with senior FBI officials and close associates,” the Times reported. “The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.” This is where the obstruction of justice evidence comes from, fueling speculation about impeachment.

What this timeline means is that federal agencies were aggressively investigating Trump-Russian ties, as Yates confirmed to CNN this week. When asked by Anderson Cooper “whether she agreed with the White House line that Flynn was dismissed over a ‘trust issue’ rather than a legal one, she said, ‘I don’t know how the White House reached the conclusion that there was no legal issue. It certainly wasn’t from my discussion with them.’” She said, “There is certainly a criminal statute that was implicated by his conduct.”

Flynn then tried to pull an Oliver North (the military aide in Reagan’s White House who oversaw the arms-for-hostage deal with Iran and testified before Congress after receiving immunity). The Senate Intelligence Committee rejected that offer from Flynn on March 31, saying it was too soon and Congress had to coordinate with the Justice Department. According to Miles Gerety, that would have sent Flynn’s attorneys into a deal-seeking mode with federal agencies.

“What did Flynn’s lawyers do after Congress dismissed his offer?” he said. “You try to lock it up. You try to beat an indictment. You do a proffer agreement. You do that to minimize your client’s exposure. You try to get a 5K letter [from prosecutors] for meaningful cooperation. Any lawyer will do this.”

Flynn’s lawyers already told Congress he has a story he wants to tell. Gerety explained what the proffer negotiations are like. “You’re meeting with an assistant U.S. attorney and a bunch of investigators—FBI, CIA, NSA, Treasury Department criminal division. You pass around an agreement [describing what you will tell the government],” he said. “You sign in exchange for a lesser charge. Your deal is off if you lie. They decide if you are lying. You better be ready to spill your guts. Then they start asking questions. You are shocked by what they know. They know a lot.”

The reason Flynn was seeking immunity from Congress is also to derail a federal grand jury investigation, which is a different process and very unpredictable, Gerety said. That process can issue subpoenas and draft indictments that various federal investigative arms aren’t able to do. Federal judges overseeing grand juries will look at everything, he said, and almost never dismiss indictments.

James Henry, a corporate lawyer-turned-financial investigative reporter who has been investigating Trump’s money laundering deals with Russians, said Comey’s recent congressional testimony confirmed that grand juries were active.

“Comey testified a lot,” Henry said. “He mentioned in response to the senator from Hawaii that he was in touch with two prosecutorial units, one was in the FBI, internal security. They don’t have the power to empanel a grand jury directly. They need to work through a U.S. attorney. And he reported that he was in touch with the U.S. prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia. Some people have said there is a grand jury sitting there and it has issued subpoenas. But this is not what I’ve been focusing on. I have been reporting on Trump’s money laundering.”

There are some hints that Manafort is cooperating, Johnston said.

“Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act will see if the government wants to go after you, they can strip you naked. If you think about it, the underlying theory is if you are trouble to the government under the FARA, you are a traitor or you’re an enemy of the state. They can take every dollar they can show Manafort got, even if he gave it to his children.”

In mid-April, it was reported that Flynn did register as a foreign agent and that Manafort would soon do so. But late last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that Manafort has not yet registered.

“The only reason not to do so that I can imagine is that it is part of the FBI saying, ‘We don’t want you to put all of the things in the public record that you would have to,’ or he’s cooperating with them, or he’s negotiating with them, and maybe he’s going to agree to plead guilty to something minor—assuming he’s in a position to give them something,” Johnston said. “Manafort should have stuff. He’s a savvy operator who’s been representing dictatorial regimes a long time, and he didn’t get there by being naive and stupid.”

“Those are the two most vulnerable people,” Johnston said, referring to Manafort and Flynn. (On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the New York State attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney have each opened probes of Manafort’s real estate deals.)

But the list of people who could turn on Trump doesn’t stop there, Johnston said. “There’s also [former business partner, convicted mobster and FBI informant] Felix Sater, who is in a position to give him up.”

Johnston referred to a new piece at DCReports, which, he said, “has so many court cases and international cases involving people that Trump has touched upon. The notion that there’s nothing here—that’s absurd.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

25 Responses to Have Trump’s Former Aides Already Negotiated Deals With Prosecutors?

  1. In most other administrations, the aides would circle the wagons and discuss strategy. In the complete and total lack of downward loyalty expressed by Teflon Donnie towards his subordinates, it has become “every man/woman for him/herself”.
    Nixon’s people stayed with him until the bitter end, shielding him (with the exception of John Dean) every step along the way. Teflon Donnie does not inspire that level of loyalty among his team, with the possible exceptions of Ivanka and Jarred. And I would be willing to bet that Mr. Kushner would flip if the feds applied the same screws to him they did to his father.

    • Yes and it must irk Jared that Donnie has been and always will be the main man in Ivanka’s life.

  2. Nothing could be more foolish than expecting Donald Trump to return any of the loyalty he demands from others. Even the densest of his staff have to realize this by now.

  3. After the comment that Trump made yesterday, regarding the fact that he can only speak for himself, his staff would be foolish if they don’t seek legal counsel and get ready to defend themselves from potential subpoenas and criminal investigations. I would not be surprised if the size of the wagon circle has been growing exponentially in recent days…

    • So, does this mean that Trump is preparing to abandon his friends and associates and cut some kind of sleazy deal in case he’s impeached and subsequently prosecuted?

    • This is disgusting with Repubs and TPS. How can FBI which works for Trump hire somebody to investigate Trump, the boss? Trump then should fire US Attorney General for allowing somebody in his office. And I think Trump is babysitting Repubs and manager in FBI. He should use his presidential power to end this Russian sage. It is a waste of time and a major distraction.

      • The first report on the issuance of a memo by the Justice Department is that it was initiated by AG Sessions. When reporters asked how could an AG that had recused himself from anything related to the Russians do such a thing, the story changed and responsibility was levied on the Deputy AG, Rosenstein. Regardless of who initiated the memo, the fact is, as you pointed out, that a man appointed by Trump appointed the special counsel that is in charge of the Russian affair, Trump’s involvement, and potential collusion by members of Trump’s campaign. The whole thing is a joke. I expect a conclusion indicating that while some of the financial transactions between Trump’s buddy’s, and Trump himself, and the Russians may have been unethical, there was nothing illegal.

  4. This isn’t a case where you argue: “Where there’s smoke there must be fire.”

    In Trump’s case it’s more like a massive river flood wave hitting a coastal city… Not only do you know that it’s been massively raining, but the further you look up the river the more devastation, mess and garbage you see… and you wonder why no-one had noticed all this before the flood hit the city………

    How did Trump skate through so many many many mob connections, tax issues, employment issues, money laundering charges, fraudulent activities, dodgy racketeering and con universities…?????

    If the FBI was blocking prosecution for decades to catch others… then this presidency is ALL THEIR FAULT.

    Dirty Donnie should have been put in jail decades ago.
    Yet no-one actively tried to put him there.
    WTF.

  5. This impeachment has a lot of meat and bone already. This one is looking like a huge beast that will slowly debour this White House. yum

  6. the biggest joke of THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW these days is him calling some one else a NUT JOB AND CRAZY for its the DUMPSTER full of his BULLSHIfTING that is the totally insane and the biggest and craziest NUT JOB AND NUT CASE in time these days . how can that foolish clown even say that about someone else ?

  7. and there is only one side to THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW (ITS A BIG TIME BAD SIDE ) top bottom back front all the sides BIG TIME BAD just a dumpster filled with BULLSHIfTING /TRUE for if it dose then maybe the people of the country will open their eyes and see just how much the whole GOP gang of pinheads party want and dose for the people ( NOTHING AT ALL )

  8. It’s time for the GOP members of Congress to set aside their fear and start planning for new careers after 2018

  9. and as DONNY DUMPS b/s and all of Russia laughs and brag’s now of having used Flynn as much as thy could and did . all the time now Russia laughing at the USA . thy made with THE DONNY DUMP CLOWNS SHOW the USA the laughing stalk of the world .(and the DUMPSTER had his hand in it all for a lot of reasons im sure mostly money ) . and the biggest joke of all still is going on . with the DUMPSTER’S relationship with Flynn still today defending and trying to protect him anytime he can .DONNY DUMP never had to face consequences in his life . some way he always fraud ,conned , or scammed his way out of every thing the DUMPSTER’S evil ways will never stop as long as he has a breath left in his he will be screwing some one . he is just that THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW he will never stop trying to impress people or the addicted junky getting his so needed fix for his addiction its a simple fix of just ATTENTION that takes away the DUMPSTERS DT’S good or bad attention dosent matter to the clown . truthfully the whole world should know more about the whole DUMPSTERS story to better understand just how dangerous this clown really is to the world . (not just the part thy laugh at but the whole nasty evil racist hatful pic of THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN

  10. and as far as things go now the country isn’t like his business . where he fires & bully’s people that don’t see things his way . all the time trying to have people do the dirty work so if thy catch him then he can blame them for doing what he told and bully them to do what he wanted done . see if the white house there is the LAW (something he always broke) and stayed away from as much as he could . simply to fraud ,con & scam as much as he could then cry I have to go bankrupt now and it wasn’t his fault . all the time on bankrupt he set them up and one can be sure he hid a lot of money before the end for his greedy little hands pockets . all the time screwing as many as he could with out giving a rats butt about how many people he shafted /// as this trip on the DONNY DUMP CLOWN I wouldn’t put it pass the dirt bag that he will be mailing things to his family member out side the white house things he packed from the white house antiques . pres. Obama fired Mike Flynn and that’s why the DUMPSTER put him in his cult clan . for spite and im sure for the hatful side of the racist hate the DUMPSTER HAS for pres. Obama and the whole black race

  11. DONNY DUMP and his cult staff say it was a negotiation tactic calling Comey a crazy nut job and then telling them he fired him . is that the same type of tactic he pulled on all the people he screwed on his 5 or 6 bankrupt’s ? and the say ones he pulled on the one’s he never paid for the work already done ? the DONNY DUMP CLOWN thinks and feels everything is just about him . then the DUMPSTER has the pebbles to say all this stuff going on now about him and his cult clan is all unfair to him and them . give me a break . what’s truly unfair is all the screwing you been doing to too many people all your evil life . the DUMPSTER is like a deranged child . when people and or the things don’t go his way he thinks demoting and insulting people and always playing the bully clown is the way to go . it’s away he try’s to get revenge on people that he has already screwed or one that tell the truth about his DUMPSTERED filled with his BULLSHIfTING life

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