Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Dec 18, 2018 6:32 pm

Zoe Tillman


NEW: Remember that mystery grand jury subpoena case argued last week in the DC Circuit? A decision is out, and it's public, sort of — it's about a company (unnamed) owned by a country (unnamed). Court upheld the denial of a motion to quash the subpoena https://www.scribd.com/document/3959741 ... y-Subpoena

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There is *no* reference in today's judgment to Mueller's office. But there's no reference at all to who is prosecuting this case, so we don't have any new, concrete info on that front



One thing we learned is that the judge found the company in contempt for failing to comply with the grand jury subpoena, and imposed a daily $ penalty — the DC Circuit said that was okay, although how that gets enforced "is a separate question for a later day"

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https://twitter.com/ZoeTillman



emptywheel

Or any of the Middle Eastern Sovereign funds that were part of the great Seychelles Laundry caper.


Sounds like the Russian development corp, or similar, which is something that Zainab Ahmad has probably been working on.


Clue, 2018 style:

Which foreign country paid the slush to which co-conspirator via which money laundering vehicle?

Life was so much easier when we just had to find a candlestick.


We might have a better chance of guessing which co-conspirator (Trump himself or Jared) this mystery foreign bank was protecting, than guessing which slushy sovereign fund was doing the slushing.


https://twitter.com/emptywheel


A few guesses
- Russian Direct Investment Fund
- Qatar Investment Authority
- Rosneft
- Mubadala or ADIA (UAE)
- a Saudi fund
- VTB
- Sberbank
- RT

Wildcard guess
- Rosatom - Russia's nuclear co (re: Flynn's Mideast nuclear project)

Qataris opted not to give info on Kushner, secret meetings to Mueller
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/nation ... er-n855326


looking for banking records outside of U.S. ....looking for money flowing ....locking down court room big deal 3 judges saw secret stuff ......

Bank of China?



southpaw

The subpoena falling into the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s exception for commercial activities is a notable clue as well.


Looks like it’s got a good shot to go to the Supreme Court on this point; the DC Circuit carved out a brand new ground for federal courts to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over foreign sovereigns (in criminal cases).
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https://twitter.com/nycsouthpaw/status/ ... 5850032128



:lol: :lol: :lol:


Trump Foundation Dissolved Like It Was Dipped In Hot Tub Of Acid

Not so long ago, back in June, we reported that the state of New York was suing the president's ... well, it's too charitable to call it a "charity," so we'll go with "crooked-ass scam," the Donald J. Trump Foundation. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood came out swinging and declared that the foundation was "little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose of legality." Trump insisted he'd never settle this case, and now six months later, Underwood has announced, with her tail between her legs, that the grifter in chief has agreed to dissolve the Trump Foundation and give away its remaining funds. Aren't you tired of winning yet, Donald?

No one should expect Powerball-level payouts, though. At its peak, Trump's Music Man act never had more than $3.2 million in the bank. Aquaman will swim past that in its first couple hours of domestic release. Trump's a fake billionaire, but we know he has access to real billionaires. He's given them Cabinet positions. Even they aren't taking spare cash from their yacht funds and trusting it to the Trump white-collar crime family.

Trump himself never gave any of his own money to the foundation since 2008. I don't entirely blame him. I wouldn't give one Yugoslavian pfennig to any organization, charitable or otherwise, with Trump's three oldest and dumbest kids on the board of directors. In fairness, though, Trump has claimed that his name alone is worth $3.3 billion dollars. That's quite the donation right there. The John Smith Foundation would only be worth a significantly less imaginary figure.

The best LOL moment from the attorney general's investigation is the discovery that Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — all listed as officers of the charity — had never held a board meeting. The board hadn't met since 1999. I'm not a five-dollar feminist, but I've served on a few theatre boards and even I know you have to, you know, meet and stuff. That's kind of the point. Is there nothing legal about this "foundation"? Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg was reportedly unaware he was even on the board despite being the charity's "official treasurer." Couldn't Ivanka be bothered to send him an email at some point saying, "BTW: In case anyone asks, you're the treasurer of our fake board." You don't want the attorney general catching folks off guard with this.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump sent a lot of time attacking an actual legitimate charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation. Totally coincidentally, after winning the election, Trump suddenly tired of his own "charity" and tried to shut it down, but the attorney general's office blocked that obvious attempt to "bust the joint out" during its investigation of his advanced crookery. Underwood still seeks more than $2.8 million in restitution and has asked a judge to ban the four Trumps temporarily from coming within a country mile of the boards of other New York nonprofits.



Underwood released a statement today detailing the various and assorted ways the Trumps suck and can't be trusted to not take candy from a sleeping baby.

"Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests.

"Today's stipulation accomplishes a key piece of the relief sought in our lawsuit earlier this year. Under the terms, the Trump Foundation can only dissolve under judicial supervision – and it can only distribute its remaining charitable assets to reputable organizations approved by my office.

"This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone. We'll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law."
Look, we're the first to admit we'll miss the Trump Foundation a little. We've had fun reporting on its repulsive actions under the guise of philanthropy. Remember how DTF used funds to buy awful portraits of Trump's stupid face? Or when Trump used foundation funds to make a campaign contribution to Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general he needed to buy off? Or when he used the foundation (allegedly) as a tax dodge? And who can forget Trump swiping more than $250,000 from the foundation to settle the many lawsuits that can crop up when you're a total shyster. Just in case you're thinking of setting up your own scam "charity" for fun and profit, pretty much all of this is illegal.

Underwood stresses that despite the dissolution of the Trump Foundation, the state's lawsuit is "ongoing." Incoming attorney general Letitia James had already promised to bring the ruckus to the Trumps. I get the feeling they're going to wish they'd never gotten into the fake charity business.


https://www.wonkette.com/trumps-fake-as ... -shut-down
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:15 am

Trump signed letter of intent for Trump Tower Moscow project despite Giuliani insisting he didn't

http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2018/images/12/1 ... ment.1.pdf

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:16 am

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:17 am

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:18 am

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How Trump Tower Moscow fits into Russian interference
By Marshall Cohen and Tal Yellin


The recent guilty plea of Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen revealed new details about efforts by the Trump Organization to land a lucrative business deal inside Russia.
The plea shows that Cohen was soliciting help from officials in the Russian government at a time when then-candidate Trump was praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and also disavowing any suggestion he was seeking to do business in Russia. On plenty of occasions throughout the campaign, Trump declared that he had “nothing to do with Russia.”
A timeline of 10 critical months casts new light on public statements and previously known activities that occurred while the Trump Tower Moscow proposal was still active. These details come from court filings, public statements, and reporting from CNN and other outlets.
September 2015
Efforts begin for Trump Tower Moscow project

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen received a proposal from a Russian company to build Trump Tower Moscow. He started to explore the deal with help from former Trump business associate Felix Sater, according to court filings.

Donald Trump public comments
Trump praised Putin’s leadership in an interview with Fox News, saying, "I will tell you that I think in terms of leadership, he is getting an 'A,' and our president is not doing so well.”
October 2015
Trump signs letter of intent for Moscow deal

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen told Trump about the Moscow proposal and Trump signed a non-binding letter of intent with a Russian company, according to court filings. The parties agreed to move forward with the project, which would have given the Trump Organization a $4 million upfront fee, and other perks.

Donald Trump public comments
Trump publicly expressed support for Russia’s military intervention in Syria. He repeated the Kremlin’s talking points that Russia was bombing ISIS, even though the Obama administration said that Russia was there to give a military boost to the Syrian dictator.
November 2015
Trump dismisses claims of Russian aggression

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen and Sater continue working on the Trump Tower project. According to The New York Times, Sater told Cohen in an email: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

Donald Trump public comments
At a Republican primary debate, Trump sidestepped a question about Russian aggression. Instead, he criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of Iran and North Korea.
December 2015
Trump continues praising Putin’s leadership

Meetings between Trump team and Russians
Before he became a Trump adviser, retired General Michael Flynn attended a gala in Moscow to honor RT, the Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlet. He was paid more than $30,000 for his appearance, which included a question-and-answer session.

Donald Trump public comments
In an interview, Trump again praised Putin’s leadership. He also dismissed allegations that Putin kills journalists and dissidents, saying, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

Interference by the Russian government
Putin complimented Trump, calling him a “bright and talented person, without any doubt," and saying that Trump has "an outstanding and talented personality." Trump released a statement in response, where he said Putin was “so highly respected within his own country and beyond,” and stressed that the US and Russia should work more closely together.

Interference by the Russian government
On social media sites, Russian-backed trolls started spreading misinformation about Clinton and openly advocating for Trump’s candidacy, according to a US intelligence report.
January 2016
Cohen talks to the Kremlin about Moscow deal

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen reached out to the office of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asking for help moving the Moscow project forward, according to court filings. Cohen later spoke on the phone with Peskov’s assistant, who took notes and said she would follow-up with other people in Russia.

Donald Trump public comments
In an interview, Trump cast doubt on the findings of a British investigation, which concluded that Putin probably ordered the murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Trump said: “I don't think they've found him guilty. If he did it, fine. But I don’t know that he did it.”
February 2016
Trump Tower Moscow project continues

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen’s work on the Trump Tower Moscow project continued, despite Cohen’s misleading claims to Congress that he terminated the deal before the Republican primaries kicked off.

Donald Trump public comments
At a series of campaign rallies, Trump distanced himself from Putin. He said Putin was “very nice” to him, likely referring to the public compliments from a few months earlier. Trump also said, “I have no relationship with him other than he called me a genius.”
March 2016
Trump adds advisers with Russian ties

Interference by the Russian government
Russian military intelligence launched wide-scale hacking attacks relating to the US election. This included breaches against the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Russian agents later passed on internal emails from the DNC and Podesta to WikiLeaks, which published thousands of documents later in the campaign.

Interference by the Russian government
Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlets, including RT and Sputnik, began promoting Trump’s candidacy. These English-language broadcasts and websites were targeted at US voters.

Donald Trump public comments
Trump added several advisers with Russian ties to his presidential campaign. He hired lobbyist Paul Manafort to manage delegate efforts ahead of the convention. He also named George Papadopoulos and Carter Page as advisers on his foreign policy team. The Justice Department and FBI have investigated all three aides for their Russian connections.
April 2016
Trump briefly meets Russian ambassador

Meetings between Trump team and Russians
Papadopoulos met with a Kremlin-connected professor, Joseph Mifsud, in London. Mifsud informed Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court filings.

Donald Trump public comments
Before Trump delivered a major foreign policy address, he and his son-in-law Jared Kushner briefly met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, along with a few other diplomats during a VIP reception for dignitaries. In the speech, Trump expressed hope for better relations with Russia, saying, “I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible.”

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Starting in April and continuing for several months, the Russian government extended a group of trademarks belonging to the Trump Organization, according to The New York Times. For years, Trump’s company owned Russian trademarks for terms including “Trump Tower.”
May 2016
Trump becomes presumptive nominee

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen and Sater discussed the possibility of Cohen and Trump traveling to Russia to work on the Moscow project. Cohen agreed to go before the Republican National Convention in July, and told Sater that Trump would make the trip after the convention, according to court filings. Cohen discussed these plans with Trump.

Donald Trump public comments
Trump was asked in a Fox News interview about his past claims that he once met with Putin, but he dodged the question. Trump said: “I don’t want to comment because, let’s assume I did. Perhaps it was personal. You know, I don’t want to hurt his confidence. But I know Russia well.”

Donald Trump public comments
Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee after all his opponents dropped out. He also promoted Manafort to serve as campaign chairman, expanding his influence.

Meetings between Trump team and Russians
At a dinner during the National Rifle Association convention, Donald Trump Jr. briefly met Alexander Torshin, a prominent Russian banker and lawmaker. Torshin was later named as the handler of accused Russian agent Maria Butina as she infiltrated US political circles.

Meetings between Trump team and Russians
Manafort met in the US with a business associate from his Ukraine lobbying work, according to news reports. The Soviet-born associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, is suspected of having active ties to Russian intelligence, according to court filings from special counsel Robert Mueller.
June 2016
Moscow deal dies as Trump-Russia ties ramp up

Meetings between Trump team and Russians
Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met at Trump Tower with a group of Russians who were said to have “official documents and information that would incriminate” Clinton. In testimony to Congress, the participants said nothing came from the roughly 30-minute meeting.

Trump Tower Moscow activities
Cohen filled out travel forms and continued planning his trip to Russia, according to court filings. But Cohen abruptly cancelled the visit and told Sater about his decision at a meeting in the Trump Tower lobby. This is when plans finally fizzled out to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow.

Interference by the Russian government
A cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC publicly announced for the first time that the Democratic group was breached by Russian government hackers. Shortly after that, a shadowy online persona called Guccifer 2.0 started to publish hacked materials. US intelligence later said Guccifer 2.0 was a fake persona operated by Russian agents.
Denials
Trump and his associates adamantly deny colluding with the Russian government. Putin says the Kremlin never interfered in the 2016 election. Trump also said Cohen is a liar who was pressured by Mueller to undermine his presidency, and that any business projects in Russia were entirely legal. Putin also denies any involvement in the killing of Litvinenko, the ex-spy.
Published December 1, 2018, 12:30 p.m. et.
https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/po ... index.html


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

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 19, 2018 7:58 pm


17 ongoing investigations




Mueller Ready to Pounce on Trumpworld Concessions to Moscow

New court filings by Mueller’s office could answer a central question of the Russia investigation: What did the Kremlin hope to get from its political machinations?

Erin Banco
12.18.18 5:00 AM ET

For more than a year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has questioned witnesses broadly about their interactions with well-connected Russians. But three sources familiar with Mueller’s probe told The Daily Beast that his team is now zeroing in on Trumpworld figures who may have attempted to shape the administration's foreign policy by offering to ease U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The Special Counsel’s Office is preparing court filings that are expected to detail Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief—and spell out how those offers and counter-proposals were characterized to top figures on the campaign and in the administration, those same sources said.

The new details would not only bookend a multi-year investigation by federal prosecutors into whether and how Trump associates seriously considered requests by Moscow to ease the financial measures. The new court filings could also answer a central question of the Russia investigation: What specific policy changes, if any, did the Kremlin hope to get in return from its political machinations?


“During his investigation, Mueller has shown little proclivity for chasing dead ends,” said Paul Pelletier, a former senior Department of Justice official. “His continued focus on the evidence that members of the Trump campaign discussed sanction relief with Russians shows that his evidence of a criminal violation continues to sharpen. This has to come as especially bad news for the president.”

Mueller’s interest in sanctions arose, at least in part, out of his team’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The Special Counsel’s Office noted in a court filing last week that Flynn had lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak concerning U.S. sanctions. But other portions of this court filing were left redacted.


Mueller’s team is looking closely at evidence—some of it provided by witnesses—from the transition period, two individuals with knowledge of the probe said.

“Sanctions conversations that happened after November are more serious,” said Angela Stent, a former national intelligence officer for Russia under President George W. Bush. “At that point Flynn, for example, would have already known he was going to be part of the administration and those conversations would have included plans for what might happen [next].”


And Flynn wasn’t the only figure talking sanctions during that transition period, three sources with knowledge of the probe said. Several individuals in Trump’s inner circle were developing their own plans to put pressure on other parts of the government to roll back the sanctions, which have cost the Russian economy more than $100 billion, according to Kremlin estimates.


It’s still unclear if Trump adviser Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of one of Russia’s sovereign wealth funds, spoke about sanctions in their now-infamous meeting in the Seychelles held during the last days of the transition. But The Daily Beast previously reported that the two spoke broadly about Russian investment opportunities in the U.S. and the potential for peace in Ukraine.

Just a week after Trump took office, Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii V. Artemenko handed Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer, a “peace plan” that would lift sanctions. Accounts differ on how seriously the proposal was considered by the administration.

Around the same time, Trump reportedly asked staffers in the State Department to come up with a plan to roll back sanctions. But the department’s transition team was disorganized and understaffed, according to one person on the team. The request never made its way to people tasked with advising the White House on sanctions, according to two former national-security officials.

“The Russians were definitely looking to ease sanctions, or the relaxation of sanctions,” said one former Treasury official. “There was clearly a person they supported in the election and Trump clearly had a favorable view of Russia. But the transition was a mess and it took more time to get their feet under them. By the time they got their stuff together, Congress was increasing sanctions.”


The U.S. implemented sanctions on Russia in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea. Those sanctions were broadly supposed to make it more difficult for Russia to make money and to conduct business with the U.S. and its European allies. Several of Russia’s financial entities, including the Russian Direct Investment Fund, one of Moscow’s sovereign wealth funds, and VTB, one of the leading banks in the country, were put under sanctions but still allowed to transact with Americans under certain circumstances. Others, though, including top government officials like Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the formerly state-owned Russian oil enterprise, were blacklisted.

When Trump began campaigning in 2015, the Russian sanctions had started to take a toll on local Russians. Trump, unexpectedly, vowed to roll them back. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions,” the future president said in response to a question from Russian provocateur Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty this month to conspiracy to violate restrictions on foreign agents.

Meanwhile, Putin was in the midst of implementing measures to insulate the economy from total collapse, compliance lawyers told The Daily Beast. With the careful maneuvering of business deals, Russia continued to conduct business with the U.S. and its European allies, two former Obama officials involved in drafting the sanctions said.

But compliance lawyers said investors and U.S. businesses were wary of the legal risks of doing business with Moscow. The lifting of sanctions, lawyers told The Daily Beast, would have allowed for Russia to conduct business with American and European investors with more ease. It would have allowed international businesses and individuals to lend money to Russia as well as borrow, which the sanctions currently broadly restrict.


The topic kept coming up during the campaign. In the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, for example, Donald Trump Jr. reportedly suggested a review of sanctions law.

But since Trump took office, the Treasury Department has increased the number of sanctions on Russia. In April 2017, for instance, the government blacklisted another set of Russian oligarchs and government officials, many of whom have close connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Congress is considering a number of pieces of legislation that would further punish Moscow for its interference in the 2016 elections.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-r ... -to-moscow
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 8:24 am

Donnie has been told to get shit done before he runs away. Maybe Vlad "strongly" briefed him on how fucked he is.


trump is lifting sanctions on Oleg Deripaska and announcing an end to the war in Syria so abruptly on the same day? (BTW, what DID Trump talk with Putin about during their talks with no US translators?

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:22 am

Trump-Russia: Here are the Two Meetings the New Congress Must Investigate First | Opinion

Seth Abramson
On 12/18/18 at 12:50 PM
On January 3, 2019, House Democrats will exercise oversight of President Trump for the first time since his election. Democratic Congressmen Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, and Elijah Cummings—the new committee chairs of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House Judiciary Committee, and House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, respectively—have wisely chosen investigation over impeachment as their first order of business. A review of major-media investigative reports from around the world confirms that an untrammeled, nonpartisan, comprehensive investigation of Trump-Russia collusion will unearth significant evidence of criminality. But sworn testimony to this effect must be taken before proceeding to the controversial question of impeachment.

With this in mind, there are two subjects Congress should immediately move to investigate. Both lines of inquiry require the production of documents by individuals previously permitted to remain beyond the purview of Congressional subpoena, and sworn testimony from witnesses who have either never been called to testify or have been allowed to avoid truthfully answering difficult questions.

First, Congress must investigate the March 31, 2016 National Security Advisory Committee meeting Trump held at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. At this meeting, Trump directed his advisers to ensure that the Republican National Committee platform on Ukraine would take a clear stance opposing lethal assistance to anti-Kremlin rebels there—a major victory for Vladimir Putin, who illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. At the same meeting, Trump also learned that his adviser George Papadopoulos was an intermediary to the Kremlin, and, with a Kremlin agent’s blessing, was seeking to arrange a clandestine summit between Trump and Putin. Instead of firing Papadopoulos and reporting him to the FBI, Trump promoted him to his speechwriting team and made him a key campaign spokesman on Russia.

Media reports now indicate that three of the meeting’s attendees told Special Counsel Robert Mueller that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not, as he insisted to Congress under oath, object to Papadopoulos’ secret negotiations. Moreover, Kremlin agent and former Paul Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnick, with whom Manafort was in touch during the 2016 campaign, later took credit for the RNC platform’s language on Ukraine—underscoring that obtaining more information on this change and the meeting at which it was first discussed are critical. And if Trump aide John Mashburn was telling the truth when he told Congress that Papadopoulos first informed the campaign in spring 2016 that the Kremlin had acquired stolen Clinton emails, Trump’s demand for a pro-Kremlin RNC platform on Ukraine, and his and Sessions’ decision to permit Papadopoulos to continue secretly meeting with Kremlin agents, becomes key evidence of collusion.

A second area of inquiry involves spring 2018 reporting from the New York Times that on August 3, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met in Trump Tower with George Nader, an emissary from the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; Erik Prince, a Trump national security adviser and later an envoy from Trump to a top Russian oligarch; and Joel Zamel, an Israeli business intelligence expert with ties to both Russian oligarchs and Israeli intelligence officers. At the meeting, both Nader and Zamel offered collusive assistance to Trump’s campaign; according to the Times, Trump Jr. reacted favorably to both offers. Zamel, who had in the past attempted to recruit Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn into his intelligence-gathering outfit, offered Trump Jr. a clandestine propaganda and domestic disinformation campaign that mirrored the one Russian trolls ultimately delivered in the final three months of the general election.

The fact that Zamel would, immediately after Election Day, strike a business partnership with Trump’s campaign data-firm—the Steve Bannon-founded Cambridge Analytica—underscores that this August 3, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower must be investigated every bit as robustly as the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting Trump Jr. also attended. Notably, Jared Kushner not only attended the latter meeting but also meetings during the presidential transition that were intended as follow-ups to the former. These meetings, attended by Bannon as well as Flynn, suggest an even broader collusive agreement among powerful interests in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Israel, and Qatar. If the Steele dossier and relevant reporting since its January 2017 publication are to be believed, Kushner personally benefited from this collusion in the form of hundreds of millions in Qatari Investment Authority-backed loans. This means that not only Trump’s historically pro-Russia foreign policy, but also certain policy decisions Trump made in 2017 and 2018 that were favorable to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel must be investigated.

It will take months for a transparent and thorough Congressional investigation of Trump-Russia collusion to wipe away the memory of two years of House Republicans’ stonewalling, disinformation, suppression of evidence, and surreptitious cooperation with White House obstructers—the president included. But if the American people are to regain their trust in the equal application of our rule of law, Democrats must move swiftly to pursue these and other significant investigatory leads uncovered by major media outlets following the 2016 election.

Seth Abramson is Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at the University of New Hampshire and author of Proof Of Collusion (Simon & Schuster, 2018.) On Twitter @SethAbramson​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​
https://www.newsweek.com/trump-russia-c ... ca-1263860
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:50 am

For the past two years, Tump has done everything he could to dismantle this country in the name of staying one step ahead of his endless criminal scandals, while selling out this country to every foreign thug willing to put money into his pocket

TWO WEEKS NOTICE


The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release documents regarding Roger Stone’s testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller.



Remember the Big Story in the Russia Scandal: Donald Trump Betrayed America

In the flurry of new developments—and disinformation—it’s easy to lose sight of this essential and proven fact.

David Corn
December 19, 2018 11:15 AM


Michael Cohen heading to jail. Michael Flynn narrowly avoiding a prison sentence—for now. Paul Manafort stuck in the hoosegow and still tangling with special counsel Robert Mueller. The news of the Trump-Russia scandal these days has focused on the dramatic developments for several top lieutenants in Donald Trump’s crew. (And don’t forget about Roger Stone!) But whenever there is a rush of new details about one slice or another of this controversy—or the other pending or possible cases involving the Trump Foundation, the Trump Organization, the Trump inauguration, the Trump family’s alleged tax fraud, and more—it’s important for all of us (and the media) to keep the spotlight on a central element that has already been established beyond any doubt: Trump betrayed his fellow Americans.

This Big Story often gets lost in the details and the ever-unfolding developments. Naturally, Trump’s alleged role in the campaign finance crimes committed by Cohen has drawn much coverage. (Federal prosecutors stated that Cohen broke the law “at the direction” of Trump: arranging hush-money payments to a porn star and a Playboy model who each alleged a sexual relationship with the president.) And the allegations of the Trump Foundation’s illegal activities certainly deserve plenty of headlines. But for more than two years, Trump has kept the paramount point of the Trump-Russia controversy—Trump’s own perfidy—from being the main theme of the narrative.

Trump’s chaff-throwing has prevented core truths of the scandal from shining through, with a big assist from Fox News and “alternative facts” disinformation.
Trump has screamed “No collusion,” shrieked “Witch hunt,” and screeched “Hoax.” He has denied and lied. He has strived to make the public believe that the fundamental question is whether he directly conspired with Vladimir Putin to hack Democratic targets and disseminate the stolen material—contending that anything short of that is no big deal. And he and his minions have cooked up multiple conspiratorial distractions, ridiculously insisting Trump has been the victim of a Deep State plot.

And though recent polling shows most of the public believes the president has been dishonest about the Trump-Russia investigation, he has succeeded to an extent. Given the power of Trump’s ultra-bully pulpit, he has been able to win attention for his diversions, no matter how absurd (“Obama wiretapped me!!!”). His chaff-throwing has prevented core truths of the scandal from shining through, with a big assist from Fox News and “alternative facts” disinformation. Trump and his conservative handmaids in politics and right-wing media have done everything they can to prevent a clear-eyed reckoning with what happened in 2016.

Yet recent events make Trump’s already obvious treachery even more obvious. And it’s necessary for journalists and citizens to make sure this can be discerned through the dust Trump kicks up daily.

We now interrupt this article for a pitch: If you’re reading this, I know you value the kind of journalism that pays attention to both the daily revelations and the overarching big picture. That’s what the Mother Jones Washington bureau and I are focused on every day. We deliver the scoops and we cover what they mean, and we can do this only because we receive support from readers like you. (Yes, I’m talking dollars.) Your end-of-year donation will make it possible for us to keep digging and muckraking in 2019. Please send us a few bucks—or more—and help us do the hard-hitting, independent journalism that is so necessary these days. Now, back to the article. —D.C.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the big picture. In late November, Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer and (lousy) fixer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. His lie, Cohen admitted, was designed to help Trump cover up what amounts to a tremendous scandal in its own right: the secret business deal in Moscow that Trump tried to pull off while campaigning for president. After word of this deal emerged last year, Cohen told congressional investigators that Trump’s efforts in Moscow had ended in early 2016 (before the bulk of the Republican primaries) and that there had been no contact between Trump’s company and the Russian government regarding the project (though Cohen said he’d tried but failed to reach Putin’s office to discuss the venture).

All this was false. The efforts to cut a deal continued until at least June 2016—all the way through the GOP primaries—and Cohen did speak with an aide in Putin’s office about the project. Cohen’s plea highlighted one of Trump’s grandest deceits of 2016: Throughout the campaign, Trump insisted he had no connections to Russia. And after the election, he said he had “stayed away” from the country.

The full significance of Trump’s deception of the American public has not sufficiently registered. (Has a single Republican leader said boo about it?)
The exact opposite was true. While Trump had pitched himself to voters as an America First candidate who sincerely held positive sentiments regarding Putin, he had pursued a deal in Russia that could have reaped him hundreds of millions of dollars. And he had not shared this salient fact with the public. Nor had he shared that Cohen, on his behalf, had asked Putin’s office for help. Needless to say, Trump could not have moved ahead with a major endeavor in Moscow if he had been talking tough about the Kremlin. He was thoroughly compromised as a candidate and hid that from the public during the campaign.

In a non-Trumpified world, revelations of this behind-the-scenes scheming for profit would have set off an enormous political earthquake. After all, this was the most significant conflict of interest in modern American campaign history.

But Trump has changed the rules of what counts as a political scandal. And when the Washington Post revealed details of the project in the summer of 2017, no firestorm ensued. After the first splash, most of the media world moved on, and Republicans in Congress barely took notice.

Cohen’s plea last month brought attention back to this secret project—which could well be called an act of collusion between Trump’s company and Putin’s office. Still, the full significance of Trump’s deception of the American public has not sufficiently registered. (Has a single Republican leader said boo about it? None that I have noticed.)

This episode is a reminder that other proven acts of Trump deceitfulness have not become the dominant and widely-accepted storylines of the Russia affair. For example, the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, when Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner sat down with a Russian emissary to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The Trumpsters all say that nothing of use came out of this meeting. But its true import was established before it even occurred: Simply by taking the meeting—which had been described to Trump aides as part of a covert Russian effort to help them win—the Trump camp signaled to the Kremlin that it was fine with a clandestine Moscow scheme to assist Trump, and was willing to secretly collaborate with it.

Pause on that for a moment. An American presidential campaign indicated to the Kremlin it would happily conspire with the Russians on secret dirty tricks.

In the weeks after the Trump Tower meeting—as the Russian hack attack became public and the swiped Democratic National Committee emails were dumped to harm Clinton’s campaign—Trump and his team (including senior advisers who had been at that meeting) had the gall to deny Russia was intervening in the election. They lied and lied, amplifying the Russian disinformation that Moscow was not behind the hacks.

Trump aided and abetted Russia’s secret war on the United States. This is known. And indisputable.
For his part, Trump even called on Russian hackers to target Clinton. And after he received a private intelligence briefing in mid-August 2016 that included the intelligence community’s preliminary assessment that Putin was interfering in the election, Trump publicly and continuously claimed that talk of a Russian assault on US democracy was bunk. And he kept on with this after the Obama administration publicly stated Moscow was the culprit. Trump’s remarks could well have been taken by the Kremlin as a sign that the Trump gang was not concerned or upset about Russian intervention in the US election. (Earlier this month, Dan Friedman and I reported in Mother Jones that two associates of Michael Flynn, Trump’s top national security campaign aide, say Flynn has said he communicated with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and discussed how Trump could work productively with Russia if he won—conversations that also would have sent Moscow the message that Trump was willing to do business regardless of Putin’s assault on the election.)

Let’s recap:

Trump, while campaigning for president, had a secret deal in Russia for which his attorney sought Putin’s help. Trump lied to the public about this.
Trump’s campaign was informed that Moscow intended to intervene to help Trump. It said nothing about this information, essentially encouraged the Kremlin, and denied Moscow’s involvement once the Russian hack-and-dump attack became publicly known.
Trump, after being told the Kremlin was attempting to subvert an American election, claimed no such thing was happening. He covered for Putin.
Trump aided and abetted Russia’s secret war on the United States—a war that helped shape the outcome of a narrowly decided presidential election. This is all known, and indisputable—except that these days, anything will be disputed by Trump and his followers. Even if Trump’s disputations are demonstrable lies—“I have nothing to do with Russia”—they still color and cloud the ongoing public discourse about what happened in 2016. They have prompted his supporters and his GOP comrades to reject or ignore the powerful truth of Trump’s profound betrayal, portraying it as just another debatable point in the grand chaos of the Trump years.

This holiday season, though, the truth is crashing down on several of the president’s men (and one female Russian operative). And Trump’s multiple lies about the hush-money payments have been highlighted, with Trump himself practically branded an unindicted co-conspirator.

As the nation heads toward the third year of the Trump-Russia scandal and the investigations get tougher to track, we must keep in mind the already-known essential fact: The man in the White House engaged in the most consequential political skullduggery in US history. That’s the sad truth—and it is a damn shame that journalists, elected officials, and citizens have to fight every day to keep it front and center in Trump’s multi-ring circus.
https://www.motherjones.com/media/2018/ ... mp-russia/
We will find it’s all connected UK/US election interference the Brexit debacle
All of it the work of a trans national crime syndicate who managed to figure out the wormhole needed to pit us against one another for their benefit
For money and power
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:33 pm

Trump Administration to Lift Sanctions on Putin-linked Oligarch's Companies and the Bank Linked to Trump Tower Moscow Project Will Benefit

By Cristina Maza On 12/20/18 at 11:39 AM
After eight months of lobbying to be taken off the U.S. sanctions list, companies tied to the Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska got their wish on Wednesday.

The Treasury Department notified Congress on Wednesday that it plans to remove three companies belonging to Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, from the sanctions list on the condition that Deripaska relinquishes control over his companies.

Deripaska was sanctioned in April 2018, along with six other Russian oligarchs, for supporting Russia’s efforts to meddle in the internal affairs of Western governments and for a handful of other offenses related to Russia’s activities in Syria and Ukraine.

The energy companies EN+, Rusal, and ESE were also sanctioned due to their relationship with Deripaska. Experts at the time noted that it would be impossible to hit the oligarch financially without forcing the companies to sever their ties with him or face sanctions.

Now, it appears that these efforts have paid off and Deripaska will lose control of the companies with which he built his career and fortune. But some observers have questioned why the ultimate beneficiaries of the deal are entities with legal problems and close ties to the Kremlin: the Swiss commodities firm Glencore, which has done business with Deripaska for years, and the Russian bank VTB (nicknamed “Putin’s piggy bank”), which was allegedly going to finance a Trump Tower in Moscow.

“There are lots of reasonable suspicions that VTB and Glencore are involved in other aspects of these schemes. So what assurances do we have that Deripaska doesn't have influence over them or that other bad actors aren’t taking control?” Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham Law, told Newsweek.

“It's part of Putin's MO to play oligarchs off of each other and simply replace them with other oligarchs. How do we know this isn't just Putin taking Deripaska out of the game and replacing him with his cronies in VTB and other co-conspirators now that Deripaska’s name is known?” Shugerman added.

gettyimages-944092372-594x594 Oleg Deripaska, Russian billionaire and president of United Co. Rusal, pauses on the Bloomberg Television debate panel during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) at the Expoforum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 1, 2017. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The lifting of sanctions hinges on an agreement that the three energy companies restructure their corporate governance so that Deripaska no longer owns a 50 percent share. According to the restructuring agreement between the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the three companies, EN+ will take ownership of both Rusal and ESE. Deripaska, meanwhile, will reduce his share of EN+ from 70 percent to 44.95 percent, and will have almost no ownership of ESE or Rusal.

“As part of this agreement, half of En+'s restructured board of directors will be comprised of U.S. or UK nationals and Rusal's current board chairman will step down. Deripaska will remain sanctioned,” a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell read.

“OFAC has secured from Petitioners a binding agreement that severs Deripaska's control over these critical revenue-generating entities and reduces his ownership in these entities below 50 percent, thereby untangling and protecting these companies from the controlling influence of a Kremlin insider,” the letter continued.

The companies had, in fact, been negotiating aggressively for this very arrangement. They hired the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs, which, coincidentally, previously employed President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort when his finances were deeply entwined with Deripaska’s.



Mercury enlisted the aid of Lord Gregory Barker, the former minister of state for energy and climate change for the United Kingdom, who advocated that the companies be permitted to ditch Deripaska in order to be removed from the U.S. sanctions list.

Now, OFAC and the companies appear to have come to a mutually agreeable solution. But the companies taking over Deripaska’s shares in EN+ raise questions about whether the hit to Deripaska is really hurting Putin and Russia.

VTB Bank will take over some of Deripaska’s lost shares of EN+. Meanwhile, Glencore, which holds a small direct equity stake in the Russian oil company Rosneft, will “swap shares in Rusal” for a direct ownership interest in EN+, according to the letter to Congress.

“Glencore is under investigation for money laundering. It would be laughable if it weren't so serious, and it raises more suspicions that this is Putin and Trump playing shell games,” Shugerman said.

Olga Lautman, an investigative reporter who spent years tracking Russian money in U.S. politics, said that Russian government officials were supportive of the effort to have Deripaska's companies removed from the sanctions list.

"In April, the head of Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service, Igor Artemyev, proposed an idea of temporarily nationalizing Deripaska's stake held in Rusal to protect the company from sanctions," Lautman told Newsweek. "Both VTB and Glencore were previously involved in the 19.5 percent Rosneft sale in 2016, and more recently VTB allegedly offered to finance Trump Tower Moscow. VTB, a state-owned bank, is considered one of Putin's banks that is associated with the Russian intelligence agency the FSB."

Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen recently pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline for attempting to open a Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen originally claimed that the project had been abandoned in January 2016, but the efforts to begin the development project continued for at least six more months, Cohen later admitted.

In 2015, Trump's longtime associate, the Russian-born developer Felix Sater, reportedly bragged in an email to Cohen that he had secured financing for the project from VTB Bank. VTB Bank has denied its involvement in the project.

But despite VTB's involvement in the restructuring of Deripaska's companies, Brian O’Toole, an expert in economic sanctions at the Washington D.C.-based Atlantic Council, argues that the OFAC decision is tough enough to teach Russian oligarchs not to meddle abroad.

“Deripaska just lost 25 percent of his stake in EN+ and he’s not even going to see a cent of it. That’s a pretty remarkable outcome," O’Toole told Newsweek. "Deripaska doesn’t get this 25 percent even if he gets off the [sanctions] list. He’s lost billions of dollars, and he has no ability to influence or control the company that’s been his identity.”

Furthermore, Deripaska’s 44.95 percent stake in EN+ won’t bring him any benefits in the near term, O’Toole noted.

“Deripaska still has a 45 percent stake in the holding company that sits on top of Rusal, but he has no operational influence. He can’t benefit from that stake, he doesn’t get any of those dividends, he can’t sell any of those shares, and he can’t cash out either," O’Toole said. "It’s a pretty big thing, and I think it sends a message to the other oligarchs in Russia, if you’re going to do this then you’re going to have your companies swept out from under you.”



OFAC also went to great lengths to ensure that the Kremlin can’t reap too many rewards from the restructuring, supporters of the agreement said. Kremlin ally Matthias Warnig, who has known Putin since their days in the East German secret police during the Cold War, is required to step down as the chairman of Rusal. And if the companies violate any of the agreements they struck with OFAC, they can easily be placed back on the sanctions list.

“If you look through the letter, it says VTB gets shares but it’s unclear what size of the chunk those shares are. And they don’t get any voting rights because they’re forced to give their voting rights to an independent third party, which is a pretty aggressive play by OFAC,” O’Toole added.

“Both of the actions with VTB and Warnig were direct shots at criticism that the Kremlin was taking over because of the VTB transfer, and kind of an attempt to make sure the Kremlin doesn’t get outsized influence over this by dint of kicking Deripaska out,” he explained.

Glencore, meanwhile, will reap substantial benefits from the arrangement, but will also take on substantial compliance risks, experts said. The company has already come under fire for partnering with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on cobalt extraction projects in the Congo. The U.S. sanctioned Gertler in 2017 for using his friendship with Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to secure lucrative, preferential mining deals.

“Glencore is certainly benefiting from the Deripaska sanctions, it is one of the world’s largest commodities traders and now has a major say in one of the aluminum market player’s future. The company had dealt with sanctioned Russian companies before, most notably Rosneft, and is well known for being willing to engage in political contentious dealings, and generally doing so well,” Maximilian Hess, head of political risk advisory at the London-based consultancy firm AKE International, told Newsweek.

“However, it has faced challenges over the last year, particularly with the sanctioning of Dan Gertler. It agreed on a plan to pay him his dividends in a way that avoids U.S. sanctions, but this has yet to be tested,” Hess continued.

Deripaska has recently become the subject of U.S. public attention due to his close ties to Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was convicted of financial crimes in August. The longtime lobbyist had allegedly offered Deripaska private briefings about the Trump campaign in exchange for debt forgiveness.

In March, a Belorussian escort who had appeared in a video on Deripaska’s yacht was arrested in Thailand and claimed that she had obtained information from the oligarch on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It’s unclear whether the woman, who went by the moniker Nastya Rybka, was telling the truth. But the high-profile conviction of Manafort, and Rybka’s antics from a Thai jail, helped propel the oligarch into the spotlight.

The lifting of sanctions on Deripaska’s companies is subject to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which Congress passed last year. That means that Congress must give its approval before the sanctions can be officially lifted.

"Lifting sanctions makes sense for the other shareholders who were punished for being shareholders in a company Deripaska controlled. However, it does appear that Congress, who can prevent the sanctions from being released, have not warmed to the idea. I expect the debate to be spirited, to say the least," Burke Files, an international financial investigator who has been following the case, told Newsweek.

"Deripaska is still sanctioned, period. The idea is to release economic pressure and damage to those who became collateral damage when Deripaska was sanctioned. It is a bit like being able to aim sanctions more like an economic rifle shot and hit your target and not everyone else in the room," Files added.
https://www.newsweek.com/trump-russia-p ... re-1266018


Russian Agents Sought Secret US Treasury Records On Clinton Backers During 2016 Campaign
Whistleblowers said the Americans were exchanging messages with unsecure Gmail accounts set up by their Russian counterparts as the US election heated up.


Posted on December 20, 2018, at 12:49 p.m. ET

US Treasury Department officials used a Gmail back channel with the Russian government as the Kremlin sought sensitive financial information on its enemies in America and across the globe, according to documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

The extraordinary unofficial line of communication arose in the final year of the Obama administration — in the midst of what multiple US intelligence agencies have said was a secret campaign by the Kremlin to interfere in the US election. Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens.

Most startlingly, Russia requested sensitive documents on Dirk, Edward, and Daniel Ziff, billionaire investors who had run afoul of the Kremlin. That request was made weeks before a Russian lawyer showed up at Trump Tower offering top campaign aides “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — including her supposed connection to the Ziff brothers.


Russia’s financial crimes agency, whose second-in-command is a former KGB officer and schoolmate of President Vladimir Putin, also asked the Americans for documents on executives from two prominent Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as Kremlin opponents living abroad in London and Kiev.

In an astonishing departure from protocol, documents show that at the same time the requests were being made, Treasury officials were using their government email accounts to send messages back and forth with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than communicating through the secure network usually used to exchange information with other countries.

Got a tip? You can email tips@buzzfeed.com. To learn how to reach us securely, go to tips.buzzfeed.com.
Analysts at an elite agency within Treasury first warned supervisors in 2016 that the Russians were “manipulating the system” to conduct “fishing expeditions.” And they raised fears that the Treasury’s internal systems could be compromised by viruses contained in emails from the unofficial Russian accounts. But staff continued using the Gmail back channel into 2017, despite repeated internal warnings that Russia could be trawling for sensitive financial records — including Social Security and bank account numbers — to spy on, endanger, or recruit targets in the West.

The Treasury Department refused to tell BuzzFeed News why its officials were communicating with unofficial Gmail accounts at the same time that Russia was sending the suspicious requests, or to say whether it eventually turned over any documents in response. Nor would officials answer any other specific questions about the matter.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “Treasury does not discuss or comment on confidential communications with foreign governments, including to confirm whether or not they have occurred. We have notified our Office of the Inspector General of these allegations.”

Want to support more reporting like this? Become a BuzzFeed News member today.

But documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal that Russia’s attempts to extract information about Western targets triggered alarms inside the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, a powerful unit of the Treasury Department with exclusive access to the most comprehensive and sophisticated financial database in the world.

Officials at FinCEN said they reported the use of the back channel to Treasury’s counterterrorism unit and security office, and requested an investigation. They said it was a breach of protocol and that it exposed the Treasury to potential hackers because the Russian messages contained attachments — a common way for intruders to worm inside an organization’s servers.

“If the attachment had a virus it could infiltrate the server,” a senior FinCEN official told BuzzFeed News. This source said insiders have been concerned that their internal records could have been corrupted.

The FinCEN officials reported the incidents in July and August 2016, and claim that there was no substantive investigation of the matter. These sources said that other senior officials continued to use the back channel even after they were told to stop by the Treasury’s office for security.

They suspected that the Russian agency making the requests, called Rosfinmonitoring, set up by Putin in 2001 to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, was closely tied to Russia’s espionage apparatus.

“They are passing information that may have interest to the Russians for other reasons,” a FinCEN official wrote to colleagues in March 2017. “One has to wonder what the heck is going on here.” This official filed for whistleblower protection and quit last year.

“If you are a Russian government entity and you are communicating with Americans, you have an FSB officer sitting right next to you and that officer is probably sending the email.”
In emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News, FinCEN insiders expressed shock that staff in another Treasury office had agreed to communicate with the Russians outside of normal, secure channels. FinCEN uses an encrypted portal called the Egmont Secure Web to exchange information with more than 160 other countries, including Russia, and to keep sensitive financial data out of the wrong hands.

A former US intelligence official who served in Russia for many years told BuzzFeed News that the use of unsecure accounts is a major red flag for espionage activity.

“Rosfinmonitoring is under the command and control of the FSB,” the former intelligence officer said, referring to Russia’s spy agency. “If you are a Russian government entity and you are communicating with Americans, you have an FSB officer sitting right next to you and that officer is probably sending the email.”

The first chapter in this extraordinary chain of communications began in late 2015, when a unit of the Treasury Department called the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes entered into an agreement, named the ISIL Project, that called for Russia and the US to share information on financial institutions in the Middle East suspected of supporting ISIS.

According to a senior FinCEN intelligence analyst, Russia’s subsequent actions suggest that was just a cover. “What we were seeing with Russia was the fruition of a long-term strategy to try and compromise Treasury by cultivating civil servants. That’s why we sounded the alarm and reported it.”

It was not the only time that concerns about serious counterintelligence threats were raised at the elite financial intelligence unit during the past two years.

Six sources told BuzzFeed News that at least two FinCEN analysts were reported to Treasury’s inspector general over suspicions that they might have been working against the interests of the US.

One analyst was a man with close family ties to Ukraine. He was tracking the finances of corrupt foreign officials in a job that requires a security clearance. Four sources said they were told by security officials at the agency that the analyst turned out not to have one. He had applied for clearance during his previous posting at the State Department, they were told, but was denied it because of suspicious contacts with foreigners. The sources said the man also had unusual contacts with his colleagues both before and after he was fired. Shortly after he was escorted out of FinCEN early last year, he showed up outside a coworker’s apartment building late at night and asked questions about investigations and internal Treasury databases. The coworker reported the encounter to supervisors.

The man’s uncleared access to sensitive information was considered such a major national security breach that FinCEN was stripped of its authority to grant security clearances for some time, according to these four sources. FinCEN’s security chief was later placed on administrative leave.

A second employee was suspended after he was caught traveling to other countries without informing his supervisors — something that FinCEN analysts are forbidden to do because of the value their data could have to foreign powers. A Treasury spokesperson declined to answer detailed questions about these matters.

These revelations are the latest evidence of the disarray inside America’s financial intelligence system, which a two-year BuzzFeed News investigation has laid bare.

FinCEN is a critical US law enforcement agency that each day collects and analyzes thousands of bank reports about suspicious financial behavior. Analysts have played a key role in current investigations by the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller, assisting FBI agents with inquiries into the murky finances of President Donald Trump and his associates.

Yet hundreds of internal records and interviews with more than a dozen insiders — from frontline workers to senior leaders — show an agency in turmoil, torn apart by turf battles, sinking morale, and internal chaos. Officials there say that, as a result, the unit struggles to hold the line against global money launderers, terrorist organizations, and drug cartels, and lies vulnerable to foreign threats.

Critical financial records on some Trump associates and Russian figures, collected by FinCEN analysts, have not been turned over to Congress, despite numerous requests. And more than a dozen FinCEN officials say that a rivalry with another unit of the Treasury Department cost them several crucial hours of work to track suspects’ movements in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 London Bridge terror attack.

The disarray bled into FinCEN’s daily output. One analyst wrote an investigative memo last year that was shared with the FBI, falsely connecting a member of Trump’s inner circle to a notorious Kremlin bagman. BuzzFeed News reviewed that memo and quickly debunked it; a spelling error led the analyst to mistake an unrelated person for the Putin financier.

At least 10 FinCEN employees have filed formal whistleblower complaints about the department. The whistleblowers say they tried multiple times to raise concerns about issues they believed threatened national security, but that they faced retaliation instead of being heeded. Some of FinCEN’s top officials quit in anger. One senior adviser has been arrested and accused of releasing financial records to a journalist.

That adviser, a whistleblower named Natalie Mayflower Edwards, first sounded the alarm in the summer of 2016. She went on to speak with six different congressional committee staffers to air her concerns. In July and August 2018, she met again with staffers of one of the Senate committees investigating Russian interference during the presidential campaign. In those meetings, she told the staffers that FinCEN withheld documents revealing suspicious financial transactions of Trump associates that the committee had requested.

Along with a colleague, Edwards wrote a letter last year to six congressional oversight committees. In it, the analysts included documentary evidence and Edwards wrote, “I have brought forward lawful documented evidential disclosures of violations of law, rule, and regulations, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, and substantial and specific danger to public safety and I have NOT been protected against reprisal.”

Edwards added that she reported the “wrongdoing” to her supervisor, the inspector general, Treasury’s general counsel, Treasury security personnel, and the counterterrorism unit, requesting an internal investigation, as well as alerting the Office of Special Counsel, the federal government agency that deals with whistleblower complaints. Despite her disclosures, she wrote, “I continue to be retaliated against.”

“May Edwards took it on herself to try and protect everyone here as well as national security,” a senior FinCEN official told BuzzFeed News. “Nobody listened to her or some of the other brave whistleblowers who came forward. They’re all now paying a high price.”

Over the past two years, BuzzFeed News reporters have spoken at length to 12 individuals inside FinCEN. These men and women asked for anonymity to draw back the curtain on breakdowns inside the world’s most powerful financial watchdog. They described an agency turned upside down, where failures left them vulnerable to foreign threats, hampered their ability to investigate financial crimes, and ultimately put the public in danger.

A high-risk agreement

The foundations of the Treasury Department’s highly unorthodox relationship with its Russian counterpart were built late 2015, sources and internal documents show.

One of FinCEN’s key jobs is to work with other governments to track illicit money networks and shell companies across the globe. Nearly 160 countries, including Russia, have agreements to share bank information through a secure network.

But Russia chose to work outside that system — and it began by building a relationship with a unit of Treasury called the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

Senior officials from the terror unit had multiple meetings with top officials at Rosfinmonitoring to discuss jointly tracking the financing of ISIS. Among the negotiators was the Russian financial watchdog’s second-in-command, Yuri Korotky. Korotky went to a KGB finishing school the same year that Putin finished his training there, and worked for the KGB’s successor, the FSB, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yuri Korotky
Rosfinmonitoring / Via Rosfinmonitoring.ru
Yuri Korotky
Rosfinomintoring did not return detailed messages seeking comment.

Korotky and other Russian officials proposed that Rosfinmonitoring trade information directly with the US as part of their joint effort to defeat ISIS. But almost immediately, the Russians reneged on their end of the bargain.

Rosfinmonitoring was slow to share data. It sought ways to work around FinCEN, the Treasury office that had sole access to the data it wanted, and whose analysts were skeptical of sharing information directly with Russia. By the summer, Rosfinmonitoring had made a series of requests about individuals and companies seemingly unconnected to ISIS or jihadi terror.

Among them were Alexander Lebedev, a newspaper publisher and Putin critic based in London. The Russians asked for financial tracking documents on a company tied to the Panama Papers, the multinational investigation that embarrassed the Kremlin by revealing Putin’s financial network. Throughout 2016, Rosfinmonitoring asked for documents on nearly two dozen entities that FinCEN insiders believed were enemies of the Kremlin.

Even more concerning: Documents show senior officials within the Terrorist Financing unit were communicating with Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than using the standard secure channels.

“They sent this to a GMAIL account? Is that normal?”
When she found out, FinCEN’s chief of staff was stunned.

“They sent this to a GMAIL account? Is that normal?” she asked in an email to a half dozen colleagues on Nov. 28, 2016.

The chief of staff was responding to Treasury colleagues who were discussing with Rosfinmonitoring the outlines of their agreement to track terrorism financiers.

“Unfortunately, Rosfin does prefer throwaway gmail accounts as their preferred method to communicate,” a FinCEN intelligence official responded.

In March 2017, this same official wrote to supervisors to warn that Russia was manipulating the system. She said that the Terrorist Financing unit, which set up the collaboration with Russia, wasn’t forthcoming about the extent of its relationship with that country and wouldn’t let FinCEN attend meetings with its representatives.

Jamal El-Hindi speaks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance.
GOPFinancialServices / YouTube / Via youtube.com
Jamal El-Hindi speaks at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance.
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A power vacuum

Just as the Kremlin started fishing, a new leader took over FinCEN.

Jamal El-Hindi has spent nearly two decades at Treasury. When he was named acting director of FinCEN in June 2016, he assumed control of one of the most important law enforcement bodies in the US.

But during his tenure, FinCEN has withered.

About 70 full-time jobs have gone unfilled, sources said, and El-Hindi canceled popular programs that insiders felt helped them recruit young, talented analysts. Employees grumbled about a laggardly pace inside the building and complained that basic reports once took days to be approved but were now being held in limbo for weeks.

Twelve current and former employees said El-Hindi was notoriously late to meetings. Unlike his predecessors, he did not set yearly priorities, they said. One veteran supervisor said that on El-Hindi’s watch, FinCEN became too cautious and too concerned with the optics of its work rather than the substance.

A slide from the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results.
Obtained by BuzzFeed News
A slide from the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results.
“El-Hindi’s failure to make decisions is legend at FinCEN,” this official said. “At one point, the previous director had him put together a decision-making seminar in hopes he might learn how to decision-make.” BuzzFeed News sent El-Hindi detailed messages personally and through Treasury, but received no response. The previous director also did not respond to queries.

A new director, Ken Blanco, took over the unit in November 2017.

“Treasury does not comment on personnel actions or matters,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

By 2017, morale at FinCEN ranked dead last among every unit at the Treasury Department. Frustrated by the dysfunction, seasoned employees started leaving for more lucrative work in the private sector. That’s when officials in a rival department made a lunge for FinCEN’s greatest asset.

Whistleblowers say the US Treasury Department has been consumed by chaos during the past two years.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images


Turf war

The unit of Treasury that monitors suspicious bank transactions outside the US is called the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, a sister unit of the terror department that had struck the deal with the Russians. Now, by the fall of 2016, the OIA wanted more authority over FinCEN’s vast database of suspicious financial transactions across the globe.

The unit proposed a “realignment” that would have peeled off FinCEN’s authority over the database, some of its employees, and a piece of its budget. FinCEN staffers were aghast. They worried that El-Hindi was too weak to fend off the incursion and that it would hamper the office’s ability to fight financial crime. They also said the move by OIA was illegal, because it would cross the bright line that is supposed to separate intelligence agencies that collect information abroad from those that collect information on US citizens and residents.

OIA’s maneuver led to an open revolt inside FinCEN. More than a dozen workers reported the matter to their supervisors or to Congress. In September, an attorney from OIA got into a heated exchange with a small group of FinCEN employees, according to eight sources and internal documents.

After BuzzFeed News published a report about the allegations last year, Sens. Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch sent a letter to the Department of Treasury’s inspector general, Eric Thorson, requesting a briefing about the matter.


After months of investigation, Thorson’s office concluded there was no merit to the complaints, which included the allegation that OIA analysts illegally snooped on the banking records of American individuals and companies.

His office noted, however, that OIA has been working for a decade without proper guidelines on how it handles US citizens’ information. The audit report recommended that OIA “as expeditiously as possible” submit its rules to the Department of Justice for approval, which the agency did earlier this year.

El-Hindi wanted his department to “get along” with OIA, these sources said, and did little to stand in that office’s way. In fact, emails show that he instructed his workers not to take their complaints to Congress — which the whistleblowers viewed as a staggering betrayal.

But the FinCEN employees spoke out anyway.

At least 10 filed formal whistleblower paperwork, many for the first time in their government careers. In meetings with six different congressional committees, two of the whistleblowers described a litany of misconduct at Treasury, including Russia’s attempt to gather intelligence on its enemies during the 2016 election. To this day, the committees have done little to address those whistleblowers’ concerns.

Ultimately, FinCEN won out. The realignment failed and the unit retained control over its records. But its battle with OIA wasn’t over.

FinCEN analysts were involved in the search for suspects after terrorist incidents at the Manchester Arena and the London Bridge.



Desperate hours

In May 2017, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in northwest England and killed 23 people. The following month, knife-wielding terrorists attacked pedestrians near London Bridge.

Because the US has access to the largest set of financial records in the world, the British turned to the Americans for help. In the first frantic moments following an attack, FinCEN’s financial databases can reveal important information about the killers, others in their network, or whether another plot is imminent.

FinCEN analysts sprang into action, racing to their headquarters in Northern Virginia to begin searching for clues on a Saturday night. But when they arrived, they discovered that everyone on duty had been locked out of the classified networks that they depended upon. They couldn’t open links from the FBI about the suspected terrorists they were supposed to be chasing and they couldn’t trace the suspects’ funding.

That night, two dozen FinCEN employees learned that the digital keys they needed to unlock classified data had expired without warning. The suspects remained on the run in London, but FinCEN was unable to help track them.

The office that administered those security keys was OIA, FinCEN's rival department.

Staffers were furious.

“We have escalated the critical problem to key individuals,” one of the whistleblowers wrote in an email, “and we still DO NOT have the ability to complete our mission or fully protect the American people.”


OIA blamed the FinCEN employees for forgetting to update their permissions. But more than a dozen FinCEN officials said they saw the incident as retaliation for their earlier power struggle. OIA had sent its own staffers an email weeks earlier reminding them to apply for new keys, but had not sent that same email to anyone at FinCEN. OIA officials blamed that oversight on “time” and “resource restraints.”

The divide grew, and made its way to Congress, where Republican Steve Pearce, chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, demanded answers. The Treasury Department’s inspector general stepped in again to investigate, and concluded that OIA had done nothing wrong — though he did acknowledge the strained relationship between OIA and FinCEN.

The whistleblowers told BuzzFeed News they have largely given up on seeing anyone at FinCEN, OIA, and TFFC held accountable for the chaos that they say has torn the Treasury apart over the past two years.

“It is very hard to measure the sum total of the damage done,” said one of the whistleblowers, a senior FinCEN official. “We are treading water right now.”●

Tanya Kozyreva, Emma Loop, John Templon, and Azeen Ghorayshi contributed to this story.
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/an ... on-backers
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 5:34 pm

Unsealed Documents in Special Counsel Mueller’s Investigation [Updated]
Just Security
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has prosecuted the Russia investigation by bringing charges against a number of former Trump campaign officials and their associates, and against Russian individuals and entities. Those charges have yielded a series of indictments and plea deals. Find below an updated list of substantive documents in cases related to the Russia investigation.

New: Michael Flynn

12/18/2018: Transcript of Sentencing Hearing
12/17/2018: Michael Flynn FD 302 Interview Report (date of entry 02/15/17)
12/14/2018: Government’s Reply to Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing
12/11/2018: Defendant’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing
12/4/2018: Government’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing
New: Maria Butina

12/13/2018: Plea agreement and Statement of Offense
07/14/2018: Signed affidavit package
07/14/2018: Criminal complaint
Recent: Michael Cohen

12/12/2018: Transcript of Sentencing Hearing
12/7/2018: Michael Cohen Sentencing Memorandum filed by Special Counsel
12/7/2018: Michael Cohen Sentencing Memorandum filed by SDNY
Recent: Paul Manafort

12/7/2018: Government’s Memo on Breach Determination
Recent (late November): Michael Cohen Criminal Information

11/29/2018: Criminal Information
11/29/2018: Plea Agreement
11/30/2018 Sentencing Memorandum on Behalf of Michael Cohen
U.S. v. 12 alleged Russian intelligence officers

07/13/2018 Indictment
U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al (1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia)

02/16/18 Grand Jury Indictment Against 13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Entities
U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Konstantin Kilimnik (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)

06/08/2018 Superseding Indictment Against Manafort and Kilimnik
U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. (1:18-cr-83, Eastern District of Virginia)

06/04/18 Government’s Motion to Revoke or Revise Order of Pretrial Release
06/04/18 Declaration by Brock W. Domin in Support of Government’s Motion to Revoke or Revise Order of Pretrial Release
05/04/18 Hearing on Motion to Dismiss (full transcript)
04/02/18 Government’s Response in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss
04/02/18 Attachment C (Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo defining Mueller’s authority)
03/09/18 Order Outlining Bail Conditions (noting that because of the criminal charges and the weight of the apparent evidence against Manafort, he “faces the very real possibility of life in prison” and poses a substantial flight risk)
03/08/18 Arraignment for Manafort
02/28/18 Status Report in Advance of Manafort Arraignment
02/26/18 Indictment Against Manafort
U.S. v. Richard W. Gates III (1:18-cr-83, Eastern District of Virginia)

03/01/18 Order on Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Gates
02/27/18 Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Gates (in accordance with Gates D.D.C. plea agreement)
U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:18-cr-83, Eastern District of Virginia)

02/22/18 Superseding Indictment Against Manafort and Gates (charging financial and tax crimes)
02/13/18 Redacted Criminal Case Cover Sheet for Manafort
U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)

02/23/18 Superseding Indictment Against Manafort (charging Conspiracy Against the U.S., Conspiracy to Launder Money, FARA violations, and lying to the executive branch)
09/14/2018 Superseding Criminal Information
09/14/2018 Plea Agreement
U.S. v. Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)

02/23/18 Statement of the Offense
02/23/18 Plea Agreement
02/02/18 Superseding Criminal Information
U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)

02/22/18 Status Report (explaining the venue change from D.D.C. to E.D.Va. in superseding indictment, and that defense counsel was presented with proof of the underlying crimes before an indictment was returned)
02/16/18 Government’s Response to Manafort’s Supplemental Memorandum to His Motion for Reconsideration of Conditions of Release (alleging additional criminal conduct by Manafort in the form of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies)
12/11/17 Supplement on Manafort Property Values
12/08/17 Government Motion to Leave, Exhibit, and Supplemental Declaration in Opposition to Manafort’s Motion to Modify Bail Conditions (accusing Manafort of working with a Russian associate to write a public op-ed in support of Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying work)
12/07/17 Gates Motion to Modify Bail Conditions (reflecting updated bail negotiations)
11/30/17 Gates Motion to Modify Bail Conditions to Attend Family Event
11/30/17 Manafort Motion to Modify Bail Conditions
10/31/17 Government Memorandum (supporting conditions of bail release, complex case designation under the Speedy Trial Act, and notice of intent to use specific foreign bank records)
10/30/17 Manafort and Gates Arrest Warrants
10/27/17 Indictment
In Re GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION (Misc. Action No. 17-2336, District of Columbia)

10/02/17 Memorandum opinion (compelling grand jury testimony of former Manafort and Gates personal counsel)
Grand Jury Subpoena for Sam Nunberg

02/27/18 Grand Jury Subpoena (Former Trump aide Nunberg provided partial text of his grand jury subpoena to multiple news outlets)
U.S. v. Alex van der Zwaan (1:18-cr-31, District of Columbia)

03/27/2018 Government’s Sentencing Memorandum
03/27/2018 Sentencing Memorandum on Behalf of van der Zwaan
02/20/18 Statement of the Offense
02/20/18 Plea Agreement
02/16/18 Criminal Information
U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al (1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia)

02/16/18 Grand Jury Indictment Against 13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Entities
U.S. v. Richard Pinedo, et al (1:18-cr-24, District of Columbia)

02/12/18 Statement of the Offense
02/12/18 Plea Agreement
02/07/18 Criminal Information
U.S. v. Michael T. Flynn (1:17-cr-232, District of Columbia)

12/01/17 Statement by Michael Flynn (not directly part of the trial, but related)
12/01/17 Statement of the Offense
12/01/17 Plea Agreement
11/30/17 Criminal Information
U.S. v. George Papadopoulos (1:17-cr-182, District of Columbia)

10/05/17 Statement of the Offense
10/05/17 Plea Agreement
10/05/17 Transcript of Arraignment and Plea Agreement Hearing
10/03/17 Criminal Information
07/28/17 Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint
07/28/17 Criminal Complaint
Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s Appointment Order for Special Counsel Robert Mueller

04/02/18 Attachment C (Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s August 2017 memo defining Mueller’s authority)
05/17/17 Order 3915-2017
Other Cases Related to the Mueller Investigation

On Jan. 3, 2018, Paul Manafort filed a civil suit against the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, and Robert Mueller. It contended that Rosenstein’s special counsel Appointment Order exceeded the scope of the special counsel regulations, and was invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act. The suit seeks declarative and injunctive relief to set aside the Appointment Order and the investigation’s actions toward Manafort, and to declare Mueller’s authority limited to investigating Russian collusion, and enjoin investigating beyond that matter.

Paul J. Manafort v. U.S. Department of Justice, et al. (1:18-cv-11, District of Columbia)

03/02/18 Defendants’ Reply Memorandum to Plaintiff’s Opposition to Motion to Dismiss
02/27/18 Motion to Unseal Sealed Document [#20] filed by David Andrew Christenson
02/21/18 Order Denying David Andrew Christenson’s Motion to Intervene
02/14/18 Plaintiff’s Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
02/14/18 Order Denying Motion to Intervene by Freedom Watch
02/13/18 Defendants’ Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Intervene by David Andrew Christenson
02/06/18 Defendants’ Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Intervene by Freedom Watch
02/02/18 Second Supplemental Motion to Intervene by David Andrew Christenson
02/02/18 Department of Justice Motion to Dismiss
01/26/18 Motion to Intervene by David Andrew Christenson
01/23/18 Motion to Intervene by Freedom Watch
01/03/18 Civil Complaint
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

https://www.justsecurity.org/46583/unse ... stigation/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:51 pm

THE MOVING PARTS: THE WALLS COME DOWN AROUND TRUMP

December 20, 2018/8 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

The other day (I forget which day it was, to be honest) I wondered aloud whether, as it became clear the walls were collapsing around Trump, he’d make a rash move to pay off his debts, perhaps to salvage something for his post-Presidenting life.

I’m not sure we’re quite at that point yet. But in recent days, a ton has happened it’s hard to make sense of.

This post doesn’t pretend to offer answers. I just want to write down everything I think is happening in one place — bloggers prerogative, call it.

MATTIS RESIGNS, CITING TRUMP’S FONDNESS FOR AUTHORITARIANS

The most alarming news is not that James Mattis resigned, but how he did so. In his resignation letter, he cited the importance of NATO, and China and Russia’s authoritarianism that promotes their interest over that of their neighbors, America, and our allies, before he made it clear that Trump disagrees with Mattis in rejecting those authoritarian values.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America[,] and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. [my emphasis]


The precipitating event, though, was Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria.

Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House on Thursday afternoon in a last attempt to convince Mr. Trump to keep American troops in Syria, where they have been fighting the Islamic State. He was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result.


One source says that Trump’s decision to close the Special Forces base in Syria is part of the problem.

The US is set to shut a special forces base in Syria that has been the subject of repeated Russian complaints, and that some US officials have cast as a key part of US efforts not just to defeat ISIS but to counter Iranian influence in the country.

Muhannad al-Talla, a rebel commander at al-Tanf, a US base near the Syrian border with Jordan, told BuzzFeed News that the base would see the withdrawal of the US troops who have trained and fought alongside rebels there.


I’m wondering if this base was involved in the shellacking of Putin ally Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s mercenaries.

Another is Erdogan’s threat (or promise) to massacre our longstanding Kurdish allies.

Defense officials tell me Mattis went to the White House to discuss Syria & that he was livid after reading reports that Turkey’s Defense Minister threatened to kill US-backed Kurds & put them in ditches once the US withdrew. He was incensed at this notion of betrayal of an ally.


Effectively, it seems, Mattis told Trump, “it’s me or Vladimir Putin” … and Trump chose Putin.

ERDOGAN EXERCISES LEVERAGE — OR IS HE THE MESSENGER BOY?

But it wasn’t exactly — or just — Putin that finally got Trump to deliver on the payback he started delivering 14 hours after polls closed in 2016. It was Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As I noted, Trump met with Erdogan in Argentina but not — after the Michael Cohen allocation made it clear Putin was enticing Trump with a Tower deal in 2016 — Putin.

Multiple reports say a call Trump had with Erdogan on Friday was the precipitating factor.

That leads me to wonder what leverage Turkey, specifically, has over Trump, such that he’d pull out of Syria in response to a threat to massacre the Kurds, which will make it easy for Turkey to massacre the Kurds.

And I have to believe Turkey’s ploy with the Jamal Khashoggi execution is part of it. Erdogan never gave a shit that the Saudis lured a dissident to their soil to dismember alive. Erdogan himself pursues such repression, even if he conducts it with a bit more cover.

Indeed, whatever Erdogan has over Trump also has him considering extraditing Fethullah Gulen to Turkey for what would certainly be similar treatment — the payoff Turkey was requesting back in December 2016 when Trump’s chosen National Security Advisor was still hiding that he had been an unregistered agent for Turkey.

Perhaps Turkey has proof not just implicating Mohammed bin Salman in the execution, but Jared Kushner in green-lighting it, or possibly even Trump?

MUELLER’S MOVES TOWARD ENDGAME

It’s hard — particularly given comments from people like Nancy Pelosi — to separate it from what feels like an approaching Mueller (attempted) endgame. The lead-up to Flynn’s aborted sentencing featured the following:

Flynn makes an ill-considered attack on the legitimacy of the Mueller probe
Emmet Sullivan orders the release of the documents with which Flynn was attempting to undercut Mueller
Sullivan orders the far more damning Flynn 302 that, among other things, reveals that Turkey and Russia both had compromising information on Trump and Flynn
DOJ indicts Flynn’s business partners for hiding how Turkey angled to force DOJ to extradite Gulen
At Flynn’s sentencing hearing, Sullivan emphasizes that Flynn had been an agent of Turkey while ostensibly working for Trump and mentions the word treason
Plus there’s evidence that Jared Kushner — who has been the boy plaything for all these ruthless players — probably tried to attack Flynn even while he was having a grocery store tabloid pimp the Saudis.

And it was revealed that the Mystery Appellant refusing to provide information to Mueller is a foreign-owned corporation, probably a Russian or Middle Eastern bank or sovereign wealth fund funneling money to Trump or Jared. The company appears to have asked for an en banc review today.

Mueller also asked for and got the House Intelligence Committee to release its transcript of Roger Stone’s testimony. The timing of this is the interesting thing: Mueller chose to do this when Republicans had to (and did) vote to expose Trump’s top political advisor to indictment. He could have waited, but didn’t. That suggests either he wanted Republican buy-in, or he needs the transcripts now, to finalize his case against Stone before Democrats take over in a few weeks.

The day after SSCI released materials on James Wolfe, he was indicted.

So things are moving to a head in the Mueller probe, and in a way that both Russia and Turkey may be implicated.

MATT WHITAKER PERFORMS A HEADFAKE BEFORE TAKING THE CORRUPT STEP HE WAS HIRED TO TAKE

Then there was the news today on big dick toilet salesman Matt Whitaker. This morning, multiple outlets reported that DOJ had told Whitaker he didn’t have to recuse from the Mueller probe. After that became the headline, however, multiple outlets revealed that the truth was the opposite: an ethics advisor had told Whitaker he should recuse, and having heard that, Whitaker consulted a hand-picked committee that predictably told him not to.

Within days of the president’s announcement in early November that he had put Whitaker in the role on a temporary basis, Whitaker tapped a veteran U.S. attorney to become part of a four-person team of advisers on his new job, according to a senior Justice Department official. Their guidance included the question of whether Whitaker should recuse himself from Mueller’s investigation because of his past statements regarding that probe and because of his friendship with one of its witnesses, the official said.

Whitaker never asked Justice Department ethics officials for a formal recommendation, nor did he receive one, this official said.

However, after Whitaker met repeatedly with Justice Department ethics officials to discuss the facts and the issues under consideration, a senior ethics official told the group of advisers on Tuesday that it was a “close call” but that Whitaker should recuse himself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the official said. Whitaker was not present at that meeting, they said.

Those four advisers, however, disagreed with the ethics determination and recommended to Whitaker the next day not to recuse, saying there was no precedent for that, and doing so now could create a bad precedent for future attorneys general.

That big dick toilet salesman Whitaker did this is not surprising.

That he chose to roll out this admission today is worth noting. One outlet reported that, up until today, Whitaker had not been briefed on the Mueller probe. Apparently, in the wake of a judge raising treason concerns after having reviewed Mike Flynn’s behavior, Whitaker has made the move to become Trump’s mole on the Mueller probe.

TRUMP PREPARES TO SHUT DOWN GOVERNMENT

All this is happening as Trump prepares to shut down the government because Fox News laughed at him for getting pantsed by Nancy Pelosi.

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said the Democrats had won the showdown, and Trump had lost.

He launched into a tirade saying the president “loses, and the Democrats will win everything” based on his apparent decision to compromise with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Doocy said Trump’s defeat would not only risk his campaign commitment to build the wall, but also bring into question his electoral promises to curb the rest of the government’s spending.


In response, over the course of today, Trump told Republicans he’d veto any continuing resolution that didn’t include $5 billion for his steel slat wall, making it much more likely we’ll have a shutdown as Trump skedaddles to Mar-a-Lago to take calls from his authoritarian buddies.

This may be entirely unrelated. After all, Fox and Friends is Trump’s bubble, that’s the only place where he considers losses to matter, and after the truth that Pelosi had bested him started to seep through, the narcissist-in-chief had no choice but to make a rash demand that Republican politicians sacrifice their careers in deference to his tantrum.

Which is to say that this behavior is precisely what we should expect when a narcissist’s mirror tells his he has been bested by someone he must demean.

Or maybe it is related?

PUTIN — OR SOMEONE ELSE — IS CALLING IN RECEIPTS

As I’m thinking about these things, I keep thinking back to an argument I made in August. I argued that Putin had compromised Trump not with a pee tape, but by ensuring his people kept receipts every time Trump got sucked deeper and deeper into a deal with Russia.

People are looking in the entirely wrong place for the kompromat that Putin has on Trump, and missing all the evidence of it right in front of their faces.

Vladimir Putin obtained receipts at each stage of this romance of Trump’s willing engagement in a conspiracy with Russians for help getting elected. Putin knows what each of those receipts mean. Mueller has provided hints, most obviously in that GRU indictment, that he knows what some of them are.

For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.


But Mueller’s not telling whether he has obtained the actual receipts.

And that’s the kompromat. Trump knows that if Mueller can present those receipts, he’s sunk, unless he so discredits the Mueller investigation before that time as to convince voters not to give Democrats a majority in Congress, and convince Congress not to oust him as the sell-out to the country those receipts show him to be. He also knows that, on the off-chance Mueller hasn’t figured this all out yet, Putin can at any time make those receipts plain. Therein lies Trump’s uncertainty: It’s not that he has any doubt what Putin has on him. It’s that he’s not sure which path before him — placating Putin, even if it provides more evidence he’s paying off his campaign debt, or trying to end the Mueller inquiry before repaying that campaign debt, at the risk of Putin losing patience with him — holds more risk.

Trump knows he’s screwed. He’s just not sure whether Putin or Mueller presents the bigger threat.


It has since become clear that not just Russia, but at least also Turkey and whatever bank is fighting a demand from Mueller that it turn over evidence of Trump’s graft, also have receipts.

Nevertheless, at the moment where it has become increasingly clear that Mueller knows much of whatever blackmail these partners have over Trump, Trump has chosen, instead, to alienate the Senators who might keep him from being impeached by evacuating from Syria and, later reports make clear, Afghanistan.

Trump is, on a dime and without warning to our closest allies, rolling up the American Empire. And he’s doing it not because he’s a peacenik — as far too many self-described progressives are trying to claim — but because ruthless, committed authoritarians have convinced him he needs their continued approval more than he needs the approval of even the Republican hawks in the Senate.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/12/20/t ... und-trump/
We will find it’s all connected UK/US election interference the Brexit debacle
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For money and power
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Dec 21, 2018 4:33 pm

Russia Gloats: ‘Trump Is Ours Again’

If Moscow was happy about the Syria pullout, it’s ecstatic about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation.

12.21.18 12:49 PM ET
The Kremlin is awash with Christmas gifts from Washington, D.C. and every move by the Trump administration seems to add to that perception. On Wednesday, appearing on the Russian state TV show “The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev,” Director of the Moscow-based Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies Semyon Bagdasarov said that the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is “struggling to keep up” with the flurry of unexpected decisions by the U.S. President Donald Trump. The news that Mattis decided to step down sent shock waves across the world, being interpreted as “a dangerous signal” by America’s allies.

Meanwhile, the Mattis departure is being cheered in Russia. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Upper House of the Russian Parliament, has said that “the departure of James Mattis is a positive signal for Russia, since Mattis was far more hawkish on Russia and China than Donald Trump.” Kosachev opined that Trump apparently considered his own agenda in dealing with Russia, China and America’s allies to be "more important than keeping James Mattis at his post," concluding: "That’s an interesting signal, and a more positive one” for Russia.

Jubilation was even more apparent on Russia’s state television, which adheres closely to the Kremlin’s point of view. The host of the Russian state TV show “60 Minutes,” Olga Skabeeva asserted: “Secretary of Defense Mattis didn’t want to leave Syria, so Trump fired him. They are leaving Syria.”

President Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, remarked: “The idea that Putin is happy about this [Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from Syria] is ridiculous. It puts them at a greater risk, so I think that's just silly.” To the contrary, the idea of an American withdrawal from Syria is being widely perceived in Russia as “a total dream come true” if it truly takes place.

State TV host Olga Skabeeva surmised that Americans are “losers, since Putin has defeated them in every way.” With a theatrical sigh, her co-host, Evgeny Popov, added: “Trump is ours again—what are you going to do?” Every member of the sizeable audience enthusiastically clapped. While these statements are decidedly sarcastic, Russian opinion makers recount the Kremlin’s victories with unmistakable glee. Popov smirked: “It seems to Americans that we won on every front: the U.S. Secretary of Defense has been removed, we unquestionably secured a complete, unconditional victory in Syria.” Skabeeva chimed in: “They’re also planning to leave Afghanistan.”

Popov pointed out: “On top of that, Rusal sanctions have been lifted with Trump’s hands.” Panelists of the show, including Russian lawmakers, couldn’t hide their satisfied grins. The reference was to the announcement that Trump’s Treasury Department intends to lift sanctions against the business empire of Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs, sanctioned for Russian interference in the U.S. elections.

Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett told The New York Times that the move to lift Rusal sanctions amounted to Trump “sliding another big gift under Vladimir Putin’s Christmas tree.” The gesture is certainly being interpreted that way in Russia. Deripaska’s attorneys are reportedly mounting an aggressive campaign to pursue the removal of personal sanctions from the Putin-linked oligarch as well.

Discussing the planned departure of the U.S. from Syria, state TV host Olga Skabeeva pondered why Trump suddenly decided to leave at this point in time: “Americans say, it’s because he is beholden to Putin. Is that logical? Yes, it is.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-gl ... n?ref=home
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Dec 21, 2018 11:53 pm

A Complete Guide to All 17 (Known) Trump and Russia Investigations


ORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images
While popular memory today remembers Watergate as five DNC burglars leading inexorably to Richard Nixon’s resignation two years later, history recalls that the case and special prosecutor’s investigation at the time were much broader; ultimately 69 people were charged as part of the investigation, 48 of whom pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial.

After three weeks of back-to-back-to-back-to-back bombshells by federal prosecutors and special counsel Robert Mueller, it’s increasingly clear that, as 2018 winds down, Donald Trump faces a legal assault unlike anything previously seen by any president—at least 17 distinct court cases stemming from at least seven different sets of prosecutors and investigators. (That total does not count any congressional inquiries, nor does it include any other inquiries into other administration officials unrelated to Russia.)

While the media has long short-handed Mueller’s probe as the “Russia investigation,” a comprehensive review of the cases unfolding around the president and the question of Russian influence in the 2016 campaign harkens back to another lesson of Watergate: Deep Throat’s dictum, “Follow the money.”

More than two years in, the constellation of current investigations involves questions about foreign money and influence targeting the Trump campaign, transition, and White House from not just Russia but as many as a half-dozen countries. Prosecutors are studying nearly every aspect of how money flowed both in and out of Trump’s interconnected enterprises, from his hotels to his company to his campaign to his inauguration. While President Trump once said that he’d see investigations into his business dealings as crossing a “red line,” it appears that Trump himself obliterated that line, intermingling his business and campaign until it was impossible for prosecutors to untangle one without forensically examining the other.

Obviously, some of these investigations below may—or will—eventually overlap. Many of the players, particularly those like Michael Cohen, may end up central to multiple cases. And the existence of an investigation does not necessarily mean convictions will follow.

There’s also plenty we don’t know about who else Mueller and other investigators might have in their sights, or who might be cooperating. There’s even a special mystery witness Mueller was fighting in court last week. Notably, most of the open investigations involve known cooperators, not to mention likely millions of documents, telephone calls, recordings, emails, communications, and tax returns assembled by the special counsel and other prosecutors.

Here’s a complete rundown of the various known investigations targeting Trump’s world from local, state, and federal prosecutors:

Investigations by the Special Counsel

1. The Russian Government’s Election Attack: The special counsel moved aggressively to outline and charge the Russian government’s core attack on the 2016 election, which included both active cyber intrusions and data theft by the military intelligence unit GRU and the GRU’s attempted attacks on the US voting system, as well as online information influence operations by the Internet Research Agency, known by the moniker “Project Lakhta.” Numerous threads from this investigation remain unseen—including a possible cooperator inside the Internet Research Agency, Putin’s own involvement, whether any Americans contributed knowingly to the attack, the role of the FSB’s “Cozy Bear” hackers, and whether or how Russia’s expensive and multipronged attack coordinated with contacts between Russian nationals and the Trump campaign over the course of 2016, including the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Mueller has also reportedly been investigating the role of late GOP activist Peter Smith, who had apparently tried to locate stolen emails and make contact with Russian hackers. It’s also unclear what has sparked Mueller’s apparent continued interest in Trump’s campaign tech firm, Cambridge Analytica.

Status: 12 Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU indicted, 13 people indicted from the Internet Research Agency, alongside three Russian companies, and a guilty plea from one California man who unwittingly aided their identity theft. Manafort aide Sam Patten is cooperating with investigators.

2. WikiLeaks: Whether WikiLeaks’ publishing of the emails stolen by Russian hackers connects from Moscow to Trump Tower itself remains an open question. But a leaked aborted plea agreement from conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi makes clear that Trump associates had at least some advance knowledge of what WikiLeaks was planning to publish. How any of that may connect with looming charges facing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and another apparently abandoned deal for him to leave the Ecuador embassy in London is also unclear.

Status: Both Trump aide Roger Stone and Corsi have said they expect to be indicted. Unclear if looming charges against Assange relate to Mueller investigation.

3. Middle Eastern Influence: Potentially the biggest unseen aspect of Mueller’s investigation is his year-long pursuit of Middle Eastern influence targeting the Trump campaign, which the Daily Beast reported last week might become public sometime early next year. As the Daily Beast wrote, “The ‘Russia investigation’ is set to go global.” The investigation appears to center on the role of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, which were eager to help the campaign and, in some cases, have business ties to Trump or presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner specifically appears to have been a key focus of these foreign efforts: The New Yorker and other news outlets have carefully traced how China, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia targeted the White House senior adviser.

Status: No public court activity yet, but two key figures are known to be cooperating: Middle East would-be power broker George Nader and Blackwater mercenary group founder Erik Prince.

4. Paul Manafort’s Activity: What began over a year ago with a sweeping money laundering indictment targeting Trump’s one-time campaign chair—and resulted in his conviction on eight felonies at trial before he accepted a plea agreement on other charges—continues to unfold. In court documents, Mueller has made clear that he’s investigating Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian tied to Russian intelligence. He may also have interest in Kilimnik’s interactions with another Trump associate, real estate investor Tom Barrack, who has also been interviewed by investigators.

Status: Manafort’s been both convicted at trial and accepted a plea agreement; lawyer Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the Ukrainian work; Manafort associate Sam Patten has pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent; Kilimnik has been indicted for obstruction of justice. Known cooperators include Trump deputy campaign chair and Manafort business partner Rick Gates, who has also pleaded guilty to his own role in the money laundering scheme.

5. The Trump Tower Moscow Project: Just days before Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison for the eight felonies he pleaded guilty to in August, Mueller surprised everyone with a ninth charge. Cohen admitted that he lied to Congress about the status of the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow, a proposed project that extended longer into the campaign and proceeded into more serious conversations than previously admitted. The special counsel also noted how the project would be worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars, far more than a normal Trump licensing deal, leading to questions about why it would have been so lucrative. The case also connects the Trump Organization’s business deals, and the campaign, directly to the office of Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose government was at the time busily engaged in the attack on the US election. Moreover, according to statements by congressional investigators and documents released from Congress’s own Russia investigation, other figures, including Donald Trump Jr., may face legal exposure about their own testimony on the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Status: Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the status of the project and is cooperating with investigators.

6. Other Campaign and Transition Contacts With Russia: As journalists have pieced together, at least 14 Trump associates had contact with Russia during the campaign and transition, from foreign policy aide Carter Page to would-be attorney general Jeff Sessions. Questions continue to surround many of those contacts, not least of all the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 that included Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort, and which involved hints that the meeting was only “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” as the email setting up the meeting first promised.

Status: Both national security adviser Michael Flynn and foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to charges related to their campaign and transition contacts with Russia. Cohen and Flynn have both provided extensive cooperation to Mueller about the campaign and transition contacts.

7. Obstruction of Justice: Robert Mueller’s appointment stemmed from Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey and fears that the firing was an attempt to obstruct the initial stages of the Russia investigation. But recent court documents hint that Mueller might be assembling a broader obstruction-of-justice case against Trump, one that could potentially argue that the president’s public statements intentionally misled the public in an attempt to limit the scope of the Russia investigation. Even if Mueller decides there’s enough evidence to bring a case here, it seems more likely to get passed along to Congress for consideration of impeachment rather than prosecuted in court.

Status: No public movement yet, but court documents point to the fact that at least Manafort and Cohen have provided evidence useful to this case about their own contacts in 2017 and 2018 with the White House.

Investigations by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York

8. Campaign Conspiracy and the Trump Organization’s Finances: Despite the myriad cases unfolding from the special counsel, the White House’s most immediate legal jeopardy increasingly appears to stem from federal prosecutors in New York digging into Trump’s alleged financial shenanigans. Perhaps the biggest political bombshell amid the last three weeks has been the new revelations around Michael Cohen, “Individual 1” (as court documents have identified Trump), and the hush money payments to cover up extramarital affairs in the final weeks of the 2016 election. Prosecutors have written that Donald Trump himself directed the payments—an indication that they have solid documentary evidence that hasn’t become public yet—and have apparently lined up nearly every other participant in the scheme as a cooperator.

Status: Cohen has already pleaded guilty, and National Enquirer’s David Pecker, its parent company AMI, Cohen, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg are all cooperating with investigators.

9. Inauguration Funding: Late last week, The Wall Street Journal broke word that prosecutors were digging into the record $107 million raised and spent by the Trump inauguration committee, potentially with concerns about where that money came from and where it went, based in part on documents and evidence seized during the Michael Cohen investigation. Journalists have long raised questions about where the inauguration money went, and the FBI expressed concern about the Russian elites who appeared at the event. We already know that at least some shady money was involved: Manafort associate Sam Patten’s plea agreement includes that he helped a Ukrainian businessman funnel $50,000 to the inauguration.

Status: No public court activity yet beyond Patten, but he is cooperating with investigators.

10. Trump SuperPAC Funding: Related to the news about the inauguration inquiries was word that prosecutors are digging into the funding of a Trump SuperPAC, Rebuilding America Now, where Paul Manafort also played a role.

Status: No public court activity yet, but Manafort aide Sam Patten is cooperating with investigators.

11. Foreign Lobbying: Robert Mueller also handed off information he uncovered during the Manafort money laundering probe to prosecutors in New York. According to news reports, he referred questions about at least a trio of other lobbyists—Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, and Greg Craig—and whether they allegedly failed to appropriately register as foreign agents for work related to Ukraine. Podesta abruptly closed his eponymous lobbying firm last year, and Mueller had previously been interested in the work done by Mercury LLC, Weber’s firm, as well as the law firm Skadden Arps, where Craig worked until earlier this year. Skadden Arps also employed the Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Rick Gates.

Status: Rick Gates is cooperating with investigators.

Investigations by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia

12. Maria Butina and the NRA: The guilty plea last week by Russian agent and gun-rights enthusiast Butina came with an extensive cooperation agreement, including the possibility of her meeting with investigators without lawyers present. While the most immediate next target of the investigation appears to be Butina’s boyfriend, Republican operative Paul Erickson—he was sent a so-called “target” letter by prosecutors recently—questions have also swirled about 2016 campaign funding by the National Rifle Association and the reach of Russia into the US conservative movement. Notably, Butina attended numerous conservative events—including the inauguration—and brought 11 Russians to the annual prayer breakfast, was photographed with numerous conservative leaders, and even asked candidate Trump a question at an event early in the campaign, giving him an opportunity to praise Russia.

Status: Maria Butina has pleaded guilty and is cooperating.

Investigations by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia

13. Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova: The alleged chief accountant of the Internet Research Agency was indicted separately earlier this fall by prosecutors in northern Virginia and the Justice Department’s unit that handles counterintelligence and espionage cases, not by Mueller’s special counsel office. Khusyaynova was charged with activity that went above and beyond the 2016 campaign, including efforts to meddle in this year’s midterms. Why she was prosecuted separately remains a puzzle.

Status: Khusyaynova has been indicted.

14. Turkish Influence: According to court documents, Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contributed to two investigations beyond the Russia probe. While both were redacted in his court case, there are strong hints, including reporting by The New York Times, that one of those two cases includes a grand jury in northern Virginia focused on illegal influence by the Turkish government. According to the Times, “Prosecutors are examining Mr. Flynn’s former business partners and clients who financed a campaign against Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania whom the Turkish government has accused of helping instigate a failed coup.” Flynn’s own sentencing documents allude to the fact that Flynn handed over voluminous records from his own businesses.

Status: Michael Flynn’s plea agreement includes some details of the case. Flynn is cooperating with investigators.

Investigations by New York City, New York State, & Other State Attorneys General

15. Tax Case: In the wake of a New York Times investigation that found Donald Trump had apparently benefited from upwards of $400 million in tax schemes, city officials said they were investigating Trump’s tax payments, as did the New York State Tax Department. Longtime lawyer and Trump fixer Cohen also reported in his own court filing that he met with investigators from the New York Attorney General’s Office, although the court filings didn’t explain what the investigation entailed.

Status: Unknown.

16. The Trump Foundation: The New York Attorney General sued the Trump Foundation this summer, charging it with, as The New York Times summarized, “sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.” A judge just ruled last month that the lawsuit can proceed. Now the incoming attorney general has promised even more wide-ranging inquiries in the Trump business world.

Status: Case is proceeding, having cleared initial court tests.

17. Emoluments Lawsuit: The attorneys general for Maryland and DC sent out subpoenas earlier this month for Trump Organization and hotel financial records relating to their lawsuit alleging that the president is in breach of the so-called Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which appears to prohibit the president from accepting payments from foreign powers while in office. The lawsuit’s discovery phase could push voluminous amounts of information into public view about how foreign governments have funneled business to Trump’s organization, like how the Saudi government evidently purchased more than 500 rooms at Trump’s hotel in DC in the months after the election.

Status: Subpoenas have been issued.

Mystery Investigation Underway by Unknown Office

Redacted Case #2: A second redacted Flynn investigation could be one of the other investigations mentioned here, could represent another as-yet-unknown unfolding criminal case, or could be a counterintelligence investigation that will never become public.

Status: Unknown.

Unrelated Criminality Pursued by Other Offices

Identity Theft Cases: The special counsel charged Californian Richard Pinedo with identity theft stemming from the efforts of the Internet Research Agency to create online fake identities. According to prosecutors, Mueller also uncovered through Pinedo other criminal activity, unrelated to Russia, which has been referred to other offices for ongoing investigation. This approach is consistent with Mueller’s conservative interpretation of his own mandate, only holding on to cases that directly inform the core questions of his case.
https://www.wired.com/story/mueller-inv ... ete-guide/







WE WILL NOT GET PEACE FROM THE PEOPLE WHO DISMEMBER DISSIDENTS ALIVE

December 21, 2018/10 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe, War /by empty wheel

In the wake of Trump’s announcement that the US will withdraw from Syria and James Mattis’ subsequent resignation, Jeremy Scahill captured the ambivalence of the moment this way:

Image
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I agree with much of what Scahill says: I welcome withdrawing troops from overseas. We should never forget that Mattis earned his name, Mad Dog, nor that he got fired by Obama for being too belligerent. The panicked response of a bunch of warmongers is telling. Trump cannot be trusted.

But I think Scahill is too pat in saying “the chaos presents opportunity,” in part because (as he suggests) there doesn’t yet exist “an alternative vision for US foreign policy.”

And while I appreciate that Scahill really does capture this ambivalence, far too many others welcoming a potential troop withdrawal are not recognizing the complexity of the moment.

While we don’t yet fully understand the complex dynamics that led to it, Trump decided to withdraw from Syria during a phone call with a man who has spent two months embarrassing Trump, Trump’s son-in-law, and the corrupt Saudi prince whose crackdown Trump has enthusiastically backed by releasing details of how that prince lulled an American resident dissident to a third country so he could be chopped up with a bone saw while still breathing. And even while Erdogan was embarrassing Trump with those details about Khashoggi’s assassination, he was pressuring Trump to extend the same favor to him by extraditing Fethullah Gulen so he could be chopped up in some grisly fashion.

It is a mistake to think we will get peace from men who dismember dissidents alive.

All that said, Trump will do what he wants and unless the simmering revolt at DOD changes his mind, he will withdraw from Syria and drawdown in Afghanistan.

And if that happens those who would like peace had damn well be better prepared for that “opportunity” than by simply hoping a future alternative US foreign policy arises. It will take immediate tactical actions to prevent any withdrawal from creating more chaos and misery both in the US and overseas. After all, Trump says he wants to bring troops home, but he has already come perilously close to violating posse comitatus by deploying troops domestically, and that was even with Mattis pushing back against that campaign stunt.

At a minimum, those who want peace need to answer some of the following questions immediately:

WHAT PERSON WOULD BOTH BE WILLING TO WORK FOR TRUMP AND PURSUE A POLICY OF PEACE?

I could not think of any person who could be confirmed by the Senate — even one where nutjobs like Marsha Blackburn have replaced people like Bob Corker — that would be willing to work for Donald Trump and might pursue some kind of alternative foreign policy.

In fact, the only person I could think of for the job (ruling out Erik Prince for a variety of reasons) would be Tom Cotton.

So job number one, for people who hope to use this as an opportunity, is to start coming up with names of people who could replace Mattis and anyone else who quits along with him.

HOW TO PREVENT THE REFUGEE CRISIS FROM GETTING WORSE?

Multiple accounts of the events leading up to Trump’s decision make it clear that Erdogan would like to use US withdrawal to massacre the Kurds. It’s possible we’ll see similar massacres in Assad-held Syria and Afghanistan as those left try to consolidate their victory.

For all the years the refugee crisis has been mostly a political prop here in the US, it has posed a real threat to the European Union (indeed, I went to several meetings with EUP members in the weeks before Trump’s election where they said it was the greatest threat to the EU). So we need to start thinking seriously about how to prevent genocide and other massacres and the inevitable refugee crises that would result.

HOW TO COUNTER TRUMP’S FONDNESS FOR FOSSIL FUELS AND ARMS SALES?

No withdrawal is going to lead to “peace” or even a retreat of the US empire so long as Trump exacerbates an already unforgivable US addiction to fossil fuels and reliance on arms sales. Particularly with Saudi Arabia but also with Turkey, Trump has excused his fondness for authoritarianism by pointing to arms sales.

And on these issues, Trump actually agrees with the “war party in DC,” which will make it far harder to counter them. Yes, many of the new Democrats entering Congress — most of all Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — don’t have these horrible habits. So what can you do to make sure her Green New Deal not only isn’t squelched by party leadership, but is seen as the alternative to Trump by centrists?

NUKES. HOW TO PREVENT TRUMP FROM USING THEM?

It’s not that Trump is opposed to violence. He’s opposed to engagement and complexity and long term engagement.

Which means, particularly as more and more so-called adults leave, the chance he’ll turn a tantrum into a nuclear strike. Mattis won’t be there to stop him.

HOW TO BALANCE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE MISTAKES THAT GOT US HERE WITH ACCOUNTABILITY FOR TRUMP?

The movement that brands itself as “The Resistance” has long made a grave mistake of embracing whatever warmed over anti-Trump centrist wanted to loudly denounce the President.

As a result, the mistakes of many of those people — people like John Brennan and Jim Comey and David Frum and David Brooks — were ignored, even when those mistakes created the vacuum that Trump (and Vladimir Putin) have filled.

Trump would not be President if George Bush had not invaded Iraq, abetted by Frum’s nifty tagline, Axis of Evil. Trump would not be President if the banks that crashed the economy in 2008 had been accountable by people like former Bridgewater Associates executive and HSBC board member then FBI Director Jim Comey.

Again, this is about complexity. But so long as those who would keep Trump accountable ignore what made Trump possible, we will make no progress.

HOW TO PRESERVE DEMOCRACY LONG ENOUGH TO PURSUE A NEW FOREIGN POLICY?

Finally, an increasingly real challenge. Trump sides with Putin and Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi not because it serves US interests (which is the excuse American politicians usually offer for tolerating Saudi and Egyptian authoritarianism). He does so because he genuinely loves their authoritarianism.

And as Republicans in the Senate begin to push back against Trump, Democrats in the House try to hold him accountable, and the so-called adults leave his Administration, it raises the chances that Trump will embrace increasingly desperate measures to implement his policies. We can’t just assume that Mueller and SDNY and NY State will prevent a Trump authoritarian power grab, particularly not as he continues to pack the courts.

While numerous State Attorneys General and NGOs are having reasonable success at constraining Trump, thus far, in the courts, eventually we’re going to need a bipartisan commitment in DC to constraining Trump. Eventually we’re going to need to convince a bunch of Republican Senators that Trump is doing permanent damage to this country. That’s going to take building, not severing, relationships with some Republicans, even while finding some means to persuade them that Trump can no longer benefit them.

To some degree, we have no choice but to find answers to these questions, one way or another. It is especially incumbent on those celebrating a withdrawal to acknowledge, and try to answer, them.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2018/12/21/w ... nts-alive/
We will find it’s all connected UK/US election interference the Brexit debacle
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Dec 26, 2018 5:45 pm

Ex-Mossad Head: Russia Decided Trump Was Their Best Candidate, and Ran Him for President
Russia chose the most advantageous candidate and used cyber bots to catapult Trump to the position of U.S. president, Tamir Pardo says

Refaella Goichman Dec 25, 2018 11:34 AM
Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said Monday that Russia deployed tens of thousands of bots to influence the 2016 U.S. elections in favor of Donald Trump, but not because Trump is a great friend of Russia.
https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.pr ... -1.6782359



Russia ‘chose’ Trump and then ‘ran him for president’ — and it could destroy him: ex-Israeli spy chief
1 day ago

President Donald Trump's manner with Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in contrast to the anger he flashed at NATO allies. (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)
Tamir Pardo, the former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, said that Russia “ran” Donald Trump as their preferred candidate in the 2016 elections.

Pardo said at The Marker’s digital conference that Russia examined American politics and decided that Trump was most aligned with their interests.

They “thought, which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House?” he said, according to Haaretz. “Who will help us achieve our goals? And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president.”

But Pardo warned the same tactics used to support Trump could also be used to topple him.

“I don’t see a president coming out of the White House after a year-and-a-half or two and telling the public ‘I’m sitting here by mistake.’ Politicians from all over the world think it serves them too,” he remarked, according to Arutz Sheva.

“I think they’re wrong. At one point Trump might have thought the Russian move served him. This move could destroy him.”

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