PROOF OF CORRUPTION

BRIBERY, IMPEACHMENT, AND PANDEMIC IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

SETH ABRAMSON

PROOF OF CORRUPTION

THE FOURTH EXCERPT FROM PROOF OF CORRUPTION

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The mild concern expressed by his fellow Republicans notwithstanding, Trump, emboldened by his apparent success in influencing Barr to come to the aid of Roger Stone, begins “floating the possibility of pardons for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn” as well as Stone, according to CNN.39 Per the New York Times, Barr thereafter “installs an outside prosecutor” to review the sentencing recommendation in the Flynn case and the conduct of Flynn’s prosecutors. The prosecutor Barr handpicks will eventually, after Flynn files motions contesting his in-court confession and conviction, move to dismiss the case against Flynn entirely—despite the fact that the former Trump national security advisor has already pleaded guilty to a felony and under oath absolved federal agents of wrongdoing in his case, a circumstance that by May 13, 2020, will see federal judge Emmet Sullivan contemplating “perjury or contempt charges” against Flynn.40

On February 16, 2020, over 1,100 former federal prosecutors and DOJ officials of both political parties publish an open letter demanding that Barr resign over his unprecedented interventions in cases significant to the president; three months later, following the DOJ’s motion to dismiss in the Flynn case, a similar letter will be published, now signed by a bipartisan group of over 1,900 former Justice Department employees. The signees of the February letter write, “[We] strongly condemn[ ] President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” adding that “it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case.”41 A day earlier, the Washington Post had reported that Trump and Barr’s actions were “feeding resentment and suspicion inside the Justice Department . . . [by] raising concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested.”42

Exacerbating such concerns over the Valentine’s Day weekend is Trump’s reaction to DOJ’s decision not to prosecute former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe—one of the law enforcement officers responsible for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. According to the Washington Post, the president responds by “asking [aides] for advice on whom he should fire [over the decision not to prosecute].”43 The Post reports also that Trump has fumed “over the lack of criminal charges against former FBI director James B. Comey,” “repeatedly complained about FBI Director Christopher A. Wray . . . not do[ing] enough to . . . purge the bureau of people who are disloyal to him,” been “enraged” by the lack of charges against Hillary Clinton, and privately railed at DOJ’s recommendation that Michael Flynn serve between zero and six months in prison for conduct that the federal judge in his case at one point likened to “treason.”44 According to the Post, Trump is also “insistent” that Barr designee John Durham complete his review of the Russia investigation (see chapter 35) quickly, as he “wants to be able to use whatever Durham finds as a cudgel in his re-election campaign.”45

On February 20, Stone is sentenced to forty months in federal prison.46

 

The day before Stone receives his sentence, The Guardian reports on arguments made by lawyers for Julian Assange at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London asserting that “Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails.”47 Per the allegation—which “was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness”—“during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that ‘on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange . . . said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.’”48

Notably, Rohrabacher’s “denial” of the accusation is limited in scope. The onetime California representative says that “he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it.”49 According to The Guardian, despite White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham telling reporters that the president has “never spoken to [Rohrabacher] on this subject or almost any subject,” Trump did “invite[ ] Rohrabacher to the White House in April 2017 after seeing the then congressman on Fox [News] defending the president,” and “in September 2017, the White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called the then chief of staff, John Kelly, to talk about a possible deal with Assange.”50 The White House insists, somewhat dubiously, that Trump’s chief of staff thereafter kept from the president any information about his administration’s contact with Rep. Rohrabacher on the subject of Assange.51

The Guardian notes that Assange’s in-court claims about Trump and Rohrabacher have been ruled admissible evidence by London district judge Vanessa Baraitser.52 Of Rohrabacher, The Guardian writes that “until he was voted out of office in 2018, [he] was a consistent voice in Congress in defence of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, claiming to have been so close to the Russian leader that they had engaged in a drunken arm-wrestling match in the 1990s. In 2012, the FBI warned him that Russian spies were seeking to recruit him as an ‘agent of influence.’ ”53 Consistent with these accounts is a June 2016 audio recording unearthed by the Washington Post in May 2017, shortly after Rohrabacher meets with Trump at the White House. In the recording, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) can be heard speaking to “his fellow GOP leaders” and saying, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.”54 The Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), responds to McCarthy’s extraordinary statement, per Washington Post coverage of the incident, by “stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and [swearing] the Republicans present to secrecy.”55 As the Post reports, “Ryan instruct[s] his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.’ ”56

 

In late April 2020, nearly three dozen unsealed search warrants in the Stone case reveal not only that Stone was repeatedly in direct contact with Julian Assange in 2017—assuring Assange that he was working “at the highest level of [the federal] government” to coordinate a pardon for the WikiLeaks founder should he be extradited to the United States—but also that he was involved in efforts to collude with foreign nationals during the 2016 presidential campaign.57 Specifically, the documents reveal that, at a time in mid-2016 when Stone was in regular telephone contact with Trump, the longtime Trump confidant sought to coordinate a face-to-face meeting between the GOP presidential candidate and a group of men Politico refers to as “seemingly high-ranking Israeli officials.”58 Per Politico, the men sought to work with Stone to transmit “damaging information held by the Turkish government” to Trump and his campaign so that it could be used as an “October surprise” against Hillary Clinton.59

While the Stone communications memorialized in the trove of search warrants reveal Stone “describ[ing] multiple contacts with Trump [in summer and fall 2016] and efforts to arrange meetings for him”—a degree of general-election coordination between the political operative and the GOP presidential candidate nowhere indicated in Trump’s written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller—the most consequential engagement between the two men involves a “Stone associate” in Jerusalem offering to give “critical intel” to Trump at a mid-campaign meeting to which the associate plans to bring, per Politico, a “foreign military officer.”60 The proposed meeting, which Stone later calls a “fiasco” for unspecified reasons, is followed by Stone emailing his friend Jerome Corsi about the need to determine “what if anything Israel plans to do in Oct[ober],” as well as Stone receiving a message in which his Jerusalem contact references “the PM” and receiving “pressure” from “the PM”—a possible reference to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.61 By August 9, 2016, Stone’s mysterious source in Israel has represented to Stone an “OCTOBER SURPRISE [IS] COMING!”; on October 30, 2016, the source assures Stone that he has just “met with [Donald Trump] and [is] helping” the campaign achieve “victory.”62

On October 30, Trump was at a campaign event at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada, a hotel owned by Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Trump met with the famously pro-Israel Adelson—who according to The Guardian has had a “long friendship” with Benjamin Netanyahu—prior to his rally at The Venetian.63 The Stone search warrants do not indicate who else was at the Trump-Adelson meeting in Las Vegas, though it is now known that throughout the 2016 general election campaign Adelson was both donating lavishly to Trump’s campaign coffers and lobbying Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—an official government act ultimately taken by Trump in the second year of his presidency. 64

Perhaps as telling as the content of the Stone emails sought by federal law enforcement is their timing. The earliest emails considered relevant to the FBI’s ongoing criminal inquiry into Stone are sent in February 2016, the same month that Stone’s longtime business associate Paul Manafort tells Trump friend Thomas Barrack, “I really need to get to [Trump].”65 The next tranche of emails involves exchanges in the first week of April 2016, just ten days after Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates had joined the Trump campaign and—more importantly—approximately a week after Gates had met, according to the New York Times, “at the Mandarin Oriental hotel along the Washington waterfront with George Birnbaum, a Republican consultant [and former chief of staff to Benjamin Netanyahu] with close ties to current and former Israel government officials.”66 Beginning in May 2016, when Manafort’s deputy Gates is receiving proposals from Israeli business intelligence firm Psy-Group to “create fake online identities . . . use social media manipulation . . . [and] gather intelligence” to aid Trump’s presidential campaign, Manafort’s longtime business partner Stone is in contact with his unnamed source in Jerusalem to both arrange a meeting between Trump and an Israeli official—a meeting Stone’s communications make clear Trump is aware of and intends to attend—and submit intelligence to the Trump campaign.67 At one eventually scuttled July 2016 meeting with Trump, Stone’s unnamed contact says he is “At St Regis With Lt General,” a reference that is not explained in the unsealed search warrants but is rendered more troubling by the fact that Trump’s top national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, is not only involved in the intelligence industry and a retired lieutenant general but someone who had in 2015, according to the Associated Press, met with Israeli officials about a controversial regional energy deal and subsequently failed to report the meetings in his federal security clearance applications.68

In May 2020, a Times of Israel report reveals that Psy-Group was, in mid-2016, “owned by a British Virgin Islands company [Protexer Limited] that is closely associated with Russia’s partly state-owned Gazprombank . . . a subsidiary of the Russian-government-owned energy conglomerate Gazprom. . . . Protexer Limited only has seven or eight publicly known subsidiaries. Almost all of them are connected to Russia.”69 According to the New York Times, Gazprom is a “slush fund for the Kremlin’s off-the- books needs,” and the intelligence operation proposed to the Trump campaign by Psy-Group preelection—which Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel subsequently told Trump campaign adviser George Nader he had executed—resembled Moscow’s interference operation but for the fact that it was “narrower.”70 Per the Times, when Zamel pitched an election interference campaign directly to Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in August 2016, Trump’s son responded “approvingly.”71

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