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By Ken Dilanian
WASHINGTON — Three new court documents are scheduled to emerge Friday that could shed new light on what Donald Trump’s former top aides have been telling — or not telling — federal investigators.
A federal judge in New York has ordered that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s Office have until 5 p.m. Friday to deliver sentencing memos designed to detail former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s cooperation in their ongoing investigations.
And special counsel Robert Mueller is also due to file a document spelling out what his team previously referred to as the “crimes and lies” that led them to cancel a cooperation agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Legal experts say it’s likely that both documents will contain sections that are blacked out, as was the case with the sentencing memo Mueller filed Tuesday in the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The theory that Mueller would use these documents to inform the public about the progress of his ongoing investigation into Russian election interference and related matters did not pan out in the case of the Flynn memo. Key sections of that memo were redacted, including crucial questions about what Trump knew and when about Flynn’s lies to the FBI — and a whole page describing a separate criminal investigation.
Mueller’s decision to withhold that information shows, some experts say, that the former FBI director does not feel that his investigation is at risk of being derailed by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who had expressed open hostility towards it before his appointment.
“He disclosed so little in the Flynn memo that it led me to conclude two things,” said former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, an NBC News legal analyst. “One, he doesn’t have a sense of urgency, and two, he probably has a lot more investigating to do. If he was ready to show his cards, he wouldn’t have redacted all this stuff.”
Former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg says there may be something else at play:
“As usual, Mueller may be thinking two steps ahead of the rest of us.”
“If it’s public it won’t be sensitive and if it’s sensitive it won’t be public.”
Zeidenberg noted that Trump has not tweeted or uttered a word about Flynn since the sentencing memo on Flynn was filed, in contrast to Trump’s immediate attack on Cohen after Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying about a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
“Trump’s been quite quiet since that filing,” Zeidenberg said. “He hasn’t attacked Flynn. If those blanks had been filled in, Trump’s head would have exploded — he’d be going crazy.”
“If Mueller waits and does his big reveal all at once, everything’s done. It’s too late” for Trump to engineer his firing, Zeidenberg said.
“If he were to have revealed everything on those redactions now, it could jeopardize ongoing matters, and it wouldn’t have been smart politically for his continued survival. I think it probably makes a lot of sense. Trump doesn’t want to attack Flynn because he doesn’t know whether Flynn is coming at him.”
As for the Southern District’s sentencing memo for Cohen, he is also cooperating in separate ongoing investigations that district prosecutors would likely want to keep secret, so that document may also be redacted.
Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News legal analyst who once worked with Mueller, said Mueller — a by-the-book former Marine combat leader — likely never considered making public anything to do with ongoing criminal matters.
The rule of thumb, he said, is “If it’s public it won’t be sensitive and if it’s sensitive it won’t be public.”
Rosenberg believes Friday’s filings will be “mildly interesting,” in that they may further describe in general terms how helpful prosecutors believe Cohen to have been, and also what sort of lies they allege Manafort told that blew up his plea deal.
But if Manafort’s lies were about Trump and Russian election interference, Rosenberg said, “We won’t see them.”
Tom Winter contributed.
Rosenstein defends Russia probe, rips Obama administration
By Adam Edelman
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who supervised special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and President Donald Trump, on Thursday defended his handling of the probe, trashed the media for the way it was covered and slammed the Obama administration for not revealing “the full story” about Russia’s efforts.
“Some critical decisions about that Russia investigation were made before I got there. The previous administration chose not to publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls, and how they relate to Russia’s broader strategy to undermine America,” Rosenstein told the Armenian Bar Association’s Public Servants Dinner in New York.
The speech marked the first time Rosenstein has spoken publicly since Attorney General William Barr, earlier this month, released a redacted copy of Mueller’s report detailing his findings. While finding no criminal conspiracy, the report showed that Trump associates met with Russians after the intelligence community said in October 2016 that Russia was interfering in the presidential election, and even after the Obama administration announced a set of post-election sanctions to punish Russia for that behavior. Mueller’s report also details 10 episodes of potential obstruction by Trump, but did not conclude whether the president committed a crime. The report “also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote. Barr declared, in a letter to Congress prior to the redacted report’s release, that Trump did not obstruct justice.
Rosenstein on Thursday also criticized former FBI Director James Comey for an array of decisions he’d made about the agency’s probe into Russian interference.
“The FBI disclosed classified evidence about the investigation to ranking legislators and their staffers. Someone selectively leaked details to the news media. The FBI director announced at a congressional hearing that there was a counterintelligence investigation that might result in criminal charges. Then the former FBI director alleged that the president pressured him to close the investigation, and the president denied that the conversation occurred,” Rosenstein said.
Mueller’s report lays out evidence that appears to support Comey’s version of the events leading up to his firing, which the White House initially pinned on a memo drafted by Rosenstein at Trump’s request. Rosenstein’s memo attributed the rationale for dismissing the FBI chief to Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.
According to Mueller’s report, however, “substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the president’s decision to fire Comey was Comey’s unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the president’s repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement.”
Later in the speech, Rosenstein took a swipe at the media for how it covered the investigation, hitting “mercenary critics” who “get paid to express passionate opinions about any topic, often with little or no information” and who “launch ad hominem attacks unrestricted by truth or morality.”
“Some of the nonsense that passes for breaking news today would not be worth the paper was printed on, if anybody bothered to print it,” he said. “It quickly fades away. The principles are what abide.”
Above all, Rosenstein defended how the investigation was handled, saying he had promised to “do it right.”
“I did pledge to do it right and take it to the appropriate conclusion. I did not promise to report all results to the public, because grand jury investigations are ex parte proceedings. It is not our job to render conclusive factual findings. We just decide whether it is appropriate to file criminal charges,” Rosenstein said.
Nigel Farage says his party will FIGHT next General Election
‘They have to get the shot’
By Dartunorro Clark
President Donald Trump on Friday urged parents to get their children vaccinated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week record-high cases of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
“They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important,” Trump said outside the White House on his way to Indianapolis to address the NRA. “This is really going around now, they have to get their shot.”
New cases of measles reported in New York, New Jersey and California bring the total number of infections in the U.S. to at least 695 so far in 2019 according to new numbers released by CDC.
Nearly 300 students and employees at two Los Angeles universities were under quarantine Thursday and Friday after possible exposure to measles.
Trump’s comments on Friday differed from his past remarks on vaccinations.
At a 2015 Republican presidential candidate debate hosted by CNN, Trump said that he wanted to change the vaccine schedule for children, erroneously linking autism to vaccines.
“Autism has become an epidemic…I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said.
In a March 2014 tweet, Trump questioned why a child “gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines.”
“Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!” he tweeted.
On Wednesday, New York City and suburban Rockland County confirmed an additional 37 measles cases, and California reported seven new cases. The second-highest number for measles cases in the U.S. was 667 in 2014, according to the CDC.
In New York City and Rockland County, there have been 590 cases since the measles outbreak began in October 2018. Los Angeles reported its first five cases on Monday.
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