Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is expected to appear as a witness for the government during Roger Stone’s trial next month, a person familiar with the arrangement said Friday.
Bannon was not subpoenaed for his testimony, the person said. Bannon’s inclusion on the witness list could indicate that more information about Stone’s contacts with the Trump campaign over WikiLeaks may be revealed during the trial.
Bannon appeared to be referenced in special counsel Robert Mueller III’s indictment of Stone earlier this year, as a high-ranking Trump campaign official who reached out to Stone “about the status of future releases by” WikiLeaks. The former White House chief strategist has not been charged in relation to Stone’s case.
Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow did not immediately return a request for comment. A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case, did not return a request for comment.
Bannon and Stone were in touch during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to emails obtained by The New York Times, as Stone suggested he had prior knowledge about WikiLeaks’ release of damaging information on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
A federal judge rejected a request from the Justice Department to screen a clip from “The Godfather Part II” at next month’s trial of longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone, reports Courthouse News Service. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will allow the government to introduce a transcript of the clip that federal prosecutors argue is key for the jury to grasp alleged witness tampering by Stone. “The government will not be permitted to introduce the clip itself in its case in chief because the prejudicial effect of the videotape, which includes a number of extraneous matters, outweighs its probative value,” Jackson said. The judge indicated she would entertain a renewed request during the trial after the cross-examination of radio host Randy Credico, a witness in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election or after Stone takes the witness stand. Jackson has voiced concern that the clip may infuse unnecessary drama into court proceedings.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges he obstructed the investigation by Congress into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, engaged in witness tampering and lied to Congress. Federal prosecutors said they have no intention of arguing that Stone is an organized crime leader. “That scene played a direct part in the very obstructive acts charged in this case. The question is not just how [Credico] interpreted Stone’s references to the scene, but what Stone intended by them,” the government says. Jackson dismissed arguments from Stone’s attorney that jurors may wrongly associate him with the mafia protagonist Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino. Jurors will only grasp the coded language in Stone’s messages to Credico, the government argues, if they can see the same images from the film the communications invoked.
In the past, when a Brooklyn-based toy company created action figures of popular politicians—for example, Bernie Sanders or Ruth Bader Ginsburg—it found the real-life person and gave a gift of one of the dolls.
But FCTRY will likely skip the step this week when it releases a new action figure of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Mueller is notoriously hard to reach. I think I would be intimidated,” said the company’s CEO, Jason Feinberg, who noted that the Mueller action figure will feature a “fixed gaze, because he knows you know he knows,” a right hand that’s open, “ready for the smoking gun,” pockets “to hold his strong moral compass,” and “impermeable shoes in case of tweet storms.”
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office in the U.S. Department of Justice, declined to comment.
FCTRY decided to create a Mueller action figure when it started seeing signs that the real-life Mueller was surfacing in popular culture, Feinberg said. Robert De Niro guest starred on Saturday Night Live as Mueller in an opening skit, and memes were spreading across the Internet about, “Mueller Time,” designed as a pun on Miller Lite beer’s logo and pitch phrase.
“That’s what tends to happen before something blows up: you see it bubbling up in pop culture in surprising places,” Feinberg said.
The company has some experience with taking advantage of pop culture to launch legal-themed products. It debuted its Ginsburg action figure last August after raising more than $613,000 through crowdfunding from nearly 15,700 people. Since then, FCTRY has sold more than 100,000 RBG dolls, bringing in almost $2 million in revenue, said company spokeswoman Ieva Urbaite. That was enough to skip the crowdfunding step for the Mueller action figure, and Feinberg said he expects to sell between 5,000 to 10,000 dolls during a pre-order phase that begins Jan. 15.
“I don’t think he’s quite the everyman’s hero the way RBG is,” he said. “RBG has moved in to full pop culture, where Mueller is still for those highly attuned to politics.”
FCTRY’s action figures follow a clear liberal bent. The company has also created dolls for Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and “Evil Trump.”
The real-life Mueller served as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations from 2001 to 2013. When former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein in May 2017 appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee the investigation. Mueller resigned as a partner in WilmerHale to take the job. So far, Mueller’s investigation has netted at least 33 people and three companies, charging them with more than 100 crimes, according to Politico.
FCTRY isn’t the first company to sell a Mueller doll. There’s a bobbleheadon Amazon that goes for $34.95. Another maker tried to crowdfund money to create a Mueller action figure, but failed to attract the minimum goal.
Angela Morris is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @AMorrisReports
Legislation in New York to close the double jeopardy “loophole,” which bars state prosecutors from bringing similar charges against individuals pardoned of federal charges by the president of the United States, was reintroduced in the Legislature this week.
The bill is aimed at giving state law enforcement officers, including those in the office of new Attorney General Letitia James, the option to prosecute individuals who receive a presidential pardon before they are tried for federal crimes.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Nassau, first introduced the bill during last year’s legislative session and will carry it again in 2019. It was blocked last year in the Senate by Republicans, who largely labeled it as a political attack on President Donald Trump rather than a necessary change to the state’s criminal procedure law.
The bill is more likely to pass in the Senate this year after Democrats won a firm majority in the chamber during last year’s general election. It’s the first time Democrats will control the state Senate in nearly a decade. The party has held the Assembly consistently for decades.
But one-party control of both houses of the Legislature does not mean Kaminsky’s bill will be a slam-dunk this session. Democrats in the Assembly did not unanimously support the bill last year, and Kaminsky said he still needs to speak to the new members of his conference about the legislation.
While the bill was a top priority for him last year, Kaminsky said the gravity of its consequences have grown since the previous legislative session.
“I think the president, the way he speaks about pardons and the way he speaks about the investigation that swirls around him should give us all cause for concern,” Kaminsky said. “Every day this bill is not law, we are potentially taking options off the table for holding him and other presidents accountable who want to flout the rule of law. I think it takes on even greater importance as we move into the new session.”
That’s because the legislation would not apply to individuals pardoned by the president after their trial on federal charges begins. Double jeopardy, which prevents state charges based on an identical set of facts used to bring federal charges, is attached at the start of the trial.
Take the case of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign. He was convicted on federal charges of fraud unrelated to the campaign, but could still receive a pardon from Trump. Even if the president decided to grant him clemency, state prosecutors in New York would be barred from bringing their own charges because double jeopardy had already been applied.
That was one of two cases that prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to voice his support for the legislation earlier this year. The other was the guilty plea of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney.
“New York must have the ability to stand up against the abuse of power,” Cuomo said at the time. “I call on the State Legislature to amend current State law to close the double jeopardy loophole and ensure that these wrongdoers cannot escape justice—I will sign it into law the same day.”
The legislation also has been strongly supported by James, a Democrat who said last year she would advocate for the bill while in office. James has been clear that she intends to place a microscope over Trump and his family in any way that the state’s chief law enforcement office can. Attorneys under James would need a criminal referral from an appropriate state agency to begin a criminal investigation into any of those individuals.
She repeated her support for the bill earlier this week during an inauguration ceremony on Ellis Island.
“I will work in a legal system where even the most powerful federal official in the country cannot use a loophole to evade justice,” James said.
But some Democrats in the Legislature interpret the bill as too vague in its current form. There are concerns that removing the so-called double jeopardy loophole could backfire at some point down the line, regardless of its intention to hold Trump and future presidents accountable for their choices in clemency.
Consider a scenario where an individual who faces charges related to an act of civil disobedience is pardoned by a president in the future after public pressure to prevent federal prosecutors from moving forward with the case. Under the current bill, a state prosecutor in New York could bring state charges against that individual based on the same set of facts.
That’s the kind of situation Democrats who are reluctant to support the bill want to avoid. Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Democrat from Brooklyn who sponsored the bill last year, said in a previous interview that members of his conference may be more likely to support the legislation if it was more specific about which crimes would be addressed.
“I think we could do this and really make matters worse for people who are in a situation to get pardoned and have to get retried again,” Lentol said. “I think that these unintended consequences need to be vetted before we move forward.”
Kaminsky said conversations on how the bill could be changed to win the support of those members will begin at the start of this year’s session, which begins next week. With the Senate previously in Republican hands, there wasn’t much use in getting into the weeds on the legislation. This year, Kaminsky said, he plans to hear out the concerns of other Democrats and see if they can be addressed somehow in the legislation.
“I expect those to happen shortly. Obviously the in-depth conversations didn’t have to happen last year because it was clear a Republican Senate wasn’t going to act on it,” Kaminsky said. “I think we have to take those concerns seriously and work with all of our partners, including the executive, to work on this.”
Kaminsky already has a strong ally on the legislation in the Senate. Sen. Jamaal Bailey, a Democrat from the Bronx and the new chair of the Codes Committee, is a co-sponsor of the bill. That committee will have to review the legislation before it heads to the Senate floor for a vote. That’s not necessarily a bellwether, though. Lentol chairs his chamber’s Codes Committee, which did not move the bill last year.
Lawmakers will return to Albany to begin this year’s legislative session on Jan. 9.
A Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in a Trump Tower meeting is back in the news with the unsealing of an indictment on Tuesday.
Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with her representation of clients in a money laundering investigation that is unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting, report the Washington Post, the New York Times and a press release.
Prosecutors claim Veselnitskaya filed an intentionally misleading declaration with a Manhattan federal court in the money laundering probe involving corrupt Russian officials.
Veselnitskaya represented clients in a civil forfeiture action against Prevezon Holdings, accused of laundering money obtained in a Russian tax refund scheme that defrauded Russian taxpayers out of more than $200 million. The U.S. Attorney’s office was seeking to recover millions of dollars in property—mostly New York real estate—said to be purchased in the money laundering scheme.
Veselnitskaya misleading declaration falsely asserted that the Russian government had independently determined the scheme was operated without the involvement of any Russian government officials, prosecutors say. Veselnitskaya actually worked with a senior Russian prosecutor to draft the supposed exculpatory findings, the press release says.
The indictment appeared to confirm Veselnitskaya’s ties to senior Russian government officials, according to the New York Times.
The fraud scheme was uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after being arrested in retaliation for his revelation, according to the press release. Veselnitskaya’s declaration said it was Magnitsky who committed the fraud.
Magnitsky’s death led Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act authorizing sanctions against Russia, which led Russia to retaliate by banning Russian adoptions.
Trump Jr. went to the meeting after learning he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton. But he has said the meeting with Veselnitskaya mostly involved the adoption of Russian children.
For the first time, prosecutors have tied President Donald Trump to a federal crime, accusing him of directing illegal hush-money payments to women during his presidential campaign in 2016. The Justice Department stopped short of accusing Trump of directly committing a crime. Instead, they said…
The special counsel’s office has referred to the FBI allegations that women were offered money to falsely accuse Robert Mueller of sexual harassment.
A spokesman said the office learned of the allegations last week and immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation, report the New York Times, the Atlantic, Fortune, NBC, the Daily Beast and the Hill Reporter.
A law professor and another person—whose identity has not been confirmed—have said the offer was made by a firm called Surefire Intelligence, which was incorporated less than three weeks ago in Delaware. Its domain records list an email for a Trump conspiracy theorist named Jacob Wohl, who began promising to reveal a “scandalous” Mueller story on Tuesday. A phone number on the Surefire website refers callers to a number for Wohl’s mother, according to NBC.
All the LinkedIn pictures of people who claim to work for Surefire are actually photos of other people, including an Israeli supermodel, Sigourney Weaver’s husband and an Austrian actor, according to the open source site Belllingcat.
President Donald Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, won’t rule out the possibility that the president would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the swirling Russia investigation. “How could I ever be confident of that?” the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney…
The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents and emails, “bringing the investigation closer to the president,” theNew York Times reports.
The Times relied on two anonymous sources for its story, which said some of the documents sought are related to Russia. TheWall Street JournalandCNNare among several outlets that followed with stories.
The organization has previously said it voluntarily provided documents to the special counsel. A source told CNN that the intent of the subpoena was to “clean up” and ensure all relevant documents are turned over.