They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Twice-indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens knowingly lied to state officials about his role in obtaining a donor list from the veterans’ charity he founded, a former campaign aide claimed in testimony released Wednesday.

The former aide, Danny Laub, also said he was tricked by Greitens’ team into taking the fall for how the donor list came into the campaign’s possession.

Laub’s testimony was given last month to investigators with the office of the Missouri Attorney General, which has been probing the issue. It was released publicly as part of a Missouri House committee report.

In April 2017, Greitens and his campaign lawyer signed a consent decree with the state ethics commission saying that it had received the Greitens’ donor list as an in-kind contribution from Laub in March 2015. The campaign agreed to pay a $100 fine.

But Laub testified that he didn’t give the campaign the list. And he said Greitens’ aides tricked him into taking the blame for acquiring the list from the Mission Continues and passing it along to the 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Laub said that when he agreed to have his name on the consent decree, he thought it meant only “that I was the manager of the campaign at the time or in charge of the campaign at the time.”

The legislative committee’s report appeared to endorse Laub’s view, concluding: “In fact, however, the list was not an in-kind contribution from Danny Laub.”

Instead, it was sent to Laub and fellow former advisor Michael Hafner by Greitens’ then-executive assistant Krystal Proctor “at Greitens’ direction,” the report states.

Greitens’ pivotal role in the list’s transmission was included in the felony charging document filed against Greitens in April by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner The document said that both Greitens and Proctor knew the list “was taken without the permission of The Mission Continues,” a claim the charity has made consistently.

Proctor testified to the House committee that “there was no confusion” that Laub and Hafner were going to use the list she provided for “political fundraising.” Both men testified that they did so.

Laub served as Greitens’ campaign manager at the start of Greitens’ bid for governor. He was elected in 2016.

Laub testified that every detail included in the consent degree Greitens’ certified as “complete, true, and accurate,” as well as the amended campaign disclosure his campaign filed, was a lie.

The situation made him “sick,” Laub testified, lamenting his role in a “round of news stories falsely portraying what happened.”

Michael Adams, Greitens’ campaign attorney, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a statement: “Any notion that the campaign — through an adviser, an attorney, or anyone else — would intentionally mislead the ethics commission is simply false.”

The 23-page House report focuses on allegations of wrongdoing by the first-term Republican governor. A previous report compiled by the Republican-led, seven-person committee focused on blackmail allegations against the governor. It contained graphic testimony from Greitens’ ex-lover, who claimed Greitens slapped her on multiple occasions and coerced her into sexual activity while she wept.

By the time the report came out, the governor already faced a separate felony invasion of privacy charge related to allegations he took a nonconsensual nude photo of the woman with the intent to transmit it.

Greitens has denied the allegations of blackmail, computer tampering, sexual coercion and violence. He has acknowledged engaging in an extramarital affair with the woman.

The governor has attacked the GOP-dominated House committee, Democratic St. Louis attorney, and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley for their investigations, claiming they’re engaged in a “witch hunt” to destroy his career.

Greitens’ trial is slated to begin on May 14 in St. Louis.

Read More →

Emmet Flood is the latest attorney who will try wrangling President Trump, a notoriously difficult client to work for. He is replacing Ty Cobb, who managed the White House’s response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Flood is the attorney you bring on when you anticipate being under siege.

“It is a hire that certainly suggests to me that they think this is going to get worse than it gets better,” Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, told TPM. “Emmet Flood is a wartime consigliere.”

Flood is a top-tier, well-regarded Washington D.C. defense attorney who has represented presidents and corporate executives alike. A clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and a graduate of Yale Law School, Flood is a partner at the firm Williams & Connolly.

Read More →

Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing its response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, is resigning, Cobb told the New York Times Wednesday. He is being replaced by Emmet Flood, the White House and Flood’s law firm William & Connolly confirmed.

Cobb said he informed President Trump weeks ago that he was seeking to retire.

“It has been an honor to serve the country in this capacity at the White House,” Cobb told the Times. “I wish everybody well moving forward.”

Cobb said he would serve through the month to help his replacement transition into the role.

“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House Staff to represent the President and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Ty Cobb, a friend of the President, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month.”

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is serving as a personal lawyer for Trump, told the Washington Post that Flood was hired out of a desire “for someone was more aggressive.”

“That’s not a criticism of Ty, but it’s just about how we’re going to do this,” Giuliani said.

Cobb also told CBS News that the “bulk of the work was done,” so it was “easier for me to leave now.”


During his tenure in the Trump White House, Cobb became known for his optimistic timeline for when thought the Mueller probe would wrap up, predicting last year that it would be done before Thanksgiving, and then shortly after Thanksgiving, and then by the new year.

Cobb had a reputation for advocating a cooperative approach to dealing with Mueller’s probe. Just Wednesday, he had given an interview with ABC News indicating that Trump’s legal team — which include the President’s personal lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani — was still working with Mueller on finding an agreement about a Trump interview with the Special Counsel. Earlier this week the New York Times published a list of topics Mueller’s investigators signaled to Trump’s attorneys at a March meeting that they’d like to ask the President about, and the Washington Post reported that Mueller had also floated the possibility that he’d subpoena Trump if they did not come to an agreement.

President Trump has tweeted repeatedly this week to bash Mueller’s “witch hunt.” It is believed that Flood will bring a more aggressive perspective on dealing with the special counsel investigation.

Flood had been in talks about joining Trump’s legal team last summer, according to the Times, but was resistant to working with Trump lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz, who has since stepped down from representing the President.

 

Read More →

A new complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday uses recent comments by President Trump, his 2020 campaign, and attorneys for his longtime fixer Michael Cohen to accuse the three parties of violating federal election law in their handling of the Stormy Daniels affair.

The complaint was brought by the American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF), a Washington, D.C.-based progressive advocacy group.

According to the complaint, at which TPM was given an exclusive first look, the Trump team is “trying to have it both ways” by claiming that a hush money payment made by Cohen to Daniels, an adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump, had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential campaign, while also acknowledging that Cohen represented Trump in what the President recently referred to as the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Campaign funds can only be spent on campaign-related expenses, which can include staffer’s legal bills that cover matters that directly arise from a campaign or a candidate’s tenure in office.

The Trump 2020 campaign acknowledged this week that they paid a total of $228,000 to McDermott Will & Emery, the firm representing Cohen, for “legal consulting” but insisted the payments “were related strictly to the Russia investigations.” The same McDermott attorney, Stephen Ryan, is also representing Cohen in the various litigation brought against him by Daniels, as well as a federal criminal investigation into Cohen’s financial dealings in the Southern District of New York.

Brad Woodhouse, ADLF treasurer, told TPM that claims the McDermott payments on Cohen’s behalf were only applied to their work on the Russia investigations don’t “pass the laugh test.”

As Woodhouse noted, Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred the probe into Cohen’s financial affairs to prosecutors in New York, signaling that they don’t have “anything to do with the Russia probe.”

The Trump re-election campaign has not yet filed its quarterly FEC report covering the period after the Daniels suits and SDNY investigation surfaced. So the amount they’ve paid to McDermott in recent months is not yet known.

Then there is the matter of the $130,000 October 2016 hush money payment Cohen made to Daniels, which is already the subject of another FEC complaint filed by the good government group Common Cause. Though Cohen initially claimed he paid out the funds in his own capacity, he sent emails related to them from a Trump Organization email address while serving as a surrogate for the campaign on TV. Campaign finance experts agree it was likely a violation of campaign finance law for Cohen to make the payment to buy Daniels’ silence while using Trump Organization resources. If Cohen did it on his own volition, as he claimed, the Trump campaign would have had to claim the money as an in-kind donation, which it did not.

Trump claimed in a recent Fox & Friends interview that the Daniels affair was one of the only matters in which Cohen represented him, after previously saying he knew nothing about the payment or the source of the funds.

Read the ADLF’s full complaint below.

Read More →

Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort claimed in a court filing Monday evening that government leakers sought to boost Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and influence the grand juries that ultimately brought indictments against Manafort.

The court document, filed in the case against Manafort brought in Virginia, zeroed in on news stories detailing investigations into Manafort’s communications with Russian intel operatives. Manafort said the government has not turned over any evidence in its discovery process of such communications, leading Manafort to suggest that the leaks were an “elaborate hoax” to sway the grand jury.

He is asking that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III hold a hearing on the issue later this month.

Manafort has been charged with bank fraud, tax fraud and other financial crimes, many of which stem from lobbying work in Ukraine that predated the 2016 campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well as to similar charges brought against him in Washington, D.C.

His court filing on Monday evening pointed to about a half dozen stories starting in October 2016 and through February 2018 that allegedly “contained information from government sources that was clearly subject to grand jury secrecy, was potentially classified information, or was simply false.”

Manafort acknowledged that some of the stories don’t specifically say they came from government sources. But he alleged that even in those instances it is “abundantly clear” that the sources were current or former government officials. To support that claim, he brought up a CNN story about Rick Gates working on a plea deal in which Gates’ attorney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. By process of elimination, Manafort concluded that the “only reasonable inference” is that government officials leaked the negotiations.

Regardless, his filing urges that the alleged leakers be identified.

Read the full filing below:

Read More →

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post on Friday that Republicans on the committee blocked an effort by Democrats to learn more about a phone call Donald Trump Jr. made that may have been related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Trump Jr. made three phone calls on June 6, 2016, three days before the meeting, two of which were with Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who helped arrange the Trump Tower meeting, according to Democrats’ official response to the Republican report from the House Intelligence Committee released on Friday. In between the two phone calls, Trump Jr. spoke with someone using a blocked phone number, which may have been his dad, Donald Trump, according to the Democrats.

Democrats wanted to subpoena the phone records to determine the identity of that person, but Republicans refused, Schiff told the Washington Post.

“We sought to determine whether that number belonged to the president, because we also ascertained that then-candidate Trump used a blocked number,” Schiff told the Post. “That would tell us whether Don Jr. sought his father’s permission to take the meeting, and [whether] that was the purpose of that call.”

“We asked Republicans to subpoena the records and they refused. They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians,” he added.

President Donald Trump has denied that he was aware of the meeting between Trump Jr., other campaign officials, and a Kremlin-linked promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

Read More →

The House Intelligence Committee’s report from its Russia investigation published on Friday revealed another meeting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador before he joined the Trump campaign.

Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn, Jr., met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at his Washington, D.C. residence on December 2, 2015, according to emails reviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. Flynn’s son described the meeting as “very productive” in an email to the Russian embassy, according to the committee’s report. According to the report, “emails indicate that the meeting was arranged at the request of General Flynn or his son.” Neither Flynn sat with the committee for an interview, leaving congressional investigators with few details about the rendezvous.

The meeting with Kislyak took place about a week before Flynn traveled to Moscow to speak at the Kremlin RT news organization’s annual gala. Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin at the dinner and was paid by RT to attend the event.

Flynn’s December 2015 meeting with Kislyak also came after he met with President Donald Trump for the first time, but Flynn did not formally join the campaign until 2016.

Flynn resigned as Trump’s first national security adviser in February 2017 after it became clear that he discussed Russian sanctions with Kislyak in late 2016 before Trump took office and allegedly lied to Vice President Mike Pence about it.

He then pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. Flynn is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Read More →

NEW YORK — A federal judge on Thursday appointed a special master to review a trove of materials seized from Michael Cohen, to determine which are covered by attorney-client privilege.

Judge Kimba Wood named Bracewell partner Barbara Jones, a former mob prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office and longtime U.S. District judge, to sort through material seized earlier this month from the office, hotel room, and apartment of Cohen, President Trump’s longtime fixer.

Jones’ work for both the government and in private practice lent her “all of the different points of view you would want to bring to these documents,” Wood said.

Though Jones was not on the suggested list of special masters offered by the parties involved in the case, no objection was made to her selection. Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s lead attorney, called her a “wonderful choice” to lead the review of materials seized as part of a wide-ranging federal grand jury investigation into Cohen’s personal and business dealings.

Joanna Hendon, the lead attorney representing Trump in the Cohen matter, said the situation represented a “compromise” for her client. She said Trump wanted to make initial privilege determinations about documents relating to him, but called the judge’s decision “acceptable.”

There was more of a conflict over what exactly Jones’ purview will be. Lawyers representing the Southern District of New York argued strenuously that it should be tightly limited to the privilege issue, and that Jones should not be empowered to determine evidence what evidence is irrelevant to the probe.

Both Jones and the Cohen team will be permitted to use keywords to sort through all of the seized documents to root out anything they consider privileged, the government agreed. But it was “very important,” assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McKay said repeatedly, that once that process was finished, a government “filter team” receive all of the materials deemed privileged “for the sole purpose of lodging any exception” to those designations.

If they don’t know what a particular privileged document says, McKay argued, they can’t decide whether or not it’s pertinent.

Wood said Cohen, like any criminal defendant, would likely feel uncomfortable having the government rifling through deeply personal documents like a child’s medical records.

After a brief volley, McKay insisted the government had no interest in doing so, but that the matter at hand was attorney-client privilege, not Cohen’s privacy. There was “no precedent,” he said, for a special master determining what personal materials that may have been seized could be relevant to their probe.

McKay suggested that “Cohen’s personal relationships” were in fact pertinent, and that he was concerned about “mission creep” and “slippage” if Jones or Cohen’s attorneys were to pull out specific documents that they deemed utterly unrelated to the investigation.

All parties ultimately agreed that privilege was the priority. If Jones or Cohen’s team happened in the course of their privilege review to come across a document that was, as Wood put it, completely “unresponsive,” they could set it aside, Wood said.

There were also vague hints of tension between lawyers for Cohen and Trump, who until now have been largely on the same page. After McKay made extensive comments about what materials the government should be able to review for objections, both Ryan and Hendon rushed to respond.

Hendon, already standing, began to speak, when Ryan stood and interrupted, saying, “I think it’s my turn.”

Hendon flushed and continued speaking until Ryan sat down, saying, “As the privilege holder, I appreciate your courtesy, Mr. Ryan.”

Also present at the hearing was Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels. Avenatti asked to intervene in the case on behalf of his client, who Cohen paid $130,000 just days before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from going public about allegations that she carried out an affair with Trump. After the government expressed concerns about the privilege review getting “sidetracked” by Avenatti’s involvement, Wood said she’d take a few days to review their arguments and make a formal decision.

The parties are next expected to reconvene at Manhattan’s DanielPatrick Moynihan courthouse for a status conference May 24.

Read More →

Federal prosecutors argued in a Thursday morning letter that documents seized in an FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room are unlikely to contain a large percentage of material subject to attorney-client privilege because two of Cohen’s three clients have downplayed the legal work Cohen carried out for them.

Prosecutors noted that since Cohen revealed that one of his three clients was Sean Hannity, the Fox News host has since said that Cohen has never represented him in a legal matter. Attorneys for the government also cited an interview President Donald Trump, another Cohen client, gave on “Fox and Friends” just a couple hours before the letter was produced in which the President claimed that Cohen only managed “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.

“These statements by two of Cohen’s three identified clients suggest that the seized materials are unlikely to contain voluminous privileged documents, further supporting the importance of efficiency here,” prosecutors wrote in the letter.

The argument came in a footnote on a letter notifying the judge in the case that the prosecution now supports the appointment of a third party “special master” to review the seized materials for potential privileged documents.

Cohen and the prosecutors in the case have been locked in a back and forth over the process investigators will employ to throw out any privileged materials seized in the FBI raid. Cohen’s lawyers have argued that prosecutors will not be able to fairly sort through the materials, and President Donald Trump pushed for his lawyers to review the seized materials before the government does. Prosecutors pushed back on this request, calling Trump’s position “extreme.”

Lawyers for Cohen and the prosecution will attend a hearing on Thursday to discuss the process for reviewing the seized materials.

Read the letter:

Read More →

The 43-year-old Texas woman who was sentenced to five years in prison last month for filling out a provisional ballot while she was still on supervised released for a felony tax fraud conviction has requested a new trial.

Crystal Mason and her attorney, Alison Grinter, filed a motion for a new trial in Tarrant County, Texas on Wednesday, arguing that not only did Mason not actually vote — her provisional ballot was rejected — in the 2016 presidential election, she may have been eligible to vote in the state of Texas, Grinter told TPM Wednesday.

According to the motion shared with TPM, in the state of Texas it is legal for a person to vote if they have a state felony conviction, but only if they are out prison, are off probation and off parole or supervision. When Mason cast her provisional ballot — which she filled out with an election official because her name was not on the voter roll — she was on federal supervised release, which is a period of interaction with federal authorities that is tacked on to the end of every federal prison sentence.

Mason, who is currently out of custody on an appeal bond, served 57 months of her 60 month sentence for inflating tax returns for clients in 2011 and had been out of prison for more than a year before the incident occurred, Grinter said.

On the day she cast her ballot, Mason “believed” she was done with her federal prison sentence, she wrote in an affidavit attached to the motion.

“Supervised release is designed to help you integrate back into society,” Grinter said. “Basically Crystal didn’t have to report to a probation officer or take a drug test, she just had to log in online once a month and verify her address and her phone number there and confirm she hadn’t been arrested.”

In the court filing, Grinter argued that state law is unambiguous about when a person convicted of a felony by the state of Texas is allowed to vote, but that state law doesn’t anticipate what that means for a federal conviction.

“Had Crystal come to me at the time and asked if she were eligible to vote, I would have said ‘I don’t know,’” she said.

Grinter also argues that there were several flaws in the initial court proceedings — Mason waived her right to a jury trial and argued her case before Tarrant County Judge Ruben Gonzalez — that landed Mason with the “absolutely ridiculous” five year sentence.

Namely, the evidence of bias in the initial case was not explored. The witness who made the initial report about Mason’s vote, a man named Karl Diedrich, who was serving as the election judge at her precinct, is Mason’s neighbor. As the election judge, Diedrich testified that he gave Mason her provisional ballot, swore her to it and signed off on her ID.

“He knows Crystal well and knows that she went to prison previously,” the motion said. “That the record does not show any follow up questioning on why he did not admonish Crystal Mason on her potential ineligibility, but instead waited a couple of days and then called the District Attorney to report her, is a disservice to the interests of justice. There is clear evidence of Diedrich’s bias or potential bias against Crystal Mason in his silence on the matter of her potential ineligibility, and that crucial evidence was not brought to the attention of the Court as the finder of fact.”

Before Judge Gonzalez sentenced Mason to five years in prison in March, Mason reportedly told him that she would not have knowingly broken the law or “jeopardize(d)” her freedom just to vote.

“I feel like the GOP broadly really wants to make it look like in-person voter fraud is a real thing,” Grinter told TPM Wednesday. “The numbers have shown that it’s not, but if they can drum up enough cases like this, then they have the ability to at least make the claim that it exists. … Stories like this will scare people away from voting and it will make us a less democratic country.” 

Read the motion for a new trial below (TPM has removed some personal information related to Mason):

Read More →

LiveWire