It Now Comes to This

Five days ago, I suggested a quick way to get to at least part of the truth in the Trump/Daniels matter by suggesting documents that the White House press corp could demand be released by Trump.  At the time, I assumed that Michael Cohen’s limited liability company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., was a shell entity formed exclusively for the single purpose of hiding the payments going to Daniels.  As of today, thanks to Ms. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, we now know that Cohen used Essential Consultants for numerous transactions with connections to Russian oligarchs and involving over $4.4 Million.

Avinatti is about as shameless a self-promoter as, well, as Trump himself.  Not surprisingly, he reminds me of the young F. Lee Bailey when Bailey was in his prime. He often promises, in breathless tones, more than he can deliver.  But not tonight.  Again, I provide a link to his press release of this afternoon.  Take a look.  The degree of specificity is  amazing. This evening, the NYT confirmed most of the facts set forth in the release.  Even if 1% of what’s in there is true, Cohen has some major league problems.   And, if Cohen has some major league problems, well, I don’t have to tell you the rest.

One cannot “avoid compliance with the subpoena merely by asserting that the item of evidence which he is required to produce contains incriminating writing, whether his own or that of someone else.”  U.S. v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 36 (2000).  Moreover, it is questionable whether a single-member LLC, such as Essential Consultants, can even assert the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  Lila L. Inman, Personal Enough for Protection: The Fifth Amendment and Single-Member LLCs, 58 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1067 (2017).  All of the documents and instruments evidencing the payments described in Avinatti’s release would, without any question, be properly subject to a subpoena in an appropriate proceeding. What then would be an “appropriate proceeding”?

There is no question that a Congressional inquiry is appropriate here. Let’s not put too fine a point on this.  We have a president who, because of his associations (Manafort, Flynn, etc.), could never pass a background check for a security clearance.  Now, we have evidence that suggests that Trump’s personal attorney was deeply involved financially with Russian oligarchs.   The same attorney paid off a porn actress on Trump’s behalf.

This is no longer a question of some technical violation of campaign funding laws.  Rather,  the question has now become: Is the President of the United States compromised because Russians funded the Daniels payoff?  Can Congressional Republicans continue to look away from what may very well be the greatest scandal in U.S. history?

43 thoughts on “It Now Comes to This”

  1. "Can Congressional Republicans continue to look away from what may very well be the greatest scandal in U.S. history?"
    YES

    This has been another installment in Simple Answers to Simple Questions

    However "Can Congressional Republicans continue to look away from what may very well be the 2nd greatest scandal in U.S. history (after dissembling about a blow job)?"

    FTFY

  2. The great thing about a slush fund is that all the money is commingled. So you can't promise that any given entity funded some particular payoff. None of them did, and they all did.

    But the more obvious question at this point is where the money went. We know the destination of only a small part of the funds that came in to EC. (And, for that matter, since this is likely from suspicious activity reports, we may know only a small part of the funds that came in.)

    1. Yes. Knowing where it went is crucial. It is hard to believe that the only part that benefitted Trump was the Daniels payoff.

      Now maybe Cohen was running a scam on the Russians, leading them to believe he could get them favors that he really couldn't get. Or a scam on Trump by advocating for the Russians without mentioning the payments. These strike me as wildly unlikely, not to mention hazardous to one's health.

      More likely the money went partly for some payoffs of various types, and partly was just kept, to be divvied up with the capo di tutti capi later.

  3. "…the greatest scandal in U.S. history?"

    Hyperbole is a fine rhetorical device. Like any rhetorical device, it is necessary to know how to use it.

    The word "scandal" has a range of meanings. Even within the narrow ones, it is absurd to stack this up against the manipulation of sovereign-level foreign relations by the 1968 Nixon campaign and the 1980 Reagan campaign. Resorting to looser, more colloquial meanings of "scandal", the competition (arguably) leads with the abandonment of Reconstruction and the fact that an anti-system party has held power since 1980. Everything "Trump" properly comes under the umbrella of that last one. It does not even make sense to ask whether the figurehead of an anti-system party is "compromised".

    1. Let me put it this way: The greatest scandal in U.S. military history was when a certain general offered to deliver a crucial American base to the opposing side and gave the opposing side information concerning American troop movements and the disposition of forces of one of America's allies. A president who is compromised by a hostile foreign government presents an arguably greater scandal. (I note that I do not believe that there are any hotels, condos, apartments, or office buildings that bear the name of the American general involved.)

  4. OK, my pick is that the greatest scandal was allowing Dixie to count 60 percent of their slaves toward Congressional representation but not letting them vote, and then 200 years later deciding to arrest every black man in town and then telling him he could never vote again, even after paying his debt to society. If black men were allowed to vote in a dozen states, our politics would be a lot different. Blowjobs and Facebook trolls pale in comparison to our continuing abrogation or the 13th and 14th Amendments.

    1. Pedantry alert (tl:dr; – amendment 13 s/b amendment 15): The points made in this comment refer, I believe, not to amendments 13 & 14, but to 14 & 15. One could easily rely on the documentation in Slavery by Another Name to make a similar argument about the 13th, but this comment does not do so.

      Also, where does our treatment of the original inhabitants fall in this moral accounting: Trail of Tears and many other violations & abrogations of treaties? Perhaps we should stick with not 'fessing up about oral sex.

    2. I wish that people would stop using the emtpy cliché "debt to society." Criminal punishments are meant to punish, deter, or protect us from dangerous people, not to pay debts to society, whatever that means. A criminal does not incur a debt to society unless, perhaps, he or she steals government money and does not pay it back. This is especially the case when the criminal commits a victimless crime, but is also the case when he or she harms a private individual.

      1. So I presume that you don't want black people to vote? Because that's really what the private prison industry is about. Keeping African-Americans from voting for Democrats. Anyway, bully for you, your plan is working just fine, enjoy your punishments, it's a fine day when humans treat with each other thusly.

        1. That's not only what the private prison industry is about. It's what the laws against felons and ex-felons voting are about, and it's what drug prohibition–designed to create black felons and ex-felons who cannot vote–is about. I don't understand how you took my criticism of a cliché to imply anything other than a criticism of a cliché.

          1. Ok so why is Meth illegal, and why has the society's approach to the Meth issue been heavy-handed enforcement rather than diverting all the white meth criminals to treatment? Nah you know what nevermind, if it doesn't fit the narrative we might as well totally ignore it. Crack wasn't a big deal until the right-wing jackbooted police came in and started throwing their weight around, right? Do you also believe that the CIA invented crack?

        2. Ah yes, the private prison industry as giant vampire squid meme! You would be right at home on my campus. Do you happen to know approximately what percentage of US prisoners are incarcerated in private facilities? Want to take a guess at the percentage of American inmates who are in for simple possession of a controlled substance is? Want to take a guess as to whether or not the black versus white prisoner mix has more people in for simple possession? My guess is you don't have command or even a ballpark concept of the answers to those questions offhand… and yet, you are down with the meme. You should not be. If the private prison industry was nationalized tomorrow and thus totally destroyed, about the same number of black men would be convicted of felonies in this country. Leftists like you are the reason that police don't vote left. Please stop.

          Yes, it is indeed disgusting and insane that there is such a thing as a lobbyist for the private prison industry, and yes that person will probably try to use their influence to promote the use of their company's facilities versus public ones and (more concerning) to promote the incarceration approach to crime control. Guess what? It is a tiny and insignificant industry, breathless Netflix documentaries notwithstanding.

    3. All the black men have been arrested? There's a lot of transgenders out there, then.

      Where can black non-ex-cons not vote?

  5. It's fun to speculate, but what has been made public that shows Trump guilty of any criminal act? I'll wait.

    1. You're absolutely correct. What is on the public record does not yet show Trump guilty of a criminal act. But he's the President of the United States. He should, at the least, make public the documents that I outlined previously. Let's focus on just one aspect of this matter: Who provided the funds for the $130K paid to Ms. Daniels? Remember: Anyone seeking a security clearance has to show that he or she is not compromised. It is not up to the government to show that. Yes, I know that, as matter of law, the President does not have to answer to that level of oversight. But now the questions are so great that it is totally justified that political pressure be brought to bear to review this matter, via a Congressional inquiry if necessary.

      1. I would like to know the details, too. I'm unhappy with Trump. But I'm not in a rush. I don't see any emergency here that can't wait for Mueller. Trump lives in a virtual fishbowl now. Even if he is technically compromised, I don't think he could act as a foreign pawn even if he wanted to. If we are in danger from any quarter, it's from his incompetence and not his mendacity.

        1. IIRC Putin supports the Iran nuclear deal, which allows Russia to sell civilian nuclear reactors to Iran. Trump is not acting like a Russian puppet over Iran – more's the pity. On the other hand, the Iran agreement is not a fundamental Russian interest like hegemony over Ukraine, so not worth using the full leverage over.

          1. As long as they run business through companies already subject to sanctions, it's not clear to me that trump's exit from the Iran deal presents any additional problems?

          2. The Iran agreement is perhaps not a fundamental interest for the US, either. Is Iran any less meddlesome because of it? Not that I can see. Was Iran's regime empowered by the lifting of sanctions? Probably. Did the agreement make it less likely we could get an agreement on missiles? Again, probably. I was not for pulling out, but, glass half full, I think it may create some opportunities.

            Trump is already in so much trouble, the value of Putin's "leverage", if there was any, is diminishing rapidly. Pee tapes would be the least of Trump's problems at this point.

        2. You're unhappy with Trump, and I'm a Brad Pitt. Geez man, give it a rest. Shitmidas is accused of traitorous acts, and of masterminding traitorous acts. The investigation was a -counterintelligence- investigation. Oh and btw, the GrOPers in Congress have systematically shut down any attempt at public hearings to get to the truth.

          And then you come along asking why there's no -public- proof? Do you really think that's how counterintelligence works?

          It's not raining, and my leg is covered in plastic, so you can stop pissing, it won't work.

          1. I'm well aware why there's no proof. It's an ongoing investigation and Mueller can't tell us what he know. Congressional Republicans don't want any evidence, except any that points to prosecutor wrongdoing.

            So, I'm not the one pissing without having actual evidence of a crime. I wish we did, but the fact is we don't.

          2. Maybe you have followed aajax's comment history closely and have reasons for this personal antipathy, but from my seat it doesn't make a ton of sense. Why are you so sure that he isn't the moderate that he claims to be? He has played one convincingly for the last couple of weeks… or am I just embarrassingly gullible?

          3. Thanks for the link. As I understand it, the meeting with Don Jr. and the Russian lawyer went nowhere and the Russian lawyer is connected fusionGPS, which was also in some way connected to the generation of the Steele dossier. Admittedly, I am getting this from redstate which has just about completed its transformation from an ideological home for actual christian never-trump rightists to an out-and-out MAGA orgy.

            One final thought on the Korea issue: You insist forcefully that Kim is doing what he is doing because he has the chance to deal with a joke politician instead of a real one. You could very well be right, but isn't it at least conceivable that Kim is worried that Trump is the first American President willing to let millions of SoKos die to solve the problem? Isn't it at least possible that Trump's joketastic nature actually scares the NoKos?

          4. Re: Korea, think thru what you wrote. *Kim* isn't the one who would be "worried" that Shitmidas is willing to let millions of South Koreans die to "solve the problem" (== "defang North Korea"). *South Korea* is the one to be worried. What would South Korea do after making such a calculation? Why, they'd assume that America is an unreliable ally, and would commence (a) making their own defense plans, and (b) initiate detente with DPRK at worse terms than they'd have got with America stalwart by their side.

            Now, you can believe that America's backstopping ROK is a bad thing. Heck, you can believe the same of our backstopping Japan. but you can't believe that America was doing a wise and good thing, by backstopping ROK and Japan, and ALSO believe that these latest moves by Putinfluffer are good international politics.

            Re: russia, read Seth Abramson's twitter feed. He's got a number of quite long tweetstorms that explain the actual criminal issues involved. And last, this is a counterintelligence investigation. Either you believe that, or you don't. If you believe it, it follows that most of the really damning bits are classified, so the fact that so little is public shouldn't be a problem. And yet, even what's public is pretty damning (again: read Abramson).

          5. "*Kim* isn't the one who would be "worried" that Shitmidas is willing to let millions of South Koreans die to "solve the problem" (== "defang North Korea")" – Yes you are of course correct, the thought should scare the bejesus out of the SoKos, BUT it would also scare Kim. Kim doesn't want the peninsula to blow up as things stand, because we would kill him and his sister and their line would end. The fear would not be one-sided, as you seem to be suggesting.

            RE your second paragraph, I think that backstopping the Asian allies is wise and good, always have. I am not praising the Orange Troll's maneuvers, I am trying to work through what is happening on the Peninsula, which is difficult since I don't have access to high-grade intel (or even low grade). Seems to me that the Kim family has always been the entity that knows best how to keep themselves alive and in power, and they have always calculated that they were most secure in the standoff position while developing ICBMs and nukes. This recent thaw is either hollow theater or lil' Kim has developed a new calculus. If it is a new calculus, the questions are: What changed, and what does he hope to achieve? I don't have the answers.

          6. Uh, he's not giving up his nukes, nor his ICBMs. Did you not see his most-recent "dude, if you think we're gonna give up our nukes, then forget the summit, mang" ?

            As far as his being afraid that Spanky will turn Pyongyang into a sea of fire, if he were actually afraid of that, you'd think he'd offer concessions, and yet he's offered *nothing*. The test-site was collapsing (known quite a while ago), he's got enough tests that he doesn't need to run any more (at least, not for a good while), so exactly what is he giving up?

            Note that DPRK has *always* wanted bilateral talks — and the US has always insisted on multilateral talks. The US wants multilateral talks (including DPRK's sponsors) b/c only the sponsors can keep DPRK in line. DPRK wants bilateral talks b/c it gives them standing internationally, and it's easier to extract concessions. Witness the bilateral detente between DPRK and ROK.

            So again: I don't see what Kim's even -pretending- to give up. By contrast, ROK will be giving up money, and both ROK and JP will be giving up the US nuclear umbrella. Gee, I wonder who's the canny negotiator, and who's being held over a barrel?

          7. So what you are saying is that the White House is totally fucking this whole thing up and will reap nothing, and the NoKos are pulling off a diplomatic coup. Why would all of the generals and national security types sit around and watch this happen and say nothing? Wouldn't there be resignations, statements, etc? Wouldn't Matthis walk? I just can't imagine that all of the actual professionals who surround Trump would just sort of blink and stare as a train wreck unfolded.

          8. Someone pointed out that Mattis used to be an Iran hawk, until he became SecDef (or maybe, until was became a possibility) and now he's an Iran dove (Google "Mattis Iran" and see for yourself). Why don't they walk? B/c they know that their replacements would nutjobs, and they love their grandchildren perhaps? (though in Mattis' case, maybe, his relatives' children, since he's single).

            And note that LOTS of national security types HAVE pointed out that Shitmidas is getting played. LOTS and LOTS.

          9. Well, I really hope you are wrong. I do think that if the Peninsula summit was a totally one-sided disaster we would have seen / heard more from natsec types who are currently in high positions, but I admit I could be wrong and have no experience in related fields, etc.

            As for the Russia stuff, I dunno man… Yes, a lot of people in his circle have had strange dealings with Russians, and yes the admin seems to be strangely pro-Russian, but the first thing could be a coincidence and the second thing could be explained by Trump identifying with Putin on some atavistic level. I hope. No one mentions the thing that I personally found the most strange on these lists / feeds you have linked me, which was Trump saying that he had just gotten off the phone with Putin and they had a fantastic call and there would likely be a visit soon… the day after the bobby went into critical care in the nerve agent poisoning incident. That was pretty surreal. If it were up to me, Russians all around the world would be disappearing into black bags over that, but I have been known to fly off the handle when people hurt cops (I feel almost as much affinity for UK police as I do our own). Anyway, yeah, I pray god you are wrong. We will see.

          10. Two other things: (1) notice that *explicit* reference made by both the US and DPRK to Libya? And now DPRK is explicitly saying that that outcome is unacceptable? There's NO WAY Kim's gonna give up his nukes — he knows what happened to Ghaddafi (and, heck, Hussein).

            (2) Trump is ripping up an agreement with Iran, that is far stricter than anything he can get from DPRK.

            This is lunacy.

          11. On a surface reading, wouldn't the Russians prefer for the US to remain in the Iran agreement? Aren't the Russians and Iranians working hand-in-glove these days? If Trump was a Russian agent, wouldn't we be in the Iran agreement, de-escalating with Iran, and out of Syria so that the Russians and Iranians could set up shop without us there containing them and sometimes bombing them? Wouldn't Putin want us to stop striking the Assadists?

          12. (1) Putinfluffer isn't exactly completely rational, and he isn't exactly completely controllable.

            (2) tensions in the middle east have at least ONE *incredibly* helpful effect for Putin: they jack up the price of oil, and THAT has been the most brutal wound Obama landed on Putin. This goes a long way to remedying that.

            (3) The US deciding to break the Iran deal isn't all bad for Russia. Russia's aim is to destroy the Western Alliance — and look at what Donald Tusk, Angela Merkel, and others in Europe are saying these days: "with friends like Trump, who needs enemies", and "we in Europe can no longer count on the US for our defense". Gold for Putin.

            So sure, there's some element of Putin probably saying "shit, why did I do this?" but overall, it's a win for him. Anything that brings down American power, is a win for him.

          13. Ok but it seems weird to me that a Russian agent who took direct marching orders would be bombing Russians, Iranians and Assadists.

            I understand that Russia is basically an oil / gas export company and that the collapse of the price of oil did massive damage to Russian interests… but how are you arriving at the conclusion that Obama was responsible for the crash in oil pricing? Sure Iranian production has increased a lot since the deal, but Libyan production crashed and the ME in general went to absolute shit during Obama's tenure. So, how are you arriving at the conclusion that Obama inflicted the oil wound on Putin? If he did it was well played, I just have never heard this theory before. Obama didn't invent fracking, and as I recall he did what he could to push for lower consumption domestically with energy incentives and cash for clunkers, etc.

          14. People who arguably know how spies work, have noted that agents are often not rational, not fully-controllable, and chancers all-around. It comes with the territory, it seems. So it's not surprising that Shitlord is a loose cannon. But look at the endgame: *as long as* he doesn't actually attack Iran, everything he's done is to Putin's benefit, right?

            Re: Obama, as I remember it, it that it was KSA's declaring they'd pump as much as was desired, that tanked oil prices. Not fracking. That came a little later.

            But this is all in the weeds. The man (Putinfluffer) is a giant flaming mess in every way except one: he consistently returns to kowtow to Putin. Remember that right after his ascension, he tried to push thru the unilateral dismantling of sactions on Russia? And that even recently, when Congress passed more sanctions, he unilaterally blocked them?

            C'mon, there's a thing called "consciousness of guilt".

            Back to foreign policy: I think looking forward at purported triumps triumphs-in-planning is kinda foolish: there's always a spin-doctor who will claim that things are gonna be GREAT! Look at his record: can you point at ANYTHING he's done that was actually great? The only thing that comes to mind is getting back those hostages from DPRK. But as one wag has pointed out, 2 of the 3 were captured in his term, and the events are exactly what Kim *would* do, to manipulate Shitlord — release the men (completely cost-free) in exchange for concessions.

            The man is a wreck. And that wreck is our international standing, our alliances, our trade relationships. Daily we learn of some insane corruption scheme, and it's all "normalized".

          15. Annnnd Scene! (actually, we're just at the intermission, the gory stuff is still ahead): WaPo on the North Korea/US summit fiasco:

            “They’re hedging, creating a sub-narrative,” the U.S. official said. “They’re not backing out yet. Neither is the president. It doesn’t look like they want to denuclearize at all.”

            The official added: “It’s true there’s more coordination that needs to be done that hasn’t been done. There’s still time, but not a lot of it.”

            Among the administration’s concerns is that although the Kim regime promised to destroy its nuclear test site, North Korea has not sanctioned any foreign inspectors or journalists to enter the country to confirm that such a process is underway.

            And from the experts: To experts, North Korea dismantling nuclear site is like destroying evidence

      2. There's also another reason he's "not guilty of a criminal act". B/c if you're the President, you can unclassify anything you want. If anybody other than the President had told the Russians what he did in the Oval Office, it'd be a crime.

        1. Sure, but that is true of all people who get to make decisions about classified information handling. If they did what they did without having the job title they have, they would be criminals. It is only interesting if you can show that sharing the information was detrimental to US interests / not part of any cogent strategy or diplomatic initiative.

          1. Uh, are you *aware* of the damage done to US/Israeli relations by his passing classified intel to the Russians (in the Oval Office)? it is widely reported that the Israelis have stopped unrestricted intel sharing with the US — something that previously was "but of course we share — you're our closest ally".

          2. Yes, I am aware of the reporting. I guess I have a habit of disbelieving media interpretations of intelligence matters on general principles. Maybe that is a mistake and the reporting was solid, I really don't know. I don't think any of us do. The media sans Fox is at war with the white house. Anything Trump does will be reported as negative / incompetent / criminal, regardless of its actual nature. I am not saying the media is wrong to behave this way, I am simply saying that they are behaving this way.

  6. "Is the President of the United States compromised because Russians funded the Daniels payoff?"

    Not if you are of the MAGA tribe, not at all. If Trump were to be removed over something like this, I don't know how we'd ever put the country back together again.

    1. If it happens, it won't be for "something like this". It will be for numerous somethings like this, showing a pattern of grossly irregular behaviour that (a) includes a number of indictable crimes (b) indicates systematic collusion with the Russian government, or Russian organised crime, or probable Russian agents. The Mueller report will be long, damning and tightly evidenced on both aspects. It may include a smoking gun of treason, but we should not expect this: Putin is a career intelligence officer, and those who work for him are also competent at ensuring deniability.

      On the first condition, Stephen Griffin argues plausibly that contrary to the clear intent of the framers of the US Constitution, removal of a President by impeachment now requires an indictable offence. That doesn't mean that wider issues of unfitness can't legitimately enter into the process and vote. Clinton lied under oath, so there was a crime, but rightly the Senate decided this was patently insufficient grounds for his removal from office.

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