The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

It Begins: Manafort and Business Associate Indicted

Insert all the appropriate caveats: A prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, every man gets his day in court, the accused will likely have the best defense lawyers that money can buy, and so on.

But come on, we all put the most money on Paul Manafort in the indictment pool, right?

Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates were told to surrender to federal authorities Monday morning, the first charges in a special counsel investigation, according to a person involved in the case.

The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Mr. Gates, a business associate of Mr. Manafort, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office.

Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.

Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

Back in August 2016, Manafort was making public denials of corrupt behavior that didn’t pass the smell test, statements like, “I have never received a single ‘off-the-books cash payment’ as falsely ‘reported’ by the New York Times, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.” No, but he worked for the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. If someone did work for the Democratic National Committee or Obama for America in 2012, does that mean they can say they’ve never done work for the U.S. government or President Obama? In both cases, they’re answering to the president, and it seems reasonable to conclude their viewpoints and interests align.

Manafort also made statements like, “My work in Ukraine ceased following the country’s parliamentary elections in October 2014.” Well, yeah, there wasn’t as much left he could do for his primary client after the security forces guarding him opened fire on demonstrators and Russian special forces whisked him away to a safe haven in Russia.

If you pull that kind of technically-true-but-deeply-misleading slipperiness in an interview with federal law enforcement, do you get hit with obstruction of justice charges?

Coming to a Television Near You: Attack of the Zombie Regulators!

How do you get President Trump’s attention? One way is to buy ad time during the Fox & Friends morning program on Fox News Channel. The president is reported to be an avid watcher and has tweeted several times in response to segments on the program.

Americans for Limited Government ran a new commercial during Fox & Friends this morning, attempting to call the president’s attention to the fact that several federal regulatory agencies are still headed by Obama appointees. The ad specifically targets Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt. The ad also calls on President Trump and his administration to repeal or freeze Obama-era regulations.

For a political ad, it’s pretty funny, depicting Cordray and Watt as zombies and relying entirely on text to make the argument, with spooky Halloween music in the background:

Obama’s zombie regulators.

They just keep coming back.

Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mel Watt, Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The Obama zombie regulators are threatening the Trump agenda.

It’s time to end the Obama administration.

It’s time to drain the swamp.

President Trump, it’s time to fire Obama’s zombie regulators and repeal or freeze Obama-era regulations.

Congress and the Trump administration just dealt Cordray a setback. In July, Cordray’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau proposed a rule that would restrict financial institutions from inserting mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts; the change would make it easier to file class-action lawsuits against banks and credit card companies. Republicans generally prefer arbitration to class-action suits, because it’s faster, more efficient and generates fewer attorney’s fees. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can overrule federal regulations issued by government agencies within 60 legislative days of the introduction of the rule. The CRA was rarely used in previous presidencies, but it’s getting a workout in the Trump era. Last week, on a party line vote, the Senate voted to repeal the change.

Many Ohio Democrats think Cordray may run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Earlier this month, Paul Sperry wrote that Watt was “pushing the mortgage-lending giants he regulates — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — to offer home loans to deadbeat borrowers with shaky credit, setting up conditions for another housing-market crash, industry officials warn.”

Keyser Söze, John Doe, Frank Underwood . . .  Were Casting Directors Trying to Tell Us Something?

I guess getting into character as the manipulative, remorseless, predatory Frank Underwood wasn’t as much of a stretch as we thought, huh? A disturbing report from BuzzFeed news about Kevin Spacey from actor Anthony Rapp:

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.

The statement from Spacey is . . .  less than an impassioned denial. Spacey declares that “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”

Spacey goes on to declare, “In my life, I have had relationships with men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

That’s nice, can we go back to the part where you were attempting to seduce teenagers and commit statutory rape? Because coming out of the closet doesn’t give you a get-out-of-consequences free card on that . . .  does it?

Now they tell us:

As part of a discussion on sexual misconduct on Radio 4’s Today, Victoria Featherstone, artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, was asked whether she was aware of any stories about Spacey when he was working in London, as artistic director of the Old Vic.

“I think that many people in the theatre and in the creative industries have been aware of many stories of many people over a lot of years, and Kevin Spacey would be one of the people that people have had concerns about, yes,” she said.

ADDENDA: Clown nose on, clown nose . . .  way off, in New York magazine:

Wow, I haven’t seen a comedian compared to Walter Cronkite since . . .  Vanity Fair called Stephen Colbert the new Walter Cronkite in 2015, and the New York Times compared Jon Stewart to Cronkite the same year. Kids today are going to think Cronkite hosted a comedy show.

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