Sunday, April 22, 2018

Debating the Crisis in Catholicism


As a former Catholic - 10 years as an altar boy (the first few when the mass was still in Latin), 4th Degree Knight of Columbus - from a family once strongly Catholic, I still watch from afar the unfolding drama of the Church wracked by a never ending sex abuse scandal (dioceses in New York and Pennsylvania are the center of the storm at the moment in America, but the problem remains global) and the effort of "conservatives" to cling to a 12th century understanding of sexuality.  Like many former Catholics, the only times I now darken a Catholic church door is for a wedding or a funeral.  The few in my family who are still churchgoers have now opted for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ("ELCA") which offers a Catholic liturgy without all the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.   Meanwhile, "conservatives" fling arrows at Pope Francis and decry efforts to bring the Church even remotely into the 21st century. Two articles look at the spectacle as highlighted by a new book by New York Times right wing columnist, Ross Douthat - who seemingly would bring back the Crusades and the public burning of heretics and gays if he could.  One is by Andrew Sullivan and somewhat more sympathetic to Douthat in New York Magazine and another in The Atlantic which takes Douthat to task.   Both face the reality that Catholicism and Christianity are in trouble in America.  First, highlights from Sullivan's piece: 
How does anyone remain a Christian in our current modern moment? The moral implosion of American Evangelicalism in the cult of Trump, the rise of casual anti-Christian bigotry in popular culture, the continuing sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, the emergence of a movement for Christian cultural retrenchment in the church (Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option), the revolution in gay rights in the West, and the slow slide of church attendance and religious observance seem to have conspired to bring the matter to a head. And in this fevered and often ill-tempered debate, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by much of Ross Douthat’s new book lambasting Pope Francis as a small-minded heretic. 
I certainly understand his fear that in the perilous shoals of liquid modernity, the ship of the Catholic Magisterium (the authoritative teaching of the church) could run aground. I also understand his grief at what was lost as the church revamped itself in the 1960s and 1970s — the liturgy, the enchantment, the unquestioned papal authority, the reverence, the silences and the darknesses, now wiped away into too many banal ceremonies, in churches lit as if they were a branch of Target. For Ross, as for me, the church in the 1970s seemed to be abandoning the sacred and the sublime for the mundane and the modern.
[B]ut where I have to differ with him [Douthat] is in his view that Pope Francis is somehow making all this much worse — that he is, through intemperance and recklessness, risking outright schism in the church in a way that hasn’t happened for centuries. By Douthat’s account, Francis is to the church what Donald Trump is to American democracy. He’s an existential threat.
How on earth could that be? For Ross, so much seems to come down to the Pope’s willingness to contemplate allowing divorced and remarried Catholics who want to be a part of the church to receive Communion . . . . Francis’s merely airing these questions — as well as the place of homosexuals in the church — represents to him a look into the abyss of doctrinal chaos. The fact that nothing has changed in official church teaching at all is scant comfort. The elaborate, intricate edifice of Catholicism, built and repaired for two millennia, unchanging and authoritative, is endangered. To Ross, Francis’s actions threaten to send the church drifting into a kind of lame “moral therapeutic deism” that has plagued the mainline Protestant denominations — or, more likely, precipitate full-on schism.
Where to start? First off, as Paul Baumann observes in Commonweal, the church has been, er, let us say, flexible about this rule for aeons, starting with the Gospels themselves. Yes, the Gospel of Mark has Jesus barring any divorce, period; but the Gospel of Matthew adds a caveat — with Jesus saying you can divorce if your partner commits adultery. So not quite as definitive. For centuries, moreover, there was no Catholic sacrament for marriage — it was entirely a secular thing, acknowledged by the church. The Orthodox churches — not just the Protestants — have long allowed for divorce. Catholicism itself, especially in America, hands out annulments that operate as de facto divorces like confetti.  . . . Indeed if the formal rules strictly applied, and communion was never allowed except after a full confession, virtually no Catholic in America would be participating in the Eucharist at all.
We’re talking here about caring for people whose marriages have failed and who want to come back to the church and its sacraments. That’s all. We’re not talking about a formal end to the existing doctrine against divorce. We’re not talking about a second marriage in church. We’re talking about pastoral adaptation to an individual’s position and sincerity in wishing to be reconciled with God. We’re talking about not rejecting people looking to follow Christ. And that means gay people as well, people who, despite so many pressures among their peers, despite widespread cultural taboos on being Christian and gay, insist on coming to the Lord’s table.
This stringency on sexual morality — combined with flexibility on so much else — is part of what has rendered the church toxic for so many, especially given its own recent, horrifying sexual standards. When you barely bat an eye at the rape of children and come down hard on someone who left a toxic marriage, you run the risk, to say the least, of seeming somewhat lacking in moral integrity.  . . . . is it really worth creating a schism over a pastoral attempt to include those beached by a bad or toxic marriage?
Is a modern Christianity even possible without the enchantment, mortality, fear, and ignorance of the past? And what we do with the fact that neither Benedict’s retrenchment nor Francis’s outreach seems successful in stopping the slow slide of institutional and cultural decline, and the emptying of the pews, especially among the young?
Part of me wants the simple certainties and mysteries of the past; part of me is profoundly grateful that the world has indelibly changed. Reimagining what faith can be in the context of modernity will not be easy. But exactly the wrong tack to take, it seems to me, is an ever-more intense and bitter internal fight over the legacy of the last 50 years in the Catholic Church.
To me, Douthat - like his evangelical counterparts - desperately needs two things: (i) others to look down upon and condemn, and (ii) a simple checklist that allows him to feel good about himself even if it requires being brain dead.

The second piece in The Atlantic is harsher, and deservedly so.  Here are excerpts:
Across every continent, in every country, Catholics “find themselves divided against one another,” writes the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in his new book, To Change the Church. On one side stand the orthodox, who see doctrine and tradition as the best antidote to a changing world. On the other stand the liberals, who yearn for a Church that focuses on pastoring rather than enforcing rigid rules. This “widening theological and moral gulf,” Douthat argues, is potentially “wider than the chasm that separated Catholicism from Orthodoxy, and later from Lutheranism and Calvinism.”
That’s a bold claim to make. After all, the schisms of East and West, Catholic and Protestant, were world-shaking, often bloody events. But in today’s Church—and specifically in this pope—Douthat sees the possibility that the Roman Catholic Church will once again break apart.
Ostensibly, his beef is with Pope Francis, whom Douthat paints as an unyielding and stubborn manager who has spent his five years in Rome failing the clean up the Vatican’s messes, hurling insults at conservative clerics, and pushing radical doctrinal changes without buy-in from major wings of the Catholic hierarchy.
His focus is almost always on one topic: the pope’s efforts to address issues related to family. Early in his papacy, Pope Francis convened two meetings of Catholic bishops, called synods. The pope seemed to feel that the Church had not figured out how to serve people whose lives don’t fit the Christian ideal, from single moms to same-sex couples to those who have been civilly divorced and remarried.
While many Church leaders welcomed this pastoral flexibility, others complained that it created ambiguity—“what is sin in Poland is good in Germany,” wrote four conservative cardinals in a letter to the pope—or even directly violated the teachings of the Church.
Douthat was, and is, in the latter camp. He began tossing the word “schism” around. He published a scathing Times column accusing the pope of being the “chief plotter” in the Vatican’s Renaissance-court-style politics. A large group of prominent liberal American clergy and theologians published a response letter, pointing out that Douthat does not have theological credentials, warning him of the seriousness of accusations of heresy, and arguing that his “view of Catholicism [is] unapologetically subject to a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.”
Francis’s solution is to embrace a flexible, ecumenical spirit, both within Catholicism and without: It’s no coincidence that he has put rapprochement with Roman Catholicism’s closest cousins, the Lutheran and Orthodox churches, high on his priority list over the last five years.
[U]nity matters in the Church—little c or big. Jesus calls on believers to be one flock in community together, and any loss of comity might be interpreted by some as evidence of human failure to make good on that vision. This pope will test whether it’s possible to maintain connectedness among communities of incredible diversity in a time of immense change—or whether the politics of the day inevitably lead to tribal fights among the faithful.

Personally, I believe the Church continues to do immense harm, and not only to the ever growing numbers of sex abuse victims.  Fear and self-hate are not positives and not something that will attract new adherents.  Throw in the hypocrisy and outright meanness of so many Christians , both Catholic and Protestant, and it is easy to see why 36% of those under 30 have walked away from Christianity.  What Douthat wants will only accelerate the exodus.  Francis, for all my criticisms of him, at least is trying to look for a solution. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Virginia Republicans May Have Forfeited Virginia's Hopes for Amazon


Back during the 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly a handful of Republicans - 5 to be exact - mostly from Hampton Roads killed every pro-LGBT bill pending during the session thanks to the handiwork of the Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates.  Similarly, Virginia Republicans refused to start the process to delete anti-gay laws from the Code of Virginia and Virginia Constitution even though the same had been ruled as unconstitutional by the federal courts.  At the time I and others warned that maintaining an anti-gay climate could destroy Virginia's chances to land Amazon's second headquarters facility even though Virginia has a pro-LGBT Governor, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor.  Now, a piece in the Washington Post under scores that Virginia Republicans' decision to embrace bigotry and prostitute themselves to the hate and fear motivated Christofascists and groups like The Family Foundation - a hate group in all but formal designation - could inflict a huge economic loss on Virginia.  Here are article excerpts:  
When Amazon executives recently toured the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of 20 finalists for a second company headquarters, local officials touted its growing workforce and low taxes as perfectly suited to accommodate 50,000 planned Amazon jobs.
But the local team also brought an unexpected guest: the Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, pastor of a predominantly gay megachurch in Dallas. He impressed upon the Amazon representatives how inclusive and welcoming the community has been to him, his husband and the 4,000 congregants at his church, according to people familiar with the meeting.
In the high-stakes contest to become Amazon.com’s new location, it may have been a shrewd move. Although the company’s search materials don’t make it explicit, Amazon has quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.
As Amazon executives recently toured finalist locations to help select what they’ve dubbed HQ2, they asked public officials about what sort of “compatible cultural and community environment” — the wording from the company’s search parameters — each city offers, adding to speculation about whether Amazon will choose a liberal stronghold. In North Carolina, company representatives asked pointed questions of Gov. Roy Cooper (D) about several state policies such as the “bathroom bill,” which restricted the use of public facilities by transgender people, according to a person in the room. In another city, an Amazon executive groaned at the mention of proposed legislation in Georgia that would restrict funding for same-sex adoption, according to another person who attended the meeting between the company and state and local officials. Given the publicity and economic impact of the project, including as much as $5 billion in capital expenditures, Amazon’s push on gay and transgender rights may increase pressure on state and local policymakers who have either declined to institute equal-rights rules or passed laws some view as discriminatory. The sponsor of the Georgia bill, state Sen. William T. Ligon Jr. (R), said the issue of same-sex adoption wasn’t intended to be discriminatory . . . . . “If you’re against, then I think we need to think hard about whether you ought to come here,” he said. “We need to seriously consider whether we want you to come here.” That sentiment has not played well at Amazon, according to a person who has been on tour with Amazon as it meets with local officials. “I just think Atlanta’s out,” the person, who is not an Amazon employee, said.
The company’s search for a region of “compatible cultural” values is one of many issues it has said it’s considering as it chooses the new headquarters.  But gay rights has emerged as a focus for the company’s founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos.
 Amazon’s second headquarters project is the biggest economic development prize — by a long shot — that many industry veterans say they have ever seen. . . . . For HQ2, the company estimates it will hire as many as 50,000 people, make $5 billion in capital investments and fill 8 million square feet of office space, which would be larger than the Pentagon.
Although Amazon is not sharing details of its meetings and requires nondisclosure agreements from bidders, its conversations with local officials are driving them to make or propose changes in an effort to woo the company. Some jurisdictions are pressing ahead with airport expansions or improvements that might impress Amazon.
While Amazon’s inquiries on gay rights may anger conservatives, LGBT advocates say the company is not going far enough.  One group wrote to Bezos asking that he not choose 11 locations in nine states that have not passed comprehensive legal protections for people based on their sexuality or gender. . . . “We’re talking about a decision that will affect the quality of life of thousands of people,” said David Mixner, a writer and activist who signed the letter. “If all they are concerned about is money, then they roundly deserve to be criticized.”
Officials in other regions have argued that if Amazon wants to maximize its support for the issue, it could relocate to — and bring change to — a politically red state.  With someone like Bezos around, city and business leaders in Dallas and Austin, both HQ2 finalists, say they could do more to change attitudes in the state. 
 Hopefully, Amazon will view Virginia in this last category.  It would either convert Republicans or - better yet - educate the population and usher in permanent minority status to Republicans.

More Saturday Male Beauty


Exposing The “Real” Mike Pence


In many ways, I believe Mike Pence embodies many of the worse elements of the Christofascist extremists who have a stranglehold on the Republican Party base.  Pence engages in false piety while doing violence to the Gospel message, he claims to be "pro-life" even though his party's policies are  anything but pro-life once a child - especially a poor minority child - is born, and he is fanatically anti-LGBT (I suspect because of his own sexual orientation issues).  On the latter point, the president of the Human Rights Campaign recently stated: “Mike Pence has made a career out of attacking the rights and equal dignity of LGBTQ people, women and other marginalized communities. Now as vice president, he poses one of the greatest threats to equality in the history of our movement. With the world distracted by Donald Trump’s scandal-ridden White House, Mike Pence’s nefarious agenda has been allowed to fly under the radar for too long.  . . ."  HRC and others in the LGBT and progressive community are seeking to expose Pence for what he really is and, hopefully expose the extremism of the GOP agenda in the process.  A piece in Politico looks at the effort.  Here are highlights (please take the time to check out the HRC website):

A leading progressive group is launching a campaign-style effort to [correctly] paint Vice President Mike Pence as an extremist who wields unprecedented power in the White House — an early sign that as the vice president takes a lead role in midterm campaigning, he also risks making himself a target.
The Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT rights organization, is launching a sustained attack against Pence, with a website, videos and a lengthy report to be released on Thursday. The materials were shown to POLITICO early.
And as President Donald Trump’s legal troubles expand, from the special counsel probe to a federal investigation of his personal attorney, some Democrats are beginning to train their fire on Pence in case the president doesn’t run for reelection in 2020 or gets removed from office. The broadside comes as Pence has taken on an outsize role in the Republicans’ work to prevent a Democratic wave in 2018. In the next week and a half, Pence will be making campaign stops in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana and California. Those trips come after Pence has already crisscrossed the country stumping and fundraising for Republicans. The HRC effort highlights what it describes as Pence’s “extremist ideology”: his opposition while in Congress to Employment Non-Discrimination Act protections for sexual orientation; his opposition to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which barred openly gay people from serving in the military; his opposition to hate crime protections for transgender individuals; and a statement on his 2000 campaign website that appeared to endorse federal funding for the controversial practice of “conversion therapy.”
The report, which highlights these positions, also hits Pence for his handling of an HIV/AIDS outbreak in Indiana during his governorship and for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said would legalize discrimination against LGBT people and which nearly derailed his governorship.
Along with the report, HRC produced a series of videos, including one in which Pence decries the use of condoms and another in which he lobbies against hate-crime legislation. . . . . Clips of Pence speaking on the floor of the House — including one in which he says, “Abstinence and marital faithfulness before condom distribution are the cure for what ails the families of Africa” — are spliced in. “We’ve seen Mike Pence fly underneath the radar,” said Chris Sgro, HRC’s communications director. “The unfortunate reality is that Mike Pence has tried to hold himself out there as the moderate, grown-up voice in the room. But we know, and this report exposes, that he’s anything but. He is a dangerous extremist.” [GOP strategist, Rick] Tyler said even if HRC and other groups beat up on Pence as November approaches, he believes voters are more likely to make ballot-box decisions based on their views of Trump.
“When [House Speaker Paul] Ryan announced he wasn’t running for reelection, that was in many ways the end of the Republican Party the way I knew it and the way Ryan knew it,” Tyler said. “The cord is severed, this is now Trump’s party, for better or worse, for good or bad, and 2018 is now a referendum on his party.”

Nobody Likes Trump Except White Evangelicals

Trump with lunatic base.

The twin pillars of Donald Trump's base of support are evangelical Christians and white supremacists (personally, I believe there is a large overlap between the two groups).  For "friends" who continue support Trump and who have lost the fig leaf of "supporting fiscal conservatism" in the wake of the GOP/Trump tax bill, I suggest that they take a good look in the mirror and face the truth as to which of these two groups they fall into.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at continued evangelical support for Trump, perhaps the most morally bankrupt individual to ever occupy the White House. For me, the takeaway is that evangelicals are just as morally bankrupt as Trump.  Here are article excerpts:

The Public Religion Research Institute, which regularly does valuable polling and analysis on issues where politics and religion intersect, has a new poll out this week. They’ve also supplied some analysis breaking out white Evangelical respondents to their poll (about 17 percent of the sample), showing that support for Donald Trump among the paler born-again folk is at “an all-time high”:
White evangelical support for Donald Trump has steadily increased over time. Notably, Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never reached 50 percent during the 2016 primary season. By the early fall of 2016, however, his favorability among white evangelicals had jumped to 61 percent. By the inauguration it increased to 68 percent, and shortly after the inauguration in February 2017 it jumped again to 74 percent. Over the course of 2017, there were minor fluctuations, but Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never dipped below 65 percent during this time.
Trump’s favorability ratio among white evangelicals now, says PRRI, is 75-22, as compared to 42-54 among the American population generally. And his popularity is just insanely high among men (81 percent) and the non-college-educated (78 percent) within the white Evangelical universe.
I emailed the PRRI, and got the non-white-Evangelical numbers from the very same poll.  They’re pretty compelling. Among Americans who are not self-identified white Evangelicals, Trump’s favorability ratio is 36-60, with 41 percent expressing very unfavorable views of [Trump]the president. Among women who are not white Evangelicals, the ratio is 29-69, with about half — 49 percent — harboring a very unfavorable view of Trump. How about college-educated Americans who aren’t white Evangelicals? Trump’s at 32-65, with 47 percent holding a very unfavorable opinion of him. And outside the ranks of the white Evangelicals, even non-college-educated Americans have a dim view of the MAGA man, disliking him by a 39-58 margin (this obviously includes minority folks), though a mere 38 percent dislike him strongly.
There are two takeaways from this data, one obvious and one a bit less obvious. First of all, Trump is really, really dependent on the good opinion of white Evangelicals. . . . he owes them immensely. And you do have to wonder if there’s some tipping point . . . after which these fine church folk freak out and head south on [Trump]the president. There’s no evidence of that so far . . .
There’s another thing to consider as well. . . . Perhaps Trump’s most avid fans are living in their own bubble of white Evangelical culture, while disdain for the mogul is so common elsewhere that it’s the prevailing (if hardly unanimous) sentiment.
That’s a different way of looking at it, isn’t it? Trump-disparagers aren’t necessarily elite, aren’t necessarily secular, and aren’t necessarily minorities, either. What they most have in common is that by and large they do not identify with religious communities where the Bible is regarded as the literal, inerrant truth about all of its content; . . . 
Yes, there are anti-Trump people in white Evangelical circles and pro-Trump people elsewhere, but the patterns don’t follow the conservative meme of the Trumpian masses versus the anti-Trumpian classes, at all.
Non-white-Evangelical America is a pretty big part of this great big country, and it’s a place where Donald Trump is really unpopular. Get used to that idea.
Given Trump's reliance on evangelicals, it goes without saying that he - and the insidious Mike Pence - will do all in his power to make the lives of LGBT Americans a living Hell.  Meanwhile, Trump received less than a warm welcome in Key West, a city with a motto diametrically opposed to what Trump and his base stand for:

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, April 20, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty


California Assembly Votes to Ban All Gay "Conversion Therapy"


Right wing Christians engage in all kinds of frauds in the furtherance of their theocratic political agenda.  Few as pernicious as so-called gay "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" which is universally condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America (and most of the developed world).  Yet Christofascist charlatans continue to engage in the practice - Michelle Bachmann and her husband run such a clinic under the guise of "Christian counseling" - for basically two reasons: (i) to support the myth that sexual orientation is a "choice" thereby negating the need for laws protecting LGBT rights, and (ii) it is very lucrative and keeps the practitioners of  such "therapy" living the good life.  States are increasingly banning the use of such therapy on minors - such a bill was killed by Republicans in the recently passed session of the General Assembly. Now, California seeks to ban the practice entirely.  A bill as passed the California Assembly and now goes to the state senate where it will hopefully be passed.  Here are highlights from the Los Angeles Times:

The California Assembly voted Thursday to add gay “conversion therapy” to the state’s list of deceptive business practices, following a debate that focused on the personal experiences of several lawmakers and hinted at potential lawsuits to come.
“It is harmful and it is unnecessary,” Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), the bill’s author and one of the Legislature’s most vocal LGBTQ members, said of the practice.
Low, who told Assembly members that he explored conversion therapy as a Low, who told Assembly members that he explored conversion therapy as a teenager and suffered depression over his sexual orientation, insisted that the bill would be limited to efforts that involve the exchange of money.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” he said in an emotional speech on the Assembly floor. “There’s nothing that needs to be changed.”
The bill, which now heads to the Senate, has become the focal point of intense debate on social media. Some religious groups have said that such a law would be a violation of their constitutional rights, while advocates insist the provisions are narrow and there’s no credible evidence that the services work.
One key part of the debate centers on whether Assembly Bill 2943 would stretch beyond businesses that charge for these programs and extend to printed documents, even Bibles. An analysis by the Assembly Judiciary Committee says the bill would apply only to services that purport to change a person’s sexual orientation and offered “on a commercial basis, as well as the advertising and offering of such services.”
“This is fraudulent, it should not be occurring,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton). “But you can still try to pray the gay away, if you like.”
California law already bans the use of conversion therapy by mental health professionals on those under age 18. Low’s bill would expand the state’s efforts beyond minors. It would join a list of commercial activities deemed “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” and therefore banned under state law.

DOJ: Manafort Suspected As “Back Channel” To Russia


With rampant speculation that Michael Cohen will flip on Donald Trump and cooperate with the Mueller investigation - a piece in Vanity Fair notes that "The question being asked is not whether Trump or Cohen committed any crimes, but whether Cohen will flip on his boss when prosecutors turn up the heat" - several sources are reporting that a representative of the Department of Justice  has stated that the Mueller investigation was justified in investigating and prosecuting Paul Manafort because Manafort is thought to have been the back channel connecting the Trump campaign with Russian intelligence operatives seeking to throw the 2016 presidential election to Trump.  Here are highlights from Bloomberg on the issue:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a “back channel” between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge.
The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission -- to determine whether anyone in the Trump campaign had links to the Russian government.
Defense attorney Kevin Downing argued anew to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington that even Mueller’s appointment order permitting him to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” wouldn’t cover the political consulting work that Manafort did in Ukraine for a decade.
But Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said prosecutors were justified in investigating Manafort because he had served as Trump’s campaign chairman.
“He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,” Dreeben told Jackson. “Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.”
Prosecutors hadn’t previously used such explicit language to describe their suspicions about Manafort. In a previous court filing, Mueller also cited business ties between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Any investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign “would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs,” prosecutors said in an April 2 filing.
“It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities. Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution.” Mueller has charged 19 people, including 13 Russians, since his appointment. Five have pleaded guilty, including Rick Gates, a former Trump deputy campaign chairman and longtime business associate of Manafort. Gates is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Aside from the Washington indictment, Manafort is also charged in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, with bank and tax fraud.
Dreeben, who is helping Mueller with the investigation, has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as deputy solicitor general.