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Ex-counterintel official explains how lobbying laws could bring down Rudy Giuliani

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On Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” former Justice Department counterintelligence official David Laufman explained to Chris Cuomo how President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani could go down for violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

“Why does this matter, this area of the law?” asked Cuomo.

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“This was a statute enacted in the 1930s in response to pro-Nazi German elements of the United States, engaged in subversive propaganda activities so that the U.S. people or lawmakers when confronted with content, whether lobbying or an op-ed, can make an informed assessment based on who the real party is behind it,” explained Laufman. “If it’s a foreign party, the American people should be able to take that into account and assigning whatever weight they want.”

“The way it works is that if you are acting in the United States on behalf of a foreign principal, broadly defined to include not only governments but foreign political parties — it could be a foreign corporation, a nonprofit, and you’re engaged in certain conduct described as triggering certain activities — you have an obligation within ten days of even entering into an agreement,” continued Laufman.

“Do you think Rudy has exposure?” asked Cuomo.

“I think there are legitimate questions to unpack, what he did, under whose knowledge he did it,” replied Laufman.

“He says, I’m not representing Turkey,” added Cuomo.

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“That would be something that investigators would look into,” said Laufman. “If he’s not representing a foreign interest, then whose interest is he representing in seeking to bring about something that is among the highest priorities of the Turkish government?”

“How easy of a case is that to make?” said Cuomo. “If Rudy says, you’re wrong, I’m not representing any of these people, and you’re not going to get your hands on them as foreign nationals, how do you make the case?”

“He invited the government to examine his digital devices, for starters,” said Laufman. “The government is going to interview witnesses, if they have a grand jury empaneled, they could subpoena bank records, they could issue search warrants for his email records. You begin to develop an evidentiary mosaic through the exercise of all logical investigative steps.”

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“It’s not like Congress, where — you’re supposed to obey their subpoenas also, but they don’t have the teeth of the DOJ,” added Cuomo.

“These are grand jury subpoenas,” confirmed Laufman. “Anyone who defies a grand jury subpoena does so at their peril.”

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“So now you have those two instances that we’ve learned about that spur counterintelligence, that means it’s not so much about a crime but about national security issues, and then you move over to the people who are indicted for supposedly trying to funnel Russian money into — the accusation is into U.S. elections. Rudy was also being paid for them,” said Cuomo. “They seem to have had aligned interests in removing then-ambassador to the Ukraine from the United States. Where does that take you?”

“It seems to call out FARA,” said Laufman. “They were charged with campaign finance violations. It’s likely the Southern District of New York if they’re conducting as broad-based an investigation as the newspapers tell us they are. There’s some element of that that includes whether Mr. Giuliani committed a violation of FARA. To commit a criminal violation of FARA, one has to willfully violate the statute, that means you knew you had an obligation to register and willfully failed to do so. That’s a higher burden of proof for the government to establish, but that’s what investigations are for.”

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Trump’s Senate trial will be ‘riddled by hypocrisy’ with Ken Starr defending him: CNN legal analyst

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President Donald Trump's decision to tap former Whitewater special prosecutor Ken Starr for his impeachment defense team drew a sharp rebuke from former federal prosecutor Elie Honig on Friday.

"Whatever they do will be riddled by hypocrisy," Honig said of Trump's impeachment defense team during an appearance on CNN. "Ken Starr, the guy who spent years trying to throw a president out of office for lying about sex in a civil deposition, is now defending a president who has been impeached for trying to shake down a foreign country to interfere with an election. I don't know how you square that."

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Rick Santorum flattened by CNN’s Berman after calling Parnas bombshell revelations ‘extraneous’ to impeachment

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Rick Santorum and CNN's John Berman got into a frantic back-and-forth on Friday morning after the former Republican senator attempted to dismiss the revelations by former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas as something that should not be submitted as evidence in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Discussing the Senate trial expected to start next week, Santorum said the only testimony and witnesses that should be allowed are ones that came up in the earlier House hearings.

"The House's responsibility to bring to us a case," Santorum stated. "They're the one who is said these are offenses that are worthy of the president being removed from office; here is the record, here are the charges. The Senate didn't impeach, the House did, so we are going to look at the record the House presented us. We're going to look at the witnesses and say are there are questions that we have for the people that brought this case forward and relied on these witnesses and look at their testimony."

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CNN

Here’s why some Americans don’t appreciate ‘extraordinary’ accusations from Lev Parnas

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On Thursday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin broke down a key reason why indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas hasn't quite gotten across the severity of his accusations against President Donald Trump to the American people.

"Jeff, what do you think of Parnas as a witness?" asked Cooper.

"He has a distinctive style. He's very deadpan, very low-key," said Toobin. "You somehow don't realize how extraordinary story he is telling. The proprietor of a company called Fraud Guarantee, and he is going to the leadership of the government of Ukraine and saying, unless you announce an investigation of the Biden family,  you are not getting the money that Congress has authorized. you are not getting the visit from the president and you are not getting an Oval Office visit. And it's true. None of it happened."

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