This Week In Russiagate, Hurricane Harvey Edition

Congress is still out of town enjoying an extended summer vacation. 45th* is still hobnobbing around the country doing his campaign rallies, sending out his surrogates to explain his latest toothless Executive Orders, and issuing a pardon to a racist, criminal, former Sheriff. Nevertheless, the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators continue to acquire evidence, while Congressional staffers are still at work interviewing witnesses. A category four hurricane came ashore at Rockport, Texas near Corpus Christi. We wish the people of Texas well and dedicate This Week In Russiagate, Hurricane Harvey Edition, to all of our fellow Americans in the path of this devastating storm.

The Dossier Of Steele 

Glenn Simpson is a former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who is founder of Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Christopher Steele to produce the now infamous Steele Dossier.  Mr. Simpson, along with his counsel, sat down on August 22, 2017, for a 10 hour interview with staffers of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Simpson’s lawyer, Josh Levy, said that his client,

Told Congress the truth and cleared the record on many matters of interest.”

Attorney Levy also said that Simpson’s firm, GPS Fusion, stood by the Steele Dossier, and when asked if he or his client had any objection to the Senate Judiciary Committee releasing the transcript of the interview to the public, Levy said that,

“The Committee has the right to disclose the transcript, if it wishes to do so.”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said during an Mount Air, Iowa town hall on August 23, that he would call for a vote by the Judiciary Committee on releasing the transcript of the Simpson testimony. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said the following day that he wants Mr. Simpson to appear for public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christopher Steele is the author of the information contained in the 35 page document known as the Steele Dossier, released to the public by Buzzfeed on January 10,  ABC News has reported that,

“Steele has met with the FBI and provided agents with the names of his sources for the allegations in the dossier.”

There is also the news of the Ukrainian hacker, known as Profexer, who is believed by the FBI to have written malware used by the Russian intelligence services that may have been used to hack the DNC, which has also been identified by the FBI,

“In other Russian hacking efforts in the United States.”

Profexer,

“Reportedly went to Ukrainian authorities first and told them he had not intended for the malware to be used the way it was, and he became a witness for the FBI while living in Ukraine.”

The hacker denied creating the software for any particular purpose and he has said that it was freely available online.

There has also been news concerning George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, who had been a campaign volunteer with no real foreign credentials, making repeated email attempts to set up meetings with the Russians.  Within days of being brought on board, Papadopoulos sent an email to numerous campaign officials offering to arrange,

“A meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.”

There were at least half a dozens offers made by Papadopoulos to set up meetings with,

Russian Leadership – Including Putin.”

We are now also hearing of a report through the Wall Street Journal that the fired national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, is being investigated by the Special Counsel’s office for any involvement in the private effort with the now deceased Peter Smith to obtain the nonexistent Hillary Clinton missing emails through Russian hackers.

Worse for the administration and perhaps others, is news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now seeking to hear from associates of Paul Manafort issuing the first round of subpoenas for the live testimony of people before the grand jury. Director Mueller is interested in the facts surrounding the Manafort public relations firm working for the pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Will the investigation soon be rolling into new territory, exposing possible connections of other 2016 presidential campaigns to Russiagate?

The Obstructer In Chief

The Twitterer in Chief has been using his phone to call  some members of the Senate. By doing so, he reveals his intent, possibly setting himself up to new counts of obstruction of justice that may eventually find their way into Articles of Impeachment. One of the most significant of those calls was one on August 9, which quickly deteriorated into an expletive deleted type screaming event with 45th*, blasting Republican Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell, with the President becoming,

“Even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

The two are reportedly no longer speaking after this profanity laden shouting match. Following the August 9 telephone conversation, Leader McConnell,

“Has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.”

McConnell has also privately said that 45th* is,

“Entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing,”

doubting that he,

“Will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond.”

This telephone call placed by the President from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golfing resort could be a a big problem for the Obstructer in Chief. 18 U.S. Code § 1505, Obstruction of Proceedings Before Departments, Agencies, and Committees, provides that,

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress-Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.”

According to the New York Times, Billy Piper, Leader McConnell’s chief of staff, referencing 45th*’s  attack on vulnerable Republican Senators standing for re-election in 2018, has warned that,

“The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate.”

Leader McConnell is not the only Republican Senator who has been treated with a 45th* telephone call. The Obstructer in Chief also called other Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). The Complainer In Chief reportedly called Senator Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in late July to inform Senator Corker about his displeasure over the Bill imposing new sanctions on Russia, arguing,

“That the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his presidency.”

That Bill passed and was signed into law on August 2, 2017.

The Obstructer In Chief later placed a telephone call on August 7, 2017, to Senator Tillis,

“To express his unhappiness with a bill that would limit Trump’s ability to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia’s election interference. Trump said he didn’t want the bill to pass.”

Senator Tillis and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) are promoting bipartisan legislation designed to protect the Special Counsel from a presidential firing. These multiple attempts to influence members of the Senate to put the brakes on the various Russiagate Committee investigations, and the attempt to hinder the efforts of the Special Counsel may very well satisfy the corrupt intent requirement substantiating a obstruction of Congress charge under 18 U.S. Code § 1505.

Oil Is Well

The White House, through Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, released a statement concerning new financial sanctions imposed on Venezuela through an Executive Order. The Sanders statement said that the new sanctions,

“Prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company.  It also prohibits dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.”

While the administration’s order does not ban the importation of Venezuelan crude oil, does prevent Venezuela’s,

“PDVSA’s American subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividends back to Venezuela as well as the trading of two bonds recently issued by Maduro’s government.”

Hurricane Harvey has already impacted the price of crude oil and gas prices at the pump as future,

“Contracts have risen as much as 9.4 per cent over the past three days to a high of $1.74 a gallon.”

Oil and gas production from the Gulf Coast, which supplies 45% of the gasoline for the United States, is shutting down. As a result of Hurricane Harvey,

“An increase of 5 to 15 cents per gallon was most likely but a spike of up to 25 cents by Labor Day was possible if the hurricane hits a refining center.”

On August 10, 2017,

“A group of Republican senators, representing states with a large oil refining sector, warned President Trump of the potential consequences of further sanctions on the U.S. Gulf Coast and the rest of the country. Higher gasoline prices for the end-user and a negative impact on the competitiveness of the Gulf Coast refineries would be among the consequences.”

Given the warning by those Republicans, the timing of the announcement of these new sanctions on Venezuela is curious indeed. The only winners from this new action would seem to be Vladimir Putin, the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, and ExxonMobil, which had a  $500 billion deal disrupted by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Could this move catch the attention of the Mueller investigation team?

White House Press Secretary Sanders did say during the brief press conference that followed the announcement of the new Venezuelan sanctions Executive Order, that her boss would be visiting Texas sometime next week. We find it ironic and sad as 45th* failed to cut into some of his vacation time to visit Charlottesville, Virginia, after the tragic Heather Heyer murder. The Daily Beast reported that a senior White House aide when asked if 45th* would make that visit said,

Why the hell would we do that?”

The Heeler In Chief certainly knows where his people need him. This afternoon, before boarding the Marine One helicopter for the short trip to Camp David where he will enjoy yet another weekend of rest and relaxation,

45th* said,

“Good luck to everybody. Good luck.”

And then he did something positive, finally parting ways with Sebastian Gorka, another one of the White nationalists in his administration. With this broken clock President that is correct twice a day, the nation and the world continues to suffer through a failed and flailing administration that continues to spiral downward towards a yet to be determined bottom. This Week In Russiagate, Hurricane Harvey Edition, may turn out to have revealed more watershed moments in the course of the Mueller investigation, while we all continue to hold on, along with the people of South Texas, trying to collectively keep our heads above water.

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