Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 24, 2018 6:20 am

The EPA Hired a Major Republican Opposition Research Firm to Track Press Activity

It promises “war room” style media monitoring.

Rebecca Leber, Andy Kroll and Russ ChomaDec. 15, 2017 6:00 AM

Mitchell Resnick/Planet Pix/ZUMA Wire

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Using taxpayer dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency has hired a cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office track and shape press coverage of the agency.

According to federal contracting records, earlier this month Pruitt’s office inked a no-bid $120,000 contract with Definers Corp., a Virginia-based public relations firm founded by Matt Rhoades, who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Following Romney’s defeat, Rhoades established America Rising, an ostensibly independent political action committee that works closely with the Republican National Committee and Republican candidates to mine damning information on opponents. Other higher-ups at Definers include former RNC research director Joe Pounder, who’s been described as “a master of opposition research,” and senior vice president Colin Reed, an oppo-research guru billed as “among the leaders of the war on [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren.”

This for-profit consulting firm offers a variety of public relations services such as digital strategy, political consulting, and media relations. According to its website, Definers’ clients include Fortune 500 corporations, political groups, and nonprofits. In the past, both Marco Rubio and John McCain used their services, and since the 2016 election so has Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.). The client list for America Rising includes the RNC, Republican candidates such as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), and super-PACs such as the Mitch McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

The company also specializes in using the press and social media to “validate your narrative.” According to the company’s website, one of the tools to help do this is its “Definers Console” media-tracking technology. Reed said his firm contracted with Pruitt’s office at the EPA, which is the first governmental client to pay for the Definers Console. The technology promises “war room”-style media monitoring, analysis, and advice, according to marketing materials. A brochure for the Console assures users that they will be able to “monitor for potential crises, as well as to track their message dissemination, relevant responses to their messaging, and what competitors’ actions have been.”

Users will be able to “monitor for potential crises, as well as to track their message dissemination, relevant responses to their messaging, and what competitors’ actions have been.”
Besides monitoring media, users will get analysis and input from their employees whose experience in political campaigns and the business world helps create a unique approach “to intelligence gathering and opposition work. This experience informs the way we gather, synthesize, and disseminate information.”

“Definers has been contracted to provide media monitoring services through our Console by the EPA,” Reed says. “We provide the same service to a number of corporate and non-profit organizations.”

In response to Mother Jones’ questions about the Definers contract, EPA spokesperson Nancy Grantham said, “The Definers contract is for media monitoring/newsclip compilation.” To a question on how the contract came about, she said, “The contract award was handled through the EPA Office of Acquisition Management.”

USASpending.gov, a website that tracks federal spending, shows that in early 2016 the EPA signed a $207,000 contract with a firm called Bulletin Intelligence, requesting similar services. Bulletin is owned by public relations giant Cision, a well-known international PR firm. According to OpenSecrets.org’s expenditure data, Bulletin is not political and has not done any recent work for any candidates or PACs. The contract expired in February.

Definers also recently launched a new venture with the global law firm Dentons, which describes itself as combining “political intelligence, legal advisors, campaign-style tactics, lobbying, governmental affairs, research, and communications into one unique offering” to help clients.

The career of at least one of Pruitt’s staffers has overlapped with the Republican operatives at Definers. Jahan Wilcox, who previously worked for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and in rapid response for the Republican National Committee, is now a spokesperson for the EPA.

Wilcox, along with other political staff in Pruitt’s EPA press shop, has had some contentious interactions with the press. In one case, when Eric Lipton from the New York Times was confirming facts for an investigation into the EPA’s industry-friendly approach to chemical regulation, EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman diverted the discussion to other outlets’ reporting rather than confirming his questions. Wilcox added, “If you want to steal work from other outlets and pretend like it’s your own reporting that is your decision.”

On another occasion, shortly after the Associated Press reported on the Superfund sites affected by Hurricane Harvey, the EPA went after one of the bylined reporters in a statement, and an unnamed official later admitted to removing one of the bylined AP reporters from the agency’s press list, saying, “We don’t think he’s a trustworthy reporter.” When Pruitt has faced criticism, the EPA highlights friendlier stories from conservative outlets—including Breitbart.

Pruitt has come under fire for a general lack of transparency at the EPA. The latest example is his trip promoting natural gas in Morocco. The public learned of his travels when his office posted a media release, causing confusion over why the EPA would not notify reporters ahead of time. This means that information on Pruitt’s activities in Morocco will be restricted to the EPA’s own spin.

The EPA’s work with groups affiliated with Pounder predate this contract. On a handful of occasions, the EPA has promoted positive coverage of Pruitt’s actions from the news-aggregation website Need To Know Network. Earlier this year, the website wrote a series of stories designed to shed positive light on the controversial administrator. In one story, the site describes Pruitt as “busy racking up accomplishments that both protect Americans and save millions in taxpayer dollars.” Another congratulated Pruitt for moving ahead with plans to open Alaska’s Bristol Bay to mining, writing it was “a move that will prove to be a massive job creator for President Trump and Pruitt.”
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... -activity/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 24, 2018 6:28 am

Foreign Influence

the 5th country which “paid to play” and U.S. Congress does nothing?
1.) Russia
2.) Saudi Arabia
3.) UAE
4.) Qatar
5.) Ukraine





Wendy Siegelman

Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks - Michael Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved

Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks

By Paul Wood BBC News, Kiev
Poroshenko shakes hands with TrumpGetty Images
Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko (left) meets US President Donald Trump at the White House in June 2017
Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.

The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.

Mr Cohen denies the allegation.

The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House.

Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks".

This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help.

He in turn used personal contacts who attended a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. (A spokeman for the Chabad has asked us to make clear that officials there were not involved.)

This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000.

There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.


Ukraine allegedly paid Michael Cohen $400,000 for fixing a meeting with President Trump
A second source in Kiev gave the same details, except that the total paid to Mr Cohen was $600,000.

There was also support for the account from a lawyer in the US who has uncovered details of Mr Cohen's finances, Michael Avenatti. He represents a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, in legal action against President Trump.

Avenatti said that Suspicious Activity Reports filed by Mr Cohen's bank to the US Treasury showed he had received money from "Ukrainian interests".

As well as Mr Cohen, the two Ukrainians said to have opened the backchannel for their president also denied the story.

The senior intelligence official in Kiev said Mr Cohen had been helped by Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump's business partner. Mr Sater's lawyer, too, denied the allegations.

The Ukrainian president's office initially refused to comment but, asked by a local journalist to respond, a statement was issued calling the story a "blatant lie, slander and fake".

As was widely reported last June, Mr Poroshenko was still guessing at how much time he would have with Mr Trump even as he flew to Washington.

The White House schedule said only that Mr Poroshenko would "drop in" to the Oval Office while Mr Trump was having staff meetings.

That had been agreed through official channels. Mr Cohen's fee was for getting Mr Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit.

The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Mr Cohen had taken "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.

Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation.

"Poroshenko's inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was."

You might also be interested in:

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'I wish Mum's phone was never invented'
Mr Poroshenko was desperate to meet Mr Trump because of what had happened in the US presidential election campaign.

In August 2016, the New York Times published a document that appeared to show Mr Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, getting millions of dollars from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

It was a page of the so-called "black ledger" belonging to the Party of the Regions, the pro-Russian party that employed Mr Manafort when he ran a political consultancy in Ukraine.

The page appeared to have come from Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau, which was investigating him. Mr Manafort had to resign.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortReuters
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort maintains his innocence
Several sources in Ukraine said Mr Poroshenko authorised the leak, believing that Hillary Clinton was certain to win the presidency.

If so, this was a disastrous mistake - Ukraine had backed the losing candidate in the US election. Regardless of how the leak came about, it hurt Mr Trump, the eventual winner.

Ukraine was (and remains) at war with Russia and Russian-backed separatists and could not afford to make an enemy of the new US president.

So Mr Poroshenko appeared relieved as he beamed and paid tribute to Mr Trump in the Oval Office.

He boasted that he had seen the new president before Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin. He called it a "substantial visit". He held a triumphant news conference in front of the north portico of the White House.

A week after Mr Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau announced that it was no longer investigating Mr Manafort.

At the time, an official there explained to me that Mr Manafort had not signed the "black ledger" acknowledging receipt of the money. And anyway, he went on, Mr Manafort was American and the law allowed the bureau only to investigate Ukrainians.

US charges facing Paul Manafort

conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money and failure to disclose foreign assets - all related to his work in Ukraine and filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He pleaded not guilty
tax and bank fraud charges later filed by Mueller in US state of Virginia, also denied by Manafort
Read more about Manafort: The man who helped Trump win

Ukraine did not terminate the Manafort inquiry altogether. The file was handed from the Anti Corruption Bureau to the state prosecutor's office. It languished there.

Last week in Kiev, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Serhiy Horbatyuk, told me: "There was never a direct order to stop the Manafort inquiry but from the way our investigation has progressed, it's clear that our superiors are trying to create obstacles."

Anti-Russian protests in KievGetty Images
Anti-Russian protests in Kiev this year
None of our sources say that Mr Trump used the Oval Office meeting to ask Mr Poroshenko to kill the Manafort investigation. But if there was a back channel, did Michael Cohen use it to tell the Ukrainians what was expected of them?

Perhaps he didn't need to.

One source in Kiev said Mr Poroshenko had given Trump "a gift" - making sure that Ukraine would find no more evidence to give the US inquiry into whether the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia.

Mr Poroshenko knew that to do otherwise, another source said, "would be like spitting in Trump's face".

More on Michael Cohen


Was Trump's Stormy Daniels payment legal?
Who is Michael Cohen?
The big question at heart of Stormy Daniels saga
Why the raid on Trump's lawyer is a big deal
A report by a member of a Western country's intelligence community says Mr Poroshenko's team believe they have established a "non-aggression pact" with Mr Trump.

Drawing on "senior, well placed" intelligence sources in Kiev, the report sets out this sequence of events…

As soon as Trump was elected, the report says, Ukraine stopped "proactively" investigating Manafort.

Liaison with the US government was moved away from the National Anti Corruption Bureau to a senior aide in the presidential administration.

The report states that Poroshenko returned from Washington and, in August or September, 2017, decided to completely end cooperation with the US agencies investigating Manafort. He did not give an order to implement this decision until November 2017.

The order became known to the US government after scheduled visits by Poroshenko's senior aide to see Mueller and the CIA director, in November and December, were cancelled.

The report says that an "element of the understanding" between Poroshenko and Trump was that Ukraine agreed to import US coal and signed a $1bn contract for American-made diesel trains.

These deals can only be understood as Poroshenko buying American support, the reports say.

In March, the Trump administration announced the symbolically important sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Even under President Obama, the US did not sell arms to Ukraine. A well known figure in Kiev, now retired from his old job in government, told me he didn't like what had happened with the Manafort inquiry; however, Ukraine was fighting for its survival.

"I want the rule of law," he said, "but I am a patriot."

He said he had kept in touch with his former subordinates and had heard many of the details about a "Cohen backchannel".

Michael Cohen in an elevator at Trump TowerGetty Images
Michael Cohen visited Donald Trump at Trump Tower in 2016
He said that if Ukrainians came to believe that a corrupt deal had been done over Mr Manafort: "This thing might destroy support for America."

Ukraine's domestic intelligence service, the SBU, did their own - secret - report on Mr Manafort.

It found that there was not one "black ledger" but three and that Mr Manafort had been paid millions of dollars more from Ukraine than had been made public. (Mr Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.)

This information was given to me by a very senior police officer who saw the report. He said it had not been passed to the Americans.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656


@WendySiegelman
18h18 hours ago
More

BBC Breaking News
Verified account

@BBCBreaking
After the alleged payment to Cohen for White House talks, Ukraine’s Anti Corruption Bureau drops Paul Manafort investigation


The senior intelligence official in Kiev also said Cohen had been helped by Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump's business partner. Sater's lawyer, too, denied the allegations. The Ukrainian president's office refused to comment.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656#

Image


"Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help. He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington"Wendy Siegelman added,

Olga Lautman

@olgaNYC1211
https://twitter.com/olganyc1211/status/ ... 60832?s=21
Looks like the Port Washington Chabad is making its way back into the news finally
Show this thread
Image

Ukraine's domestic intelligence service, the SBU, did a secret report on Manafort & found there wasn't one "black ledger" but three & Manafort had been paid millions of dollars more from Ukraine than had been made public (Manafort denied any wrongdoing)
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44215656


AlwaysAFedcase


Sater was Port Washington Chabad's Man of the Year.
https://youtu.be/xSpFtCmoD5o

Image

AlwaysAFedcase


That is Sater's Chabad. Newsy piece here:

The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin

Where Trump's real estate world meets a top religious ally of the Kremlin.

BEN SCHRECKINGERApril 09, 2017

Chabad of Port Washington, a Jewish community center on Long Island’s Manhasset Bay, sits in a squat brick edifice across from a Shell gas station and a strip mall. The center is an unexceptional building on an unexceptional street, save for one thing: Some of the shortest routes between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin run straight through it.

Two decades ago, as the Russian president set about consolidating power on one side of the world, he embarked on a project to supplant his country’s existing Jewish civil society and replace it with a parallel structure loyal to him. On the other side of the world, the brash Manhattan developer was working to get a piece of the massive flows of capital that were fleeing the former Soviet Union in search of stable assets in the West, especially real estate, and seeking partners in New York with ties to the region.

Their respective ambitions led the two men—along with Trump’s future son-in-law, Jared Kushner—to build a set of close, overlapping relationships in a small world that intersects on Chabad, an international Hasidic movement most people have never heard of.

Starting in 1999, Putin enlisted two of his closest confidants, the oligarchs Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, who would go on to become Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide, to create the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia under the leadership of Chabad rabbi Berel Lazar, who would come to be known as “Putin’s rabbi.”

A few years later, Trump would seek out Russian projects and capital by joining forces with a partnership called Bayrock-Sapir, led by Soviet emigres Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater and Tamir Sapir—who maintain close ties to Chabad. The company’s ventures would lead to multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and a criminal investigation of a condo project in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the links between Trump and Chabad kept piling up. In 2007, Trump hosted the wedding of Sapir’s daughter and Leviev’s right-hand man at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort. A few months after the ceremony, Leviev met Trump to discuss potential deals in Moscow and then hosted a bris for the new couple’s first son at the holiest site in Chabad Judaism. Trump attended the bris along with Kushner, who would go on to buy a $300 million building from Leviev and marry Ivanka Trump, who would form a close relationship with Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. Zhukova would host the power couple in Russia in 2014 and reportedly attend Trump’s inauguration as their guest.

With the help of this trans-Atlantic diaspora and some globetrotting real estate moguls, Trump Tower and Moscow’s Red Square can feel at times like part of the same tight-knit neighborhood. Now, with Trump in the Oval Office having proclaimed his desire to reorient the global order around improved U.S. relations with Putin’s government—and as the FBI probes the possibility of improper coordination between Trump associates and the Kremlin—that small world has suddenly taken on outsize importance.

Trump’s kind of Jews

Founded in Lithuania in 1775, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement today has adherents numbering in the five, or perhaps six, figures. What the movement lacks in numbers it makes up for in enthusiasm, as it is known for practicing a particularly joyous form of Judaism.

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, recalled having this trait impressed upon him during one family wedding at which the two tables occupied by his first cousins, Chabad rabbis, put the rest of the celebrants to shame. “They were dancing up a storm, these guys. I thought they were black. Instead they’re just black-hat,” Klein said, referring to their traditional Hasidic garb.

Despite its small size, Chabad has grown to become the most sprawling Jewish institution in the world, with a presence in over 1,000 far-flung cities, including locales like Kathmandu and Hanoi with few full-time Jewish residents. The movement is known for these outposts, called Chabad houses, which function as community centers and are open to all Jews. “Take any forsaken city in the world, you have a McDonald’s and a Chabad house,” explained Ronn Torossian, a Jewish public relations executive in New York.

Chabad adherents differ from other Hasidic Jews on numerous small points of custom, including the tendency of Chabad men to wear fedoras instead of fur hats. Many adherents believe that the movement’s last living leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, is the messiah, and some believe he is still alive. Chabad followers are also, according to Klein, “remarkable” fundraisers.

As the closest thing the Jewish world has to evangelism—much of its work is dedicated to making Jews around the world more involved in Judaism—Chabad serves many more Jews who are not full-on adherents.

According to Schmuley Boteach, a prominent rabbi in New Jersey and a longtime friend of Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, Chabad offers Jews a third way of relating to their religious identity. “You have three choices as a Jew,” he explained. “You can assimilate and not be very affiliated. You can be religious and Orthodox, or there’s sort of a third possibility that Chabad offers for people who don’t want to go the full Orthodox route but do want to stay on the traditional spectrum.”

This third way may explain the affinity Trump has found with a number of Chabad enthusiasts—Jews who shun liberal reform Judaism in favor of traditionalism but are not strictly devout.

“It’s not a surprise that Trump-minded people are involved with Chabad,” said Torossian. “Chabad is a place that tough, strong Jews feel comfortable. Chabad is a nonjudgmental place where people that are not traditional and not by-the-book feel comfortable.”

He summarized the Chabad attitude, which is less strict than the Orthodox one, as, “If you can’t keep all of the commandments, keep as many as you can.”

Torossian, who coincidentally said he is Sater’s friend and PR rep, also explained that this balance is particularly appealing to Jews from the former Soviet Union, who appreciate its combination of traditional trappings with a lenient attitude toward observance. “All Russian Jews go to Chabad,” he said. “Russian Jews are not comfortable in a reform synagogue.”

Putin’s kind of Jews

The Russian state’s embrace of Chabad happened, like many things in Putin’s Russia, as the result of a factional power struggle.

In 1999, soon after he became prime minister, Putin enlisted Abramovich and Leviev to create the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities. Its purpose was to undermine the existing umbrella for Russia’s Jewish civil society, the Russian Jewish Congress, led by oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, a potential threat to Putin and President Boris Yeltsin. A year later, Gusinsky was arrested by Putin’s government and forced into exile.

At the time, Russia already had a chief rabbi as recognized by the Russian Jewish Congress, Adolf Shayevich. But Abramovich and Leviev installed Chabad rabbi Lazar at the head of their rival organization. The Kremlin removed Shayevich from its religious affairs council, and ever since it has instead recognized Lazar as Russia’s chief rabbi, leaving the country with two rival claimants to the title.

The Putin-Chabad alliance has reaped benefits for both sides. Under Putin, anti-Semitism has been officially discouraged, a break from centuries of discrimination and pogroms, and the government has come to embrace a state-sanctioned version of Jewish identity as a welcome part of the nation.

As Putin has consolidated his control of Russia, Lazar has come to be known derisively as “Putin’s rabbi.” He has escorted the Russian leader to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, Putin’s pet project, on the Jewish Sabbath. Putin returned that favor by arranging for Lazar to enter the stadium without submitting to security checks that would have broken the rules for observing Shabbat.

In 2013, a $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center opened in Moscow under the auspices of Chabad and with funding from Abramovich. Putin donated a month of his salary to the project, while the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, pitched in by offering relevant documents from its archives.

In 2014, Lazar was the only Jewish leader present at Putin’s triumphal announcement of the annexation of Crimea.

But the rabbi has paid a price for his loyalty to Putin. Since the annexation, his continued support for the Russian autocrat has caused a rift with Chabad leaders in Ukraine. And for years, the Russian government has defied an American court order to turn over a trove of Chabad texts called the “Schneerson Library” to the Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Shortly after the opening of the tolerance museum, Putin ordered the collection transferred there instead. The move made Lazar the custodian of a prized collection that his Brooklyn comrades believe is rightfully theirs.

If Lazar has any qualms about his role in all the intra-Chabad drama, he hasn’t let on publicly. “Challenging the government is not the Jewish way,” the rabbi said in 2015.

Trump, Bayrock, Sapir

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, as Trump looked for business and investors in the former Soviet Union during the first years of this century, he struck up an enduring relationship with a firm called Bayrock-Sapir.

Bayrock was co-led by Felix Sater, a convicted mob associate.

Sater and another Bayrock employee, Daniel Ridloff, who like Sater later went on to work directly for the Trump Organization, belong to the Port Washington Chabad house. Sater told POLITICO Magazine that in addition to serving on the board of the Port Washington Chabad house, he sits on the boards of numerous Chabad entities in the U.S. and abroad, though none in Russia.

The extent of Sater’s ties to Trump is a matter of some dispute. Working out of Trump Tower, Sater partnered with the celebrity developer on numerous Trump-branded developments and scouted deals for him in the former Soviet Union. In 2006, Sater escorted Trump’s children Ivanka and Don Jr. around Moscow to scour the city for potential projects, and he worked especially closely with Ivanka on the development of Trump SoHo, a hotel and condominium building in Manhattan whose construction was announced on “The Apprentice” in 2006.

In 2007, Sater’s stock fraud conviction became public. The revelation did not deter Trump, who brought him on as “a senior advisor to the Trump Organization” in 2010. In 2011, a number of purchasers of Trump SoHo units sued Trump and his partners for fraud and the New York attorney general’s office opened a criminal inquiry into the building’s marketing. But the purchasers settled and agreed not to cooperate with the criminal investigation, which was subsequently scuttled, according to the New York Times. Two former executives are suing Bayrock alleging tax evasion, money laundering, racketeering, bribery, extortion and fraud.

Under oath, Sater has described a close relationship with the Trumps, while Trump has testified under oath that he barely knew Sater and would not be able to pick his face out in a crowd. Several people who worked closely with Sater during this period and who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation from both men, scoffed at Trump’s testimony, describing frequent meetings and near-constant phone calls between the two. One person recalled numerous occasions on which Trump and Sater dined together, including at the now-defunct Kiss & Fly in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Trump called Felix like every other day to his office. So the fact that he’s saying he doesn’t know him, that’s a lot of crap,” said a former Sater colleague. “They were definitely in contact always. They spoke on the phone all the time.”

In 2014, the Port Washington Chabad house named Sater its “man of the year.” At the ceremony honoring Sater, the chabad’s founder, Shalom Paltiel, recounted how Sater would spill his guts to him about his adventures working as a government cooperator on sensitive matters of national security.

“I only recently told Felix I really didn’t believe most of it. I thought perhaps he watched too many James Bond movies, read one too many Tom Clancy novels,” said Paltiel at the ceremony. “Anyone who knows Felix knows he can tell a good story. I simply did not put too much credence to them.”

But Paltiel went on to recount receiving special clearance years later to accompany Sater to a ceremony at the federal building in Manhattan. There, said Paltiel, officials from every American intelligence agency applauded Sater’s secret work and divulged “stuff that was more fantastic, and more unbelievable, than anything he had been telling me.” A video of the event honoring Sater has been removed from the Port Washington Chabad house’s website but is still available on YouTube.

When I contacted Paltiel for this article, he hung up the phone as soon as I introduced myself. I wanted to ask him about some of the connections I’d come across in the course of my reporting. In addition to his relationship with Sater, Paltiel is also close to “Putin’s rabbi” Lazar, calling Lazar “my dear friend and mentor” in a short note about running into him at Schneerson’s gravesite in Queens.

According to Boteach, this is unsurprising, because Chabad is the sort of community where everybody knows everybody else. “In the world of Chabad, we all went to Yeshiva together, we were all ordained together,” Boteach explained. “I knew Berel Lazar from yeshiva.”

The Port Washington Chabad house has another Bayrock tie. Among its top 13 benefactors, its “Chai Circle,” as listed on its website, is Sater’s partner, Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif.

Arif, a former Soviet bureaucrat turned wealthy real estate developer, owns a mansion in Port Washington, an upscale suburb, but he makes a curious patron for the town’s Chabad. A Kazakh-born citizen of Turkey with a Muslim name, Arif is not Jewish, according to people who have worked with him. In 2010, he was arrested in a raid on a yacht in Turkey that once belonged to the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, and charged with running an international underage prostitution ring. Arif was later cleared of the charges.

Before the scandal on Ataturk’s yacht, Arif partnered closely with Trump, Ivanka Trump and Sater in the development of Trump SoHo along with the Sapir family, a New York real estate dynasty and the other half of Bayrock-Sapir.

Its patriarch, the late billionaire Tamir Sapir, was born in the Soviet state of Georgia and arrived in 1976 in New York, where he opened an electronics store in the Flatiron district that, according to the New York Times, catered largely to KGB agents.

Trump has called Sapir “a great friend.” In December 2007, he hosted the wedding of Sapir’s daughter, Zina, at Mar-a-Lago. The event featured performances by Lionel Ritchie and the Pussycat Dolls. The groom, Rotem Rosen, was the CEO of the American branch of Africa Israel, the Putin oligarch Leviev’s holding company.

Five months later, in early June 2008, Zina Sapir and Rosen held a bris for their newborn son. Invitations to the bris described Rosen as Leviev’s “right-hand man.” By then, Leviev had become the single largest funder of Chabad worldwide, and he personally arranged for the bris to take place at Schneerson’s grave, Chabad’s most holy site.

Trump attended the bris. A month earlier, in May 2008, he and Leviev had met to discuss possible real estate projects in Moscow, according to a contemporaneous Russian news report. An undated photograph on a Pinterest account called LLD Diamond USA, the name of a firm registered to Leviev, shows Trump and Leviev shaking hands and smiling. (The photograph was first pointed out by Pacific Standard.)

That same year, Sapir, an active Chabad donor in his own right, joined Leviev in Berlin to tour Chabad institutions in the city.

Jared, Ivanka, Roman, Dasha

Also present at the Sapir-Rosen bris was Kushner, who along with his now-wife Ivanka Trump has forged his own set of ties to Putin’s Chabad allies. Kushner’s family, which is Modern Orthodox, has long been highly engaged in philanthropy across the Jewish world, including to Chabad entities, and during his undergraduate years at Harvard, Kushner was active in the university’s Chabad house. Three days before the presidential election, the couple visited Schneerson’s grave and prayed for Trump. In January, the couple purchased a home in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood and settled on the city’s nearby Chabad synagogue, known as TheSHUL of the Nation's Capital, as their house of worship.

In May 2015, a month before Trump officially entered the Republican presidential primary, Kushner bought a majority stake in the old New York Times building on West 43rd Street from Leviev for $295 million.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also close with Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. Abramovich, an industrialist worth more than $7 billion and the owner of the British soccer club Chelsea FC, is the former governor of the Russian province of Chukotka, where he is still revered as a hero. He owes his fortune to his triumphant emergence from Russia’s post-Soviet “aluminum wars,” in which more than 100 people are estimated to have died in fighting over control of aluminum refineries. Abramovich admitted in 2008 that he amassed his assets by paying billions of dollars in bribes. In 2011, his former business partner, the late Boris Berezovsky—an oligarch who had fallen out with Putin and gone on to live in exile at the Trump International on Central Park West—accused him of threats, blackmail and intimidation in a lawsuit in the United Kingdom, which Abramovich won.

Abramovich was reportedly the first person to recommend to Yeltsin that he choose Putin as his successor. In their 2004 biography of Abramovich, the British journalists Chris Hutchins and Dominic Midgely write, “When Putin needed a shadowy force to act against his enemies behind the scenes, it was Abramovich whom he could rely on to prove a willing co-conspirator.” The biographers compare the two men’s relationship to that between a father and a son and report that Abramovich personally interviewed candidates for Putin’s first cabinet. He has reportedly gifted Putin a $30 million yacht, though Putin denies it.

Abramovich’s vast business holdings and his personal life overlap with Trump’s world in multiple ways.

According to a 2012 report from researchers at Cornell University, Evraz, a firm partly owned by Abramovich, has contracts to provide 40 percent of the steel for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project whose completion was approved by Trump in March after years of delay. And in 2006, Abramovich purchased a large stake in the Russian oil giant Rosneft, a company now being scrutinized for its possible role in alleged collusion between Trump and Russia. Both Trump and the Kremlin have dismissed as "fake news" a dossier that alleges that a recent sale of Rosneft shares was part of a scheme to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Meanwhile, his wife, Zhukova, has long traveled in the same social circles as Kushner and Ivanka Trump: She is a friend and business partner of Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, one of Ivanka’s closest friends, and a friend of Karlie Kloss, the longtime girlfriend of Kushner’s brother, Josh.

Over the years, Zhukova has grown close to Jared and Ivanka themselves. In February 2014, a month before Putin illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine, Ivanka Trump posted a photo to Instagram of herself with Zhukova, Wendi Deng, a bottle of wine, and the caption, “Thank you [Zhukova] for an unforgettable four days in Russia!” Deng was recently rumored to be dating Putin, though she denied it. Other photos from the trip show Kushner was also present in Russia at the time.

Last summer, Kushner and Ivanka Trump shared a box at the U.S. Open with Zhukova and Deng. In January, Zhukova reportedly attended Trump’s inauguration as Ivanka Trump’s guest.

On March 14, The Daily Mail spotted Josh Kushner dining with Zhukova in New York. According to the outlet, Josh Kushner “hid his face as he exited the eatery with Dasha.”

A week later, at the same time Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were vacationing in Aspen with her two brothers and their families, Abramovich’s plane flew from Moscow to Denver, according to a flight tracking service. Abramovich owns two properties in the Aspen area.

A spokesman for Abramovich declined to comment on the record about the Colorado overlap. The White House referred queries about the couples to a personal spokeswoman for Ivanka Trump. The spokeswoman, Risa Heller, initially indicated she would provide answers to questions about the Colorado overlap and recent contacts between the couples, but did not do so.

President Trump has reportedly sought security clearances for Kushner and Ivanka, who have taken on growing roles in his White House. For anyone else, a close personal relationship with the family of a top Putin confidant would present significant hurdles to obtaining security clearances, former high-ranking intelligence officials said, but political pressure to grant clearances to the president’s children would be likely to override any security concerns.

“Yes, such connections to Russia should matter for a clearance,” said Steve Hall, a former CIA Moscow station chief. “Question is, will they?”

“I don’t think the Trump family camp will have any trouble with security clearances, as long as there’s no polygraph involved,” said Milt Bearden, former chief of the CIA’s Eastern European division. “It’s absolutely crazy, but not going to be an issue.”

***

With Washington abuzz about the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Trump world’s relationship with Putin’s Kremlin, their overlapping networks remain the object of much scrutiny and fascination.

In March, the New York Times reported that Lazar had met last summer with the Trump administration’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, then a lawyer for the Trump Organization. The men characterized the meeting as a normal part of Greenblatt’s campaign outreach to Jewish leaders and said it included general discussion of Russian society and anti-Semitism. The meeting was brokered by New York PR rep Joshua Nass, and Lazar has said he did not discuss that meeting with the Russian government.

In late January, Sater met with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to discuss a proposed Ukraine peace deal that would end U.S. sanctions on Russia, which Cohen then delivered to Trump’s then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House, according to the Times. Cohen has given varying accounts of the episode.

According to one Jewish Republican who said he sees Cohen “all the time” there, Cohen himself is a regular presence at the Midtown Chabad on Fifth Avenue, a dozen blocks south of Trump Tower and a half-dozen blocks south of his current office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Cohen disputed this, saying, “I’ve never been to a Chabad and I’ve never been to one in New York City either.” Cohen then said he last stepped foot in a Chabad over 15 years ago to attend a bris. He said the last Chabad-related event he attended was on March 16 at a hotel in Newark when he spoke at a dinner honoring Trump’s secretary of veterans affairs, David Shulkin. The dinner was hosted by the Rabbinical College of America, a Chabad organization.

To those unfamiliar with Russian politics, Trump’s world and Hasidic Judaism, all these Chabad links can appear confounding. Others simply greet them with a shrug.

“The interconnectedness of the Jewish world through Chabad is not surprising insofar as it’s one of the main Jewish players,” said Boteach. “I would assume that the world of New York real estate isn’t that huge either.”
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story ... tin-215007


https://twitter.com/WendySiegelman
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 24, 2018 6:39 am

Mueller Asked About Money Flows to Israeli Social-Media Firm, Source Says

Michael RileyMay 22, 2018, 12:35 PM CDT
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked about flows of money into the Cyprus bank account of a company that specialized in social-media manipulation and whose founder reportedly met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry is drawing attention to PSY Group, an Israeli firm that pitched its services to super-PACs and other entities during the 2016 election. Those services included infiltrating target audiences with elaborately crafted social-media personas and spreading misleading information through websites meant to mimic news portals, according to interviews and PSY Group documents seen by Bloomberg News.

The person doesn’t believe any of those pitches was successful, and it’s illegal for foreign entities to contribute anything of value or to play decision-making roles in U.S. political campaigns.

One of PSY Group’s founders, Joel Zamel, met in August 2016 at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and an emissary to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss how PSY Group could help Trump win, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for Zamel, said his client “offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign.” He also said reports that Zamel’s companies engage in social-media manipulation are misguided and that the firms “harvest publicly available information for lawful use.”

Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting at which he was pitched “on a social media platform or marketing strategy,” said his attorney, Alan Futerfas, in an emailed statement. “He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

Trump Jr. Meetings Test Laws on Foreigners, Campaigns: QuickTake

Following Trump’s victory, PSY Group formed an alliance with Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s primary social-media consultants, to try to win U.S. government work, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

FBI agents working with Mueller’s team interviewed people associated with PSY Group’s U.S. operations in February, and Mueller subpoenaed bank records for payments made to the firm’s Cyprus bank accounts, according to a person who has seen one of the subpoenas. Though PSY Group is based in Israel, it’s technically headquartered in Cyprus, the small Mediterranean island famous for its banking secrecy.

Shortly after those interviews, on Feb. 25, PSY Group Chief Executive Officer Royi Burstien informed employees in Tel Aviv that the company was closing down. Burstien is a former commander of an Israeli psychological warfare unit, according to two people familiar with the company. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.

PSY Group developed elaborate information operations for commercial clients and political candidates around the world, the people said.

‘Poisoning the Well’

Tactics deployed by PSY Group in foreign elections included inflaming divisions in opposition groups and playing on deep-seated cultural and ethnic conflicts, something the firm called “poisoning the well,” according to the people.

In a contracting proposal for the U.S. State Department that PSY Group prepared with Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, Cambridge’s U.K. affiliate, the firm said that it “has conducted messaging/influence operations in well over a dozen languages and dialects” and that it employs “an elite group of high-ranking former officers from some of the world’s most renowned intelligence units.”

Although the proposal says that the company is legally bound not to reveal its clients, it also boasts that “PSY has succeeded in placing the results of its intelligence activities in top-tier publications across the globe in order to advance the interests of its clients.”

That proposal was the result of a collaboration that gelled after Trump’s victory -- a mutual non-disclosure agreement between Cambridge and PSY Group is dated Dec. 14, 2016 -- but the documents don’t indicate how the companies initially connected or why they decided to work together.

Companies Shut Down

Cambridge Analytica and the elections division of SCL shut down this month following scrutiny of the companies’ business practices, including the release of a secretly recorded interview of Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix saying he could entrap politicians in compromising situations.

The joint proposal for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center was for a project to interrupt the recruitment and radicalization of ISIS members, and it provides insight into PSY Group’s use of fake social-media personas.

The company spent months preparing for the proposal by developing a persona for “an average Chicago teenager” named Madison who converted from Christianity to Islam and became alienated from her parents. Over a period of many weeks, Madison interacted with an ISIS recruiter, received instructions for sending money to fighters in Syria, and began an extended flirtation with a fighter in Raqqa, Syria.

Among the long-term objectives of Madison’s persona were obtaining names and contacts of “radical Turkish Islamic elements” and obtaining bank accounts and routing numbers for donating to ISIS, according to the proposal seen by Bloomberg News.

The State Department’s Global Engagement Center entered into a contract with SCL Group last year, but it didn’t include provisions for work to be performed by any subcontractors, according to a department spokesman. That contract didn’t involve social media and was focused on in-person interviews, according to an earlier department briefing.

Tower Meeting

The Trump Tower meeting in August 2016 included Zamel, the PSY Group founder, and George Nader, an adviser to the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the New York Times report. PSY Group’s decision to shut down appears to have come the same week that Nader testified before the grand jury working with Mueller, according to the timing of that testimony previously reported in the Times.

Following the election, Nader hired a different company of Zamel’s called WhiteKnight, which specializes in open-source social media research and is based in the Caribbean, according to a person familiar with the transaction.

The person described WhiteKnight as a high-end business consulting firm owned in part by Zamel that completed a post-election analysis for Nader that examined the role that social media played in the 2016 election.

There is little public information about WhiteKnight or its products, and the company does not appear to have a website.

Another person familiar with PSY Group’s operations said that months ago, there was discussion about rebranding the firm under a different name.

The name being discussed internally, according to the person, was WhiteKnight.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... ow-organic



Sen. MarkWarner's spox sent this to reporters in response to DHS Sec Kirstjen Nielsen's comment that she was not "aware" of conclusion that Putin wanted to help Trump win:
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 24, 2018 6:51 am

“This Is RICO 101”: Why Robert Mueller Isn’t Taking Rudy’s Bait

The Trump camp’s witch-hunt talking points are now dominating the news—but the media battle may be the wrong way to beat Mueller. “It’s exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life,” a former F.B.I. senior official says. “It’s just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world.”

Chris SmithMay 23, 2018 5:47 pm
Mueller’s Method

Rudy Giuliani has played a multitude of parts in public life: Tenacious federal prosecutor of the mob. Two-term mayor leading the revival of New York City—and consoler-in-chief when the city was attacked by terrorists. Giuliani has also been an enthusiastic drag queen and a failed Republican presidential candidate. Now he has taken on his least-likely role: spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller. Unofficially, that is, but energetically and craftily. One week ago, Giuliani declared to CNN that Mueller had told him the special counsel “acknowledged” that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Three days ago Giuliani announced to The New York Times that Mueller’s timeline has the special counsel wrapping up the investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by September 1. All of which may be true—or not. Hours after Giuliani’s most recent declaration, Reuters ran a story saying the September 1 deadline was “entirely made-up” by Trump’s new lawyer, attributing the pushback cryptically to a “U.S. official.” Mueller’s actual spokesman, Peter Carr, did what he has done for more than a year, however: quickly and politely decline to comment.

It may soon become much harder for Mueller’s office to maintain its silence as Trump’s team works to shape the political context for the results of the Russia investigations, and to destroy the special counsel’s credibility. Giuliani, for all his different guises, is at heart a politician, and one trained in the hand-to-hand combat of New York’s tabloid-media culture. So he has been quick to exploit a weakness in his current adversary. “There are serious Department of Justice rules and guidelines about what Mueller can talk about publicly, in regards to an open investigation,” says Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor. “If there were a trial in progress and Giuliani tried to make these statements to poison the well or to influence jurors, a judge could issue sanctions. Giuliani’s getting away with it because there’s no pending court case right now. But it’s equally as problematic, if not more, because the jury pool here is the American public. And whatever else you can say, this whole strategy of calling it a witch hunt and attacking the prosecution is extremely effective with some part of the public.”

Mueller is not completely prohibited from responding to Giuliani—he could issue press releases to correct the factual record. And other special prosecutors have been much more talkative. When pursuing Bill Clinton, Ken Starr was a chatterbox to the media, for reasons both tactical and personal. Not yet 50, Starr was a man on the rise. “He cared about his image, his ambition, his media strategy,” said Lanny Davis, one of Clinton’s lawyers.

There are good strategic reasons for Mueller not to engage, however. “If Mueller responds to one thing, and then doesn’t respond to the next thing, does that mean the second thing Giuliani said was true?” Rocah says. Matthew Miller, a top Justice Department spokesman during the Obama administration, maintains an optimistic view of Mueller’s lack of visibility. “He has to worry about getting the facts right. And if he gets the facts right, when he releases them publicly, it will have enough of an impact that it won’t matter what Giuliani said in advance,” Miller says. “Mueller’s job is not to worry about the politics. The minute you start doing that, you start making mistakes. The best example of that is Jim Comey. Or maybe Ken Starr.”

Perhaps. Giuliani clearly recognizes that the Russia investigation is unfolding in a new media and political landscape where a lot of the norms don’t apply. Mueller’s keep-your-head-down, just-the-facts strategy is rooted in his own ascetic, disciplined personal style, and what is quickly becoming an antiquated tradition. His approach isn’t likely to change. But it isn’t oblivious to modern reality, either. “Oh, Mueller is critically aware of everything that’s being written or said. He reads his papers. He listens to the radio. He’s not missing anything,” a former top F.B.I. colleague says. “But he completely tunes it out. It’s a discipline. This is his way of flying above the fray, because once you get into it, you’re all in. There’s an old expression: ‘It’s like mud-wrestling with a pig. You’re both going to get dirty. The difference is that the pig likes it.’ But the very fact that Mueller refuses to respond to the most outrageous criticisms and claims is the reason the pig is wrestling with itself in its own mud.”

The former F.B.I. senior official recognizes something more substantive going on with his old boss as well. “This investigation is classic Mueller: he is doing a classic, organized crime case. This is RICO 101, working your way up and sideways. You pop a few guys for gambling, and no one is going to do a million years for gambling, but you’re gonna get their scratch pads, then you move on to their associates. You flip one guy who you arrest with no fanfare. It’s exactly what Mueller has been doing his whole goddamn life. It’s just that this time the boss of the family happens to be the leader of the free world. Mueller doesn’t care if he gets Trump. He doesn’t care if he doesn’t get Trump. He has no political agenda. He is digging through the layers and bringing back the truth, and the truth is going to be whatever it is going to be.”
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/05 ... rudys-bait




Polly Sigh

A review of the emails & documents show that Michael Cohen & the cousin of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, Andrew Intrater [who paid Cohen $500K in 2017 & sat w/ him at a Trump inaugural dinner], were more closely linked than previously known.

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Mueller Filing: Probe Is Ongoing With ‘Multiple Lines Of Non-Public Inquiry’
By Tierney Sneed | May 24, 2018 10:33 am


Special Counsel Robert Mueller stressed that his investigation into Russian election meddling was ongoing and consisted of “multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” in a court filing Wednesday evening in a lawsuit brought by media companies seeking the release of certain records related to the probe.

“Many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques,” the special counsel said. “The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public.”


The Associated Press, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and Politico are suing for the unsealing of various types of warrants used in the special counsel’s investigation, as well as sealed court documents specific to the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was indicted last fall.

“The fact that certain charges have been brought does not imply that the Special Counsel’s investigation into the assigned matters is closed,” Mueller said, arguing against the release of the records. “Nor does it imply that the search warrant materials could be unsealed at this time without creating a serious risk of jeopardizing the ongoing and interconnected aspects of the investigation.”

The filing comes as President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has claimed that Mueller’s attorneys told him that they intend to wrap up the aspect of the probe pertaining to allegations that Trump obstructed justice by September. (A source told Reuters that deadline was “entirely made-up.”)

It was also filed hours after a court filing in the case for George Papadopoulos — the Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about Russian contacts — asked the judge to begin the sentencing process. Many took the filing to be a sign that Mueller’s team is not planning to use Papadopoulos, who has been cooperating with the probe, as a trial witness.

There have been other indications in court documents and elsewhere that Mueller’s investigation was chugging along. But it is rare to see Mueller’s own lawyers say so as a robustly as they did in Wednesday’s filing:


In the filing, Mueller also said that many media reports about the nature of the investigation “may be inaccurate or incomplete” and may be “based on unofficial sources, half-understood facts, or speculation.”

Mueller, in the filing, said that he was not opposed to unsealing the two Manafort warrants that have been subject to legal challenges that Manafort has brought seeking to throw out certain evidence, with Mueller acknowledging that many of the details about them were already coming out in open court proceedings.

“Additionally, because these are among the earliest warrants obtained in the investigation and only two warrants are at issue, the government believes that it could practicably redact sensitive information and nonetheless leave unredacted certain information whose disclosure would not harm the ongoing investigation,” the special counsel said.

The Mueller team also offered to give U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson a “more detailed presentation of the investigation” and the relevant records in private, though the special counsel said he believed that lawsuit could be resolved based just on the public record.

Read the filing, which also includes an appendixes of charges brought by and plea deals reached by Mueller so far, below:
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker ... uit-filing
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu May 24, 2018 7:27 pm

Michael Cohen’s Still-Missing Ukraine Background Info
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Donald Trump, Petro Poroshenko
President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia
The BBC has reported that Michael Cohen, perhaps Donald Trump’s closest lieutenant for many years, took money for introducing the Ukrainian leader to the US president.

There’s a lot of noise over Cohen accepting $400,000 for trying to get President Petro Poroshenko a paltry few minutes with Trump during the Ukrainian’s visit to the United States last June. There’s some irony in Cohen taking that huge payoff, which angered Ukrainians dissatisfied with the inadequate result. Especially because the whole gang around Trump is, if anything, identified with Putin-friendly elements in Ukraine, not with the Ukrainian nationalists associated with Poroshenko.

Nonetheless, the publicity generated by a successful meeting with Trump would have had immeasurable political value back home in Ukraine, because Poroshenko could show that he could get the US government’s ear for the cause of an independent Ukraine.

The most interesting thing that came out of the meeting was that, immediately afterwards, Ukraine stopped cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the activities of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in Ukraine. So though Poroshenko may not have gotten anything much for his $400k, Trump-Manafort-Cohen-et all certainly did.

The larger context here is Cohen’s own strange and deep ties to Ukraine and Ukrainian money, and Russia and Russian money, going back many years. These predate his entry into Trump’s orbit.

It’s kind of stunning to think about just how many people around Trump have their own direct ties and interests with Russia, Ukraine, and the whole former Soviet Union. Cohen’s are especially intriguing. As is the fact that he never seems to be bothered by legal or ethical standards. For example, despite his intercession on behalf of Ukraine, Cohen did not register as a foreign agent.

For a deep dig on Cohen’s background, read our in-depth report from last September below.
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Michael Cohen, Trump Tower_Entrance
Michael Cohen, attorney. Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Preston Kemp / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn … all members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle — past and present — have been scrutinized by the media, and their various Russia ties are being investigated by the press and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. One figure, however, managed to fly largely under the radar until very recently: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former right-hand man and in-house attorney.

Cohen, who came out of nowhere to occupy a prominent spot in Trump’s orbit, has his own unique links to Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he might be one of the missing links that ties the president to shady figures and shady money from the former Soviet Union (familiarly known as FSU).

After months of speculation, he will finally be subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify under oath, as the Committee says he has broken an agreement by communication with media outlets.

But the following story should help. It lays bare, in documented detail, Cohen’s dealings, his ties to the FSU, and how he could trigger a world of trouble for the president if he ever decided to reveal what he knows about Trump’s business empire.

Among the points illustrated below:

— Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump’s businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU

— Both men knew each other; both began entering Trump’s orbit around the same time with money that may have come from FSU sources — and in a period when Trump came to increasingly depend on such monies

— Putin appears to have launched a full-court press on the United States in this time frame through surrogates, and eventually took an interest in Trump as someone who could help advance Russian interests

— Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives

— While Trump has a history of sticking with supporters, even controversial ones, his loyalty does not extend to Cohen, Sater, Manafort (who managed his campaign for a time) and Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor. What do they all have in common? Ties to Russia. Ties that are part of the public record.

Cohen will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee September 19. He will not be under oath.

While Manafort and Flynn played only specific and short-lived roles with Trump, Cohen has served as confidant, spokesperson and liaison between his boss and powerful foreign agents over the past decade.

Of all the people Trump could have tapped to function as his main man, the lawyer who is always around him, his legal rottweiler, why Michael Cohen?

The story behind Cohen’s pre-Trump connections to an avalanche of dubiously sourced money from the FSU offers a possible explanation — and the tantalizing prospect of new insight into the president’s curious co-dependence with the Kremlin.

The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.

As WhoWhatWhy previously reported, the crux of Trump’s relationship with Moscow goes beyond the presidential campaign to prior dealings that were central to his business empire.

Those dealings concern investors and business partners from various parts of the FSU. Tied into this network of influence are Russian President Vladimir Putin, wealthy FSU businessmen (“oligarchs”), and allied members of organized crime. And, improbably, Cohen, Trump’s own attorney.
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Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the 2017 G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: President of Russia / Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

Enter Cohen, the Ultimate Groupie

.

In 2007, the little-known Cohen suddenly became visible in the Trump camp. Positioned close to the throne, he became executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump.

Cohen told a reporter that he first got hooked on Trump after reading his book, The Art of the Deal, twice, cover to cover. If so, he is the ultimate groupie.

“Over the years I have been offered very lucrative employment opportunities, which I summarily dismissed,” he said. “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

Indeed, Cohen has a reputation for being a kind of Trump Mini-Me. In July 2015, he vowed to “mess up” the life of a Daily Beast reporter who brought up the decades-old allegation that Trump assaulted his first wife, Ivana. And he tweeted about his desire to “gut” then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly when she challenged Trump. Cohen’s bravado has earned him comparisons — from Trump Organization colleagues — to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s consigliere in the Godfather movies.

Trump values fiercely protective loyalists, and none has proven more loyal than Michael Cohen.

With the exception of a quixotic run for New York City Council as a Republican in 2003, Cohen had been a lifelong Democrat, voting for Obama in 2008. So it was a quite a change when he decided to formally join the GOP — after Trump’s inauguration.

But neither that switch nor years of devoted service to the Trump Organization could win Cohen a post in the president’s administration, though he had reportedly yearned for and expected to occupy one. And why was that?

Possibly because by the time Trump took office, Cohen’s name had surfaced in headline-grabbing, Russia-related stories — and that is the one kind of publicity from which Trump has tried to distance himself.

Cohen and the Dossier

.

To begin with, the name “Michael Cohen” showed up in the controversial “dossier” put together last year by a former UK foreign intelligence officer doing private research on Russia connections for Trump opponents. The 35-page collection of memos, published in its entirety by Buzzfeed, comprises precise but unverified documentation of continuous contact between Trump associates and Russian operatives during the presidential campaign.

Cohen’s name appeared on page 18 of the dossier, which claimed that he met with Kremlin representatives in Prague last August to conduct damage control on a pair of “western media revelations”: Manafort’s “corrupt relationship” with Ukrainian President Yanukovych and campaign adviser Carter Page’s meeting with “senior regime figures” in Moscow a month earlier.

Cohen has forcefully rejected the notion that he was the man referenced in the dossier. To prove this, he made public his own passport stamps, which indicate he could not have been in the Czech Republic last August.

Shortly after the inauguration, Cohen’s name was in the news again, this time for meeting in late January with a Moscow-connected Ukrainian politician, and in this case his involvement is not in dispute. The Ukrainian had come bearing a “peace agreement” intended to lift punishing economic sanctions that had been imposed on Russia after Putin’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Cohen, Felix Sater, and the Russians

.

Cohen purportedly attended the meeting at the urging of Felix Sater, a one-time mob-connected businessman who went on to work with Trump, and about whom WhoWhatWhy has written extensively.

According to The New York Times, as a result of that meeting, Cohen joined other Trump associates already under scrutiny in the FBI’s counterintelligence inquiry related to Russia.

Why was Cohen even in a meeting about US foreign policy at all? As Cohen himself noted, his role as “special counsel” with Trump was limited to representing Trump personally, not as president.

Since the January meeting, Cohen has become even more ghostlike, and his boss has remained conspicuously quiet as Cohen landed in the crosshairs of both the media and Mueller’s investigative unit — two entities Trump hasn’t been shy about lambasting. Though he retains his official title as the president’s personal advisor and attorney, Cohen appears to have been exiled from Trump’s inner circle. Neither the White House Press Office nor the Trump Organization responded to WhoWhatWhy’s inquiry about Cohen’s current role in the Trump orbit.

Trump is not one to banish someone just because he or she is run-of-the-mill controversial. Witness such highly polarizing, risky figures as Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller who, though relative latecomers to the Trump camp, were kept on long after they were political liabilities, albeit popular with his ever-shrinking base. (And Miller is still on board.)

So why does Michael Cohen’s fate resemble that of Manafort and Flynn, who were ditched when their Russia-related activities drew unwelcome national attention?

In the Spotlight

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This spring, when it became apparent that members of Congress might wish to question him, the typically brash Cohen declared that he would only testify if he received a subpoena. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has decided to issue a subpoena to call him to testify before them under oath after he broke an agreement not to speak to the media.

Compared to some others in Trump’s entourage, he is largely unknown to the public. Notwithstanding those brief moments in the limelight, the media overall (with a few notable exceptions including Talking Points Memo and Buzzfeed) has devoted little attention to him.

But a new development thrust Cohen back into the limelight Monday, when the Washington Post reported that Cohen and Sater had worked together closely in the early months of Trump’s presidential campaign on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

At Sater’s suggestion, Cohen had emailed Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s personal spokesperson, to solicit the Kremlin’s approval of the lucrative project while Trump, stumping on the campaign trail, was lavishing the Russian president with praise at debates and rallies. The real estate deal, Sater suggested in a string of emails to Cohen, would be a win-win: Trump would look like a great negotiator, and Putin would be boosting the prospects of the candidate he preferred.

“Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote to Cohen. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

The tower never materialized, but their “boy,” of course, did ascend to the presidency. And the Trump Organization renewed ownership of the TrumpTowerMoscow.com domain this July — before the latest controversy, though it has since gone dark.

Cohen’s Own Ukrainian Connections

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The son of a Long Island physician, Michael Dean Cohen received his law degree from a low-ranked Michigan school, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School — a “diploma mill” according to some, which later rebranded as Western Michigan University. The school, which, like Trump, doesn’t hesitate to sue its critics, has highlighted Cohen as an illustrious alumnus.



Cohen was admitted to the New York Bar in 1992 and became a personal injury lawyer.

He soon began assembling a portfolio of businesses outside the legal profession, virtually all involving Ukrainian immigrants — many of whom were, or became, immensely wealthy.

Perhaps the earliest was a taxi business in partnership with the Ukraine-born Simon Garber, who was at one time involved with a Moscow cab company, and now has huge stakes in cab ownership in New York, Chicago and New Orleans.

By 2003, Cohen and Garber were running more than 200 taxis in New York, allowing Cohen to pull in $90,000 a month in 2011. The partnership imploded in 2012 after a nasty legal dispute, after which Cohen went his own way and entrusted his 15 medallion companies to Evgeny Friedman, a Russian immigrant who holds the single largest collection of medallions in New York.

In partnership with two other Ukrainian immigrants, Cohen went into the casino boat business. His partners, Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vaygensberg, were associated with a man who allegedly had FSU mob ties, and with a lawyer indirectly connected to the late mob legend Meyer Lansky.

The gambling venture was besieged by lawsuits from unhappy workers and investors. Cohen has had other legal problems. He could not explain what had become of $350,000 held in a trust account he managed, according to court documents obtained by Buzzfeed News.
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Victory Casino Cruises
Victory Casino Cruises. Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In 1998 Michael Cohen incorporated two entities: Ukrainian Capital Partners LP and Ukrainian Capital Growth Fund Corp. The Growth Fund was dissolved in 2002, but, according to New York Department of State records, Capital Partners is still active.

Towering Trump Investments

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Shortly after the turn of the century, Cohen took a new direction. He began buying — as did his relatives — properties in buildings with the Trump name.

He obtained his first in 2001: a unit in Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza. And he kept on buying.

Some years later, the Trump-friendly New York Post profiled Cohen and his passion for Trump developments in a real-estate-porn article headlined “Upping the Ante.”

Once some buyers go Trump, they never go back. Take Michael Cohen, 40, an attorney and partner at Phillips Nizer. He purchased his first Trump apartment at Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza in 2001. He was so impressed he convinced his parents, his in-laws and a business partner to buy there, too. Cohen’s in-laws went on [to] purchase two more units there and one at Trump Grande in Sunny Isles, Fla.

Cohen then bought at Trump Palace at 200 E. 69th St., and Trump Park Avenue, where he currently resides. He’s currently in the process of purchasing a two-bedroom unit at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard – so, naturally, Cohen’s next step is to purchase something at Trump Plaza Jersey City. He’s now in negotiations for a two-bedroom unit there.

Trump properties are solid investments,” says Cohen, who’s also looking at the new Trump SoHo project.

By the time he entered Trump’s employ, Cohen, his relatives and his business partner had already purchased a combined 11 Trump properties.

Why did Cohen and company begin buying all those Trump properties? Where did the money come from? And did Cohen use this spending spree to gain an entrance into Trump’s inner circle?

The answers to these questions may lie in what at first appears to be a mere coincidence: Around the time Cohen began buying these properties — 2000-2001 — the aforementioned Felix Sater apparently first approached Trump.

It is interesting to learn that when Cohen was growing up, he had known and run in the same circles as Sater when both lived on Long Island.

Sater and Cohen would go on to play intriguingly interconnected roles in the saga linking Donald Trump to vast supplies of dubiously sourced money from the FSU.

Sater’s family immigrated to the US in the 1970s, landing in the Coney Island-Brighton Beach area, a part of Brooklyn heavily populated by Soviet emigres — and an area where the Trump family owned lots of buildings.

In addition to the Trump units, Cohen owns entire buildings around New York City. In 2015, while working for Trump, he bought a $58 million apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. According to the New York real estate news site The Real Deal, Cohen also holds multiple luxury apartment units and other buildings on the Lower East Side and in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan.
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Trump buildings
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Rustycale / Wikipedia, Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Americasroof (talk) / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0), Alex Proimos / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0) and Stepanstas / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Cohen has a seemingly limitless appetite for real estate, and his younger brother Bryan, also a lawyer, entered the real estate trade and is now Chief Administrative Officer of DE Development Marketing, part of the prominent Douglas Elliman real estate brokerage.

More Businesses, More Ukrainians

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That Cohen buys luxury Trump apartments like others buy shoes — and that he has a seemingly inexhaustible budget — could conceivably be explained, at least in part, by his ties to people who, as noted earlier, became extremely wealthy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are any number of perfectly legitimate ways for Cohen to amass the funds necessary to purchase entire buildings. Usually, however, the source of such wealth can be ascertained. In Cohen’s case, the source is unclear— and Cohen refused to discuss the origin of those funds with WhoWhatWhy.

It should be noted that Russians and others from the former Soviet Union seeking to move funds West are among the biggest buyers of New York real estate.

But Cohen’s Ukrainian ties run even deeper. His wife, Laura, is from the Ukraine. So is Bryan Cohen’s wife, Oxana.

From here we follow a trail through a somewhat complicated cast of characters. At the end, you will see how all of these people are connected to one another as well as to Trump — and to Russia.

The trail begins with Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law, Alex Oronov, born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, who emigrated with his family to the United States in 1978. He ran a Manhattan art gallery, and eventually, and surprisingly, managed to convince the old-school communist government to partner with him to sell lithographs based on the collection of the State Russian Museum. His influence or skills of persuasion were so good that he even persuaded Kremlin authorities to permit him to open a gift shop at the museum, a rarity in the USSR.

Following Ukrainian independence in 1994, Oronov spotted a far more lucrative opportunity: Ukraine’s privatized bounty of grain. Ukraine has some of Europe’s largest acreage of arable land — and it is highly fertile and productive, making it the “breadbasket of Europe.”

He founded an agribusiness firm, Harvest Moon (later rebranded as Grain Alliance); Bryan Cohen notes in his own online biography that he served as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Grain Alliance, Americas. It’s not clear where the funding for the enterprise, which had more than 100,000 acres in production at one point, came from.

The firm seems to have benefited from the lack of strong central authorities in the Ukraine. According to a brochure from a Kiev-based law firm, “Foreign Investment in Ukrainian Agriculture,” prepared for a 2010 seminar on investment, “Grain Alliance… expanded rapidly over the last five years when Ukraine had no control from any government officials.”

In this and similar ventures Oronov, from a modest start, became wildly wealthy, working with a network of well-connected Ukrainian politicians and businessmen with alleged mob ties. One of his partners was Viktor Topolov, a wealthy Ukrainian closely associated with figures the FBI has identified as “well known” members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld. A Ukrainian court document obtained by Buzzfeed reveals that Topolov ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money-laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s.
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Semion Mogilevich
FBI Wanted Poster for Semion Mogilevich. Photo credit: FBI

To follow the Trump money trail further requires a brief dip into Ukraine’s recent history, which turns out to be crucial to Michael Cohen’s story.

Ukraine in Tug of War Between East and West

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Starting around 2000, Ukraine increasingly became the subject of a tug of war between the West and Russia. Ukraine was once one of the most valuable parts of the USSR. Since gaining independence in 1991, it has been drawn closer to the West, and has even toyed with the ultimate snub to Russia: joining NATO, the Western military alliance.

The struggle to control Ukraine, its political leaders and its resources, played a major role in Russia’s decision to enter Ukraine militarily in the summer of 2014. This led the West to impose sanctions that have severely harmed Russia’s economy. Putin has made no secret of his desire to get the sanctions lifted.

Also at stake for Russia in its relations with Ukraine is the future of the pipelines that pass through Ukraine, bringing Russian natural gas to Western Europe. Russia is not happy that its lucrative gas exports, the source of much of its foreign exchange, must be transported across the territory of its now-adversary.

Going head to head in the battles to control the future of this resource are sovereign nations, international corporations, shadowy public-private entities, and shady figures like the Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich. The reputed “boss of bosses” of organized crime in today’s Russia is believed to be the most powerful mobster in the world. His sub-boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov, was sent to America, and discovered by the FBI living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower, and later, having fled Manhattan, in a Trump casino in Atlantic City.

Mogilevich was identified as the secret majority owner of the Ukrainian stake in a mysterious intermediary company, half-owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom. Ivankov later stated that Mogilevich and Putin were close; soon after, the man was gunned down on a Moscow street.

One beneficiary of the Ukrainian pipeline situation was future Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was paid millions of dollars by prominent players in the natural gas scramble.

While questions swirled about the international ramifications of the pipeline battle, Sater, then an FBI informant, traveled to Ukraine and Russia — ostensibly searching for properties to develop with the Trump Organization.
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Alex Oronov
Alex Oronov. Photo credit: Facebook / TPM

In the past, Cohen has downplayed his connections to the FSU. In a January 2017 interview with Yahoo News, he averred that he had only been to Ukraine twice — “either 2003 or 2004.” The reason? His “brother’s father-in-law [i.e., Oronov] lives in Kiev.”

However, Cohen seemingly would not have to travel to see his relative. Oronov had homes in the US — including one on Long Island and one at the Trump Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida; he was even registered to vote in Florida.

The Cohens said that they knew nothing about Topolov when they pitched the project. But if they didn’t know the background of Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law’s famous longtime business partner, they’re unusually ill-informed, and certainly failed to do due diligence in a situation well-known to be rife with financial criminals.

Cohen and Sater and Trump….Together

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The Trumps themselves have stated that their company came to depend increasingly over the years on monies tied to the FSU. Thus, it would not be illogical to wonder whether Michael Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization because of his ability to help in that regard.

But there’s more here. As mentioned above, Cohen dovetails in interesting ways with another FSU-tied figure who entered Trump’s orbit in roughly the same period: Felix Sater, the one-time mob-connected businessman who worked with Trump in the past, and about whom, as noted earlier, WhoWhatWhy has written extensively. Both bring ostensible ties to people who themselves have links to organized crime, and to those whose interests coincide with those of Vladimir Putin and his oligarchic network.

Take Topolov, with whom Cohen and his brother have done business. Via a conglomerate of his, Topolov employed three executives the FBI have described as members of a violent Russian organized-crime network: one, a mob enforcer closely associated with Mogilevich, the powerful organized crime boss, was reportedly responsible for at least 20 murders.

We previously reported about Mogilevich’s associates’s ties to Trump Tower, dating back to the 1990s. We noted how, from its inception, Trump Tower was a popular place with people having organized crime connections. We noted the various people connected with the FSU, with FSU organized crime, and the ties between those organizations and the Putin regime.

We told the story of Sater, a USSR-born felon who had cut a deal to serve as a confidential source for the FBI in return for leniency after he was caught participating in a major financial fraud with a group of men including one with American organized crime ties.

We explained that tackling FSU influence in Wall Street had become one of the FBI’s highest priorities.

We described how, circa 2001, Sater joined Bayrock, a real estate development company run by FSU emigres in Trump Tower, and eventually began working directly with Donald Trump. Sater and Bayrock were supplying Trump with income during a period when his other investments had been suffering.
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Trump Tower
Trump Tower. Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The money spigot was apparent to all. In a 2008 deposition, Sater even testified that, upon Trump’s request, he accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on business trips to the FSU. Donald Jr. would later declare that the region had become the family’s main source of investment.

While Sater was moving up in the Trump orbit, Cohen’s status as a mysterious Trump real estate mega-investor of uncertain wealth and an undistinguished legal practice changed, seemingly overnight.

In 2006, the year before he went to work fulltime for Trump, Cohen suddenly went big-time, becoming, briefly, a partner at a prominent New York firm, Phillips Nizer, where, according to a profile, “he counted [Trump] as one of his many high-profile wealthy clients.”

He was then offered a job by the developer. The reason? “I suspect,” Cohen said, “he was impressed with both my handling of matters as well as the results.”

According to cached images of the Phillips Nizer website found in the Internet Archive, he was first listed as partner in October 2006. By May 2007, about the time he was hired by Trump, Cohen’s title was changed from partner to counsel. He remained in the Phillips Nizer directory as counsel until some time in late 2008.

What exactly did this obscure former personal injury lawyer bring to the firm? It has become increasingly common for law firms to bring on board anyone who can bring business with them. Interestingly, Cohen’s practice there was described as including distressed debt — which certainly could have described Trump’s frequently unstable situation. Mark Landis, managing partner at the firm, declined to comment, saying it is policy not to discuss current or former colleagues.

But in an interview with WhoWhatWhy, Bryan Cohen said that both he and his brother came to Phillips Nizer as part of a merger between Nizer and their entity, the Cohen Law Firm. Asked why Nizer wanted to combine with the much smaller Cohen operation, Bryan Cohen declined to say, terming the question “irrelevant.”
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Phillips Nizer
Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Whatever one is to make of Cohen’s sudden affiliation with Phillips Nizer, just as abruptly as he appeared, he moved on. So did Bryan Cohen, who joined the real estate firm, Douglas Elliman.

Michael Cohen officially joined Trump’s organization in a top position — as Executive Vice President and Special Counsel.

With Sater already working with Trump, this meant that for much of 2007, two of Trump’s key people were decidedly unusual fellows with major ties to the FSU.

Thus we see a fascinating pattern in which two childhood acquaintances began entering the Trump orbit at the same time, circa 2000-2001 (with Cohen making his extraordinary string of Trump property purchases and Sater moving into business in Trump Tower) and, by 2007, both were working near each other inside the Trump empire itself.

In this period, we see a third figure who would later become highly controversial for his links into the FSU: Paul Manafort.

It was in 2006 that the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, long a close Putin associate, signed a whopping $10 million a year contract with Manafort based on what Manafort had presented as efforts inside the United States that would “greatly benefit the Putin government.” (As the Daily Beast reported, few have noted that Deripaska soon partnered with Manafort and the Ukrainian alleged gangster Dmytro Firtash in acquiring New York’s Drake Hotel.)

That same year, Manafort himself bought an apartment…. In Trump Tower.

A Whirlwind in the Former Soviet Union

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In September 2007, Trump, Sater and another partner posed for a photo at the opening of their Trump SoHo Hotel in New York.

The celebration would be brief. In December, the Times revealed that Sater had a criminal past.
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Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater
Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on September 19, 2007 in New York. Photo credit: Mark Von Holden / WireImage

This potentially put Trump in a very difficult spot. If Trump were to admit that he knew Sater was a convicted felon but did business with him nonetheless, he, the Trump Organization, and anyone within the company who knew of it would be potentially liable for sky-high sums. This was especially true for the Trump-Bayrock projects (as noted, many of them financed by FSU figures), as so many of them ended terribly, with multiple lawsuits across many states.

Bayrock unraveled. Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2013, after just three years of operation, leaving a slew of unoccupied units in the hands of a new developer. It was the firm’s final deal. As is now well known,Trump, who would later claim to barely know Sater, kept him on in the building and, if anything, he and Sater grew even closer. Indeed, Sater was soon working directly for Trump himself, with an office, business cards, phone number and email address all provided by the Trump Organization. The cards identified him as a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”

In this period, Trump Organization activities in the countries of the former Soviet Union appear to have accelerated.

In 2010 and 2012, while working for Trump, Cohen traveled to the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Georgia. It’s worth noting that Bayrock had earlier received large infusions of cash from the ultra-corrupt Kazakhstan, and other funds from Georgia, also awash in ill-gotten fortunes.

In 2013, leading up to the Russian-hosted winter Olympics in Sochi, a close Putin ally reached out to Trump.

Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire real estate developer with Russian citizenship who is known as the “Donald Trump of Russia,” paid Trump millions of dollars to bring Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow.


An Instagram post by Agalarov’s son shows Cohen with Trump and Agalarov at the Trump Vegas around the time the deal was inked.

Right around this time, Putin awarded Agalarov a state medal for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic contributions to Russia.

The Third American Political Party: Russia

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As Trump’s relationship to the former Soviet Union intensified, so, seemingly, did Russian interest in the American political system and the presidency.

In 2014, we now know, US intelligence secretly identified what it determined was a Russian effort to sow doubt and chaos in the US elections system.

By then, Trump was widely recognized for his long-standing presidential ambitions — he ran for the office as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, garnering more than 15,000 votes in the California primary before abruptly dropping out. The Russians understood that he also had mass appeal, and a personality, temperament and history associated with provoking strong and divisive reactions.

Also, in a GOP primary field with a crowd of lackluster candidates, Trump was guaranteed to draw considerable public and media interest. At a time when Hillary Clinton, an antagonist of Putin, was viewed as virtually a shoo-in, Trump was a dark horse and a wild card, but one with plenty of outside potential to shake things up.

By February, 2015, Trump had already recruited staff in early voting states; a month later, he formed a presidential exploratory committee and delayed the production of “The Apprentice,” the still-running reality television show that established Trump as a pop culture icon in the mid-2000s. Trump officially announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.

The date of the first campaign-related contacts between Trump’s people and the Russians is not clear, though as time passes, we are learning of earlier and earlier interactions.

Matters seem to have come to a head in June 2016, when, at the request of Russians, Donald Trump Jr. convened a meeting in his office.
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Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner
Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Photo credit: Watch the video on C-SPAN, Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs / Flickr.

When the meeting was revealed in July 2017, a panicked Donald Trump Jr. sought to downplay it, claiming it was to discuss policy toward adoptions of Russian children. Further revelations forced him to gradually disclose bits of information that cumulatively make clear the meeting was in response to Russian offers to help Trump’s candidacy by providing intelligence on Clinton that could be used against her.

Among those attending were Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and publicist Rob Goldstone — who works for the son of the previously mentioned Russian real estate mogul Aras Agalarov and who brokered the meeting. Also present was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a fervent opponent of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on certain Russian officials following the imprisonment, and subsequent death, of a Russian tax accountant investigating fraud. Veselnitskaya claimed to hold incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Another participant was Rinat Akhmetshin, whose past activities and associations led some to wonder whether he was or is a spy. Sen. Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, a Republican, speculated that the meeting itself was a classic ploy of Russian intelligence, intended to draw the Trump people into a potentially incriminating relationship. That, perhaps paradoxically, would likely make Trump even more vulnerable and beholden to Putin.

And of course the meeting was arranged via Goldstone, who works for the Agalarovs — who performed such valuable services to Russia that, as noted, Putin gave Aras Agalarov a medal.

Cozier and Cozier

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To sum up, Trump’s financial fortunes seem — both by appearance and by statements from the Trumps themselves — to have been heavily dependent on money from the former Soviet Union. Besides the Cohen retinue buying at least 11 apartments in Trump buildings, the money that came in through Felix Sater was also from the FSU.

How much of the funds that kept Trump’s shaky financial empire afloat in those lean years had its origins in the part of the world dominated by the Kremlin? Well, how much did not? Even Donald Trump, Jr. declared in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

As for Trump, he has repeatedly tweeted and declared that he has no loans “from Russia” and no “deals” in Russia. While that may be technically true, what’s more important is that money that originated in the FSU has played a crucial role in his business career. The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
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Felix Sater, FBI
Felix Sater and Trump business card superimposed over FBI building. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Cliff / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) and Boing Boing (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

Sater appears to have been an FBI asset for many years, including at least some of the years when Cohen was working with Trump.

Sater denied to WhoWhatWhy that any of his reports to the FBI from Trump Tower concerned organized crime figures in Russia, and asserted that he had never even heard of Mogilevich, though his own father was said to be a Mogilevich underling.

In any case, the FBI agents running Sater were extremely focused on the FSU underworld. It is likely that they would take an interest in the partner of Cohen’s in-law, and all the partner’s ties to organized crime. And they would surely have been interested in how Donald Trump fit into this underworld web all around him.

The Ukraine “Peace Deal”

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Yet Cohen remained mostly out of the public eye, even as myriad Trump associates (including Manafort) ended up in the hot seat for their business dealings in the FSU.

That changed with the report of the January 27, 2017, meeting between Cohen, Sater and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko at a luxury hotel in New York.

The three men discussed a proposed Russia-Ukraine peace agreement that would result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia. Artemenko told The New York Times that Cohen delivered the proposal to Michael Flynn, who was then Trump’s national security advisor. Cohen has told different stories about his role, but in one interview he confirmed that he delivered a bundle of documents containing the proposal to Flynn’s office while Flynn was still part of the Trump administration. Cohen has insisted he was not aware of any Kremlin involvement.

In bragging about his role in getting such material into the White House, Artemenko comes across as clumsy and artless, seemingly oblivious to how devastating the revelation could have been to Trump had the media and, say, influential congressmen made more of it. But was he naive? Or was this actually a House of Cards-type scenario, where the Russians were deliberately publicizing another bit of incriminating material on Trump in order to gain yet more leverage over him and control over his fate?

The Artemenko “peace plan” was — importantly — accompanied by documents that purported to reveal corruption on the part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, which could be used to weaken (and potentially topple) the Ukrainian regime led by an enemy of Putin.

This of course made the current Ukrainian authorities go ballistic. No more has emerged on the document bundle, or what, if anything, resulted from its arrival in the White House. But the intent was clearly to advance Russia’s interests, and that of a pro-Russian Ukrainian politico with historic ties to Manafort.
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Andrii V. Artemenko , Michael Cohen
Andrii V. Artemenko superimposed photo of Michael Cohen. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from IowaPolitics.com / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and A. V. Artemenko / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Although Felix Sater was present at the meeting as a supposed intermediary, he wouldn’t have been needed for that. Artemenko had known Cohen for years. Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law was, as mentioned earlier, tied to Artemenko through business. Artemenko was also closely tied to Topolov, the allegedly money-laundering Ukrainian politician in business with Oronov, Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law. (Oronov died March 2 after suffering from what Bryan Cohen described to WhoWhatWhy as an “incredibly aggressive” cancer diagnosed three months earlier.)

Artemenko said that his Russia-Ukraine sanctions proposal had been discussed with Cohen and Sater back during the primaries in early 2016, just as Trump was emerging as the frontrunner.

Western sanctions have delivered some crushing blows to Russia’s economy, slashing both its GDP and ruble value by 50 percent in three years, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. Though the economy is expected to resume modest growth, getting out from under the stifling sanctions is for Putin still a national security concern of the highest possible priority. And the Trump camp had been all about lifting the sanctions.

During the 2016 Republican Convention, the party surprisingly removed from its platform a condemnation of Russia over its incursion into Ukraine. Initially, both Donald Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort denied any knowledge of the platform change. Much later, though, we learned that Trump’s platform chairman, J. D. Gordon, had met with the Russian ambassador during the convention.

In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Gordon said he had promoted the softening of the language on Ukraine — a softening that Trump himself had advocated earlier in the year, in a meeting with Gordon. Later still, Gordon would attempt to walk back the admission in a parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton: “I mean, what’s the definition of pushed for the amendment, right? It’s an issue of semantics.”

Semantics or no semantics, the platform was changed.



Trump himself has been very kind to Russia. As a candidate, he worked strenuously to avoid criticizing Russia. He wouldn’t even acknowledge that Russia had seized Crimea, or that it had military units in eastern Ukraine. Even after he was nominated, he told a reporter,

“Just so you understand: [Putin] is not going to go into Ukraine, all right?,” as if that had not already happened two years earlier.

This seeming quid pro quo with Russia suggests the extent to which Russia has compromised the Trump White House.

Having Cohen and Sater deliver the sanctions “peace proposal” to Flynn, a trusted figure with his own Russia connections, keeps Trump himself out of the loop, something Cohen would well understand — that’s one of the core things lawyers do understand, and a role they often play.

We also know that Artemenko’s role in the meetings with Cohen and Sater led Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to open a treason investigation.

Why would Cohen go to such a meeting? It seems crazy. But then the Trump team’s defining trait has been its reckless bravado, and a brash disregard for troubling appearances.

As for Artemenko’s seemingly bumbling admission about the meeting, it is reminiscent of the “indiscretion” of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, who went to the Republican convention to meet with Manafort about softening the GOP’s stance toward Russia. Although Trump and Manafort vigorously denied it, Kislyak then went public with his own account of the meeting.

In the complex game being played by Putin, with Russia’s (and Putin’s) future at stake, Trump seems to have been cornered into a precarious dependence on Russian “good will.” As we noted months ago, the FBI has long known much of this. What former FBI director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller will do about it remains to be seen.

WhoWhatWhy sought an interview with Cohen, but he declined. When we offered to send him questions, he wrote back: “You can send questions but not committing to respond.” We did send questions. And he did not respond.

Research assistance: Claire Wang

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from FBI seal (Andy L / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Michael Cohen (Blacklist21 / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 4.0), and Petro Poroshenko (Antonis Samaras Prime Minister of Greece / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).

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Pwn All The Things Retweeted Donald J. Trump
Right idea, wrong agencies. The spies in the campaign were Page, listed in an indictment as an enthusiastic source for SVR and Papadopoulos, who confessed to arranging secret meetings with Russian MFA etcPwn All The Things added,

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Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE - a terrible thing!



Pwn All The Things


He's right that the problem was there were too many spies in his campaign. That's why FBI got FISA Title I orders to investigate and counter it.

It's a legit scandal. Just not one about the FBI.

From the indictment of SVR officers, here being wiretapped and discussing Page (listed as Male 1). Amazingly in the wiretap they are calling him enthusiastic, an idiot, and boasting about how they will screw him over.

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And Carter Page discussing the incident. Note: all of this took place long before Trump ran for office.

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And from the Papadopolous signed statement of the offense, (which is after meeting "Putin's niece" who turns out not to actually be Putin's niece.)

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Pwn All The Things

And from the Manafort case, saying Manafort and Gates were in contact with someone with active ties to Russian intelligence in 2016.

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While we're here, we can also remember that Flynn was working as a consultant for the Turkish government up to and including election day.
https://twitter.com/pwnallthethings/sta ... 0144593920




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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri May 25, 2018 12:52 pm

Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel: What the Hell Was Going On at Trump Tower?

Arabs and Israelis, Oh My!

In recent days the so-called Russiagate affair seems to have splintered into a million different pieces. It’s no longer just the Russians who were romancing Donald Trump and those around him with promises of helping him get elected. Now we can add the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Saudis, Qataris, and Israelis.

Each party was apparently taking a number for their turn to place an order at the All-You-Can-Eat Trump Deli.

Most folks don’t pay much attention to the ever-changing diplomatic and geopolitical currents flowing across the planet. So, as new revelations bring new players into the metastasizing scandal that engulfs this administration, we squint our eyes and wonder “what the f… ”

Putin understood he didn’t need a compromising videotape to get what he wanted. All he needed to do was flatter and treat Trump like the big shot he wanted everybody to think he was.

So let’s pause a moment and take a close look at what drew such a manic and motley crew of outsiders into our national election and White House.

Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner Meet Russians at Trump Tower (June 9, 2016)

We all know about this meeting now. And we understand that its real purpose was not to discuss US adoptions of Russian orphans, but to try to convince Trump to repeal the Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russia signed into law by President Barack Obama. This meeting was an amateurist attempt by both sides. The Trump folks thought they were getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians and the Russians didn’t deliver. Both sides walked out empty handed.

Don Jr. Meets Emissary for the Saudis and Emiratis at Trump Tower (August 3, 2016)

Donald Trump Jr. held another unusual meeting before the election, this time with an even stranger cast of characters — including Erik Prince, a professional soldier of fortune and former head of Blackwater; George Nader, a Middle East lobbyist who said he was there representing the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and Joel Zamel, Nader’s business partner, who was there to pitch a social media platform to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.

Donald Trump Jr.
Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In many ways this second Trump Tower meeting was more interesting, and troubling, than the first. Both Nader and Zamel are practiced players in the byzantine world of Middle East politics. The social media company they were pitching to Donald Jr. was full of former Israeli intelligence officers and analysts. Think of it as Cambridge Analytica on steroids. They were offering to fill US social media with posts demographically targeted to shore up support for Trump and diminish support for Clinton.

What strange bedfellows, one might think… unless of course you do think about it a bit. At the time, all parties — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel — had a common problem: Iran. All three wanted someone in the White House who would side with them against Iran, and Trump had already signaled his own animosity toward the regime in that country.

China realized as well that Trump is not moved by principles, but transactions.

Nader and Zamel’s clients, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were each terrified that the rise of Iran might lead to Shiite rebellions in their own countries and their own demise. Also, despite the occasional trash-talk, both the Saudis and UAE get along quite well with Israel behind the scenes.

And, while Donald Jr. downplayed the second Trump Tower meeting as he did the first, his father has in fact more than delivered for those three countries, by nixing the Iran nuclear deal, slapping sanctions back on Iran, and threatening “the strongest sanctions in history,” coming soon.

Nor did it end with just that one meeting. Here the Trump-Gulf States nexus meet the Trump-Russia nexus. Almost immediately after the election another member of that second meeting, Erik Prince, flew to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean on a trip arranged by his clients, the UAE. The exact purpose of that trip remains clouded in intrigue and obfuscation. But the cast of characters is telling. Prince met not only with UAE officials but also with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bankers, Kirill Dmitriev.

Prince testified to Congress that it was a coincidence, a chance meeting over drinks. Such a coincidence.

Erik Prince
Photo credit: Miller Center / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

But what the hell does Russia have to gain from the Trump-Gulf matter? Well, plenty. Russia was, and remains, deeply invested in Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad, alongside Assad’s other chief benefactor, Iran. Iran? Again, heads explode. Wait, didn’t we just say that the Saudis and UAE are sworn enemies of Iran? And Russia is, by contrast, friendly with Iran. What gives?

Well, it is true the Russians are friendly with Iran. But they themselves are threatened on their southern flank by radical Islamists who are also opposed by Iran. So their cooperation with Iran is essentially an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing.

If Arabs in that part of the world understand anything, it’s that alliances are transactional, not personal. The Saudis and UAE understand that Russia has its own agenda, one that has little or nothing to do with them, or that threatens them less than Iran does.

So what is Putin up to, playing all these different, even apparently contradictory hands all at once? Putin’s prime directive since taking power has been to make Russia not just a relevant world power again, but a decisive power. He did that in Syria, winning where the US foundered. He did that in the Crimea, where he stuck the Russian flag in Ukrainian soil and made it stick.

And, more recently, Putin has seen some dividends on the sanctions issue, as Trump has refused to impose all the additional sanctions on Russia passed months ago by Congress.

Oh, one more small thing: Putin successfully disrupted, and likely swayed, a US presidential election.

The Russian president’s main strategy is to sow confusion, frustration, suspicion, and discord within Western democratic societies. His goal is to push NATO back away from Russia’s borders. He knows he cannot accomplish that militarily. So he is doing it through what Russian strategists call “war by other means.”

Vladimir Putin
Photo credit: President of Russia / Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

His first major invasion in that war was the Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential election. He has since fought other battles, with mixed success, in some Western European countries, as well as countries once part of the Eastern bloc, with more success.

So from Putin’s point of view, while that first meeting in Trump Tower didn’t quite pan out as intended for Russia, it did show a willingness to play along on the part of Trump and his circle. Putin looked into Trump’s soul and saw a man who could be suckered and strung along: a useful fool. Putin understood he didn’t need a compromising videotape to get what he wanted. All he needed to do was flatter and treat Trump like the big shot he wanted everybody to think he was.

China, too, has had no illusions about how Trump operates. China realized as well that Trump is not moved by principles, but transactions. Which explains Trump’s backtracking on the sanctions he imposed on the high-tech Chinese manufacturer, ZTE, just days after we learn that the Chinese government was fronting half the cost, $500 million, for the construction of an enormous Trump-branded resort in Malaysia. In China for trade talks at the time was US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who announced a day later that broader sanctions against China were now “on hold.”

Related: Is Trump Trying to Prevent #ChinaGate?

None of Trump’s transactional diplomacy was lost on one other world leader. If there’s anything Trump relishes more than money, it’s adoration and fame. So North Korea’s Kim Jong-un baited his hook with the offer of a big-shot summit, and Trump bit like the sucker he is. Over the next few weeks, Kim played Trump like a guppy on a 100-pound line, until more recently cutting bait and letting Trump float to the surface belly up.

Related: Kim Jong-un vs. Donald J. Trump: Kim Wins

So folks, that’s what the hell is going on. While our traditional allies wonder if we’ve all lost our minds over here, Russia and China and various players in the Middle East and Gulf are lining up to kiss Trump’s plastic ring and pick his pocket while they undermine our democracy and institutions.
https://whowhatwhy.org/2018/05/24/russi ... -going-on/


Mueller Filing: Probe Is Ongoing With ‘Multiple Lines Of Non-Public Inquiry’
By Tierney Sneed | May 24, 2018 10:33 am


Special Counsel Robert Mueller stressed that his investigation into Russian election meddling was ongoing and consisted of “multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” in a court filing Wednesday evening in a lawsuit brought by media companies seeking the release of certain records related to the probe.

“Many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques,” the special counsel said. “The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public.”


The Associated Press, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and Politico are suing for the unsealing of various types of warrants used in the special counsel’s investigation, as well as sealed court documents specific to the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was indicted last fall.

“The fact that certain charges have been brought does not imply that the Special Counsel’s investigation into the assigned matters is closed,” Mueller said, arguing against the release of the records. “Nor does it imply that the search warrant materials could be unsealed at this time without creating a serious risk of jeopardizing the ongoing and interconnected aspects of the investigation.”

The filing comes as President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has claimed that Mueller’s attorneys told him that they intend to wrap up the aspect of the probe pertaining to allegations that Trump obstructed justice by September. (A source told Reuters that deadline was “entirely made-up.”)

It was also filed hours after a court filing in the case for George Papadopoulos — the Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about Russian contacts — asked the judge to begin the sentencing process. Many took the filing to be a sign that Mueller’s team is not planning to use Papadopoulos, who has been cooperating with the probe, as a trial witness.

There have been other indications in court documents and elsewhere that Mueller’s investigation was chugging along. But it is rare to see Mueller’s own lawyers say so as a robustly as they did in Wednesday’s filing:


In the filing, Mueller also said that many media reports about the nature of the investigation “may be inaccurate or incomplete” and may be “based on unofficial sources, half-understood facts, or speculation.”

Mueller, in the filing, said that he was not opposed to unsealing the two Manafort warrants that have been subject to legal challenges that Manafort has brought seeking to throw out certain evidence, with Mueller acknowledging that many of the details about them were already coming out in open court proceedings.

“Additionally, because these are among the earliest warrants obtained in the investigation and only two warrants are at issue, the government believes that it could practicably redact sensitive information and nonetheless leave unredacted certain information whose disclosure would not harm the ongoing investigation,” the special counsel said.

The Mueller team also offered to give U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson a “more detailed presentation of the investigation” and the relevant records in private, though the special counsel said he believed that lawsuit could be resolved based just on the public record.

Read the filing, which also includes an appendixes of charges brought by and plea deals reached by Mueller so far, below:
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker ... uit-filing
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun May 27, 2018 8:04 am

Study: Sean Hannity spent one year laying groundwork for authoritarian response to Russia probe

I reviewed all 487 of Sean Hannity’s segments about the first year of Mueller’s investigation. Here’s what I found

Matt Gertz
There’s nothing President Donald Trump hates more than the media, but that’s hardly because he’s indifferent to what the press says about him. Instead, the first 15 months of his administration have been defined by his tirades against outlets that have covered him critically and his fondness for live-tweeting "Fox & Friends."

But Trump’s most consequential media relationship is with Fox News host Sean Hannity. While guests on "Fox & Friends" speak to the president through the cameras, Hannity and Trump are so close that White House staffers refer to the Fox host as Trump’s “unofficial chief of staff.” In personal meetings and late-night phone calls, the Fox host frequently encourages the president to act on his worst and most destructiveimpulses. Trump, in turn, serves as an unofficial producer to Hannity’s show, regularly watching the program, encouraging his supporters to tune in, and reportedly floating segment ideas during their frequent conversations.

That relationship has been very good for Hannity, whose show became the most-watched cable news program last year. And Hannity’s rise has aided Trump by providing an enormous platform to advance a dangerous idea to the Republican base: that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is a sprawling conspiracy that justifies the president using any means — including trials of the law enforcement officials who initiated the probe — to stop it.

Hannity’s success has spawned a legion of right-wing imitators who use similarly dire language to hype the menace they say Mueller poses and to prime their audience to support the frightening actions they are encouraging Trump to take in response. Some, like Fox hosts Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, have also developed personal relationships with the president, advising him both privately and through their programs (for more on Hannity's collaborators, click here).

Understanding the president's increasingly hyperaggressive response to the Mueller investigation requires a familiarity with the paranoid conspiracy theory that Hannity and his compatriots have constructed over the past year.



Over the past few weeks, my colleague Shelby Jamerson and I reviewed more than 2,700 pages of "Hannity" transcripts from the 254 episodes that aired between Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017, and May 16, 2018. Those episodes included 487 segments substantially devoted to the probe -- nearly two segments per episode. Hannity featured the story in his program’s opening segment 152 times, roughly three times each week.

How "Hannity" actively discredits the Mueller probe

Our study, building on our earlier reviews of the program’s coverage of the Trump-Russia saga, found that of the 487 "Hannity" segments about the Mueller probe:

256 segments — a whopping 53 percent — included criticism of the media’s coverage of the Mueller investigation, which Hannity and his guests consider excessively anti-Trump.
191 segments included commentators suggesting that there had been no collusion between Trump or his associates and Russia.
82 segments feature attempts to construct a counternarrative by claiming that the real collusion had been between Russia and Democrats. This is often a reference to the Uranium One pseudoscandal, which was referenced in 38 percent of all segments about the Mueller investigation.
25 segments involved commentators downplaying reporting about Trump and his associates by saying that collusion is not a crime.
81 segments described Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” while 140 included criticism of purported “conflicts of interest” involving members of his team.
67 segments included suggestions that Mueller should resign, recuse himself, be fired, or otherwise end the investigation. 41 suggested that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the probe, should do so.
186 segments — nearly 38 percent of the total — claimed top federal law enforcement officials involved in the creation of the probe had broken the law.
218 segments — 45 percent of the total — featured Hannity or his guests saying Hillary Clinton had committed crimes.
77 segments included a call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate Trump’s political enemies.
The "soft coup" against Trump, and the horrific acts Hannity says it justifies

To watch Hannity’s broadcast over the last year is to plunge into a strikingly paranoid vision of America today.

“A soft coup is underway right here in the United States of America,” Hannity said last June, “in an attempt to overturn November's election results and forcibly remove a duly elected president from office, sinister forces quickly aligning in what is becoming now, in my mind, a clear and present danger.”

Specifically, Hannity claims that the leadership of the FBI, aided by Democrats and the media, conspired during the 2016 election to exonerate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of the crimes they knew she had committed. At the same time, Hannity alleges that this cabal fabricated the narrative that Trump had colluded with Russia in order to prevent him from becoming president — and that once Trump won the election despite these efforts to manipulate voters, his enemies continued to try to drive him from office. This narrative bears little relationship to reality: In the months leading up to the election, the FBI kept its investigation into whether the Trump campaign collaborated with the Kremlin’s effort to support his candidacy a secret while repeatedly calling attention to the Clinton probe, likely costing the Democrat the presidency.

Nonetheless, the sinister cabal of Democrats, journalists, and the “deep state” are the villains of this story. And in Hannity’s telling, the host and his rotating cast of guests are the only thing standing between Trump and his annihilation.

Hannity presents his show as the only venue willing to tell the truth about the story, casting reporting about Trump, Russia, and the 2016 election not as the result of serious journalism, but as part of a plot against the president.

The Fox host is adamant that any suggestion of collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials is the stuff of “black-helicopter, tinfoil-hat conspiracy.” Instead, Hannity claims that the “real collusion” happened between Russia and the Democrats, in the form of various broadly discredited pseudoscandals.

Hannity’s attempts to exonerate Trump are disturbing enough. But it’s his attempts to turn his audience against a set of new enemies that are truly dangerous.

In Hannity’s telling, Mueller, a Republican who served as a Marine officer during the Vietnam War and was first appointed to run the FBI by George W. Bush, is running a duplicitous “witch hunt.” His team is composed of vicious Democratic partisans, and his personal relationship with former FBI Director James Comey is both suspect and actually illegal.

This counternarrative of Hannity’s, repeated ad nauseum over the months, is designed to lead his audience inexorably to a simple conclusion: “Mueller's probe is tainted. Hillary is a criminal.” And Trump is justified in taking drastic action, including shutting down the investigation into his activities and then prosecuting and jailing his opponents, to protect himself.

Hannity’s story is in step with the president’s own crude preferences and biases. Trump prefers an authoritarian model for law enforcement, in which the job of the Justice Department is to protect him and punish his enemies. Hannity’s show is providing Trump with both constant encouragement to act on those impulses, and is a powerful propaganda tool urging his base to support him if he does. Hannity benefits in turn from his private access to the president and Trump’s public displays of support for his program.

This joint strategy is working. Hannity’s ratings have never been higher. And while polls show broad support for Mueller’s probe, among Fox viewers and Republican voters, the Fox host and his colleagues, in collaboration with the president, have successfully poisoned the well.

The result is a very dangerous moment, in which the president could act on Hannity’s entreaties for authoritarian action -- and escape unscathed thanks to the supine congressional Republicans and the unyielding supportthe host and his allies have inculcated for the last year in Fox’s legions of viewers.

Hannity is the chief author of the sprawling conspiracy theory, but he could not weave this vast fictional drama alone. The motley team he’s assembled to help him would hardly inspire confidence in other circumstances.

Frequent guests for "Hannity"’s Mueller segments

Gregg Jarrett (who appeared in 121 Mueller segments over the course of the study), long a marginal legal commentator and Fox anchor, raised his profile by using his law degree to claim that Trump’s associates are innocent because collusion isn’t a crime and the FBI investigators are acting like “the old KGB.”
Sara Carter (also 121 Mueller segments), a Fox contributor who publishes stories on a personal blog that are too thinly sourced even for the network’s own website, produces “reporting” to validate Hannity’s claims about an anti-Trump “deep state” conspiracy.
Sebastian Gorka, who exaggerated the expertise that won him a poorly defined White House job that he held for only seven months (50 Mueller segments), argued that Clinton should be put to death for treason.
Jay Sekulow (50 segments total), who had little experience in white-collar crime but was hired as Trump’s lawyer in June in part due to sycophantic media appearances about the case like the ones he made on "Hannity," continues to appear to present the president’s defense.
Dan Bongino (30 Mueller segments), a former Secret Service agent who parlayed three failed bids for federal office into a career as a mid-level conservative pundit with a gig on the National Rifle Association’s media arm NRATV, calls the Russia probe “an obvious frame job.”
A host of Republican congressmen of questionable ethics who parade before the host to preen about their latest efforts to defang the deep state (a total of 44 segments).
This study reveals the four prongs of the overarching strategy Hannity has followed over the past year: delegitimizing the press, defending Trump from collusion claims, and creating a counternarrative that targets the investigators. All of those build to the authoritarian endgame Hannity's conspiracy theory is courting — which is supported by the series of guests who help sell his tale to the Fox audience.

I. Delegitimizing the press: “The media has been corrupt and lying to you, the America people.”

Fox News has always branded itself as the only “fair and balanced” antidote to the rest of the supposedly biased press, aiming to peel off viewers from other outlets. Hannity has played a key role in that effort, regularly declaring that journalism is “dead” and that Fox is the source for “real news.”

This attack on other outlets is at the heart of his coverage of the Mueller probe. Hannity has criticized the press coverage of Mueller’s investigation in 256 segments over the year of the study, 53 percent of all segments in which he discussed it. Building on decades of conservative animus for journalists, Hannity tells his audience that the media are working hand in hand with other Trump enemies; that their reporting is hostile and should not be believed; and that only Hannity provides an accurate take on the investigation.

At times, Hannity seizes on instances in which journalists have made legitimate errors in their pursuit of the story, arguing that inaccurate reporting that is later corrected is evidence of bad faith, rather than proof that outlets are acting responsibly.

But far more frequently, he simply accuses journalists of deliberately lying to the public to hurt Trump. This rantfrom February 2, after congressional Republicans released a drastically overhyped memo Hannity had spent weeks promoting, is characteristic of his general argument:

Everything that we have been talking about and uncovering for a year on this program is now being shown to be true and exposed. In the meantime, all this while, the liberal mainstream media, they have wasted an entire year holding this country hostage on a false narrative based on a conspiracy theory that President Trump colluded with the Russians.

They have and have had no evidence whatsoever because it doesn't exist. The media has been corrupt and lying to you, the America people. At the end of the day they are nothing but propagandist, an extension of the Democratic Party and tin foil hat conspiracy theorists that are so pathologically locked in their hate of President Trump they don't know any better at this point.

All the information we have been reporting now on this has been out there. But you have overpaid journalists just too lazy, to rigidly ideological to do their jobs. They have been sitting on the sidelines while the biggest scandal in their lifetimes has been unfolding right before their very faces.

That’s an absurd conspiracy theory on its face, but it’s one that fits comfortably with the narrative Trump has woven about the “Fake News Media” and its coverage of the Russia probe.

II. The defense: “Tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about so-called Trump Russia collusion” (which isn’t a crime)

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a multifaceted influence effort — including hacking Democratic email accounts and releasing their contents — in order to help Trump win the 2016 presidential campaign, the U.S. intelligence community and the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee have concluded. In the summer of 2016, after learning that a Trump adviser had known about Russian meddling in advance, the FBI opened an investigation into whether the Trump campaign had been collaborating with the Kremlin effort. The FBI largely kept its effort secret through the election, but in March, amid a flurry of news stories pointing to possible collusion between Trump and Russia, FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the investigation. Six weeks later, Trump fired Comey, then admitted on national television that he had done so because he was unhappy with Comey’s handling of the Russia probe. A few days after that, on May 17, 2017, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to take over the FBI probe.

A year is not a long time as investigations go, but Mueller’s investigation has already reaped a substantial harvest and made its way to the center of Trump’s circle. Mueller has issued more than 100 criminal charges against 19 people and three companies, with five pleading guilty. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair, faces dozens of charges related to money laundering and bank fraud. Rick Gates, who played central roles in the Trump campaign, presidential transition team, and the White House, as well as Michael Flynn, Trump’s first White House national security advisor, are cooperating with the probe. Given how close-mouthed Mueller’s team has been, there’s no telling what he knows, or what his next move might be. Meanwhile, every day seems to bring a new news story demonstrating that the Trump campaign cooperated with a Kremlin influence campaign whose aim was to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election, while the president’s team members keep moving the goalposts on what exactly they deny happened.

But through it all, Hannity — like Trump himself — has made “NO COLLUSION” his mantra, regularly denouncing what he terms “black helicopter, tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about so-called Trump-Russia collusion.” He and his guests argued that point in 191 of the broadcast’s segments on the Mueller probe, 39 percent of the total. When Mueller indicts close aides to the president, Hannity’s takeaway is that the charges have “nothing to do” with collusion. When Mueller indicts Russians for their efforts to impact the election, Hannity celebrates the indictment for not demonstrating a connection to the Trump axis. Other times he uses nonsequiturs to remind viewers that Trump did nothing wrong and everything’s going to be fine.

Hannity has yet to be convinced that any Trump associates might have colluded with Russia, no matter what new events unfold. But if that position ever becomes untenable, he’s already advancing an argument for Trump supporters to fall back on.

In 25 segments discussing the Mueller probe, Hannity and his guests have suggested that “collusion” is not a crime. The argument rests on the fact that there is no statute literally called “collusion” that might be relevant. But legal scholars have pointed to a host of laws that Trump associates might have broken by working with a foreign government to swing an election. And even if “collusion” is illegal, it’s still morally repugnant.

And Hannity does seem to hold strong objections to what he describes as “collusion” between Democrats and Russians. He’s alluded to such alleged wrongdoing in 82 segments over the first year of Mueller’s probe.

Hannity has two main arguments in favor of this theory of “real collusion.” His first is that the 2010 Uranium One deal to sell a U.S. uranium company to Russia, which was approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and a host of other government agencies, was made because of donations given to the Clinton Foundation. Hannity featured discussion of Uranium One in 184 segments about the Mueller probe, 38 percent of the total. Conservatives have struggled to get traction on this charge for a reason: No evidence has ever shown that Clinton played a role in the deal’s approval, and numerous other agencies all approved it as well. Yet it comes up in nearly two out of every five Hannity segments about the Mueller investigation.

Hannity’s second charge makes even less sense. He has repeatedly invoked the dossier assembled by a former British intelligence officer and funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee as evidence that Clinton and other Democrats were “spreading propaganda, Russian propaganda, misinformation and outright lies to the American people.” The dossier cited troubling links between the Trump team and the Kremlin, and FBI investigators analyzed it in the stages of the probe alongside a host of other sources pointing to the same conclusion. Under Hannity’s warped argument, because the dossier cited interviews with Russian sources, it is itself the product of “real” collusion.

Trump doesn’t need to watch Hannity’s show to constantly bellow that there was “no collusion.” But in recent months, he’s adopted the Fox host’s talking points that Democrats were the ones who actually colluded with Russia and that collusion is a “phony” crime.

III. The counter-attack: Trump as victim of “the biggest abuse of power corruption case in American history”

Having told his audience that, unlike the Democrats, the president and his associates did nothing wrong, Hannity needs to provide his viewers with an explanation for why the investigation is continuing. His explanation is that “deep state” forces -- first at the FBI and Justice Department during the 2016 election and the first months of the Trump administration, and later on Mueller’s — have engaged in a broad conspiracy to destroy Trump. Hannity describes this plot as “the biggest abuse of power corruption case in American history” and “a direct threat to this American republic.”

In at least 81 segments, Hannity and his compatriots described the president as a victim of Mueller’s “witch hunt.” Making this task harder: Mueller, whose appointment as special counsel drew bipartisan praise, is a lifelong Republican. The Fox host has settled for invective, saying the special counsel is “as corrupt as they come, he doesn't seem to care about truth, doesn't care about facts, doesn't care about evidence. He doesn't care about being fair. He doesn't care that he's biased.” Hannity’s basis for these claims? Bogus claims about “conflicts of interest” he says Mueller and his team have, an attack Hannity and his guests have levied in 140 segments, 29 percent of the total.

Among the alleged conflicts Hannity has said call for the special counsel’s removal: Mueller’s purportedly close relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey, and the fact that some of the lawyers working for the Republican special counsel are registered Democrats, have donated to Democratic politicians, or have worked for progressive organizations. All of these supposedly sinister connections have been debunked by actual reporters or ethics experts with greater knowledge of the law and civil service rules, and more genuine interest in seeing them enforced, than Hannity can claim to possess.

Hannity’s arguments are in step with the president’s talking point that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” and Trump has regularly assailed the purported conflicts of members of Mueller’s team in recent months.

IV. The authoritarian endgame: “Mueller's probe is tainted. Hillary is a criminal.”

Having painted Trump as the innocent victim of a corrupt investigation, Hannity’s argument almost inevitably concludes with demands to shutter it — and more. In 67 segments over the first year, Hannity and his guests called for Mueller’s firing, resignation, recusal, or the termination of the investigation. In 41 segments, they sought similar action regarding Rosenstein. The “legal war” on the president needs to end, Hannity claims apocalyptically, because “the country is hanging by a thread.”

Hannity has primed his audience to reject any conclusions from the Mueller investigation and to support Trump if he fires the special counsel or demands the Justice Department take action against his political foes. If Trump decides to undermine the rule of law by taking such steps, he will have the fervent support of the Fox host and his viewers.

But it’s not enough to simply ensure that the president and his allies cannot be punished if they committed crimes. Hannity is paving the way for another chilling action: the prosecution of Trump’s political enemies. Because the president has been the target of crimes that were “worse than Watergate, on a million levels here,” Hannity argues, many of the people involved in the Russia investigation will need to go to jail. Hannity and his guests have accused senior Justice Department or FBI officials involved with the investigation of crimes in 186 segments, 38 percent of the total. In 28 segments, they accuse Mueller himself.

And of course, night after night, Hannity rants that Trump has been treated unfairly compared to Clinton, whom he paints as a dangerous criminal still at large. Over the course of the study, Hannity and his guests accused Clinton of crimes in 218 segments, an incredible 45 percent of all segments on the investigation. While the FBI investigated Clinton’s use of a private email server and recommended no charges against her, Hannity’s cohort is convinced that she is guilty of numerous crimes. “I want Hillary prosecuted because she committed felonies,” Hannity said in June. “That's just a fact. And if we deny that, then there's not equal justice under the law.” Eleven months later, he declared: “Mueller's probe is tainted. Hillary is a criminal. It all begins with Hillary Clinton.”

To investigate these various purported crimes — from Clinton’s use of a private email server and the supposed efforts to “fix” the investigation into it, to the early stages of the federal investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, to financing the Trump research dossier — Hannity and his guests have called for the appointment of a second special counsel in 77 segments.

“People need to be exposed,” he explained in March. “Crimes were committed at the highest levels, and people in the end need to go to jail. The full story needs to come out. You deserve that and so much more from the people that are supposed to serve you in government.” Only a second special counsel, Hannity claims, can get to the bottom of all these crimes and ensure “justice and the rule of law in this country.”

Hannity’s minion Jarrett has even floated a candidate for the job — Joseph diGenova, a Republican attorney and activist who briefly served on Trump’s legal team and has claimed the existence of “a brazen plot” by federal law enforcement “to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

Trump is listening. The rule of law rests on the political independence of the FBI and the Justice Department -- the assumption that the president will not interfere with investigations for political purposes. But Trump views the job of federal law enforcement agencies not as protecting the country, but as protecting his interests. Egged on by Hannity, he reportedly threatened to fire Mueller and Rosenstein in order to curtail the probe into his activities and those of his allies, and he regularly suggests his perceived enemies have broken the law and publicly pressures the Justice Department to respond.

If Trump ever takes such dire steps as firing Mueller and Rosenstein -- or forcing investigations of his enemies -- he has every reason to believe that Hannity’s propaganda effort will keep the Republican base on his side, forestalling any real accountability.

Appendix: The cast of characters

Here are the 10 "Hannity" guests who appeared most frequently during segments about the Mueller probe:

Sara Carter, Fox contributor, 121 appearances
Gregg Jarrett, Fox legal analyst, 121 appearances
Sebastian Gorka, Fox contributor, 50 appearances
Jay Sekulow, Trump lawyer, 50 appearances
Newt Gingrich, Fox contributor, 37 appearances
John Solomon, "The Hill" executive vice president, 33 appearances
Dan Bongino, NRATV contributor, 30 appearances
Jeanine Pirro, Fox host, 27 appearances
Geraldo Rivera, Fox contributor, 22 appearances
Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, 19 appearances
Methodology

Media Matters identified segments based on a search of Nexis transcripts for Fox News’ "Hannity" between May 17, 2017, and May 16, 2018, for instances of the word “Trump” within 20 words of “Russia,” “Mueller,” or “special counsel.”

We included each segment where the special counsel probe was the stated topic of discussion. We also included segments that were not limited solely to the special counsel probe but that featured significant discussion of the topic. We defined significant discussion as at least two speakers in the segment talking about the special counsel probe to one another (e.g. the host asking a guest a question about the special counsel probe during a multitopic interview).

We identified all guests hosted during each segment and coded for whether each segment contained the following criteria, counting instances in which the host or guests made such comments as well as instances in which the host or guests positively affirmed such comments made in video clips:

Media criticism

A1: any criticism of media coverage of the investigation/the Trump-Russia story
Firings

B1: suggestions that Robert Mueller should be fired/resign/recuse himself/end the investigation
B2: suggestions that Rod Rosenstein should be fired/resign/recuse himself/end the investigation
Conflict of interest

C1: suggestions that those involved in the investigation -- including but not limited to Mueller, Rosenstein, and the FBI -- have conflicts of interest, including because they are or have donated to Democrats
Witch hunt

D1: suggestions that the investigation is a “witch hunt” (using that exact phrase)
Collusion

E1: suggestions that there was no “collusion” (using any variation of that word) between Trump or his associates and Russia
E2: suggestions that there was “collusion” between Democrats or Obama-era law enforcement agencies and Russia
E3: suggestions that “collusion” is not a crime
Crimes

F1: suggestions that Mueller may have committed crimes or may be guilty of crimes
F2: suggestions that other senior current or former DOJ/FBI officials involved with the investigation may have committed crimes or may be guilty of crimes
F3: suggestions that Hillary Clinton may have committed crimes or may be guilty of crimes
F4: suggestions that a second special counsel should be appointed to investigate Trump’s political enemies, including but not limited to Hillary Clinton and senior current or former DOJ/FBI officials
Uranium One

G1: references to the Uranium One pseudoscandal
Teasers for upcoming segments were not included. We did not include repeats of the same episode. We also identified whether a segment was the opening segment of the program and identified any guests who appeared during a segment.
https://www.salon.com/2018/05/27/study- ... e_partner/



UNSPEAKABLE
The Oligarch Who Met With Michael Cohen Flees the Press at Putin's Big Economic Summit

The gathering of a few world leaders and a lot of businessmen, including big names from America, often seemed surreal—not for what was said, but for all that went unspoken.

ANNA NEMTSOVA
05.26.18 10:42 AM ET
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—There were moments on Friday when silver-bearded Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, normally a paragon of self-assurance, looked like an old bear cornered by hounds at this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Vekselberg, who reportedly is worth some $15.5 billion, had agreed to participate in a panel about the Russian-U.S. business “dialogue” at a time when his name is being linked to investigations focused on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. He is known to have been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and was reported this week to have met with Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, just 11 days before Trump was inaugurated.

In April, Vekselberg was among several Russian oligarchs hit with sanctions by the U.S. Treasury, specifically for their connection to “malign activity around the globe” including “attempting to subvert Western democracies.” Since then, Vekselberg’s Renova energy conglomerate has lost about $900 million.

“Vekselberg just listened nervously, shaking his leg, staring down at the floor.”
Other participants at the Friday forum panel about U.S.-Russia business tried to cast themselves as people bravely defending the world’s stability in the midst of a new Cold War. But through much of the conversation Vekselberg just listened nervously, shaking his leg, staring down at the floor.

Vekselberg could see reporters in the room, and knew they wanted to know about that Trump Tower meeting with Cohen. It was arranged by Vekselberg cousin Andrew Intrater, who invests for him in the U.S., and whose company, Columbus Nova, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Cohen’s limited liability corporation in January 2017. (The same LLC, The Daily Beast reported, that paid off porn star and alleged Trump tryster Stormy Daniels.)


Reporters in St. Petersburg were wondering what exactly motivated Vekselberg— the chair of a big Russian investment company with branches in Moscow and Geneva (and the proud owner of an Italian villa that once belonged to Mussolini)—to get potentially involved with some $500,000 worth of payoffs to Cohen?

“We hear several versions, one of them is that Vekselberg’s role was to negotiate peace for Ukraine to get the U.S. sanctions cancelled,” Ilya Shumanov, the deputy director of Transparency International’s Russia office told The Daily Beast. “Russian businessmen often play a role of mediators between the Kremlin and the West, each of them is responsible for some country; both Vekselberg and another billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, must have been involved with Trump’s people, though we have not seen any evidence, yet, of them acting on orders from Russian authorities.”

“'The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,' and all sides 'profit from this corrupt system.'”
— U.S. Treasury Department notice of sanctions on Viktor Vekselberg




READ IT: Israeli Psych-Ops Firm Outlined Trump-Russia Dirty Campaign Tricks in PowerPoint Presentation — Which Mueller is Investigating


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 19, 2013. Twelve years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Mueller is retiring, convinced that "the threat is still there."
An Israel-based private intelligence firm made a Power Point presentation in which it appears to have bragged about the ways in which it used social media dirty tricks to help the Trump campaign, the Wall Street Journalreports.

The presentation was uploaded and featured pages on making fake news sites, using "avatar seeding" to get fake news in front of groups and infiltrating opposition to seed discord, such as using a pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook group to radicalize supporters against Hillary Clinton.

The nine-page presentation, which the Journal uploaded, was marked with the words "confidential" and "do not circulate."

The report says that Robert Mueller’s investigators have a copy of the presentation about how Donald Trump’s 2016 election was helped by fake news and fake social-media accounts.

As the paper writes, "it is unclear how much of the presentation consists of the firm’s analysis of online activity during the campaign and how much is a hypothetical pitch."

The presentation discusses how “bots” and fake news sites energized Trump voters. A slide called 'Trump Campaign Components' shows how 'fake news sites/avatars/content' were created during the early part of the election year and leveraged to spread 'uncertainty' during the heat of the campaign.
https://www.alternet.org/read-it-israel ... esentation



A timeline of all the foreign payments to Donald Trump’s moneymen, Elliott Broidy and Michael Cohen

Written by Adam Pasick
In recent months, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration has shifted to a broad web of payments from foreign governments and corporations to major players in Donald Trump’s orbit. Primary among them are Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, and Elliott Broidy, a businessman and major Trump fundraiser.

After Trump won the election, both men were named deputy finance chairmen of the Republican National Committee, and quietly began making deals. Cohen signed up corporations including Novartis and AT&T, plus the government of Ukraine and an investment fund linked to a sanctioned Russian billionaire, to provide access and “insight” about the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Broidy won huge deals for his security firm Circinus, largely by working with a Lebanese-American businessman and convicted pedophile George Nader to advance the interests of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in Washington.

Cohen and Broidy didn’t begin with much in common. Cohen was a graduate of an unheralded law school, personal injury attorney, and investor in New York City taxi medallions who made himself essential to the Trump business empire as a fixer. Broidy was a polished money manager used to wielding political connections, and not always legally: He was convicted on a felony bribery charge in 2009 that was later downgraded to a misdemeanor.

Their names became forever linked in unlikely fashion when it was revealed that Cohen set up Broidy’s payment of $1.6 million to a former Playboy Playmate—purportedly to buy her silence for an affair she had with Broidy, though some observers have cast doubt on that story.

The revelations that have followed that bombshell, plus the leak of Broidy’s hacked emails, reveal how the two men cashed in on their proximity to the White House. It’s fitting that Broidy’s firm Circinus is named after the Latin word for a draftsman’s compass—he and Cohen moved in some very interesting circles indeed.

The timeline below is divided by country, with an additional section for payments between Broidy and Cohen. You can read from top to bottom, or jump directly to any of the countries involved. This article will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

Jump to: Malaysia ● Romania ● Russia ● Saudi Arabia and the UAE ● Ukraine ● Broidy-Cohen transations

Malaysia

Mid-2017: According to leaked emails, Broidy discusses with his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, a plan to pitch a consulting contract to Jho Low. He’s a Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1MDB state investment fund embezzlement scandal, which earlier this month helped bring down prime minister Najib Razak. Rosenzweig’s law firm is eventually hired by Pras Michel, formerly of The Fugees and a friend of Low, “to provide strategic advice” to the controversial mogul.

Aug. 7, 2017: Broidy emails a colleague at his venture-capital firm, with the subject line “Malaysia Talking Points *Final* ahead of Najib’s visit to the White House, recommending that Najib “make it clear that Malaysia fully backed U.S. efforts to isolate North Korea.”

September 12, 2017: Trump meets with Najib, and says: “He does not do business with North Korea any longer. We find that to be very important.”

Romania

January 19, 2017: Broidy invites Liviu Dragnea, leader of the country’s Social Democratic Party, to meet Trump at a private party at the Trump International Hotel during inauguration week, McClatchy reported. Asked to support stronger US-Romanian ties, Trump said: “We will make it happen! Romania is important for us!” Trump said, according to Dragnea’s Facebook post (link in Romanian).

Sept. 19 2017: Broidy meets with Romanian defense minister Mihai Fifor during Fifor’s visit to the US, according to McClatchy.

February 1, 2018 Circinus signs a deal “with a Romanian government-owned defense company that appears to give it the inside track for contracts valued at more than $200 million,” the New York Times reports. McClatchy reports that the deal was signed “in the presence of US ambassador Hans Klemm.”

Russia

January 9, 2017: Michael Cohen meets with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, a close Putin associate who was later sanctioned by the United States, at Trump Tower, according to video footage reviewed by CNN and the New York Times. They discuss “a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump,” the Times reports. Vekselberg also met with Cohen at the inauguration and in one other instance.

late January, 2017: Cohen is awarded a $1 million consulting contract by Columbus Nova, which counts Vekselberg as its biggest client and is seen as an extension of his Renova Group conglomerate. Columbus Nova is run by Vekselberg’s cousin, Andrew Intrater, who was also in the Trump Tower meeting..

January, 2017: Broidy reportedly pitches Russian gas company Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan to help it get off a US sanctions list, through Broidy’s firm Fieldcrest Advisors.

May 8, 2018: Banking documents posted by Michael Avenatti, attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, show that Cohen received $580,000 in “consulting fees” from Columbus Nova, plus a number of payments from Broidy and corporations including AT&T and Novartis.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Aug. 3, 2016: George Nader, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince meet with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump advisor Stephen Miller at Trump Tower. Nader, Zamel, and Prince told the president’s oldest son “that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the New York Times reported.

April 2, 2017: Nader asks Broidy to invoice his Dubai-based company for $2.5 million as part of their campaign to lobby Trump to back the Saudis and Emiratis over their regional archenemies, Qatar and Iran.

October 6, 2017: Broidy emails Nader “a summary of Broidy’s talks with Kushner and Trump in the White House” on the UAE’s behalf. Broidy talks to Trump about secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who had criticized the Gulf state campaign against Qatar, saying that “Rex was performing poorly and should be relieved but only at a good time, politically.” (Tillerson was fired in March 2018.)

December 2, 2017: Broidy meets with Trump to again discuss the UAE-Saudi case against Qatar. Several days later, Broidy’s intelligence firm Circinus is awarded a $600 million contract with the UAE, the AP reports.

December 27, 2017: Broidy’s wife falls prey to a phishing attack, given attackers access to a Google spreadsheet filled with passwords.

January 17, 2018: Broidy tells Nader he received the first installment of $36 million from UAE.

Mid-January: Nader is stopped by FBI agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller at Dulles airport in Washington, on his way to Mar-a-Lago. He subsequently agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

January 16: Hackers begin to access Broidy’s emails, according to a lawsuit he later filed.

February 25: Hacker access to Broidy’s email ends, according to his lawsuit

March 26: Broidy sues Qatar after the New York Times, AP, and other media outlets begin to write stories about his leaked emails.

Ukraine

June 20, 2018: Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko reportedly meets with Donald Trump at the White House, after Ukrainian officials paid at least $400,000 to Michael Cohen to set up the talks, according to the BBC. After the meeting, the Ukrainian government suspends its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Broidy-Cohen transactions

November 30, 2017: Broidy wires $200,000 to Real Estate Attorneys’ Group, controlled by attorney Keith Davidson, who represents former Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard.

December 5, 2017: REAG wires $200,000 to Keith Davidson

December 29, 2017: Broidy wires $62,500 to REAG, the first installment of a $250,000 fee to Cohen for his work on the Bechard deal.

January 2, 2018: REAG wires $62,500 to Essential Consultants, a shell company controlled by Michael Cohen

April 13: The Wall Street Journal reports that Broidy used Cohen to pay Bechard $1.6 million over two years in quarterly installments. CNBC reported that Cohen also received $250,000 for negotiating and handling the deal.
https://qz.com/1287027/a-timeline-of-do ... countries/


Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true
BY JOHN BOWDEN - 05/26/18 03:23 PM EDT 1,572
2,832


Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true
© Greg Nash
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said more of the so-called Steele dossier's claims are proving to be true.

In an interview with Salon, Clapper said the dossier, part of which lays out alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has been corroborated by subsequent U.S. investigations.

The Obama-era intelligence chief stressed that while the most "salacious" claims in the dossier have not been proven to be true, "more and more" of the dossier's other allegations about President Trump and his allies' ties to Russia have been backed up over time.


"Some of what was in the dossier was actually corroborated — but separately — in our intelligence community assessment, from other sources that we were confident in," Clapper said.

"The salacious parts, no. That’s never been corroborated," he added. "It would appear to me that as time has gone on more and more of it has been corroborated, but I can’t actually give you a percentage."

The dossier, which was created by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele as part of his work for political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, had circulated in media circles before being published in full by BuzzFeed News in January 2017.

Clapper stressed that the dossier was never used as a source for the 2017 intelligence community assessment that stated the Russians interfered in the election for the purpose of damaging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and aiding Trump.

"Well, some of what was in the dossier … first of all, I need to make an important point here. We did not use the dossier as a source for the intelligence community assessment, that’s point one," Clapper said.

"The dossier is not classified or an intelligence document," he continued. "It’s actually a collection of 17 separate memos."

Republicans have frequently pointed to the dossier as proof that the FBI investigation into Trump's campaign began with political motivations, as the Fusion GPS investigation was funded in part by lawyers for the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Trump has erroneously accused the FBI and Clapper over the last several days of planting a spy in his campaign after it was revealed the agency used a confidential informant to contact several members of the Trump campaign.
http://thehill.com/policy/national-secu ... to-be-true
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun May 27, 2018 10:32 pm

Democratic Senator Demands Investigation Into Whether Trump Jr. Lied to Congress

A bombshell New York Times story appears to contradict testimony from Trump Jr.

AJ VicensMay. 25, 2018 3:01 PM

A Democratic senator is calling for an investigation into whether Donald Trump Jr. lied when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that aside from Russia, he knew of no other foreign government or foreign nationals who offered to assist the Trump campaign in 2016. In a letter sent Thursday to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)—the committee chairman—Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) called for an open hearing in which Trump Jr. could be asked to explain his past statements.

Last weekend, the New York Times reported that in August 2016, Trump Jr. and Trump aide Stephen Miller met in Trump Tower with an Israeli social media expert named Joel Zamel; Erik Prince, a prominent Republican security contractor; and George Nader, an emissary for two princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Times reported that the meeting was “convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team” and that it helped forge “relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months—past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.” It’s illegal for foreigners to assist US electoral campaigns.

Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told the Times that Trump Jr. “recalls a meeting” in which Nader, Prince, and another individual “who may be” Zamel pitched “a social media platform or marketing strategy. [Trump Jr.] was not interested and that was the end of it.”

But in his letter to Grassley, Coons noted that Trump Jr. appears to have told a very different story during his September 7, 2017, closed-door appearance before the committee. On that occasion, Trump Jr. discussed another infamous Trump Tower meeting, in which he sought information damaging to Hillary Clinton from an emissary of the Russian government. But as Coons pointed out, Trump Jr. also told the committee that he had no knowledge of any offers of assistance from non-Russian foreign governments or non-Russian foreign nationals.

In his letter, Coons noted that Grassley referred Christopher Steele—the British former intelligence officer who investigated President Donald Trump’s potential ties with Russians ahead of the election—to the US Department of Justice for possible criminal charges after alleging that Steele had lied to the FBI about his contacts with the media. Read Coons’ full letter below:
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... -congress/



'Trump's son should be concerned': FBI obtained wiretaps of Putin ally who met with Trump Jr.

Content is currently unavailable.

The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday.

José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer. On the wiretaps, Romanov refers to Torshin as “El Padrino,” the godfather.

“Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI,” Grinda said in response to a question from Yahoo News during a talk he gave at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”


Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA event earlier this month. (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP)
The comments by Grinda were the first clear sign that the FBI may be investigating Torshin, possibly as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Torshin — a close political ally of Vladimir Putin — had multiple contacts with conservative activists in the United States during the election, seeking to set up a summit between the Russian president and then candidate Trump. Although the summit never transpired, Torshin did meet briefly with the president’s son at a private dinner in Louisville during the May 2016 annual convention of the NRA. A member of the NRA since 2012, Torshin has been a regular attendee of the group’s conventions in recent years and hosted senior members of the group in Moscow.

Grinda said that the FBI, in its request for the evidence to the Guardia Civil, the Spanish National Police, provided no explanation as to why it was interested in the material and he didn’t ask for one. “I don’t have to ask them why they want this information,” he said. But Grinda added that if Mueller or any other U.S. prosecutor seeks to use the material as part of a court case, they would have to make a second, more formal request to do so to the Spanish government.

Spokesmen for the FBI and Mueller’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment when contacted by Yahoo News.

Torshin has been the subject of intensifying U.S. government and congressional scrutiny over the past year and was recently among a lengthy list of oligarchs and Russian political figures sanctioned by the Treasury Department. As reported by Yahoo News and the Spanish newspaper El País last year, the Spanish National Police were preparing to arrest Torshin in August 2013, when he was expected to fly to the Spanish island of Mallorca in August for the birthday party of Romanov. The arrest plan, which involved the deployment of more than a dozen police officers at the airport and at the hotel where the party was supposed to take place, grew out of a lengthy investigation headed by Grinda into Russian organized crime and money laundering. As part of the probe, the Guardia Civil wiretapped Romanov’s phone and picked up 33 conversations with Torshin.

But Torshin never showed up for the party and he was never arrested. Grinda confirmed in an interview after his talk that some in the Guardia Civil suspected that Torshin had been tipped off to the arrest plan by Russian officials who had been asked to cooperate in the Spanish probe. But Grinda added that he was unable to prove that was why Torshin never showed up for the party.


Spanish anticorruption prosecutor José Grinda, center, in Barcelona. (Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)
Despite the suspicions about his ties to Russian money laundering, Torshin continued to travel frequently to the United States and even showed up as part of a Russian delegation in February 2017 to the National Prayer Breakfast, where he was at one point scheduled to meet with President Trump. (The meeting was canceled the night before, after National Security Council officials raised concerns about it.) More recently, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden sent multiple letters to the NRA asking about its ties to Torshin and other Russian figures, questioning whether Russian money was funneled to the NRA to help pay for the more than $30 million the group spent on political ads and get out the vote efforts during the 2016 election.

An NRA lawyer, in responses to Wyden, said that Torshin has only paid his membership dues to the group and that, based on an internal review, the NRA received a total of only $2,500 from about 23 Russia-linked contributors since 2015. However, the NRA is now reviewing its relationship with Torshin in light of the Treasury Department blacklisting him last month. “Based on Mr. Torshin’s listing as a specially designated national as of April 6, we are currently reviewing our responsibilities with respect to him,” NRA general counsel John Frazer wrote to Wyden.

An NRA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trumps-son-c ... soc_trk=tw


President* Trump Is Ready to Pull the Whole Temple Down on His Head
The FBI, the Justice Department, the rule of law—it'll all be among the wreckage.

BY CHARLES P. PIERCE
MAY 24, 2018

The president* is very proud of himself. The president* has thought up a new word. The president* has established a Brand, which is all the president* really knows anything about, even though the president*’s personal Brand has become synonymous with international influence-peddling of the highest order. Nevertheless, the president* is very proud of his new word and his new brand.

SPYGATE!


Forget the fact that it isn’t even original—it has been used for more than a decade now to describe the alleged shenanigans of the New England Patriots prior to the Super Bowl in 2002. The president* became who he is because of other people’s money. Now, he’s trying to profit politically on other people’s neologisms. However, his pride in claiming to invent things that everyone’s been using for decades, very much like his pride in discovering things that “not many people know about,” like Abraham Lincoln’s having been a Republican, remains undiminished.

He has his new word, and he has leapt onto the electric Twitter machine to crow about it, like a not overly bright Great Pyrenees with a new chew-toy in the back yard.



There is polling data that says this most recent political counterattack is working out there in the country, but, as long as Robert Mueller still has a staff and a job, the polling data doesn’t matter a damn. Nonetheless, there are ominous signs that, as The Master put it—and Happy 77th, Bob!—conformity’s in fashion. Catch how The New York Times gently refers to “unconfirmed claims of campaign spying.” The absurdity of the Republicans-only meeting, followed by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” briefing, on the totally spurious claim that the FBI “spied on” the Trump campaign, cannot be minimized, nor can the fact that the Democratic members of Congress practically had to use the jaws of life to pry that second meeting out of the White House.

It’s that first meeting, the one in which the classified information will be shared with Congressman Trey Gowdy and the execrable Devin Nunes, that is the main event. That’s the meeting that will provide the carefully barbered leaks that will send the conservative media into what my mother used to call “HIGH-sterics” for as long as it takes to devalue whatever Mueller comes up with in the minds of the rubes and goobers of the Republican base.


Devin Nunes
Getty Images
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The whole thing is an exercise designed to warp the public mind into something resembling the twisted, malignant, guano-dripping bat-cave that produces what passes for thought in the current president*. There is not a bit of truth to it, but, unfortunately, there are meetings, which means the elite political press has to cover them and, in covering them, has to pretend that there is something to the whole thing beyond a clumsy attempt to save the president*’s political hindquarters.

But there is something else going on, too.

You may recall that, during the 2016 campaign, there was a lot of talk about how agents in the New York office of the FBI had gone medieval in their dislike of Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband. It was the threat posed by these renegades that was said to have driven James Comey to do the tarantella on his own dick late in the campaign. The mouthpiece for these rogue gumshoes was said to be Rudy Giuliani, currently working as the president*’s Mueller-whisperer. At one point, Giuliani told Fox News that there was a “revolution” going on within the FBI because some agents felt that Comey was not chasing the Clinton email affair with sufficient ferocity.


Rudy Giuliani
Getty Images
Now, though, it appears that a similar dynamic is beginning to play itself out in the White House’s current counterattack. On Wednesday, The Daily Caller was fed a piece by longtime Republican lawyer and current White House hack Joseph DiGenova that there are FBI men who are eager to talk about the perfidy of Comey, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, the Clintons, and god alone knows who else.

The DC independently confirmed the veracity of the consultant’s position and access, and reviewed detailed transcripts of his Q&A with the special agent, who requested the arrangement due to internal dragnets and fear of vicious retribution. These agents prefer to be subpoenaed to becoming an official government whistleblower, since they fear political and professional backlash, the former Trump administration official explained to The DC. The subpoena is preferred, he said, “because when you are subpoenaed, Congress then pays…for your legal counsel and the subpoena protects [the agent] from any organizational retaliation…. they are on their own as whistleblowers, they get no legal protection and there will be organizational retaliation against them.”
In a statement to the Daily Caller, an unnamed FBI agent claimed, “Every special agent I have spoken to in the Washington Field Office wants to see McCabe prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They feel the same way about Comey…All Congress needs to do is subpoena involved personnel and they will tell you what they know. These are honest people. Leadership cannot stop anyone from responding to a subpoena. Those subpoenaed also get legal counsel provided by the government to represent them,” the agent added.
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Gee, I wonder if Devin Nunes will cooperate with this plan?


Getty Images

This story was quickly picked up by right-wing Twitter, as well as by the folks at Breitbart’s Mausoleum For The Chronically Unemployable. It’s probably dogma among those folks by now. As it happens, I think it’s all true. I have no doubt that there are FBI agents suffering through the late stages of Clinton Derangement Syndrome who would be more than willing to share their opinions with the wider world.

(The DC even names one of them—former assistant FBI director James Kallstrom, who is positively bughouse on the subject of the Clintons.)

The House majority undoubtedly would help them in this enterprise. So, as Mueller’s investigation grinds on, the FBI gets truly and thoroughly politicized. This president* is willing to pull the temple down on his own head, and the Republicans are willing to compliment him on his renovation. The FBI will rip its own guts out, and it might just be a good time to be a bank robber.
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/p ... icize-fbi/


A Timeline of Trump Associates Asking for Dirt on Clinton

A new report that Roger Stone sought damaging information on Clinton from Julian Assange is the latest in an increasingly complicated chronology.

Natasha Bertrand6:00 AM ET
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone tried to solicit information about Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in September 2016. At the time, the Journal reported, Stone wrote to Randy Credico, a New York radio host who had interviewed Assange, and asked Credico to ask Assange for “any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30, 2011.”

Like Stone, Trump seemed to believe that damaging information about Clinton could be found in the emails that she sent using her private email server, and later deleted. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said during a press conference in July 2016.

Stone and Trump were not alone in seeking help from WikiLeaks and Russia during the election. One of Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., asked WikiLeaks via a private Twitter message in October whether a “leak” was coming and what it was about. Trump Jr. also attended a meeting at Trump Tower, along with Trump’s campaign chairman and son-in-law, after a suggestion that he’d be able to see incriminating information on Clinton from Russia’s “crown prosecutor.”


Time and time again, Trump and his associates seemed to demonstrate a willingness to accept help from WikiLeaks—an organization the former CIA Director Mike Pompeo described as a “hostile intelligence service”—and from Russia, which was actively trying to influence the election, intelligence officials warned Trump in August 2016. Here’s a brief timeline of the interactions, or attempted interactions, that have led to this moment:

April 2016: A Trump Campaign Aide Learns of Russian “Dirt” on Clinton

In the spring of 2016, a Maltese professor with ties to the Kremlin, Joseph Mifsud, told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents filed last year by the Special Counsel. Following that meeting, Papadopoulos tried repeatedly to connect Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin, several news outlets reported.

There is no evidence yet that Papadopoulos told the campaign about any Russian “dirt.”

June 2016: Top Trump Campaign Officials Meet with Russians to Get Dirt on Clinton

Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner attended a meeting at Trump Tower at the height of the election with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Clinton. Trump Jr. released emails after the meeting was made public by The New York Times that detailed how it had been arranged: Music publicist Rob Goldstone, who represents the pop-star son of one of Trump’s former business partners, offered Trump Jr. information on behalf of “the crown prosecutor of Russia” that would “incriminate” Clinton. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote. Trump Jr. seemed eager to accept: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” he replied. Following the exchange, the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya—who acknowledged recently that she works as an “informant” for the Kremlin—left Moscow to meet with the trio on June 9, 2016.


Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner have said they were disappointed by what Veselnitskaya brought with her—that there was little usable opposition research. When news of the meeting broke in July 2017, President Trump helped write a statement for his son that omitted any reference to compromising information about Clinton.

August 2016: CEO of Trump Campaign Data Firm Discloses Outreach to Assange

In August 2016, the CEO of the controversial data-mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica told his employees in an email that he had recently reached out to Assange to offer help in sorting through and releasing Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, The Daily Beast reported last year. Top Republican donor and Trump campaign backer Rebekah Mercer was copied on the email, too, according to the Wall Street Journal. Assange later confirmed that the CEO, Alexander Nix, had approached WikiLeaks, but said that the organization had rejected his offer to help.

The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to help target ads using voter data collected from approximately 230 million U.S. adults, according to NBC News. The campaign paid Cambridge Analytica more than $5 million in September 2016 alone, according to federal election filings. But Michael S. Glassner, the executive director of Trump's campaign, scrambled to downplay Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign following the Nix-Assange revelation. Cambridge Analytica has since filed for bankruptcy and is under FBI investigation, according to The New York Times.


September 2016: GOP Operative Claiming Ties to Michael Flynn Seeks Missing Clinton Emails from Russian Hackers

Beginning over Labor Day weekend in 2016, an 80-year-old opposition researcher and GOP operative named Peter Smith assembled a team of technology experts, lawyers, and a Russian-speaking investigator to track down hacking groups with access to the 33,000 “missing” Clinton emails, according to the Wall Street Journal. One of those hacking groups was Russian, the Journal reported, and intended to use Smith as an intermediary to transfer the emails stolen from Clinton’s private server to top Trump campaign surrogate Michael Flynn.

Smith needed help navigating the dark web, however, where these hacking groups operated. So he reached out to Matt Tait, a cybersecurity researcher and former information security specialist at Britain's Government Communications Headquarters. Tait relayed his interactions with Smith in a first-person blog post for Lawfare titled "The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians.” He noted in the piece that "it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the [Trump] campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. [Michael] Flynn and his son well." Tait says he soon realized that, to Smith, it didn't matter if the hackers were Russian. "In my conversations with Smith and his colleague, I tried to stress this point: if this dark web contact is a front for the Russian government, you really don't want to play this game," Tait wrote. "But they were not discouraged." Tait was interviewed by the special counsel about his interactions with Smith, as I reported last year.


Also in September 2016: Roger Stone Asks for Clinton Emails From Assange

Stone tried to get damaging information about Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in September 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. In an email to his friend Randy Credico, a radio host friendly with Assange, Stone wrote: “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011.” “State” was a reference to Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, when she used a private email server for work-related correspondences.

“I can’t ask them favors every other day,” Credico replied, according to the Journal. “I asked one of his lawyers...they have major legal headaches riggt now..relax.” Credico told the Journal that he never actually passed Stone’s message on to Assange, but told Stone that he had because he “got tired” of being bothered.

Stone also exchanged private Twitter messages in August and September of 2016 with a user known as Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer claimed on a personal Wordpress site to have “penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers,” but the self-described hacker was later characterized by U.S. officials as a front for Russian military intelligence.

October 2016: Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. communicate with WikiLeaks

Both Donald Trump’s son and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks in October 2016. As The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe first disclosed last fall, Donald Trump Jr. wrote to WikiLeaks on October 3, 2016, asking: “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” The day before, Roger Stone, an informal advisor to Donald Trump, had tweeted, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.” Ten days later, Stone sent WikiLeaks a private Twitter message asking the organization to “reexamine the strategy of attacking” Stone.

WikiLeaks—whose Twitter account is run “by a rotating staff,” according to Assange—replied an hour later: “We appreciate that. However, the false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications. Don’t go there if you don’t want us to correct you.” “Ha!” Stone responded on October 15. “The more you ‘correct’ me the more people think you’re lying. Your operation leaks like a sieve. You need to figure out who your friends are.” The morning after Donald Trump won the election, WikiLeaks sent Stone another message. “Happy? We are now more free to communicate.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ar ... source=twb
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 29, 2018 9:34 am

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Gates may be negotiating with Mueller's team

Who is Rick Gates?

Washington (CNN)Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has quietly added a prominent white-collar attorney, Tom Green, to his defense team, signaling that Gates' approach to his not-guilty plea could be changing behind the scenes.

Green, a well-known Washington defense lawyer, was seen at special counsel Robert Mueller's office twice last week. CNN is told by a source familiar with the matter that Green has joined Gates' team.

Green isn't listed in the court record as a lawyer in the case and works for a large law firm separate from Gates' primary lawyers.

Mueller set to question Bannon on Flynn and Comey
Green's involvement suggests that there is an ongoing negotiation between the defendant's team and the prosecutors. At this stage, with Gates' charges filed and bail set, talks could concern the charges and Gates' plea. The defense and prosecution are currently working together on discovery of evidence.

Gates pleaded not guilty in October to eight charges of money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying and other business. His longtime business partner, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, pleaded not guilty to nine counts in the same case as Gates.
For months, court-watchers -- including Gates' own attorneys -- have anticipated additional charges against the defendants. Superseding indictments, which would add or replace charges against both Gates and Manafort, have been prepared, according to a source close to the investigation. No additional charges have been filed so far. When there is a delay in filing charges after they've been prepared, it can indicate that negotiations of some nature are ongoing.
A few other developments in the Manafort and Gates case point to a softer touch that Mueller's team is using with Gates. Manafort, like Gates, has pleaded not guilty in the case, yet prosecutors and his defense attorneys have squabbled throughout Manafort's recent court action, more so than Gates' lawyers. Manafort's and Gates' lawyers work separately and do not use a joint defense agreement, which leaves open the possibility that at some point the defendants could have diverging interests.

The judge overseeing the case finished a drawn-out process of changing Gates' bail condition last week. The federal prosecutors didn't stand in the way of Gates being released from house arrest, even after they and the judge found that his assets could barely back his $5 million bail.

At a hearing last week, the judge also acknowledged that the deadlines for legal work before a trial could be different for Gates and Manafort.
"We are the least prepared of anyone here and we want to do a good job and we need that time to be able to do it," Gates' lawyer Walter Mack told the judge as they discussed filing deadlines. A schedule hasn't been finalized.

Should a deal be worked out, it would mean Mueller has the cooperation of another Trump campaign insider.

Gates and Manafort were business partners for about a decade before Manafort brought him onto the Trump campaign as his deputy. Their roles on the campaign grew as they were given more responsibilities and when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski resigned in June 2016.


The charging documents against Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos revealed that Papadopoulos emailed Manafort about his contacts with government-connected Russians and that the Russians were "open for cooperation" and wanted an opportunity to meet Donald Trump. Manafort forwarded the message to Gates and said, "Let's discuss. We need someone to communicate that (Trump) is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."
Manafort and Gates were also in charge during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where a handful of Trump campaign advisers met with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and a group of campaign aides controversially changed the Republican Party platform regarding Ukraine.

Gates remained on the campaign after Manafort's hasty resignation in August 2016, but his role was diminished and he stopped working out of the campaign headquarters in Trump Tower. Manafort resigned in the wake of damaging stories about his lobbying in Ukraine -- the same work that got him and Gates indicted.

Mueller's office spoke with Sessions, Comey in Russia investigation
Gates later played a key role on Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee. His interactions with Trump and other prominent campaign officials could be of interest to Mueller's prosecutors.

Green is one of the biggest names in Washington's white-collar defense world. He is known for his willingness to fight a case to trial. Yet he's also well-versed in cutting plea deals -- like the outcome he negotiated in 2015 for his client Dennis Hastert, the former House speaker and Illinois congressman.

"If I were in trouble, I'd call out to somebody like Tom," said Carol Bruce, a DC white-collar lawyer who served as special counsel in a US Senate ethics investigation and as independent counsel in another federal investigation.

Green declined to comment and declined to say he represented Gates. So did Gates' primary lawyers, Shanlon Wu in Washington and Mack in New York, citing the judge's gag order on their case. A spokesperson for Mueller's office declined to comment.

CNN's Evan Perez, Kara Scannell, Marshall Cohen, Caroline Kelly and Liz Stark contributed to this story.
https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/23/politics ... index.html


During one of my media appearances for the release of Trump/Russia: A Definitive History, someone asked me an interesting question: What’s wrong with a Russian backdoor?

As we know, there were numerous attempts by Russia to gain a backdoor into the Trump campaign. These include contacts between Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos (the so-called “coffee boy”) and a shadowy professor in Europe who told him that the Russians had “thousands” of Hillary Clinton emails.

Then there’s Don Jr.’s June 9, 2016 “I love it” meeting in Trump Tower with a woman described to him as “Russian government attorney” who had dirt on Clinton. Don’t forget the Russian politician and suspected “Godfather” who tried to use the NRA to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin and did meet with Don Jr. in Louisville.

The Moscow Project has counted more than 75 contacts between Trump advisors and Russian operatives during the campaign. Trump still refuses to provide a coherent explanation for these contacts, opting instead for his “witch hunt” defense.

So what, a Republican strategist asked me? Don’t we want to be talking to Russians? What’s wrong with hearing from different voices who can give us insight into the Kremlin?

This a surprisingly good question and the answer is pretty interesting as well.

Georgiy_Bolshakov.jpg
Georgi Bolshakov
During the Kennedy administration, there was a Russian backdoor to the White House. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, met every two weeks with Georgi Bolshakov, the head of the Washington bureau of the Tass news service.

Bolshakov convinced Bobby Kennedy that they could avoid the formal diplomatic channels and “speak straightly and frankly without resorting to politickers’ stock-in-trade propaganda stunts.” A genuine friendship developed between Bolshakov and the Kennedys, who used the Russian to convey messages to the Kremlin and Premier Krushchev. (1)

The problem was that Bolshakov was not what he appeared to be: He was in fact a Russian spy, a colonel in the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

In the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Bolshakov assured Kennedy that the Kremlin would never put nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Russian spy assured the president that Krushchev was telling the truth when he said the Soviet Union would only put defensive weapons in Cuba.

Fortunately, U.S. intelligence had its own source in the GRU. Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was secretly spying for the Americans. (“I ask you to consider me your soldier,” Penkovsky wrote in a 1960 letter to the U.S. president). Penkovsky provided critical technical intelligence that altered the course of the Cold War. He helped the United State understand that yes, the Soviet Union was building missile bases a few hundred miles from Miami.

The Bolshakov backdoor was exposed for what it was. According to speechwriter and advisor Ted Sorenson, “President Kennedy had come to rely on the Bolshakov channel for direct private information. from Krushchev, and he felt personally deceived. He was personally deceived.”

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be talking to Russians or using backdoors. Nixon’s opening to China was run entirely through a back channel to Chinese diplomats that was opened by his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.

And Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin set up a confidential backchannel with Henry Kissinger during Nixon’s first term. In one astonishing 1972 meeting, Kissinger colluded with Dobrynin to keep Secretary of State William Rogers in the dark about secret discussions between the Soviets and the White House.

The difference between Bolshakov the spy and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin is only one of them was exactly what he claimed to be: a representative of the Kremlin leadership. Presidents and policy makers need to know with whom they are dealing

Now imagine if Donald Trump had his own Georgi Bolshakov. Unlike Kennedy, Trump appears inclined to distrust his own intelligence community, whom he has likened to Nazis in the past. He also is an avid fan of conspiracy theories, which he peddles regularly to the American people. He appears to be completely ignorant of history.

And then, there is the very real possibility that Russia holds some sort of leverage over the president. This, after all, is a man who, as I document in my book, has spent decades chasing after Russian criminal money in Trump Tower, in his casino in Atlantic City, and in his many building projects right up until his run for the White House. If the Stormy Daniels episode shows us anything, it’s that Trump can be blackmailed.

The possibility that Russia have (has?) a backdoor to Trump likely what kept many U.S. intelligence officers up at night during the 2016 campaign.

And it should worry us all.

(1) Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword at the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, Basic Books, 2000.
https://trump-russia.com/2018/05/29/the ... backdoors/



Uncovering the full, shocking history behind Donald Trump’s decades-long involvement with Russia

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the relationship between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives continues, there is growing evidence that Trump has spent decades cultivating corrupt ties to Russians and the post-Soviet state.

In Trump/Russia: A Definitive History, I chronicle the many years Trump has spent wooing Russian money and power. From the collapse of his casino empire—which left Trump desperate for cash—and his first contacts with Russian deal-makers and financiers, on up to the White House, I reveal the myriad of shady people, convoluted dealings, and strange events that suggest how indebted to Russia our forty-fifth president might be.

As the story unfolds beyond the publication of my book, I’ll be writing here with further thoughts and observations. For any publicity inquiries, please contact publicity@mhpbooks.com
https://trump-russia.com


Trump’s Right-Hand Troll

Stephen Miller once tormented liberals at Duke. Now the president’s speechwriter and immigration enforcer is deploying the art of provocation from the White House.

McKay CoppinsMay 28, 2018

Photo collage by WG600*
I

t’s late on a Friday afternoon in March, and I’m sitting across from Stephen Miller in his spacious, sunlit West Wing office, trying to figure out whether he’s trolling me.

This is no easy task. A provocateur as skilled as Miller doesn’t just announce when he’s saying something outlandish to get a rise out of you—he tries to make you think he means it. So you have to look for the subtle tells. The fleeting half-smirk when he refers to himself as a “conservative social-justice warrior” early in the conversation. The too-emphatic tone he takes later when he says the best movie he’s seen in the past 15 years is The Dark Knight Rises, and then chides you for not properly appreciating its commentary on the French Revolution.

“It takes on the issue of anarchy and social breakdown in a really interesting way,” he says of the Batman movie. “There’s a lot going on in the film that you, of all people, I’d have thought would be all over.”


“Me … specifically?,” I ask, taking the bait.

“Well,” he replies, letting the mask slip and a sarcastic grin surface, “it’s just your reputation as a very deep thinker.”

Perched on a high-backed chair, Miller looks as if he’s posing for a cologne ad in a glossy magazine—his slender frame wrapped in an elegantly tailored suit, his arm draped over the backrest, his legs crossed at the knee just so. As President Donald Trump’s top speechwriter and senior policy adviser, the 32-year-old aide has cultivated a severe public image, his narrow features forming a kind of perma-glower when he’s on television. But in person there are glimpses of something else—not charm, exactly, but a charisma-like substance. He can be funny and self-aware one moment, zealous and hostile the next. In conversation, he slides from authentic insight into impish goading and back again. It’s a compelling performance to watch—but after an hour and a half in his office, I realize I’m still straining to locate where the trolling ends and true belief begins.

In the campy TV drama that is Donald Trump’s Washington, Miller has carved out an enigmatic role. He lurks in the background for weeks at a time, only to emerge with crucial cameos in the most explosive episodes. The one where Trump signed a havoc-wreaking travel ban during his first week in office, unleashing global chaos and mass protests? Miller helped draft the executive order. The one where the federal government shut down over a high-stakes immigration standoff on Capitol Hill? Miller was accused of derailing the negotiations. (“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere,” Senator Lindsey Graham grumbled.) To watch him in his most memorable scenes—theatrically hurling accusations of “cosmopolitan bias” at a reporter; getting his mic cut in the middle of a belligerent Sunday-show appearance—is to be left mesmerized, wondering, Is this guy serious?

I put that question to Miller, one way or another, repeatedly over the course of our meeting. He insists that he believes every word he says, and that he is not a fan of “provocation for its own sake.” But after some reflection, he admits that he has long found value in doing things that generate what he calls “constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.”


This is what makes Miller different from all the other Republican apparatchiks who became supervillains when they joined the Trump administration: He has been courting infamy since puberty. From Santa Monica High School to Duke University to Capitol Hill, his mission—always—has been to shock and offend the progressive sensibilities of his peers. He revels in riling them, luxuriates in their disdain.

Inside the White House, Miller has emerged as a staunch ideologue and an immigration hawk championing an agenda of right-wing nationalism. But people who have known him at different points in his life say his political worldview is also rooted in a deep-seated instinct for trolling. Miller represents a rising generation of conservatives for whom “melting the snowflakes” and “triggering the libs” are first principles. You can find them on college campuses, holding “affirmative action bake sales” or hosting rallies for alt-right figures in the name of free speech. You can see them in the new conservative media, churning out incendiary headlines for Breitbart News or picking bad-faith fights on Twitter. Raised on talk radio, radicalized on the web, they are a movement in open revolt against the dogmas of “political correctness”—and their tactics could shape the culture wars for years to come.

The story of Miller’s rise to power offers an early answer to an urgent question: What happens when right-wing trolls grow up to run the world?


T

he conservative education of Stephen Miller began with a middle-school magazine drive.

He was in seventh grade, and, needing one more sale to qualify for a prize, he decided to buy himself a subscription to Guns & Ammo, which looked less boring than the alternatives. While flipping through the magazine one day, he came across a column written by Charlton Heston, the movie star turned gun-rights activist. It was, he recalled, “the first conservative writing I’d ever read.”

Growing up in the so-called People’s Republic of Santa Monica as the son of well-off Jewish Democrats—his father was a lawyer and real-estate investor, his mother a homemaker—Miller was uninitiated in conservative thought. But the magazine piqued his curiosity. Guns & Ammo led him to Wayne LaPierre’s book Guns, Crime, and Freedom, which he devoured, enraptured by the blunt force of the author’s prose. (“Clearly, the Warsaw ghetto stands in history as a shining example of the dangers of gun control.”) “I remember thinking to myself, If what I believe is true is so wrong on these issues … what else could I be wrong about?,” Miller told me.

When high-profile Republicans are asked to describe their early intellectual influences, they tend to name-check a lot of the same Serious Thinkers: Edmund Burke. Milton Friedman. Friedrich Hayek. Maybe Ayn Rand. Miller’s list is different. When I asked him which books had shaped his politics, he rattled off a procession of titles by screed artists and talk-radio personalities, including David Horowitz—the author of such works as Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes—and Larry Elder, who wrote The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America. What these books lacked in substance, they made up for in visceral appeal. “When I read Rush Limbaugh’s The Way Things Ought to Be, it was like a page-turning thriller to me,” Miller recalled, fondly. “Every page was like some new revelation.”


Miller believes his right-wing transformation may have been preordained. “I do think it’s possible to have a conservative personality,” he mused, pointing to his own deeply embedded attitudes toward criminals. Even from a young age, he said, crime stories on the news would upset him “on a core emotional level.” He bristled against the sort of “gentle rehabilitation programs” for convicts beloved by bleeding-heart Santa Monicans. “My core instinct was … to put them behind bars and keep them behind bars until they’re not a threat to anybody anymore.”

But Miller’s youthful political reinvention was also a puckish reaction to his surroundings. In the beachside bubble of liberal affluence where he was raised, people saw themselves as proud citizens of a progressive utopia. There were festivals celebrating multiculturalism, and “racial-harmony retreats” for students. Yet there were also tensions around racial and class inequality. Jason Islas, a progressive activist who was friends with Miller when they were kids, says it was the kind of place where wealthy white liberals would “conspicuously celebrate diversity in very self-congratulatory ways”—and then avert their eyes from the problems in their own community.

Miller seemed to mold his new political identity with the express aim of needling these self-righteous neighbors. “I think it was a teenage rebellion against an upper-middle-class, liberal establishment that metastasized,” Islas told me. “The style of conservatism that he has could only have come out of a place like Santa Monica.” Yet there were also signs that Miller’s persona expressed something deeper. Shortly before they started high school, Islas recalled, Miller informed him that they couldn’t be friends anymore, citing Islas’s “Latino heritage” as one of several reasons.


At Santa Monica High, Miller constantly found ways to rile his classmates. He loudly complained about the Spanish-language announcements that came over the PA system, and once jumped into the homestretch of a girls’ track race, evidently to prove male athletic superiority. After 9/11, he emerged as a vociferous defender of the Bush administration, writing op-eds that compared students who opposed U.S. military actions to terrorists and concluding, “Osama Bin Laden would feel very welcome at Santa Monica High School.” During his junior year, he agitated for the school to lead regular recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance—and when his demand wasn’t met, he went on local talk radio to kick up some controversy. The tactic worked, and the school eventually acquiesced.

At times, his shtick was greeted with amusement. In a video clip unearthed by Vice News, a young Miller—wearing a white tennis sweater and oozing bravado—can be seen eliciting laughter from other teenage boys in the back of a school bus as he cracks jokes about his receding hairline, performs a silly pop ballad, and holds forth on the merits of cutting Saddam Hussein’s fingers off. “Torture is a celebration of life and human dignity,” he proclaims, his lips curling into a grin. “We need to remember that as we enter these very dark and dangerous times of the next century.”

More often, though, Miller’s stunts elicited hostility—just as he intended. In perhaps his most memorable act of teenage trolling, he ran for student government on a platform that included increasing the janitorial staff’s workload. Speaking to an amphitheater full of privilege-checking peers, he asked, “Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?” The crowd erupted in boos and Miller, looking pleased with himself, was forcibly removed from the stage.


In retrospect, Miller concedes that he may have crossed some lines, but overall he’s proud of his youthful posture. “I think it’s very healthy for kids to be a little bit rebellious,” he told me. What bothered him most about his high-school experience wasn’t the school’s liberalism but the way other students reacted to his dissent. Rather than engage in “spirited, open debate,” he complained, their instinct was to tattle on him. “Far from the images of 1960s kids rebelling against power, most of my classmates who were upset by the things I was saying … wanted to have a more disciplined administrative environment with stronger, tougher rules about what you can and can’t say—set by adult authority figures!”

By the time he graduated and headed to Duke, Miller had come to view this “educational authoritarianism” as a chilling threat to his generation, one he was determined to fight. “I’ve always been a nonconformist,” he told me. “I think that nonconformity is part of the American DNA. And in today’s culture, the nonconformists are conservatives.”

O

n the evening of March 7, 2006, a scruffy-faced Miller stepped up to a podium in Duke’s Page Auditorium and retrieved a list from his breast pocket. “Making this event happen was not easy,” he began, in a grave tone. “We beseeched many departments, many institutions at Duke University, for funding. Many of them wanted nothing to do with us.”


The event in question was a speech by David Horowitz, the right-wing polemicist whose books Miller had so admired as a teenager. Horowitz had recently published a new book identifying “the 101 most dangerous academics in America,” including two Duke professors—and Miller had invited him to campus. Now, as he introduced Horowitz to an audience of skeptics and hecklers, Miller was making the most of the moment.

Turning to the piece of paper in front of him, Miller began to list the university entities that had withheld their support, reading them off one by one with gusto—the literature department, the philosophy department, the multicultural center. When some in the audience began applauding the groups he was trying to shame, Miller straightened his tie and furrowed his brow in faux concern. “I see that many of you are happy that people on this campus don’t want to support a debate of ideas,” he snapped, and then glanced back down at his notes, an amused look flickering across his face.

That night was the culmination of a well-organized campaign of campus disruption. It had begun when Miller formed a chapter of Students for Academic Freedom—a national conservative pressure group Horowitz had launched to expose the leftist “indoctrination” taking place at America’s universities. As the head of the Duke chapter, Miller was sent a 70-page handbook that provided detailed instructions for orchestrating a campus controversy. It included guidance on how to investigate faculty members’ partisan biases (special attention should be paid to professors of women’s studies and African American studies, the handbook noted); tips for identifying “classroom abuses” (“Did your professor make a politically-biased comment in class about the war in Iraq?”); and advice for drumming up publicity (“Appearing as a guest on your local talk radio station is probably easier than you think”). The handbook also urged students to invite controversial speakers to their schools, adding that if the administration declined to fund such visits, students should “issue a press release … questioning why they have refused your request to increase the scope of intellectual diversity on campus.”


The playbook was in many ways ahead of its time, but Miller recognized its merits—and executed flawlessly. After inviting Horowitz to speak at Duke, he seized on the pushback from some professors as evidence that the university was trying to stifle free speech. He wrote an incendiary op-ed in the student newspaper, The Chronicle, titled “Betrayal,” in which he claimed that “a large number of Duke professors” were determined to “indoctrinate students in their personal ideologies and prejudices”—and then presented a series of anonymous student testimonials as proof.


At Duke, when other students confronted Miller on the quad, he would expertly bait them into public shouting matches. (The Chronicle / WG600 / The Atlantic)
There were protests, and counterprotests, and angry letters to the editor, and before long, Miller had spun the event into a culture-war spectacle. When Horowitz arrived, he was amazed to find a packed auditorium, with cameras rolling in the back. (His speech later aired on C-span.) “It really impressed me,” Horowitz told me. “There were, like, 800 people there, and Stephen organized that single-handedly.”

The episode helped solidify Miller’s reputation at Duke as a right-wing firebrand. Roving around campus in his dark suits and ties, a Nat Sherman cigarette dangling from his lips, he epitomized a new breed of college Republican—less debate-team dork, more smirking prankster. In classes, he was known to derail discussions with inflammatory comments. When other students confronted him on the quad, he would expertly bait them into public shouting matches.


One semester, he coordinated an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” to educate students about the “holy war being waged against us.” And through an event called the Great Immigration Debate, he got to know a graduate student named Richard Spencer, who would go on to become one of America’s leading white supremacists. (The extent of their relationship is somewhat murky. When Spencer claimed last year that he had been a “mentor” to Miller, the White House aide issued a forceful denial, telling The Washington Post, “I condemn his views. I have no relationship with him. He was not my friend.”)

Miller was best known for a column he wrote, called Miller Time, for The Chronicle. Perusing the archive today, one can see the influence of Limbaugh, LaPierre, and his other idols. In one column—headlined “Sorry Feminists”—he made the case for old-fashioned gender roles: “I simply wouldn’t feel comfortable hiring a full-time male babysitter or driving down the street and seeing a group of women carrying heavy steel pillars to a construction site.” He produced tirades against affirmative action, multiculturalism, and various other talk-radio targets. His Judaism notwithstanding, he wrote two separate columns about the War on Christmas, and a third in which he lamented that Mel Gibson had been snubbed by the Oscars for The Passion of the Christ.

Seyward Darby, who was Miller’s editor at The Chronicle, recalls that his columns were never calibrated for persuasion. “I have no recollection of ever speaking to someone who said, ‘Oh, Stephen makes some good points in his latest column,’ ” she told me. “He picked the most contrarian of stances to articulate, wrote the most hyperbolic prose he could, then put it out into the world. I have to imagine that he then sat back and waited for people’s reactions. Really, the smartest response was to avoid having one.”


Miller told me that he knew his views were unpopular at Duke, but added, “I also knew that expressing them meekly or apologetically in that kind of environment would be totally ineffective.” His objective wasn’t to upset anyone, he said, but “to challenge people to reevaluate their own assumptions”—and sometimes doing so required an in-your-face approach. Perhaps sensing that I found this unconvincing, he added a caveat that seemed closer to candor: “I mean, at some level you have to be interesting.”

Even as his notoriety grew, Miller remained a somewhat mysterious figure on campus. He was rarely seen at parties, and few classmates remember hearing him discuss his personal life. Paul Slattery, a fellow student who spent many late nights talking politics with Miller over coffee and cigarettes at an off-campus diner, told me, “I don’t ever recall having a conversation about, like, whether he had a girlfriend … You would think I’d have a much more comprehensive view of this person. I don’t—and it’s weird to me.”

Darby said she was always trying to figure out how much of Miller’s behavior was performance art. “I vacillated between thinking that he was deeply unempathetic, perhaps even cruel, and thinking that one day we were going to find out that he did it all for show, to pull the ultimate joke, to assert some modicum of power,” she said. “Looking back, maybe both things were true?”


This question, of how seriously to take Miller, carried over into his interactions with women—like when he approached a woman on campus who he knew disliked his politics and, apropos of nothing, said, “You and I would make beautiful babies together.” Women who knew him told me they saw such remarks as escalations in his endless quest to provoke. One recalled that she was “typically disgusted” by his creepy comments, but didn’t feel “violated.” Another said, “He liked getting a rise out of people in a very sociopathic way.”

N

ear the end of Miller’s junior year, Duke drew national attention when a black woman accused three white lacrosse players at the school of raping her. Almost overnight, the campus became a battlefield. Protesters marched through the streets of Durham banging pots and pans and waving a banner that screamed castrate!! A group of 88 professors published an open letter declaring the case a “social disaster” that revealed their university’s systemic racism and misogyny. A cavalcade of news trucks surrounded the campus, and reporters swarmed.

For most students, the uproar was a nightmare. For Miller, it was an opportunity. From his perch at The Chronicle, he took up the unpopular cause of the accused lacrosse players—crusading for their right to be presumed innocent, and casting them as victims of political correctness. He caught the attention of cable-news bookers and became a frequent guest on Fox News, playing the head-nodding yes-man to Bill O’Reilly’s cranky culture warrior. But he also turned up on shows that were less friendly to his position. During one particularly feisty interview with Nancy Grace, the host was so appalled by Miller that she was reduced to rolling her eyes and exclaiming, “Oh, good lord!”


To many, Miller’s position seemed not only wrongheaded but outrageous—but then the case unraveled. By the time Miller graduated, the lacrosse players had been exonerated, and the Durham County district attorney was later disbarred. Miller was vindicated.

Miller told me that his activism on behalf of the players was the thing he was most proud of from his college years. It also helped launch his career in conservative politics. After graduating, he moved to Washington to join the office of an up-and-coming congresswoman named Michele Bachmann.

But among those who knew Miller at the time, the question of why he inserted himself into the lacrosse scandal remains a point of debate. Some believe it was simple opportunism—an attention seeker chasing the Fox News searchlight. Others see a more nefarious motive—a budding white nationalist drawn to the racial politics of the case.

Miller himself told me that he’d felt moved to take a stand because of his upbringing in Santa Monica. In the campus-wide rush to judge the lacrosse players—whose gender and ostensible privilege were cited as exhibits A and B—he said he recognized “some of the more totalitarian tendencies in parts of the new left that I’d seen growing up.” And, he added, “my experiences in high school, in which I was used to being unfairly labeled, unfairly maligned, gave me the thick skin that I needed” to withstand the blowback.


Paul Slattery offered a simpler theory. He said that while his old friend had been motivated by a genuine belief in the players’ rights, he was also following a deeper impulse: “He just loved to kick shit up.”

T

his past February, thousands of right-wing activists descended on National Harbor, in Maryland, for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. A Millerian spirit of lib-baiting permeated the convention center’s exhibit hall, where young attendees in blue blazers and shift dresses roamed the premises collecting mischievous political swag. There were i ♥ co2 buttons, and “safe spaces” coloring books (“Crayons not included, especially the white ones”). At one booth, a young man hocked socialism sucks T-shirts—Just imagine how people on your campus will react!—and at another, a woman in a Hillary Clinton mask and prison stripes posed for selfies with passersby.

Outside, I met a trio of young men in sport coats and asked them what they thought of Miller, who had helped write the speech Trump had given earlier in the day. One, a student from Hillsdale College, in Michigan, began enthusiastically recapping one of Miller’s greatest hits: his combative appearance at a White House press briefing in which he had berated a CNN reporter for “cosmopolitan bias” and schooled him on the true history behind the Statue of Liberty, before finally leaving the podium with a self-satisfied look. “I really admired that,” the student told me.


At a White House press briefing in August 2017, Miller accused a CNN reporter of “cosmopolitan bias.” (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
In the decade since Miller graduated from Duke, the kind of trolling he mastered there has come to dominate campus conservatism in America. Today’s archetypal college Republican is not a mini Mitt Romney with a copy of National Review tucked under his arm, but a red-capped rabble-rouser pranking the pious liberal students who fret that cafeteria sushi is a form of cultural appropriation or demand free tampons in both men’s and women’s bathrooms in the name of “menstrual equity.”


Some of these campus conservatives’ antics are silly and relatively harmless, like when the Yale College Republicans hosted a barbecue next to pro-union hunger strikers last year. Others take on an absurdist quality, in the spirit of the right-wing activist James O’Keefe’s demands that Rutgers stop serving Lucky Charms on the grounds that the cereal’s trademark leprechaun perpetuated negative stereotypes about Irish Americans. (“We’re not all short,” he protested to an administrator.)

But there is also a darker strain to this movement, perhaps best embodied by Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay former Breitbart News blogger who became a right-wing sensation in 2016 when he embarked on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour of college campuses. Yiannopoulos’s tirades against Muslims, lesbians, and other minority groups were designed to draw protests—and if the demonstrations turned violent, all the better. After a riot broke out last year at UC Berkeley, where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, conservatives pointed to the incident as proof that free speech was under attack from the left.

Despite their shoestring appearance, many of these exploits have real money behind them. Yiannopoulos’s tour was funded in part by Robert Mercer, the secretive hedge-fund billionaire who also was a major Trump donor in 2016. And Turning Point USA—a nonprofit that trains conservative students in the art of provocation—reportedly has a budget of about $15 million this year.


In his 2017 book, Dangerous, Yiannopoulos laid out the ideology undergirding his project. He described his mission as “finding boundaries and raping them in front of you,” and promised his followers, “I’ll teach you how to cause the same sort of mayhem I do in defense of the most important right you have in America: the right to think, do, say and be whatever the hell you want.” In this scorched-earth view of the culture wars, the goal is not to advance conservative arguments in a provocative way; the provocation itself is the point. “Liberal tears” are the coin of the realm, and giving offense is a form of conquest.

But if any slur or slander can be excused as ironic under the guise of combating political correctness, it becomes all but impossible to distinguish genuine extremists from those impersonating them for effect. According to the Anti-Defamation League, incidents of white-supremacist propaganda at colleges increased by 258 percent from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017.

What’s more, the journey from winking provocateur to racist ideologue might be shorter than many imagine. You start out with the goal of provoking the left—and, well, what’s more provocative than posting a racist meme on the internet? But with each new like and upvote, an incentive structure forms, a community coalesces, an identity hardens. Before long, the line between performance and principle is blurred beyond recognition, your “true” beliefs buried under so many layers of irony that they’ve been rendered irrelevant.


Of course, when your personal beliefs become a matter of national policy, the stakes are higher. Miller dismisses any suggestion that he’s motivated by racism or xenophobia. When I asked him, for example, whether he had been drawn to the Duke lacrosse case because of its racial politics, he curtly brushed off the question. And when I mentioned the historically anti-Semitic roots of Trump’s “America First” slogan, he said that was a “completely insincere” argument ginned up by liberals who are simply uncomfortable with the “nationalist populism” that the term invokes.

As for his views on Yiannopoulos, he said he didn’t want to drag the White House off message by commenting. But if college campuses are teeming with Milo wannabes, Miller clearly believes that the modern left has only itself to blame. Today’s liberal orthodoxies, he said, constitute a “bloodless appeal” to his generation—lacking the emotional resonance, excitement, and danger on offer from the #maga movement.

“I mean, is there anything more conformist than an idealistic liberal college student deeply concerned about not knowing what today’s official hyphenated expression is, who attends four classes a day on, like, cultural Marxism, and makes sure all of their coffee beans are locally sourced?”

Miller paused in conjuring this stereotype.

“I’m in favor of the last one,” he noted. “I do want them made in America.

“But the point is … I think you’d have a lot more fun being a campus conservative in a ‘Make America great again’ hat.”


I

t should perhaps come as no surprise that Stephen Miller, enemy of the globalist elite, chose one of Washington’s poshest condo complexes to call home. For a man who has long seemed most comfortable surrounded by people who hate him, there must have been a certain appeal to CityCenterDC, where he bought a $1 million two-bedroom in 2014 (paid for, property records indicate, with the help of his parents). Not only did the sparkly glass complex in downtown Washington feature retailers like Gucci and Hermès and stylish restaurants like Momofuku, but it was also home to such establishment luminaries as Attorney General Eric Holder and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

Since arriving in Washington, Miller had sanded off some of the rougher edges of his merry-prankster persona, refashioning himself as a serious ideologue. But he remained an agitator. Still in his 20s, Miller had become known on Capitol Hill as the chain-smoking, right-wing gadfly from Senator Jeff Sessions’s office who blasted out rambling emails to reporters and congressional aides at all hours on the dangers of illegal immigration. In 2013 he emerged as a devoted foot soldier in the populist right’s drive to kill a bipartisan immigration-reform bill—an effort that ultimately succeeded.

To the extent that Miller, a notorious workaholic, had a social life, it often involved getting together with reporters from Breitbart News, a reliable booster of his boss’s agenda. He grew especially close to Julia Hahn, an acid-penned writer and Steve Bannon protégé with whom he was sometimes seen at parties, engaging in private, intense-looking conversations away from the rest of the group. (Hahn would later follow Miller and Bannon to the White House, where she serves as a special assistant to the president.)

In this scene, Miller was not a misfit or a menace, but part of the vanguard of a growing conservative-populist movement.“People in that circle took him really seriously as an intellectual,” said a Republican Hill staffer who hung out with the group a handful of times in 2015. She recalled one get-together at which Miller asserted matter-of-factly that the Catholic Church was engaged in a conspiracy to financially benefit from the refugee crisis. The Hill staffer, a Catholic, was bewildered that no one else in the group was challenging him. “He just said it like it was fact, like it was indisputable,” she remembered—and when she asked him for evidence, he was “caught off guard.” For the rest of the evening, she said, “there was a different energy between us.”


When Donald Trump entered the presidential race in the summer of 2015, it was perhaps inevitable that Miller would find a way onto the campaign. The rest of Washington scoffed at Trump’s candidacy, but for Miller, the New York billionaire was the flesh-and-blood manifestation of everything he cared about most: an opponent of political correctness, a hard-liner on immigration, an enemy of the political establishment—and a world-class troll.


“He doesn’t have to command rooms to be effective,” a senior Democratic Senate aide said of Miller, “because he does his thing behind the scenes.” (Chris Pizello / AP / Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / Shutterstock / WG600 / The Atlantic)
Of the many things Miller admires about his boss, Trump’s talent for performance and provocation is what gets him most worked up. “If this was a fair political culture,” he told me, “there would be many articles written and many stories on TV about his natural gifts as a communicator and his ability to keep an audience rapt for an hour and a half; to be able to pivot seamlessly from comedy to gravity; his understanding of drama.”

“A political rally is supposed to be a rally,” Miller went on. “It’s supposed to have almost, like, the fun and excitement of a revival—and so few politicians today are able to establish anything resembling that kind of connection with people.”


To illustrate, Miller pointed me to one of the longest-running—and most controversial—staples of Trump’s speech-making: “The Snake.” During the GOP primaries, Trump began periodically reading the lyrics of an obscure 1960s soul song drawn from Aesop’s fables. The song tells the story of a woman who takes a half-dead snake into her home and nurses him back to health. The snake responds by biting her. As she dies, she asks him why he did it. The moral of the lesson is in the concluding couplet:

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin.

“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

Trump uses the deceitful, poisonous snake to represent Syrian refugees and undocumented immigrants. It is objectively one of the most demagogic things he regularly says out loud (as an added bonus, it also works as a metaphor for Trump himself, something he seems to know and delight in). It is quintessentially Trumpian rhetoric: shocking, offensive, and destined to send his haters into paroxysms of outrage.


Early in the Trump presidency, Miller worked with then–chief strategist Steve Bannon to craft an executive order that banned travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)
It also thrills Miller to no end. In his office, he spent several minutes describing to me—in meticulous, loving detail—how Trump conceived of this oratorical device himself; how, before certain speeches, he would announce to aides, “I’m gonna do ‘The Snake,’ ” which meant that Hope Hicks had to print off a fresh copy of the lyrics from her computer, where she kept them saved in a Word document for these special occasions; how Trump would go through each line and expertly “hand edit” the page, making tweaks “so that it works better as spoken word, or lands more dramatically in certain areas”; how the president’s crowds still show up to rallies hoping to hear him do “The Snake”; and how, on the days when he does, the opening lines are greeted as if they are “the first three chords of ‘Free Bird.’ ”


On the campaign trail, Miller played the dual role of speechwriter and hype man, getting the crowds amped up before Trump took the stage. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a good person because you believe the American people should come first,” he would tell supporters.

But to Miller, the most exhilarating moments came when Trump would tell him—often while they were en route to an event—that he wanted to add a new section to his speech. Miller, who said he writes best “under pressure,” recalled that he felt in those moments like a football player in the final minutes of a game. They would be on the plane, getting ready to touch down, and Trump would dictate to him “seven or eight paragraphs of material” off the top of his head. “The best lines in the rallies,” he said, “are the ones that he comes up with on the spot, because he has incredible wit and speed, and he can just get the audience in real time.”

As Miller gushed, I realized that there was something familiar about this worshipful anecdote: He had shared it—several times—during his most infamous TV appearance. In January, Miller had been dispatched to CNN to refute reports that the president’s own staff was questioning his mental stability. But the interview, with Jake Tapper, devolved into a heated back-and-forth in which Miller repeatedly attacked the media and refused to engage with the host’s questions. The segment ended when an exasperated Tapper declared, “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time” and cut Miller’s mic. The clip went viral.

When I asked Miller about the appearance, he cast his eyes downward in a show of contrition. “You know, I’ve thought about it for a long time,” he said. “And I’ve decided that … if he ever offered it, I’d be willing to accept Jake Tapper’s apology.”

As a senior policy adviser to the president, Miller enjoys a position of uncommon influence for his age. In addition to running the speech-writing team and crafting Trump’s major addresses, he works closely with the communications office to shape the administration’s message, and he has a seat at the table in most areas of domestic policy. And yet—remarkably, given the divisiveness of his views—Miller has remained largely absent from news stories about intramural combat in the West Wing. While dozens of top officials have departed over the past 16 months, Miller has kept his head down and survived.

The lack of damaging leaks about him is partly a function of the fact that he is generally well liked among his close colleagues, who say he is more self-aware than his strident on-camera persona would suggest. “He knows the charges against him,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says, and he enjoys playfully nodding to his villainous image in interactions with co-workers.

Hogan Gidley, who works in the White House press office, told me he first bonded with Miller over their shared love of fashion. Describing Miller’s aesthetic as “policy chic,” he praised his friend’s collection of pocket squares and attentiveness to seasonal fabrics. When it comes to sartorial matters, Miller once told him, “springtime is my playground.” (Despite my numerous requests for details, Miller refused to tell me anything about where he bought his suits except to say that they were bespoke, and American-made.)

Miller’s allies say that his standing in the president’s orbit has remained so stable for another reason: He’s content to be a staffer instead of a star. “People have made him out to be some type of puppet master when nothing could be further from the truth,” Gidley said. “He executes what the president wants him to execute.”

I heard variations of this line from several people in the administration, and at first I was skeptical. Given his lifelong penchant for attention-getting provocation, could he truly be content playing the part of the obedient lieutenant? But as it turns out, Miller has found ways to channel his talent for trolling into the less visible work of government policy making.

W

hen President Trump needs to learn about an issue, he likes to stage his own cable-news-style shout-fests in the Oval Office. In lieu of primped pundits, he has to make due with White House staffers, but the basic concept is the same: Two people with conflicting points of view whacking away at each other as forcefully—and entertainingly—as possible. Trump seems to process information best in this format, according to people who have worked in the administration. Often, when the debate lacks a voice for a position the president wants to hear articulated, he will call Miller into the room and have him make the case.

Miller “can play both sides for the sake of the argument,” Gidley told me. “He can come in and play the staunch conservative or the Democrat, because he understands both.” What’s more, he often wins. “You can pull a debate-club argument out of a hat and Stephen can argue it convincingly,” a former administration official said. “It’s not that he knows everything in the world—it’s that he understands Trump. He’s been dealing with him a long time, and he understands how he inputs information.”

Miller told me that while there is sometimes a need for a devil’s advocate, he spends most of his time pushing for positions that he believes in. Indeed, a review of his record thus far leaves little doubt about the agenda he’s trying to advance, from more aggressive law enforcement to a conservative-nationalist economic policy. Notably, he’s emerged as one of the most strident immigration restrictionists in an administration known for such draconian measures as forcibly separating children from their parents at the border.

But Miller’s work in the White House has also borne the same trollish hallmark that defined his campus activism. One of his first acts on the job was to work with then–chief strategist Steve Bannon in crafting an executive order that banned travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries. The hastily written order contained no guidance on implementation, and soon after Trump signed it—on a Friday afternoon one week into his presidency—airports across the country were plunged into chaos. Hundreds of travelers were detained, civil-rights lawyers descended, and protesters swarmed. To many, the televised disarray was proof of failure. But according to Michael Wolff’s account of the Trump administration’s first year, Fire and Fury, the architects of the ban were tickled by the hysteria; Bannon (who was Wolff’s main source) boasted that they’d chosen to enact the disruptive measure on a weekend “so the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” They counted the anger on display as a political win.

Miller played a similarly disruptive role a year later, during congressional negotiations over immigration. While lawmakers scrambled to reach a compromise on legislation that would protect some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants who had come to the country as children, Miller was quietly hustling to block any deal that didn’t include major Democratic concessions, according to aides on both sides of the aisle. When Miller found out one afternoon in January that Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin were coming to the White House to pitch Trump on a bipartisan bill, he reportedly moved to stack the Oval Office with hawkish conservatives in hopes of swaying the president. By the time Graham and Durbin arrived, Trump was in an uncompromising mood: angry, dug in, and ranting about immigrants from “shithole countries.” As Trump uttered those soon-to-leak words, which would poison the talks on Capitol Hill, Miller stood on the periphery. “He doesn’t have to command rooms to be effective,” one senior Democratic Senate aide said, “because he does his thing behind the scenes.”

Miller, of course, denies any suggestion that he would try to manipulate Trump. “My job is simple,” he told me. “The president has made clear what he wants to accomplish, and I’ll do the best I can to help that happen.” At the time we were talking, in late March, that still meant striving for a deal with congressional Democrats that would protect the so-called Dreamers from deportation—and Miller insisted he was working tirelessly toward that happy outcome.

But, alas, he told me in a tone of great disappointment, he had become convinced in recent weeks that Democrats would rather keep immigration as a political issue to campaign on than actually fix the problem. “They oppose anything that would actually prevent future waves of illegal immigration,” Miller explained. “It’s almost like they’ve adopted the position of immigration nihilism and anarchy.”

For what felt like the hundredth time that day, I found myself searching Miller for signs of trolling. His voice was steady; there was no smirk in sight. But his assertion was so inflammatory, so out there, so weighted down with words not normally uttered in the course of daily conversation—nihilism, anarchy—that I had to wonder: Does he actually believe this, or is he just fishing for a reaction?

In any case, these did not seem like the words of a man who was doing everything in his power to shepherd a bipartisan compromise on immigration to the president’s desk. So I wasn’t surprised when, a week later, on Easter morning, Trump announced that he was pulling the plug on a deal for Dreamers. “The Democrats blew it,” he told reporters on his way into a church in Palm Beach.

The pronouncement set off a wave of frenzied media coverage, with reactions from Capitol Hill, and analysis of what it could mean for the midterm elections, and stories of young immigrants bracing for the worst—their lives now more uncertain than ever. And though it didn’t make the headlines, the White House pool report from that weekend noted that among the president’s travel companions was one Stephen Miller.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 29, 2018 11:00 am

Bob Mueller’s White Hot Summer

The special counsel’s investigation is likely hurtling toward a conclusion. Buckle up.

Edward-Isaac Dovere

May 29, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller may well be in the final stages of wrapping up his principal investigation. Last week, I argued here in Politico that Mueller will want to avoid interfering with the November midterms, and so will try to conclude by July or August. On this one we can believe Trump’s new lawyer, former prosecutor and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who claims Mueller’s target is September 1.

How will Mueller wrap up his investigation? What will he produce? And then – what can we expect from the other players in this saga: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, President Trump and his lawyers, and the Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress?

As a former prosecutor and Senate Judiciary and White House lawyer who has carefully studied presidential investigations since Watergate, the next steps in this constitutional dance seem clear. Mark Twain was certainly right when he said, “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” And this summer may well be the most consequential in presidential politics since 1974, the year Watergate came to a head. Here’s what could happen:

Mueller will not indict the president, but will issue a comprehensive and detailed report.

None of us outside the famously tight-lipped Special Counsel’s Office can know what Mueller will conclude. Will it rival Watergate? Not yet clear. But we do know that the modern standard for impeachment was set in 1998, when independent counsel Kenneth Starr and a Republican House concluded that one instance of lying under oath about a sexual indiscretion was enough. Starr even concluded that he had the authority to indict President Clinton on those grounds, though he did not do so. If that is the standard, Mueller’s findings involving President Trump will easily clear that very low bar.

But a presidential indictment would take Mueller down a constitutional rabbit hole from which he might not emerge for years. It would also be contrary to long-standing Justice Department policy, and Mueller, a careful institutionalist, is required to follow department policy where he can. So no indictment. Here too, we can believe Giuliani.

There may well be other indictments, against lesser figures involved in Russian meddling, obstruction of justice and other alleged crimes. Mueller might even name Trump an “unindicted co-conspirator” in some of these crimes, just as Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski named Richard Nixon in 1974. A bold move, but with a clear historical precedent, and just what we could expect from a former Marine, homicide prosecutor and FBI director known for hitting fairly – but hard.

Still, Mueller’s principal product will likely be a comprehensive, detailed report and set of recommendations – just like the Starr Report of 20 years ago. But unlike the Starr Report, Mueller’s may never see the light of day. Under the special counsel regulations guiding his appointment, Mueller would submit his report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, not to Congress or the public. And under those regulations, his report will remain confidential unless Rosenstein decides to release it.

That takes us to the next couplet in this classic Washington rhyme of history. What will Rosenstein do?

Rod Rosenstein will decide to release the report to Congress and the public.

Rosenstein can release the report, but he is not required to. The only information he must transmit – to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Judiciary Committees in each house – is the fact that he has received a report, and any disagreement he may have with Mueller’s suggested recommendations. But the fate of the report itself is in his hands.

Why do I predict Rosenstein will seek to release the report itself? Because he, like Mueller, has shown he is a by-the-books prosecutor who will wish to ensure that politics play no part in his decisions. Though he is a Republican appointed by two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump (he even served on Starr’s impeachment team), Rosenstein has been subjected to withering pressure from the White House and the Congress over the past year. Nevertheless, he has stood by Mueller and his investigation, even as he has sought to placate Trump where absolutely necessary. He will know that Mueller’s final report, whether it incriminates or exonerates, will be one of the most consequential documents of this presidency. It is almost inconceivable that someone with Rosenstein’s sense of integrity and service would sit on such a report.

But in releasing the report, Rosenstein will need to protect information collected by grand jury subpoena, and factor the bedrock principle that prosecutors should not seek to malign those not formally charged. Remember, it was Rosenstein himself who justified former FBI director Jim Comey’s firing in part because “we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal prosecution. It is a textbook principle.”

Unlike Starr, who was required to release his final report under a now-expired statute, Rosenstein will need to balance the manifest public interest in learning the findings of Mueller’s sweeping investigation against the very real restrictions on releasing grand jury materials. And, of course, much of Mueller’s evidence will be classified – FISA warrants, NSA intercepts, intelligence findings.

So Rosenstein’s path to a release of Mueller’s report will not be straightforward. Perhaps he might send the full report to the leadership of the Judiciary Committees, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals approved in 1974 when Jaworski sought to do the same with his Watergate report. For the public’s benefit, Rosenstein might release a highly edited executive summary that would aim to protect grand jury and national security secrecy while getting out the basic facts and recommendations.

And that, in all likelihood, will lead to a constitutional crisis.

Rosenstein’s move to release the Mueller report will lead to his firing and perhaps another Saturday Night Massacre.

President Trump is unlikely to sit by and simply watch Rosenstein move forward with a potentially explosive report. Trump and his lawyers will exert every conceivable pressure on the deputy attorney general. Their goal will be to contain the report; to redact and reduce it; and, at the very least, to delay any release until after the midterm elections.

(Think of the February 2018 controversy over the Nunes memorandum on the Carter Page FISA application, which sailed to the public unredacted by the Trump White House, despite the FBI’s and Intelligence Community’s loudly expressed national security concerns. By contrast, when the minority Democrats tried to release their rebuttal, the Republican majority delayed sending it out and the White House oversaw substantial redactions that rendered the document almost (REDACTED). Expect more of the same here.)

And what if Rosenstein insists on releasing over the president’s objections? Trump will almost certainly fire him, as he has reportedly threatened to do so many times already. Recall, he did not hesitate to fire Comey just over a year ago because of “this Russia thing.” And so Trump may follow the example of Nixon in October 1973 when he ordered the firing of Archibald Cox in the famous Saturday Night Massacre, which also took down the attorney general and deputy attorney general who refused to go along.

Thus, the constitutional crisis. Again, we can expect history to rhyme. Attorney General Jeff Sessions may well go also – either jumping or being pushed. Sessions has also been subjected to withering criticism from Trump, and has also upheld the department’s traditional values and positions in numerous heated White House-Justice battles. So Trump may fire him as well. Even if he doesn’t, Sessions may well recall that the heroes of the Saturday Night Massacre were not those who carried out Nixon’s order, but those who resigned.

And this is when the Senate and the Congress might finally engage.

Trump will need to fill Rosenstein’s seat, and maybe Sessions’. And he might face a Senate experiencing just enough of a bipartisan revolt to block any nominee in protest. As Republican Judiciary Chairman Grassley archly tweeted last year when Trump first threatened Sessions, “the agenda for the judiciary [sic] Comm is set . . . AG no way.”

And so ironically, Trump may have succeeded in creating narrow majorities where just enough Republicans join every Democrat to demand to see the Mueller report. If they do, court precedent says they will get it. Trump’s efforts to shut down the report could backfire spectacularly.

As for the political impact? All of this – the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, the issuing of his report, the fight over its release and the fallout from a firing of Rosenstein – will play out loudly in public before November.

Quickly, “release the report” will become the central political axis of this political year. In these crowded months before November 6, we may see political tumult unseen since 1974. And just as then, the fate of a presidency may hang in the balance.

Enjoy your summer.
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story ... red-218549
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby Harvey » Tue May 29, 2018 7:52 pm

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All Russiagate Roads Lead To London As Evidence Emerges Of Joseph Mifsud’s Links To UK Intelligence

Over the last few months, Professor Joseph Mifsud has become a feather in the cap for those pushing the Trump-Russia narrative. He is characterized as a “Russian” intelligence asset in mainstream press, despite his declarations to the contrary. However, evidence has surfaced that suggests Mifsud was anything but a Russian spy, and may have actually worked for British intelligence. This new evidence culminates in the ground-breaking conclusion that the UK and its intelligence apparatus may be responsible for the invention of key pillars of the Trump-Russia scandal. If true, this would essentially turn the entire RussiaGate debacle on its head.

To give an idea of the scope of this report, a few central points showing the UK connections with the central pillars of the Trump-Russia claims are included here, in the order of discussion in this article:

. Mifsud allegedly discussed that Russia has ‘dirt’ on Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails’ with George Papadopoulos in London in April 2016.
. The following month, Papadopoulos spoke with Alexander Downer, Australia’s ambassador to the UK, about the alleged Russian dirt on Clinton while they were drinking at a swanky Kensington bar, according to The Times. In late July 2016, Downer shared his tip with Australian intelligence officials who forwarded it to the FBI.
. Robert Goldstone, a key figure in the ‘Trump Tower’ part of the RussiaGate narrative, sent Donald Trump Jr. an email claiming Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign. He is a British music promoter.
. Christopher Steele, ex-MI6, who worked as an MI6 agent in Moscow until 1993 and ran the Russia desk at MI6 HQ in London between 2006 and 2009. He produced the totally unsubstantiated ‘Steele Dossier’ of Trump-Russia allegations, with funding from the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
. Robert Hannigan, the head of British spy agency GCHQ, flew to Washington DC to share ‘director-to-director’ level intelligence with then-CIA Chief John Brennan.

Each of these strands of UK-tied elements of the Russiagate narrative can be substantially dismantled on close inspection. This untangling process leads to the surprising conclusion that UK intelligence services fabricated evidence of collusion in order to create the appearance of a Trump-Russia connection.

This trend begins with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese scholar with an eclectic academic history who Quartz described as an “enigma,” while legacy press has enthusiastically characterized him as a central personality in the Trump-Russia scandal. The New York Times described Mifsud as an “enthusiastic promoter of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia”, citing his regular involvement in the annual meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club, a Russian-based think-tank, as well as three short articles he wrote in support of Russian policies.

Mifsud strongly denied claims that he was associated with Russian intelligence, telling Italian newspaper Repubblica that he was a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Clinton Foundation, adding that his political outlook was “left-leaning.” Last month, Slate reported Mifsud had ‘disappeared’, as did some of the other figures linking the UK to the Trump-Russia scandal. This aspect will be discussed in more detail below.

To contextualize Mifsud’s eclectic academic career in terms of intelligence service, it is helpful to note that research undertaken by this author and Suzie Dawson as part of the Decipher You project has repeatedly shown the close ties – an outright merger in many cases – between the intelligence community and academia. This enmeshment also takes place with think-tanks, NGOs, and in the corporate sphere. In this light, Mifsud’s brand of ‘scholarship’ becomes far less mysterious.

Mifsud’s alleged links to Russian intelligence are summarily debunked by his close working relationship with Claire Smith, a major figure in the upper echelons of British intelligence. A number of Twitter users recently observed that Joseph Mifsud had been photographed standing next to Claire Smith of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee at Mifsud’s LINK campus in Rome. Newsmax and Buzzfeed later reported that the professor’s name and biography had been removed from the campus’ website, writing that the mysterious removal took place after Mifsud had served the institution for “years.”

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange likewise noted the connection between Mifsud and Smith in a Twitter thread, additionally pointing out his connections with Saudi intelligence: “[Mifsud] and Claire Smith of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and eight-year member of the UK Security Vetting panel both trained Italian security services at the Link University in Rome and appear to both be present in this [photo].”

The photograph in question originated on Geodiplomatics.com, where it specified that Joseph Mifsud is indeed standing next to Claire Smith, who was attending a: “…Training program on International Security which was organised by Link Campus University and London Academy of Diplomacy.” The event is listed as taking place in October, 2012. This is highly significant for a number of reasons.
Claire Smith standing with Joseph Mifsud, on the left side of the back row.

First, the training program Smith attended with high-ranking members of the Italian military was organized by the London Academy of Diplomacy, where Joseph Mifsud served as Director, as noted by The Washington Post. That Claire Smith was training military and law enforcement officials alongside Mifsud in 2012 during her tenure as a member of the UK Cabinet Office Security Vetting Appeals Panel, which oversees the vetting process for UK intelligence placement, strongly suggests that Mifsud has been incorrectly characterized as a Russian intelligence asset. It is extremely unlikely that Claire Smith’s role in vetting UK intelligence personnel would lead to her accidentally working with a Russian agent.

The connection between Mifsud and Smith does not end at bumped elbows in a photograph. Mifsud’s LinkedIn profile lists the University of Stirling as a place of occupation in connection with his service as Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD), where Claire Smith served as a visiting professor from 2013-2014 according to her LinkedIn profile. This adds yet another verifiable connection between a man who is at the center of already-flimsy Trump-Russia allegations and a high-ranking British intelligence figure.
Claire Smith’s LinkedIn profile details her service on the Security Vetting Appeals Panel while also occupied as a visiting Professor at Stirling University

Claire Smith also hosted a seminar titled “Making Sense of Intelligence” at the University of Stirling. The event registration form describes her career, including her service as Deputy Chief of Assessments Staff in the Cabinet Office, as a member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and her completion of an eight-year term as a member of the UK Security Vetting and Appeals Panel.

A particularly compelling factor indicating that Mifsud’s working relationship with Claire Smith suggests his direct connection with UK intelligence is Smith’s membership of the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), a supervisory body overseeing all UK intelligence agencies. The JIC is part of the Cabinet Office and reports directly to the Prime Minister. The Committee also sets the collection and analysis priorities for all of the agencies it supervises. Claire Smith also served as a member of the UK’s Cabinet Office.

In summary, Mifsud’s appearance with Claire Smith at the LINK campus, in addition to her discussion on intelligence at yet another university where Mifsud was also employed, as well as her long-standing role in UK intelligence vetting and her position as a member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee, would suggest that the roving scholar is not a Russian agent, but is actually a UK intelligence asset. The possibility that such a high-ranking member of this extremely powerful intelligence supervisory group was photographed standing next to a “Russian” asset unknowingly is patently absurd. This finding knocks the first pillar out from under the edifice of the Trump-Russia allegations. It provides an initial suggestion of the UK’s involvement in procuring the ‘evidence’ that fueled the debacle.

Claire Smith is not the only British official associated with Mifsud. He was a speaker at an event by the Central European Initiative alongside former British diplomat Charles Crawford, whose postings included Moscow, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw. Crawford is listed as a visiting Professor with the same London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD) where Mifsud served as Director, associated with Stirling University. This adds more weight to the idea that Mifsud is a familiar figure among the upper echelons of the UK intelligence and foreign policy establishment.

The final nail in the coffin of the theory that Mifsud is a Russian spy is this photograph of Mifsud standing next to Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Secretary, as reported by The Guardian. The photograph, taken in October 2017 – nearly a full year after the US Presidential election and nine months after Mifsud’s name appeared in newspaper headlines worldwide as allegedly involved in Russian meddling in that election – is either highly embarrassing for the hapless Mr Johnson, or it’s not, because Joseph Mifsud is actually a valued and security-vetted asset to the United Kingdom.
Image via The Guardian: Boris Johnson pictured at the dinner with the ‘London professor’, Joseph Mifsud (left) and Prasenjit Kumar Singh.

Another aspect of the RussiaGate claims tied to the UK includes the reported conversation between George Papadopoulos and Alexander Downer, Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK who was based in London. The pair reportedly spoke about the alleged Russian ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton while they were drinking at a swanky bar in London. According to Lifezette, Downer is closely tied with The Clinton Foundation via his role in securing $25 million in aid from his country to help the Clinton Foundation fight AIDS.

He is also a member of the advisory board of London-based Hakluyt & Co, an opposition research and intelligence firm set up in 1995 by three former UK intelligence officials and described as “a retirement home for ex-MI6 [British foreign intelligence] officers, but it now also recruits from the worlds of management consultancy and banking”. Whereas opposition research group Fusion GPS has received all the media attention so far, Lifezette states that Hakluyt is “a second, even more powerful and mysterious opposition research and intelligence firm… with significant political and financial links to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign”.

Yet another UK link to a central pillar of the Trump-Russia narrative is British music promoter Robert Goldstone, who was reported to have organized a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian nationals in June 2016. In the email chain setting up the Trump Tower meeting, both before and after the meeting, the only real ‘evidence’ of collusion with Russia come from Goldstone’s own emails; none-too-subtle heavy hints about ‘Russian help’ dropped by Goldstone but later – after the emails became public – walked back by him as “hyping the message and… using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given.”

Some have speculated that Goldstone was also involved with British or US intelligence efforts to concoct the RussiaGate narrative. As soon as his name emerged in the press, Goldstone – like Christopher Steele and Joseph Mifsud – went into ‘hiding’. Multiple press reports claimed he had done so out of fear for his safety, a claim also made about Christopher Steele when his name first became public. Indeed, the UK government issued a DA Notice (a press suppression advisory notice) to the British press to suppress the ex-spy Steele’s name. It is notable that, of all the people swept up into the ever-burgeoning RussiaGate investigation, it is only the UK-linked witnesses – Mifsud, Steele, Goldstone – who have felt the need to go into hiding when their role has been exposed.

The New York Times summed up the contents of Christopher Steele’s dossier: “Mr. Steele produced a series of memos that alleged a broad conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 election on behalf of Mr. Trump. The memos also contained unsubstantiated accounts of encounters between Mr. Trump and Russian prostitutes, and real estate deals that were intended as bribes.”

Press reports also relate that Steele was ordered by an English court to appear for a videotaped deposition in London as part of an ongoing civil litigation against Buzzfeed for publishing the unverified dossier, for which Steele was paid $168,000 by Glenn Simpson’s company Fusion GPS, who were in turn paid by Mark Elias of law firm Perkins Coie, lawyers to both the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC.

In his thread on the role of UK intelligence interference in the 2016 US Presidential race, Assange also noted how Christopher Steele used another former UK ambassador to Moscow, Sir Andrew Wood, to funnel the dossier to Senator John McCain in a way that moved the handover out of London, to Canada. It’s often said that no one ever really leaves the UK security services when they retire – many ‘former’ MI6 or MI5 officers’ private intelligence businesses are dependent on maintaining good contacts among their ex-colleagues – so it is interesting to note that Sir Andrew Wood says he was “instructed” — by former British spy Christopher Steele — to reach out to the senior Republican, whom Wood called “a good man,” about the unverified document.

Lastly, Robert Hannigan, former head of British intelligence agency GCHQ, is another personality of note in the formation of the RussiaGate narrative and its surprisingly deep links to the UK. The Guardian noted that Hannigan announced he would step down from his leadership position with the agency just three days after the inauguration of President Trump, on 23 January 2017. Jane Mayer in her profile of Christopher Steele published in the New Yorker also noted that Hannigan had flown to Washington D.C. to personally brief the then-CIA Director John Brennan on alleged communications between the Trump campaign and Moscow. What is so curious about this briefing “deemed so sensitive it was handled at director-level” is why Hannigan was talking director-to-director to the CIA and not Mike Rogers at the NSA, GCHQ’s Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partner.

https://disobedientmedia.com/2018/04/al ... elligence/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 29, 2018 7:59 pm

Their respective ambitions led the two men—along with Trump’s future son-in-law, Jared Kushner—to build a set of close, overlapping relationships in a small world that intersects on Chabad, an international Hasidic movement most people have never heard of.

Starting in 1999, Putin enlisted two of his closest confidants, the oligarchs Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, who would go on to become Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide, to create the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia under the leadership of Chabad rabbi Berel Lazar, who would come to be known as “Putin’s rabbi.”

A few years later, Trump would seek out Russian projects and capital by joining forces with a partnership called Bayrock-Sapir, led by Soviet emigres Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater and Tamir Sapir—who maintain close ties to Chabad. The company’s ventures would lead to multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and a criminal investigation of a condo project in Manhattan.
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=40179&p=658439&hilit=Abramovich#p658439



Abramovich cannot work in UK if he arrives on Israeli passport, No 10 says

Chelsea FC owner’s previous tier-1 visa was granted before regulations were tightened

Peter WalkerLast modified on Tue 29 May 2018 10.42 EDT
Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, who has faced difficulties obtaining a new UK visa, will not be allowed to work in Britain if he travels here on his new Israeli passport, Downing Street has said.

It emerged on Monday that the formerly Russian-based billionaire, a regular presence in Britain since he bought Chelsea in 2003, had been granted Israeli citizenship and was moving to Tel Aviv.

Abramovich, who had reportedly faced delays in renewing his UK visa, will be allowed to visit the UK visa-free for up to six months at a time with his Israeli passport, but cannot work in the country, Theresa May’s spokesman said.

While stressing he could not comment on individual cases, the spokesman outlined the general situation, saying: “Those with Israeli passports are non-visa nationals, which means they do not need a visa to come to the UK as a visitor for a maximum period of six months.”

He added: “Israelis are required to obtain a visa if they want to live, work or study in the UK.”

The spokesman said it was up to immigration authorities to monitor how these conditions were adhered to, and the Home Office would have more details on what could constitute work in such instances. The Home Office was contacted for details.

Israel’s interior ministry confirmed the offer of citizenship on Monday. “Roman Abramovich arrived at the Israeli embassy in Moscow like any other person,” an Israeli government spokesperson said. “He filed a request to receive an immigration permit, his documents were checked according to the law of return, and he was indeed found eligible.”

Israel grants citizenship to any Jewish person wishing to move there, and a passport can be issued immediately. Abramovich, who is Jewish and has been a regular visitor to Israel, has donated millions to Israeli research and development projects and invested in local firms.

Abramovich has not commented on recent developments. However, it is believed he could have been asked to explain the source of his wealth before he could be granted a new UK visa.

His previous tier-1 visa, which allows anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months, was granted before tighter regulations were introduced in April 2015.

Last week Downing Street said that while it could not comment on individual cases, it was the “logical conclusion” that some wealthy individuals who had applied under the investment visa route before the changes would no longer be eligible.

The government launched a further crackdown on wealthy investors coming to the UK after the Salisbury poisoning, increasing tensions between Britain and Russia.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/ ... CMP=twt_gu



Billionaire Ally of Putin Socialized With Kushner, Ivanka Trump

Stephanie BakerAugust 17, 2017, 11:00 PM CDT
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As federal investigators probe possible Kremlin links with the Donald Trump campaign, one connection that hasn’t gotten much attention is that between Jared Kushner and one of Russia’s most powerful and influential billionaires: Roman Abramovich.

The men have met three to four times in social settings, and their wives have been friends for a decade, facts that Kushner and Ivanka Trump revealed on their security-clearance forms to join the White House staff, according to a person familiar with the filings. The form, SF-86, asks applicants whether they have had “close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven years with whom you, or your spouse or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence or common interests.”

In 2014, the Kushners spent four days in Russia at the invitation of Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. The couples sat at the same table along with a few other people during a high-powered fundraising dinner for Moscow’s Jewish Museum. Kushner also was invested in an online art business of which Zhukova is a founding partner. Ivanka Trump, Kushner and his brother, Joshua, have accompanied Zhukova to sporting events in the New York area.

Abramovich is the biggest shareholder of Evraz Plc, Russia’s second largest steelmaker, and the owner of London’s Chelsea Football Club. In 2005, he was the first oligarch permitted by the Kremlin to sell his oil company to a state firm. He took in $13 billion in the deal approved by President Vladimir Putin.

Read more: How to understand the Trump-Russia Saga - QuickTake Q&A

“There’s no oligarch among those still accepted in the West who’s closer and more trusted by Putin than Abramovich,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil magnate who’s now a London-based Kremlin opponent and no friend of Abramovich’s, said in an interview. A spokesman for Abramovich called the relationship with Putin “formal and professional.”

Kushner and Abramovich have never met one-on-one or alone with their wives, according to the person familiar with the situation. There’s no suggestion that the couples’ ties had anything to do with Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election. In fact, on one level, the story of their relationship is that of today’s trans-global elite: A web of money, power, art and philanthropy connects the world’s rich in ways that transcend borders. On another level, it illustrates how fraught those bonds can become when social, business and political lines begin to blur.

Abramovich and Zhukova -- who grew up in the U.S. as a dual citizen, the daughter of a Russian oil magnate -- inhabit a glittering fast-paced world. The dinner they attended with the Kushners attracted powerful Russian billionaires and leading businessmen. Ivanka posted pictures of the event on Instagram and thanked Zhukova for “an unforgettable four days in Russia!” A spokesman for Abramovich said the billionaire hasn’t interacted with Kushner since then.

10-Year Friendship

Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, first introduced Zhukova to Ivanka Trump a decade ago. Then in 2010, Thrive Capital, the venture firm founded by Joshua Kushner, which included funds from older brother Jared, invested in Artsy, an online platform for art discovery and collecting, and brought in Wendi Murdoch and Zhukova as co-investors. Thrive led a $1.25 million funding round and has continued to back Artsy over the years. Last month Thrive, Zhukova and Wendi Murdoch participated in a $50 million financing.

Jared Kushner divested his financial interest in Thrive after entering the White House in January. A White House spokesman declined to discuss his relationship with Abramovich.

In August 2013, Ivanka posted a picture on Instagram of herself with Zhukova and the Kushner brothers at a Chelsea versus AC Milan game at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. And at the height of the presidential campaign last September, Ivanka and Kushner were pictured with Zhukova at the U.S. Tennis Open in New York. (This month, Abramovich and Zhukova announced they’re separating after 10 years but would continue to work together and jointly raise their two children.)

Abramovich’s ties to Putin are many. He served as governor of the remote Arctic region of Chukotka from 2000 to 2008, pumping millions into rebuilding infrastructure and raising living standards. His tenure running one of Russia’s poorest area was widely viewed as a show of loyalty to the Kremlin.

‘Privileged Access’

In a 2012 lawsuit in London, the late Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky claimed he’d been forced to sell his shares in oil company Sibneft to Abramovich. The judge, in ruling against Berezovsky, concluded Abramovich had “privileged access” to Putin.

“He became very close to the Kremlin,” said Andrew Wood, the British ambassador to Russia from 1995 to 2000 who alerted U.S. Senator John McCain of the existence of a dossier released in January that contained allegations about Trump’s Russia ties. “He has the gift, which Berezovsky did not, of holding his tongue.”

Abramovich also was central to the construction of the Moscow Jewish Museum. He is chairman of the board of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, an umbrella for the Chabad Orthodox community. The museum, located in a former bus garage, cost $50 million and was financed largely by donations. Putin has visited at least twice.

The dinner that evening in 2014 raised $4.5 million and included an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s portraits of 10 famous Jews of the 20th century.

Sochi and Crimea

The gala occurred right before Russia took the world stage in two very different ways: days before the Sochi Olympics and weeks before Russia annexed Crimea.

Since that night, a cone of silence seems to have descended on many of the attendees, usually gossipy folks who now refuse to talk about it. Aliona Doletskaya, the former editor of Interview magazine who wrote a photo-filled article about it for her publication at the time, declined to comment.

A photo Ivanka posted on the evening shows her with Wendi Murdoch, Samantha Boardman, the wife of New York real estate developer Aby Rosen -- who also has done business with Kushner -- and Sofia Kapkova, the wife of Sergei Kapkov, a long-time associate of Abramovich’s who took over Putin’s seat in the parliament in 2007. Kapkov had been head of the National Academy of Football foundation, which Abramovich once backed.

100 Guests

Among the 100 guests were Viktor Vekselberg, owner of the Renova Group; Len Blavatnik, owner of Access Industries; Alexey Reznikovich, the head of LetterOne Technology, which is controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman; and Ekaterina Vinokurova, the daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with her husband Alexander Vinokurov, who sits on the board of Alfa Group. Peter Salovey, the president of Yale University, also was there.

The trip came three months after Donald Trump went to Moscow in 2013 to stage the Miss Universe pageant, hosted by Aras Agalarov, the founder of Crocus Group, one of Russia’s largest real estate developers. Trump at the time had agreed with Agalarov to do a real estate deal in Moscow, touring possible sites.

The deal was dropped because of Russia’s economic downturn and Trump’s political ambitions. But the next year Ivanka met with Agalarov’s son Emin, according to a photo posted on Facebook by Rob Goldstone, Emin’s manager. Goldstone was the organizer of a June 2016 meeting between Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton. Emin gave Ivanka a tour around his family’s Crocus City development, according to the Facebook post.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... anka-trump

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Left: former wrestlers Sergey Shoigu, Minister of Defense; Alexander Abramov of Evraz; Putin. Middle: Abramov and Roman Abramovich, Evraz founders. Right: Ivanka Trump and Abramovich’s wife.
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=40179&p=656668&hilit=Abramovich#p656668



“Last summer, the associate’s connections to the oligarch world deepened when he married Eva Khan, a daughter of Mr. Khan, the Russian-Ukrainian billionaire whose interests Skadden has represented in the past alongside Mr. Fridman.” /10

When it comes to Alex van der Zwaan’s employer, Skadden Arps, the Financial Times article links the firm to its extensive representation of Mikhail Fridman and Roman Abramovich over the years. /11

“Mikhail Fridman, the Ukrainian-born billionaire and co-founder of Alfa Group, would rely on Skadden in his battles with the British government and with BP, the UK oil and gas group. Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire, trusted the firm so much that he made ... " /12

... the head of its European operations the chairman of Chelsea football club after he acquired the team in 2003.” /13

“Skadden would advise the oligarch (Abramovich) in his successful court battle with Boris Berezovsky, his one-time friend and mentor who fled Russia in 2000 after clashing with Vladimir Putin. Skadden’s fees in the Berezovsky case in 2012 were a reported £35m." /14

Berezovsky, once one of Russia’s most powerful oligarch, was found dead in a locked bathroom in his home near London in 2013, an apparent suicide by hanging. /15

Skadden Arps has 22 offices around the globe, including London and Moscow, with more than 1,700 attorneys. According to the firm’s website, “Skadden advises businesses, financial institutions and governmental entities around the world ... /16

According to Skadden’s own website, several of the firm’s partners/associates in its London, Frankfurt and Moscow offices have represented/advised companies Mikhail Fridman controls (Alfa Group, Letter One (L1), Vimplecom) as well as the AAR (Alfa-Access-Renova) consortium. /17

AAR is a consortium controlled by three other oligarchs besides Fridman (Alfa Group): Len Blavatnik (Access), Viktor Vekselburg (Renova), and German Khan (Alfa). AAR formed a major RU oil company in 2003, TNK-BP, through a joint partnership with BP. /18


TNK-BP was ultimate acquired by Rosneft from AAR and BP for $55 billion in 2013. /19
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=40179&p=656181&hilit=Abramovich#p656181


[img]Doc: Alex Van Der Zwaan's archived Skadden profile says he represented "the Evraz Group S.A. in relation to their holdings in mining assets in Ukraine." Evraz is owned by Ivanka & Jared's close friend Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire close to Putin
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 29, 2018 8:19 pm

The Domestic Conspiracy Is Hiding In Plain Sight Erik Prince
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Erik Prince is all over the map. Literally.

From DC to the DRC, Erik Prince keeps pitching new ideas — from proposals for privatized wars and spy agencies, to Frontier Services Group’s Belt and Road plans, to a new company that revives the infamous Blackwater brand.

Wendy SiegelmanMay 28
on Twitter @WendySiegelman


In the Trump-Russia story, a few people in Trump’s orbit have appeared repeatedly, attending ‘secret’ meetings and pursuing self-enriching business deals — Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Elliot Broidy, George Nader. Among this group of frenetic deal-makers, Erik Prince may be the most prolific in pitching and launching new business ideas, while striving to spread his influence and operations around the world.

Prince who founded the private security company Blackwater seemed to reach his peak around 2006, became embroiled in highly publicized investigations into civilian deaths in Iraq the next year, and then left his company and country, to rebuild his career overseas. Prince has re-emerged in the past few years, pitching new deals and leveraging strong connections within the Trump administration, to promote his career. Time will tell if Prince will succeed, or if he will follow in the footsteps of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and encounter legal ramifications from Mueller’s investigation.

Formative Years

Erik Prince was raised in Michigan with three older sisters, including Betsy — who is now U.S. Secretary of Education and married to Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded Amway. Erik’s father, Edgar, founded Prince Corporation, an auto parts and machinery manufacturer that in 1972 developed a sun visor with an illuminated vanity mirror.

After Erik Prince graduated from Hillsdale College, he briefly attended and then quit the U.S. Naval Academy and did an internship in the early 1990s in the White House under George H.W. Bush. Prince considered himself a libertarian and developed a strong conservative network, including interning with Huntington Beach, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. In 1993 Prince joined the Navy SEALs.

Erik’s father passed away in 1995 and his company was sold a year later for $1.35 billion. Erik had returned home and created the private security contractor company Blackwater. Throughout the 2000’s Blackwater grew to become a primary military subcontractor for the CIA and the State Department, earning $2 billion, mostly from unclassified work, such as secretly arming and maintaining drones in Pakistan and training CIA hit teams.

In 2007 Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounded 20 civilians, in what became known as the Nisour Square massacre. A series of investigations and lawsuits followed and Erik Prince resigned as Blackwater CEO in March 2009.

In 2008, then Senator Hillary Clinton signed on as the first co-sponsor of a bill to ban the use of State Department private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Stop Outsourcing Security Act, introduced in the Senate at the end of 2007 by Bernie Sanders, took direct aim at Blackwater, as well as DynCorp owned by Stephen Feinberg, and Triple Canopy, a security company later bought by Constellis, which also bought Blackwater (which had been renamed Xe Services, and then Academi). Constellis was purchased in 2016 for $1 billion by Apollo Global Management, however Constellis is now up for sale and took initial bids earlier this year.

The Stop Outsourcing Security Act was not supported by Obama and was never enacted, but Hillary Clinton’s early support of the bill put her directly in the crosshairs of Erik Prince, who had made his fortune from government outsourcing of security services.

After resigning from Blackwater, Prince went to live in the United Arab Emirates and with $529 million in funding from the UAE created an 800-member mercenary army, staffed largely by men from Colombia, to “conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts.”

It was not clear if Prince’s new endeavors in the UAE were approved by U.S. officials. And in 2010 Blackwater, renamed Xe Services, had to pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations, including illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers.

During his years in the UAE Prince also ran an operation for the Emirati government using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. Prince later shifted his focus to developing business opportunities in China with business partner and Hong Kong billionaire, Johnson Chun Shun Ko.

Aside from a few news stories tracking his overseas activities, Prince kept a relatively low profile for years, but as Donald Trump’s campaign built momentum, Prince reappeared on the scene. In mid 2017 Prince started promoting a solution to the war in Afghanistan, writing a piece in USA Today proposing the president “‘restructure’ the war, similar to a bankruptcy reorganization.” In the months leading up to the election, Prince appeared as a frequent guest on Steve Bannon’s Breitbart platform, often discussing anti-Clinton stories.

The business and political ventures Erik Prince has pursued in the last few years highlight his efforts to further his right-wing ideology while attempting to regain the scale, wealth, and influence from his Blackwater days.

Erik Prince and the Trump-Russia Investigation

There has been wide reporting on Erik Prince’s January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with the United Arab Emirate’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader, a former consultant for Erik Prince’s company Blackwater. According to George Nader, who is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, a main purpose of the meeting was to set up a communication channel between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.

Nader’s account of the Seychelles meeting has called into question testimony Erik Prince gave to the House Intelligence Committee, describing his meeting with Dmitriev as a chance encounter at the bar.

This month, The New York Times broke a story about an unreported August 3, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Erik Prince, George Nader, Donald Trump Jr., Stephen Miller, and Joel Zamel, who had presented a multimillion-dollar proposal for his company Psy-Group to implement a social media manipulation campaign to help elect Trump.

“Prince opened the meeting by telling Donald Trump Jr. that ‘we are working hard for your father,’ in reference to his family and other donors, according to a person familiar with the meeting. He then introduced Mr. Nader as an old friend with deep ties to Arab leaders.”
After Trump was elected, Nader paid Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million, although there are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment. In addition to Psy-Group, Joel Zamel and his business partner Daniel Green, co-founded a consulting firm Wikistrat, founded in Israel in 2010 and now based in Washington, D. C., that has been included in Mueller’s investigation.

After Erik Prince introduced George Nader to the campaign in August 2016, Nader met frequently with Jared Kusher, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon. Nader attended the January 2017 Seychelles meeting with Erik Prince. And Nader became an active partner with businessman and RNC fundraiser Elliott Broidy, in advocating for the interests of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates within the Trump administration, while Nader and Broidy simultaneously pursued massive business deals together.

Erik Prince and Elliott Broidy have some notable similarities — both are deeply entangled in the Trump-Russia story, both have run security and intelligence companies and in past years both established contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with the UAE. Elliott Broidy pitched a proposal to train mercenaries to help the UAE battle the Taliban and the Islamic State in Afghanistan, and he made a proposal to help Saudi Arabia train Arab troops to fight in the escalating war in Yemen.

It is not surprising that George Nader has been linked to both men, although it appears that he may have transitioned his alliance in 2017, from Prince to Broidy.

Prince, Rohrabacher, and Behrends

Erik Prince has been a long-time supporter of former Reagan speechwriter, and Pro-Russia congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who was mentioned in a private conversation by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

In the 1990’s Prince interned for Rohrabacher’s aide Paul Behrends, who later became a lobbyist for Prince’s company Blackwater, and then returned to work for Rohrabacher in his role as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats.

Rohrabacher and Behrends visited Russia in 2014 and 2016. Behrends introduced Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-born lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin — who both attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr, Manafort, and Kushner — around Washington D.C. during the inauguration. Rohrabacher and Behrends helped spread opposition research on Bill Browder and engaged in efforts to weaken the Magnitsky Act. Behrends’ pro-Russia activities caused so much unease that he was dismissed as staff director on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, but continues to work as Rohrabacher’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

Despite intense focus on Rohrabacher’s pro-Russia activity, and the media scrutiny of an August 2017 visit Rohrabacher made with alt-right troll Charles Johnson to see Julian Assange, in March 2018 Erik Prince held a fundraiser for Rohrabacher, that was also attended by Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal and now the president of the NRA.

Prince has also worked closely with Steve Bannon, especially in the months before the 2016 election, when Prince did several interviews for Breitbart pushing the Clinton uranium Russia story, and describing incriminating information the NYPD had about Clinton on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Deals Pitched to the Trump Administration


After the election Prince leveraged his connections to the Trump administration and Buzzfeed reported that in early 2017 Prince presented a proposal to the administration to privatize the Afghan war and to fund the effort by mining Afghanistan’s valuable minerals. Prince’s presentation identified rare-earth minerals, including uranium valued at $1 trillion, as well as magnesite, talc, and other minerals valued at $4.3 billion. The presentation highlights China’s dominance of REEs (Rare Earth Elements) as a threat to the U.S., noting that the U.S. remains subject to market manipulation by China.

The presentation in Prince’s Afghanistan pitch of China as a threat to U.S. interests, is ironic since Prince’s company, Frontier Services Group, is headquartered in Hong Kong and the largest shareholder is CITIC, a Chinese state-owned business, closely tied to the Chinese government.

Around the same time as Prince made his pitch to privatize the war in Afghanistan, Buzzfeed reported that in February 2017, Prince’s company Frontier Services Group planned to set up a private army with “two Blackwater-style training camps in China,” which the company said, “does not involve armed personnel.” A former associate of Prince noted that “He’s hell bent on reclaiming his position as the world’s preeminent private military provider.”

In late 2017, Prince and CIA veteran John Maguire, who worked for the intelligence contractor Amyntor Group along with Oliver North, pitched a set of proposals to the White House to create a global, private spy network to circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, a group Trump calls the “Deep State.” Prince and Maguire denied that they had collaborated and Prince denied any involvement in the proposal.

Intelligence Ops, Black Cube, Cambridge Analytica

Prince has been primarily known for his mercenary and privatized military contracting work, but, like many of the key figures in the Trump-Russia story, Prince has associated with firms that merge communications, PR, propaganda, social media manipulation and “weaponizing data” for business and political purposes. At the height of his Blackwater success, Prince hired several senior former CIA officials and launched his own intelligence firm.

Cofer Black, who had served in the Directorate of Operations at the CIA and was Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, was Vice Chairman of Blackwater from 2005 to 2008. Black was also Chairman of Total Intelligence Solutions, created by The Prince Group in 2007 and later renamed OODA, with chief executive Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations. Rick Prado, who is still listed as an advisor to OODA, was an ex-CIA officer who worked for Blackwater and allegedly was “a hitman for a notorious Miami mobster,” had worked for the mob after joining the CIA, and was the head of the CIA’s secret assassination squad against Al-Qaida.

In addition to the recent story revealing that Prince introduced Joel Zamel to Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016 to pitch the social media work of Psy-Group, Erik Prince has a few tangential connections to Black Cube, an Israeli intelligence company made up of “veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units” that specializes in “tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”

In November 2017 Ronan Farrow published a New Yorker story about how Harvey Weinstein had hired Black Cube to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein. In May 2018, The Observer reported that the Trump team had hired a spy firm to gather information to discredit several Obama officials involved with negotiating the Iran arms deal. A day later Farrow confirmed that the company allegedly hired by the Trump administration was Black Cube.

The contract for Black Cube’s work for Harvey Weinstein was personally signed by lawyer David Boies. In 2012, David Boies represented the former president of Blackwater, Gary Jackson, on charges related to falsifying ownership papers for Blackwater guns that were presented in 2005 to Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Black Cube was founded in 2011 by Dan Zorella, a former IDF military intelligence officer based in London, Dr. Avi Yanus and the late Meir Dagan was president of the board. Their first known major job was for the Tehran-born, British-Jewish billionaire Vincent Tchenguiz, after he was raided by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office in 2011 for bank fraud. Black Cube helped build the successful challenge to the SFO raids, which were declared unlawful. However in subsequent years, Tchenguiz had a falling out with Black Cube and allegedly spied on his own spies, who were based out of his London office.

During the years Tchenguiz worked with Black Cube, he was also, notably, the largest shareholder, until 2015, in SCL Group, the owner of Cambridge Analytica, which became Donald Trump’s data company during the 2016 presidential election.

An Haaretz article describes Prince’s business connections to Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff Ari Harow and his past business partner, Isreali financier Dorian Barak. Erik Prince invested in Harow and Barak’s Indigo Strategic Capital fund in the Israeli companies NowForce (security) and Agent Vi (real-time video analytics). Barak also tried to interest Prince in a joint investment with Vincent Tchenguiz, however it is not known if a deal between Tchenguiz and Prince was pursued.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told British MPs that “the company utilized the services of an Israeli private intelligence firm, Black Cube” in 2015 to hack the personal data of Nigerian President Buhari prior to his election. Both Cambridge Analytica and Black Cube denied the allegations.

Earlier this year I reported on Emerdata Limited, a company set up by Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group executives, that included board members Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, and Johnson Chun Shun Ko, who is Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of Erik Prince’s Frontier Services Group.

There is no evidence that Erik Prince had any direct involvement with Emerdata Limited, SCL Group or Cambridge Analytica. Nor is there evidence that Prince has worked with Black Cube.

However, Prince’s close business connection to Johnson Chun Shun Ko the director of Emerdata, his history with Steve Bannon who ran Breitbart and was a shareholder of Cambridge Analytica, and Prince’s involvement in introducing Joel Zemel’s Psy-Group to the Trump campaign to propose a social media manipulation effort, raises questions about Prince’s involvement with the messaging and social media plans during and after the Trump campaign.

And Erik Prince’s link to David Boies, his experience running his own intelligence company, hiring senior CIA intelligence officials, and working closely with business partners with strong connections to the Israeli government, including discussions about a deal with Vincent Tchenguiz, raises the question of whether or not Prince has crossed paths with Black Cube.

Frontier Services Group Future Plans

As Erik Prince has been busy pitching proposals to the White House and attending secret meetings in the Seychelles and Trump Tower, his main business venture, Frontier Services Group has pursued ambitious plans across several continents, despite having operating losses for five years in a row.

At the end of April 2018, Frontier Services Group Limited published its 2017 annual report. The Chairman’s message from Erik Prince about the Bermuda-registered company, headquartered in Hong Kong, includes standard marketing and financial information. However, the FSG annual report also provides insight into the breadth of countries, regions, and services that Prince has been involved with as he has simultaneously appeared behind-the-scenes in various meetings and events related to the Trump-Russia story.

In 2014 Prince partnered with Hong Kong businessman Johnson Chun Shun Ko on DVN Holdings, which was later renamed Frontier Services Group. Erik Prince has additional business ties with Ko through Prince’s associate Dorian Barak who served as a board director of Ko’s Reorient Group from 2014–2016, and Dorian Barak and Ko both serve as directors of the Chinese company KuangChi Science.

According to a March 2018 press release, Frontier Sciences Group is 28% owned by CITIC, a Chinese state-owned company that is closely aligned with the Chinese government.

In 2016 Prince and Frontier Services Group were under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering using a Chinese bank. A story in The Intercept described:

“What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China”
After the story was published several senior executives and directors left Frontier Services Group, however, the company has continued expanding its business ventures.

In May 2018, the Washington Post published a story about how Frontier Services Group has been overseeing private security training at various locations in China. The International Security Defense College in Beijing is a private security training school that has promotional materials boasting that “Frontier has trained more than 5,000 Chinese military personnel, 200 plainclothes police officers, 500 SWAT specialists, 200 railway police officers and 300 overseas military police officers.” The article poses the question of whether or not the work of Prince’s Frontier Services Group is going against U.S. interests.

In addition to China, Frontier Services Group is pursuing business ventures across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, regions aligned with China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), formerly called One Belt One Road (OBOR). Inspired by the Silk Road trading route, the initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to invest in infrastructure across 68 countries with a focus on trade in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. A CNN article noted that it is “China’s push to put it in a position of world leadership as the US under President Donald Trump takes a more protectionist approach and gives up the mantle of globalization.”

Erik Prince’s Chairman’s Letter in Frontier Services Group 2017 Annual Report describes how the Group’s business is focused on four strategic Belt & Road regions:

North West: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan with its regional office in Kashgar, China. Currently, the focus of the region is serving the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”) and its related projects.
South West: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. In Myanmar, the Group signed a partnership agreement with the country’s leading security firm. In Laos, the Group broke ground on a new security training facility across the border from China in Boten.
Middle East: U.A.E. and Qatar. The region is home to key logistics routes for the Belt & Road as well as construction and energy projects.
Africa: Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) and South Africa, and the secondary markets of Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda.
Frontier Services Group also has four aircraft, trucking, and logistic companies: Maleth Aero Limited, a Malta-based air operation company, Transit Freight Forwarding (Pty) Ltd, a logistics company based in South Africa, Phoenix Aviation Limited, a Kenya-based air operations company, and Cheetah Logistics SARL a DRC-based trucking operation.

Frontier Services Group reported an operating loss of HK $221,448,000 (approx. $28 million) for 2017, an 11.5% increase over the prior year, and FSG has reported operating losses every year since 2013.

Despite the consistent losses, Frontier Service Group’s 2017 annual report indicates that Prince is actively pursuing expansion of his business around the globe, although a theme that appears repeatedly in Prince’s overseas initiatives is whether or not his business pursuits present a conflict of interest with U.S. interests.

Erik Prince’s Other Ventures

While Prince has been busy pitching proposals at the White House, attending secret meetings in the Seychelles and Trump Tower, and building the security, logistics, and insurance business of Frontier Services Group throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, he has managed to find time to pursue a few other business ventures.

Last year, Foreign Policy reported that Erik Prince was listed as an investor in Wickr, an American software company best-known for its free secure messaging app. This venture is somewhat unusual since Wickr is known as a secure communications solution for journalists, human rights workers, and even the Democratic Party. The size of Prince’s investment in Wickr is not known.

And it appears that Erik Prince may be working to revive the Blackwater brand. In March 2018, a Maltese company called Blackwater Ammunition was officially launched at a firearms and hunting event called IWA 2018 in Nurnberg Germany. While it appears that Prince licensed the Blackwater brand, he is featured prominently on the website with Nicola Bandini, CEO of Maltese company Precision Ballistic Manufacturing Ltd, and Maltese guns and ammunition distributor James Fenech.

Now that Erik Prince has several advocates in the White House, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it appears that he may have an opportunity to make a comeback. Or, like Flynn and Manafort, he could get pulled deeper into the Muller investigation. Regardless of the outcome, Erik Prince is likely to continue pitching new ideas and initiatives in far flung regions around the world.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 29, 2018 10:04 pm




Judge says special counsel Robert Mueller is correct to withhold certain information being demanded by lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
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'Taxi King' gets better plea deal after raid on Trump's lawyer

Kara Scannell
'Taxi King' got better deal after Cohen raid
(CNN)New York state authorities sweetened a plea offer made to a taxi operator who partnered with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen after federal authorities raided Cohen's home, office and hotel room, according to court transcripts.

Evgeny "Gene" Freidman, known as New York's "Taxi King," pleaded guilty last week to criminal tax fraud for failing to pay $5 million in taxes in a deal that would allow him to avoid prison time.

The no-prison deal was a significant enhancement from an offer Freidman rejected on April 4 -- just a few days before the FBI raid on Cohen -- that would have included a minimum of two years and as much as six years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to transcripts of the March court proceeding. The offer included a sliding scale; if Freidman paid less than $1 million he would face more jail time. Friedman had faced as much as 25 years in prison when he was charged last year.

Russian oligarch met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower during transition
The investigation by US prosecutors in Manhattan was initiated in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller. FBI agents working with Mueller have interviewed several business partners of Cohen as part of Mueller's broader inquiry into election meddling. Freidman's cooperation in the deal suggests he has useful information for prosecutors and could place added pressure on Cohen, who has been Trump's attorney for a decade, to cooperate with authorities.

The initial offer and subsequent enhancement has not been previously reported. New York investigators made the initial offer in late March. When Freidman rejected the deal at the hearing two weeks later, John Healy, a lawyer with the state attorney general's office, told Justice Peter Lynch, "The offer is withdrawn. We don't intend to make any offers and we are ready for trial come June 18."

But days later, on April 9, FBI agents working with the US attorney's office in Manhattan raided Cohen's home, office, hotel room and safe deposit box, seizing several boxes of documents and over a dozen electronic devices.

Prosecutors have not said anything publicly about the raid being the impetus for a better deal.

The search warrant authorized the seizure of information relating to any payments Cohen made to suppress women from coming forward with damaging information about the President and details about Cohen's taxi medallion business, sources have told CNN.

Michael Cohen owes more than $280K in state taxes, records show
As part of Freidman's plea deal he will cooperate with state and federal authorities, The New York Times first reported. A spokesman for the New York attorney general's office declined to comment. Freidman's attorney also declined to comment.
Freidman owns and operates one of the largest taxi operations in the country. One of his clients is Cohen, who for more than two decades bought taxi medallions expanding a business started by his father-in-law.

Cohen's taxi medallion holding companies owe New York more than $280,000 in unpaid taxes, an analysis of state records shows, with nearly two-thirds of the back taxes owed from April. Bloomberg, which first reported the unpaid taxes, said Cohen claims that he does not owe the taxes. Instead, the report said, Cohen claims Freidman is responsible for the payments.
Cohen hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing, but his lawyers have been fighting in court to limit the government's review of the seized material. Judge Kimba Wood appointed a special master to review the material for records that may be protected by attorney-client privilege.
At a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the judge is expected to receive an update on the progress of the review. She may also decide whether to allow porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti to formally appear in the case. Daniels has sued Cohen to nullify a $130,000 "hush money" deal to keep details about the porn star's alleged affair in 2006 with Trump quiet. Avenatti has said records that were seized may be relevant to his client. The White House has repeatedly said that the President denies the affair took place.

NYT: Michael Cohen's 'taxi king' business partner to cooperate with government
Cohen's attorneys have objected to Avenatti's appearance, saying he made inaccurate public statements about Cohen and improperly leaked personal financial records of Cohen that revealed millions of dollars of consulting contracts he had with a US investment firm linked to a Russian oligarch, AT&T and Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Avenatti has accused Cohen of leaking select audio recordings to the media that "may relate" to Daniels and wants the judge to question Cohen's attorneys about any leaks.

After Freidman's guilty plea and cooperation agreement became public, Cohen tweeted to distance himself from the taxi operator.
"I am one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate my medallions according to the rules of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Gene Freidman and I are not partners and have never been partners in this business or any other," Cohen said.

Freidman saw it differently. His attorney provided a statement to CNN last month on Freidman's behalf saying, "With regard to Michael Cohen, Michael is a great friend and a wonderful client."
https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/29/politics ... olitics=Tw




OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Repub senators told trump they would not confirm a new Attorney General

Sessions is key witness in obstruction of justice

Trump Asked Sessions to Retain Control of Russia Inquiry After His Recusal
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in March 2017 that he was recusing himself from oversight of the Russia investigation and any other campaign-related matters.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
By Michael S. Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis
May 29, 2018

WASHINGTON — By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban.

When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk — but not about the travel ban. His grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.

Mr. Sessions refused.

The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.

The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.

Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal?

The president’s lead lawyer in the case, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that if Mr. Trump agreed to answer the special counsel’s questions — an interview is the subject of continuing negotiations — he should not be forced to discuss his private deliberations with senior administration officials. Talking about the attorney general, Mr. Giuliani argued, would set a bad precedent for future presidents.
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Mr. Trump had dinner with Mr. Sessions at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., days after the recusal was announced.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times
Mr. Giuliani said that he had not discussed Mr. Sessions’s recusal with Mr. Trump but that a request that Mr. Sessions reassert control over the Russia investigation would be within the bounds of the president’s authority.

“‘Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation.’ It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly,” Mr. Giuliani said on Tuesday evening.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

To the president, no decision has proved more devastating during his time in office than Mr. Sessions’s recusal. In Mr. Trump’s view, Mr. Sessions, who had been one of his closest political allies and earliest prominent supporter in Washington, never would have appointed a special counsel, as the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, did last May after the president abruptly fired Mr. Comey.

Before the recusal, the president and his attorney general were friends, often sharing meals and talking on the phone. Today, they rarely speak outside of cabinet meetings, current and former White House officials and others briefed on their relationship said. They even flew separately in March from Washington to the same event in New Hampshire. Mr. Trump complains to friends about how much he would like to get rid of Mr. Sessions but has demurred under pressure from Senate Republicans who have indicated they would not confirm a new attorney general.

Because of his recusal, Mr. Sessions has been mostly absent from the president’s ire toward the investigation and the Justice Department. He has enforced Mr. Trump’s agenda more successfully than perhaps any cabinet member, imposing conservative policies on immigration and violent crime that are popular with Mr. Trump’s core supporters.

Pressure on Mr. Sessions to step aside from the Russia investigation began building almost as soon as he took office, culminating in a Washington Post report on March 1 that he had not been forthcoming during his Senate confirmation hearing about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. Career lawyers at the Justice Department had advised Mr. Sessions to step aside, citing ethics guidelines about impartiality and his role as a prominent supporter of the Trump campaign.

Mr. Sessions’s recusal came in the middle of public scrutiny over his testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Trump immediately recognized the potential effect of a recusal. He had his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, lobby Mr. Sessions to retain oversight of the inquiry.

To Justice Department officials close to Mr. Sessions, the request by the president made through Mr. McGahn was inappropriate, particularly because it was clear to them that Mr. Sessions had to step aside. After Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that he would follow the Justice Department lawyers’ advice to recuse himself from all matters related to the election, Mr. McGahn backed down. Mr. Sessions recused himself on March 2.

When Mr. Trump learned of the recusal, he asked advisers whether the decision could be reversed, according to people briefed on the matter. Told no, Mr. Trump argued that Eric H. Holder Jr., President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, would never have recused himself from a case that threatened to tarnish Mr. Obama. The president said he expected the same loyalty from Mr. Sessions.

Some people close to the president have said privately that they believed the recusal was overly broad and done too hastily in the middle of public scrutiny over Mr. Sessions’s congressional testimony.

The day after the recusal, as the president prepared to travel to Florida, Mr. Trump was seen through the windows of the Oval Office by news cameras, gesticulating angrily as he argued with top advisers who had gathered to determine how to go forward with the travel ban, which had been blocked by a federal judge. Justice Department officials had concluded the policy must be withdrawn and revised, a move that Mr. Trump was resisting because he thought it was watered down.

But, preoccupied with Mr. Sessions’s decision and determined to find a way forward, he spent the first 10 minutes of the meeting venting about it, a former White House official said.

The meeting ended without a resolution about the travel ban. And after Mr. Trump flew to Florida, his advisers decided that the only way to get the president’s signoff to revise the immigration order — a time-sensitive matter because of pending litigation — would be to dispatch the attorney general to Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., retreat, to implore him in person, the current and former administration officials said.

It was at Mar-a-Lago the next evening that Mr. Trump brought up the Russia investigation with Mr. Sessions and asked him to change his mind about stepping aside, the people said.

Prosecutors rarely go back on recusals. Legal experts said that occasionally, prosecutors who handed off a case to colleagues over concerns about a possible financial conflict of interest would take the decision back after confirming none existed. But the experts said they could think of no instance in which a prosecutor stepped aside from a case in circumstances similar to Mr. Sessions’s. Justice Department guidelines on recusal are in place to prevent the sort of political meddling the president tried to engage in, they said.

“It’s yet more behavior that tramples on the line between law and politics,” said Samuel W. Buell, a professor of law at Duke University and former federal prosecutor.

As the months wore on, Mr. Trump returned again and again to the recusal.

In July, he told The New York Times that he never would have nominated Mr. Sessions if he had known that Mr. Sessions would not oversee the Russia investigation. Two days later, a Washington Post report about Mr. Sessions’s campaign discussions with Russia’s ambassador sent Mr. Trump into another rage. Aboard Marine One that Saturday, the president told his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to get Mr. Sessions to resign by the end of the weekend, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

Unnerved and convinced the president wanted to install a new attorney general who could oversee the Russia investigation, Mr. Priebus called Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the time, Jody Hunt, who said that the president would have to ask Mr. Sessions himself to resign. Unsure how to proceed, Mr. Priebus simply waited out the president, who never called Mr. Sessions but did attack him that week on Twitter.

Days later, Mr. Priebus was out as chief of staff. The special counsel has told the president’s lawyers that he wants to ask Mr. Trump about those discussions with Mr. Priebus and why he publicly criticized Mr. Sessions.

Mr. Trump brought up the recusal again with associates later last year, expressing a desire for Mr. Sessions to reassert control over an investigation that has since resulted in the indictment of his former campaign chairman and guilty pleas by two other campaign aides and his former national security adviser.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/us/p ... ction.html
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed May 30, 2018 9:25 am

Harvey » Tue May 29, 2018 6:52 pm wrote:
Disobedient Media



Disobedient Media
Imagehttps://mediabiasfactcheck.com/disobedient-media/



PizzaGate pusher William Craddick yea you go with that Harvey but it is fine with me if you are a trump supporter we are all entitled to our views here at RI ...you can even bump up the PizzaGate thread or the Jack Posobiec as RI Subject if you'd like

extremely credible :roll:

my bold ....my red

How we debunked rumours that Macron has an offshore account


2. The documents were widely shared by websites that spread false information during the US presidential election

What happened next? Well, after they were first posted online on 4chan, the documents were shared by Disobedient Media, a website launched by William Craddick that claims to be an “investigative” news source.

Disobedient Media has already played a large role in the propagation of several big stories that were later debunked. For example, Craddick widely shared the “PizzaGate” scandal that targeted Hillary Clinton during the 2016 race for the White House. Craddick alleged that Clinton’s former campaign manager, John Podesta, was involved in a pedophile ring that also included the manager of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington.

The impact of Disobedient Media’s article about the alleged Macron documents mushroomed when they were shared by Jack Posobiec -- a former member of Citizens for Trump, a group of activists who supported Donald Trump’s candidacy for the White House, and a subscriber to many conspiracy theories. Posobiec tweeted the article at 20:55 pm, just before the debate began.


Posobiec’s tweet about the documents was shared almost 3,000 times. The graphic below (made by Nicolas Vanderbiest, a Belgian professor who monitors nationalist Twitter networks) shows the impact that Posobiec had in spreading the rumour.


Vanderbiest spoke to France 24.

I study the trends in what we call the ‘patriosphère’-- Twitter networks that regularly share articles from media sources financed by the Russian government and who champion a nationalist agenda. At around midnight on Wednesday, I identified about 213 French-language accounts that had shared the documents. 88 of them (or 41%) regularly share links to media outlets like Russia Today or Sputnik.

It’s the first time during this French presidential election that we’ve seen such a high number of “patriosphere” accounts sharing rumours meant to discredit a candidate.

Moreover, several accounts identified as “Pro-Trump” were tweeting in French on Wednesday -- sometimes with noticeable grammatical errors.

Jack Posobiec

Verified account

@JackPosobiec
Follow Follow @JackPosobiec
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BUSTED: New Documents Prove Macron Is a Huge Tax Cheat

http://observers.france24.com/en/201705 ... s-debunked



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