Sentencing Memos

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In Argentina world leaders witnessed the embarrassment of a compromised president, who had to cancel a meeting with Putin and forfeit the opportunity to address Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but the embarrassment didn’t stop there.  At one event Trump left a flabbergasted Argentine president alone on a podium, and before leaving the G20 he announced a ‘great deal’ with China that turned out to be just a freeze, and that immediately was undermined by Trump’s calling himself a ‘Tariff Man.’ Wall Street took notice and the stock market has been in a tailspin ever since.  Back in DC the funeral of Poppy Bush got all the attention, and because it was common knowledge that the 41st president used to throw his shoes at the TV whenever Trump was on it #45 had to stay out of the limelight.  In his place Mike Pence spoke when the coffin arrived at the Capitol, and used the opportunity to shamelessly compare himself to Bush Sr. and Trump to Ronald Reagan, all but announcing his candidacy for 2024, if not earlier.  There are rumors that Trump is considering to replace Pence on the ticket for 2020, and this might help him make up his mind.

Unlike the McCains the Bushes didn’t keep Trump away from the funeral service, but he was not given a speaking role and every reference to ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ could be heard as a criticism of the president, who sat in silence next to three predecessors and their wives who hate his guts.  After the service the Mueller probe was front and center in DC, because a sentencing memo in the case of Michael Flynn had to be filed that same day.  Before the filing Trump, identified as ‘Individual One’ in Michael Cohen’s confession about his involvement with the Trump Tower in Moscow, praised his old pal Roger Stone for refusing to testify and spill the beans about him, giving us the spectacle of a US President urging a potential witness not to talk to the legal authorities – arguably a case of witness tampering – while simultaneously demanding a maximum sentence for Cohen.  The sentencing memo, filed late that night, was a disappointment because large parts were redacted.  Flynn was praised for his ‘substantial’ and early cooperation with the probe and providing ‘first hand’ information about contacts with the Russians.  The recommendation was for him to serve no jail time.

Because of the redactions the memo generated plenty of expert speculation, primarily because it referred to three investigations Flynn had provided valuable information for.  It was not hard to identify the Russian collusion investigation as the first one, and Flynn’s interactions with Turkey and the plot to abduct the cleric Fethullah Gülen as the second, but nobody has so far been able to identify the third investigation.  Legal analysts agree that the many redactions indicate the high level of targets in that investigation, but are completely in the dark what it pertains to.

The uncertainty about the third criminal investigation is even more tantalizing because of the way Trump has always pampered Flynn.  Not only did he ask James Comey ‘to let Flynn go,’ and after Comey’s firing urge Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to ask the FBI to go easy on Flynn, but the president has never talked or tweeted smack about Flynn,  not even now.  The Flynn memo inspired Rudy Giuliani to freshen up his Yiddish and declare that Mueller doesn’t have ‘bupkes,’ but that can be of little comfort to Trump.

Today sentencing memos will be made public for Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.  The former will detail Manafort’s lies and crimes after he pretended to be cooperating with the Mueller probe, and the latter will contain information about Cohen’s collaboration with the Southern District’s investigation.  Many redactions are expected, and that is bad news for Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Trump, because Mueller is far from finished.

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