President Donald Trump a Nancy Pelosi
President-elect Donald J. Trump and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi smile for a photo during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

The Trump Russia scandal is moving into its final act.

Donald Trump is the undisputed President of the United States. In the 2016 Election, he garnered more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton to ascend to the highest office in the nation.

That should be the end of the story. You either learn from history or you are doomed to repeat it. I will not rehash the Watergate scandal, but we need to draw from its legal lessons.

Trump allegedly won the White House by subversive means, similar to those Richard Nixon engaged in during the Watergate scandal. While the facts aren’t identical, the constitutional ramifications are. Issues surrounding the accountability of the President have already been decided by the Supreme Court.

The most important one is the President is not above the law.

Americans abolished a monarchy forever with the ratification of the Constitution. President Bill Clinton was subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury and compelled to answer questions surrounding alleged crimes. Constitutionally speaking, a sitting President can be held to answer to the people.

Trump and his campaign are under investigation for conspiring with the Russian government to help him win the 2016 election. The current tally of guilty pleas, indictments and convictions could field a football team. Clearly, this is not a “witch hunt”.

How would Nostradamus interpret this?

Reading the tea leaves, one might describe the current poltical situation as Trump digging in his heels in an effort to resist his day of reckoning. His tactics include refusing to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as lying to the press, and more importantly, the people.

Trump has refused to release his tax records, a tradition since Richard Nixon took office.

There are multiple reasons presidents do this. First, to show they pay their fair share like every other taxpayer in America. Other reasons include demonstrating they have not been involved in nefarious enterprises, as well as creating an atmosphere of transparency, disclosure of investments, etc. These serve to circumvent a reasonable person asking: What are they hiding?

Public records show how many times Trump has filed for bankruptcy. These paint a picture of his incompetence as a businessman. Trump acquired his funds through his father, Fred. So how has he been able to finance his business operation with such a tragic history of failure in entrepreneurial endeavors?

Eric, the President’s son, bragged about where the Trumps get their funding. He was very candid and smug about the length of time money from Russia has been flowing into their pockets.

When you hear Donald Trump scream, rant and rave about zero Russian involvement his campaign, it should give you pause. Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant was held in Moscow, and this points to Russian business involvement. There are plenty more connections. We can anticipate hearing about these as Mueller wraps up his inestigation. Looking at what we have learned from the special counsel and what we know about the players involved, there is plenty of Russian involvement.

A Trump Russia Cast of characters

Without naming everyone involved, let us look into the important and key figures in the Russian story of Trump’s Presidency.

George Papadopoulos

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Everything begins with a relatively unimportant figure named George Papadopoulos and some alcohol infused boasting.

While drinking with a group of Australians, Papadopoulos let it slip he was involved with the Trump Campaign. He bragged he had some dirt on Hillary Clinton from emails obtained from Russia. The Australians informed the authorities.

Of course, it is more complicated than that, but this is the reason James Comey, then FBI Director, began an investigation into the 2016 election.

It was also reason Donald Trump fired Comey.

Mike Flynn

Mike Flynn

Lt. General Mike Flynn was selected to be the National Security Advisor (NSA) to the President. The Russian connection here is easy. Flynn had dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was problematic as it caused a situation where Flynn could be subject to blackmail.

We know President Obama sanctioned Russia for interfering with the 2016 election before he left office. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak called Flynn complaining about the sanctions. We know this because US intelligence agencies were spying on the Ambassador. It was this intelligence that led lawmakers to inquire about Flynn and his background. This was during the transition period from the Obama administration to Trump’s.

Flynn pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI for his involvement, connecting the transition team to Russia.

Rick Gates

Rick Gates

During the Republican primary, Rick Gates was Trump’s Deputy Campaign Manager. He was brought on with Paul Manafort, who was then Campaign Chairman. Gates and Manafort have worked together for decades. There will be more about their relationship and involvement.

Not only did Gates work for the campaign, he worked as a member of the transition team. He was a White House employee during the initial period of the Trump presidency. Gates pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his involvement with laundering money from Russia, and pocketing some for himself.

This is another Russian connection made to the Trump Campaign.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort is a big fish. He was in charge of the campaign and sent up flares signaling Russian involvement.

During the 2016 campaign season, Putin invaded the Sovereign Nation of Ukraine. Using military force, he seized the Crimean Peninsula. President Obama levied heavy sanctions against Russia for their aggression.

During the National Convention, Manafort was instrumental in reversing the Republican Party’s platform on Ukraine and acquiescing on Russia relinquishing Crimea. Additionally, Manafort was present during a controversial meeting with Russian operatives in the summer of 2016.

Also present during this meeting was Donald Trump Jr, and Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law. The purpose of this meeting was for the purpose of obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate. We know this from emails of Trump Jr stating, “If it’s what you say it is I love it.”

This also happened during the 2000 presidential election cycle. A foreign adversary contacted the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, offering similar goods. Since it is a crime to work with foreign nations in an election, Mr. Gore contacted the FBI and related all information to them regarding this incident. He did not “love it”.

Manafort also was convicted on charges of money laundering money from Russia, filing false tax returns and failing to register as a Foreign Agent, since he was receiving millions of dollars from Russian Oligarchs. He was also convicted of other crimes related to this.
He also pleaded guilty conspiracy charges during his time as Campaign Chair, and currently sits in Federal Prison for his crimes.

A significant Russian link to the Trump Campaign connected.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence

As we gaze into the crystal ball, we see future events and the focus is now on Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence was the Governor of Indiana when he was tapped to be Trump’s running mate. His role in the Russian scandal is significant. Not only was he the campaign’s spokesman, he played a major role in helping to fundraise for Trump. He was “in the know.”

Once Trump won the election and was President-elect, Pence led the transition. So what was the transition team up to?

Not only do we know about the phone call from Kislyak to Flynn regarding sanctions, but Flynn was also part of a negotiation to kidnap a U.S. resident and bring him to Turkey for $15 million.

Pence’s continual denial of any knowledge of this is a blatant lie. For the director of the transition team to be unaware of these events, they must be incompetent or lying. It is inconceivable that Pence was ignorant of the activities of his team. Yet Pence continues to deny knowledge of this activity.

Will Mike Pence suffer a legal price for his actions?

Supporting cast of Trump Russia Scandal

The entire Trump campaign organization reeks of Russian influence. There has been a plethora of information from our intelligence community stating plainly that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections.

Michael Cohen

Attorney Michael Cohen is Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “fixer”.

Cohen has represented Trump for over a decade. He is aware of everything that has a potential for criminal charges and civil liability. The problem is Cohen talks too much, and we know about it. A portion of his audio recordings have been aired by mainstream media.

On the surface, we know Cohen is involved in possible campaign fraud violations with payouts to two women. One is an adult film star, and the other a Playboy model.

Long story short, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple felonies. The important question is how much of his criminal conduct involved the President. After all, one of the charges Cohen plead guilty to involved conspiracy. According to the law, one cannot conspire alone.

Cohen is now working with the Special Counsel as a result of his plea deal.  Of real significance is that Cohen also did work or the Trump children.

Michael Cohen seems to be the never ending gift. In one of the phone conversations that were recorded by Cohen, he mentions two people. David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg.

David Pecker

David Pecker runs a supermarket tabloid rag called, The National Enquirer.

The Enquirer is known for its outlandish stories about conspiracies  and ridiculous allegations about various celebrities. How this is legal? Public figures do not have the same right of privacy as private citizens. For example, allegations of President Obama being born in Kenya were legal because he is a public figure.

Pecker ran all sorts of outlandish headlines against Hillary Clinton, with zero consequences. Trump has a long-standing relationship with Pecker, and he often praises The Enquirer for its journalistic credibility.

Pecker and Cohen used an elaborate scheme to buy the rights to the stories of the women involved in the scandals. Known as catch-and-kill, these women waited for a story to be published that never came. Not until after the election was over and done did this information become public. This brought Pecker’s involvement to the attention of the Special Counsel. Pecker was granted immunity to tell his own story.

Allen Weisselberg

The Academy Award for best supporting actor goes to Allen Weisselberg, the chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Trump organization.

This is the man who knows where every penny has come from, and who was paid. It was Weisselberg that suggested how to silence the scandals.

Since the Trump organization is based in the State of New York, Weisselberg plays a dual role. Special Counsel offered him immunity for his testimony before a grand jury and cooperation with all investigations. Federally, Donald Trump has the authority to pardon anyone he wants for federal crimes. The State of New York does not fall into this category.

As a condition of his immunity deal, Weisselberg must cooperate with all investigations. As the CFO, he was responsible for all financial dealings, up to and including taxes. This is what got Al Capone behind bars. The Attorney General for the State of New York is investigating possible crimes committed and omitted by the Trump organization.

The first rule of law for an investigator when questioning a witness or suspect is to already know the answer before you ask it. Questioning Weisselberg regarding Trump’s taxes would mean Mueller has had Trump’s tax returns for some time. He knows about the money flowing in from Russia. Mueller needs Weisselberg to validate it on the stand.

Immunity took care of that.

Trump Russia: The fat lady is warming up

Photo by zachrie friesen on Unsplash

With what we know from emails, phone records and recordings, court filings, guilty pleas, and convictions, here is what  we can see in our crystal ball.

Anyone not yet charged with a crime, or cooperating, is a suspect. So far none of the Trumps have been publicly named in criminal charges, but multiple, sealed indictments that have been filed.

There is little doubt that Trump will be charged for conspiring with the Russians to help him with the 2016 Presidential election. This will create a historical constitutional crisis for our country.

Mike Pence likely will be indicted along with the Trump for conspiring with the Russians. He oversaw the transition team and had direct knowledge of not only Michael Flynn’s activities, but ordered them. We will see what Flynn’s cooperation reveals very soon.

Donald Trump, Jr. will be indicted for conspiracy charges as well for his role in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Weisselberg’s cooperation will reveal the full extent of his legal implications, at least financially.

Jared Kushner will also suffer legal consequences for the part he played in the Trump Tower meeting. He will have to answer for his financial dealings while White House Senior Advisor.

Constitutional ramifications

Trump will employ the defense that a sitting President cannot be indicted by law. This is a policy if the Department of Justice, it is not established law. Some will say that impeachment is the answer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and the Republican controlled senate will not vote to confirm any impeachment submitted by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives. McConnell will not bring it to the floor for a vote.

To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, “Have you ever had a pissed off Marine on your hands?” Rules of Engagement. Robert Mueller is that Marine. As a combat veteran and Director of the FBI, his love of country and the Rule of law is secondary to none.  His record proves that, and I will honor and respect the service he has given our country.

The corruption from the Trump campaign will be exposed and adjudicated.

This is Robert Mueller’s gift to the country.

Epilogue

Irony is a special gift. What Republicans hate more than Democrats, possibly even more than Hillary Clinton, is Nancy Pelosi. She is to them what Satan is to the Bible. In the end it will that hatred that will drive them to their ultimate rage.

According to our Constitution, the line of succession to the White goes from President to Vice-President. With the indictment of Mike Pence, and ultimate guilty plea, who would be next?

The Speaker of the House.

President Nancy Pelosi.

 

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Gene Smith

Gene Smith is a Chief Campaign Strategist living in Arizona. He is a Juris Doctor, Democratic Campaign Strategist, Elected Precinct Committee person, and Democratic State Committee Member. Currently, Gene serves on the Environmental Caucus.

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