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On second thought: Michael Cohen’s records might not be missing from Treasury database, just “restricted”

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Ah, well then. Never mind.

Did Ronan Farrow airball last night’s Cohen-scandal three-pointer? In fairness to him, he noted (and I highlighted in my post) the fact that there might indeed be an innocent explanation for “suspicious activity reports” on Cohen going missing from Treasury’s FINCEN database:

Some speculated that FINCEN may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on FINCEN’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the FINCEN database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to SARs. She speculated that FINCEN may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to FINCEN to ask to limit disclosure of certain SARs related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.”

There was always a chance that a prosecutor working on Cohen’s case was the one who “disappeared” his SARs from FINCEN, not some Trump crony at Treasury looking to hide material on Cohen from the DOJ by removing the files. Like I said in the post, it didn’t make sense that someone would try to destroy evidence by eliminating files that could be easily reproduced. The SARs in the Treasury database aren’t original documents, after all. They’re copies of documents compiled by individual banks, based on records of transactions into and out of Cohen’s accounts, and then filed with Treasury. Any diligent prosecutor working on a case against Cohen is going to ask his bank directly for copies of his records rather than relying on a summary that the bank itself prepared for Treasury.

It would be “nearly unprecedented” for SARs in Treasury’s database to be restricted, Farrow noted, but it’s probably completely unprecedented for a sitting president’s lawyer to be tangled up in not one but two pending criminal investigations. Maybe the DOJ had the SARs removed because they contain information that’s especially sensitive under the current legal and political circumstances — for instance, imagine a large payment from a Russian entity in early 2017 that Mueller’s office is trying to run down but which might have a legitimate explanation. If that SAR leaks, the media will go wild, all sides will be alerted to the fact that the feds know about the payment, and meanwhile it may end up amounting to nothing if it turns out in the end there’s a proper business purpose for it. Or, more darkly, maybe the DOJ doesn’t trust Treasury to keep those records confidential if someone from the White House started sniffing around FINCEN to see what prosecutors might be looking at vis-a-vis Cohen.

What’s strange, though, is how freaked out Farrow’s source was at seeing the SARs disappear from the database. Farrow described him as having “spent a career in law enforcement,” in which case wouldn’t/shouldn’t he have known that very occasionally records in FINCEN become restricted? Farrow also noted in painful detail that there’s no “whistleblower” protection for someone who leaks an SAR in the name of thwarting perceived bad behavior by federal officials, as his source admits to doing. The source claims that the disappearance of records from the database alarmed him so much that he seemed certain something nefarious was afoot and had to stop it:

According to FINCEN, disclosing a SAR is a federal offense, carrying penalties including fines of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for up to five years. The official who released the suspicious-activity reports was aware of the risks, but said fears that the missing reports might be suppressed compelled the disclosure. “We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal,” the official said. “Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me.” Of the potential for legal consequences, the official said, “To say that I am terrified right now would be an understatement.” But, referring to the released report, as well as the potential contents of the missing reports, the official also added, “This is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold.”

Was Farrow’s source … just a hardcore anti-Trumper who somehow convinced himself that an irregularity in the FINCEN database pertaining to Cohen must be the result of a Trumpist cover-up? Did he consult with anyone up the chain about possible innocent explanations for why the two SARs went missing before he decided to seize the third and leak it to the media, or was his paranoia such that he felt it wouldn’t be safe to tell anyone in law enforcement of his concern lest he be targeted for retaliation before he could go public? The saga of Cohen’s financial info being leaked is going to end bizarrely if it turns out this was all a mistake by a jittery Trump-hater inside the government who thought POTUS was suppressing evidence when in reality it was, um, Bob Mueller.

In lieu of an exit question, something new for the White House to worry about on Russiagate. Mueller is squeezing Manafort to flip as hard as he can.

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Reps. Meadows and Jordan Lash Out at Rosenstein For Demanding Special “Classified” Format to Testify on Capitol Hill

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Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) lashed out at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday afternoon over his demands for a special format to testify next week on Capitol Hill.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced Thursday that Rosenstein will appear on Capitol Hill October 24th for a closed-door, transcribed interview.

Rosenstein is demanding the interview be private and held in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with multiple Republican lawmakers excluded.

Unfortunately only the House Judiciary and Oversight Chairs and ranking members will be present for the grilling.

According to the House Judiciary announcement, only 4 members from the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees will be present:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear on October 24, 2018, for a transcribed interview conducted by Chairmen Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy and Ranking Members Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings.

JIM JORDAN: Rod Rosenstein wants a SPECIAL format to testify: only 2 Rep and 2 Dem members of Congress asking questions in closed door classified setting.


Another example of the double standard. One set of rules for regular folks, a different set for the politically connected. Unacceptable.

MARK MEADOWS: Rod Rosenstein declines to show up before Congress and then asks for special treatment. He wants his interview to be private, in a SCIF, with multiple members excluded.

There should be NO double standard. Show up and tell the truth under the same conditions as everyone else.

Meadows and Jordan want to ask Rod Rosenstein about his plot to wear a wire and oust Trump from office.

Former FBI lawyer James Baker appeared on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday for the second time to testify about Rosenstein’s plan to wear a wire and and the use of FISA warrants to oust President Trump from office.

Rep. Meadows emerged from the testimony Thursday calling for Rosenstein to “resign immediately.”

This is yet more proof that there is a two-tiered justice system in this country.

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Caravan reaches Mexican border, breaks through fence on Guatemalan side

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The migrant caravan reached the southern border of Mexico Thursday night and NBC News reports some have already crossed the border. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal described the situation along the Mexican border as tense:

Tension was palpable in Ciudad Hidalgo, a tiny tropical village in Mexico surrounded by rain forest and banana plantations that borders Tecun Uman in Guatemala, with the two towns separated by a muddy river. Late Thursday, some 300 Mexican federal police officers equipped with antiriot gear were deployed to the border crossing ahead of the caravan’s expected arrival…

Many migrants marched along the river banks on Thursday afternoon. “Let them know that we are going to cross to Mexico!” shouted a man clad with a cap in front of the crowd.

The border between Mexico and Guatemala (at this location) is the Suchiate River. Here’s what that looks like from the bridge spanning the river:

There are gates on both sides of the bridge to control traffic. Buzzfeed’s Karla Zabs is there covering developments this morning. A short time ago the caravan began massing at the Guatemalan gate:

And that led to a standoff. The AP reports that “young men” eventually tore open the barricade and swarmed onto the bridge:

Migrants in a caravan traveling through Central America have broken down gates at a border crossing and are streaming toward a bridge to Mexico.

After arriving at the tall, yellow metal fence Friday, some clambered atop it and on U.S.-donated military jeeps.

Young men began violently tugging on the barrier and finally succeeded in tearing it down.

Men, women and children then rushed through toward the bridge, about 150 yards (137 meters) away.

This tweet translates as “Bombshell! Thousands of Hondurans manage to enter Mexican territory!”

The Noticias video below helps explain the sequence of events. This is a live stream but you can scroll back. First people were massed at the yellow gates on the Guatemalan side of the bridge. Then they broke through those gates and streamed onto the bridge as seen in that clip above. The migrants made their way to the Mexican side of the bridge and, at first, it appeared the gates were open, but they were pushed closed by police with riot shields.

A shoving match ensued between the police and the migrants trying to re-open the gates. Some migrants are throwing things at the police and the police appear to be using batons to keep people’s hands off the gates. Finally, when the gate is shut, you see some men jumping off the bridge into the water where they swim to a nearby raft.

Stalemate, at least for the moment:

I’ll update this post when the situation changes.

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BREAKING: Nellie Ohr Invokes Marital Privilege Preventing Her From Answering Questions About Talks With Her Husband Bruce Ohr

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Nellie Ohr, wife of twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr appeared on Capitol Hill Friday to face lawmakers in a closed-door grilling.

Mrs. Ohr was supposed to appear for a deposition last month but she was refusing to cooperate with lawmakers.

Now this…

Nellie Ohr invoked marital privilege on Friday preventing her from answering questions about her husband Bruce Ohr.

MANU RAJU: Very rare bipartisan agreement: Both sides say Nellie Ohr interview has been led to nothing. She invoked marital privilege preventing her from answering qs about talks with her husband. @MarkMeadows sees no reason to bring her back. @CongressmanRaja calls it a “nothing burger”

Rep. Mark Meadows confirmed Nellie Ohr invoked spousal privilege. 

The House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees sought to question Nellie Ohr after her husband Bruce Ohr gave an explosive testimony to Congress.


The former Associate Deputy Attorney General told Congress the FBI knew his wife, Nellie Ohr worked for oppo research firm Fusion GPS yet failed to disclose that information to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].

Nellie Ohr was paid multiple large payments by Fusion GPS, the oppo research firm that commissioned dossier author Christopher Steele.

Mrs. Ohr also previously worked for the CIA and was a corrupt Communist sympathizer who spoke fluent Russian.

This story is still developing…please check back for updates.

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