Special Counsel Mueller stepping up pressure on Paul Manafort as investigation closes on Trump

Developments on Day 244 of the Trump Administration:

See also Despite Trump’s Bluster, US is Not Leaving Iran Nuclear Deal

Manafort Approached Aluminum Tycoon Deripaska in July 2016

Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort offered private briefings to a Kremlin-linked billionaire in July 2016, a month after an initial meeting between high-level Trump advisors and Russian envoys — and three weeks before Trump invited the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

In a July 7 e-mail, Manafort asked for a message to be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had past business links: “If he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”

The communication took place after a meeting in early June in Trump between three Kremlin-linked envoys and Donald Trump Jr. — who arranged the discussion to consider a Russian offer of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Manafort. One of the three envoys was a financier representing another billionaire with whom Donald Trump had links, Aras Agaralov.

The Manafort e-mail is among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s in the Trump-Russia inquiry.

The documents do not indicate that Deripaska received Manafort’s offer or that any briefings took place. A spokeswoman for the billionaire said the e-mails were scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry”.

But “people familiar with the [Trump-Russia] probe” said investigators believe the exchanges link Manafort’s
willingness to profit from his role alongside Trump and an opening for Russian interests.

Manafort is being investigated by Mueller for business practices, some involving Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian entities, going back to 2006. Earlier this week, it was confirmed the FBI had Manafort under surveillance from 2014 to 2016 and then, under an order from a top-secret court, at some point later in 2016 until early 2017 as he remained in contact with Trump.

The New York Times said earlier this week that Manafort, whose home has been raided by the FBI, has now been threatened with indictment by prosecutors.

Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men, is profiled in a 2006 US diplomatic cable as “among the 2-3 oligarchs [Russian President Vladimir] Putin turns to on a regular basis.”

The billionaire has had difficulties obtaining visas for travel to the US because of concerns he might have ties to organized crime in Russia.

The e-mails involving Deripaska were between Manafort and a Kiev-based employee of his international political consulting practice, focusing on money that Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said Wednesday that the ex­changes were an “innocuous” effort to collect past debts.

Mueller Requests Trump Dcouments

Special Counsel Robert Mueller asks the White House for documents about Donald Trump’s activities, including his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and his meeting the next day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in which Trump bragged about relieving the “great pressure” of the “crazy” and “nut job” Comey.

Mueller’s office has sent a document to the White House setting out 13 areas for information.

Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances around the firing of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, eventually removed for his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and misleading the FBI about them, and about the June 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. with three Kremlin-linked envoys to receive information damaging Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump Sr. is under scrutiny for possible obstruction of justice in Trump Jr.’s initial deceptive statement about the meeting, issued in early July 2017. Sources have said that Trump Sr. dictated the draft aboard Air Force One as he returned from the G20 summit in Germany.

Senate Republicans Pursuing Last Effort to Repeal ObamaCare

Senate Republicans are pursuing their last attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare before a September 30 deadline.

The Graham-Cassidy bill — labelled for the two sponsoring GOP senators, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — is being rushed through without any estimate from the Congressional Budget Office of its effects. However, an Avalere Health analysis assesses that the measure would cut federal money by $215 billion over the next decade as the burden is shifted to states.

Thirty-four states will endure cuts, while 16 will see an increase. California and New York will lose $78 billion and $45 billion, respectively, with Pennsylvania ($6 billion), Ohio ($9 billion), Colorado ($6 billion), and Michigan ($8 billion) also suffering.

Texas, which rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, will see an increase of $35 billion.

Medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, are warning of serious consequences for many Americans if the bill passes. They note that Graham-Cassidy does not cover care for pre-existing conditions, despite Trump’s blatant disinformation on Twitter:

The Republicans failed three times this summer to get repeal-and-replace legislation through the Senate.

In the last 48 hours, debate over the Graham-Cassidy bill has been played out on national TV through late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s pointed challenge to Cassidy over the terms: “Either [he] doesn’t understand his own bill or he lied to me.”

Kimmel claimed the senator’s deception over a primse “that he would oppose any health care plan that allowed insurance companies to turn people with pre-existing conditions away”.

After Kimmel’s initial statement on Tuesday night, Cassidy insisted that his antagonist “does not understand” the bill.

Kimmel replied last night, “Oh, I get it. I don’t understand because I’m a talk show host, right?”, and then broke down the bill in detail.

He challenged, “Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand, and you got caught with your GOPenis out?”

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