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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for February 28th, 2018

Trump’s Ex-Campaign Chairman Manafort Faces Sept. 17 Trial After Pleading Not Guilty

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison on numerous charges related to his business dealing in eastern Europe, pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday and is scheduled for a trial beginning Sept. 17.

Unless Manafort strikes a deal with prosecutors, the former high-paid political consultant is expected to face the first trial to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, is among three former Trump aides who have pleaded guilty to assortment of charges and have agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. Gates, who also served on Trump’s campaign, is expected to provide information about crimes he said he and Manafort committed as business partners.

Gates and Manafort were both charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and money laundering stemming from lobbying and consulting work related to Ukrainian politicians who are strong allies of Russia.

Because of his age, Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

On Friday, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal tens of millions of dollars while working with Manafort.

The indictments do not mention work they did for Trump’s campaign, but Gates and Manafort played a prominent role in the campaign and have drawn suspicion because of their ties with pro-Russian factions in eastern Europe.

Last week, the men’s Russian-connected attorney Alex Van der Zwaan was charged with misleading the FBI about work he did for Manafort and Gates. 

About two weeks ago, 13 Russians were charged in a sweeping indictment alleging they waged a propaganda campaign to help Trump get elected. 

The other former Trump associates who have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors are Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn and ex-campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

In March 2017, Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, the former FBI director has broadened the scope of the probe to include Trump’s business dealings and his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.

Trump, who suggested Russian election meddling was “a hoax” peddled by the “fake media,” claims the special counsel probe is a “witch hunt” by the upper ranks of the FBI and Justice Department to bring him down.

His attorneys are trying to find a legal argument to prevent Trump from being interviewed by Mueller because they fear he will lie and commit perjury.

Hope Hicks Refuses to Answer Questions in Congressional Probe of Russian Interference

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

By Steve Neavling

White House communications director Hope Hicks became the latest former or current Trump aide to refuse to answer questions about the Trump administration as part of a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Saying she was acting on instructions from the White House, Trump’s longtime political aide declined many questions in a closed-door sessions of the House Intelligence Committee.

But under pressure, Hicks answered some questions about the tradition period, committee members told the Washington Post.

Hicks, the White House communications director who served as the spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, is considered a key witness because of her longstanding relationship with the president and his family.

“No one’s asserting privilege; they’re following the orders of the White House not to answer certain questions,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, said after the interview.

“There’s no hope to get all our answers,” he added.

Democrats failed to get the GOP-led committee to serve Hick with a subpoena like was done with former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, who also refused to answer questions.

“There’s apparently one rule for Steve Bannon and another rule for everyone else,” the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), complained after the interview.

Other Stories of Interest

Special Counsel’s Probe Focuses on Trump’s Business Ties Prior to Presidential Run

President Trump, via the White House

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia before he ran for president has come under the scope of the widening special counsel investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to help get him elected.

Witnesses in the probe are repeatedly being asked about when Trump decided to run, whether Russia has compromising information on the president and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fizzled, CNN reported

Mueller’s prosecutors are trying to determine whether Russians sought to influence Trump when he was negotiating business deals with Russia and considering a run for president. Several of Trump’s former campaign and administration aides have already been indicted and at least three have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Some of the questions are focused on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which Trump partnered with Russian property magnate Aras Agalarov and his son Emin Agalarov.

Emin’s publicist Rob Goldstone set up a meeting between Russian officials offering “dirt” on Russia and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been indicted on numerous fraud and money laundering charges.

Investigators appear to be looking into allegations in a former British spy’s dossier that claims Russia had compromising information on Trump, making him vulnerable to blackmail.

Jill Sanborn, a Veteran Counterterrorism Expert, to Head FBI’s Minneapolis Division

FBI Special Agent Jill Sanborn.

By Steve Neavling

Jill Sanborn, a veteran counterterrorism agent who led the FBI’s investigation of the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015, has been named special agent in charge of the bureau’s Minneapolis division.

Sanborn will replace Richard Thornton, who is retiring today after leading the Minneapolis office since 2014, when she reports to the office in April.

The Minneapolis office covers Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“Minnesota and the Dakotas have such rich and diverse cultural and economic reputations and I look forward to getting to work with law enforcement, business, and community leaders to partner in keeping those sectors safe and secure,” Sanborn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

Sanborn began her career as a special agent with the FBI in 1998, when she was assigned to the Phoenix office to investigate fraud and computer intrusions. For most of her nearly 20-year career, Sanborn has been involved in counterterrorism operations, holding leadership positions in the Washington Field Office and the Los Angels Field Office.

NSA Head Testifies Trump Failed to Order Action to Combat Russian Meddling

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the NSA and military’s Cyber Command

By Steve Neavling

A top U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers Tuesday that President Trump has not ordered his agencies to combat Russia’s continuing inference in the American election process, despite what he called the Kremlin’s “sustained aggression.”

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command, said his agencies have not been directed by the White House to counter Russian meddling.

“President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity,’” Rogers, who plans to retire in April, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”

Rogers is the second senior intelligence official this month to warn that Russian interference continues and the Trump administration has failed to adequately combat the propaganda campaign.

After Trump won the election, he suggested Russian meddling was a “hoax” peddled by the fake media, ignoring his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow waged a disinformation campaign to further divide Americans on hot-button topics like race, gay rights and immigration.  Earlier this month, 13 Russians were indicted on allegations that they ran an unprecedented smear campaign to help Trump get elected.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate Russian interference, is probing whether Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine the election.