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Tuesday :: December 18, 2018

Judge Berates Flynn for Attempt to Minimize his Crime

The Atlantic is correct: Michael Flynn's lawyers badly miscalculated when they filed their sentencing memorandum claiming the FBI's failure to warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie to the FBI during a voluntary interview was mitigation for sentencing.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, however, who was set to issue Flynn’s sentence on Monday, was not sympathetic. “How is raising these points consistent with accepting responsibility?” he asked Flynn and his lawyers as they stood before him at the lectern on Tuesday. He then lambasted Flynn for lying to federal agents on White House grounds while serving as the president’s top national-security adviser in January 2017, and for lying about his lobbying work for the Turkish government. “Arguably, you sold out your country,” Sullivan said.

He added that while he would take Flynn’s 33-year public-service career and cooperation into account when sentencing him, he would not try to hide his “disdain” and “disgust” for Flynn’s crimes, and asked the government at one point whether Flynn’s conduct rose to the level of treason.

Flynn's sentencing was continued to March. He's still cooperating (in the case of his partners working with him on behalf of Turkey to "remove" the cleric Turkey believes is responsible for the 2016 coup against President Erdogan from PA to Turkey)for prosecution who were indicted a few days ago.

The Judge may cool off by March, but his lawyers' attempt to minimize his conduct after he pleaded guilty by portraying him as a victim of the FBI was a poor strategy.

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Thursday :: December 13, 2018

Maria Butina Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate

Maria Butina has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and is cooperating with the Government. The plea agreement is here.

The Statement of Facts she agreed to are attached to the end of the plea agreement.

It's unlikely she'll get any more time when sentenced. While there is no guideline applicable to her offense, she'll likely be in the 0 to 6 month range, and she's been in detention for months. She also agreed today to remain in detention until sentencing.

I wonder what reception she'll get if she goes back to Russia, since they will know she disclosed information about Russia to the U.S. Right now the plea agreement does not provide for relief from removal from the U.S. Of course, if the Government decides later she is fulfilling her cooperation obligation, it can request she be granted an S-Visa ("snitch visa"). (Here is the ICE page for Form I-854, officially called the Inter-Agency Alien Witness and Informant Record.)It's like a green card for informants.

More the various players in the case is here.

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Trump Denies Telling Cohen to "Break the Law"

Donald Trump today denied telling Michael Cohen to break the law.

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” he said. “He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid.”

"Advice of counsel" as a defense is rarely successful. By asserting it, a defendant may end up waiving his attorney-client privilege. The D.C. District Court held in the Manafort case:

"Communications otherwise protected by the attorney-client privilege are not protected if the communications are made in furtherance of a crime, fraud, or other misconduct." [More...]

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Wednesday :: December 12, 2018

Michael Cohen Sentenced to Three Years

The Government asked for four years. The Judge sentenced Cohen to three years. Michael Cohen said he accepted full blame because "time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his [Trump's]dirty deeds."

This sentence covers not only his campaign finance violations, but his tax evasion, lying to Congress and bank fraud. (The sentence for lying to Congress (about the Trump Org. Moscow project which never came to fruition) was two months, but it was ordered to run concurrently (at the same time) as the financial/fraud crimes.)

He also has to forfeit $500,000. and pay $1.39 million in restitution and a $50,000. fine.

He has until March to surrender to the designated federal facility. The Judge agreed to recommend the camp at Otisville, which is the place most white collar Jewish defendants want to go.

Lanny Davis will now change roles to become Cohen's media spokesman. In that role today, he said Cohen will cooperate with Congressional inquiries about Trump.

It seems obvious to me that what Cohen refuses to talk about is matters involving his family, particularly his in-laws. [More...]

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Tuesday :: December 11, 2018

Manafort Hearing Today (Tuesday)

Update: I just moved this post back a day since the Manafort hearing was Tuesday, Dec. 11, not Dec. 12 as I originally posted. His appearance was waived. Here's the court's minutes:

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Amy Berman Jackson: Scheduling Conference as to PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR. (1) held on 12/11/2018. Defendant's Submission re: alleged breach matter is due by 1/7/2019. Government submission, if any, is due by 1/14/2019; Defendant's Reply, if any, is due by 1/18/2019. A Hearing, if needed, is set for 1/25/2019 at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 3 before Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Bond Status of Defendant: Defendant's presence was waived, but he remains committed; Court Reporter: Janice Dickman; Defense Attorneys: Kevin M. Downing, Thomas Edward Zehnle and Richard William Westling; US Attorneys: Andrew Weissmann and Greg Donald Andres. (jth) (Entered: 12/11/2018)

Paul Manafort may not be contesting Mueller's charge that he broke his cooperation deal by lying.

If that's true, anyone want to give odds on his chances for a commutation of his sentence to time served right after he's sentenced?

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Monday :: December 10, 2018

Gov't Sentencing Memo on Cohen: Mostly Bluster

The US Attorney's office for the SDNY berates Michael Cohen for his "selective cooperation" in its latest sentencing memo. It then repeatedly asks for a "substantial sentence"

Except, don't miss the part where it says it concurs with the Probation Department that his guideline range is 51 to 63 months. It also says probation is recommending a downward variance to 42 months. It then agrees he should receive some sort of downward variance for his cooperation:

And while the Office agrees that Cohen should receive credit for his assistance in the SCO investigation, that credit should not approximate the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, given, among other reasons, Cohen’s affirmative decision not to become one. For these reasons, the Office respectfully requests that this Court impose a substantial term of imprisonment, one that reflects a modest downward variance from the applicable Guidelines range (my emphasis).

[More...]

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Thursday :: December 06, 2018

Thursday Open Thread

Judge to the sleepy El Chapo jury yesterday (via Emily Palmer at NY Times):

Today the judge admonished the jury in El Chapo’s case. “I know there is a lot of testimony to listen to,” he said. “Without singling anyone out, sometimes I look over and wonder if you’re as focused as you should be.”

Palmer also says there are problems with the translation:

The translation in El Chapo’s trial has been faulty. Large shipments of cocaine have been described as small, cocaine has been delivered to coasts it actually came from, people with the same first name have been credited with things they did not do.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Wednesday :: December 05, 2018

Mueller Recommends No Incarceration for Michael Flynn

The Special Counsel's office has filed its Sentencing Memorandum for Michael Flynn. The memo recommends Flynn be spared a sentence of incarceration due to his timely plea, his years of service to the military, and his cooperation.

Mueller's office also filed a sealed supplement, outlining his cooperation and asking for a downward departure from his sentencing range because of it.
In the Sentencing Memo, Team Mueller writes:

The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part the SCO’s investigation.

[More...]

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Friday :: November 30, 2018

George H.W. Bush Has Died

Former President George H.W. Bush has died at age 94.

This may be the longest obituary I can recall (I didn't finish reading it) but the Times has probably been working on it for years. It mentions that his son, GW, put out a call for eulogies in 2013. It's also mostly a puff piece.

In the spirit of refraining from negative comments on the occasion of one's death, I have finally thought of something to praise about the former President: He refused to endorse Donald Trump.

Condolences to the Bush family.

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Friday :: November 23, 2018

How Trump Weaseled Out of Live Mueller Interview and Limited His Written Responses

No, of course Donald Trump didn't answer all Robert Mueller's questions -- and of course he weaseled out of orally answering questions, notwithstanding the interview had been all set up. The Associated Press has all the details in Inside Trump’s refusal to testify in the Mueller probe.

A key breakthrough occurred earlier this fall when Mueller’s team said it would accept written answers on Russian election interference and collusion. The concession ensured that Mueller would get at least some on-the-record response from Trump. Prosecutors tabled questions about obstruction, reserving the right to return to that area later.

This sounds like he just capitulated to Trump's demands. I think Mueller should have at least insisted on one or the other: Either a live interview just on the Russia collusion issue or written questions to also encompass obstruction of justice -- both as to the firing of James Comey and his knowledge of Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer and her associates at Trump Tower to get dirt on Hillary. [More..]

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Thursday :: November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving Open Thread

Don't forget to listen live to Arlo Guthrie at noon when radio stations across the country play the full 18 (or 22) minute version of "Alice's Restaurant." If you can't find a station, here's Boulder's KBCO.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What's on your menu and who are you spending the day with. This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Monday :: November 19, 2018

Hector Beltran-Leyva Dies After Heart Attack in Prison


Arturo, Hector, Alfredo and Carlos Beltran-Leyva

Imprisoned cartel leader Hector Beltran-Levya has died of a heart attack at 56.

Hector Beltran-Leyva was arrested in 2014. Since 2016, he has been imprisoned at Altiplano. He faced a lot of charges in Mexico and two Indictments in the U.S. Here is the Mexican Government's official announcement.

The incident took place at about 15:07, when the chief of prison security reported Beltran Leyva had severe pain in the left chest, so immediately the federal center doctors gave him first aid under the protocols.

When he did not recover, the prison moved him to the Adolfo Lopez Mateos Hospital in Toluca where he died after receiving treatment in the emergency room. [More...]

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Saturday :: November 17, 2018

NYT: American Jews Opine on Jared and Ivanka

The New York Times examines whether Jared and Ivanka are "good for Jews." Shorter version: It depends which Jews you ask. The Orthodox Jews love them and Reform Jews hate Trump and criticize them.

The deep schism that exists between the two groups is expanding, and the Chabad-Lubavitch, the Orthodox Hasidic group that Jared and Ivanka are members of, is experiencing rapid growth, while membership in liberal Reform synagogues has dropped substantially. The Times reports:

One in five American Jews now describes themselves as having no religion and identifying as Jews based only on ancestry, ethnicity or culture, according to Pew. By contrast, in the 1950s, 93 percent of American Jews identified as Jews based on religion.

[More...]

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Friday :: November 16, 2018

Khashoggi: CIA Assessment and Reports of Prior Marriage

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have secretly gotten married in the U.S. last June.

The Washington Post reports a CIA assessment of Khashoggi's murder led the agency to conclude the Crown Prince ordered it.

The CIA assessment relies in part on a phone call that was intercepted by Intelligence between the Crown Prince's brother, who is the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and Khashoggi. Apparently, the Ambassador told Khashoggi it was safe to go pick up the documents for his marriage at the Embassy. [More...]

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Saudi Report on Murder of Journalist Khashoggi

Here is the press release from Saudi Arabia with its findings on its investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Washington Post reports:

[T]he prosecutor said Khashoggi was given a lethal injection by Saudi agents who had orders only to bring him to Saudi Arabia through persuasion or, if necessary, with force. His body was then dismembered, carried out of the consulate and disposed of by a Turkish contact, the prosecutor said. He offered no indication of where Khashoggi’s remains could be found.

The Treasury Department has announced sanctions on 17 Saudis. Saudi Arabia has said it will seek the death penalty for 5 of those charged in Khashoggi's murder. Neither country has placed any blame on the Crown Prince, notwithstanding: [More..]

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