Eli Ridder | Analysis
The Donald J. Trump Foundation was shuttered and ex-security advisor Michael Flynn’s sentencing was delayed on Tuesday, in what was likely a rollercoaster day for the president of the United States.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced on Tuesday that the Donald J. Trump Foundation agreed to shutter, as her office launches a lawsuit against the charity for illegal uses.
The lawsuit is against U.S. President Donald Trump and his three eldest children, who oversaw the charity, according to a statement from Underwood, who called it “an important victory for the rule of law.”
Mr. Trump reportedly used charity funds to pay off legal settlements for his private business, to buy art for a golf club and for an illegal political donation.
Underwood’s office secured the stipulation to dissolve the foundation and disperse the funds after her office found “a shocking pattern of illegality”, and follows a court decision allowing the lawsuit to move ahead.
The U.S. judge said he could not hide his disgust for Flynn’s crime of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that he pleaded guilty to last year, and warned that he could send Flynn to prison. The district judge gave Flynn a fiery rebuke, saying that “arguably you sold your country out”.
Flynn will return to court in March 2019 and may still receive jail time for lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts. It was unexpected because the prosecutors have recommended against prison due to his co-operation with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling.
On the Trump Foundation shuttering, the president has remained quiet thus far, but he is likely concerned about the lawsuit from Underwood’s office.
Earlier in the day, before what was scheduled to be Flynn’s sentencing, Trump appeared to give words of support in a morning tweet, saying “good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn.”
Flynn is co-operating with Mueller, like Michael Cohen, who last week actually received three years prison time, though that may shrink dependent on his work with the Russia probe ahead of the jail date in 2019.
These two developments might set Trump back in a negative mood, but another tweet from the president noted that renown investigative journalist Michael Isikoff, who first reported the Christopher Steele dossier allegations that included the Trump Moscow trip, “now seriously doubts the Dossier claims.”
It was the so-called Steele dossier that was a large part of triggering the FBI investigation of alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and the Russian Federation.
In an interview with the conservative Free Speech Broadcasting podcast, Isikoff said that “when you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them.”
It was the right-leaning media that extrapolated this part of Isikoff’s comments without context.
The full context of Isikoff’s interview makes it clear, though, that Trump is overstating the extent to which he can claim to have been vindicated in the matter, Yahoo News says, the media outlet Isikoff now works for.
“In broad strokes, Christopher Steele was clearly onto something,” Isikoff said in the interview, which was posted Saturday.
“That there was a major Kremlin effort to interfere in our elections, that they were trying to help Trump’s campaign, and that there were multiple contacts between various Russian figures close to the government and various people in Trump’s campaign.”
Isikoff responded to Trump’s tweet with a link to a book he wrote on collision, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.
Isikoff’s co-author, David Corn, added that “during the campaign, Trump had encouraged Russia’s hacking and dumping — of which he was the chief beneficiary”, a passage from the book.
“He had praised WikiLeaks releases, promoting them, and calling for more — even after he had received a secret U.S. government briefing stating that the cyber break-ins and dissemination of Democratic files were part of a Russian covert operation to undermine the election.”
“He had spoken positively about Putin and suggested he was eager to undo sanctions and cut deals with the Kremlin — even as the Russia information warfare campaign was under way.”
“Whether or not the investigations would ever turn up hard evidence of direct collusion, Trump’s actions — his adamant and consistent denial of any Russia role — had provided Putin cover. In that sense, he had aided and abetted Moscow’s attack on American democracy.”
Isikoff’s reporting was included in the FBI application for permission to wiretap Trump associate Carter Page.
The dossier included uncorroborated intelligence about links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
It also included allegations that Russian intelligence might have surveillance tapes of Trump’s activities during a trip to Moscow that could be used to compromise him, such as alleged media that proves prostitutes urinated on a bed in Russia while Trump watched.
Not only did all of this happen on Tuesday, but four day day after attorneys argued in secret a grand jury subpoena suspected to be related to Mueller’s probe, a federal appeals court is forcing an unnamed to comply with the subpoena.
The company is not identified and no one has confirmed that the subpoena was related to the Russia investigation, however, the company looking to dismiss the subpoena is owned by a foreign state, according to the ruling.
After all this, Trump got a win late on Tuesday when the U.S. Senate backed a sweeping bipartisan overhaul of the criminal justice system. The First Step Act took what The Washington Post described as a “remarkable political shift from Republicans” who voted in favour of saving money by reducing prison sentences.
The act won with a ballot of 87 to 12, passing legislation that the senator in charge of judicial issues in the Senate said was “tough on crime, but fair on crime”.
While this may be just another day in the United States political world, with pundits on all sides scrambling to defend or attack on cable news or through the newspapers, some are saying the chaos is growing and 2019 has more to come.
Image of Donald Trump from previous files.