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Weekly News Wrap Up 7/7 “Emails”

Week of 7/7 “Emails”

After months of swearing up and down that the Trump campaign didn’t have any contact with Russians, or met with any Russians, or had any idea that Russia wanted to ensure Trump won, Donald Trump Jr. just tweeted out an email chain that proved that all was a lie.

That has been the main story since news of the meeting broke on Saturday. While news is focused mostly on the meeting itself, Trump Jr. emails, and the chaos in the White House… some are connecting dots that suggest a much bigger story exists here. And it is all connected by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the United States under a special immigration parole in order to represent her Russian client in a federal fraud case. She violated this parole when she not only met with the Trump campaign, but was at a number of lobbying opportunities for Russian interests. The case in question was being heard in Peet Bharara’s New York district court. Bharara was abruptly fired with numerous other district attorneys in February.

The case had to do with hundreds of millions of dollars being laundered into Manhattan real estate. There are a lot of records of Donald Trump selling real estate at above market value to Russian billionaires both in New York and Florida. However, I am unsure if he was a part of this particular case.

The lawyer who originally discovered the scheme, Sergi Magnitsky, died under suspicious circumstances in prison. This led to the US putting sanctions on Russia which in turn led to Russia barring Americans to adopt Russian children. This was the cover story given for the meeting with the Trump campaign and Veselnitskaya.

That case was just quietly settled by the DOJ two days before it was supposed to begin. This may all seem very Glenn Beck blackboard here. There is still a lot we don’t know, but it all seems too perfect to be coincidence to me.

There’s more on these stories and more in the sections below.

Administration:

  1. Donald Trump Jr. admits he met with a Russian lawyer under the pretence that she had valuable information on Clinton that was coming from the Kremlin itself. This admission came after he learned the NY Times had the emails to prove the meeting, and after he made previous statements stating the meeting was arranged for other reasons. (NPR)
  2. President Trump approved Jr.’s statements on the meeting that turned out to be lies. These statements were written by White House staff. (Washington Post)
  3. What are the legal implications of the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya? A number of laws were potentially broken.  (New York Times)
  4. At the G20 summit, Trump and Putin met face-to-face. After back pats and shared chuckles, the two leaders went behind closed doors where the planned half-hour meeting stretched on for more than two hours. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in the room and reported that Trump asked Putin twice if he interfered with the election. Both times Putin said no. According to Russia’s ambassador to the US President Trump accepted the denial. (New York Times)
  5. After the G20 meeting with Putin, Trump tweeted that they discussed creating an ‘impenetrable’ U.S.-Russian cyber security unit. After swift, and expected, blowback from people across the political spectrum for courting the idea of sharing data with the very country that undermined our election, Trump quickly backtracked on the idea. (Reuters)
  6. Relying in a loophole in campaign finance rules that allows elected officials to coordinate with nonprofits, Trump used super pacs to funnel 14 million dollars to help elect Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Fast Company)
  7. While celebrating Bastille Day in Paris with French President Macron, Trump sent out a series of angry tweets about the Senate healthcare bill. In an interview, he threatened to get ‘very angry’ if it isn’t passed. (CNN)
  8. Responding to a Freedom of Information Request, the Department of Justice released Jeff Session’s disclosure form showing that it was approved with much of it left blank, implying that he didn’t meet with any foreign nationals in the past seven years. (NPR)
  9. There was a massive federal case against Russian oligarchs accused of a massive fraud/money laundering scheme that funneled money into New York real estate. The Russian defendants were represented by the same Russian lawyer who met with the Trump campaign. And while the article does not say this outright, Trump has a long and documented history of selling real estate to Russian oligarchs for prices much higher than market value. The DOJ quietly settled the case two days before it was set to begin. (Foreign Policy)
  10. The State Department spent more than $15,000 at Trump’s Vancouver hotel while his children were there for the grand opening. This is in addition to whatever Secret Service paid to stay at the hotel during the opening. Trump doesn’t own the hotel directly but receives revenue from licensing his name. (Washington Post)
  11. Trump’s election commission has asked states to hold off on sending information after a number of legal challenges have been filed. Additionally, it was uncovered that the commission was not following the law in how these records were being stored. The commission put records on unsecure servers. (Reuters)
  12. In upholding his campaign promise to cut red tape, Trump hired people to a number of agencies to reduce regulation. These hires did not have to go through regular Senate approval. Propublica and the New York Times have uncovered that many of these people have ties to the industries they are tasked to deregulate. (Propublica)

Congress:

  1. Senator Chuck Grassley (R) is asking Donald Trump Jr. to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in regards to the recently disclosed meeting with the Russian lawyer. (The Hill)
  2. After pulling the healthcare bill before 4th of July recess, Mitch McConnell introduced the revised bill on Thursday. The bill offered more flexibility on Health Savings Accounts, but had no changes to medicaid. The revised bill most likely still doesn’t have the votes necessary to pass. (Washington Post)
  3. Jeff Flake has come out in support of Ted Cruz’s “Consumer Freedom Option” on the Senate healthcare bill. The amendment would allow insurance companies to offer lesser plans so long as they offer at least once that complies with the Affordable Care Act. Flake has not offered any position on the Senate Healthcare Bill as a whole. (AZ Central)
  4. The revised health care bill was sent to the CBO for scoring absence of the Cruz amendment. The amendment was added to the bill before it was sent to the CBO, but Senate Republicans will be using more favorable sources to score the impact of this change. (The Hill)
  5. Confirmation hearings have started for Trump’s pick to lead the FBI Christopher Wray. He will likely be confirmed with bipartisan support and has endorsements from both sides of the aisle. (NPR)
  6. Mitch McConnell has postponed August Recess, signalling that he does not have faith that the health care bill will pass easily. (NBC News)
  7. AZCD5 Representative Andy Biggs (who is an attorney by trade) has publicly dismissed the meetings that the Trump campaign had with Veselniskaya as nothing but smoke. (AZ Central)
  8. Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, proposes that the United States should use funds from Planned Parenthood and food stamps to pay for the border wall. (CNN)

State/Other:

  1. After 150 years, the stereotype that Republicans are well-educated, wealthy individuals is officially dead. A majority of Republicans now believe college is bad for the country. The culture war against the well educated is being waged by the right. (Washington Post)
  2. Natalia Veselnitskaya violated her special immigration parole when she met with the Trump campaign, and many other high-profile Russian lobbying events in Russia. She was denied a visa to enter the states, but petitioned the Department of Justice for an exception as she was representing a Russian client in Federal court. This exception was granted by the Loretta Lynch for the limited purpose of serving her client. (The Hill)
  3. Two Republican-held districts in Oklahoma elected Democrats during a special election that was held after the Republican representatives resigned in disgrace amidst scandal. (The Oklahoman)
  4. About 50 KKK members showed up in Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. They were met by more than 1,000 counter protesters. Tear gas was used to disperse the crowd and 23 counter protesters were arrested. (NY Times)