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Mueller files charges against Manafort and longtime aide

Special counsel Robert Mueller departs a meeting with

Special counsel Robert Mueller departs a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, June 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

Curtain opens on criminal charges

Paul Manafort, who was President Donald Trump's campaign manager last year, turned himself in to federal authorities Monday as did his close longtime business associate Rick Gates.

The indictment totals 12 counts. These include conspiracy to launder money, failing to register as a foreign agent, false statements and multiple counts of failing to file reports for foreign bank accounts.

With some charges against Manafort long anticipated, the Trump team began months ago to downplay the adviser's past role on the candidate's behalf. Manafort's real estate holdings in New York, including a brownstone on Union Street, Brooklyn, have drawn notice due to the nature of the probe.

In addition, federal officials have unsealed a guilty plea by former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos to lying to FBI agents in a matter that relates to Russia.

Season of the witch

After an absence of exactly three months, and just in time for Halloween, the complaint about a “witch hunt” was back on Donald Trump Twitter Sunday morning. There was also something new, a cry for help, directed at no one specifically: “DO SOMETHING!”

What triggered the president was news that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has produced its first indictment — and perhaps more than one. The charges could be unsealed as soon as Monday, the reports said.

A series of angry tweets sought to spotlight new and old questions Trump and allies have raised about Hillary Clinton. Among them: her campaign’s role in funding a dossier of unverified allegations about Trump’s Russia connections and questions about her role — if any — in U.S. government approval on the sale of uranium assets to a Russian company.

That’s what investigators should be looking at, Trump said, but “Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia ... ‘collusion’ which doesn’t exist.”

See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo and Scott Eidler.

Mum on Mueller

Trump did restrain himself, as he has been repeatedly advised by counsel, from attacking Mueller.

Ty Cobb, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in a statement he shared with Newsday that the president’s comments “are unrelated to the activities of the special counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate.”

Pro-Trump media figures such as Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, as well as outside advisers, were less inhibited in attacking Mueller, according to a compilation by Business Insider.

‘Leak’ irritates House chairman

House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) complained on “Fox News Sunday” that reports of the pending indictment suggested there was a leak, and called for Mueller to crack down on leaks.

Gowdy also called himself one of an “increasingly small group of Republicans” who doesn’t think Mueller’s investigation should be curtailed or shut down.

“Bob Mueller has a really distinguished career of service to our country. I don’t think any of your viewers can think of a single thing he did as the FBI director that caused them to have a lack of confidence in him.” Gowdy said.

Trump has a theory

Past flare-ups in Russia news have sparked Trump conspiracy theories, such “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.” He tweeted a new one Sunday.

“All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!”

Very quiet diplomacy

Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned Saturday from an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia, accompanied in the region by Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, Politico reported.

The White House had little to say about the trip, but it has sought to encourage neighboring Arab leaders to play a role in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials, facing American pressure, said Sunday they have delayed a bill that would put some Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem’s municipality.

Unpresidential, Moore or less

At least the self-awareness was on target at the start of this Trump tweet on Saturday: “While not at all presidential I must point out that the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close. Sad!”

The left-wing filmmaker’s one-man, anti-Trump-themed show, “The Terms of My Surrender,” was planned as a limited 12-week run and closed as scheduled on Oct. 22. Reviews were mixed and, according to Playbill, about a quarter of the seats were empty.

What else is happening

  • Another poll has Trump’s approval at a low mark. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found 38 percent of Americans with a positive view of the president’s job performance, while 58 percent disapprove. The findings were almost identical to a Fox News poll last week.
  • Trump’s tax overhaul hopes are meeting increasing resistance from business interest groups, Reuters reports. The National Association of Home Builders, a powerful housing industry trade group, is fighting proposed changes to cut tax breaks for home mortgage deductions.
  • Trump pledged to release the remaining John F. Kennedy assassination files “other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living” for “reasons of full disclosure, transparency and to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”
  • Schmoozing members of Congress over golf hasn’t served Trump as well as he might have hoped. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is one former golfing partner with whom he is now feuding. Others lawmakers haven’t joined him, Politico reports, because he’s too good at it — they can’t keep up.
  • Fusion GPS, the firm behind the Russia dossier, is run by two former Wall Street Journal reporters. It was first hired to investigate Trump by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website whose main backer is hedge fund manager Paul Singer, a GOP megadonor. See the backgrounder on Fusion by Axios.
  • The Trump Organization pledged there would be “no new foreign deals” while Trump was president, but other projects that hadn’t gotten off the ground are now moving forward, including residential projects in India, The Washington Post reports.

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