The bulk of this is opinion, and ill-informed opinion at that.
The nudging you allege is illusory.
your fantasy world.
The government of Israel is little different because every government since 1947 has been held hostage by the Zionist minority, who will form a coalition with any party, especially Likud, the charter of which calls for the destruction of the Palestinian state, a direct violation of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 which established the Israel-Palestine state in 1947. It is absolute bullshit that Zionists are a majority. According to Haaertz, 22% of Israelis identify themselves as religious Zionists.
It is also bullshit that the oil in Iran belongs, or ever belonged to the Brits.
A constitutional assembly formed in 1906, and when Mirza became Shah in 1907 and lured the cabinet to meet with him, he locked them up, and a civil war began. In 1909, Mirza locked up members of the Majlis (the constitutional assembly) but then had to flee, and he sought asylum in the Russian embassy. Russian troops moved on the Majlis, and in November, a second Majlis was formed. They granted the concession to the failing Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which could get new lease on life if they could produce the petroleum for the new Dreadnought class of ships, which otherwise would have been purchased from the United States. The D'Arcy license was taken over by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909, and every government from 1911 onward asserted their exclusive right to grant or terminate concessions. The Brits started peeing in their pants when Mossadegh sent a bill to the Majlis to terminate the APOC concession and that is what lead to the 1953 coup.
Not only were clerics not involved,
but their opposition to Pahlavi's new regime lead to the CIA introducing Israeli Mossad agents to the Shah's regime. They set up SAVAK, the Shah's not-terribly-secret police, and Israeli agents in Iran did the kidnapping, torture and murders which lead to Iran's present day hatred of Israel.
You just don't display ignorance, you get everything not just wrong,
you stand everything about these matters on their heads.
As you obviously don't know what the hell you're talking about, I won't waste any more time on you.
CNN) — Republicans may let the bill to protect special counsels such as Robert Mueller to come up for a vote, Senate sources told CNN on Tuesday, in an effort to win over Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake who has vowed to vote against pending judicial nominations until the measure is considered by the chamber.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told CNN on Tuesday that GOP leaders are whipping the Mueller bill to see where the votes are.
"We are whipping the bill to see where people are, to give us an idea of what the outcome would be," he said. It is likely to fail since it would almost certainly need 60 votes for passage and most Republicans oppose it, either saying it's unnecessary or contending it's unconstitutional. Republicans control 51 seats to Democrats' 49.
Cornyn said he strongly opposes the Mueller bill, but GOP leaders may allow the bill to get a vote in order to get Flake to back off his opposition to all judicial nominations until there is a vote on the Mueller bill.
This could have an immediate impact, as President Donald Trump's federal judge nominee Thomas Farr's vote is expected later this week and is also expected to be razor-thin. If GOP leaders can get Flake on board, that would build in some margin if any other Republican votes against Farr. Asked about the Farr nomination earlier on Tuesday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, whose opposition to specific Trump nominees has led to the pulling of at least one nomination, said he's "doing my homework."
Senate Democrats are pushing this week to defeat the nomination of Farr to be a district court judge in North Carolina. They say they oppose him because he worked on that state's controversial voter ID laws and on the 1990 campaign of Jesse Helms that was accused of sending misleading mailings to African-Americans.
"Every American should be alarmed by the attempt to confirm a nominee with Farr's egregious record on voting rights, particularly with the Republican agenda to maintain power by limiting access to the ballot now on full display," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Monday.
Flake on Tuesday would not commit to backing the Farr nomination if the special counsel bill is brought to a vote, saying he would consider it "on the merits."
He also said he's rejected offers by GOP leaders to vote on a non-binding resolution or something to demonstrate that the votes aren't there to pass the measure. But he said if the Senate rejects the Mueller bill, the fight is essentially over, a sign he won't demand it be added to a bill to keep the government open.
"If it fails, that's it -- I can't require passage," Flake told CNN. "What I can require is that it be brought to a vote."
In July, the White House withdrew the nomination of Circuit Court hopeful Ryan Bounds, moments before the nominee was to face his Senate confirmation vote following Scott's decision to raise concerns to Senate leaders. Scott's concerns revolved around the content of Bounds' writings -- which critics labeled racially insensitive -- while at Stanford and the fact that Bounds did not disclose the writings to a bipartisan committee of attorneys in Oregon that had recommended him for Ninth Circuit job.
Flake, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is retiring at the end of his term in January, made his pledge not to back judicial nominees about two weeks ago, pushing for a floor vote on the Mueller protection bill. His call came after Trump fired Jeff Sessions and put in place Matthew Whitaker, a vocal critic of the Mueller investigation, as acting attorney general.
"The President has said that he's not going to move on the special counsel. But that's not enough," Flake said on the Senate floor on November 14. "And perhaps that's what gives comfort to the majority leader. ... But it doesn't give comfort to me."
WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he would "probably" block a renewed effort to bring to a vote a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The bill, known as the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, would make it harder for President Donald Trump to undermine the investigation, which he has called a witch hunt. The measure has already been approved at the committee level with bipartisan support.
"I probably would" object to bringing up the bill, McConnell told reporters at the U.S. Capitol, calling a bipartisan effort to force such a vote "a solution in search of a problem" as Trump renewed his Twitter attacks on Mueller and his long-running inquiry.
McConnell reiterated that Mueller should be allowed to finish his probe, which is also looking into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice. But he said he did not think Trump would try to fire Mueller, adding that lawmakers "have a lot of things to do to try to finish up this year without taking votes on things that are completely irrelevant to outcomes."
Moscow denies interfering in the 2016 election, and Trump has denied any collusion occurred.
The president blasted Mueller again on Tuesday on Twitter, calling him a "conflicted prosecutor gone rogue" and accusing him of doing "TREMENDOUS damage" to the criminal justice system.
Noting the attack, Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who is retiring from Congress, and Senate Democrats Chris Coons and Cory Booker said on Tuesday they would again seek to bring up the legislation for a vote on Wednesday.
Flake tried the same step earlier this month, and McConnell stopped the bill from advancing. Flake responded by saying he would try to block judicial nominations pending in the Senate until McConnell lets the Mueller bill go to a floor vote.
Before McConnell spoke on Tuesday, No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn told reporters that Republican leaders were trying to gauge support for the Mueller bill. He suggested it could be brought up for a vote to try to end Flake's tactics.
Cornyn added that he opposed the bill, believing it to be unconstitutional. Some Democrats want to put language protecting the Mueller investigation into a spending bill to fund the government that must pass by Dec. 7.
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that Democrats would try to force protections for U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into a must-pass spending bill if the House is not allowed to vote on a free-standing bill protecting him from potential political interference.
Republicans control the House of Representatives and Senate until January, but they need some Democratic votes on the legislation to keep parts of the U.S. government open beyond Dec. 7.
"The Congress must immediately pass legislation to preserve the Special Counsel investigation," Pelosi said in a statement.
"If Speaker Ryan refuses to take up that bill, House Democrats will fight to include language to protect the investigation in the upcoming must-pass spending bill," she added.
Mueller is investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
On Thursday, Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, a plea that stemmed from Mueller's probe.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott said Thursday he will oppose the nomination of Thomas Farr to the federal bench, assuring the controversial pick will not be confirmed.
The South Carolina Republican was the deciding vote in determining whether Farr, widely accused of efforts to disenfranchise black voters, would be confirmed.
Scott’s decision comes after four days of intense drama and speculation about what the Senate’s only black Republican would do.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, made it clear earlier in the day he, too, would oppose Farr’s nomination. Senate Republicans could only afford to lose one vote and still confirm Farr. Senate Republicans control 51 seats, and all 49 Democratic caucus members were expected to oppose Farr.
In a brief statement explaining his decision, Scott cited a 1991 Department of Justice memo that was leaked just this week, days before the Senate was set to vote on Farr’s confirmation. It detailed Farr’s involvement in “ballot security” activities by the 1984 and 1990 campaigns of then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.
Farr worked for the campaign in 1984 and represented the 1990 campaign as a lawyer.
Helms’ 1990 re-election campaign against former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, who is black, included charges of voter intimidation for postcards mailed to primarily black voters warning of possible arrest at the polls. The Department of Justice investigated the voter intimidation claims and settled with the Helms campaign in a consent decree.
“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said in his statement. “This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”
The 1991 memo said that “Farr was the primary coordinator of the 1984 ‘ballot security’ program conducted by the NCGOP and 1984 Helms for Senate Committee. He coordinated several ‘ballot security’ activities in 1984, including a postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day.”
Farr told attendees at a 1990 meeting that the need for “ballot security” measures, such as postcards, “was not as compelling as in 1984, since, unlike in 1984, the state had a Republican governor.”
In 1990, the Helms campaign sent postcards to black voters who may have changed addresses warning of “voter eligibility and the penalties for election fraud.” Farr said he did not know about the decision to send the postcards, and the memo does not state that he did.
Scott spent the past days studying this memo and speaking directly to the document’s author. He spoke to the author Wednesday for at least part of a nearly 45-minute period as his colleagues voted on limiting debate on Farr’s nomination. Scott agreed to the limit.
On Thursday, just half an hour before Farr’s confirmation vote was set to take place on the Senate floor, Scott invited several colleagues to his office to discuss the memo and hear from the author, via conference call, once again.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told McClatchy as he headed to that meeting he was still inclined to vote for Farr but as a practice always discussed nominees with Scott, especially when race has been a factor.
“Was (Farr) a lawyer representing a client, telling them what they were legally allowed to do, or was he a political consultant determining strategy and targeting? I don’t know the answer to that. It was a long time ago,” Rubio explained. “But I think that’s kind of what we’re focused in on."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another senator at the meeting and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had earlier in the week said she would confirm Farr but was now “taking a look at this information which was not available previously.”
It’s not clear whether Scott would have ultimately persuaded them to also vote against Farr, but he has a track record of being influential.
Earlier the summer, Scott announced he would oppose Ryan Bounds, a nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who as a Stanford University student produced writings that mocked multiculturalism and cultural sensitivity. Scott’s opposition influenced Rubio and other Republicans to also say they would vote against Bounds, resulting in GOP leaders having to pull the nominee just minutes before the confirmation vote was set to take place.
North Carolina’s Eastern District covers 44 counties stretching from Raleigh to the Atlantic coast. The population of the district is 27 percent African-American, and no black judge has ever been seated on the court. The seat has been vacant since Jan 1, 2006.
Farr was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, but never received a vote. President Barack Obama nominated two African-American women for the court, but neither received a vote. Farr was nominated for the seat by President Donald Trump in 2017 and again in 2018.
Farr’s nomination has been bitterly contested by Democrats and civil rights groups, who cited Farr’s work for Helms and more recent work defending North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers in lawsuits over voter ID and gerrymandering. A panel of federal judges said the 2013 voter ID law targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision,” striking it down.
“Thomas Farr is not fit to serve. He has a long, long history of being hostile to voting rights and voter suppression,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson, North Carolina Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Farr’s supporters, including North Carolina Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, have pointed to his “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. Tillis said Democrats engaged in a “Kavanaugh-esque attempt to discredit him,” referencing the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who faced allegations of decades-old sexual assault during his confirmation hearing.
Tillis said Thursday that Farr’s backers were “still working on it” and that he was “hopeful” supporters would prevail over skeptics.
On Wednesday, Scott was signaling an openness to vote for Farr, but told reporters on Capitol Hill he was bothered that his party was “not doing a very good job of avoiding the obvious potholes on race in America and we ought to be more sensitive when it comes to those issues.
“There are a lot of of folks that can be judges, in states including North Carolina, besides Tom Farr,” Scott added.
Two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi sent an email to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone anticipating the document dump, according to draft court papers obtained by NBC News.
"Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps," Corsi wrote on Aug. 2, 2016, referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to the draft court papers. "One shortly after I'm back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging."
The email was revealed in a draft court document, known as a statement of the offense, sent to Corsi by special counsel Robert Mueller's office. Mueller also sent Corsi a draft plea agreement stipulating that the special counsel would not oppose Corsi requesting a sentence of probation if he agreed to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators.
As NBC News reported on Monday, Corsi said he has rejected the deal. He has described Mueller's team as "thugs" and insisted that he did not "intentionally lie" about his communications related to WikiLeaks.
The draft court documents obtained by NBC News provide the most extensive account to date of Corsi's contact with Mueller's prosecutors.
The interviews began on Sept. 6 when Corsi told investigators that an associate, identified by Corsi as Stone, asked him in the summer of 2016 to get in touch with an organization, identified by Corsi as WikiLeaks, about unreleased materials relevant to the presidential campaign, the draft court papers say.
"Get to (Assange) at Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending (WikiLeaks) emails," read the email to Corsi dated July 25, 2016, according to the draft court documents.
Corsi said he declined the request and made clear to Stone that an attempt to contact WikiLeaks could put them in investigators' crosshairs, according to the draft court documents.
But Mueller's team said that was a lie.
Instead of turning down the request, Corsi in fact passed it along to a person in London, according to the draft court documents. Corsi said that person was conservative author Ted Malloch.
Eight days later, Corsi sent the email to Stone saying that WikiLeaks possessed information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign and planned to release it in October.
"Time to let more than (Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta) to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton)," Corsi added in the Aug. 2, 2016, email, according to the draft court papers. "That appears to be the game hackers are now about."
On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first of two batches of emails that Russian hackers stole from Podesta, altering the trajectory of the presidential race.
Mueller's team says in the court papers that Corsi scrubbed his computer between Jan. 13, 2017, and March 1, 2017, deleting all email correspondence that predated Oct. 11, 2016, including the messages from Stone about WikiLeaks and Corsi's email to Malloch.
Corsi remained in contact with Stone in 2017 when the former Trump adviser's connections to WikiLeaks came under investigation by the FBI and congressional committees, according to the draft court papers.
On Nov. 30, 2017, Stone emailed Corsi asking him to write about a person whom Stone had told congressional investigators was his "source" or "intermediary" to WikiLeaks, according to the draft court papers.
Corsi and Stone have identified that person as Randy Credico, a radio host and one-time friend of Stone.
"Are you sure you want to make something out of this now?" Corsi responded, according to the draft court papers. "Why not wait to see what (Credico) does? You may be defending yourself too much — raising new questions that will fuel new inquiries. This may be a time to say less, not more."
Stone responded by telling Corsi that Credico will "take the 5th — but let's hold a day," the draft court document says.
The draft court documents says that Corsi met with the special counsel's office for several additional interviews and provided access to his email accounts and electronic devices.
In the interviews, the draft court papers say, Corsi said that his claims to Stone, beginning in 2016, that he had a way of obtaining confidential information from WikiLeaks were false.
Corsi, the former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars, has told NBC News that he had no direct or indirect contact with WikiLeaks. Corsi claims to have anticipated WikiLeaks' release of the hacked emails by "connecting the dots" between public statements from Assange and other available materials.
"Why did I think they were coming out in October? Because I said to myself if I had these emails I'd use them as the October surprise," Corsi told NBC News on Tuesday. "And why did I think they would come out serially, drip by drip? Because Assange is very strategic. He understands the news cycle."
A spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment. Corsi's lawyer, David Gray, also declined to comment.
But in a letter drafted by Gray and addressed to Mueller's team, Corsi's lawyer argued that he should not be charged with a crime based on a faulty memory.
"I understand that this plea to making a false claim is predicated on the fact that Dr. Corsi had emails and phone calls wherein he was in fact interested in WikiLeaks," Gray wrote.
"He had not had the benefit of reviewing all of his emails prior to the interview and you graciously allowed him to review his emails and amend his statements — which he did. Now, after various amendments to his statements, Dr. Corsi is being asked to affirmatively state that he lied to FBI agents. The issue is that the statements that Dr. Corsi made were, in fact, the best he could recall at the time."
Gray also noted that if Corsi were to plead guilty, he would have to give up his securities license and cease his online chats until sentencing, depriving him of crucial sources of income.
Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, said the documents suggest that Mueller has more on Corsi than is laid out in the draft court papers.
"Based on reviewing these documents, I believe that the office of the special counsel may have more evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Corsi beyond the false statements, and that is why they engaged in plea negotiations," Goldman said.
Goldman also said that the documents indicate that Mueller and his investigators are "really circling Stone."
"He is a clear target of the investigation," Goldman added.
Stone, who has repeatedly insisted that he had no advanced knowledge of the WikiLeaks email dump, said Tuesday that the newly-released emails don't suggest otherwise.
"None of these emails provide any evidence or proof that I knew in advance about the source or content of any of the allegedly stolen or allegedly hacked emails published by WikiLeaks," Stone said.
"Since when did gossip become a criminal offense? Where is the WikiLeaks collaboration? Where is the evidence that I received anything whatsoever from WikiLeaks and passed it on to Donald Trump? These emails prove nothing other than the fact that Jerry Corsi is an aggressive investigative reporter."
WASHINGTON — Despite President Donald Trump's public declaration that he isn't concerned about impeachment, he has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed by the prospect, according to multiple sources.
Trump's fear about the possibility has escalated as the consequences of federal investigations involving his associates and Democratic control of the House sink in, the sources said, and his allies believe maintaining the support of establishment Republicans he bucked to win election is now critical to saving his presidency.
On Wednesday Trump was delivered another blow when federal prosecutors announced an agreement with American Media Inc, in which the publisher of the National Enquirer admitted to making a $150,000 payment in 2016 to silence a woman alleging an affair with Trump, in coordination with his presidential campaign, to prevent her story from influencing the election.
The agreement with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York follows the admission by the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, that he violated campaign finance laws by arranging hush payments to women in 2016 at the direction of Trump.
"The entire question about whether the president committed an impeachable offense now hinges on the testimony of two men: David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg, both cooperating witnesses in the SDNY investigation," a close Trump ally told NBC News.
Weisselberg is the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization who was allegedly in the center of the hush money operation. He was reportedly granted immunity for his testimony. Pecker is the chief executive at AMI.
The developments leave Trump as the lone party who argues the payments were not intended to influence the election.
They also come as Trump's search for a chief of staff is in disarray, with no consensus around a single choice in sight after multiple potential candidates have signaled they're not interested in the job.
The president has yet to acquire a team to combat the expected influx of congressional investigations and continued fallout from multiple federal investigations of his associates. He's been calling around to his friends outside the White House and allies on Capitol Hill to vent and get the input. On Wednesday the president wasn't in the Oval Office until noon.
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie© Jacquelyn MartinThe White House declined to comment on this report.
Yet despite his frustrations behind the scenes, Trump has tried to maintain a confident public posture.
"It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country," Trump said Tuesday in an interview with Reuters. "I'm not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened."
Some Republican lawmakers have signaled cracks in what has been a solid wall of support for Trump amid intensifying federal investigations after prosecutors said Friday that Trump directed Cohen to arrange illegal payments to two women alleging affairs.
"Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime? Of course," Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida rattled the White House with similarly cautious remarks Sunday when asked about Trump's possible involvement in the violation of campaign finance laws: "If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country, and obviously if you're in a position of great authority like the presidency that would be the case."
Rubio said his decision on how Congress should respond to federal investigators' final findings on the payments "will not be a political decision, it'll be the fact that we are a nation of laws and no one in this country no matter who you are is above it."
Republican lawmakers, however, have largely shrugged off the latest twists in the investigations involving Trump's close associates and have signaled their strong support for him.
The incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat Jerry Nadler of New York, said that same day that the president may have committed "impeachable offenses."
Federal prosecutors in New York state in the court documents that the payments violated campaign finance laws and were arranged by Cohen "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump.
The president has been on a days-long tirade, sources tell NBC News, lashing out at his own staff and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, frustrated by the threat of a Democratic House with subpoena power, an array of looming congressional investigations, multiple intensifying federal probes, a botched effort to find a new chief of staff and a potential partial government shutdown over a lack of funding for his top campaign promise — a border wall.
Trump has ranted about why no one around him is doing anything to stop any of it and vented about the lack of support he believes he has in Congress and within his own White House, the sources tell NBC News.
In addition to the much-anticipated report from Mueller on the Russia investigation, Democrats could ask prosecutors in the SDNY to similarly share details of their probe into Cohen that are related to the president.
Trump has in recent days been made aware of this possibility from people close to him, opening up a new vulnerability for the president.
Nah. The only people who would care are the same people who said that it was OK for Bill Clinton to break the law.
They should mind their own business.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said.
The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.
Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law.
The investigation represents another potential legal threat to people who are or were in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Their business dealings and activities during and since the campaign have led to a number of indictments and guilty pleas. Many of the president’s biggest campaign backers were involved in the inaugural fund.
The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.
In April raids of Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents obtained a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump, who worked on the inaugural events. In the recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the Cohen investigation.
The Wall Street Journal couldn’t determine when the conversation between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place, or why it was recorded. The recording is now in the hands of federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a person familiar with the matter said.
The inaugural committee hasn’t been asked for records or been contacted by prosecutors, according to a lawyer close to the matter, who said: “We are not aware of any evidence the investigation the Journal is reporting actually exists.”
The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for $61 million of the $103 million it spent, and it hasn’t provided details on those expenses, according to tax filings. As a nonprofit organization, the fund is only required to make public its top five vendors.
The committee raised more than double what former President Barack Obama’s first inaugural fund reported raising in 2009, the previous record. President Trump’s funds came largely from wealthy donors and corporations who gave $1 million or more—including casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, AT&T Inc.and Boeing Co., according to Federal Election Commission filings. There is no sign that those three donors are under investigation.
Federal prosecutors have asked Richard Gates, a former campaign aide who served as the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman, about the fund’s spending and its donors, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Gates has met with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the special counsel’s office.
Mr. Gates, who served as deputy in the inaugural fund, in February pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. involving foreign political consulting work unrelated to the campaign. The case was brought by Mr. Mueller’s office. Mr. Gates agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in ongoing investigations.
The committee was headed by Thomas Barrack Jr., a real-estate developer and longtime friend of Mr. Trump. There is no sign the investigation is targeting Mr. Barrack, and he hasn’t been approached by investigators since he was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office last year, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who are probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, asked Mr. Barrack only a handful of questions about the inaugural fund, the person said.
Mr. Mueller has also probed whether any foreign money flowed to the inaugural fund, which is prohibited from accepting foreign funds. In August, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, on a referral from Mr. Mueller, obtained a guilty plea from a Washington consultant who admitted he used a U.S. citizen to serve as a “straw purchaser” so that a “prominent Ukraine oligarch” could attend the inauguration. The names were never disclosed.
Manhattan federal prosecutors in recent months asked Tennessee developer Franklin L. Haney for documents related to a $1 million donation he made to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Haney in early April hired Mr. Cohen, at the time serving as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, to help obtain a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department for a nuclear-power project, the Journal has previously reported. Mr. Haney was asked for documents related to his correspondence with members of the committee, meeting calendars and paperwork for the donation, the person said. A loan application by Mr. Haney’s company is still pending at the Energy Department.
A lawyer for Mr. Haney didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on the investigation. A lawyer for Mr. Cohen didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Since pleading guilty to federal crimes in August, Mr. Cohen has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the special counsel’s office. He was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.
According to the inaugural fund’s tax filings, the committee’s top-paid vendor was an event-production firm led by Ms. Wolkoff called WIS Media Partners. The company, which California corporate records show was formed 45 days before the inauguration, was paid $25.8 million, the largest sum paid to a vendor.
Ms. Wolkoff is a former unpaid adviser to Mrs. Trump who also helped produce the inaugural. Ms. Wolkoff and several partners were paid about $1.6 million of the $25.8 million, and the remainder went to subcontractors, a person familiar with Ms. Wolkoff’s work said.
It couldn’t be determined which expenses are the focus of scrutiny by federal prosecutors. The committee said in its tax documents that it spent $77 million on conferences, conventions and meetings, plus $4 million on ticketing, $9 million on travel, $4.5 million on salaries and wages, and other expenses. Mr. Barrack has said that an external audit was completed of the inaugural committee’s finances, but the organization has declined to make that audit available.
The January 2017 inaugural events included a celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, receptions, private meals and inaugural balls.
People involved in Mr. Trump’s inaugural have attributed some of the costs to the last-minute nature of the planning. Few expected Mr. Trump to win the 2016 election, leaving his camp scrambling to arrange events for the inaugural, with little time to bid for competitive contracts, they said
Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.
As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent company, admitted that "Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."
The "statement of admitted facts" says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment "in concert with the campaign," and says that Pecker, Cohen and "at least one other member of the campaign" were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the "other member" was Trump.
Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.
Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn't detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. "But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen's hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.
McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a "catch-and-kill" strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.
When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so "at the direction" of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was "for the principal purpose of influencing" the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to "at least one other member of the campaign" being present.
The statement of admitted facts says that AMI's "principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election." Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump's family from embarrassment. Trump tweet after the sentencing that he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law."
On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.
At his sentencing, Cohen said that "time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump's] dirty deeds."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said Thursday that he "absolutely" believed special counsel Robert Mueller has President Trump's tax returns.
The comment came in response to a question from MSNBC host Nicole Wallace on "Deadline: Whitehouse" about whether Rosenberg thought Mueller had Trump's tax return.
"Absolutely," he said. "No question in my mind from day one."
Rosenberg, who also served as chief of staff to the FBI director from 2013 to 2015, elaborated on why Mueller would possess tax records that Trump has not publicly released.
"The first thing that white collar prosecutors do...is you get tax returns and you get credit reports," he said. "You get tax returns with an order from a federal judge and you get credit reports with a grand jury subpoena because those are the documents that give you leads."
Rosenberg said those documents are what a prosector or investigator such as Mueller would use to track other leads and to follow where the money is going and where it came from.
"Does Mueller have Trump's tax returns? You bet," Rosenberg said.
President Trump has refused to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign, a stance he has maintained at the White House.
Trump was the first president candidate since Richard Nixon to refuse to release his tax returns.