Owner of National Inquirer Flips And Admits to Making Illegal “Hush Money” Payment on Behalf of Donald Trump!

David Pecker – Chairman of AMI

Dear Commons Community,

The flipping in the federal investigations of Donald Trump is getting fast and furious.  Yesterday as Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen was being sentenced to three years in prison for a host of charges, American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, admitted that it paid former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 ahead of the 2016 election to “suppress” her story about an alleged affair with Donald Trump for the explicit purpose of improving the then-candidate’s chances of victory.  The decision, the company said, was made in direct “cooperation, consultation and concert with one or more” members of the Trump campaign.  As reported by various media:

“As part of the deal, AMI offered “substantial and important assistance” in federal prosecutors’ investigation into payments made to McDougal,  prosecutors said.

AMI has previously denied that it “paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” claiming that it paid McDougal to write fitness columns and appear on magazine covers, as well as for the story rights related to any relationship she had had with a married man. And on Monday, Trump seemed to dismiss any payment made on behalf of him before the election as a “simple private transaction,” rather than a “campaign contribution.” 

But as part of its agreement with federal prosecutors, AMI now admits it paid the money to McDougal in order to catch and kill the story of her alleged affair to aid then-candidate Trump’s campaign.

Neither McDougal nor Trump are mentioned in the Wednesday press release, which states that the payment was made “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.”

“AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election,” the release added.

David Pecker, the chief executive and chairman of AMI, long considered himself a “personal friend” of Trump. He for many years granted Trump favorable coverage, particularly in the Enquirer, where Trump’s team was given “copy approval and headline approval and photo approval,” a senior editor told HuffPost over the summer. 

That dedication to Trump extended through the election, when the Enquirer publicly endorsed Trump and vigorously attacked his opponents. Behind the scenes, Pecker agreed to go even further to help his friend become president, coordinating with Cohen in August 2015 to “deal with negative stories about” Trump’s “relationships with women,” a decision prosecutors say led to the McDougal deal. 

But as outlined in AMI’s agreement with the Justice Department, the company knew at the time that corporations are not legally allowed to make payments in hopes of influencing an election, and it did not tell the Federal Election Commission about the payment to McDougal. 

As prosecutors zeroed in on the idea that AMI’s payment could be considered as an illegal campaign contribution, Pecker ultimately decided to flip on his friend, agreeing to a deal with prosecutors this year that would grant him immunity in exchange for information related to payments made to McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels. As part of the deal, chief content officer Dylan Howard also received immunity.

We are getting closer to the point where President Trump might start seeking a plea deal.  As one ethics attorney said yesterday,  “If the lawyer gets three years, how much time should the client get?”  


Time Person of the Year: The Guardians and the War on Truth!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday Time Magazine announced that its Person of the Year for 2018 was “The Guardians of Truth,” a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work.  A series of four black-and-white covers (above) highlights what the magazine calls “the War on Truth.”

The journalists include Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor who was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October. This is the first time that a Person of the Year is a deceased person.  Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists who were arrested one year ago in Myanmar while they were working on stories about the killings of Rohingya Muslims, a minority population in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The two men remain behind bars. Their wives were photographed for the cover. The Capital Gazette, the Annapolis, Maryland newspaper where five employees were murdered by a gunman last June. And the fourth cover shows Maria Ressa, chief executive of the Philippine news website Rappler who was indicted last month on tax evasion charges — a case that free speech and civil liberties advocates have warned is part of a wider crackdown on dissent by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“For taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out, the Guardians” are the Person of the Year, Time editor Ed Felsenthal wrote.

“As we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories.” he said.

President Trump, not coincidentally, was the runner-up for this year’s Person of the Year title. Special counsel Robert Mueller ranked No. 3.

Karl Vick, the author of the Time’s cover story about “The Guardians,” wrote that “this ought to be a time when democracy leaps forward, an informed citizenry being essential to self-government. Instead, it’s in retreat.”

And “the story of this assault on truth is, somewhat paradoxically, one of the hardest to tell,” he added.

Ressa, for example, said she is not allowed to comment on the case against her. (Rappler has said it is politically motivated.)

Speaking with CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout about the recognition, Ressa said “it’s bittersweet and it’s daunting. Look at the challenges we are facing.”

She said it’s a “tough time to be a journalist, but what strengthens all of us is that there’s probably no better time to be a journalist, because this is when we live our values and we live our mission.”

Fellow journalists cheered the selection of Ressa and the other reporters who are on the four covers.

On “Today,” Felsenthal discussed the killing of Khashoggi and the reasons for his inclusion.

“This is the first time we’ve chosen someone no longer alive as Person of the Year, but it’s also very rare that a person’s influence grows so immensely in death,” Felsenthal said. “His murder has prompted a global reassessment of the Saudi crown prince and a really long overdue look at the devastating war in Yemen.”

Excellent choice and may truth win out across the globe including here in the United States.



44 Former Senators Warn We Are at a National “Inflection Point” on Russia Investigation!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, in an op-ed letter (see below for full text) in the Washington Post, 44 former U.S. Senators issued a plea to current and future members of the Senate to defend American democracy. “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” the senators warned.

The inflection point is not just President Trump and his administration’s conduct writ large, but the coming reckoning over whatever it is that Robert Mueller ends up finding. “We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration,” the letter reads. “The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.”

It is a bipartisan call that doesn’t single out Donald Trump directly but can be read as a call for bipartisanship ahead of party politics and loyalties.



Washington Post

We are former senators. The Senate has long stood in defense of democracy — and must again.

By 44 Former U.S. Senators

December 10 at 8:30 PM

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

Federal prosecutors filed new court papers on Dec. 7 that revealed a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. (Melissa Macaya , Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)


Book Recommendation: Jean M. Twenge’s “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy…”

Dear Commons Community,

Last month at the Online Learning Consortium’s ACCELERATE Conference I had the pleasure of meeting with the keynote speaker, Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University.  Her talk was excellent so much so it inspired me to read her book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. The title says it all.  Dr. Twenge’e book is an excellent mixed-methods study of iGen — a term Twenge coined that refers to anyone born between 1995 and 2012. The “i” alludes to the Internet and the generation that “grew up with cellphones, had an Instagram account before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”  It is quite a good book for anyone – parents, teachers, employers – wanting to understand this generation.  Twenge bases her book on a good deal of longitudinal data that goes back forty years.  She also relies on brief interviews with iGeners that serve to round out her presentation.  Below is a book review that appeared in the Chicago Tribune last year.

I highly recommend Twenge’s book for anyone but especially those of us in education who need to understand what makes our students tick.



Chicago Tribune

The ups and downs of iGen: More tolerant, less happy!

October 24, 2017

Tom Montgomery Fate

The subtitle of psychologist Jean Twenge’s new book, “iGen,” doesn’t leave much to the imagination: “Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.” The iGen — a term Twenge coined — refers to anyone born between 1995 and 2012. The “i” alludes to the internet. This generation “grew up with cellphones, had an Instagram account before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.”

Twenge, a Generation Xer, and the mother of three iGen’ers, attempts to analyze and define an entire generation in under 400 pages. To do so, she relies heavily on existing research, which comes from four massive long-term national surveys. Along with her analysis of this data, she includes dozens of in-depth interviews she did with tweens and teens from a wide variety of backgrounds. The convergence of these diverse personal narratives with the data analysis lends a compelling sense of authority to the work.

Boomer and Generation X readers may recognize some of the traits that the research reveals in their own children: iGen’ers are less likely to drink, to get a driver’s license, to get a job, to have sex, and to go out on dates or with their friends. In short, they are less likely to take risks and to do things that adults do. The positives: The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2015, and drinking has diminished in many middle and high schools.

Twenge’s thesis is clear: The iGen is growing up more slowly, “willingly staying children for longer.” The question is why, or if there was some cultural catalyst that prompted these radical behavioral shifts. Twenge contends it is tied to the widespread propagation of the smartphone in 2011-12, which was when most Americans began to own phones and when these dramatic shifts in teen behavior occurred.

So how much time does the iGen actually spend on smartphones? The answer is a lot. In 2013-2015, high school seniors spent at average of 2 ¼ hours texting, two hours on the internet, 1½ hours on electronic gaming and a half-hour on video chats. That’s a total of six hours per day in their leisure time. Eighth-graders averaged five hours per day.

The most troubling findings in the book are related to the impact of total screen time on teenagers’ happiness and life satisfaction. “From the 1980s to the 2000s progressively more teens said they were satisfied,” Twenge writes. “Then, when the first iGen’ers became high school seniors in 2012, satisfaction plummeted, reaching all-time lows in 2015. So as teens spent less time with their friends in person and more time on their phones, their life satisfaction dropped with astonishing speed.”

The paradox is that while electronic communication has helped some teens feel more connected, it has also led to a marked increase in loneliness. This is driven in part by an increased fear of missing out (FOMO) and cyber bullying. Though teens are keeping in “closer touch” with their friends on their phones, the Monitoring the Future survey shows that teens are lonelier today than at any time since the survey began (1991). Thirty-one percent more eighth-graders and 10th-graders felt lonely in 2015 than in 2011, along with 22 percent more 12th-graders. And 48 percent more girls felt left out in 2015 than 2010, compared with a 27 percent increase for boys.

The American Freshman Survey echoes these same trends for incoming college students. Every indicator of mental health issues on the survey reached all-time highs in 2016. Since 2009, there has been a 51 percent increase in students feeling overwhelmed, a 64 percent increase in those seeking counseling and a 95 percent increase in those feeling depressed. In 2016, for the first time, the majority of incoming freshmen described their mental health as below average.

Twenge repeatedly argues that these dramatic shifts are tied to the smartphone and new media, and her conclusion is unequivocal. “Teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are more likely to be more happy. There’s not a single exception: all screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities linked to more happiness.”

By the book’s end, it is clear that the iGen’s teachers and parents — baby boomers and Gen Xers — have much to learn about the relationship between technology and socio-psychological development in their kids, and in themselves.

Could the technological differences between the generations be more vast? If you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s, you relied on plug-in immobile phones and plunked away on typewriters that had arms and bells. And at college, you called your parents “long distance” on Sunday night, when rates were low. Back then, live in-person visual communication like FaceTime or a Google Hangouts was science fiction.

The point is that communication technology in the last 30 years has not simply changed American culture, but transformed it. Twenge’s book is a wake-up call and poses an essential question: Where do we go from here?

Nona Willis Aronowitz: New York Times Op-Ed on Amazon and Her Father!

Dear Commons Community,

Nona Willis Aronowitz, a writer and critic living here in New York City, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times about Amazon entitled, “Hate Amazon? Try Living Without It”.  Ms. Aronowitz is the daughter of a colleague, Stanley Aronowitz, a professor here at the City University of New York.  I mention this because she uses her father as an example of how he has come to depend upon Amazon for delivering many of his basic necessities. Here is an excerpt:

“A few years ago, my 85-year-old father had a stroke that forever altered his daily life. Even though he has a generous, old-economy pension, he now barely breaks even each month, thanks to six figures of annual medical expenses, including 24-hour care at home. Often, when my dad needs something, he needs it now. He can’t shop on his own, and his caretaker can’t spend her life going to specialty pharmacies and medical supply stores. So Amazon Prime has been his lifeline.

My dad, a former professor with an impressive library, used to buy only books on the site. Now nearly everything he needs comes from Amazon: physical therapy balls, elevated toilet seats, a better wheelchair than Medicare can cover, cheap tubs of protein powder, even staples like kitty litter and T-shirts…

In a simpler world, Amazon Prime might be an uncomplicated bright spot amid America’s vastly inadequate health care and elder care system. But in the past few years, the constant stream of negative reports about the company — poor working conditions in its warehouses, its ruthless white-collar work culture, what my dad called the “corporate bribery” resulting in two new headquarters — makes it feel like a deal with the devil. Before my dad joined academia, he was a factory worker and a union organizer for nearly two decades; he sang “Solidarity Forever” to me as a lullaby. Each one-click purchase feels like a teensy betrayal of my dad’s past, a cruel reminder that he’s now reliant on a monopolistic corporation with an atrocious labor record. (That record isn’t resolved by its recent $15-an-hour minimum wage announcement)…

The entire op-ed is worth a read and for those of us who know him, can clearly hear Stanley in his daughter’s piece. 



Video: Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Unloads on Donald Trump as “undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports,…!”

Dear Commons Community,

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an interview (see excerpt above) with Bob Schieffer described his relationship with President Trump on Thursday night in Houston.  He did not hold back in his criticism of the President according to the Houston Chronicle and CNN’s Chris Cillizza.

“The President of the United States would tell the secretary of state how he wanted things done and the secretary of state would have to tell him it couldn’t be done the way he wanted because that was illegal?

This is all fine!

What’s scary about Tillerson’s admission? A few things.

1) Trump either doesn’t know the law or doesn’t care about the law

2) This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this sort of I-am-the-law, Judge Dredd-like behavior from the President.

On that second point, remember that former FBI director James Comey has testified — under oath — that Trump, in a one-on-one meeting, asked him to put aside the Justice Department investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The President publicly pressured then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take up an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. (Clinton was not charged in a previous FBI investigation.)

Time and time again — particularly in his interactions with the Justice Department — Trump has shown that he has zero understanding of the limits of his job.

Tillerson described Trump as “a man who’s undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things but rather says ‘this is what I believe.'”

That approach is broadly in keeping with Trump’s experience in the private sector. In business, he largely did what he wanted — rules (and consequences) be damned. If things went bad, the penalty, usually, was bankruptcy — and Trump believed he could just deal and talk his way out of that sort of thing.

Trump has never understood the distinctions between being the head (figurehead, some would say) of a company and being the President of the United States. In his dealings with Sessions — and Tillerson — Trump’s assumption is that they will do whatever he tells them to do because, well, he’s the boss.

The idea that Tillerson, Sessions and the rest of the administration ultimately serve a) the people of the country and b) the rule of law is seemingly lost on Trump.

Need more evidence? Trump never forgave Sessions for recusing himself from the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Why? “Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the President,” Trump told The New York Times in July 2017. “It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the President.”

That Sessions recused himself to prevent any perception of bias in the investigation — you know, for the good of the country and all that — was totally lost on Trump. His only reaction to the situation was: This is bad for me, and so Sessions shouldn’t have done it.

Which, really, says it all.

Trump’s total ignorance of the law — whether willful or just from sheer obtuseness — is, at this point, a defining characteristic of his presidency. He simply doesn’t get that there are limits on his power, limits put in place to preserve the office of the presidency — and the broader institutions of our democracy.

We have a President who, according to his one-time FBI director and his first secretary of state, repeatedly proposed ideas that were in violation of established laws. Sit with that for a minute.

Later Friday, Trump responded to Tillerson’s comments on Twitter, saying that his current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “is doing a great job,” adding, “His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.”

I think Mr. Tillerson is in a much better place now than when he was Secretary of State.



Long Awaited Mueller Memoranda!

Dear Commons Community,

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York delivered long awaited sentencing memoranda in their respective courts yesterday.  The memoranda were heavily redacted much to the chagrin of the media and the public wanting to know more of the details in the Mueller investigation.  Below are several highlights from each memorandum complements of The Huffington Post.



“The documents pertained to the government’s cooperation agreement with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, as well as Mueller’s assessment of why former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea deal with investigators.

The special counsel said in a memo to a federal judge that Manafort lied to investigators in the special counsel’s office about his contacts with administration officials, among other things.

Mueller’s filing on Cohen outlined how the attorney assisted the special counsel’s office by providing “information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign” as well as details on the Trump Organization’s real estate plans in Russia. Cohen also admitted to making hush-money payments to two women at the direction of Trump.

In another filing Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York submitted a sentencing memo for Cohen recommending he served 42 months.

All three court filings provide new insight into where the special counsel’s investigation currently stands. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits.

Mueller’s Memo On Manafort

  • Manafort told “multiple discernible lies,” Mueller’s team said. “These were not instances of mere memory lapses.”
  • Manafort allegedly told five main lies to the special counsel and the FBI.

Manafort’s five alleged lies.

  • The alleged lies pertained to Manafort’s interactions with suspected Russian spy Konstantin Kilimnik, his contacts with Trump administration officials and a transfer of funds to a firm working for Manafort.
  • Manafort allegedly texted with someone authorizing that person to talk to an administration official on his behalf.

The evidence demonstrates that Manafort had contacts with Administration officials. For instance, in a text exchange from May 26, 2018, Manafort authorized a person to speak with an Administration official on Manafort’s behalf. Special counsel’s office

  • The memo also referenced “information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”
  • Portions of the memo are heavily redacted, specifically in the section on Kilimnik.

Special counsel’s office Portions about Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik are heavily redacted.

The Southern District Of New York’s Memo On Cohen

  • Cohen acted “in coordination with and at the direction of Trump” to influence the 2016 presidential election, according to the memo.
  • His efforts included payments to allegedly silence Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016.

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York Prosecutors plainly state that Cohen acted at the direction of Trump.

  • Cohen sought reimbursements, which were illegally disguised, for orchestrating the payments to McDougal and Daniels, who claimed they had affairs with Trump about a decade earlier. McDougal and Daniels are referenced in the memo as Woman-1 and Woman-2, respectively.
  • Prosecutors claimed the “principal purpose” of Cohen’s payments to McDougal was to “prevent [her] story from influencing the election.”
  • Prosecutors say Cohen saw himself as the “ultimate fixer” for Trump, adding that he arranged the payments to the women “to increase his power and influence.”

This was not a blind act of loyalty, as Cohen has also suggested. His actions suggest that Cohen relished the status of ultimate fixer – a role that he embraced as recently as May 2018. Cohen was driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future President … and arranged for the payments in an attempt to increase his power and influence. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York

  • The New York prosecutors rejected the idea that Cohen should receive leniency for helping investigators, noting that his crimes were motivated by “personal greed” and that he “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”
  • Prosecutors said Cohen’s cooperation with investigators “does not make him a hero.”

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York New York prosecutors suggested a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen.

Mueller’s Memo On Cohen

  • Cohen has provided the special counsel’s office with information about the Trump Organization’s so-called “Moscow Project,” including who was involved in the discussions and contacts with Russian government officials.
  • Cohen also said he discussed the “Moscow Project” with Trump, who is referred to as “Individual 1” throughout the memo, “well into” his presidential campaign.

Special counsel’s office Mueller noted that Cohen’s alleged discussions of the Moscow Project with Trump were especially concerning considering Russia’s attempts to interfere with the election.

  • A Russian national who claimed to be politically influential in Russia contacted Cohen in 2015, according to Mueller’s memo. That person offered the Trump campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”
  • That same Russian national also repeatedly proposed to Cohen a meeting between Trump and Russia President Vladimir Putin. Cohen, however, never followed through with the invitation.

The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well,’ referring to the Moscow Project, because there is ‘no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia]. Special counsel Robert Mueller

  •  Mueller is investigating the Trump Organization’s real estate plans in Russia as part of the bigger investigation.
  • The special counsel is also looking into people who were connected to the White House in 2017 and 2018, which overlaps with Trump’s presidency.

The special counsel’s investigation is looking into the Trump Organization’s real estate plans in Russia, Mueller noted.

President Trump Nominates William Barr to Serve as Attorney General as Shake-Up in the White House Begins!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting this morning that President Trump intends to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.

“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. “He’ll be nominated.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general. Barr is 68 years old and was born and raised on the Upper Westside of Manhattan here in New York City.  He has degrees from Columbia University and George Washington University.  He is married and has three daughters.

Barr’s appointment at the Justice Department is one part of a larger staff shake-up underway.

Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.

In addition, John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is likely to leave his post in the next few days, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure still among the longest for a senior aide to Mr. Trump, two people with direct knowledge of the developments said Friday.

Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump have grown weary of each other. But Mr. Trump, according to several senior administration officials and people close to him, has so far been unable to bring himself to personally fire a retired four-star military general.

It is unclear who the replacement for Mr. Kelly would be. Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, is seen as a leading candidate. He is supported by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s son-in-law and daughter, who both serve as senior West Wing advisers and who, according to several officials, are trying to expand their influence internally and in the re-election campaign.

The White House senior staff meeting on Friday morning was canceled, according to three officials. But there is a holiday senior staff dinner scheduled for Friday night, and people said they expected Mr. Kelly to be there.

Mr. Barr will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

On Thursday, as expectations swelled that Mr. Barr had emerged as the front-runner for the nomination, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, called Mr. Barr a “very good choice” and predicted that Republicans would be able to secure the votes needed to confirm him — one of the highest potential hurdles for any Justice Department nominee given the ongoing special counsel investigation.

“He is the kind of person who could get confirmed,” he said. “I think it is going to be challenging in any event.”

Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. Mr. Barr has defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

“There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times last year. “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.”

Mr. Barr added then that he saw more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. “To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility,” he said.

This is shaping up to be quite a day for Washington, D.C. news.  The media is anxiously awaiting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s memoranda on Paul Manafort and David Cohen that are due later today.


77th Anniversary of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor – FDR’s Day of Infamy Speech and Declaration of War!

Dear Commons Community,

At 7:48 a.m. on December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The barrage lasted just two hours during which 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (above) asked Congress to declare war on Japan in what has become known as his “Day of Infamy ” speech. Congress approved his declaration with just one dissenting vote. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States.   World War II would last another four years at the end of which an estimated 70-85 million people died.

Remember Pearl Harbor!


The For-Profit Education Corporation of America Closes its 70 Colleges!

Dear Commons Community,

The for-profit Education Corporation of America announced late Wednesday that it was closing its 70 colleges leaving almost 20,000 students with partially completed degrees and credits that many other schools will not accept. The shutdown was the largest failure of a for-profit chain since 2016, when ITT Technical Institutes went bankrupt, and came after the college’s accreditor — itself a troubled organization that the United States Education Department had accused of oversight failures — notified the company on Tuesday that it would no longer endorse its programs.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“When you look at the outcomes for the ECA schools, they’re challenging at best,” said Steve Gunderson, chief executive of Career Education Colleges and Universities, a trade group that lobbies for such institutions. Enrollment had been plunging at the company’s institutions, and “everyone knew they had financial problems,” he said.

Antoinette Flores, who researches higher-education policy for the Center for American Progress, explained that the U.S. Department of Education had placed financial restrictions on the colleges nearly a year ago because of ECA’s struggles. “The writing has been on the wall for a long time,” she said…

…The closure followed several months of uncertainty and financial distress. In September, the company announced that it planned to close about two dozen campuses by early 2020. At the same time, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (Acics) sanctioned the company’s Virginia College chain of campuses. That sanction, a “show cause” order, often leads to the loss of accreditation and subsequent closure of an institution.

In October, the company sued the Education Department, seeking a judgment that it would remain eligible for federal student-aid dollars under a plan to restructure its finances. The suit said that the company could no longer pay its creditors and was facing several lawsuits and even eviction notices at some locations.

Last month, however, a judge dismissed the suit and appointed a receiver to manage the company’s debts. The final straw came on Tuesday when Acics suspended the accreditation of the Virginia College chain, in part because ECA could no longer pay its fees to the council.

Only at that point did the accreditor require the company to submit a plan for a teach-out, detailing how students still enrolled at the institutions could complete their programs at other colleges.

The Education Department, which had been “in daily conversations” with the company and other colleges to arrange teach-out partners, blasted the company for the closures. “Instead of taking the next few months to close in an orderly fashion, ECA took the easy way out and left its students scrambling to find a way to finish the education program they started,” said a prepared statement from the department.

“The Department is ready to help ECA students with either transferring their credits to new schools or applying for closed school discharges,” the statement said.”

This was not unexpected.  We hope that there will be a graceful end for the students affected by this closure especially with regard to discharging their financial aid debts.