Does This Man Know More Than Robert Mueller?
Glenn Greenwald’s war on the Russia investigation.
By Simon van Zuylen-Wood
January 21, 2018
It’s 10:45 p.m. Rio de Janeiro time. Glenn Greenwald and I are finishing dinner at a deserted bistro in Ipanema. The restaurant, which serves its sweating beer bottles in metal buckets and goes heavy on the protein, is almost aggressively unremarkable (English menus on the table, a bossa-nova version of “Hey Jude” on the stereo). Greenwald avoids both meat and alcohol but seems to enjoy dining here. “I really believe that if I still lived in New York, the vast majority of my friends would be New York and Washington media people and I would kind of be implicitly co-opted.” He eats a panko-crusted shrimp. “It just gives me this huge buffer. You’ve seen how I live, right? When I leave my computer, that world disappears.”
Greenwald, now 50, has seemed to live in his own bubble in Rio for years, since well before he published Edward Snowden’s leaks and broke the domestic-spying story in 2013 — landing himself a Pulitzer Prize, a book deal, and, in time, the backing of a billionaire (that’s Pierre Omidyar) to start a muckraking, shit-stirring media empire (that’s First Look Media, home to the Intercept, though its ambitions have been downgraded over time). But he seems even more on his own since the election, just as the agitated left has regained the momentum it lost in the Obama years.
The reason is Russia. For the better part of two years, Greenwald has resisted the nagging bipartisan suspicion that Trumpworld is in one way or another compromised by a meddling foreign power. If there’s a conspiracy, he suspects, it’s one against the president; where others see collusion, he sees “McCarthyism.” Greenwald is predisposed to righteous posturing and contrarian eye-poking — and reflexively more skeptical of the U.S. intelligence community than of those it tells us to see as “enemies.”
And even if claims about Russian meddling are corroborated by Robert Mueller’s investigation, Greenwald’s not sure it adds up to much — some hacked emails changing hands, none all that damaging in their content, maybe some malevolent Twitter bots. In his eyes, the Russia-Trump story is a shiny red herring — one that distracts from the failures, corruption, and malice of the very Establishment so invested in promoting it. And when in January, as “Journalism Twitter” was chastising the president for one outrage or another, Congress quietly passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize sweeping NSA surveillance, you had to admit Greenwald might have been onto something.
“When Trump becomes the starting point and ending point for how we talk about American politics, [we] don’t end up talking about the fundamental ways the American political and economic and cultural system are completely fucked for huge numbers of Americans who voted for Trump for that reason,” he says. “We don’t talk about all the ways the Democratic Party is a complete fucking disaster and a corrupt, sleazy sewer, and not an adequate alternative to this far-right movement that’s taking over American politics.”
Greenwald’s been yelling about this, quite heatedly, since before the election. “In the Democratic Echo Chamber, Inconvenient Truths Are Recast As Putin Plots,” reads the headline of an Intercept piece published in October 2016. “The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook,” reads another, from February 2017. As Mueller’s investigation widened, no fallen domino — not the guilty plea of former Trump national-security adviser Michael Flynn, not the indictment of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — chastened Greenwald. When it was recently reported that Steve Bannon had lobbed a “treason” charge in the direction of Donald Trump Jr. — precipitating his break with the president — Greenwald rolled his eyes. Bannon’s “motives are pure & pristine and he is simply trying to inform the public about the truth,” Greenwald tweeted sarcastically.
Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro Photo: Sebastian Palmer
This is a year in which even the most anti-Establishment liberals have found themselves rooting for Mueller, a Republican who ran George W. Bush’s war-on-terror FBI. “It is not an insubstantial portion of Democratic online loyalists who believe that if you deviate from Democratic Party orthodoxy on the Trump-Russia question, you are a paid Kremlin agent,” Greenwald says. And many of those who don’t believe Greenwald works for Vladimir Putin tend to think he does his bidding for free. “I love him,” says former Gawker editor John Cook, who worked with Greenwald at the Intercept. “He’s dead, tragically wrong on this.”
Thanks to this never-ending hot take, Greenwald has been excommunicated from the liberal salons that celebrated him in the Snowden era; anybody who questions the Russia consensus, he says, “becomes a blasphemer. Becomes a heretic. I think that’s what they see me as.” Greenwald is no longer invited on MSNBC, and he’s portrayed in the Twitter fever swamp as a leading villain of the self-styled Resistance. “I used to be really good friends with Rachel Maddow,” he says. “And I’ve seen her devolution from this really interesting, really smart, independent thinker into this utterly scripted, intellectually dishonest, partisan hack.” His view of the liberal online media is equally charitable. “Think about one interesting, creative, like, intellectually novel thing that [Vox’s] Matt Yglesias or Ezra Klein have said in like ten years,” he says. “In general, they’re just churning out Democratic Party agitprop every single day of the most superficial type.” (Reached for comment, none of these people would respond to Greenwald.)
All this has led to one of the less-anticipated developments of the Donald Trump presidency: Glenn Greenwald, Fox News darling. For his sins, Greenwald has been embraced by opportunistic #MAGA partisans seeking to discredit the Trump-Russia story. When alt-right ringleader Mike Cernovich sat for a 60 Minutes interview last year, he praised only one journalist: Greenwald. “My opinion of Glenn ten or 15 years ago was entirely negative,” says Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who now heralds him as one of the “clearest thinkers” in media. (A parallel phenomenon involves the rehabilitation by the Resistance of an armada of neoconservative zombies — David Frum, Max Boot, Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol — and the lionization, at least temporarily, of Trump-skeptical Republican politicians like John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham.)
This, by the way, is the reason we’re eating dinner so late on a Tuesday: Greenwald has to be at a TV studio in a few minutes to be interviewed by Carlson. We leave the restaurant and head across the street to the garage where he parked his Mitsubishi Outlander. Unexpectedly, the gate to the entrance has been shut and the attendant is missing. Mild panic sets in. Greenwald begins rattling the gate. Even if we catch a cab to the studio, his TV clothes are in the car, and he is currently wearing shorts and an old polo shirt. “How,” he frets, “can I go on Fox News dressed like this?”
Anybody who questions it becomes a blasphemer. Becomes a heretic. I think that’s what they see me as.
The parking attendant eventually shows up. There is no traffic; we book it to a high-rise studio with postcard views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Greenwald changes into a shirt and tie but keeps on his shorts and flip-flops. “I’ve never worn long pants when I’m appearing on TV,” he says with a grin. He is miked up and fitted with an earpiece, then forced to wait 20 minutes as his segment keeps getting bumped. The experience of actually listening to Carlson’s show seems to get to him.
“He’s on a huge anti-gun-control, anti-disarmament rant,” Greenwald tells me the first time I ask him what Carlson’s talking about. “Bullshit,” he says the second time I ask, rolling his eyes. By the time he goes live, it is 11:50 p.m., and Carlson asks just two questions.
“So I only had like three minutes,” he says, un-miking himself. “But it’s fine. It was worth it. It was cathartic.”
Greenwald with Edward Snowden in the documentary Citizenfour (2014). Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection
Greenwald’s home is located on a dead-end cobblestone street, under a thick canopy of trees, a few miles inland from Ipanema Beach. The grounds are large enough to comfortably accommodate Greenwald; his husband, David Miranda; their two recently adopted children; household staff; 24 formerly stray dogs; and some dog poop, which, when I visit the day before his appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, I step in.
Greenwald greets me in his cathedral-like living room dressed in his usual shorts and polo. When I joke that he lives in a gated community — a guard in a booth controls access to the street — he seems wounded and explains that he could afford the place only because the recent Brazilian recession had devastated Rio’s housing market. He plays coy when I ask him who owned the house previously. “I think it was some hedge-fund pig,” he says.
In person, Greenwald is funny and unguarded, which is the opposite of his online persona. Within minutes of my arrival, he launches into a story about a possible joint op-ed written with Katie Couric, before relaying a conversation he had with Ta-Nehisi Coates about how problematic it is to collaborate with people like Katie Couric. “It sounds like I’m obnoxiously name-dropping, and I’m not!” he says, catching himself. “But it was like, ‘How do you maintain your authenticity and the original kind of passion about the world that led you to be someone worth listening to, when now, suddenly, all these doors that had been previously closed are swinging open for you?’ ”
Greenwald grew up near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was closeted in high school and cultivated a rebel iconoclasm to cope. “One of the strategies you can develop is, I’m never going to be weak,” he says. “I’m always gonna be smarter and stronger and more aggressive.” Comparing himself to the titular character in the mockumentary American Vandal, he says he once prompted a schoolwide investigation by spray-painting the walls with “extremely offensive profanities about individual students and teachers.” “He was always warring with the administration, warring with teachers,” says his friend and former classmate Norman Fleisher. Instead of schoolwork, he devoted himself to the competitive-debate circuit and, in his senior year, to a failed bid for the Lauderdale Lakes City Council. He squeaked into George Washington University, where he majored in philosophy — Nietzsche — and again poured all his energy into debate. After that, law school at NYU, then a job at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the most decorated and macho of the city’s white-shoe firms. In 1995, he left Wachtell to start his own litigation practice and carved a niche doing pro bono civil-liberties work, including defending neo-Nazi Matthew Hale.
Greenwald supported the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but in 2005, when it became clear that the war on terror had produced a massive suspension of civil liberties — warrantless wiretapping, Guantánamo Bay — Greenwald abandoned his law practice and devoted himself to calling out the administration on his website, Unclaimed Territory. That year, he broke up with a longtime boyfriend, a psychotherapist. To unwind, he came to Rio alone, where he met the then-19-year-old Miranda. Their relationship did not, at the time, entitle Miranda to a visa — so Greenwald stayed in Brazil; Miranda is now the first openly gay city councilman in Rio’s history.
Early on, the mainstream press was docile in its coverage of the war on terror. Greenwald and his allies in the nascent left-wing blogosphere emerged to push back. “ ‘Barbarians at the gate’ was kind of the metaphor,” Greenwald says, and his prosecutorial hatchet jobs on the Bush White House became especially popular, despite (or perhaps because of) his exhausting, didactic prose. When he moved his blog to Salon in 2007, says his former colleague Alex Pareene, “editors would joke about the incredibly SEO-unfriendly headlines on his blog posts. Like, 3,000 words with the headline ‘And Another Thought.’ ” Twitter, when that was invented, proved irresistible to Greenwald. “I would wake up at like nine in the morning and see somebody saying something stupid on Twitter, and then it would be four in the afternoon, and I haven’t gotten out of bed.”
Once Obama was elected, the left blogosphere cleaved. “Some people, they revealed they’re mainstream, democratic liberals and defended a mainstream, democratic liberal administration,” says Pareene. “Others, they stuck to their line of opposition to the use of American power.” Greenwald was clearly in the latter camp, praising Ron Paul’s military isolationism and blasting the various “war criminals” who still ran D.C. Which meant that, by 2013, Greenwald, now writing for The Guardian, had spent a decade hurling invective at essentially everyone in Washington. To someone like Edward Snowden, those were unimpeachable bona fides. To others with more sympathy for the American Establishment, coordinating the publication of Snowden’s documents was something else. Greenwald hatred was intense not just in the intelligence community but also among would-be allies of transparency in the press; Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times said he’d “almost arrest Glenn Greenwald.” Then–Meet the Press moderator David Gregory asked Greenwald if he should be charged for having “aided and abetted” Snowden. Greenwald was not wearing long pants during that interview, either.
Greenwald’s self-conception as an opposition figure, though, was getting more complicated. In 2014, Omidyar, the founder of eBay, poured $250 million into a news organization called First Look Media and handed Greenwald the keys. One of Greenwald’s collaborators on the Snowden story, the documentarian Laura Poitras, made a movie about the experience, Citizenfour, in which Greenwald was something of a second star. In 2015, it won the Oscar for Best Documentary, which Greenwald says he could not enjoy because host Neil Patrick Harris joked that “Snowden couldn’t be here for some treason.” At an after-party that night, a BuzzFeed reporter asked him about it. “I’m like, ‘I’m really trying hard not to say anything about it,’ ” Greenwald recalls. “And they’re like, ‘No, but you must have an opinion on it,’ and I was like, ‘Neil Patrick Harris is a fucking moron, and that joke was completely idiotic and offensive.’ ” (For the record, Snowden thought it was funny.)
With Laura Poitras at the 2015 Oscars. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Last September, Greenwald traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to speak at an event held by the Lannan Foundation, an organization that offers prizes and speaking engagements to NPR-friendly types like Roxane Gay and Colson Whitehead. Wearing a light-gray suit and black Hugo Boss boots, Greenwald joked with the crowd for a few minutes before warning them that he wouldn’t be discussing the well-chronicled sins of the Trump administration. “I really don’t think you need me taking up your time talking about that,” he said. “And if you do for some reason want that, you can always just go home and turn on MSNBC.” Instead, Greenwald delivered an absorbing reading of the postelection landscape that fell somewhere between a troll job and a comprehensive articulation of his worldview.
The Trump election — because it upended countless political norms, because polls failed to predict it — was a psychologically destabilizing development. “When events happen that are so fucking out of the ordinary, people look for unifying events,” Greenwald tells me. “It becomes like a religion.” But Greenwald didn’t view the election as an aberration that needed to be explained. “Every time Trump says or does something that is xenophobic, or bigoted, or militaristic, or threatening, people always say, ‘This is not what America is about,’ ” he told the crowd in Sante Fe. “I always react to that by saying, ‘It’s not?’ ”
Rather than see Trump as a product of a rotten power structure, as Greenwald does, and the 2016 election as a wild reaction against that power structure, as Greenwald also does, it was easier for most American liberals to frame his victory as an accident. And rather than look within to eradicate the conditions that wrought Trump, it was more comforting to pin his rise on an external foe.
The Russian scandal proved ideal. “Across the political aisle, American elites are preoccupied with rejuvenating a Cold War in the name of believing that all of our problems are traceable to the Kremlin,” Greenwald argued. The notion that “Putin is not some fumbling dictator but some kind of an omnipotent mastermind,” he went on, “stems very much from this human desire to believe that when things go wrong, it can’t be our fault.”
Put another way: If you believe the 2016 election was a populist uprising against complacent elites, the Russia preoccupation can seem like an effort to ignore what Trump voters — and Sanders voters — were trying to say. Alternatively, if you believe Trump’s victory was a Russia-perpetrated fraud, normalcy is restored simply by removing him from office. Which, conveniently, is what many hope Mueller’s Russia probe will do.
The week I visit Greenwald in Rio, the news out of the D.C.-Moscow gyre is the indictment of three Trump-campaign aides: Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Manafort. Sitting at Greenwald’s dining-room table, as a little dog named Kane molests a bigger dog named Enzo, I make the mistake of suggesting this is a “huge” development. Greenwald is ready for me before I finish my sentence.
“Have they been huge?” he pounces, answering his own question. “I mean, I guess they’ve been huge in the sense that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager was indicted on multiple felony charges, right? That’s inherently huge, but it’s not particularly huge for the Russia story, because all the charges leveled against Manafort were unrelated to questions of collusion with the Russians.” Fair enough, but Papadopoulos’s arrest was in fact related to the question of collusion. Greenwald waves this away. “They had all these kind of losers who weren’t even in the Trump campaign,” he says. “You know, these charlatans who were constantly puffing up their résumés, who come from the shittiest schools and have no significant experience.” He continues: “What happened this week, for me, is exactly what I’ve been expecting all along.”
Accepting the 2014 George Polk Award. Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
True. Last March, Greenwald wrote an Intercept piece that forecast the “indictment of a low-level operative like Carter Page, or the prosecution of someone like Paul Manafort on matters unrelated to hacking.” His point then, as now, is that such developments are far removed from the original impetus of the investigation: whether Trump and Russia worked together to throw the election. “If you go back to what the Democrats were saying in 2016 and then into 2017, it wasn’t ‘Paul Manafort is laundering money and hiding taxes and failing to register forms about how he’s a foreign agent,’ ” Greenwald says. “Because that’s true of that entire scumbag lobbyist class in D.C.”
When it comes to what the investigation was designed to focus on, Greenwald says he’s still waiting for hard evidence that the Trump campaign aided Russian operatives in hacking the Clinton-campaign emails — or struck some other corrupt bargain. Absent that, he’s not impressed. “Some Russians wanted to help Trump win the election, and certain people connected to the Trump campaign were receptive to receiving that help. Who the fuck cares about that?”
Greenwald’s not wrong to criticize the zealotry of the Russia pile-on. The investigation’s boosters not only seem to ignore America’s own long history of election meddling (“Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win,” crowed a 1996 Time cover story) but also have elevated a bipartisan class of Russia conspiracists like Louise Mensch and Eric Garland to unfortunate prominence. Which is how, for instance, a deranged 127-tweet rant about “game theory” became cherished by liberals as a Russiagate decoder ring.
How did all this happen? In a recent issue of n+1, Cornell Law School professor Aziz Rana called 2016 the “last election of the Cold War.” What he meant was that for half a century, an unassailable Western consensus had prevailed that democracy and global capitalism were better than what the other team was offering. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the presumptive 2016 favorites, reflected this consensus. Their dismal showings suggested the consensus had been busted, and among the signs that the political spectrum had broadened was the appearance of a new-seeming category of Russia-skeptic firebrands sometimes called the alt-left. Greenwald was one of the loudest voices, but there were others, many so divergent in their views of everything but Russia that it hardly made sense to group them together: the Trump-curious burn-it-all-down types; the “dirtbag left,” led by the irreverent politics podcast Chapo Trap House; anti-Zionist-anti-imperialists like Max Blumenthal; basically all of Russian television network RT’s on-air talent; retired NYU scholar and Nation eminence Stephen F. Cohen.
These critics note the irony that many who were critical of national-security abuses during the Bush and Obama years have now, in the name of defending the republic, put their faith in opaque intelligence agencies and retired generals. That uncomfortable alliance between liberals and the “deep state” is the Greenwald-Trumpworld relationship inverted; on Russia, the America Firsters in the White House share more with dovish lefties than with Washington’s centrist power elite. To borrow from the language of Brexit, the ideological split on the Russia question may be more “Leave” versus “Remain” than Republican versus Democrat. In other words, Establishment insiders versus skeptical outsiders.
“For me, the fundamental question is: How satisfied are you with the prevailing order, with the status quo?” By this, Greenwald does not mean life in the Trump era but the behavior of American elites over the past several generations. “How benevolent do you regard American power and American institutions?” The answer to that question says a lot about how you rate the Trump threat.
With Tucker Carlson on Fox News in October 2017.
One afternoon, Greenwald and I drive to a sports club affiliated with Rio’s most popular soccer team, Flamengo. His mischievous and adorable children, Jonathas, 8, and João Vitor, 10, are scheduled for a tennis lesson at the club’s clay courts. It occurs to me that a tennis match with Greenwald would make an entertaining narrative stunt. Greenwald declines, telling me that he’s too good. “You’re going to feel bad because I’m going to destroy you, and you’re going to try and get vengeance on me through the profile.” That I’m cooking up a savage hit piece becomes a running joke throughout my visit — as does Greenwald’s inevitable reaction to my hit piece. “Unfortunately,” he imagines tweeting, “New York apparently has eliminated its entire editorial and fact-checking team as evidenced by this wretched article filled with lies. 1/29.”
In truth, a hatchet job probably wouldn’t bother Greenwald. He’s long positioned himself as a radical adversary of the courtier press corps; a hostile story would confirm his view. Indeed, the formidable team of investigative journalists that surrounds Greenwald at the Intercept reflects this bent. But the ambitions of the First Look Media empire have also been hobbled by Greenwald’s team-last iconoclasm. In 2014, Greenwald co-wrote a lengthy piece documenting — and further contributing to — the company’s managerial dysfunction.
Greenwald’s half-a-million-dollar Intercept salary reflects his role as the founder and figurehead of the organization. But since the Snowden revelations, Greenwald hasn’t done much original reporting, and he has lately repositioned himself as a bomb-throwing media critic. This is in some ways a natural role for him, one that harks back to his early blogging days. “His general default position is that we shouldn’t believe anything the elite Establishment politicians are saying without fact-checking them,” says Jeremy Scahill, his Intercept co-founder. “We certainly shouldn’t believe the anonymous proclamations of CIA, NSA, FBI officials.”
In Glenn’s defense, he has never purported to be a patriot.
Greenwald’s bunker mentality makes his Russia skepticism especially intuitive. “Every groove in his brain,” one Greenwald critic told me, burnishes his suspicion that the political and media Establishment has a vested interest in promoting the story. His Bush-era awakening created a built-in distrust of national-security apparatuses; his focus on U.S. power abuses tends to outweigh concerns about threats to the homeland; his isolationism makes him wary of belligerent rhetoric; his civil libertarianism demands that unpopular views not be censored.
In 2012, many liberals who now consider Kremlin-linked Facebook memes an act of war mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” Greenwald, meanwhile, has been more consistent. “He’s always minimized whatever the threat vector that people like me were concerned about,” says Lawfare editor Ben Wittes, a longtime Greenwald opponent and unlikely celebrity of the Russiagate media sphere. “He’s doing the exact same thing now. Just that the threat vector we’re concerned about is the Russian state versus our leadership.” Wittes adds, tongue in cheek: “In Glenn’s defense, he has never purported to be a patriot.”
To listen to intelligence veterans, there is also a defensive aspect to Greenwald’s collusion skepticism. “You really cannot dismiss as part of his motivation the way in which this new story is undermining the very things that he made his reputation on,” says cybersecurity expert Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel. “Which is: embracing WikiLeaks and Snowden and a hostility to the idea that there are national-security threats the U.S. has to respond to.”
Journalistically, the problem with this dynamic is there’s virtually no revelation in the Russia story that could get Greenwald to change his mind. Which means that while Scahill and other Intercept colleagues tend to evaluate each new revelation at face value, Greenwald focuses disproportionately on debunked or overblown Russia stories. Ever the lawyer, he curates evidence that suits his argument. More than a year ago, the Washington Post published an erroneous story alleging that Russia had hacked into a U.S. electrical grid in Vermont. Greenwald continues to bring this up. To him, it’s not just a random piece of bad reporting but a crucial exhibit in a case he’s building.
Which makes his lack of interest in a report the Intercept itself produced all the more curious. In June, it published an explosive story that Russia had attempted to infiltrate voter-registration systems days before the election by sending phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials. The information came from a leaked NSA report; shortly before the Intercept published its story, a Georgia NSA employee named Reality Winner was arrested on espionage charges. Almost immediately, the Intercept was accused of exposing Winner with its own sloppy methods. But the scoop itself represented one of the first credible claims that, more than trying to influence American voters, Russia may have been directly targeting election technology. Greenwald distanced himself from the bungled leak at the time and now says he doesn’t buy the story outright. “I never liked the story. I thought it was bullshit and knew it was going to be huge in a way that was totally unjustified in what it actually revealed,” he says. “I think it tried to overstate the importance of what that document was.”
Greenwald’s selective outrage has become habitual. In November, The Atlantic published Twitter correspondence from 2016 in which a WikiLeaks representative gave Donald Trump Jr. campaign advice.
Greenwald pooh-poohed the coordination, implying that Julian Assange was just playing his usual 4-D chess. Barrett Brown — a pro-transparency autodidact who served more than four years in federal prison for spreading hacked data and won a National Magazine Award for Intercept essays he wrote while incarcerated — was livid. “He doesn’t seem to be engaging on the actual revelations that keep coming out on Russia and Trump’s people,” Brown says. “My best guess is he’s just ignoring these things in favor of the less difficult argument that some people who are backing the Trump-Russia narrative are full of shit.”
It probably doesn’t matter to Greenwald in the end how many new details emerge about Russia. The big truth — that American society is in dire need of reform and Russia is not to blame for that — can never be dislodged by the little truths. Still, in the weeks following my visit to Rio, Greenwald seemed to grow self-conscious of his alienated stance. On December 8, he emailed me that he’d been asked to appear on the Sean Hannity Show to talk about his criticism of a CNN story about emails between Trump’s team and WikiLeaks that he considered “the biggest fuck-up yet in the Trump/Russia story — totally humiliating.” A few hours later, he reconsidered. “Actually I’ve decided to take the opportunity to go on and just spend the whole time bashing the shit out of Fox and Hannity rather than doing what they want me to do: attacking CNN.” Later, he sent this: “Reading up now on all the Fox Fake News scandals of the year — what a fucking list.”
Ultimately, after being asked to appear on all three of Fox News’ prime-time programs, he went on Laura Ingraham’s show, where he fulfilled his promise to bash Fox News. The next morning, Greenwald tweeted a clip of the confrontation to his 940,000 followers, then immediately got into an argument with somebody called @hoboken1111.
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/20 ... ation.html
George Papadopoulos is the ‘John Dean’ of the Russia investigation, his fiancee says
He has been mocked by President Trump as a “low level volunteer” and “proven to be a liar.”
But the fiancee of George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts and is cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, says he is being miscast.
“I believe history will remember him like John Dean,” said Italian-born Simona Mangiante, referring to the former White House counsel who pleaded guilty to his role in the Watergate coverup and then became a key witness against other aides to President Richard Nixon.
Dean told Nixon in 1973 that Watergate was a “cancer on the presidency,” warning him that it was an existential crisis that could imperil his term in office.
“George is very loyal. And he is on the right side of history,” added Mangiante, who got engaged to Papadopoulos in September.
A Trump campaign aide tried to arrange a meeting with Putin. Here’s what you need to know.
A low-level foreign adviser to Donald Trump passed along multiple requests for him to meet with Russian officials, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
[For ‘low level volunteer,’ Papadopoulos sought high profile as Trump adviser]
Mangiante said she was advised by Papadopoulos’s lawyers not to answer specific questions about his activities during the 2016 presidential campaign or what he has told the FBI.
But she indicated in an interview that she believes he ultimately will emerge as more than a bit player in the Russia probe — and that his decision to cooperate after he was arrested getting off an airplane at Dulles International Airport in July was a key turning point.
Without offering specifics, Mangiante said there is much more that has not yet been told publicly about Papadopoulos’ 10 months as an informal national security adviser to Trump and his interactions with a London-based professor who told Papadopoulos, according to court filings, that the Russians had “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“There’s a lot to come,” she said. “He was the first one to break a hole on all of this.”
She said Papadopoulos was not a “coffee boy,” as he was once tagged by former Trump adviser Michael Caputo, a nickname she found especially galling. “I know what it means as a young person to do all the efforts you do to build your career and be dismissed as a coffee boy,” she said.
Despite restraints placed on her by the terms of Papadopoulos’ ongoing cooperation agreement with the special counsel, Mangiante said she has been speaking to reporters to defend his reputation and try to explain how the lives of her and the Chicago-born former energy consultant have been upended by the events of the last year.
Mangiante said she has been extensively interviewed by Mueller’s team, who asked about her own brief stint working for Joseph Mifsud, the same London professor who offered to connect the young Trump aide with the Russians.
[Trump campaign emails show aide’s repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings]
Mangiante, who was born near Naples and trained in law and international relations, said she met Mifsud while working with the European Parliament in Brussels.
Mifsud, a former Maltese government official who had an affiliation with an Italian university, was friendly with the head of the parliament’s socialist party and was often at receptions or events, she recalled. Eventually, Mifsud offered her a job at one of his London organizations.
Mangiante accepted in July 2016 but said she only worked for the group for three months, quickly concluding that it was “a facade for something else.”
She said she never heard Mifsud discuss Russians but quit when she was asked by his partner to attend a secret meeting to discuss Iraq in Tripoli. “I thought it was very suspicious,” she said.
Mangiante said she heard about Papadopoulos, who at the time was serving as a Trump adviser, during her brief time at Mifsud’s group. But she said did not meet him until the spring of 2017, after his involvement with Trump had ended. He sent her a message through LinkedIn, noting that they had both had connections to Mifsud’s group.
Soon, the two were communicating online and, after meeting in London, quickly fell into a romance, she said. They spent the spring and summer traveling together in Europe. Though Papadopoulos had been interviewed by the FBI in January and again in February, she said he did not seem concerned at the time about what could be coming.
Until his July arrest.
“We went from paradise to hell,” she said.
She said she was in Chicago with his family at the time and the following weeks were stressful and scary. His decision to make a deal with prosecutors and plead guilty to one felony while cooperating with the FBI, she said, was ultimately not a tough one.
“It was brave,” she said. “It wasn’t hard, but it was brave . . . It’s always easiest to say the truth about everything.”
Mangiante said she is now spending much of her time in the United States because Papadopoulos is barred from traveling by the terms of his agreement. The date of his sentencing has not been set yet.
“This has changed his life forever,” she said.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics ... 37febcc921
seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:16 am wrote:how lovely to be able to wake up and post the Attorney General had been interviewed by the Special Council
beware the conclusion that Sessions would only be interviewed on obstruction charges (though that would be included)....he was involved in discussions of meetings w/Russians, one step removed from email offer.
maybe Stephen Miller's discussions with George Papadopoulos are why Jeff Sessions can't recall any email discussions?Sessions Is Interviewed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTJAN. 23, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed in the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling and whether President Trump obstructed justice. Tom Brenner/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.
The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet.
The spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview occurred in response to questions from The New York Times.
Mr. Sessions announced in March that he had recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 election, including the Russia inquiry. The disclosure came after it was revealed that Mr. Sessions had not told Congress that he met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, during the campaign. Mr. Sessions was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s presidential run.
When Mr. Trump learned in March that Mr. Sessions was considering whether to recuse himself, the president had the White House’s top lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, lobby Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the Russia investigation.
Mr. Sessions instead followed the guidance of career prosecutors at the Justice Department, who advised him that he should not be involved with the investigation. When Mr. Trump was told of this, the president erupted in anger, saying he needed an attorney general to protect him.
As attorney general, Mr. Sessions was deeply involved in the firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey. But Mr. Sessions’s recusal has left him with no control of Mr. Mueller — something the president has repeatedly carped about publicly and privately.
After Mr. Mueller was appointed in May, Mr. Trump again erupted at Mr. Sessions and Mr. Sessions offered to resign. Several days later, Mr. Trump rejected Mr. Sessions’s offer.
Mr. Sessions, who was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview, had been among a small group of senior campaign and administration officials whom Mr. Mueller had not yet interviewed. Two weeks ago, Mr. Mueller subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, to testify before a grand jury. Mr. Mueller is expected to forgo the grand jury appearance for now and will have his investigators interview Mr. Bannon in the coming weeks.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/us/p ... d=tw-shareNYT: Mueller Questioned Jeff Sessions For Hours Last Week
By Nicole Lafond | January 23, 2018 9:59 am
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions holds a news conference at the Department of Justice December 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions called the question-and-answer session with reporters to highlight his department's fight to reduce violent crime.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America
Special Counsel Robert Mueller questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for several hours last week, making Sessions the first known member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to be interviewed in Mueller’s Russia probe, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
A Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed the interview took place in response to the Times’ questions about the probe. Sessions’s attorney Chuck Cooper attended the interview with him, according to the Times.
In March, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and that’s also looking at whether Trump or his campaign officials colluded with the foreign power to win the election. Former FBI Director Mueller was then appointed to take over the probe.
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ ... by-muellerWho Else Was Handling Russian Money in 2016?
The interference went well beyond the president*'s campaign.
BY CHARLES P. PIERCE
JAN 18, 2018
Life is full of wonderful surprises, like this little goodie bag from the McClatchy folks.
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy. FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
So, here’s the horse, but the barn is waaaaayyyyy over there. Still, this is a fascinating development.
Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months. The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned. However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
It is a savory irony that Wayne LaPierre, the savior of all that is clean and good in America, may be tied into the Volga Bagmen. But it’s coming time to wonder how much Russian money was sloshing around the entire Republican Party in 2016, and around the conservative infrastructure generally.
We already know the winning presidential campaign was redolent of herring and vodka. There also is more than a little evidence that various Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats were generous to Republican campaigns in general. Now, it seems, the various interest groups and issue organizations may have had their hands out, too. The only thing that stops a bagman with a bag is a good guy with a bag.Congressman: Story of Link Between Kremlin And NRA Could ‘Get Bigger’
“Follow the money,” Rep. Ted Lieu said of the National Rifle Association’s pro-Trump efforts.
Last Thursday, investigative reporters Peter Stone and Greg Gordon of McClatchy DC Bureau reported what could be another bombshell in the Russia probe: that the FBI is investigating whether a Kremlin-linked banker illegally channeled funds to the National Rifle Association to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
On Friday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told me on SiriusXM Progress that the word on Capitol Hill is that the story of a Russia-NRA-Trump link is going to grow.
“FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA,” Stone and Gordon reported being told by two sources familiar with the matter.
More: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/te ... mg00000004
Torshin was all up in WisconsinNRA Gives $3.6 Million to Walker, Legislators
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
NRA Gives $3.6 Million to Walker, Legislators
Just one Democrat benefits from gun lobby’s generous donations.
By Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Oct 5th, 2017 11:10 am
..... In Wisconsin, the National Rifle Association (NRA) spent about $3.6 million between January 2008 and June 2017 on outside electioneering activities and direct contributions to GOP Gov. Scott Walker, 52 legislators, and a legislative campaign committee.
Most of the spending, about $3.5 million, was by the NRA on outside electioneering to help Walker win his 2010 general, 2012 recall and 2014 reelection bids. Walker also received $22,500 in direct campaign contributions from pro-gun interests – the most of any legislative or statewide candidate – between January 2008 and June 2017.
In addition to Walker, current legislators received about $92,400 (see table below) in outside electioneering support and direct campaign contributions from the NRA’s political action committees and corporation, between January 2008 and June 2017. All but $500 went to support GOP legislators.
During much of the same time, Walker and GOP legislators, who took control of state government in January 2011, have approved numerous pro-gun bills led by state’s concealed carry law.
More recently, last month, a state Senate committee recommended passage of a proposal, Senate Bill 169, which would allow adults to carry concealed weapons in Wisconsin without a permit. ................seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:08 pm wrote:Comey was interviewed by Special Council by last year
shared memosComey and Sessions Are Questioned for Hours in Russia Inquiry
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTJAN. 23, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed in the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling and whether President Trump obstructed justice. Tom Brenner/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week as part of the special counsel investigation, a Justice Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday, and the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was interviewed by the office last year, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The meeting with Mr. Sessions marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of President Trump’s cabinet.
The interview with Mr. Comey focused on a series of memos he wrote about his interactions with Mr. Trump that unnerved Mr. Comey. In one memo, Mr. Comey said that Mr. Trump had asked him to end the F.B.I.’s investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.
After the president’s request was disclosed, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, appointed Mr. Mueller as the special counsel to lead the Russia investigation and examine whether the president obstructed justice.
The disclosure about Mr. Comey’s interview came hours after the Justice Department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview with Mr. Sessions occurred. Mr. Sessions was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview.
The attorney general announced in March that he had recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 election, including the Russia inquiry. The disclosure came after it was revealed that Mr. Sessions had not told Congress that he met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, during the campaign.
Mr. Sessions, an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s presidential run, had been among a small group of senior campaign and administration officials whom Mr. Mueller had been expected to interview.
Mr. Mueller’s interest in Mr. Sessions shows how the president’s own actions helped prompt a broader inquiry. What began as a Justice Department counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference is now also an examination of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry, and the nation’s top law enforcement officer is a witness in the case.
For Mr. Mueller, Mr. Sessions is a key witness to two of the major issues he is investigating: the campaign’s possible ties to the Russians and whether the president tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.
Mr. Mueller can question Mr. Sessions about his role as the head of the campaign’s foreign policy team. Mr. Sessions was involved in developing Mr. Trump’s position toward Russia and met with Russian officials, including the ambassador.
Along with Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions led a March 2016 meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, pitched the idea of a personal meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Papadopoulos plead guilty in October to lying to federal authorities about the nature of his contacts with the Russians and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office.
As attorney general, Mr. Sessions was deeply involved in the firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Sessions publicly and privately for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
When Mr. Trump learned in March that Mr. Sessions was considering whether to recuse himself, the president had the White House’s top lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, lobby Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the Russia investigation.
Mr. Sessions instead followed the guidance of career prosecutors at the Justice Department, who advised him that he should not be involved with the investigation. When Mr. Trump was told of this, the president erupted in anger, saying he needed an attorney general to protect him.
After Mr. Mueller was appointed in May, Mr. Trump again erupted at Mr. Sessions and Mr. Sessions offered to resign. Several days later, Mr. Trump rejected Mr. Sessions’s offer.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Mueller subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, to testify before a grand jury. Mr. Mueller is expected to forgo the grand jury appearance for now and will have his investigators interview Mr. Bannon in the coming weeks.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/us/p ... ussia.htmlseemslikeadream » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:30 pm wrote:let's go down memory lane with the wonderful fantastic MinM
almost a year ago she mentions Butina NRA and TorshinMinM » Sun Apr 02, 2017 11:53 am wrote:
Flynn dismissal linked to meeting with Cambridge graduate "Crazy Miss Cokehead"
http://dailym.ai/2ol6A98 via @MailOnline
Doesn't really belong in this thread (or does it?)
but I wanted to give this thread a bump...
One other off-topic:The Spanish connection with Trump’s Russia scandal
Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia and investigated in Spain for money laundering, has infiltrated the US president’s circle
On February 1, Alexander Torshin, 63, a Russian politician and banker who is close to Vladimir Putin and whom the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor and the Civil Guard define in their reports as a godfather from a notorious Russian mafia organization, had in his diary for the next day an appointment to meet in Washington with the world’s most powerful man: Donald Trump. The encounter was due to take place before an official and well-attended breakfast meeting, which Torshin attended as the head of a Russian delegation. The meeting was canceled that very night, according to sources from the White House, given the wave of criticism in the US press related to the influence of determined Russian circles in President Trump’s power teams. But the information reveals the heights to which this person, who has been investigated by the Spanish authorities, had reached in his rise to the upper echelons of the American leader’s circle.
Torshin, who is currently the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, has met with one of the children of the US president, has close links with the organization that provided the most money for Trump’s election campaign, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and attended the aforementioned breakfast that Donald Trump presided over in the White House in February.
The high-ranking official from the Central Bank of Russia has long been on the radar of the Spanish public prosecutor and the Civil Guard. He was on the brink of being arrested in Palma de Mallorca in the summer of 2013 during a meeting with a mafioso – who has just been sentenced in Spain – but he didn’t turn up to the meeting. A unit consisting of 12 officers was awaiting him at the airport and in a hotel, where he was expected to arrive accompanied by other people being investigated in a money-laundering ring. The Russian Federation’s Prosecutor General, which was aware that Torshin was being investigated, requested information about the case on at least two occasions, but received no response from the Spanish authorities given that the investigation was sealed.
His case constitutes another element to lay the foundation for the FBI investigation currently being conducted into the influence of the Russian government in the outcome of the US presidential elections last year. The political offensive by Torshin appears to form part of a strategy by the Kremlin aimed at influencing the internal policies of the United States. One of the most spectacular results of this apparent strategy was the mass hack of the internal communications of the campaign for Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival, which was made public by WikiLeaks, according to the US intelligence services. Over the last year a number of trusted allies of Trump have been forced to resign given their shady contacts with Russia. The most recent was his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, on February 13.
The difference in the case of Torshin is that for the first time, a Russian mafia boss – at least one identified as such by the Spanish anti-corruption prosecutor – is within the circle of support to the new president of the United States.
As well as being a powerful banker, a leader of President Putin’s political party (United Russia) and his trusted ally, and a senator between 2001 and 2015 (as well as being chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament between May 19 and September 21, 2011), he is, according to the investigation carried out by the Spanish security forces, a boss of a notorious criminal organization known as Taganskaya.
The relationship between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a Russian mafioso established in Palma de Mallorca, is the key. An investigation carried out between 2012 and 2013 by a Palma court and the anti-corruption prosecutors José Grinda and Juan Carrau into Romanov concluded that Torshin was the boss of a Taganskaya criminal operation to launder money by buying up hotels in Mallorca. A total of 33 telephone conversations between Torshin and Romanov, to which EL PAÍS has had access, reveal that their relationship is not “purely social,” as Torshin claims, but rather based on business.
An internal document from the Civil Guard Information Service, dated July 2013, explains Torshin’s central role in the criminal plot. “As a consequence of the phone tapping carried out in the aforementioned inquiries it has been ratified that, above Romanov, on a higher hierarchical level, is Alexander Torshin. In the numerous phone conversations and with different contact persons, Alexander Romanov himself recognized his subordination before someone who he describes as ‘the Godfather’ or ‘the boss’ ... which in itself is telling when it comes to situating their relationship.”
The Spanish police followed Torshin, but he managed to slip away: three judicial and police sources from the investigation have confirmed that Torshin decided not to attend Romanov’s birthday party on August 21, 2013 as planned, because, they believe, he was warned by the Russian prosecutor that if he stepped onto Spanish soil he would be arrested. “The liaison from the Russian Interior Ministry in Madrid had written a report about the Taganskaya and we believe that in Russia they put the screws on him. We suspect that it was him who warned that Torshin was being investigated in Spain and that was why he didn’t come,” a judicial source explains. “The case had not been completed and we could not give out that information,” explains another judicial source. “Russia also discovered that we were investigating Torshin because Romanov’s lawyers told the Russian prosecutor as much in writing and they complained saying that they were being persecuted in Spain.”
The confidential report, which is not to be found in the legal case, points to the connection between the Russian state and the Russian mafia. “The criminal organizations from the countries of the East have as their main characteristics the penetration of different state powers, such as politics, which is represented in this case by the figure of the First Vicechairman of the Federation Council of Russia of the Federal Assembly of Russia of the Russian Federation, Alexander Porfirievich Torshin.” The five-page document, entitled Alexander Porfirievich Torshin in Operation Dirieba, was produced so that the Anti-Corruption Public Prosecutor could decide whether or not to charge Torshin with the laundering of more than €14 million in the purchase of a hotel in Mallorca, and concludes that both the money and the hotel belonged to the Russian ex-politician. It even claims that the hotel forms part of the inheritance that Torshin wants to leave to his two daughters.
Why was Torshin not prosecuted? “It made no sense to charge Torshin because Russia does not process letters rogatory [requests for legal assistance from abroad] that we file with that country and there would have been no practical purpose: it would have delayed the investigation, it would have slowed it down,” explains a clearly irritated judicial source. “Calling on Russia to arrest him would have been useless because Russia does not cooperate. This summer there will be a trial in Spain in the Troika case – against the Russian mafia in Spain. There are a number of fugitives in Russia and they won’t hand them over to us. We don’t have the support of the Russian authorities.”
The formidable and powerful Taganskaya organization of which Torshin is allegedly part is recognized by the US and the EU information and intelligence services (Europol, the FBI…), according to the dossier about Torshin from the Spanish Civil Guard. Its activities include the appropriation of companies using violent or fraudulent methods, bank scams, extortion and the carrying out of contract killings.
The point of entry for Torshin to the upper echelons of US politics was the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is perhaps the most powerful lobby in the United States. The NRA invested more than $21 million in Trump’s election campaign, more than any other organization. According to the group’s official magazine, the NRA proclaimed itself to be “the key” to the Trump victory.
Torshin has managed to become a “life member” of the NRA. He is also linked to the Russian group The Right to Bear Arms, which was created in 2012 and copies the objectives of the NRA. It is presided over by Maria Butina, a young admirer of Putin who has had a meteoric career by Torshin’s side, and who now resides in Washington. Butina celebrated her birthday with a costume party in the US capital on November 12 last year, four days after the presidential elections. According to the press in Washington, the main reason for the celebration was the election victory of Donald Trump. Among the guests were a number of the new president’s campaign consultants.
The first direct contact between Torshin, an “honorary member” of the Russian pro-arms group, and the NRA took place in May 2013. Torshin traveled to the annual NRA convention in Houston. He himself wrote about this in an article published eight months later in the Washington Times, a pro-Trump daily, whose Opinion section editor, David Keene, was president of the NRA and is a friend of Torshin.
At that time, Torshin was a Russian senator. But his political career was on the rise. In January 2015 he was named deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia. And one of his first measures was to designate Butina “personal executive assistant.” Some months later, on December 11, 2015, the pro-arms group presided over by Butina invited a delegation from the NRA, nearly all Trump acolytes, to an event in Moscow. Torshin gave the welcome speech.
In May 2016, in the midst of the US electoral campaign, Torshin traveled once more to the NRA convention, which was celebrated this time in Louisville, Kentucky. Trump, who was by that point the de facto Republican candidate to the presidency, attended the annual event run by his main benefactors. There Torshin had fleeting contact with the future president, who only went so far as to shake his hand. With his son, Donald Trump Jr., things went further: he sat by his side during a private dinner in a restaurant in Kentucky.
The rise of Torshin in the upper circles of the United States continued to progress. When Trump, a self-declared admirer of Putin, reached the presidency, Torshin was invited to an official breakfast at the White House scheduled for February 2, along with other guests. The event was later to be remembered thanks to Trump’s jibes aimed at Arnold Schwarzenegger. Torshin traveled there as the head of a Russian delegation. Together with the invitation, Torshin received a proposal for a meeting with the president just before the breakfast, according to Yahoo News, which contributed to this article. This meeting was suddenly cancelled. The reason, according to sources from the White House, were the rumors and suspicions about which all of Washington is now talking: the links between Trump’s political team and Moscow. The White House gave no official explanation for the cancellation. Maria Butina, who attended gala dinners to celebrate Trump’s inauguration, confirmed to Yahoo News in an email that the notification of the cancellation of the meeting between her boss and the president arrived the night before the breakfast.
During that visit to Washington, Torshin did have dinner with two Republican congressmen. The date was February 1 in a French restaurant, according to an article published in Time magazine two weeks ago, and at which Maria Butina and a close friend of Trump White House strategist Stephen Bannon were also present.
The apparent mission by Torshin to infiltrate the highest spheres of power worked. And the Russian connection continues to create intrigue in Washington. As the veteran columnist Thomas Friedman wrote last month in the New York Times: “[...] the biggest national security question staring us in the face today: What is going on between Donald Trump and the Russians?” After the investigations by the Spanish judicial authorities and the police into the banker, politician and mafia godfather Alexander Torshin there are more unanswered questions today, and more scandals in Washington to be investigated.
http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/03/31/ine ... 09827.html
Aside from the NRA, other "strange" organizations supported financially by the Russian Putin and his Mafia:
- Give Alaska back to Russia
- California secession (Calexit) Movement
- Eastern Ukrainian rebels
- Marine Le Pen (right wing French Presidential Candidate
- Right Wing German Populists
- Hackers of progressive group
and me on page six in this threadseemslikeadream » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:34 am wrote:Operative Offered Trump Campaign ‘Kremlin Connection’ Using N.R.A. Ties
Donald J. Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, speaking at the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016.
By NICHOLAS FANDOS
DECEMBER 3, 2017
WASHINGTON — A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.
A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.
Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “‘first contact.’” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times.
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, secured a guilty plea on Friday from President Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, for lying to the F.B.I. about contacts with Moscow’s former ambassador to the United States. But those contacts came after Mr. Trump’s improbable election victory.
The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.
Rick Dearborn, left, a Trump campaign adviser, received an email asking for advice on how to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES
Both efforts, made within days of each other, centered on the N.R.A.’s annual meeting and appear to involve Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of the Russian central bank and key figure in Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, who was instructed to make contact with the campaign.
“Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” the N.R.A. member and conservative activist, Paul Erickson, wrote. “He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.”
It is not clear how Mr. Dearborn handled the outreach. He forwarded a similar proposal, made through Rick Clay, an advocate for conservative Christian causes, to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top campaign aide. Mr. Kushner rebuffed the proposal at the time, according to two people who have seen Mr. Kushner’s email.
Mr. Sessions told investigators from the House Intelligence Committee that he did not recall the outreach, according to three people with knowledge of the exchange. Mr. Dearborn did not return requests for comment, and Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer dealing with matters related to the investigations, declined to comment. Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Erickson were not successful.
Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia, on orders from the highest levels of its government, undertook a sophisticated campaign to hack Democratic computers, spread propaganda and undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. The repeated outreach around the N.R.A. convention, where Mr. Trump accepted the group’s endorsement, came just weeks after a self-described intermediary for the Russian government told George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide, that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton. And just weeks later, the president’s eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about the would-be Democratic nominee.
“The Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true reset in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House,” Mr. Erickson wrote to Mr. Dearborn, adding, “Ever since Hillary compared Putin to Hitler, all senior Russian leaders consider her beyond redemption.”
Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of the Russian central bank and key figure in Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, was instructed to make contact with the Trump campaign.
STANISLAV KRASILNIKOV / TASS, VIA GETTY IMAGES
Congressional investigators obtained the email as part of their inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Mr. Trump’s campaign aided the efforts. It appears to have caught the attention of senators as well. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, penned letters to several Trump campaign foreign policy advisers last week asking for all documents related to the N.R.A., Mr. Erickson, Mr. Torshin, Mr. Clay, Mr. Dearborn and others.
Mr. Erickson, a longtime conservative operative who has been involved in several presidential campaigns, presented himself in the email as a well-connected intermediary to the upper reaches of the Russian government. By “happenstance” and the reach of the N.R.A., Mr. Erickson wrote, he had been put in position to “slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin” in recent years.
“Russia is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. that isn’t forthcoming under the current administration,” he wrote.
Indeed, evidence does appear to show deep ties between Mr. Erickson, the N.R.A. and the Russian gun rights community that were formed in the years when many American conservatives, put off by the Obama administration’s policies, were increasingly looking to Mr. Putin as an example of a strong leader opposing immigration, terrorism and gay rights.
The N.R.A. was one of Mr. Trump’s biggest backers during the campaign, spending tens of millions of dollars to help elect him.
Mr. Erickson has known Maria Butina, a former assistant to Mr. Torshin and the founder of the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights group, for several years. Ms. Butina, who helped Mr. Torshin make the request through Mr. Clay, hosted Mr. Erickson at a September 2014 meeting of the group at its Moscow office. And in February 2016, the two incorporated a company, Bridges LLC, together in South Dakota. What the company does is unclear.
In December 2015, Mr. Erickson returned to Russia as part of an N.R.A. delegation that included David Keene, the group’s onetime president, top donors and David A. Clarke Jr., the former sheriff of Milwaukee County who became a popular Trump campaign surrogate. At one stop, the group met with Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of defense. A photograph from the meeting shows Mr. Torshin was also present.
In the United States, the hospitality was returned. Mr. Torshin and Ms. Butina attended the N.R.A.’s annual convention in 2014 and 2015. Ms. Butina told the conservative news site Townhall that she attended the N.R.A. Women’s Leadership Luncheon as a guest of Sandra S. Froman, a former president of the group. And in 2015, she was given a tour of the N.R.A.’s Virginia headquarters.
Attempts to contact Ms. Butina were unsuccessful.
Mr. Erickson does not explicitly name Mr. Torshin in the email to Mr. Dearborn, but the message appears to refer to him, the people familiar with the communication said. Instead, he describes “President Putin’s emissary on this front,” whose plans match those of Mr. Torshin.
Mr. Torshin, he wrote, was planning to attend a reception being planned by Mr. Clay honoring wounded veterans that he expected Mr. Trump would also attend. Mr. Torshin expected to use the reception to “make ‘first contact’” with the candidate and present Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, with a gift from the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to Mr. Clay, neither Mr. Trump nor his campaign officials attended the veterans’ dinner. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Mr. Torshin did attend a separate N.R.A. dinner that night.
Mr. Torshin served in the upper house of the Russian Parliament and was a member of the country’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a government body that includes the ministers of defense, interior and foreign affairs and the director of the Federal Security Service, known as F.S.B., the K.G.B.’s successor. He has been a leading advocate of gun rights in Russia and of more closely linking the government and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Spanish investigators say that while he was in Parliament, Mr. Torshin laundered money for the Russian mafia through Spanish banks and properties. Mr. Torshin has denied those accusations.
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/12/03/u ... 5DaH?amp=1
and me in the Vegas threadseemslikeadream » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:42 am wrote:full discloser ...I post this with full knowledge that I may get a full knee-jerk reactionDOUBLE TAP
Top Trump Ally Met With Putin’s Deputy in Moscow
Before the NRA poured more than $30 million into Trump’s election, it met with a notorious Kremlin hardliner, allegedly to discuss a rifle competition.
03.07.17 9:00 PM ET
In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.
The meeting, which hasn’t been previously reported in the American press, is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn both denied speaking with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to be untrue; former campaign manager Paul Manafort supported pro-Russian interests in Ukraine; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won an “Order of Friendship” from Putin; and then, of course, there’s the hacking campaign that U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian launched to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.
Meeting with Rogozin, a target of U.S. sanctions, is not itself illegal—as long as the two sides did no business together—explained Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russian sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. But, he noted, it is “frowned upon and raises questions… those targeted for sanctions have been engaged in conduct which is in direct opposition to U.S. national security interests.”
Which raises the question: Why was the NRA meeting with Putin’s deputy in the first place?
The NRA had previously objected to the parts of the U.S. sanctions regime that blocked Russian-made guns from import into the United States. But curiously, David Keene, the former NRA president and current board member who was on the Moscow trip, insisted the meeting with the high-ranking member of the Kremlin government had nothing whatsoever to do with geopolitics.
“Rogozin is chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation and his Board hosted a tour of Federation HQ for us while we were there,” Keene told The Daily Beast. “It was non-political. There were at least 30 in attendance and our interaction consisted of thanking him and his Board for the tour.”
Rogozin tweeted photos of the meetings, writing that they discussed a forthcoming rifle competition in Russia.
But Rogozin is no ordinary Russian official, and his title extends far beyond being merely the chairman of a shooting club. His portfolio as deputy prime minister of Russia includes the defense industry. One issue where Rogozin seems particularly interested is cyberwarfare, which he has heralded for its “first strike” capability. And he’s well-known in Russia for being a radical—often taking a harder line than Putin himself.
Rogozin was the leader of the ultra-right party called Rodina, or Motherland, and famously believes in the restoration of the Russian Empire, including what he calls “Russian America” (i.e., Alaska).
To wrestle control of the party, he turned its course from a party that was occasionally in opposition to Putin to a strictly pro-Putin party. In 2005 Rogozin and his party miscalculated Putin’s anti-immigrant mood and got kicked out of the parliament for a chauvinistic promotion video that said: “Let’s Clean the Garbage!” featuring Central Asian workers eating a watermelon and spitting on the ground.
Still, Rogozin stayed loyal to Putin and soon was appointed Russian ambassador to NATO at the time of the Russia-Georgia War—his main responsibility at the time was to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO. Today his Motherland party is back in the parliament, trying to unite right-wing movements in Europe.
“It is disconcerting that they would be meeting [with a Russian official] about anything given their vocal support of the president,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential elections. “Due to the NRA’s opposition to sanctions, it defies credulity that they wouldn’t have discussed sanctions and their extraordinary support for Donald Trump’s campaign.”
“Russia is not America’s friend. And it’s stunning to hear that while they were attacking our democracy, one of the largest organizations supporting Trump was cozying up with a sanctioned Russian in Moscow,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee panel that oversees the CIA.
Rogozin’s inclusion in U.S. sanctions, prior to his meeting with the NRA delegation, marks him as an American adversary. But if that designation raised red flags to Keene and his compatriots—including board member Pete Brownell, top NRA donor Joe Gregory, and Trump supporter Sheriff David A. Clarke—they didn’t mention them, before or since.
The White House designated Rogozin for sanctions through an executive order in March 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea in Ukraine. Perhaps it’s only coincidence, then, that a few months later, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action protested when the Treasury Department banned the importation of Kalashnikov firearms under authority granted to them from that same executive order.
“These latest sanctions will no doubt engender the idea among some that the Treasury Department is using a geopolitical crisis as a convenient excuse to advance the president’s domestic anti-gun agenda,” the NRA-ILA wrote at the time.
The National Rifle Association’s support for Trump was unprecedented—and it seems to have paid off. The organization backed Trump in May 2016—much earlier than they had endorsed other candidates in previous election cycles, and before he had even been officially named the Republican presidential nominee.
The NRA spent $30.3 million to elect Trump—more than even the top Trump super PAC, which spent just $20.3 million, according to OpenSecrets.
This proved to be an important piece of the puzzle for the president’s eventual victory, giving him bona fides among Democrats from working class families.
“They got behind him early. It tends to be a lot of movement conservatives, a lot of Republicans —but the NRA’s membership is also so powerful in union households,” said Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist who wrote a book, Ricochet, about his experiences. “Union leaderships are very concerned about what the NRA has to say… This year it was a very important. NRA was the first major group to get behind Trump.”
Indeed, there is a solid case to be made that the NRA’s endorsement and support was among the most important of any group this election cycle. The NRA lined up television advertising space early, when rates were lower, and had money to spend when the Access Hollywood scandal struck, reading with a fresh advertising spot to support Trump.
“There are many claimants to the honor of having nudged Donald Trump over the top in the presidential election,” wrote Fred Barnes, executive editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, last week. “But the folks with the best case are the National Rifle Association and the consultants who made their TV ads.”
Soon after the election, the Trump administration rescinded an order, issued in the waning days of the Obama administration, that banned lead ammunition in various hunting and fishing areas—the NRA immediately applauded the action.
In retrospect, the second week of December 2015 is notable: In Moscow’s Metropol Hotel, now-disgraced Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn dined with Putin at a dinner held by Russia Today, a state-sponsored propaganda outlet.
The NRA delegation’s 2015 trip to Russia took place the same week, lasting from Dec. 8-13, according to Clarke’s public financial disclosure forms, (PDF), and included not only the people who met with Rogozin but a number of other NRA dignitaries, including donors Dr. Arnold Goldshlager and Hilary Goldschlager, as well as Jim Liberatore, the CEO of the Outdoor Channel.
Various members had various stated reasons for going. At least one was there for business reasons.
“Mr. Liberatore traveled to Russia to discuss our new outdoor lifestyle service MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) and prospects for international distribution,” said Liberatore’s spokesman, Thomas Caraccioli. Liberatore did not meet with Rogozin, he added.
The delegates who were contacted by The Daily Beast did not respond to questions regarding how they paid for their trip. But Clarke, as the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, was required to fill out public disclosure forms outlining any private money he received for travel (PDF).
The trip was sponsored at least in part by the organization, The Right to Bear Arms, a firearms advocacy organization founded by Russian national Maria Butina, a former Siberian furniture store owner who now lives in Washington, D.C., and serves as a link between Russian political circles and the American capital’s conservative elite.
“A delegation of the world’s largest gun rights civic organization—the National Rifle Association of the US (the NRA) visited Moscow on an official trip and met with supporters of the Right to Bear Arms movement,” wrote Butina in Russian in December 2015, posting a photo of the delegation on her organization’s Facebook page.
Clarke reported that Butina’s organization paid $6,000 for his meals, hotel, transportation, and excursions during his time in Russia. Brownell, the CEO of a prominent firearms company and an NRA board member, paid for the remainder, including his airfare and visas.
It is unclear where Butina’s firearms advocacy organization gets her money—it is a puzzling group, considering that Russia does not have a large grassroots movement for gun rights like the United States does.
Butina does, however, have a close relationship with Alexander Torshin, the former deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who has been accused by Spanish authorities of laundering money for the Russian mob. Neither Butina and Torshin responded to requests for comment.
Both Torshin and Butina pride themselves on their close relationship with the National Rifle Assocation, bragging on social media about their life memberships in the organization and posting photos of themselves with Keene, a former president of the NRA.
They’re not the only ones who posted photos showing links with the NRA: Rogozin posted photos of his meetings with the NRA in 2015. In one photo, the deputy prime minister is standing at what appears to be a shooting range with Gregory, Brownell, and Keene.
In another photo, Rogozin is at a conference table with Clarke and Brownell. Putin ally and former Russian senator Alexander Torshin is also seated with the group, along with a number of other unidentified individuals.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, as did the NRA.
Whatever the NRA’s ultimate reason for sending a delegation to Moscow, the conservative movement in D.C. is starting to slowly shift their views on Russia and Putin.
In May 2014, Keene criticized President Obama for not doing enough to confront Putin.
“The United States under President Obama’s leadership is content to issue rhetorical denunciations, insult Mr. Putin by claiming he runs a second-rate country that doesn’t understand the times in which we live, and deny he and his friends visas to visit the United States [emphasis added],” Keene wrote in the Washington Times, where he is now an editor.
With Trump about to enter office, in January 2017, Keene was singing a different tune.
“We seem prepared to believe any evil of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has with its second-rate military establishment and failing economy somehow morphed in the minds of many Americans into a greater threat than the old Soviet Union [emphasis added],” he wrote.
Asked why the contradiction, Keene employed some Trumpian logic.
“The two statements aren’t inconsistent,” he told The Daily Beast.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/top-trump ... -in-moscow
and me again...who's playing catchup?seemslikeadream » Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:29 am wrote:White House pulled out of meet and greet with ‘conservatives’ favorite Russian’ over suspected mob ties
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Yahoo NewsApril 2, 2017
The White House abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting in February between President Trump and a high-level Russian central banker after a national security aide discovered the official had been named by Spanish police as a suspected “godfather” of an organized crime and money-laundering ring, according to an administration official and four other sources familiar with the event.
The event had been planned as a meet and greet with President Trump and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in a waiting room at the Washington Hilton before the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2. Torshin, a top official in his country’s central bank, headed a Russian delegation to the annual event and was among a small number of guests who had been invited by Prayer Breakfast leaders to meet with Trump before it began.
But while reviewing the list of guests, a White House national security aide responsible for European affairs noticed Torshin’s name and flagged him as a figure who had “baggage,” a reference to his suspected ties to organized crime, an administration official told Yahoo News. Around the same time, a former campaign adviser alerted the White House that the meeting could exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin, another source familiar with the matter said.
The sources were unable to say who inside the White House canceled the scheduled meeting, or precisely when the decision was made. The administration official who spoke to Yahoo News said that White House officials were already planning to scrap the meeting when the National Security Council staffer raised concerns about it. But it was not until the night before the Prayer Breakfast that Torshin was informed, without explanation, that his meeting with the president had been scrapped.
“Late the night before, we were told that all meet and greets were off,” said Maria Butina, a special assistant to Torshin, in an email to Yahoo News, confirming that Torshin had expected to meet Trump at the event. “There were no specific questions or statements that Mr. Torshin had in mind during what we assumed to be a five-second handshake. We all hope for better relations between our two countries. I’m sure there will be other opportunities to express this hope.”
The disclosure of the canceled meeting comes as new details are emerging about a Spanish law enforcement investigation that targeted Torshin. The Spanish newspaper El País, which collaborated with Yahoo News on this story, is reporting Sunday that Spanish national police had mounted an elaborate operation to arrest Torshin at the Mallorca airport in the summer of 2013 when he was expected to fly in to attend the birthday party of an accused leader of a Russian organized crime syndicate.
But Torshin failed to show, leading police to conclude he had likely been tipped off by Russian officials, according to the El País report, which cites four judicial and police sources.
Torshin has strongly denied having ties to organized crime figures, and Butina, in her email, called the allegations against him “baseless,” adding: “Mr. Torshin has been repeatedly cleared of all allegations by multiple investigative services.”
While the near-meeting averted what could have been, at a minimum, a political embarrassment for the White House, Torshin’s trip to Washington illustrates what some U.S. intelligence sources say appears to be an aggressive Kremlin effort to forge alliances with conservative Republican Party leaders and activists, including figures close to the White House. They describe this as one element in the broader Russian “influence campaign” that included the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election marked by cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Torshin, once a leader of Putin’s United Russia Party and a senator in the Duma before being named deputy governor of the Bank of Russia in 2015, is a key figure in the Kremlin’s outreach to the conservative movement in the United States. In addition to his appearance at the Prayer Breakfast — an event he has been attending for the past several years — Torshin is also a “life member” of the National Rifle Association — an organization that spent more than $30 million in support of President Trump’s campaign. Torshin has regularly shown up at the gun lobby’s annual conventions, even engaging in target-shooting contests in the exhibit halls with Republican strategists. His assistant, Butina, is the founding chair of a Russian gun rights group, the Right to Bear Arms, which has been described as a Russian version of the NRA. While attending last year’s NRA convention in Louisville, Ky., Torshin was introduced to Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner at a Louisville restaurant, according to three sources familiar with the encounter.
“He’s sort of the conservatives’ favorite Russian,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who together with Rep. Tom Massie, R-Ky., had dinner with Torshin and other members of the Russian delegation to the Prayer Breakfast at a Washington restaurant. “He’s someone who understands our system. His approach is, ‘I agree with you Americans: People should have a right to own guns. There should be religious freedom. The whole problem is with radical Muslims. We were able to have a very good exchange.”
But even while forging ties with Rohrabacher and other conservative Republicans, such as former NRA president David Keene and veteran GOP consultant and Trump transition adviser Paul Erickson, Torshin has been on the radar of international law enforcement officials as a result of a long-running Spanish police investigation into a Russian organized crime syndicate known as the Taganskaya. The group has been accused of laundering profits from racketeering, extortion and other criminal activities through real estate and hotel investments on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Spanish police have made several arrests in connection with the investigation, and an alleged leader of the group, a Russian businessman named Alexander Romanov, pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges in the case last year.
The El País story reports that Spanish national police had wiretapped Romanov and recorded 33 telephone conversations he had with Torshin in which the accused mobster referred to the Russian banker as “el padrino,” or godfather. Alerted that Torshin was planning to attend Romanov’s birthday party on August 23, 2013, the national police prepared to arrest the banker, deploying a dozen officers at the airport and at the Mallorca hotel where the party was to take place. But a Russian official in the Ministry of Interior at the Russian Embassy in Madrid had been informed about the operation. When Torshin failed to show, Spanish police concluded the Interior official had tipped Torshin off. “We suspect that it was he who advised that Torshin was being investigated in Spain and for that reason, he did not come,” a judicial source is quoted as telling El País.
The thwarted plans to arrest Torshin frustrated Spanish law enforcement officials about the level of cooperation they were receiving from the Russian government in their investigations into organized crime. It prompted them to conclude it would be pointless to formally charge Torshin and seek his extradition, especially given his official position, according to the El País report. “it would have delayed the investigation, it would have slowed it,” a judicial source is quoted as saying. “We do not have the support of the Russian authorities.”
Bloomberg News, citing the Spanish National Police dossier prepared under the direction of the country’s best-known prosecutor, Jose Grinda, first reported last year that Torshin was a key suspect in the investigation. Since then, El País has obtained a copy and shared it with Yahoo News as part of a collaborative reporting project for this story.
Citing the intercepted telephone calls between Romanov and Torshin, the dossier states that “above Romanov at a higher hierarchical level is Alexander Torshin. In the numerous telephone conversations and with different interlocutors, Alexander Romanov himself recognizes the subordination that he reveals to what he calls the ‘padrino or ‘the chief’…” — a reference to Torshin.
The report portrays Torshin’s activities as an example of the penetration of the Russian government by Russian and Euro-Asian criminal organizations. It quotes from some of the wiretapped calls in which Romanov tells an associate he was investing in a Mallorca hotel, called Mar y Pins, on Torshin’s behalf. “The Chief instructed him to buy a hotel because he has two daughters and wants one of them to inherit it besides the stock packages,” the report states, summarizing one of Romanov’s phone calls with an associate. He explains in another wiretapped call that he was fronting for Torshin on the hotel purchase because “the padrino cannot buy here … because he is a public official.”
When interviewed last year by Bloomberg in his office in Moscow, where he kept a small bust of Putin, Torshin dismissed the allegations as groundless and characterized his conversations with Romanov as purely social. In an emailed statement to El País, a press spokesman for the Bank of Russia said: “Spanish law enforcement agencies have never brought any charges against Mr. Torshin nor have they made any inquiries. Furthermore, they have never provided either Mr. Torshin or Russian law enforcement agencies with any kind of information about the alleged ties of Mr. Torshin with organized crime. Mr. Torshin was acquainted with Alexander Romanov in 1990s, their contacts were informal in nature and terminated seven years ago. Mr. Torshin has never intended to visit Alexander Romanov. Mr. Torshin has never had any business connections with Alexander Romanov. Mr. Torshin has never owned real estate or business in Spain.”
The spokesman also said that Torshin has “privately attended the Prayer Breakfast” over the past 12 years. “In 2017, he attended the Prayer Breakfast when he was officially on vacation. In addition, President Trump has never proposed a meeting to Mr. Torshin.”
https://www.yahoo.com/news/white-house- ... 26495.htmlDonald Trump and Russia: follow the money laundering
By Bill Palmer | April 3, 2017 | 0
So I heard from Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev today through his spokesman. It was a surreal moment considering how much of a ghost-like figure he’s been throughout the Trump-Russia saga, popping up in strange times and places, never speaking. He only wished to cordially emphasize one point to me: that his 9.9% ownership stake in Bank of Cyprus was largely wiped out by the 2013 bailout. I got to thinking about why this point was important to him. And it made me realize that whoever is or is not involved, Trump-Russia is all going to come down to money laundering.
In a legal sense it doesn’t matter if Rybolovlev massively overpaid for Donald Trump’s house, or if he flew halfway around the world to meet up with Trump in various cities during or after the election. Those actions aren’t crimes, unless they’re part of something else. Deutsche Bank was recently caught laundering billions of dollars in Russian money through Bank of Cyprus into the hands of clients in places like New York City (source: CNN). Now that’s a crime. Pair it up with Deutsche Bank’s strange penchant for loaning large amounts of money to New York City resident Donald Trump (source: The Guardian), and you realize that these two things are either a really fascinating coincidence, or this is the most politically relevant money laundering scandal of all time.
No wonder Rybolovlev wants to emphasize that his association with Bank of Cyprus essentially ended four years ago; he’s trying to signal that he had nothing to do with this money laundering mess. The same benefit of the doubt can not be said of Wilbur Ross, who became Vice Chairman of Bank of Cyprus in 2014, and continued to hold that position until he resigned last month (link) – so he could become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Commerce. Ross isn’t going to be easily able to explain this away, and he’s not the only one still holding the Bank of Cyprus hot potato.
Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort was allegedly laundering tens of millions of dollars in payments from a Kremlin intermediary through that same Bank of Cyprus. If that’s provable, then Manafort is in huge legal trouble; he’d have to flip on Trump in order to avoid spending most of the rest of his life in prison. And whether Manafort flips or not, it feels like the shortest path for Trump going down on criminal activity is if it can be proven that the money Deutsche Bank was loaning to him was being laundered from Russia through Bank of Cyprus, and he knew it. That’s the kind of tangible, traceable crime that’s more easily proven than the subjective charge of conspiring with a foreign government to subvert the election process.
Trump will have one heck of a time explaining why he added the then-sitting Vice Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus to his own cabinet, if he had no involvement with Bank of Cyprus of himself. Is it feasible to believe that Wilbur Ross didn’t know about the money laundering going on in his bank? Will Ross have to flip on Trump for leniency? And why did Trump try to meet with alleged Russian mafia money laundering kingpin Alexander Torshin in February? (link). If the FBI can take down Donald Trump for money laundering, it won’t have to definitively prove an election rigging conspiracy to take him down; he’ll already be finished.
http://www.palmerreport.com/opinion/don ... ring/2159/