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

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2019 2:24 pm
by seemslikeadream
Trump is helping Russia wage information war on America

Caroline OrrJanuary 27, 2019

As Trump and his right-wing media allies seized on the Covington teen controversy, Russian propaganda outlets followed in their footsteps.

The racist incident involving a group of white students from Covington Catholic High School surrounding and taunting a Native American elder in Washington, D.C., last weekend has officially become the latest battle in America’s culture war.

Days after the initial viral video surfaced, the story is still making headlines, with one narrative spreading in mainstream media outlets, and an alternative reality being peddled by right-wing outlets and figures like Gateway Pundit, Fox News, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson.

Naturally, Trump was happy to amplify the narrative being spun by the right, which portrayed the MAGA hat-wearing students as the victims of a biased, left-wing media mob — just innocent teenage boys caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and then unjustly accused of racism.

But Trump and his right-wing allies weren’t the only ones who seized on the incident.

Russian state-sponsored propaganda outlets like RT and Sputnik were also hard at work, churning out multiple stories a day with sensational headlines emphasizing violence, media bias, and the divide around racism in America.

“Breaking the silence: Trump blasts media for pouncing on ‘MAGA boys,'” read one headline by RT, a state propaganda outlet formerly known as Russia Today.

“‘MAGA kids go into the woodchipper’: Disney producer tweets violent threat against Covington boys,” declared another headline by RT.

Notably, the pro-Trump website Gateway Pundit blasted nearly the exact same headline, writing, “Hollywood Producer Calls For the Murder of Covington Catholic Kids: ‘Go Screaming – Into the WOODCHIPPER.'”

Meanwhile, another RT headline focused on the apparent “death, arson & bomb threats” that the school received after the incident.

The overlap between right-wing media and Russian propaganda channels was hard to miss. Sputnik News, another state-sponsored propaganda outlet, followed the lead of networks like Fox News, portraying the students as “falsely accused” and pushing a narrative that blamed the press for rushing to judgment before the “real story” was revealed.

In the ultimate moment of irony, pro-Trump commentator and former CNN contributor Scottie Nell Hughes, who now works for RT, appeared on the Russian propaganda outlet to blast “the shoddy, partisan media for spreading fake news about the youths and suppressing the truth about the encounter.”

Covington High School Russian Propaganda Right Wing Media Collusion

The incident made perfect fodder for Russia’s propaganda machine — and in this case, as in many others, the messaging came straight from Trump and his right-wing allies, who often find themselves in the position of aiding the Kremlin’s attempt to undermine U.S. society through information warfare.

As former Army officer, FBI special agent, and counterterrorism expert Clint Watts has warned, the goals of Russia’s information war against America go far beyond influencing an election or propping up certain candidates.

The broader and much more corrosive goal is to disrupt U.S. democracy and divide our society by exacerbating existing divisions in U.S. society — often, the very same divisions that Trump seizes upon and amplifies.

Ultimately, Russia seeks “to undermine democracy, to make Americans lose confidence in democratic institutions and elected officials by turning every crack in our country into a chasm and pitting different race, ethnic groups, religious groups, socioeconomic groups, Second Amendment, abortion rights, whatever it might be where we fight, instead of being a unified front against them,” Watts told PBS in June 2018.

“The biggest challenge we face moving forward isn’t the Russians,” Watts warned. “It’s really other Americans who see this technique and see the political gain that can come from it and adopt it on their own, meaning they come up with their own news outlets which maybe aren’t telling the truth, but tell a truth that is preferred.”

This is exactly what happened in the days following the Covington incident, as Trump and his preferred media outlets told their own version of the story, spinning the “facts” into a narrative they wanted to tell — one in which the MAGA hat-wearing teens were the real victims of a biased media that collectively “rushed to judgment” because the students were Trump supporters.

In the right-wing echo chamber, the same few talking points were repeated relentlessly, with the ultimate effect of discrediting objective sources of information and encouraging people to distrust not only the media but their own eyes.

The Daily Signal even used the controversy to call into question the very notion of American democracy.

In order to push their narrative and avoid confronting reasonable evidence that conflicted with their version of events, right-wing media sources resorted to one of their favorite tactics: finding the most extreme examples of bad behavior on the other side, amplifying them, and disingenuously portraying them as representative of “the left” as a whole.

When a few isolated Twitter users called for violence or outing the teens’ personal information, right-wing media homed in on them, presenting them as if they reflected a widespread pattern.

As seen in the coverage by Russian propaganda outlets, these extreme examples were seized upon, weaponized, and used as proof of the decline of American society.

And this is far from the first time we’ve seen such close alignment between Trump, his media allies, and Russia’s propaganda machine. Whether he’s undermining the intelligence community and attacking special counsel Robert Mueller, demonizing immigrants and refugees, exploiting racial animosity, or peddling Islamophobic messages, Trump’s talking points consistently advance the Kremlin’s agenda.

Ultimately, Russia’s information war against America is succeeding not because of its sophistication, but because it found an accomplice in the White House — and an entire right-wing media ecosystem that is willing to wage war from the inside.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2019 8:14 pm
by seemslikeadream

A House Democrat Is Targeting Steven Mnuchin’s Business Dealings In The Russian Sanctions Fight
Rep. Jackie Speier is seeking answers about Mnuchin’s reported business dealings with a Ukrainian-born billionaire with ties to Oleg Deripaska.

Emma Loop

Last updated on January 29, 2019, at 1:12 p.m. ET
Posted on January 29, 2019, at 11:36 a.m. ET

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

WASHINGTON — A House Democrat is demanding answers about an alleged business deal that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had with an associate of a Russian oligarch whose companies recently received US sanctions relief.

California Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Mnuchin last week seeking answers about a deal he reportedly made in 2017 with an associate of Oleg Deripaska’s, the billionaire aluminum magnate whose companies Treasury surprisingly announced it would be taking off the formal sanctions list in December. The letter, sent Wednesday, was obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Mnuchin’s department has been embroiled in a fight on Capitol Hill over Treasury’s decision to lift sanctions on companies controlled by Deripaska, the oligarch connected to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. Democrats in Congress — and some Republicans — tried unsuccessfully in recent weeks to block Treasury from lifting the sanctions, which initially shook aluminum markets and reportedly cost Deripaska billions.

Speier said she wants to learn more about Mnuchin’s involvement with Leonid Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with whom he co-owned a Hollywood film company up until 2017. Mnuchin had to divest from RatPac-Dune Entertainment as part of his confirmation process and disclosed the sale of his shares, but the exact prices and purchasers are unknown. However, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Mnuchin sold the shares to Blavatnik for approximately $25 million.

In the letter, Speier wrote that she had “serious concerns” about the alleged transaction, adding that it is “especially alarming” given a recent New York Times report saying that Deripaska might have gotten a better deal with Treasury than has been publicly disclosed.

Blavatnik, the letter notes, co-owns Sual Partners with another sanctioned oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, and Sual “is a major shareholder” of Rusal, one of Deripaska’s sanctioned companies. It also notes that Blavatnik formerly served on Rusal’s board, and that one of his companies donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund.

“Blavatnik had a clear financial interest in the outcome of the Treasury action,” Speier wrote.

The letter acknowledges that Mnuchin disclosed the sale of the shares, but argues that Mnuchin’s relationship with Blavatnik and involvement in easing sanctions “is clearly a conflict of interest.”

The letter asks a series of specific questions about the sale of the RatPac shares, including the date of the transactions, names of purchasers, value of the sales, whether Mnuchin sought ethics advice beforehand, and more. The letter also asks whether Mnuchin has sought ethics guidance related to his involvement in the sanctions issue more broadly. Moreover, the letter asks whether Blavatnik has tried to communicate with Mnuchin directly about the sanctions.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

On Dec. 19 — three days before the federal government was set to shut down — the Treasury Department announced that “significant restructuring and corporate governance changes” at three Deripaska-controlled companies, including Rusal and En+, would “enable them to meet the criteria for delisting.” Treasury first imposed the sanctions on Deripaska, a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his companies in April 2018 in response to Russian interference in the last presidential election.

The move received immediate skepticism from Congress, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the committee’s chair and vice chair, respectively, said Treasury’s announcement did “not change the fact that Mr. Deripaska, his employees, and his companies work at Vladimir Putin’s behest and operate as de facto representatives of the Russian government — a government that has occupied and intimidated its neighbors, sought to disrupt free and fair elections, violated nuclear treaties, and continued to wage influence campaigns to undermine western democracies, including our own.”

Lawmakers have expressed frustration at the level of information Treasury has provided on the decision to ease the sanctions, which were lifted Sunday. Mnuchin delivered a classified briefing to all House members three weeks ago about the plan, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “one of the worst classified briefings” they had received from the administration.

On Tuesday, a group of top House Democrats issued a statement saying they were “deeply troubled” by Treasury’s decision to lift the sanctions. The statement, signed by the chairs of the House Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Financial Services committees, also criticized Mnuchin for denying lawmakers’ requests for more time to evaluate Treasury’s decision to ease sanctions.

“We are considering additional legislative actions to ensure that Treasury and these companies comply with the agreement in letter and in spirit, and to prevent something like this from happening again in the future,” the statement said. “More importantly, we will continue our oversight of Treasury’s decision by examining the terms of this deal and its implementation to safeguard against harmful actors like Mr. Deripaska benefitting from the Treasury’s delisting decisions. We do not believe termination of the sanctions has relieved Treasury of its obligation to explain fully this deal to Members.”

For her part, Speier wants information on Mnuchin’s dealings. “The fact that you did not recuse yourself from deliberations surrounding the proposed termination of sanctions on RUSAL and En+ is deeply troubling and a conflict of interest,” she wrote.

The letter requests that Mnuchin provide responses within two weeks of receiving it, and argued that Treasury should have delayed lifting the sanctions until lawmakers had time to review the requested information.


January 29, 2019, at 11:25 a.m.
This story has been updated with a new statement from House committee leaders on Treasury’s decision to lift sanctions on the companies connected to Deripaska. ... kie-speier

Blavatnik is a co-owner of Oleg Deripaska's formerly sanctioned company Rusal & was a biz partner with Mnuchin who made $25 mil in 2017 deal

Blavatnik donated $1 mil to trump inauguration

Blavatnik donated $3.5 million to a Mitch McConnell affiliated PAC

House Democrat Targets Steven Mnuchin's Business Dealings In The Russian Sanctions Fight

Rep. Jackie Speier is seeking answers about Mnuchin’s reported business dealings with a Ukrainian-born billionaire with ties to Oleg Deripaska.

Emma LoopJanuary 29, 2019, at 11:25 a.m.
Last updated on January 29, 2019, at 1:12 p.m. ET

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

WASHINGTON — A House Democrat is demanding answers about an alleged business deal that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had with an associate of a Russian oligarch whose companies recently received US sanctions relief.

California Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Mnuchin last week seeking answers about a deal he reportedly made in 2017 with an associate of Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire aluminum magnate whose companies Treasury surprisingly announced it would be taking off the formal sanctions list in December. The letter, sent Wednesday, was obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Mnuchin’s department has been embroiled in a fight on Capitol Hill over Treasury’s decision to lift sanctions on companies controlled by Deripaska, the oligarch connected to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Democrats in Congress — and some Republicans — tried unsuccessfully in recent weeks to block Treasury from lifting the sanctions, which initially shook aluminum markets and reportedly cost Deripaska billions.

Speier says she wants to learn more about Mnuchin’s involvement with Leonid Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with whom he co-owned a Hollywood film company up until 2017. Mnuchin had to divest from RatPac-Dune Entertainment as part of his confirmation process and disclosed the sale of his shares, but the exact prices and purchasers are unknown. However, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Mnuchin sold the shares to Blavatnik for approximately $25 million.

In the letter, Speier wrote that she had “serious concerns” about the alleged transaction, adding that it is “especially alarming” given a recent New York Times report saying that Deripaska might have gotten a better deal with Treasury than has been publicly disclosed.

Blavatnik, the letter notes, co-owns Sual Partners with another sanctioned oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, and Sual “is a major shareholder” of Rusal, one of Deripaska’s sanctioned companies. It also notes that Blavatnik formerly served on Rusal’s board, and that one of his companies donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund.

“Blavatnik had a clear financial interest in the outcome of the Treasury action,” Speier wrote.

The letter acknowledges that Mnuchin disclosed the sale of the shares, but argues that Mnuchin’s relationship with Blavatnik and involvement in easing sanctions “is clearly a conflict of interest.”

The letter asks a series of specific questions about the sale of the RatPac shares, including the date of the transactions, names of purchasers, value of the sales, whether Mnuchin sought ethics advice beforehand, and more. The letter also asks whether Mnuchin has sought ethics guidance related to his involvement in the sanctions issue more broadly. Moreover, the letter asks whether Blavatnik has tried to communicate with Mnuchin directly about the sanctions.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

On Dec. 19 — three days before the federal government was set to shut down — the Treasury Department announced that “significant restructuring and corporate governance changes” at three Deripaska-controlled companies, including Rusal and En+, would “enable them to meet the criteria for delisting.” Treasury first imposed the sanctions on Deripaska, a close confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his companies in April 2018 in response to Russian interference in the last presidential election.

The move received immediate skepticism from Congress, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the committee’s respective chair and vice chair, said Treasury’s announcement did “not change the fact that Mr. Deripaska, his employees, and his companies work at Vladimir Putin’s behest and operate as de facto representatives of the Russian government — a government that has occupied and intimidated its neighbors, sought to disrupt free and fair elections, violated nuclear treaties, and continued to wage influence campaigns to undermine western democracies, including our own.”

Lawmakers have expressed frustration at the level of information Treasury has provided on the decision to ease the sanctions, which were lifted on Sunday. Mnuchin delivered a classified briefing to all House members three weeks ago about the plan, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “one of the worst classified briefings” they had received from the administration.

On Tuesday, a group of top House Democrats issued a statement saying they were "deeply troubled" by Treasury's decision to lift the sanctions. The statement, signed by the chairs of the House Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Financial Services committees, also criticized Mnuchin for denying lawmakers' requests for more time to evaluate Treasury's decision to ease sanctions.

“We are considering additional legislative actions to ensure that Treasury and these companies comply with the agreement in letter and in spirit, and to prevent something like this from happening again in the future," the statement said. "More importantly, we will continue our oversight of Treasury’s decision by examining the terms of this deal and its implementation to safeguard against harmful actors like Mr. Deripaska benefitting from the Treasury’s delisting decisions. We do not believe termination of the sanctions has relieved Treasury of its obligation to explain fully this deal to Members.”

For her part, Speier wants information on Mnuchin’s dealings. “The fact that you did not recuse yourself from deliberations surrounding the proposed termination of sanctions on RUSAL and En+ is deeply troubling and a conflict of interest,” she wrote.

The letter requests that Mnuchin provide responses within two weeks of receiving it, and argued that Treasury should have delayed lifting the sanctions until lawmakers had time to review the requested information.


This story has been updated with a new statement from House committee leaders on Treasury's decision to lift sanctions on the companies connected to Deripaska.


U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Are Sounding the Alarm About the Administration* They Work For

They've earned scrutiny, but their warnings about Trump's incompetence on North Korea and Iran are serious.

By Charles P. PierceJan 29, 2019
Senate Select Intelligence Committee

I don't want to alarm anyone unreasonably, but the heads of the entire United States intelligence community went before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning and testified that the President* of the United States doesn't know enough about foreign affairs generally, and the threats to this country in particular, to throw a cat. From the Washington Post:

[Director of National Intelligence Dan] Coats, speaking on behalf of the assembled officials, gave a global tour of threats, focused mainly on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Coats said that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” which the country’s leaders consider “critical to the regime’s survival.” That assessment threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the United States and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons...And throughout the hearing, officials found themselves repeating earlier assessments on subjects that also were at odds with other public statements from the president.
Getty ImagesWin McNamee

The officials assessed that the government of Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon, despite the Trump administration’s persistent claims that the country has been violating the terms of an international agreement forged during the Obama administration. Officials told lawmakers that Iran was in compliance with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as some officials had previously said privately. But Iranian leaders are discussing reneging on the deal if they fail to reap the economic benefits it was supposed to bring after international sanctions were lifted, Haspel said. The Trump administration has reimposed U.S. sanctions.
The intelligence community has earned every speck of every grain of salt with which its evaluations are taken in the wake of what happened in the run-up to the Iraq War. (So, in fact, has anyone associated with the late Avignon Presidency, no matter what their opinion of the current president* is.) But these are people saying now that the administration* is being unreasonably naive towards North Korea and unreasonably bellicose toward Iran. This comes out to being hilariously and dangerously incompetent on all counts.

Trump continues to equivocate on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf, contradicting the unanimous assessment of all the top intelligence officials currently serving. At last year’s threats hearing, leaders focused much of their remarks on Russia, unanimously concluding that the country was trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections by sowing discord and confusion via social media, as it had two years earlier in the U.S. presidential race.
Yeah, that, too.

Coats and the rest of them have done everything except sound an air raid siren about this administration*'s bungling attempts to develop a foreign policy, and there's no indication yet that the Senate Republicans have mustered the gumption to act on the alarm. And John Bolton is making policy. This will all end splendidly. ... orea-iran/





Trump sat down with Putin at G20 without US note-taker

Leaders spoke for several minutes accompanied by Melania Trump and Russian translator

Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November © Reuters
Donald Trump sat down with Vladimir Putin for several minutes of conversation at the end of an evening event at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders, according to people who had direct knowledge of the encounter or were briefed on it.

The discussions between the US and Russian presidents occurred at the 19th-century Colón theatre in the Argentine capital, as world leaders and their spouses or guests were streaming out of the building.

Mr Trump was accompanied by Melania Trump, his wife, but no staff, while Mr Putin was flanked by his translator. The four of them sat at a table and were among the last to leave.

The White House has acknowledged the two leaders met in Buenos Aires, after Mr Trump cancelled formal bilateral talks following Russia’s November attack on three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Azov Sea.

Mr Trump’s aides characterised the Putin encounter as one of several “informal” conversations that Mr Trump had with his counterparts that evening. The accounts of people familiar with the conversation said it appeared longer and more substantive than the White House has acknowledged.

According to a Russian government official’s account, the two leaders spoke for about 15 minutes about a number of foreign policy issues, including the Azov Sea incident, and the conflict in Syria. They also discussed when they could have a formal meeting, the official said.

Mr Trump explained that a full meeting with Mr Putin was impossible at the time, and the Russian leader responded by saying he “was not in a hurry” and remained ready to meet when it suited Mr Trump best, the Russian official said.

The US state department declined to discuss any details of the meeting, referring questions to the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment beyond previous acknowledgments that a brief encounter occurred.

The decision to meet Mr Putin and potentially discuss sensitive matters without advisers or a White House translator just two months ago could trigger new alarm bells about Mr Trump and his relationship with the Kremlin at a time when Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is still investigating his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.

This month, The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump had sought to hide details of previous conversations with Mr Putin, including at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, frustrating some top officials.

Mr Trump denied he tried to conceal details of the talks, saying informal chats at major summits were commonplace. “We have those meetings all the time, no big deal,” he said this month.

The issue surfaced in a congressional hearing on Tuesday when Gina Haspel, CIA head, and Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, were asked if US efforts to understand Russian activities would be harmed by their lack of information about what Mr Trump had discussed with Mr Putin.

“Clearly this is a sensitive issue and it’s an issue that we ought to talk about this afternoon,” Mr Coats told the Senate intelligence committee in a reference to a closed-door hearing that was scheduled to follow the open hearing in the morning.

The meeting in Buenos Aires — which took place on the eve of Mr Trump’s working dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at which they struck a temporary ceasefire in their trade war — came as Mr Putin faced international condemnation for his seizure of the Ukrainian sailors in the Azov Sea.

Mr Trump had cancelled plans for a formal bilateral meeting because of those tensions, but still decided to talk with Mr Putin in a more informal setting. Clarín, the Argentine newspaper, reported in early December that Mr Putin and Mr Trump had spoken for 10 minutes at the Colón theatre, citing diplomatic sources who called it “more than a brief greeting”.


Mr Trump has defended himself from accusations he has been too cosy with Russia, arguing he has been tougher than his predecessors and casting himself as a victim of a smear campaign on the part of political opponents.

The Russian government official briefed on the meeting said the lack of aides or translators for Mr Trump was a result of a “different system” the White House employed, compared with Russian norms.

“When Putin is somewhere, his people are there: always,” the official said. “There is someone from his side with him at all times, until he goes to bed. With the Americans it is different. The advisers, the aides, they don’t always stick around outside official meetings,” the person said.

A Kremlin spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting. Former US national security officials have said that while it would be unusual for US presidents to be accompanied by a translator or aide while meeting allies, standard practice while meeting US adversaries would be to engage in discussions with staff on hand. ... b4543da632

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

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:36 am
by seemslikeadream
Eric Schmeltzer

12h12 hours ago
Wait wait wait. @DonaldJTrumpJr calling Howard Lorber, after his Trump Tower meeting with a Russian agent is supposed to be GOOD news for him?
Image ... 5634974720

Craig Unger
1/Fascinating that "blocked #" phone call circa 2016 Trump Tower meeting went to real estate developer Howard Lorber who was much more than just a family friend. In '96, when Trump went to RU to try to develop Trump Tower in Moscow, Lorber came w his partner Bennett LeBow.

John Santucci

The calls to blocked numbers, which came on June 6, and after it on June 9, were between Trump Jr.’s cell phone and two family friends -- NASCAR CEO Brian France and real estate developer Howard Lorber, according to the sources

2/As per #HouseofTrump, LeBow had begun investing in Moscow in early 90s when one inevitably dealt w dubious characters--among them Vadim Rabinovich who had just taken part in Tel Aviv meeting giving Semion #Mogilevich control of lucrative Ukraine energy trade.


3/ In effort to develop Trump Tower Moscow, they were shown around by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who was also close to #Mogilevich & Vyacheslav Ivankov(below), a murderous mobsters who happened to be a Trump Tower resident on 5th Ave and a regular at Trump's Taj Mahal.

4/Mayor Luzhkov had other ties to #mogilevich thru real estate company, Sistema. Not much came of this 1996 trip, tho Trump boasted that it was going to be huge.


5/ Fast forward to 2013. By this time, Trump has pinned hopes for Moscow devt on billionaire real estate mogul Aras Agalarov who also has ties to #Mogilevich. In Feb 2013, his son Emin had performed at a big RU mafia bday party Mogi gave for RU mob boss Sergei Mikhailov.


6/So in June 2016, Emin sets up infamous Trump Tower meeting w Don, Jr., Jared, Manafort and the Russians in which Russians, many w ties to Russian Mafia, clearly want team Trump to promise that sanctions will be lifted. Lorber is the new figure in this. What is his real role? ... 5407335424

NASCAR CEO Brian France reportedly drops Trump's name during DWI, oxycodone possession arrest in the Hamptons
Stefan Bondy
Name-dropping buddy Donald Trump apparently didn’t help NASCAR’s CEO avoid an arrest in the Hamptons.

Brian France was cuffed around 7:30 p.m. Sunday for aggravated DWI and possession of oxycodone pills, according to the Sag Harbor Valley police. The 56-year-old, a staunch Trump supporter worth a reported $1 billion, tried to weasel his way out of trouble by referencing his powerful friends to police, according to TMZ, including his relationship with the President.

Police said France’s blood-alcohol content was 0.18 — more than twice New York’s limit of 0.08 — when he was pulled over for failing to adhere to a stop sign in his 2017 Lexus. France was slurring his words and had failed a sobriety test, according to police, while the mugshot verified a flushed face and glossy eyes.

The five oxycodone pills were discovered in a search, according to police.

CEO and Chairman of NASCAR Brian France is arrested in Sag Harbor. (Steve Helber / AP)
France spent the night in jail in Sag Harbor and was released Monday morning on his own recognizance, the police report said. He is due back in court on Sept. 14.

On Monday afternoon, France announced he is taking a leave of absence as chairman and CEO of NASCAR to focus on his "personal affairs." NASCAR Vice Chairman and Executive VP Jim France, his nephew, will take over in the interim.

Like his friend Trump, France was born into wealth. The family has ruled over NASCAR since France’s grandfather founded the company in 1948. Brian France has been the CEO since 2003.

On the eve of Super Tuesday in 2016 — a day after Trump declined to disavow the KKK on national TV — France endorsed Trump at a rally in Georgia.

“I’ve known Donald for over 20 years,” France said at the rally. “I’m going to tell you one thing about him: You know about his winning in business and success. I’m here to tell you he wins with his family. … Any of his children, you’d be proud to have them as part of your family.

“That’s how I judge a winner, how somebody manages their family, raises their family.”

Mug shot for NASCAR chairman Brian France.
Mug shot for NASCAR chairman Brian France. (Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Village Police Department)
France, who went through a messy divorce and was accused by his ex-wife of verbal abuse, was a welcomed supporter.

“If the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now,” Trump said at the rally. “Nobody else can win. Nobody.”

France’s grandfather and founder of NASCAR, “Big Bill” France Sr., helped deliver the 1972 Florida Democratic primary to Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a noted segregationist who once said, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace also tried to block the admission of black students at the University of Alabama by standing in front of the doors.

In 2006, France was involved in an incident, this time in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he crashed his Lexus into a tree after entering a restaurant parking lot, according to a police report.

France later told an officer called to his home that he was drinking a soda and "bumped into something," but a witness called 911 and gave police a statement that claimed she saw France driving at a "very reckless speed," and that France's car hit the tree after hitting a parked car.

She said she also watched as France "fell over his own feet" as he got out of his car.

The witness' statement was not attached to the police report, and the Daytona Beach police chief later investigated whether France was given special treatment by authorities.

— with the Associated Press ... ssion=true

We told you something smelled bad about this new Donald Trump Jr phone call story
Bill Palmer
On Thursday evening, multiple major news outlets reported the dubious claim that the Senate Intelligence Committee had just obtained evidence that Donald Trump Jr didn’t speak on the phone with his father just before his Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, but instead spoke innocently with two random business associates.

Palmer Report quickly pointed out the numerous holes in this reporting. For instance, if Donald Trump Jr had phone records all this time that exonerated his father, why would he have sat on them for the past year and a half? In addition, what were the odds that this evidence conveniently found its way into the hands of a Republican-controlled committee just one day after Trump Jr’s fate was all but sealed on perjury charges?

Most alarmingly, none of the reporters involved appeared to have actually seen the records themselves; instead they were merely taking the word of inside “sources.” Of course these sources could only really be Donald Trump Jr and/or people within the Trump Organization, which would mean they can’t be believed at all. Now the story has taken an even more absurd turn.

Now the New York Times is claiming that the phone records show Donald Trump Jr spoke on the phone with NASCAR chief executive Brian France just before his Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. This seems legit; I know I always talk with the head of NASCAR just before I walk into meetings where I intend to commit treason [insert eyeroll]. Give me a break.

This whole thing couldn’t be any more ridiculous. And if these news outlets really are taking the Trump Organization’s word for it that evidence has been turned over to the Senate Intel Committee, then the news outlets in question are committing a form of journalistic treason. ... ump/15672/

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:26 pm
by seemslikeadream

February 2, 2019/0 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

I did something rash recently. I bought Jerome Corsi’s book, Silent No More.

It’s a … remarkable work of autobiographical fiction. It has two unbelievable chapters — one on how he met Stone and one claiming to describe how he figured out WikiLeaks had John Podesta’s emails; I’ll deal with the former in this post, and do a follow-up on the latter.

The rest of the book is a narrative of Corsi’s botched cooperation that is fairly clearly designed to provide all the details of his interactions with Mueller’s team to others, without, however, even clarifying details about events that should be central to the story.


One of those missing details is what date Corsi introduced Stone to Ted Malloch over dinner at the Strip House in NYC. After that dinner, Stone had Corsi email two requests to Malloch, one of which is the email that appears in Corsi’s botched plea:

a. On or about July 25, 2016, Person 1 sent an email to CORSI with the subject line, “Get to [the founder of Organization 1].” The body of the message read: “Get to [the founder of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.” On or about the same day, CORSI forwarded Person 1’s email to the overseas individual.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, Person 1 emailed CORSI with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that the overseas individual “should see [the founder of Organization 1].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, CORSI responded to Person 1 by email. CORSI wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in mid-August. CORSI stated: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.… Time to let more than [the Clinton Campaign chairman] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers

A second request — which Corsi says was sent August 16 — from Stone Corsi describes as being limited to Bernie Sanders’ brother, but at least one other description I’ve heard about may also include a reference to WikiLeaks.

Here’s the context of Corsi’s two references to that dinner and his description of the August 16 email:

After meeting Roger Stone in February 2016, I arranged a dinner in New York City with Roger and Ted Malloch, a strong supporter of Donald Trump, for the next time both were in New York City at the same time. Malloch was anxious to assist the Trump campaign and he hoped Malloch [sic] could arrange to have him appointed to Trump’s presidential advisory staff—a hope that never materialized.


On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, I sent Ted Malloch an email in the U.K., asking Ted if he could find Bernie Sanders’ brother who was in the U.K. at that time. My email to Malloch continued: “He (Bernie Sanders brother) is on the record of saying he plans to vote for Trump. Roger Stone suggested you might track down Sanders’ brother.” This was the third request Stone made of Malloch. At the dinner in New York City when I introduced Roger to Ted, Roger asked Ted to research Bill Clinton’s time as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Roger believed Bill Clinton had been dismissed from the program because Clinton had raped a female graduate student at Oxford. Then, on July 25, 2016, I passed Roger’s email onto Ted, asking Ted to go see Assange in London. Ted waned [sic] an advisory position with the Trump campaign and Stone believed Malloch could improve his chances by scoring on one of these three requests. To the best of my recollection, Ted never said anything to me to suggest he had succeeded on any of the three requests.

One published version of the dinner puts it in late February or March, almost immediately after Corsi met Stone.

Corsi told the Guardian he introduced Malloch to Stone over steaks at the Strip House in midtown Manhattan in late February or March 2016. Mueller’s investigators “wanted to know about the dinner”, he said. When asked if Assange was discussed during the meal, Corsi said he was not a “human tape recorder”.

I think the actual date of the meeting is later, but if that date is right — given the possibility that WikiLeaks came up at the meeting — it would have Stone pursuing information about what WikiLeaks had around the same time as (possibly even before) the Russians first hacked John Podesta on March 19.


The book is also entirely inconsistent with the fact that before Corsi first lied to Mueller’s prosecutors, his lawyer, David Gray, suggested that Corsi had had the opportunity to engage in, but stopped short of, committing some crime.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

As I note here, Gray’s pre-interview comments make it really hard for Corsi to claim faulty memory.


I raise those two details as background to what Corsi lays out in the chapter called, Meet Roger Stone. It describes:

Meeting Stone for the first time on February 22, 2016

Claiming that Stone’s campaign role as an “outside adviser” was intentionally designed to give Trump plausible deniability regarding Stone’s “various maneuvers”

Learning that — at least in February 2016 — Stone spoke to Trump every day and got him to adopt about 70% of his suggestions
Giving Stone the credit for getting Paul Manafort hired

And then it goes into a theory of Stone’s crime, real or imagined, I’m not sure which.


Mind you, I’m not sure if this is Corsi’s theory about what Stone actually did or what he thinks Mueller thinks Stone did (the theory is somewhat inconsistent with what Corsi suggests Mueller thinks Stone did as presented later in the book, which is more focused on Julian Assange). In part, it addresses what he seems to think Democrats suspect about Stone.

Democratic opponents of Trump raised the question that if Roger Stone had known in advance that Assange was holding the Podesta emails, as evidenced by his tweet on August 21, was it possible Stone had colluded with the Russians and with WikiLeaks? Had all this happened by accident or were the WikiLeaks DNC email drops just Roger Stone’s crowning achievement in a career distinguished by dirty tricks. Put simply: Did Roger Stone coordinate with Russia to steal the DNC emails and give them to WikiLeaks, having having arranged with Assange in advance a strategy to use the hacked DNC emails to prevent Hillary from achieving the White House?

But it ends by suggesting that when he was first subpoenaed, he “suspected immediately” that he was a key link in a theory that (bizarrely) had Stone serving as a mule between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks (it’s worth noting that Corsi claims to believe, erroneously, that the Podesta emails came from a DNC server, in which case the reference could be about the Podesta emails).

On August 28, 2018, when I was served the subpoena from the Mueller grand jury, I suspected immediately the prosecutors in the Special Counsel office were in possession of evidence that suggested I might have been the link between Stone and Assange. As David Gray and I prepared to go to Washington, we speculated Mueller may have targeted me as the link who provided Stone his advance knowledge in August 2016 that Assange possessed DNC emails from John Podesta that WikiLeaks planned to release serially over a number of days as the 2016 “October Surprise,” designed to deal a knock-out punch to the Clinton campaign. If I was Stone’s link to Assange, was this the connection with WikiLeaks that Stone used to get WikiLeaks the Guccifer 2.0 hacks of the DNC computers?

The theory relies on a really weird timeline of the relevant events, which I’ve reproduced below. Several things stick out about the timeline. First, Corsi dates WikiLeaks’ indexing of Hillary’s FOIAed emails as part of WikiLeaks’ election year activities (something he continues later in the book). That’s interesting because of Cambridge Analytica’s related efforts in that early period (not to mention the funding of an attack on Hillary as being close to Russia), as well as the way a WikiLeaks’ request for Hillary’s speech transcripts precedes the John Podesta hack. If Corsi knows that that indexing was part of a larger campaign (and as I’ll show in the follow-up post, he does know stuff about WikiLeaks he should not), then it suggests that he knows that WikiLeaks knew the hacks were coming.

The timeline is also weird for the way it jumps over all the exchanges between Stone and Corsi in the aftermath of the DNC email release, details that are absolutely central to the rest of the narrative in the book.

It’s oddest, however, in the way this chapter makes no mention of the initial Guccifer 2.0 posts, even though in his chapter purporting to explain how he knew Podesta’s emails were coming, Corsi admits to having tracked those releases very closely (and links two of the posts). Just as notably, Corsi’s narrative only mentions Mueller’s GRU indictment indirectly (an odd habit he continues in his Podesta explanation), instead relying on the 2018 coverage of the indictment for his claims about what’s in it. Even there, however, Corsi doesn’t link the coverage (not even Fox!) where Stone admitted he’s the person cited in the GRU indictment. This leads Corsi to treat the mention of Stone in the GRU indictment to be merely “suspect” rather than confirmed.

Clearly, Stone’s tweets with Guccifer 2.0 target him as a likely suspect for that person, especially given that Stone remained in regular contact with Trump even after Stone resigned as Trump’s political advisor.

Perhaps both those choices are just attempts to avoid acknowledging familiarity with the evidence that would utterly disprove his later whack theories about the Podesta emails (which go well beyond the Podesta emails). But it seems to adopt a very indirect method to avoid admitting that, yes, Stone was DMing with Guccifer 2.0, but that nothing in the public record suggests those DMs were criminal in any way.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing in the public record that suggests Stone had a role in getting any files from the Russians to WikiLeaks (though I considered the possibility Guccifer 2.0 was a source for the men here). But the handoff of the Podesta emails is part of the operation that remains unexplained. And even while Corsi goes to great lengths to spin up this theory of Stone’s prosecution, he (a guy who puts his PhD in his Twitter handle) studiously avoids the primary sources that make this case.

February 22, 2016: Stone and Corsi first meet

March 16, 2016: First WikiLeaks drop (in reality, indexing of documents obtained via FOIA)

July 13, 2016: Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who previously claimed to have breached the computers of the DNC, released a cache of purported DNC documents to The Hill

July 14, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sends WikiLeaks link to archive of DNC documents [Corsi botches this section badly, in part by getting the year of the GRU indictment wrong]

July 22, 2016: DNC release “Julian Assange timed the release of the DNC emails to be the Friday before the DNC National Nominating Convention”

July 24, 2016: DWS resigns

July 24, 2016: Robby Mook announces Russia hacked emails “for the purpose of helping Donald Trump”

July 25, 2016: Assange says “there is no proof whatsoever” he got emails from Russia

August 21, 2016: Stone tweets “Podesta’s time in the barrel”

October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks starts dumping Podesta files

November 7, 2016: “final WikiLeaks post … dropped by WikiLeaks on November 7, 2016, three days after the presidential election was held.”

March 10, 2017: Stone post Corsi relies on to describes his DMs with Guccifer 2.0

July 13, 2018: WaPo story on Stone and the GRU indictment

July 15, 2018: NYT story on GRU indictment

August 28, 2018: Corsi subpoena ... osecution/

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:28 pm
by seemslikeadream

February 5, 2019/17 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
On June 14, 2016, Felix Sater was getting stressed about putting together Michael Cohen’s trip to St. Petersburg at which, on June 17, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer might meet Vladimir Putin, which would in turn lead to a $300 million real estate deal. He bugged Cohen in the morning to get back to him.


At 10:24 AM, Sater sent Cohen the invitation he would need to get a Russian visa in one day’s time.


At around 11:35 AM, the Washington Post reported that Russian hackers had hacked the DNC.


Things still seemed to be ready to go at 12:06 PM. Sater texted Cohen, “you are radio silent, please respond.” Cohen called him just after noon.


But by 2:41 PM, when Sater showed up at Trump Tower to get the paperwork, Cohen wouldn’t let him come upstairs. Instead, he met him downstairs in the snack bar.


Three days before Donald Trump’s personal lawyer would have met with Vladimir Putin to advance a $300 million Tower deal, he instead met his fixer in the lobby and told him, “he would not be traveling at that time.” ... ower-deal/

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:31 pm
by seemslikeadream
They planned to use Trump’s public praise for Putin to help secure the lucrative deal. At the same time, they plotted to persuade the Russian president to declare his support for Trump’s candidacy.


First on CNN: New York federal prosecutors seek interviews with Trump Organization executives

Prosecutors seek interviews with Trump Organization executives
(CNN)Federal prosecutors in New York have requested interviews in recent weeks with executives at the Trump Organization, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling a growing potential threat to President Donald Trump and those in his orbit from criminal investigations by the Manhattan US Attorney's office.

Trump and his legal team have long harbored concerns that investigations by New York federal prosecutors -- which could last throughout his presidency -- may ultimately pose more danger to him, his family and his allies than the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to people close to Trump. Prosecutors' recent interest in executives at Trump's family company may intensify those fears.

The specific inquiry or topics of interest by prosecutors in any interviews with Trump Organization executives wasn't immediately clear. The sources were not authorized to speak on the record. A spokesperson for the company didn't respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors subpoena Trump inaugural committee
New York federal prosecutors in recent months have undertaken at least two investigations into Trump-related entities. The first one, which CNN has reported stemmed from the office's case against Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is examining possible campaign-finance violations by executives at the Trump Organization during the company's effort to reimburse Cohen for hush-money payments he made or orchestrated to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. Trump has denied those affairs.
In the Cohen probe, one Trump Organization executive, chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors to provide information concerning Cohen, CNN has reported.
The second investigation concerns the Trump inaugural committee and possible financial abuses related to the more than $100 million in donations raised for his inauguration, CNN has reported.
On Monday, prosecutors issued a sweeping subpoena to the committee, requesting documents related to virtually every donor or donation, attendee at a committee event, piece of paperwork related to the legal requirements attached to donations and even "the possibility of" donations made by foreign nationals.

16 big questions on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation for 2019
The subpoena, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN, also disclosed that prosecutors are investigating an array of potential crimes, including conspiracy against the US, false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, inaugural committee disclosure violations, and violations of laws prohibiting contributions by foreign nations and contributions in the name of another person, also known as straw donors.
A spokeswoman for the committee said Monday that it would cooperate with the inquiry. Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday that Trump "had little to no involvement in the inaugural committee."

While prosecutors in New York haven't charged any Trump-linked officials aside from Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August and is set to begin his prison sentence in March, they have undertaken various investigative steps in addition to the subpoena.

Prosecutors have questioned at least two former Trump campaign officials, according to people familiar with the matter. One official who was questioned last summer was asked about coordination between the Trump Organization and the campaign, one of these people said.

Investigators asked this official how the Trump Organization was structured and which accounts were used to pay campaign staffers and other campaign-related bills, this person said.

Despite the flurry of recent activity from the Manhattan US Attorney's office, however, it's not clear that any of its ongoing inquiries will result in charges. The investigation into possible campaign-finance violations at the company appears to be in its final stages, according to one person involved in it.

CNN's Pamela Brown, Gloria Borger, Kara Scannell and Sara Murray contributed to this report. ... index.html

Fake FCC Comments Linked to Ex-Trump Campaign Director's Org, Boosted By Roger Stone

Dell CameronYesterday 4:49pm

Demonstrators rally outside the Federal Communication Commission building to protest against the end of net neutrality rules December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Getty / Chip Somodevilla
An organization run by a former Trump campaign statewide director is being investigated by the New York attorney general’s office for its role in the submission of potentially hundreds of thousands of fraudulent comments to the Federal Communications Commission during the agency’s 2017 efforts to rollback Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Research by Gizmodo reveals the group’s deep ties to prominent GOP firms, including one paid more than $31 million by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to provide email lists of potential voters during the 2016 campaign. Americans whose names were attached to fraudulent FCC comments linked to the ex-Trump campaign staffer confirmed during a series of interviews that their identities had been stolen.

Asked how their names wound up on the FCC’s website next comments slamming “wealthy leftist billionaires and powerful Silicon Valley monopolies,” the residents of Sharpsburg, Georgia, were reasonably confused. Like two retirees in their 80s whom Gizmodo spoke with on Wednesday, many residents say they’ve never even heard of net neutrality.

But in Sharpsburg, a town of less than 400, roughly a quarter of the population seemingly filed comments with the FCC about net neutrality—at least according to its website. Of those comments, 37 are perfectly identical: “It took only two years and a green light from Obama for companies like Google and Facebook and their liberal allies like George Soros to take total control of the dominant information and communications platform in the world today,” they read. “The future of a free and open Internet is at stake.”

The husband of one of Sharpsburg’s purported commenters insists that no one in his home is political. “We don’t do anything that has to do with the government,” he said, straining to understand the implications of someone impersonating his wife on a government website. Another resident, reached by email on Wednesday, and asked if she’d submitted a comment to the FCC, offered a short, but emphatic reply: “No I did NOT.”

“Whoever did this is stupid,” said another man, after learning his name and address had been used without his consent. “They won’t find my IP address anywhere near this. And I’d be happy to talk to police about it.” A total of five Sharpsburg residents, whose names had been used to send identical comments to the FCC, told Gizmodo this week that their identities must have been stolen.

More than a year ago, another resident of the small, predominately white town, less than 50 miles south of Atlanta, was also struggling to understand how so many of his neighbors had gotten riled up about the FCC policy, which would be overturned in a party-line vote a few weeks later. On Medium, James Harvey documented his efforts going door to door asking the question. Recalling Harvey’s efforts a month prior to the December 2017 FCC vote, Quartz reported that he had spoken to around 10 residents of Sharpsburg to whom FCC comments had been attributed. None said they had sent them.

“In our current era of lightning fast streams of information, it is up to each and every one of us to learn to see through falsehoods and propaganda,” wrote Harvey, who learned that one man’s obituary predated his comment by more than a year.

What’s remained unreported until now is the source of the 37 identical Sharpsburg comments, which match those submitted on behalf of more than 300,000 Americans nationwide. That comment, which rails against Google, its former chairman Eric Schmidt, and “global billionaires like George Soros,” was authored by a group known as Free Our Internet, according to a page on its website, which has since been deleted.

Free Our Internet’s campaign against net neutrality, which it presents as a conspiracy by “liberal globalists to take over our Internet,” was first announced in a now-deleted press release on the website of Raven Strategies, a political consultancy whose client list includes, among others, Donald Trump for President.

Christie-Lee McNally, the president of Raven Strategies and the executive director of Free Our Internet, was tapped by Trump two years ago to become his statewide director in Maine, where she formerly served as executive director for the Republican Party. According to the bio on her firm’s website, she also served on the 58th presidential inaugural committee, working with cabinet-level nominees on the day of Trump’s swearing-in.

Her organization, Free Our Internet, is also the subject of one of 14 subpoenas issued in October by the New York attorney general’s office, which, like the Department of Justice, is currently investigating widespread accounts of identity theft related to the FCC’s net neutrality process.

Free Our Internet

Three months ago, investigators in New York overseen by then-state Attorney General Barbara Underwood, identified what they called four “buckets” of comments suspected of being counterfeit. Out of the more than 22 million comments submitted to the FCC about net neutrality in 2017, investigators believe that as many as 9.53 million involved the use of stolen identities. These buckets include multiple trade associations, advocacy groups, and lobbying contractors, both for and against the net neutrality rules.

In an email obtained by Gizmodo to reporters at other news sites in October, Underwood’s staff provided, on condition of anonymity, a list of the four “buckets” and the parties each contain. But McNally’s group, Free Our Internet, while listed in one of the buckets, is not among those to be previously reported on. This is likely because the focus has, until now, been on larger and more prominently known organizations, such as the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF), a decades-old dark-money group founded by former tobacco industry executives to, initially, combat government restrictions on smoking.

Today, with funding from Republican figures like Karl Rove, CFIF lobbies to overturn FCC rules and policies disapproved of by the telecommunications industry. The comments it contributed about net neutrality are now being scrutinized by both state and federal law enforcement agencies for any trace of stolen identities.

Archived from Roger Stone’s now-suspended Twitter account.
Screenshot: Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine
By comparison, Free Our Internet has a small online footprint—this despite being the apparent source of upwards of 800,000 gathered comments. The organization’s submission page, meant to be the online portal through which all those comments were collected, has been tweeted no more than two dozen times. Free Our Internet’s website was boosted on occasion, however, by a few well-known characters on the far-right, such as longtime Trump adviser and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone and his one-time friend, conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

On Tuesday, Stone pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges of lying to Congress and obstructing the special counsel’s Russia investigation. (Incidentally, in October, federal prosecutors also described in the indictment of Russian accountant Elena Khusyaynova how net neutrality became a key focus of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed at exploiting Americans’ existing political and societal divisions.)

Writing on the topic of net neutrality, which is attributed to Stone—but which is suspiciously granular in its take on U.S. communications policies—mirrors closely the advocacy literature drafted by McNally and Free Our Internet. In a Daily Caller op-ed awash in anti-Semitic dogwhistles in October 2017, Stone claimed that net neutrality was a conspiracy by the “Tech Left, largely funded by George Soros,” whose motivation, he wrote, is “ridding the Internet of conservative and libertarian content.” (An obscure descriptor, “tech left” is frequently used by McNally in op-eds published by Breitbart News.)

One net neutrality letter authored by Free Our Internet, submitted to the FCC at least 181,101 times, similarly reads: “I strongly encourage the FCC to oppose efforts by the TechLeft and liberal globalists to take over our Internet.” The letter insists further that net neutrality is the brainchild of “Silicon Valley monopolies like Google and leftist globalists like George Soros.”

In a June 2017 press release, which Corsi highlighted in a blog on conspiracy site InfoWars, McNally is quoted again referencing the “globalist elites like George Soros,” whom she says “launched a coordinated campaign with the Obama Administration to establish government control over our internet.” Corsi’s article continued: “As has repeatedly warned, Soros-allied forces on the far-left coined the intentionally deceptive ‘Net Neutrality’ phrase to deceive the public into thinking the Obama-era rules would preserve the Internet as a free marketplace of ideas, when the reality remains ‘Net Neutrality’ rules were designed to accomplish precisely the opposite.”

Notably, there’s negligible contrast between the “globalist” theories pushed by McNally, Stone, and Corsi, and those that had circulated two years prior on the prominent neo-Nazi website Stormfront, whose users are less prone to masking prejudices with code words. (The term “globalists” and Soros himself, whose home was targeted by a pipe bomb last year, are frequently crucial elements of conspiracy theories with strong anti-Semitic elements.)

In an early 2015 post, one Stormfront user wrote regarding net neutrality: “The fact that the lobbying for this measure was sponsored (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) by George Soros (who is not only one of the wealthiest of the 1% but also a well-known sponsor of far-Left causes and a Jew) should be ringing alarm bells in your head.”

There also exists tentative ties between Free Our Internet and organizations funded by Big Telecom. Among the financial supporters listed on the group’s website is the conservative National Hispanic Fund (NHF), which is reported to receive funding telecom lobbyists. NHF has also been listed as a member of Broadband for America, which is another of the 14 parties subpoenaed by the New York attorney general. Citing leaked tax records, Vice News previously reported that, in 2012, Broadband for America took in more than half its funding, or $2 million, from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade group that represents, among others, the Comcast Corporation and Cox Communications.

Free Our Internet also lists America’s Future Fund PAC and an “anonymous foundation supporter” among its donors.

McNally and Stone did not respond to a request for comment.

An anonymous uploader

The Free Our Internet comments, which the residents of Sharpsburg insist they didn’t submit, were uploaded in bulk files to the FCC’s website in May 2017. While users can visit the commission’s website and submit unique comments they’ve written themselves, it is now more common for advocacy groups to gather comments on their own, and then submit them to the FCC in large batches using its API. These comments are often identical, with users simply attaching their names to statements pre-written by the groups. For this reason, not all identical comments can be written off as the work of bots or stolen identities.

But typically, these organizations submit the comments using email accounts that are clearly marked as belonging to a specific person or group. It stands to reason, if the comments are legitimate, there’s no reason to anonymize their source. The comments submitted by the digital rights group Fight for the Future, for instance, can be clearly identified as uploaded by a member of its staff. In the case of Free Our Internet’s comments, however, the person who uploaded them took special care not to be identified.

Independent journalist Jason Prechtel, in a recent Medium post, released a cache of Microsoft Excel files obtained from the FCC under the Freedom of Information Act, which, Prechtel wrote, “collectively contain nearly 3.4 million rows filled with name, address, and comment data corresponding to the submission fields” used by the FCC’s comment system. This data, which he sued the FCC to obtain, represents roughly 15 percent of the total comments submitted to the commission during the net neutrality public-commenting period.

The comments originating from Free Our Internet referencing “leftist globalists like George Soros” were submitted using a toss-away account registered with anonymous-email provider Hide My Ass. Although unconfirmed, it also appears the uploader may have committed an error, which may help investigators in uncovering their identity.

Screenshot: Jason Pretchel
The Free Our Internet comments are contained in files using a unique naming convention: For example, one batch file is labeled 2017508FOI.csv, with “FOI” being a reference to Free Our Internet. Notably, the same account uploaded other files with that same name format that include the initials “TPA,” an apparent reference to a separate organization called Taxpayer Protection Alliance (TPA). The New York attorney general’s office likewise believes TPA submitted fraudulent comments, potentially on behalf of, or in coordination with, Free Our Internet, according to the October email to reporters.

As Prechtel notes, the same Hide My Ass account (fccfreedom@hmamail) also uploaded multiple files using a different format: F2017509-2.csv; T2017509-2.csv; F2017510-1.csv; et cetera. An initial, followed by a date, followed by a hyphen, and then a number.

Screenshot: Jason Pretchel
Two hours after the last upload from the Hide My Ass account in May 2017, another email address began uploading files in the same format: An initial, followed by a date, followed by a hyphen, and then a number. In this instance, however, the email account behind the uploads was not created using a service whose aim is anonymity, but was registered instead with Apple. Moreover, the same Apple account is also seen in the logs uploading its own batch of “FOI” comments.

The New York investigators believe these particular sets of comments may be further connected to a GOP consultant named Ethan Eilon, who’s worked for assorted Republican campaigns and organizations, including Vertical Strategies, a political firm that’s also been subpoenaed.

Another group, Protect Internet Freedom, was also subpoenaed and is listed in the same bucket alongside Free Our Internet and Eilon, who previously served on its advisory board. It’s national director, Drew Johnson, a Daily Caller columnist, served as a senior scholar at the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, according to a now-deleted bio on the group’s former website.

It has also been documented—and confirmed by Gizmodo—that in the code of a defunct comment submission page run by Protect Internet Freedom, there contains an iframe element calling the website This site is registered to entity called “Net Freedom Ring,” which is run by McNally, and is basically synonymous with Free Our Internet (as is seen in this tweet promoting a Roger Stone InfoWars interview).

Reverse IP lookup results: 14 of 22 domains hosted on IP address
Gizmodo, using domain tools, found that multiple Protect Internet Freedom websites—including—were cohosted on a server with numerous conservative groups of which Eilon either ran or has been a member, such as the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). The domains additionally include several GOP campaign websites and a firm called Conservative Connector, which according to campaign finance records, received during the 2016 cycle more than $31 million from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising effort by the RNC and Trump campaign.

Conservative Connector, which Eilon helmed with ex-Rand Paul adviser John Yob, was profiled in December 2016 by the Washington Post. The coverage of it marvels at the fact that a “small Michigan-based firm” has risen to become the RNC’s primary email list provider.

While Eilon, who could not be reached for comment, is among the parties subpoenaed by the New York attorney general, as of October, neither Conservative Connector nor Yob had been served. It remains unknown, however, which individuals and groups are being scrutinized in the Justice Department investigation, which was first revealed last month by former BuzzFeed reporter Kevin Collier and data editor Jeremy Singer-Vine.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, who has repeatedly pressed the FCC for answers about potential malfeasance during the net neutrality process, said it was clear that “dirty tricks” had been used, including identity theft, to generate millions of fake comments ascribed to real Americans.

“It is especially troubling,” he told Gizmodo, “that someone closely associated with the Trump campaign may have been the mastermind behind the underhanded, likely illegal, tactics waged against internet freedom.”

The New York attorney general’s office declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation. ... mpaign=top

According to the Michael Lewis book The Fifth Risk, as unearthed by Daily Kos, it turns out Trump’s decision to fire Christie had something to do with Trump’s desire to pocket the money. Check out this rather profane passage from the book:

Trump was apoplectic, actually yelling, You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?? Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed, Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. […] To which Trump replied, Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition.

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:59 pm
by seemslikeadream
Feds Eye Imaad Zuberi, Financier With Alleged Ties to Michael Cohen, Devin Nunes, and Qatar

When news broke Monday that federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed President Trump’s inauguration committee yesterday, only one man’s name came up, according to multiple news reports. His name is Imaad Zuberi, and his name also appears on a document tied to an inaugural event featuring foreign power brokers and Devin Nunes, the Trump ally who ran the House intelligence committee. The event is being probed by the Special Counsel’s Office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

A venture capitalist from the Los Angeles area and a former major donor for President Obama, Zuberi’s firm Avenue Ventures gave $900,000 to Trump’s committee. The breakfast event, which also featured Trump’s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn among its 60 or so guests, included representatives from countries across the world.

The event has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House. The existence of that probe was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Special Counsel’s Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries.

Zuberi’s name appears on a document that shows a potential guest list for the breakfast that includes the names of foreign officials, some of whom were from Qatar and Kazakhstan. Zuberi is listed as a “source” for those officials on the list.

Two other individuals with knowledge of the event said that organizers of the event had discussed the event with Zuberi in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.

A spokesperson for Zuberi said that he did not attend the event but showed up as it was ending to talk to people who were exiting the breakfast. He said Zuberi wanted to co-host the event but was told ‘no’ by the breakfast’s organizers.

The Daily Beast has previously reported that Zuberi had contact with Michael Cohen in 2016 and 2017. Sources familiar with the matter said Zuberi initially spoke with Cohen about his plans to attend Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and inquired about access to high-level events. Zuberi had been told that he would need to pay upward of $1 million to attend the events, where he would rub shoulders with senior administration officials including President-elect Trump himself.

Cohen told Zuberi that Cohen would be involved in the new administration's federal infrastructure spending plans, according to two sources with knowledge of the fund’s management. Proposals for that spending at the time ranged from $500 billion to $1 trillion, and Cohen used the fund as a vehicle to peddle Trump administration influence.

According to a report in The Intercept, Cohen asked Qatari government officials in late 2016 to chip in $1 million to the infrastructure fund in exchange for access to the Trump administration. That offer was apparently declined, but Cohen asked others for similar donations, according to those sources, and spoke with Zuberi about the fund.

Zuberi spoke with Cohen before and after the inauguration about potential business opportunities the two could embark upon during a Trump administration, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversations. According to those sources, Cohen asked Zuberi to be included as a lawyer on a Manhattan real estate project. One individual said that deal never went forward.

A spokesperson for Zuberi reached out to The Daily Beast with the following statement for a prior story:

“Cohen never said he would be involved in government nor managing any infrastructure fund, nor did Cohen solicit Zuberi for any such hypothetical fund. Imaad had three brief conversations with Cohen, two of them very brief. Zuberi never donated to such a fund and no such fund has ever existed, even to this day.”

Nunes, for his part, declined to respond to requests to comment for that story. But after it was published, he wrote on Twitter, “Fakenews goes up in flames this week. They really think American people are pawns in their march towards socialism. ... ia=desktop

A Lobbyist At The Trump Tower Meeting Received Half A Million Dollars In Suspicious Payments

A bank flagged transactions, including large cash deposits, made before and after Rinat Akhmetshin attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Emma LoopFebruary 5, 2019, at 10:25 a.m.
Last updated on February 5, 2019, at 11:25 a.m. ET


Lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin arrives at the US Capitol for a meeting with the House Intelligence Committee.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

A Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter.

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The lobbyist also received a large payment that bank investigators deemed suspicious from Denis Katsyv, whose company Prevezon Holdings was accused by the US Justice Department of laundering the proceeds of a $230 million Russian tax fraud.

The Trump Tower meeting and those who attended it have become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. As part of that inquiry, banks were asked to pull financial information on the meeting attendees, and investigators at Wells Fargo handed over documents on Akhmetshin to the US Treasury in 2017. Those records were passed to Mueller's team, but Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the special counsel, declined to say whether the transactions are under investigation. Congressional investigators also requested the financial information from the Treasury Department.

Just last month, Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with whom Akhmetshin attended the meeting, was accused by US authorities of secretly coordinating with the Russian government while defending Katsyv in a money laundering case in New York.

Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya
Evgeny Biyatov / Sputnik via AP
Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya
Katsyv, the son of a powerful Russian figure, backed a lobbying campaign by Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya against the Magnitsky Act, a US law imposing sanctions on a group of Russians officials connected to the suspected $230 million fraud.

In the months before and after the meeting with the Trump campaign, documents show that Akhmetshin made unexplained cash deposits totaling $40,000, and received a wire transfer of $100,000 directly from Katsyv along with $52,000 from a foundation funded by Katsyv and other wealthy Russians to try to undermine that law. Bankers examining the lobbyist’s accounts flagged these transactions for a variety of reasons, including the inability to explain them, their overseas origin, and a suspicion that they showed Akhmetshin had violated federal lobbying law.

A half-million dollars of payments to that nonprofit, the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, have also come under scrutiny. Wired by Katsyv and other backers, the payments came two months before the Trump Tower meeting. Investigators at Bank of America, where the foundation held an account, cited the transactions as potential evidence of corruption and bribery in the bid to overturn the sanctions law, and provided them to Treasury, documents show. Mueller is investigating the foundation, Bloomberg reported.

Bankers at Wells Fargo said the transactions raised concerns that Akhmetshin may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by failing to register as a foreign lobbyist for the network of clients whose money flowed his way. That accusation has been echoed by the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who in 2017 requested information on Akhmetshin from the Department of Justice, which enforces FARA. Akhmetshin told the Associated Press that the Justice Department had contacted him in April 2017 telling him he should have registered under FARA.

With a broad mandate to investigate any matters that arise during the Russia inquiry, the special counsel’s office has given that lobbying regulation new bite. Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chair, and his partner, Rick Gates, were both charged with violating it and pleaded guilty to charges that encompassed the unregistered foreign lobbying claims.

Beyond his work with Katsyv and Veselnitskaya, investigators discovered that Akhmetshin had received large, mostly unexplained wire transfers from companies in Latvia and Panama, and payments from longtime American political insiders, one of whom is a veteran Republican operator with ties to the Trump campaign.

Akhmetshin and his lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Reached on his doorstep, the lobbyist told BuzzFeed News, “Get the fuck out of here, okay?”

Veselnitskaya also declined to answer questions. “Don’t bother with questions,” she told BuzzFeed News in Russian. “Your article is paid for and you have your text ready. Don’t be distracted from what you consider the meaning of life.”

Wells Fargo and Bank of America declined to comment. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department said that it was "working with Congressional committees to respond to their requests" and declined to answer further questions.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is leading the congressional probes into Russian election interference, has scrutinized Akhmetshin’s Magnitsky-related lobbying work, chair Richard Burr confirmed to BuzzFeed News. “Given that the June 9 meeting” — in Trump Tower, with senior campaign staff — “was about that, I think we’ve explored every possibility relative to that topic,” Burr said.

Asked if the committee has investigated the nonprofit that backed Akhmetshin’s lobbying efforts, Burr said: “I think everybody’s been of interest to us; every group, every individual that was tied to that.”

In testimony before another Senate committee, Akhmetshin downplayed his role in the Trump Tower meeting, saying he just happened to be in New York City to see a play, and he showed up in a t-shirt and jeans after receiving a last-minute invitation from Veselnitskaya.

But that invitation would thrust him to the center of the Trump-Russia investigation and shine a light on his highly secretive finances.

Want to help us follow the Trump money trail? Join us as a BuzzFeed News member.

Akhmetshin says it was in late 2015 that he met Denis Katsyv and his lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya. They wanted his help.

The US government had sued Katsyv’s company, Prevezon Holdings, and accused it of being part of a global money laundering machine. Federal prosecutors said Russian government officials and gangsters had stolen $230 million in a tax refund fraud and used Katsyv to funnel some of it through Manhattan real estate.

Akhmetshin is a well-established Washington power broker who has worked to advance the agendas of Kremlin apparatchiks and influential clients from former Soviet states. When they need someone to bend the ear of a US lawmaker, prod a reporter to write a favorable story, or launch a campaign to discredit their enemies, they turn to Akhmetshin — and pay him handsomely.

So when Prevezon hired a powerful US law firm, Akhmetshin was brought on to review documents, he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The firm was BakerHostetler, which investigators at Wells Fargo found paid him $97,400 over five months. The payments were flagged along with the others in Akhmetshin’s account as evidence that he might have violated FARA. BakerHostetler did not return a request for comment.

Akhmetshin said an old friend was also working on the case: Ed Lieberman, a Washington attorney with a wealth of experience on matters related to Russia and post-Soviet states. Lieberman and Akhmetshin have known each other for more than two decades, Akhmetshin said, and the duo worked on behalf of organizations connected to a former Kazakh prime minister. Fusion GPS, the Washington research firm that commissioned the famous Trump dossier, was also hired to conduct research.

It was during this time that Katsyv and Veselnitskaya asked Akhmetshin to go a step further. They wanted him to help them change US legislation bearing the Magnitsky name.

The first Magnitsky law, passed in 2012, was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer who was reportedly tortured to death in prison after uncovering the massive fraud. The law placed sanctions on powerful Russians for their involvement in Magnitsky’s death and the vast scheme that Katsyv stood accused of abetting. Now, the US Congress was set to pass a second Magnitsky Act targeting human rights abusers worldwide.

Akhmetshin said he told Katsyv and Veselnitskaya that he had discovered “inconsistencies” in Magnitsky’s story while working on the Prevezon case. “They asked me what was my advice, and as a long-time D.C. resident, I know there’s nothing better like taking these things to the Hill,” Akhmetshin told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Akhmetshin received his final check from BakerHostetler in March 2016. That same month, he deposited $20,000 cash into his account, the first in a series of cash deposits totaling $78,900 that his bank flagged as suspicious because there was no way to determine their origin or purpose.

In April, Akhmetshin registered to lobby — though not as a foreign agent — on behalf of the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, a Delaware nonprofit that rented office space in the same building as BakerHostetler’s Washington offices. Akhmetshin told congressional investigators the foundation was established by lawyers for Katsyv.

The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation set up offices in this Washington office building.
Emma Loop / BuzzFeed News
The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation set up offices in this Washington office building.

Akhmetshin wrote in his lobbying registration that he would be working on “international adoptions.” That innocent-sounding issue had become a battleground between Russia and the US, with Putin exacting revenge for the sanctions levied under the Magnitsky Act by blocking US adoptions of Russian children. Resuming the adoptions and criticizing the sanctions were among Veselnitskaya’s talking points at the Trump Tower meeting — to the disappointment of Trump campaign officials who had come in search of information about Clinton.

The same month Akhmetshin registered to lobby for the foundation, Katsyv and two of his business partners, plus a Russian bank executive and a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, sent a series of wire transfers totaling nearly $500,000 to the nonprofit’s account.

Examiners at Bank of America later turned a record of these transactions over to US Treasury officials, alerting them that the payments could be evidence of bribery or political corruption related to the Magnitsky Act. The examiners noted it was odd that all five of the deposits happened so close to one another — and not long before the Trump Tower meeting.

At Wells Fargo, officials noted that Akhmetshin received $52,686 from the foundation. The amount is at least $30,000 more than he declared earning on lobbying disclosure forms that year.

Akhmetshin canvassed Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers that the stories they heard about Magnitsky and Russian money-laundering were wrong. The foundation also hired Cozen O’Connor, a high-powered US lobbying firm, and the late Democratic Rep. Ron Dellums. A spokesperson for Cozen O’Connor did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News. "The substance of our brief engagement with HRAGIF is disclosed in our Lobbying Disclosure Act filings," the firm’s spokesperson said. Veselnitskaya says she worked as an advisor to the foundation, while Lieberman came on board as its legal advisor, Akhmetshin said.

Akhmetshin and Dellums spent May 2016 looking for sympathetic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was working on the new Magnitsky law. “I had a ton of people that the Russians sent through my office to feed me a bunch of bullshit,” Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat on the committee who worked on the legislation, told BuzzFeed News.

There was no talk of adoptions when Akhmetshin and Dellums got the attention of Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, another member of the committee, outside his office. “This was Magnitsky,” Meeks said.

Veselnitskaya won a coveted seat at a hearing on Russia thanks to one of Akhmetshin's associates, Lanny Wiles, according to the Washington Post.
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Veselnitskaya won a coveted seat at a hearing on Russia thanks to one of Akhmetshin's associates, Lanny Wiles, according to the Washington Post.

By the early summer, Veselnitskaya was working on a far more audacious approach. The lawyer was busy setting up a meeting in Manhattan with Trump’s top campaign officials, including his son Donald Trump Jr; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chair Manafort.

Trump Jr. said that when he got to the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, he quickly realized that Veselnitskaya had little of the promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. “It was clear to me that her real purpose in asking for the meeting all along was to discuss Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. “I proceeded to quickly and politely end the meeting by telling Ms. Veselnitskaya that because my father was a private citizen there did not seem to be any point for having this discussion.”

Akhmetshin made the second large, round-number cash deposit into his account two months later, in August. Bank examiners flagged the $20,000 deposit as suspicious because they could not determine the origin of the funds. The lobbyist also received his final check from the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation that month.

Efforts to change the new Magnitsky Act had failed. In December 2016, the US passed the expanded legislation, and a few days later, Akhmetshin filed paperwork saying he was no longer lobbying for the foundation. But payments from those connected to the foundation didn’t stop.

Akhmetshin continued receiving checks and wires from Wiles Consulting, a Florida-based company controlled by Lanny Wiles, a longtime Republican operator. Those payments, which began in January 2016, extended to April 2017, and totaled $72,500.

Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly. Investigators, citing unspecified public information, said Wiles claimed he was paid by Akhmetshin to work on the Magnitsky lobbying issue, not the other way around. The investigators did not cite their source, but a 2016 Politico article quoted Wiles saying he had been paid by Akhmetshin. Investigators at Bank of America did find that the foundation had issued checks to Wiles, but the amount is unclear. Wiles, whose wife was the chair of Trump’s Florida campaign, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the same Politico article, Wiles said he didn’t want to register as a foreign agent, but that Akhmetshin had told him it wouldn’t be necessary, as he would be working for BakerHostetler.

FARA offers several exemptions, including one for those representing foreign individuals or entities in a legal capacity. However, the exemption “has several technical requirements and has been interpreted by DOJ relatively narrowly in the past,” said Dan Pickard, a DC lawyer who specializes in FARA. Another exemption allows those representing foreigners to register under the less stringent Lobbying Disclosure Act, as Akhmetshin did. “However, this exemption is not applicable if the agent is working for a foreign principal that is either a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party,” Pickard said.

In August 2017, Akhmetshin made a third cash deposit into his account, this time for $22,900. Again, bank investigators could not readily explain the deposit. That same month, the Financial Times reported, Akhmetshin testified before a grand jury in Mueller’s investigation.

Akhmetshin received another wire transfer in October 2017 — this time directly from Katsyv, whose father, Pyotr Katsyv, is vice president of the state-owned Russian Railways and a former transportation minister. Representatives for Pyotr Katsyv did not return a detailed message.

Pyotr Katsyv was recently revealed to have been involved, at least peripherally, in his son’s US money laundering case. In December 2018, Veselnitskaya was indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping the Russian government draft a document claiming that Magnitsky was the true perpetrator of the massive tax fraud. Prevezon, which Veselnitskaya defended, submitted the document in court as evidence. Veselnitskaya emailed drafts of the document to “a supervising Russian prosecutor in the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office,” the indictment says, and in one case copied the “father of the owner of Real Estate Company 1” — identifiable as the senior Katsyv.

The $100,000 from Denis Katsyv to Akhmetshin was listed only as payment for consulting work, the documents show. Given what was already known at the time about Akhmetshin’s work on the Magnitsky Act and Prevezon case, bankers listed the transaction as another example of his alleged undeclared foreign lobbying. Veselnitskaya, who has represented Katsyv, did not answer questions for the Prevezon owner.

Investigators at Wells Fargo reviewed the previous two years of Akhmetshin’s account activity in search of evidence that could be helpful to Mueller’s inquiry. One of the earliest transactions they flagged was a $30,000 wire from a company based in Latvia. Examiners said the transaction referenced a short-term loan, but they could find little information about the company. Bankers labelled the transaction, like other wires into Akhmetshin’s account, as suspicious because it came from overseas and could be connected to Akhmetshin’s alleged undeclared foreign lobbying.

The company was Laudato SIA, a firm connected to Igor Pobereschski, a Russian-German lobbyist who is reportedly wanted in Russia for failing to pay debts to a Moscow law firm. Pobereschski did not answer detailed questions from BuzzFeed News.

A couple months later, in July 2015, a Panamanian shell company called EGH International had wired Akhmetshin $17,774 for what it listed as travel expense reimbursement, examiners found. They could find little other public information about EGH International, either.

Investigators at Wells Fargo noted that beginning in January 2015, Akhmetshin began collecting checks from his old friend Lieberman as well, totaling $52,000 by June 2017. Investigators said one of the checks appeared to reference a rich Russian business owner. Lieberman did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Akhmetshin cashed two checks, worth a total of $7,500, related to another foreign entity — one from an institute he told Congress is “centered around” the former Kazakh prime minister and another from a DC lawyer who has represented him in the US.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America submitted their findings to the Treasury Department in early November 2017. By then, Congress was scrutinizing Akhmetshin, too. The Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence committees questioned Akhmetshin that month. The Senate Intelligence Committee interviewed Akhmetshin in the fall of 2017, a source close to the committee confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees both requested financial documents on Akhmetshin, but it’s unclear what, exactly, they have gotten. Burr, the Intelligence Committee chair, has said his panel has received “every financial document” requested from Treasury.

A source familiar with the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation said Akhmetshin’s aggressive Hill lobbying came up during the probe, but was not looked at in great detail. Republicans on the committee shuttered its Russia investigation last year, but Democrats have retaken control of the House, allowing them to reopen the inquiry.


This story has been updated with comment from the Treasury Department. ... spicious-p


January 30, 2019/55 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, 2018 Mid-Term Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
A lot of people are reporting and misreporting details from this Mueller filing revealing that it had been the target of disinformation efforts starting in October.


To substantiate an argument that Concord Management should not be able to share with Yevgeniy Prigozhin the sensitive discovery that the government has shared with their trollish lawyers, Mueller revealed that on October 22, someone posted 1000 files turned over in discovery along with a bunch of other crap, partially nested within the file structure of the files turned over in discovery.

On October 22, 2018, the newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!”1 The tweet also included a link to a webpage located on an online file-sharing portal. This webpage contained file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials (including tracking numbers assigned by the Special Counsel’s Office) produced by the government in discovery.2 The FBI’s initial review of the over 300,000 files from the website has found that the unique “hashtag” values of over 1,000 files on the website matched the hashtag values of files produced in discovery.3 Furthermore, the FBI’s ongoing review has found no evidence that U.S. government servers, including servers used by the Special Counsel’s Office, fell victim to any computer intrusion involving the discovery files.

1 On that same date, a reporter contacted the Special Counsel’s Office to advise that the reporter had received a direct message on Twitter from an individual who stated that they had received discovery material by hacking into a Russian legal company that had obtained discovery material from Reed Smith. The individual further stated that he or she was able to view and download the files from the Russian legal company’s database through a remote server.

2 For example, the file-sharing website contains a folder labeled “001-W773.” Within that folder was a folder labeled “Yahoo.” Within that folder was a folder labeled “return.” Within the “return” folder were several folders with the names of email addresses. In discovery in this case, the government produced a zip file named “Yahoo 773.” Within that zip file were search warrant returns for Yahoo email accounts. The names of the email accounts contained in that zip file were identical to the names of the email address folders within the “return” subfolder on the webpage. The webpage contained numerous other examples of similarities between the structure of the discovery and the names and structures of the file folders on the webpage. The file names and structure of the material produced by the government in discovery are not a matter of public record. At the same time, some folders contained within the Redstone Hacking release have naming conventions that do not appear in the government’s discovery production but appear to have been applied in the course of uploading the government’s production. For example, the “001- W773” folder appears within a folder labeled “REL001,” which is not a folder found within the government’s production. The naming convention of folder “REL001” suggests that the contents of the folder came from a production managed on Relativity, a software platform for managing document review. Neither the Special Counsel’s Office nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office used Relativity to produce discovery in this case. [my emphasis]

It sounds like Mueller’s office found out about it when being contacted by the journalist who had been alerted to the content on Twitter.

But before Mueller asked Concord’s trollish lawyers about it, the defense attorneys — citing media contacts they themselves had received — contacted prosecutors to offer a bullshit excuse about where the files came from.

On October 23, 2018, the day after the tweet quoted above, defense counsel contacted the government to advise that defense counsel had received media inquiries from journalists claiming they had been offered “hacked discovery materials from our case.” Defense counsel advised that the vendor hired by the defense reported no unauthorized access to the non-sensitive discovery. Defense counsel concluded, “I think it is a scam peddling the stuff that was hacked and dumped many years ago by Shaltai Boltai,” referencing a purported hack of Concord’s computer systems that occurred in approximately 2014. That hypothesis is not consistent with the fact that actual discovery materials from this case existed on the site, and that many of the file names and file structures on the webpage reflected file names and file structures from the discovery production in this case.

Without any hint of accusation against the defense attorneys (though this motion is accompanied by an ex parte one, so who knows if they offered further explanation there), Mueller notes any sharing of this information for disinformation purposes would violate the protective order in the case.

As stated previously, these facts establish a use of the non-sensitive discovery in this case in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the protective order. The order states that discovery may be used by defense counsel “solely in connection with the defense of this criminal case, and for no other purpose, and in connection with no other proceeding, without further order of this Court,” Dkt. No. 42-1, ¶ 1, and that “authorized persons shall not copy or reproduce the materials except in order to provide copies of the materials for use in connection with this case by defense counsel and authorized persons,” id. ¶ 3. The use of the file names and file structure of the discovery to create a webpage intended to discredit the investigation in this case described above shows that the discovery was reproduced for a purpose other than the defense of the case.

This thread, from one of the journalists who was offered the information, put it all in context back on November 7, the day after the election.


The thread shows how the release of the Mueller-related files was part of a month-long effort to seed a claim that the Internet Research Agency had succeeded in affecting the election.

Update: This story provides more background.


Given how the Mueller disinformation functioned as part of that month-long, election oriented campaign, I’m more interested in this passage from the Mueller investigation than that the investigation had been targeted. Mueller argues that they shouldn’t have to share the sensitive discovery with Yevgeniy Prigozhin because the sensitive discovery mentions uncharged individuals who are still trying to fuck with our elections.

First, the sensitive discovery identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in operations that interfere with lawful U.S. government functions like those activities charged in the indictment.

To be sure, we knew the investigation into Prigozhin’s trolls was ongoing. On October 19, just days before these files got dropped, DOJ unsealed an EDVA complaint, which had been filed under seal on September 28, against Prigozhin’s accountant, Alekseevna Khusyaynova. Along with showing Prigozhin’s trolls responding to the original Internet Research Agency indictment last February, it showed IRA’s ongoing troll efforts through at least June of last year.

Then, in December, Concord insinuated that Mueller prosecutor Rush Atkinson had obtained information via the firewall counsel and taken an investigative step on that information back on August 30.

On August 23, 2018, in connection with a request (“Concord’s Request”) made pursuant to the Protective Order entered by the Court, Dkt. No. 42-1, Concord provided confidential information to Firewall Counsel. The Court was made aware of the nature of this information in the sealed portion of Concord’s Motion for Leave to Respond to the Government’s Supplemental Briefing Relating to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the Indictment, filed on October 22, 2018. Dkt. No. 70-4 (Concord’s “Motion for Leave”). Seven days after Concord’s Request, on August 30, 2018, Assistant Special Counsel L. Rush Atkinson took investigative action on the exact same information Concord provided to Firewall Counsel. Undersigned counsel learned about this on October 4, 2018, based on discovery provided by the Special Counsel’s Office. Immediately upon identifying this remarkable coincidence, on October 5, 2018, undersigned counsel requested an explanation from the Special Counsel’s Office, copying Firewall Counsel on the e-mail.


Having received no further explanation or information from the government, undersigned counsel raised this issue with the Court in a filing made on October 22, 2018 in connection with the then-pending Motion to Dismiss. In response to questions from the Court, Firewall Counsel denied having any communication with the Special Counsel’s Office.

This was a bid to obtain live grand jury investigative information, one that failed earlier this month after Mueller explained under seal how his prosecutors had obtained this information and Dabney Friedrich denied the request.

What this filing, in conjunction with Josh Russell’s explanatory Twitter thread, reveals is that the Mueller disinformation effort was part of a disinformation campaign targeted at the election.


And I find that interesting because of a disturbing exchange in a very disturbing Global Threats hearing the other day. After getting both Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray to offer excuses for White House decisions to given security risks like Jared Kushner security clearance, Martin Heinrich then asked Coats why ODNI had not shared the report on election tampering even with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Heinrich: Director Coats, I want to come back to you for a moment. Your office issued a statement recently announcing that you had submitted the intelligence community’s report assessing the threats to the 2018 mid-term elections to the President and to appropriate Executive Agencies. Our committee has not seen this report. And despite committee requests following the election that the ODNI brief the committee on any identified threats, it took ODNI two months to get a simple oral briefing and no written assessment has yet been provided. Can you explain to me why we haven’t been kept more fully and currently informed about those Russian activities in the 2018–

Chairman Richard Burr interrupts to say that, in fact, he and Vice Chair Mark Warner have seen the report.

Burr: Before you respond, let me just acknowledge to the members that the Vice Chairman and I have both been briefed on the report and it’s my understanding that the report at some point will be available.

Coats then gives a lame excuse about the deadlines, 45 days, then 45 days.

Coats: The process that we’re going through are two 45 day periods, one for the IC to assess whether there was anything that resulted in a change of the vote or anything with machines, uh, what the influence efforts were and so forth. So we collected all of that, and the second 45 days — which we then provided to the Chairman and Vice Chairman. And the second 45 days is with DHS looking, and DOJ, looking at whether there’s information enough there to take — to determine what kind of response they might take. We’re waiting for that final information to come in.

After Coats dodges his question about sharing the report with the Committee, Heinrich then turns to Burr to figure out when they’re going to get the information. Burr at least hints that the Executive might try to withhold this report, but it hasn’t gotten to that yet.

Heinrich: So the rest of us can look forward — so the rest of us can then look forward to reading the report?

Coats: I think we will be informing the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of that, of their decisions.

Heinrich: That’s not what I asked. Will the rest of the Committee have access to that report, Mr. Chairman?


Heinrich: Chairman Burr?

Burr; Well, let me say to members we’re sort of in unchartered ground. But I make the same commitment I always do, that anything that the Vice Chairman and myself are exposed to, we’ll make every request to open the aperture so that all members will be able to read I think it’s vitally important, especially on this one, we’re not to a point where we’ve been denied or we’re not to a point that negotiations need to start. So it’s my hope that, once the final 45-day window is up that is a report that will be made available, probably to members only.

Coming as it did in a hearing where it became clear that Trump’s spooks are helpless in keeping Trump from pursuing policies that damage the country, this exchange got very little attention. But it should!

The Executive Branch by law has to report certain things to the Intelligence Committees. This report was mandated by Executive Order under threat of legislation mandating it.

And while Coats’ comment about DOJ, “looking at whether there’s information enough there to take — to determine what kind of response they might take,” suggests part of the sensitivity about this report stems from a delay to provide DOJ time to decide whether they’ll take prosecutorial action against what they saw in the election, the suggestion that only members of the committee (not staffers and not other members of Congress) will ever get the final report, as well as the suggestion that Coats might even fight that, put this report on a level of sensitivity that matches covert actions, the most sensitive information that get shared with Congress.

Maybe the Russians did have an effect on the election?

In any case, going back to the Mueller disinformation effort, that feels like very familiar dick-wagging, an effort to make key entities in the US feel vulnerable to Russian compromise. Mueller sounds pretty sure it was not a successful compromise (that is, the data came from Concord’s lawyers, not Mueller).

But if the disinformation was part an effort to boast that Putin’s allies had successfully tampered with the vote — particularly if Russia really succeeded in doing so — it might explain why this report is being treated with the sensitivity of the torture or illegal spying program.

Update: I’ve corrected this to note that in the end the Intelligence Authorization did not mandate this report, as was originally intended; Trump staved that requirement off with an Executive Order. Still, that still makes this look like an attempt to avoid admitting to Congress that your buddy Putin continues to tamper in US elections. ... erference/

Since we're talking Concord's disinfo targeting Mueller, worth noting that Ukraine getting more bullish on calling Wagner PMC, which is "owned" by same guy who owns Concord, is largely run by GRU, which hacked the DNC.

Wagner PMC part of Russian military intel, IDs of "mercenaries" confirm – Ukraine security chief

Chief of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine, Vasyl Hrytsak, says travel documents issued to mercenaries of Russia's Wagner Private Military Company confirm that the PMC is a secret detachment of the country's military intelligence.

“Russia keeps lying cynically, trying to justify its crimes committed across the globe. The Kremlin keeps yelling that the armed units of its military intelligence don't protect dictatorial regimes in Sudan, Syria and have not been involved in the murder of journalists in the CAR who tried to shed light on their clandestine activities,” the SBU reported on their website.

The Security Service of Ukraine reminded that on January 25, materials testifying that Russian mercenaries and weapons were delivered to Sudan and other countries of the region “directly by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on the request of M Invest LLC, a company owned by 'Putin's chef' Yevgeny Prigozhin.”

Moreover, the SBU chief adds, it was through “M Invest” that tickets were purchased for the “passengers” of flights performed by the Russian defense ministry's 223rd flight squad, who turned out to be outsourced operatives of Russia's military intelligence from Wagner PMC.

“From August to December 2018, Tu-154M planes (RA-85041, RA-85155 registration numbers) brought to Sudan, the CAR, and other African countries on a rotational basis 1,012 'we-are-not-there' troops, whose tickets, personal, and passport data are today at the SBU disposal,” reads the statement.

Read alsoContractors of Russia's PMC Wagner beef up security for Venezuela's Maduro – media

The SBU published part of the available information, in particular, the list of 149 people who “directly partook in suppressing democratic protests in Sudan in early 2019.”

“An analysis of passport data of over a thousand PMC Wagner operatives testifies that the overwhelming majority of their travel documents were processed by a same Moscow-based unit of the Federal Migration Service, which also issued cover documents for 'Petrov' and 'Boshirov', Russian military intelligence officers who had carried out a chemical attack in British Salisbury.

At the same time, passport series and registration numbers of several hundreds of passports of "Wagner’s men" show the IDs were issued in bulk, one after another.

Hrytsak says this once again confirms that Wagner PMC is “a secret detachment of outsourced assassins hired by the Russian military intelligence.”

According to the report, the SBU also found that Russian military intelligence was also sent to citizens from other countries: Belarus, Moldova, and the self-proclaimed republics supported by Russia, as part of the African rotations of the Wagner private security complex.

“In addition, the available information indicates the target recruitment to the Sudanese“ business trip ”of PMC Wagner of traitors to Ukraine from among the residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea, who received Russian citizenship as a reward for helping the Russian aggressor,” added the Security Service.

Read alsoNew evidence ties murder of three Russian journalists in CAR to "Putin's chef" – media

It is also noted that more than 90% of mercenaries deployed in Africa had taken part in Russia's military aggression against Ukraine in 2014-2015, in particular, in the offensive on the Lugansk Airport and the city of Debaltseve.

The SBU also found that since the end of 2018, as part of the efforts to create in Sudan a “military-technical support point for the Russian Navy,” former Ukrainian Navy officers were deployed there, who in the spring of 2014 had betrayed Ukraine and sided with the Russian occupants, signing contracts with the Russian navy. ... chief.html

NEW filings in the mystery Mueller case - The Special Counsel's office just filed a sealed 1,275-word brief addressing efforts to unseal the case involving its subpoena to the foreign-owned company. A minute later came a separate 364-word sealed motion from Mueller's office.

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 7:00 pm
by seemslikeadream
13 Russian Nationals Indicted by Grand Jury

Julia Davis

Private jet reportedly used by Putin's Chef Evgeny Prigozhin traveled to Beirut (48 times in 2 years), Syria (21 times), Egypt (27 times) and repeatedly near or over Libya. According to Kenya’s news media, the plane has also visited Sudan and Chad.

С чем бы ни связывали имя Евгения Пригожина, — с «фабрикой троллей», вмешательством в выборы США, «ЧВК Вагнера», добычей нефти, газа и золота, — за ним прочно закрепилось звание «кремлевского повара». «Новая газета» совместно с Центром по изучению коррупции и оргпреступности (OCCRP) посмотрела, куда летает самолет Пригожина, и выяснила, что уже долгое время он, как по расписанию, перемещается в Африку и на Ближний Восток. Что готовит предприниматель, занимающийся обычным кейтерингом, в зонах вооруженных конфликтов по всему миру? ... -i-spetsii

Prigozhin's jet flights tracked by @novaya_gazeta:
Image ... 3158069248

'Putin's Chef' Has His Fingers In Many Pies, Critics Say

Greg MyreJanuary 30, 20191:02 PM ET

In a 2006 photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) hosts U.S. President George W. Bush in St. Petersburg, Russia. At second right is Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef." The U.S. has charged Prigozhin with running an Internet operation that interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He's also been sanctioned for supporting Russia's occupation in Ukraine.

Sergei Zhukov/AP
In 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a dinner for President George W. Bush and other world leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia. In a photo, the man standing behind them is the caterer, wearing a tux and a white bow tie. His name is Yevgeny Prigozhin.

His nickname is "Putin's chef." So what's the big deal about him?

"He epitomizes a real renaissance man in contemporary Russia, which is to say that he runs some very high-end restaurants," said Angela Stent, the head of Russian Studies at Georgetown University and author of the forthcoming book Putin's World.

Interesting. But what else does he do?

"He was the one running this Internet Research Agency, this troll factory in St. Petersburg that managed to mobilize thousands of Americans from 5,000 miles away to demonstrate and protest in the 2016 election," said Stent.

That gets your attention. And there's more.

Yevgeny Prigozhin (second right) shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, around his Concord Catering factory, outside St. Petersburg in 2010. The company has secured large government contracts to provide school lunches and feed the Russian military.

Alexei Druzhinin/AP
"He also runs Wagner, one of the largest mercenary private military groups in Russia," she added. "His troops are in Syria, they're in Ukraine, they're in a number of other places, where they are fighting in the Russian state's interest."

So he's got a lot cooking.

Tracking the key figures around Putin, and how they fit into the Russia investigation in this country, can be confusing.

Yet Prigozhin's name is worth knowing. He's burly and bald, at age 57. And while his name keeps cropping up, he's largely invisible — even in Russia.

"He doesn't have much of a public persona in Russia. Until very recently he was virtually unknown," said Dmitri Simes, who heads the Center for the National Interest, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "This is not a person who speaks at important political or business meetings. This is not a person who regularly appears on TV."

So where did Prigozhin come from?

He spent most of his 20s in prison on robbery, fraud and prostitution convictions. In the 1990s, he rebuilt his life with hotdog stands, which evolved into a catering business in St. Petersburg, Putin's hometown.

Yevgeny Prigozhin (left) serves food to Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a 2011 dinner at Prigozhin's restaurant outside Moscow.

Misha Japaridze/AP
"He proceeded to get a big break catering high-profile events, one with Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac in 2001," said Michael Kofman, who closely follows Russia for the U.S. government-funded research organization CNA. "Eventually, he got a massive contract for feeding the Russian military and the Russian armed forces, which is probably where most of his money comes from."

At a recent press conference, Putin was dismissive when asked about his putative chef.

"All my chefs are employed by the Federal Guard Service. They are all servicemen holding different ranks. I have no other chefs," Putin said.

Regarding the private military company, Putin added: "If they comply with Russian laws, they have every right to work and promote their business interests anywhere in the world."

Those interests extend to Syria. In a dramatic confrontation last year, Russian mercenaries tried to seize an oil facility that was held by the U.S military and its allies.

As it was unfolding, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he wanted to find out who the attackers were and make sure they weren't part of the formal Russian army. The U.S. military contacted their Russian counterparts on a "deconfliction" hotline the two sides use to make sure they didn't shoot at each other in Syria.

"The Russia High Command in Syria assured us it was not their people," Mattis told Congress last year.

Once that was cleared up, Mattis said, "My direction was for the force to be annihilated."

And it was. The Americans say more than 200 Russian mercenaries were killed in withering airstrikes before they retreated from the one-sided fight near the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.


Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a dark suit, second from right, attends a meeting involving top Russian defense officials and members of Libya's National Army in Moscow on Nov. 7, 2018. The photo is taken from a video released by the Libyan National Army.

"They are hired mercenaries who fight for money," Kofman said of the Wagner fighters. He said the mercenaries are allowed to keep a percentage of what they capture, and that's why they targeted the oil facility.

"They thought they'd take it and the thing turned out to be a fiasco," he said.

Kofman and other analysts see Prigozhin as the man funding these ventures, though he may not be involved in the details. In addition, it's not clear how much guidance the Kremlin provides, but it may be limited to some general guidelines, according to analysts.

Simes, meanwhile, notes that many rich businessmen in Putin's orbit are often described as "oligarchs." He disagrees with this label, saying it suggests they have real political power, which they don't in Putin's Russia.

He describes the Putin-Prigozhin ties as "not a relationship of co-equals, not a relationship of two intimate friends, but somebody who knows Putin reasonably well, who benefited from that relationship and who is prepared to be of help when needed."

Because Prigozhin and others like him are not formally part of the government, the Kremlin can distance itself and deny they are acting on behalf of the Russian state.

However, the U.S. government has shown a strong interest in Prigozhin.

The Treasury Department sanctioned him in 2016 for supporting Russia's military occupation in Ukraine.

Robert Mueller's team indicted him last February, saying he used his catering company to fund the Internet Research Agency, which interfered in the 2016 election.

There's virtually no record of Prigozhin speaking publicly. But he did comment on the indictment, telling Russia's state-run Ria Novosti news agency, "Americans are very impressionable people. They see what they want to see. If they want to see the devil — let them see one."

There was a rare sighting in November, when a Libyan military delegation met their Russian counterparts in Moscow. A video of the meeting shows everyone in a military uniform — except one Russian, who's conspicuously wearing a business suit. The man is Yevgeny Prigozhin.

And in the latest twist, Reuters reports that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are now in Venezuela supporting Nicolás Maduro, the embattled president. The Kremlim denies this. ... ritics-say

Schiff: The House Intel Committee's Russia investigation "will focus principally on five interconnected lines of inquiry, beginning with these incomplete or unexamined investigative threads:"


Number 5

because it’s clearly aimed at someone on the committee: “Whether any actors – foreign or domestic – sought or are seeking to impede, obstruct, and/or mislead authorized investigations into these matters, including those in Congress

Here’s looking at you Devin Nunes :D

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

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:06 am
by seemslikeadream

If you have medal from the Vitezi Rend you can skip the background check

Seb Gorka Is a National Treasure

When in doubt, always go Full-Gorka.

Featured Image
(Illustration by Hannah Yoest / photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
“I asked Sebastian Gorka about his tweets; he told me to ‘go outside and lick a metal street lamp.’”

— Will Sommer, The Daily Beast

Sebastian Gorka is a man of many distinctions. He was one of the first Breitbart alums to be tapped to serve a U.S. president. The first deputy assistant to a president to also be a fugitive from justice in a foreign county. And the only White House employee to ever be confused with an Olmec head.

In short: At some point in the medium-future, Donald Trump will be gone, the executive branch will return to something resembling normalcy, and people like Seb Gorka won’t be allowed within sniffing distance of political power. So we ought to appreciate him while we have him.

Few presidential advisors ever struggled with security clearance the way Gorka did. Shortly before he was fired, he had his clearance revoked while he was on vacation. And even now, two years after his departure, the fact of his clearance is being investigated by the Democrats.

The Hungarian Dragon came to Trump World offering himself as an academic and even though his credentials were somewhat . . . questionable . . . the vanity plates on his (four cylinder?) black Mustang—the poor man’s Darth Vader sports car—told you everything you needed to know about his tough-guy bona fides. And in case you wanted an extra helping of bona fides, there’s this Gorka-ism: “The era of the pajama boy is over and alpha males are back!” Because Lord knows, there’s nothing more alpha than talking about how alpha you are while sitting in a satellite cable studio talking into a camera.

Since his time in the White House, the Gorka has done what many terminated members of Trump World have done: Engaged in a humiliating struggle to cling to his small piece of the fame pie. And it’s a battle he’s mostly winning: His LinkedIn page proclaims that he’s a contributor to Fox News and the Heritage Foundation and has a show, “America First,” on the Salem Radio Network.

But it hasn’t been all green rooms and think tank splendor. He’s had to hustle with the base, too. He gave an amazing interview with a magazine called Recoil—tag line: “The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle”—in which he divulged all sorts of fascinating personal details that attest to the return of the alpha male. For instance: “As a kid I loved long-range prone position rifle shooting at Bisley in the U.K. Once a month, my dad and I would make the trip and shoot 7.62 bolt actions with iron aperture sights at 1,000 yards. I loved the delay between the ignition and the bullet hitting the butts.”

And he always carries with him a C-A-T tourniquet and “I can deploy it with one hand.”


Recoil: What do you do for fun?

Gorka: Once a month, I join my FFL for a night of full-auto shooting (Tommy guns, HK MP-5, HK-53, etc.). Rummage through the local comic book/used sci-fi bookstore. I grew up on Doctor Who, 2000AD, and Judge Dredd, and you never get that out of your bloodstream.

Gorka also decided to grab some #MeToo publicity by tweeting advice at Harvey Weinstein. And then there was the time he suggested Mike Flynn should be pardoned and given John Kelly’s old job as chief of staff. Because sometimes the only way to get your name in the headlines is going the Full Gorka. For instance, when the anonymous New York Times op-ed was roiling the media world, no one especially cared what Gorka thought. So he rushed in front of a camera to predict that “John Kelly will root out and “publicly humiliate” the author of the anonymous New York Times op-ed within days of its release.” To paraphrase Sun Tzu, The clever warrior knows that the accuracy of predictions matter not, so long as they get you on TV.

When he’s not on television—or bullying young reporters or getting chesty with journalists—Gorka still takes time to write. After all, you can be an intellectual and an alpha male. His latest is a book titled Why We Fight. Staying on-brand, Gorka held the book party at the Trump hotel in Washington where Mrs. Bill Shine began the evening by announcing, “I’m the racist and he’s the rapist!” (She was referring to her husband, White House advisor Bill Shine, not Gorka.)

But what has the Dragon been doing lately? If you guessed that he was dipping his toe into the boiling hellscape that is Qanon . . . you would be right!

Last week, Gorka started hinting at the conspiracy theory that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was weirdly absent from the world and maybe, kind-of, sort-of dead? He’s just asking questions!

The “Missing RBG” theory is a corollary to the massive Storm theory that the Qanon nuts have been obsessing over recently. Gorka was the first semi-respectable figure to play footsie with it.

Like so much else about Gorka—his “resignation,” his “doctorate,” his predictions, his alpha-bear status—this turned out to be cracked, too.

But just be warned: You may think that Sebastian Gorka is a ridiculous figure of fun. But some day the White House is going to be run by boring, semi-competent technocrats again. And you’ll miss him.

Craig Unger

Craig Unger Retweeted Olga Lautman
Former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov comes forward with a new report about Trump negotiations in Moscow in the 90s. Note the date--1995, not 1996. Does this mean yet another unreported business trip to Russia to build Trump Tower Moscow?

Olga Lautman

Russia’s corrupt former mob mayor Luzhkov confirms the video of Trump in Moscow in 1995, doesn’t correct the date, that seems to have been leaked by the Russians 5 days ago. Lol media reported?? No the perfect 28…
Show this thread

Russia’s corrupt former mob mayor Luzhkov confirms the video of Trump in Moscow in 1995, doesn’t correct the date, that seems to have been leaked by the Russians 5 days ago. Lol media reported?? No the perfect 28 second reporting angling at Trump was intentionally leaked

This is very strange! A video dropped 4 days ago showing Trump meeting w million dollar watch man in 1995. Previously we only knew about the 1996 trip with Lorber
Maxim A. Suchkov

#Russia, December 1995.
#Moscow city officials welcome a delegation of #US developers to talk investments into construction business of the Russian capital

Craig Unger

Also worth noting, as per #HouseofTrump, that Mayor Luzhkov had ties to Russian Mafia financial guru Semion #Mogilevich(center) and the murderous Vyacheslav Ivankov(right) who owned a condo in Trump Tower


The 1995 Gangster Meeting in Israel That Blows Opens the Trump-Russia Saga
January 24, 2019 Brian E. Frydenborg Leave a comment
After Monday’s New York Times piece on Trump business partner and associate Felix Sater’s efforts that began at least in November, 2015, to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to help Donald Trump get elected President that also involved Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, and a concurrent Washington Post piece that showed Cohen following up in January 2016 with a member of Putin’s inner circle on a related potential business deal, the wide, tangled web involving Trump, Sater, and Cohen demands only more attention.

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse August 30, 2017


By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter@bfry1981) August 30th, 2017 (based heavily on research from my four previous related articles)

The April 2012 opening of Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. From left, Jim Petrus, COO of Trump Hotel Collection, Alex Shnaider, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — Alex Urosevic/ Agency

Note: Earlier readers may have been confused because somehow, someone got into my post and edited out names like Topolov, Shnaider, & Seabeco. I have made security adjustments so that will not happen again.

AMMAN — The best prism through which to understand the big picture of how deep and incriminating Team Trump’s connections are with Team Putin/Russia is that of the many crooked business deals Trump and his associates embarked upon with operatives of Putin/the Russian government and the Russian mafia (two entities which can, in fact, be difficult to distinguish or separate from each other). The devil is in the details, and only a full exploration can truly expose the magnitude of this story.

This article is not that full story, but a much shorter gateway to that full story, itself the culmination of a year of meticulous research and involving some 70 close Trump associates, Putin associates, Russian government operatives, and Russian organized crime figures and their associates involved in dozens of crooked business deals totaling many billions of dollars that included international energy giants and over a dozen major luxury real estate deals; nearly all of the people and deals involved criminality and/or scandal.

Perhaps the foundational pillar in this story—besides Donald Trump’s penchant for unethical and criminal business practices and for teaming up with business partners who share it—is a meeting in Tel Aviv in October of 1995. This meeting was hosted by Russian-Canadian “businessman” Boris Birshtein and brought together leading members of Russian and Ukrainian organized crime in order to discuss mutual plans for their activities in Ukraine, which would almost certainly have included some of the later moves discussed below. Among the mafia bosses present was Semion Mogilevich, the “Boss of Bosses” in the Russian mafia and known as the “Brainy Don” because of his wizardry at orchestrating complex financial schemes that took years to plan and set up. And one need not be an expert to realize that so many high-level organized crime bosses would not congregate at one place at one time unless they were discussing something big, very big¸ with enormous amounts of money at stake.

By this time, it should be noted that Mogilevich had already had two major mob lieutenants who had bought units in Trump Tower in Manhattan: David Bogatin and Vyacheslav Ivankov, and Bogatin personally dealt directly with Donald Trump. There was also the case of Felix Sater, who ran a Wall Street fraud and money laundering scheme worth tens of millions of dollars with unspecified elements of the Russian mafia in the mid-1990s from one of Trump’s major Manhattan properties, 40 Wall Street. This was at a time when Mogilevich was also engaged in his own massive stock fraud and money laundering operation in the U.S. and Canada with his Russian mafia crew, and one should remember how hierarchical organized crime generally is, meaning there is a high chance Mogilevich was involved in Sater’s scheme. And, of course, there is the (potential) little detail that I was the first to report: that Sater’s father was alleged to be a captain in Mogilevich’s Russian mafia crew.

At the time of the 1995 Tel Aviv meeting, Birshtein was close to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, close enough to send him, along with others at Seabeco (the company Birshtein ran), at least $5 million to help him win reelection, and Kuchma would be aware by at least 2000 that Mogilevich had major operations in Ukraine underway and that he was working with Putin and had been close with him for some time. Possibly involved in these efforts, a Mogilevich lieutenant named Leonid Roytman was a “vice president” for a construction company run by Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Topolov, who was himself heavily involved with organized crime. Topolov would be part of a money laundering and embezzlement scandal in the late 90s and early 00s involving Ukraine’s state-owned gas company, Naftogaz, the Russian state-controlled gas giant, Gazprom, a Kiev soccer team, and Ukrainian Andreii Artemenko, who took over the team from Topolov in 1999.

This may have been a for Mogilevich for a far more epic money laundering scheme involving Gazprom and Naftogaz.


As Putin took charge of Russia in 1999, a Ukrainian named Dmitry Firtash became a major shadow broker for the transport and sale of Central Asian gas into Ukraine. And among the employees of Birshtein in the 90s were Alexander Mashkevich and Patokh Chodiev, who just a few years after their Seabeco days would form two parts of a notorious “Trio” of Kazakh oligarchs that would become famous for dominating the Kazakh natural resources sector, for money laundering, and for ties to organized crime; also employed by Seabeco was Alexander Shnaider, who would marry Birshtein’s daughter. By 2001, Shnaider, with a partner, had his own company that owned a 93-percent stake in Zaporizhstal, Ukraine’s fourth largest steel mill when steel was roughly 25% of Ukraine’s GDP, while the “Trio” had become a thing and had been engaged in orchestrating deals with Russian gas giant Gazprom at the same time a massive plot involving the state-owned giant was being put into motion by Putin and his operatives, especially Mogilevich and Firtash, who in the early 2000s, engineered a stranglehold on Ukraine’s gas network through a series of shady-yet-profitable deals and front shell companies.

Mogilevich was even getting prominent Republicans to lobby to have his name removed from the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, and one man involved in these efforts, Neil Livingstone, would also end up being connected business-wise to Firtash through an introduction by Mississippi GOP-governor Haley Barbour’s consulting firm (Livingstone would later run unsuccessfully to be Montana’s governor, and his running mate in the effort, Ryan Zinke, is now Trump’s Secretary of the Interior).

While those lobbying efforts were underway, Kuchma (who had been a pro-Russian leader) selected the corrupt pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as his chosen successor for the 2004 elections. The problem for him was that many Ukrainians wanted closer ties with the West and wanted to reject the old Soviet-style corruption of the Kuchma/Yanukovych wing of Ukrainian politics. So Kuchma tried to have the election fixed for his protégé, but it was pretty obvious and masses of Ukrainians took to the streets; the country’s Supreme Court ordered an election redo, and Yanukovych lost.

In this effort to elect Yanukovych, a Republican political operative from the United States, famous for his work with unscrupulous “Third Word” dictators, was assisting him as a political consultant and would stay after the loss, leading efforts to rebrand Yanukovych and his pro-Russian political party, the Party of Regions. His name was Paul Manafort, and he had already done informal work for Donald Trump by this time as a partner of Roger Stone and would end up running Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 during the crucial stretch when Trump racked up delegates and officially secured the Republican nomination; both in Ukraine and on Trump’s in presidential election effort, Manafort’s junior partner, Rick Gates, would heavily assist. It would be in part under Manafort’s watch when Trump’s presidential campaign would become the most explicitly pro-Russian of any major candidate since WWII. Alongside his political work for Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, Manafort also took on a gig worth millions through Russian aluminum oligarch Oleg Deripaska to lobby on behalf of Russian interests and for Putin, with whom Deripaska was close. In 2004, Deripaska, who is also tied to organized crime, had also done a massive aluminum deal with Mashkevich, formerly of Birshtein’s and then of the Kazakh “Trio.”

Even as the 2004 Ukrainian election was being decided, Mogilevich’s and Firtash’s gas scheme was in place and working: Firtash’s shell companies would buy gas from Gazprom at low rates, then sell it at much higher rates to Ukraine, partnering with Ukraine’s Naftogaz; the profits would then be used to bribe Ukrainian politicians and bend them to Putin’s will and fill the Party of Region’s coffers so it would be flush with cash, and in exchange, Firtash would be given billions in credit from Putin-linked bankers to buy up major sectors of key Ukrainian industries. Where Firtash was the public face, Mogilevich was moving the money around behind the scenes, laundering away from prying eyes.

By 2006, this scheme had grown to include RAO UES, a Russian state-owned electric company, which meant Russia was selling its Gazprom-transported gas to Ukraine at marked up rates and then getting some of the fruit of that gas back at a discount when a portion of the gas was used to generate electricity for RAO, which then sold the electricity for even further profit; an American man named Carter Page advised both Gazprom and RAO at this time, and he is smart enough on these matters (if not others) to make it near-impossible to believe he did not know what was going on to a significant degree.

Page would go on to become one of the only foreign policy advisors to Trump’s campaign that Trump could name in 2016, but by then Page had already been under a secret federal surveillance warrant since 2014 on suspicion of being a Russian agent.

Around the time RAO was being integrated into the massive Ukrainian gas scheme, in 2006 a lawyer named Michael Cohen with a shady history had worked his way into Trump’s employ as a key legal advisor; he had married a Ukrainian, and so had his brother, Bryan, whose wife was the daughter of Alex Oronov, who was a major business partner of Topolov, who, as mentioned, had ties to Mogilevich and had been involved in the soccer/Naftogaz/Gazprom scheme from before that also involved Artemenko, who, in turn, would later describe Oronov as his mentor. Both Cohen brothers went into an ethanol business with Oronov and Topolov; the venture did not go as planned and raises natural questions as to if anything illicit was involved.

By 2007, Trump was partnering with non-other than Alexander Shnaider, Birshtein’s son-in-law, to develop a Trump Tower in Toronto. The following year, received a massive loan from FL Group, an Icelandic “investment” firm that was well-known for handling money for close Putin associates and that played a major role in the global financial crises at the end of the decade; the loan was given, ostensibly, to purchase a yacht. That same year, Shnaider sold his stake in the Ukraine steel mill for some $850 million to an unknown buyer tied to the Russian government and who was financed by VEB (Vnesheconombank), a Russian state-owned bank whose board was then chaired by Putin himself. This furthered the Kremlin’s goal of having allies dominate key industries and natural resources in Ukraine, and the following year the mill was sold to Rinat Akhmetov, a super-wealthy Ukrainian oligarch close to Yanukovych. As for the Toronto Trump Tower, the project fell apart in scandal, lawsuits, and bankruptcy, with Trump’s name even being taken off the building just this July.

Also throughout the 2000s, Trump partnered with Felix Sater on a number of shady real estate deals that all failed, ended in scandal and/or lawsuits, and almost certainly involved massive amounts of Russian money laundering. Sater’s real estate business, Bayrock, was even located in Trump Tower, and its five deals with Trump included, most infamously, the Trump SoHo in Manhattan. Sater and his Kazakh partner, Tefik Arif, also secured financing from none other than Alexander Mashkevich and from FL Group; the “financing” was a $50 million package that went to four of the five Sater-brokered deals and was illegally structured as a loan for tax fraud purposes. Given Sater’s possible ties to Mogilevich and known ties to the Russian mafia, it is valid to suspect that some of the money involved could have been related to the whole Eurasian gas scheme.

The Soho deal in involved financing from Tamir Sapir from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, who lived in Trump Tower, was a graduate of the Soviet Ministry of Internal and who had longstanding close ties to a myriad of Soviet officials; an old business partner of his named Sam Kislin had earlier brokered a deal for a condo in Manhattan’s Trump World Tower for Vasily Salygin, who would go on to be an official in Yanukovych’s Party of Regions during the whole gas scam era. At a ceremony hosted by Trump in Mar-a-Lago, Sapir’s daughter also married Rotem Rosen, a close business partner with an international diamond magnate from the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, Lev Leviev, who is close with Putin and worked on issues for him with Russian aluminum oligarch Roman Abramovich, who himself has ties organized crime; Ivanka Trump would become quite close with Abramovich’s wife, while her now-husband, Jared Kushner, would do business with Leviev, who would sell Kushner high-end real estate in 2015. But back in 2008, Leviev sold posh Manhattan real estate to Prevezon, a company owned by Denis Katsyv, the son of a former Russian government minister, Petr Katsyv, who worked with a close Putin ally, Vladimir Yakunin, who publicly endorsed Trump’s run for president in June 2016; Prevezon used the Leviev transaction to help launder millions of the Russian government’s illegal proceeds from its Magnitsky-related historic tax fraud scam (an issue on which Denis Katsyv and Yakunin both lobbied U.S. lawmakers), which was one of the issues discussed at the now infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a number of notorious Russians tied to Putin and the Russian government; at the time, Leviev’s business that conducted the transactions was headquartered at Trump’s 40 Wall Street, the same building Sater had used many years ago in conducting his fraud and money laundering.

Manafort was in on the whole Ukraine gas scheme, too, and starting at least in 2008 even helped, along with Gates, to launder vast sums of money through sketchy Manhattan real estate deals that were never completed, ended in scandal, and helped keep the money away from authorities, helping to give Yanukovych and his Party of Regions their crooked edge over their rivals. A Ukrainian politician, Yulia Tymoshenko—who led the efforts to crack down on this Ukraine gas scheme before she ran for president and lost in 2010 to a Yanukovych who had been successfully rehabilitated by Manafort and who was then imprisoned by Yanukovych on trump-up show charges after her loss—sued Manafort, Gates, Mogilevich, Firtash, and Yanukovych in a New York federal court from Ukrainian prison, arguing that those crooked Manhattan real estate deals had helped enable her enemies to do her harm, both politically and “legally.” The court agreed with some of her claims but felt it lacked the jurisdiction to rule on them and that the evidence did not meet the higher RICO standards.

Yanukovych remained in power until 2014, when his own people drove him out, precipitating the current civil war and Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Soon after Trump was inaugurated president, he dispatched Michael Cohen—who had become something of an infamous spokesman for the Trump campaign in 2016 (“Says who?”)—and Felix Sater to meet with Adreii Artemenko to discuss a “peace plan” that had the approval of top Putin aides and that would have handed Russia formal control of Crimea, with the meeting organized by Alex Oronov. Only a few months later, Oronov mysteriously died.

While the latest New York Times story on Sater begs the question of how Sater can claim to have access to Putin, it is quite possible that the answer to that question is Mogilevich himself.


A lot of these Russian-tied real estate deals were so spectacularly poorly executed that they only make sense if viewed primarily as criminal vehicles for Russian and Ukrainian money laundering. Considering that so many of these people and deals can likely be linked to that 1995 Russian and Ukrainian mafia bosses’ meeting in Israel hosted by Boris Birshtein, that is not surprising.

Even only looking at this portion of the story, it seems the machinery of that major Putin operation designed to dominate Ukraine using natural gas and money laundering was likely set in motion by that 1995 Tel Aviv meeting, and that, eventually, multiple parts of that machine engaged Trump both in what may have been related money laundering scams and then, later, in a political plot to help him win the American presidency using and information operations to both boost him and attack the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party. A single operation? No. Multiple related operations that used some of the same people and machinery? Most certainly, and the overlap is where the real story—and questions—rise.

Again, keep in mind that this is only a part of the Trump-Russia saga. You can read about these events in more detail and other people and crooked deals involving Trump, his people, Putin’s people, and the Russian mafia in my more exhaustive earlier article.
trumprussia2.tiff ... ssia-saga/

(Very Stable) Bad Hombre

Here is another nugget. Circa 2013. Mob ties run deep. And right below tRumps condo? What are the chances?

NYPD Arrest Gambling Rings Run out of Trump Tower

Though Trump has never succeeded in developing property in Russia, his company has benefited significantly from Russian money in the form of its clientele. For example, according to a Bloomberg investigation into Trump World Tower, which broke ground in 1998, “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.” Trump World Tower sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg that they had “big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan.” New York real estate broker Dolly Lenz sold “about 65 units in Trump World Tower […] to Russian buyers looking for real estate.” Lenz is quoted as saying “I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States […] what do you have to recommend?’ They all wanted to meet Donald. They became very friendly.” In 2002, “the push to sell units in Trump World to Russians expanded,” when Sotheby’s International Realty reportedly teams up with Kirsanova Realty, a Russian company.

The Trump Organization reportedly welcomed the Russian clientele. For example, a 2013 article in The Nation about the influx of Russian money in Miami real estate noted that Elena Baronoff, a Russian-American socialite once described on the cover of a Russian magazine as “The Russian Hand of Donald Trump,” operated a real-estate company catering to Eastern European buyers out of the lobby of the city’s Trump International Beach Resort. The New Republic has also extensively documented how the Trump Organization actively sought Russian buyers, so much so that the area around Trump Sunny Isles in Florida became known as “Little Moscow.” Within Trump’s Florida licensing developments, Reuters identified a total of twenty units in Trump Towers I, II, and III that were purchased by individuals with Russian passports or addresses. Individuals with Russian passports or addresses also purchased sixteen units in Trump Palace, twenty-seven units in Trump Royale, and thirteen units in Trump Hollywood. Trump accepted Russian money on a personal level, as well; Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev’s 2008 purchased of one of Trump’s mansions in Palm Beach for $53 million more than Trump had paid for it four years earlier. Some of these Russian buyers have brought more than just money to the Trump Organization—they’ve also brought links to Russian organized crime. In 1984, a Russian by the name of David Bogatin purchased five condos in Trump Tower for a total of $6 million. Bogatin, who was linked to Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich, pleaded guilty three years later to “evading millions of dollars in state fuel taxes in what state officials called one of the largest gasoline bootlegging operations in the nation.” The five condos were seized by the government, who claimed that he had used the purchase to launder money. Separately, In April 2013, New York police arrested “29 suspects in two gambling rings” run out of condos in Trump Tower. A condo directly below a unit owned by Trump reportedly “served as the headquarters for a ‘sophisticated money-laundering scheme’” run by an individual who worked for Semion Mogilevich. Until he began running for president, Trump not only did not deny his extensive dealings with Russian investors and clients but actually spoke about it frequently, boasting of the amount of Russian money that flowed through his projects in numerous interviews. So, too, did his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric: In 2008, Donald Jr. told investors in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” while Eric reportedly told a golf reporter in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” ... ump-tower/ ... 2064527361

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

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:12 pm
by seemslikeadream
These Secret Files Show How The Trump Moscow Talks Unfolded While Trump Heaped Praise On Putin

Ahead of Michael Cohen’s testimony, read the original paper trail behind the campaign to build Europe’s tallest tower in Moscow — and how it played out alongside Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Azeen GhorayshiFebruary 5, 2019, at 1:59 p.m.
Last updated on February 5, 2019, at 4:15 p.m. ET

Obtained by BuzzFeed News
As a candidate, Donald Trump had a lot of praise for Vladimir Putin — and no business, he kept insisting, in Russia. These documents tell a different story.

When Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and longtime fixer, testifies before Congress this week, one topic that is likely to be front and center is his work on Trump Moscow, the over-the-top luxury real estate venture he helped spearhead leading up to the election.

The development, which was never built, has already become a focus for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 campaign. And when Cohen was convicted last November of lying to Congress, it was over his false testimony that the deal had fizzled in January 2016, well before Trump emerged as the Republican nominee.

BuzzFeed News is today publishing a cache of internal Trump Organization documents that lay bare the secret negotiations that continued long after Cohen claimed the deal had been abandoned. The documents, many of which have been exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News, reveal that — despite Trump’s claim that the development was never more than a passing notion — the effort to get the tower built was long-running, detail-oriented, and directly entwined with the ups and downs of his campaign.

As Trump went from rally to rally, vociferously denying any dealings in Russia, his representatives, Michael Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, worked with Trump Organization lawyers and even Ivanka Trump to push forward negotiations to build a 100-story edifice just miles from the Kremlin. The fixers believed they needed Putin’s support to pull off the lucrative deal, and they planned to use Trump’s public praise for him to help secure it. At the same time, they plotted to persuade Putin to openly declare his support for Trump’s candidacy. “If he says it we own this election,” Sater wrote to Cohen.

The White House did not respond to a detailed request for comment on this story. The special counsel’s office declined to comment.

This large trove of nonbinding business agreements, architectural renderings, texts, emails, and plans for Trump to travel to Russia to meet Putin offer an unprecedented glimpse inside the negotiations to build the tallest tower in Europe — a deal Trump’s fixers hoped would "help world peace and make a lot of money."

Images: Getty (5); Fox News; Obtained by BuzzFeed News (11); Washington Examiner via Twitter; CSPAN; ABC News.


Dmitry Klokov is a weightlifter. A previous version of this story misidentified him as a wrestler.


February 5, 2019, at 3:15 p.m.

This article has been updated to include a statement made after publication on behalf of Ivanka Trump. ... gc#4ldqpgc

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

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:17 pm
by seemslikeadream
Paul Erickson, Russian Agent Maria Butina’s Boyfriend, Indicted for Fraud

Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

The U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota is handling the prosecution, which is separate from the case that was lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C.

Erickson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment, according to the court filings. His attorney, Clint Sargent, said in a statement: “Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the Government’s will emerge.”

The indictment alleges that Erickson ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes called Compass Care. Erickson also allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity that claimed to be “in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.” The indictment says he also ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

His arrest comes after several months of investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials, according to court documents and individuals with direct knowledge of the probe. Two individuals who spoke to The Daily Beast over the last five months said they were contacted by FBI agents about Erickson and his businesses.

Gary Byler, an attorney in Virginia Beach, spoke with his longtime friend Erickson throughout those investigations, telling The Daily Beast in October that Paul was “a great American” and “knew what was coming down the pipeline”.

“I actually texted him yesterday and told him not to quit his day job,” Byler said. “He texted back: ‘I don’t have a day job.’”

“Power is an aphrodisiac in politics. Paul always attracted people around him,” Byler said in a recent interview. “He is great fun to be about.”

Erickson, a well-known conservative operative who shuttled between D.C. and South Dakota, struck up a relationship with Butina, 29, in 2013. As The Daily Beast has reported, he dressed up as Rasputin to her flame-haired Empress Alexandra at a 2016 birthday party where vodka flowed through an ice sculpture of a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle.

The couple, who lived together in South Dakota, had some kind of business together. They were listed as the sole officers of Bridges LLC, a company registered in the state in February 2016, though it’s unclear what it did or how it operated.

Butina, an avid activist for gun rights in Russia, attended American University in the U.S. and worked closely with Russian central bank official Alexander Torshin to influence American politics, according to court records.

Throughout the Butina court documents, federal investigators mention a “U.S. Person 1”—an individual Butina worked with, dated and used to make connections with “an extensive network” of right-wing political figures. That person, who documents say is closely tied to the National Rifle Association, is was largely believed to be Erickson.

Butina pleaded guilty in December to a conspiracy charge as part of a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors and is likely to be deported. She is not mentioned in the South Dakota indictment.

Even before he was charged, Erickson was dogged by allegations of financial shadiness. As first reported by The Daily Beast in July, individuals who have sued Erickson alleged in court documents that he and his companies failed to pay back loans. Some say he duped them into investing into what appeared to be nonexistent companies. Others allege Erickson used their money for personal expenses. Erickson has been sued in California, Virginia and South Dakota.

Michael Barnes, an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles, filed a suit in 2014, claiming Erickson through Compass Care persuaded him to invest $50,000 in a real-estate project in the Bakken oil fields. The lawsuit says Erickson failed to repay Barnes by the promised due date. A California court ruled Erickson committed fraud against Barnes and ordered him to pay about $350,000 in compensation.

In that deal, Erickson solicited investments from attendees at conservative political events by laying out terms that promised high returns, according to three people with knowledge of the deal and court records reviewed by The Daily Beast. Erickson, who represented himself as a real estate developer, planned to use his company in North Dakota to set up a transaction in the Bakken region, the sources said. But Erickson doesn’t appear to have planned on carrying out the deal, according to a 2015 judgement by a California court. And the company he represented doesn’t appear to have ever existed, according to a review of public records by The Daily Beast.

In an email in November of 2013 to a potential investor for the Bakken deal, Erickson asked for funding for what he called his “new real estate development venture” in North Dakota.

“I’m extremely proud of the work of our development team as together we find new ways to service the office and housing needs of this new American gold rush,” Erickson wrote. In the email, Erickson called his new business the “Bakken oil fields” and said it was set up to capitalize on the boom in North Dakota.

“Due to your interest in my work and in consideration of past kindness, I would welcome your investment of any amount you choose (up to $100,000),” the email said.

Erickson noted in the email that any investment would be governed by two conditions. One, that returns would be repaid by February 18, 2014 and two, that he would repay the full amount of investments if the deal did not materialize. Erickson garnered at least $50,000 from the email exchange and did not pay any of it back, according to the judge’s decision on the case.

Two individuals familiar with the deal said he told investors he owned several parcels of land near Williston, North Dakota and would set up a transaction between two of his companies. In a complaint filed in a lawsuit in 2015, one of the investors alleges Erickson planned to use a company he controlled to sell undeveloped North Dakota land it owned to a second company Erickson controlled.

“Such a transfer would result in profits for Defendant, as owner of the first seller company, on account of a secured lender giving a higher valuation to the land, on account of various entitlements acquisitions which were part of the Transaction,” according to the complaint.

One of the companies he represented while soliciting investments was Northern Plains Holdings, LLC, according to investors and people familiar with the deal. The North Dakota secretary of state’s office told The Daily Beast it did not have a record of such a company connected to Erickson. It’s unclear what other company Erickson planned to use. The Daily Beast also checked property ownership data for North Dakota and could not find evidence Erickson ever owned land in Williston.

In another case, conservative media activist L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center, also sued Erickson’s Compass Care Inc. in Virginia in 2007. Bozell, who invested $200,000 in Compass Care, alleges that Erickson failed to pay him back. At one point Erickson wrote Bozell a check to repay him for his investment. The bank rejected it, claiming insufficient funds, according to court documents.

At one point, Erickson asked individuals to invest in a company that promised returns for what he claimed was a high-tech patent for a wheelchair. In court documents, Erickson admits to owing several of those who invested. Byler, who is listed as Erickson’s lawyer on several of his companies’ registration documents, said he was involved with the wheelchair patent deal and made “a little capital.”

About $89K passed between GOP operative Paul Erickson’s bank accounts & one held by Russian agent Maria Butina at Alfa Bank, the sanctioned Russian bank whose servers communicated with Trump Towers during the election.

Here Is The Money Trail From The Russian
Federal investigators say some of the money went to Maria Butina’s campaign to help Russia infiltrate American politics. ... ney-russia

Maria Butina's 1st known financial transaction with Erickson were a pair of Dec 2014 wires from her account at Russian mafia-linked Alfa Bank, whose co founder is the father in law of Alex van der Zwaan [convicted by Mueller for lying to the FBI].

Alfa Alfa Alfa
Recall: Brian Benczkowski, the newly confirmed DOJ Criminal Div Chief, began representing Russia's Alfa Bank 2 months after leaving Trump's transition team & did so until the day Trump nominated him to head DOJ's criminal division.

Jason Leopold

One example in the Paul Erickson indictment and what @a_cormier_ & I reported exclusively last year about how Wells Fargo flagged his financial transactions as suspicious and sent to FBI. ... ssion=true


Another example in the Erickson indictment and what @a_cormier_ & I reported exclusively last year: American University. Bank officials, as we reported, found these payments suspicious.

Image ... ssion=true ... 1111060481
The NRA Welcomed Maria Butina—Even As She Worked to Arm Anti-American Thugs Abroad

While NRA leaders embraced her, Butina denounced US sanctions and advised a militia group helping Putin seize Crimea.

Mark Follman and Hannah LevintovaFebruary 7, 2019 9:45 AM

The American public has continued to know little about Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty in December to participating in a foreign conspiracy against the United States. Not much has emerged about the confessed Russian agent’s political activities beyond her efforts to build ties with Republican leaders and top officials of the National Rifle Association. But Butina wasn’t just a fan of gun rights who attended American University, romanced a veteran Republican operative, and pitched US-Russian collaboration at NRA conventions.

Mother Jones has uncovered a trail of activity showing that during the same period when top NRA leaders welcomed Butina into the fold—meeting with her extensively in Moscow and the United States—Butina actively supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military takeover of Crimea. In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and annexation in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists. Her efforts there included pledging support to a leader of a militia group that violently seized a Crimean news outlet it deemed “pro-American” and swiftly repurposed for a Kremlin propaganda operation.

As multiple congressional probes of NRA ties with Russia intensify, the NRA now says it had no official connection to a trip NRA leaders took to Moscow to meet with Butina’s gun group and Kremlin officials—a claim Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who is leading one of the probes, calls “not credible.” Butina’s role in Crimea raises additional questions about why the NRA—known historically for its hawkish “freedom loving” image—spent years getting close with a Russian national who was doing work hostile to US national security interests.

By late 2013, NRA leaders had already forged ties with Butina’s boss, Alexander Torshin, a high-level official from Putin’s party who was hosted by NRA board member and past president David Keene at NRA annual conventions. (Torshin was sanctioned by the US government last April and described as an unidentified co-conspirator in Butina’s indictment.) In November 2013, Keene traveled to Moscow, where he gave a speech to Butina’s fledgling group, the Right to Bear Arms, offering to “work together” to advance common interests. Also at that time, future Trump national security adviser John Bolton, then a member of the NRA’s international affairs subcommittee, recorded a video address to the Russians talking up gun rights, which Butina used to lobby the Russian legislature.

An image from one of Butina’s slide presentations, featuring a 2013 video from John Bolton
Butina had been cultivating partnerships with gun rights groups internationally—but four months later, she mobilized to expand her group into Crimea in a starkly different context. On March 17, 2014, after Putin sent in troops and used an illegal referendum to declare Crimea part of the Russian Federation, President Barack Obama announced sanctions in response, including against entities operating in the Russian arms sector. That same day, Butina posted a lengthy commentary online warning that the Obama sanctions would “bankrupt the Russian arms industry,” calling them “a direct threat to national security.” She soon announced plans to travel to Crimea the following week, to establish offices for her group there and advise local citizens on arming themselves under Russian law. Butina stated in the local press that “security problems” in Crimea would persist, and that there was a need to develop civilian “self-defense units” to help uphold the new Russian order.

Butina held her press conference with the pro-Putin militia at their newly seized media headquarters. Four weeks later, she was warmly welcomed by the NRA.
On the weekend of March 25, 2014, Butina held a press conference in Crimea with Sergei Veselovsky, a leader of a pro-Russian separatist group called the Crimean Front. During their talk, Butina touted her connections with Kremlin officials and mentioned a civilian gun initiative by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin—at the time freshly sanctioned by the United States, and who would be among those greeting NRA leaders during Butina’s conference in Moscow the following year. Butina spoke of her gun group’s plans to expand into Crimea, and Veselovsky asked about arming local citizens in response to news of Ukrainian militants heading for the region. “The enemy is cunning,” he noted, and “does not rest.” Butina responded that Russian law was now “especially relevant” for arming locals: “And on our end, we will try to help maximally, of course, on the legal front. We’ll tell people how to do it absolutely right, and how to behave in a self-defense scenario.”

The Crimean Front was involved in more than self-defense. When Putin’s annexation began, Veselovsky had led a “Cossack self-defense unit” to storm the offices of the independent Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism. As seen in video posted on that March 1 by other local media, the group of about two dozen men clad in camouflage uniforms and balaclavas marched in formation to the building and demanded entry. Two of the masked men then hurled a concrete block through a front window and the group forced its way inside.

The journalists fled to Kiev, as the militia group denounced the influence of “American agents” and recast the outlet as “News Front.” Reportedly funded by the Russian security services and since run by an editor who helped seize the offices, the outlet publishes stories attacking US sanctions and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, among other anti-American content. Since Donald Trump became president, News Front has also touted ties with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer who attended the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and was recently indicted. After news emerged that top Trump campaign officials sought to acquire “dirt” on Hillary Clinton at that meeting, News Front provided “exclusive” documents to the American press purportedly showing Veselnitskaya had no such material.

Butina held her March 2014 press conference with the Crimean Front at their newly seized media headquarters. Four weeks later, she traveled to Indianapolis for the NRA annual convention, where NRA executives welcomed her as a VIP.

Footage captured during the militia group’s takeover of the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism
Over several days in Indianapolis, Butina was personally hosted by Keene and former NRA president Sandy Froman, attending events including leadership meetings and a fundraising dinner for the gun group’s elite “Golden Ring of Freedom” million-dollar donors. In a blog post she published while there, Butina included photos of herself at an upscale hotel with Keene, Froman, and then NRA president James Porter, to whom she gifted a Right to Bear Arms plaque. Other NRA figures she interacted with included CEO and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, top donor Joe Gregory, and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.

Butina wrote that it was only after NRA leaders had met with her in Moscow that she was able to secure a visa to come to the United States. She remarked about improving US-Russian relations, noting that President Obama and US “interventionist policy” would not last forever. In an interview she gave in Indianapolis to the conservative site Townhall, Butina explained that “the situation between [our] two countries is very difficult,” and said, “we would like to be friends with NRA.”

Evidently they had already cemented a relationship, according to Butina herself: Six months earlier, she told an Israeli audience that her gun group had entered into a “signed cooperation agreement” with the NRA, as Mother Jones and the Trace reported recently in a joint investigation. (An NRA spokesman would not confirm whether that agreement existed, responding only that the NRA was “not aware of any such agreement.”) According to a recent report in the New York Times, the NRA “repeatedly brought Butina from her native Russia to the United States for events until she obtained a student visa in August 2016.” And Butina and Torshin were the only Russian nationals who were “life members” of the NRA, according to a tweet Torshin posted right as Trump won the November 2016 election.

Gifting a Right to Bear Arms plaque to NRA president James Porter at the 2014 NRA annual convention
In a statement provided to Mother Jones, NRA counsel William Brewer said: “NRA executives were unaware of the alleged activities in question and the organization is not in a position to comment on them.”

Keene did not respond to a phone call or emailed questions. Butina, who is reportedly cooperating with federal prosecutors, is scheduled to appear in court for her next hearing on Feb. 12; her attorney Robert Driscoll declined to comment.

Advertise with Mother Jones
The NRA has essentially remained silent about its relationship with Butina since she was arrested by the FBI last July. The gun group also has said very little about Torshin, other than that he paid a small sum to cover membership dues but gave no additional money. Yet, NRA leaders also lavished Torshin with VIP treatment at multiple NRA gatherings. And congressional investigators told Mother Jones recently they think the NRA has not been truthful about additional Russian money the organization may have taken in during the 2016 election cycle, when it put $30 million behind Trump. In the statement to Mother Jones, Brewer said the NRA is cooperating “with all official inquiries that relate to our organization.”

At a rally in Moscow, Butina gave a speech starkly different than how she comes across in video of her captured stateside.
Following the April 2014 convention in Indianapolis, Butina traveled to NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, where she visited the NRA gun range and museum with Keene and others, and posed for a casual photo with Keene in front of the group’s flagship glass office tower.

A few weeks later, she was back home actively promoting Putin’s territorial conquest.

At a rally in Moscow in early June, Butina gave a speech starkly different in style than how she comes across in stateside videos. In America, she enthused about gun rights and international friendship. But in Moscow, she used fervently nationalistic rhetoric to endorse the takeover in Crimea, and she called for backing Russian separatists fighting elsewhere in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians throughout the region, she said, were being culturally oppressed—a theme long pushed by Putin’s regime. “We can’t allow this,” she declared. “And that’s why, today, let’s support our guys, our citizens of Russia who today are helping, who are fighting for freedom.”

From a series of photos posted by Butina in 2012 showing her and Torshin (left) observing military exercises
Eight days later, Butina returned to Crimea, this time hosting events in partnership with a gun company based in Moscow, to promote the arming of locals under Russian law. She returned again in early August for a similar event.

Then, in a blog post on August 17, 2014, Butina announced an upcoming meeting at the Moscow headquarters of the Right to Bear Arms: The main attraction was Republican operative Paul Erickson, who by then was Butina’s boyfriend. She billed Erickson as “a life member of the NRA” and veteran of six US presidential campaigns. (She also noted he was Christian, and “fond of airplanes and skiing.”)

Announcing NRA “life member” Paul Erickson’s 2014 appearance in Moscow
By the following spring of 2015, with Erickson’s help, Butina was setting her sights on a graduate program at American University and giving speeches to student groups in Erickson’s home state of South Dakota. (Erickson, who later tried to connect the Trump campaign with the Kremlin through Butina, is reportedly the target of a related federal probe, and was indicted on Feb. 6 on unrelated fraud and money laundering charges.) In April 2015, Butina returned to the NRA annual convention, this time in Nashville, her second of three alongside Torshin.

And come that summer of 2015, Butina would make her first direct contact with a Republican presidential campaign. During an audience Q&A at a political conference in Las Vegas, she asked about foreign policy: Specifically, she wanted to know whether the candidate at the podium might back off from “damaging” US sanctions against Russia.

The answer Donald Trump gave Butina was yes. It was an outcome signaled by the future president that, in more than one case, has since come to pass.

Translations from Russian by Hannah Levintova. ... in-crimea/

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

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:22 pm
by seemslikeadream
Olga Lautman

Sergei Millian, identified as source for Steele dossier, sought proximity to Trump campaign
Trump met Millian during his 2007 trip to Moscow to pitch his vodka (Lenin was in the ad). Trump invited him shortly after to Florida & they began working together ... 94657?s=21
Long thread on Millian from a few years and of course Trump had amnesia about him when asked years ago. I have always suspected that Trump met Agalarov around this time and it in 2013

Trump has memory issues again and denies knowing Millian despite photos showing them together and their business deals

Millian also goes by the name of Siarhei Kukuts and Sergei Kukuts. Pic of Trump and Millian

Image ... 1776915457

Steele Dossier’s ‘Pee Tape’ Source Sergei Millian ‘Sought Access to Trump’ in 2016: WaPo

4 hours ago

Reuters / Kevin Lamarque

Sergei Millian—a Belarus-born businessman who served as an unwitting source for the infamous Steele dossier—built a working relationship with Trump aide George Papadopoulos in 2016 and offered to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and a Belarusan author with connections to the Russian government, The Washington Post reports. Millian has disappeared from public view since he was revealed to be one of Christopher Steele’s sources and has rejected or ignored attempts from House and Senate intelligence committees to interview him. The new report suggests he was closer to Trump’s world than was previously known. Papadopoulos thinks Millian was working with the FBI to target the Trump campaign—a claim rejected by the Post’s FBI sources. In an interview in 2016 with ABC News, Millian claimed to have high-level contacts in the Russian government and to have met Michael Cohen and Trump himself. The Steele dossier cited Millian as a source for the assertion that a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” existed between the Trump campaign and Russian leaders, he was also cited as the source for the “pee tape” allegations. ... -2016-wapo

Seth Abramson

(THREAD) CBS just spoke to the REPUBLICAN chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee—now entering its third year of investigating Trump-Russia ties—and what Richard Burr has to tell America should decimate any lingering skepticism about Mueller. I hope you'll read on and retweet.

1/ Here's the link to the CBS interview. Skeptics reading this thread—who will be stunned by what they read—should understand that the interviewee, Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, was on TRUMP'S NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM as of October 2016.
Richard Burr on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, 2 years on
After two years, the committee's chairman sees no collusion, but says some questions will linger for decades ... -years-on/

2/ CBS notes that the Senate Intel Committee is entering its third year of a bipartisan Russia probe *despite* intense pressure—particularly from Burr's fellow Republicans—to wrap up its work. That alone is telling: that the Senate majority on the Committee is resisting stopping.

3/ QUOTE #1: "[Burr] acknowledges now that the investigation is broader, and perhaps more consequential, than it has long been thought to be." So America doesn't realize how much troubling material the Senate has found—or how far-flung and important to our future the material is.

4/ QUOTE #2: "What [has]...extended the life of the [Senate] a better understanding coordinated and organized the effort was." So it was the "coordination" and "organization" of what Russia did—uh, coordinating with *whom*?—that has shocked the Senate.

5/ And "shock" isn't too strong a word, as Burr says "none of us"—meaning *even the Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee who hate Trump the most*—"ever anticipated that this [investigation] would be two years." Burr made this comment to CBS, CBS says, "solemnly." That's eerie.

6/ QUOTE #3 (CBS): "The [probe] isn't compiling the story of one pivotal election, but of something larger, more complicated and—from a counterintelligence perspective—more nefarious. The final report may be so highly classified that a meaningful portion may not be made public."

7/ As that CBS summary of what Burr said attests, most Americans—but not people who read this feed, I'm happy to say—think Mueller is only discovering info about what happened in "one election." Burr, Trump-Russia analysts, and readers of feeds like this know it's *beyond* that.

8/ According to CBS, per Burr the "story" Trump-Russia investigators are seeing is "larger, more complicated, and more nefarious" than the story of the 2016 election. On this feed, the shorthand we use to describe what the Republican Burr is telling CBS/us is "the grand bargain."

9/ As I write about "the grand bargain," I discuss names major media—and Mueller's indictments thus far—aren't focused on: Dahlan, Nader, Barrack, Broidy, MBS, MBZ, el-Sisi, dozens more.

Burr QUOTE #4: "We've interviewed people I don't know if the special counsel knows about..."

10/ QUOTE #5: "'[This is] work the [Senate Intel] committee will do for the next decade. And it has helped even our intelligence community's understanding of Russia's capabilities and intent behind this.' This was not, he stressed, 'Let's go screw with the Americans in 2016.'"

11/ The implication in Burr's words is chilling: that the "story" is so big the whole Senate Intel Committee needs a *decade* to work on it, and that a big part of the story is Russia's "intent"—which far too many journalists have blithely assumed they know. It goes beyond Trump.

12/ So we have a "larger, more complicated, more nefarious" story behind Russia's "intent" that goes "beyond" one election cycle and will require "a decade" to fully understand. Okay, but is the story limited to Russia's regional interests (e.g., Ukraine, NATO's eastern creep)?

13/ QUOTE #6 (CBS): "The investigation now spans continents and includes sources from countries besides Russia—the [Committee] staff have traveled overseas and witnesses have come in to testify from abroad." So the story of Russia's "intent" involves other regions and continents.

14/ Those who read this feed know which "regions and continents" Russia's "intent" covers besides North America and Russia's immediate neighbors. In fact, *everyone* following the case knows this—though we rarely hear it on TV. The Russia investigation is about *the Middle East*.

15/ Burr—again, folks, an October 2016 MEMBER OF TRUMP'S NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM—says the unprecedented access the Senate got to U.S. intelligence "gave us tremendous insight to know when somebody was lying to us." He says *many* people have been referred for criminal prosecution.

16/ How crazy is this? *So many people have lied to the Senate Intel Committee* in its Trump-Russia investigation that Richard Burr, once a Trump ally, *won't even tell CBS how many did* except to intimate that it's *a lot*.

Which means *some* (or *many*) new charges are coming.

17/ QUOTE #7: "Though the team's known to work 6 and sometimes 7 days a week, Burr denied it'd taken a toll. 'Morale's great,' he said. 'I think they're fueled by what they find.'" People ask what keeps me (or others who follow Trump-Russia daily) going—it's that. "What we find."

18/ Equally significant is how the Senate team is operating: it's a nine-person *bipartisan team* apparently so *unified* in their concern about what they're finding that they're able to *agree* on nearly everything. That's right: Burr describes a team basically on the same page.

19/ CBS was—it's clear—so surprised about how unified the Senate staff are that it had to tease something not in its story to gain readers: the idea there might be a fight over the final report. But when you see what Burr says about it, it's that he doesn't worry about it at all.

20/ QUOTE #8: "It's hard for me to believe this could fall apart at the easiest point, which is: 'Here are the facts. Write the report.'" Burr's confidence the report won't be a fight suggests that the facts are so obvious and/or damning neither side will need/want to shade them.

21/ I often get asked—always by far-right Twitter users weakly trolling me—if I have a "murder board" in my house tying together elements of the Trump
-Russia story with lengths of yarn. (Answer: nope. It's all in my head.) But you know who *does* have a murder board? The Senate.

22/ QUOTE #9: "Inside the [Committee's investigative] spaces, the staff have several investigation boards mapping out known
connections between witnesses—and a constellation of players whose roles/relationships aren't fully understood." What do you know? A *GOP-run murder board*.

23/ Just imagine how *complex and nefarious* Russia's intent (as to America) has to be for a nine-person Senate staff to be *two years* into an investigation and be using a giant murder board with "a constellation of players whose roles and relationships aren't fully understood."

24/ QUOTE #10: "There've been a lot of people—a lot of people—that none of you [in media] have caught. Not all the interviews [of Trump-Russia witnesses] have taken place up here [on Capitol Hill]." So Burr is saying we haven't even heard of *many* major Trump-Russia figures yet.

25/ Folks like @AlanDersh luxuriate in lying to Americans who don't understand our criminal justice system. They imply that law enforcement reveals its findings as it goes along—rather than only at the end—so if Mueller had anything, we'd know. No we wouldn't—that's a filthy lie.

26/ What's true for Mueller is *also* true for the *GOP-led Senate Intel Committee*. Not only are they referring for criminal prosecution people they won't tell us about—per a Republican, Burr—they are *also* saying they know about key witnesses *none of us do yet*. Process that.

27/ As CBS reports, when the Committee started it had 3 areas of inquiry; it's had to expand its brief to *5* areas of inquiry. And how much work does it have left? Well, it's released 2 reports and has months left before releasing a third.

And the two biggest ones? No timeline.

28/ The Senate reports with no timeline?

(1) Trump-Russia coordination; and
(2) the *effect* of Russian interference on the 2016 election and beyond.

This would suggest to anyone that these topics are the ones "larger, more complicated, more nefarious" than anyone anticipated.

29/ CBS underscores how much bigger those inquiries are turning out to be with some numbers, especially these two:

(1) The Committee has held ~13 public hearings.
(2) The Committee has interviewed 200+ witnesses.

Do the math. How many witnesses do you think we don't know about?

30/ Despite a dwindling crew of mainstream media journalists (led by @KenDilanianNBC) desperately hawking a prediction that Mueller is almost done, what CBS pulls from its interview with Richard Burr is completely different, and makes up QUOTE #11 in this thread (see next tweet).

31/ QUOTE #11: "Burr and Warner have offered inexact estimates of when the investigation would wind down. It was already supposed to have ended by the end of 2017, by spring 2018, before the midterms, and then by the end of last year." Burr now—"We don't know what we don't know."

32/ So CBS registers what all who follow the Trump-Russia case closely—and have experience with criminal investigations—are saying: *every prior story* claiming the core Trump-Russia investigation was about to shut down has been *false* and no more such stories should be printed.

33/ So how great is the size/scope of this story?

QUOTE #12: "Burr had not wanted to expand the universe of witnesses the committee interviewed, but felt he had little choice. He guessed that the committee had completed interviews with its target list 'fairly early on' in 2017."

34/ So Burr is saying—stunningly—that the Senate came up with, in early 2017, a list of every witness it felt it needed to interview based on the intelligence it had...

...and finished with that list *two years ago*. But Burr says they've been working 6-7 days a week since then.

35/ QUOTE #13: "It's not the people that were on the deck that we knew about that lengthened the time. It was the people we didn't know about that we came to the conclusion—either for the campaign interactions or this bigger picture we're looking at—that extended the timeline."

36/ Burr implies that some witnesses (presumably U.S. witnesses) were so scared to testify before Congress that they *asked to be subpoenaed* so that they could represent (to what nefarious political or other forces we don't know) that they had no choice. What does that tell you?

37/ What some harp on is the end of the story, which tries—as media *won't stop doing*—to freeze in time a probe Burr *just said* has many, *many* years left to go. But CBS couldn't resist: have you found "collusion" right now, with (Burr implied) 8 years of investigation left?

38/ Burr gives a nice quotable answer that'll make Trumpists happy—which is what that quote was clearly intended to do. But his further breakdown leaves doubt. He allows that "collusion" is a possible explanation for the motivations of many of the Trump-Russia ties they've found.

39/ Referring to the Manafort-Kilimnik interactions, Burr calls the argument that they were collusive a "stretch" without dismissing it (and of course he has much, much more investigation of that topic to go). But he allows that "collusion" is one possibility there and elsewhere.

40/ QUOTE #14: "There's an awful lot of connections. They may not be connections that are tied to 2016 elections, but just the sheer fact that they have a relationship—it may be business. It may be Russian intelligence. It may be they're all on the payroll of Oleg Deripaska."

41/ QUOTE #15: "In a lot of cases, we found out they [the Trump-Russia connections the Senate Intelligence Committee has found] fit in neither bucket [listed in QUOTE #14], or we don't know which bucket [yet]." So Burr admits "collusion" may well be the answer to open questions.

42/ Burr says the Senate *hasn't* started its report and *doesn't even know what form it would take*.

But most importantly, he hedges on who the report would please or displease and, contrary to what Trumpists are falsely saying today, doesn't take a final position on collusion.

43/ QUOTE #16: "What I'm telling you is that [the Senate Intelligence Committee] is going to present, as best we can, the facts to [media] and the American people. And you'll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that's collusion."

44/ Burr makes clear that—in his view—it's about "60%" of America that's in the as-yet-undecided group that'll have to decide whether, "by whatever definition...[the report indicates] collusion." He allows that, in addition to the 20% (his view) who see it already, many more may.

45/ But because social media (and media generally) is crappy, the entire CBS interview, which is harrowing for Trump, has now been reduced to a *single pull-quote* that Burr *quite deliberately* threw as red meat to the Trumpists—even though it contradicts his expanded comments.

46/ That is, the Burr interview makes absolutely, 100% crystal clear that "collusion" is *already* a *reasonable interpretation* of EXISTING FACTS—if not one he *personally* adopts—and may well be a reasonable interpretation of STILL-UNDER-INVESTIGATION and AS-YET UNKNOWN facts.

47/ In other words, he's saying collusion will continue to be arguable post-report *based on what he knows now*—with eight years left of work to do. Given that "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the discourse standard here, he's saying some will see that level of proof, and some not.

48/ Folks like @AlanDersh have lied about standards of proof—pretending collusion is a binary (i.e. it 100% exists or 100% doesn't). Burr instead speaks responsibly, noting that some will say collusion exists beyond a reasonable doubt and some will see evidence shy of that level.

49/ Burr's words make clear he *doesn't* discount collusion as a possible explanation for the evidence he's seen—just that there are still enough *other* explanations that he *personally* wouldn't say collusion has been proven to the highest standard of proof. See the difference?

50/ Media—and attorneys like me—have an obligation to contextualize, dissect and explain interviews like Burr's so we can see how they *devastate* both of two key narratives: (1) that the Trump-Russia investigation is almost done *or* (2) that there is *no* evidence of collusion.

CONCLUSION/ I've *never* said—and would *never* say—I'm the only attorney folks should read. Read *all* the attorneys and investigators—even read @AlanDersh, who's disagreed with by the rest of us. But if you're quoting Trump Jr. on a complex federal investigation, grow up. /end ... 35205.html

House Intelligence Committee chair @AdamSchiff responds to @realDonaldTrump’s latest Twitter attack, and more, in today’s UnPresidented podcast. 1/

Adam Schiff responds to Trump’s tweets today alleging “personal harassment.” 2/


Adam Schiff says there’s “ample evidence on the issue of collusion.” 3/


Adam Schiff on whether he agrees with Steve Bannon that Don Jr’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was “treasonous and unpatriotic.” 4/


Adam Schiff on the risk of Trump pardoning everyone implicated in the Russia probe, including himself. 5/


Adam Schiff on whether he’ll investigate @DevinNunes for intentionally obstructing the Trump-Russia probe. 6/


Adam Schiff on whether Mueller’s final report will be provided to Congress and made public. 7/


Adam Schiff says Mueller can seek perjury charges on his own, without a referral from Congress, now that he has the House Intelligence Committee hearing transcripts. 8/

Adam Schiff on whether he’ll bring Don Jr back to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, and his thoughts on Jr’s bizarre “attorney-client privilege” defense. 9/


Adam Schiff says he will NOT be running for president in 2020. 10/

You can hear a long excerpt, and read a transcript, of today’s interview with @RepAdamSchiff here:

And you can her the entire interview by becoming a patron of the UnPresidented podcast over at Patreon here:

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

PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:56 pm
by BenDhyan
Mueller may not produce the goods?

House Intelligence chairman voices concern that Mueller's scrutiny of Trump's finances isn't adequate

By Washington Post Today at 2:48 p.m.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee expressed concern Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller III has not adequately scrutinized President Donald Trump's finances and said House investigators plan to probe Trump's relationship with a bank implicated in Russian money laundering.

"We are not interested in our committee in whether he's a tax cheat or not worth what he says he is," Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., said in an appearance on the NBC's "Meet the Press." "What we are interested in is, does the president have business dealings with Russia such that it compromises the United States?"

In particular, Schiff said the House panel plans to investigate Trump's two-decade relationship with Deutsche Bank, a German institution that has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties in recent years after admitting its role in a $10 billion money laundering scheme that allowed clients in Russia to move vast sums overseas.

Schiff voiced concern that Mueller has shied away from investigating Trump's ties to the German lender, saying that "if the special counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money-laundering investigation."

Schiff was referring to reports last year that Mueller's office had told Trump's lawyers it was not seeking Deutsche Bank records related to Trump's accounts or loans. Deutsche Bank became a critical lender to Trump in the late 1990s when major U.S. banks refused to do business with the New York real estate developer after repeated bankruptcies.

Trump has described his finances as a "red line" Mueller should not cross, and he threatened to fire Mueller in late 2017 amid reports that the special counsel was seeking records from Deutsche Bank. Trump reportedly backed down after his lawyers obtained assurances from Mueller.

Schiff said he is concerned that Trump's "red line has been enforced whether by the deputy attorney general (Rod Rosenstein) or by some other party at the Justice Department. But that leaves the country exposed."

A spokesman for the special counsel did not respond to a request for comment.

The House Intelligence Committee has sought to bolster its investigative staff with financial and forensic accounting experts, part of an expansion of the Trump-Russia probe since Democrats gained control of the chamber.

Trump has lashed out at Schiff in recent days, calling him a "political hack" and questioning the committee's authority to investigate his finances. "It's called presidential harassment," Trump told reporters last week. "And it's unfortunate. And it really does hurt our country."

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

PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:20 am
by seemslikeadream
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intel Committee quoted Trump’s tweet while adding his own retort: “Looking forward to the tweets when Senate Intel releases its final report to the public.” The clear implication is that the committee’s report will be full of incriminating things about Trump and Russia, and Trump will go berserk on Twitter accordingly.

Deutsche Bank Records Said to Be Subpoenaed by Mueller

By Steven Arons
December 5, 2017, 1:16 AM CST Corrected December 6, 2017, 11:46 AM CST
Corrects Dec. 5 story that said subpoena ‘zeroed in’ on Trumps
Subpoena is said to seek information on affiliated people

Deutsche Bank AG provided records to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation after receiving a subpoena several weeks ago, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Those records pertain to people affiliated with President Donald Trump, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the action hasn’t been announced. Several news outlets -- including Bloomberg -- reported yesterday that the subpoena targeted Trump and his family’s bank records, which was disputed by Trump’s personal lawyer and the White House. ... by-mueller

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

PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:17 am
by seemslikeadream
Jed Shugerman

7 hours ago,

Qatar now says it "unwittingly" bailed out Jared Kushner and his 666 5th Ave. disaster.
Excuse me?

Many of us have been explaining for a year how Qatar has been bailing out Kushner. The question is why Qatar is admitting it now but spinning desperately... What news is coming? 1/


Qatar revamps investment strategy after Kushner building bailout

LONDON/NEW YORK/DUBAI (Reuters) - When news emerged that Qatar may have unwittingly helped bail out a New York skyscraper owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, eyebrows were raised in Doha.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, meets with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Kushner, a senior White House adviser, was a close ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - a key architect of a regional boycott against Qatar, which Riyadh accuses of sponsoring terrorism. Doha denies the charge.

Brookfield, a global property investor in which the Qatari government has placed investments, struck a deal last year that rescued the Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue tower in Manhattan from financial straits.

The bailout, in which Doha played no part and first learned about in the media, has prompted a rethink of how the gas-rich kingdom invests money abroad via its giant sovereign wealth fund, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The country has decided that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) will aim to avoid putting money in funds or other investment vehicles it does not have full control over, according to the sources, who are familiar with the QIA’s strategy.

“Qatar started looking into how its name got involved into the deal and found out it was because of a fund it co-owned,” said one of the sources. “So QIA ultimately triggered a strategy revamp.”

The QIA declined to comment.

Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc bailed out 666 Fifth Avenue via its real estate unit Brookfield Property Partners, in which the QIA acquired a 9 percent stake five years ago. Both parent and unit declined to comment.

The QIA’s strategic shift was made late last year, according to the sources. It offers a rare insight into the thinking of one of the world’s most secretive sovereign wealth funds.

The revamp could have significant implications for the global investment scene because the QIA is one of the world’s largest state investors, with more than $320 billion under management.

The wealth fund has poured money into the West over the past decade, including rescuing British and Swiss banks during the 2008 financial crisis and investing in landmarks like New York’s Plaza Hotel and the Savoy Hotel and Harrods store in London.


Kushner was chief executive of Kushner Companies when it acquired 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007 for $1.8 billion, a record at the time for a Manhattan office building. It has been a drag on his family’s real estate company ever since.

The debt-laden skyscraper was bailed out by Brookfield last August, when it took a 99-year lease on the property, paying the rent for 99 years upfront. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The QIA bought a 9 percent stake in Brookfield Property Partners, which is known as BPY and is listed in Toronto and New York, for $1.8 billion in 2014.

BPY has about $87 billion in assets, part of more than $330 billion managed by its parent Brookfield. The stake purchase by QIA was in line with its strategy to boost investments in prime U.S. property. The investment gave QIA no seat on the board of BPY.

The Qatari wealth fund was not involved in the 666 Fifth Avenue deal, a source close to Brookfield Asset Management told Reuters. There was no requirement for Brookfield to inform the QIA beforehand.

The rescue rankled with Doha, according to the two sources familiar with the QIA’s strategy, because Kushner - married to U.S. President Trump’s daughter Ivanka - had long been one of the key supporters in Washington of the Saudi crown prince, who is the king’s favorite son and heir to the throne.

Prince Mohammed was a prime mover in leading regional states to severing links with its neighbor Qatar and embargoing the small nation since mid-2017. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain accuse Qatar of sponsoring terrorism. Doha denies the allegation and says the other countries simply want to strip it of its sovereignty.

FILE PHOTO: A building at 666 Fifth Avenue, owned by Kushner Companies, rises above the street in New York, U.S., March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
“There is no upside in investing through funds for someone like QIA. Qatar wants full visibility into where its money goes,” said the second source familiar with the QIA’s strategy.

He added that one of the reasons for Doha’s concerns about the deal was that it might have been seen as an attempt by Qatar to influence the Trump administration, which was not the case.

The QIA will not wind down existing investments with Brookfield or others, but will rather no longer invest in similar deals, according to the two sources.

The source close to Brookfield said relations with the QIA were still strong.


The QIA’s strategic revamp also followed a reshuffle at the top of the fund last November when its long-serving chief, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, was replaced by its former head of risk management, Mansour Ibrahim al-Mahmoud. Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was named QIA chairman.

Qatar, whose wealth comes from the world’s largest exports of liquefied gas, does not provide data on how much money it places with external fund managers.

Ikea bets there's gold in ending flat-pack blues
“What we have seen lately is that it has have not been placing much,” said a Western fund manager who regularly sources money from wealth funds. “Either they are investing themselves or they are just sitting on a lot of cash.”

The Qatar shift in its approach reflects a wider trend among sovereign wealth funds to reduce reliance on external investment managers, in an attempt to keep tighter control over their money.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for example, said last year that 55 percent of its assets were managed by external managers in 2017, down from 60 percent the year before.

Yet, even if the QIA is being more cautious in its choice of investment vehicles, there is little indication that its appetite for big international acquisitions has diminished.

In December, new QIA chief Mahmoud told Reuters the fund was focusing on “classic” investments in the West such as real estate and financial institutions, and would also accelerate investment in technology and healthcare.

“The instructions from the top are to go out and do big deals,” said a Western banker who has held talks with Qatari officials.

He said QIA’s dealmaking had not stopped even during the height of the Gulf embargo, which initially forced the fund to put in about half of the $43 billion injected by public-sector firms into Qatari banks to mitigate the impact of outflows.

With oil and gas prices growing over the past two years, Qatar has not departed from what it is best known for - snapping up big-name properties.

In 2017, QIA pledged to ramp up its investments in Britain to 35 billion pounds ($45 billion) from 30 billion. Since then, it has spent about 1.7 billion pounds on real estate and another 1.1 billion on infrastructure in the country.

In recent months, Qatar has bought New York’s Plaza and London’s Grosvenor House hotels. ... ium=Social

2/ Where do we start with Qatar, Trump, and Kushner?
The Steele Dossier and Qatar buying 19% of Rosneft? Dec. 2016
The Saudi/UAE blockade? April 2017
The $184M loan from Qatar-backed Apollo to the Kushners?
I wrote this a year ago:
A Series of Revelations About Jared Kushner Have Added Further Credence to a Key Claim in the Steele Dossier
These dealings are also now a key line of inquiry for Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in our presidential election.

L’Affaire Kushner

A series of revelations about the White House princeling have added further credence to the key claim of the Steele dossier.

Jed Handelsman ShugermanMarch 02, 20185:53 PM
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during a joint news conference with President Donald Trump and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
Photo illustration by Derreck Johnson. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Jared Kushner had a very bad week. So bad in fact, it was hard to keep track of how many bad stories there were. The most publicized event, the White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law losing his security clearance, was the least surprising. The more shocking—and potentially important—revelations are two stories about massive loans he’s sought and their links to Qatar and a third story about how special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating those links. While no crimes have been proven, the stories of Kushner’s loans line up remarkably well with one of the Steele dossier’s core allegations of Russian bribery. According to a report by NBC News on Friday, these dealings are also now a key line of inquiry for Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in our presidential election.

Kushner is currently facing potentially massive ramifications for a disastrous $1.8 billion real estate deal he struck a decade ago. The slew of new stories suggest that he may have orchestrated a foreign policy crisis to pressure Qatar to bail him out. Months later, a firm linked to Qatar gave him a staggeringly large loan. All of these events suggest how Russia might have delivered a possible quid—a potential payment from a huge oil sale through back channels—in return for a Trump administration quo—a reported promise of reduced sanctions.

Let’s start with the key sections of the first big story: On Wednesday, the New York Times reported:

[I]n November, [Private equity firm] Apollo [Global Management] lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper. Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show. …

Mr. Kushner’s firm has sought investments from the Chinese insurer Anbang and from the former prime minister of Qatar. …

One of the largest investors in Apollo’s real estate trust is the Qatari government’s investment fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

Mr. Kushner’s firm previously sought a $500 million investment from the former head of that Qatari fund for its headquarters at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. That investment never materialized.

Now let’s look at the key sections of the second story: On Friday, the Intercept reported:

The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City. …

The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.

So: A Qatari fund acquires major assets from Russia. Kushner’s business seeks money directly from Qatar. The nation, though, does not deliver to Kushner. The U.S. changes its political posture against Qatar at Kushner’s urging, with the alarming possibility that the seemingly manufactured conflict could have escalated into war. (Fortunately, it did not.) Several months later, the Qatar-backed Apollo Group delivers $184 million to Kushner.

All of this should be considered an incredible scandal in its own right, worthy of serious congressional inquiry. Once you factor in, however, the portions of this that are consistent with some of the allegations in the Steele dossier, the stories potentially become even more explosive.

All of this should be considered an incredible scandal in its own right, worthy of serious congressional inquiry.
The Steele dossier alleges that Russians made a deal with Carter Page in the summer of 2016 to sell 19 percent of fossil fuel giant Rosneft, a multibillion dollar deal, and secretly transfer benefits to Trump officials. The dossier alleged that Page was a campaign intermediary to meet personally with Russians, and that Igor Sechin—the CEO of Rosneft and a close Putin ally—and Page had held a “secret meeting” to discuss “the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.” The dossier further alleged that Sechin offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia. Page has denied that this meeting with Sechin ever took place.

Page’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, however, confirmed that he at the very least discussed these general topics with key Russian figures at critical points in the Steele dossier timeline. For example, Page confirmed that he had spoken with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft and an employee of Sechin, when in Moscow in July 2016. He also acknowledged “briefly” discussing “a potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft” with Baranov. Finally, he would only say that he didn’t “directly” express support for the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia with Baranov.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 9, 2016, a month after the election, Russia made a deal with Qatar to sell 19.5 percent of Rosneft. Reuters reported at the time:

The privatization deal, which Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin called the largest in Russia’s history, was announced by Rosneft in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Its success suggests the lure of taking a share in one of the world’s biggest oil companies outweighs the risks associated with Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Rosneft had been under pressure to secure a sale of the 19.5 percent stake to help replenish state coffers, hit by an economic slowdown driven by weak oil prices and exacerbated by sanctions.

The deal falls squarely in the middle of a time when Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Page were communicating with Russians in ways that would later prove very embarrassing and potentially suspicious. Here is that timeline, which I initially compiled for my blog in June:

Dec. 1: Just eight days before this oil megadeal, Flynn and Kushner met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower, and Kushner proposed a secret communication link with the Kremlin through the Russian embassy. After it was revealed in the press and he was interrogated by congressional investigators, Kushner acknowledged that he was seeking to offer the Russians a “secure line” to the transition team. Congressional investigators would later be curious as to whether or not this back channel might have been intended for the purposes of finding someone to help bail out his family’s real estate company.

Dec. 8: Carter Page—as he later confirmed in his own congressional testimony—meets with Rosneft executives, and then flies to London to discuss new business opportunities in Kazakhstan with Gazprom officials.

Dec. 9: The “largest oil deal in Russia’s history” is announced.

Dec. 13: Kushner meets Sergey Gorkov, who chairs Russia’s government-owned VE Bank (VEB) and is Putin’s close confidant. Analysts have described VEB as Putin’s “private slush fund,” a source of money independent from official Russia budgeting. VEB is under strict U.S. sanctions.

Dec. 14: Gorkov reportedly immediately flies to Japan to meet with Putin.

Dec. 29: Obama orders new Russian sanctions for election hacking and interference. On the same day: Flynn calls Kislyak five times about Russian sanctions. Trump tweets about Putin the next day, calling him “very smart” for not responding to Obama’s sanctions before Trump has had a chance to transition into office.

The Rosneft sale was right after Trump’s victory but before the inauguration. It was also right after Kushner’s push for a secret communications link to the Kremlin through the Russia embassy that U.S. intelligence couldn’t access, and right before Kushner’s meeting with Putin’s banker and confidant Gorkov.

Again, while Page has denied meeting with Rosneft boss Sechin, who is strictly limited by U.S. sanctions, he acknowledged he “had a brief lunch with Andrey Baranov.”

“Mr. Sechin is under sanctions, is he not?” Schiff asked Page during congressional questioning. “And as someone working on investor relations for a CEO who is under sanctions, would it be advantageous for that head of investor relations [Baranov] to see those sanctions go away?”

Here Page contradicted himself on whether sanctions were ever discussed. Page first said nothing Baranov “said to me ever implied or asked for anything related to sanctions.” In his very next breath, he confesses “there may have been some general reference” to sanctions.

Natasha Bertrand’s reporting on Page’s testimony lays out further how Page confirmed in his testimony some key elements of the dossier and demonstrated additional evidence for the dossier’s findings. Page, critically, had meetings with Rosneft officials in July 2016 in which those officials discussed both the massive sale of Rosneft and the Trump administration lifting sanctions on Russia. His testimony and his emails confirm that Page got advance approval from high-ranking Trump officials like Sam Clovis to go to Russia for that July trip, and he communicated with Trump officials immediately after the trip congratulating them for a stunning pro-Russia change in the Republican Party platform on Ukraine policy. Page then went back to Russia a day before the Rosneft megadeal was announced to meet with Rosneft executives, and then went to London to talk to Gazprom officials about new investment opportunities.

In considering all these new revelations and how they might connect to the old ones, it’s important to remember Jared Kushner’s business history. Tim O’Brien of Bloomberg Business News laid out that history beautifully in a June Trumpcast interview with Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg. O’Brien explained how, 10 years ago, a 26-year-old Jared Kushner made a terrible bet on Manhattan real estate. His father had just been released from prison, and Jared had taken over the family business. He was looking to make a big splash, so he sold off his family’s holdings in New Jersey in order to purchase a huge building in midtown Manhattan—666 5th Ave.—for $1.8 billion. Unfortunately for Kushner, this was in 2007. Markets subsequently crashed and Kushner had a financial debacle on his hands. He negotiated a deal to save the project from bankruptcy with a 10-year loan, but the creditors were set to call in their debts around now. (NBC News reported that $1.4 billion in debt was due in 2019.) About a year ago, Kushner reportedly had a deal with a Chinese bank in place to restructure the deal in a way that would offer a $500 million windfall, but it fell apart after public reporting.

The bottom line is that all this new Kushner news connects more dots in the Steele dossier’s core allegation: that there may have been a quid-pro-quo of Russian oil money for Trump policy change on sanctions. There are still obviously a lot of loose and unknown threads here and no direct evidence yet that Russia is behind any of the Qatari deals. Depending on which dots Mueller is himself able to connect, however, the latest evidence would also strengthen any possible charges against Kushner and a slew of Trump officials, as well as any potential case of obstruction of justice against the president himself. Finally, there is still the even more alarming question about whether the Trump family businesses’ conflicts of interest almost led the president to escalate a regional dispute to the brink of armed conflict. In light of the Steele dossier and how Qatar might implicate Russia, Kushner and Trump have even more to answer for. ... ssier.html

3/ And I wrote this in June 2017. Public and damning evidence has pointied towards Qatar's involvement with Russia quid pro quo for almost 20 months... It's awfully late now to cry "unwitting."
It's witless... because there's a witness?
Kushner/Flynn/Russia Timeline: The Russian Oil Mega-deal
As the details of Kushner’s and Flynn’s activities emerge, I’ve been reading about a key event that has gone unnoticed that connects the dots: “The Largest Oil Deal in Russi…

Kushner/Flynn/Russia Timeline: The Russian Oil Mega-deal

View all posts by Jed ShugermanJune 2, 2017
As the details of Kushner’s and Flynn’s activities emerge, I’ve been reading about a key event that has gone unnoticed that connects the dots: “The Largest Oil Deal in Russian History,” a deal risked by the West’s sanctions on Russia, and which occurred in the middle of the key Kushner/Flynn/Russia events (right in between Kushner’s potential espionage proposal for a secret direct link to the Kremlin through the Russia embassy and Kushner’s meeting with Putin’s banker/confidant). A timeline connects the dots below, including the possibility that this “19% of Rosneftgaz” deal in December is actually the same “19% of Rosneftgaz” deal that the MI6 agent’s dossier alleges was part of a Russian deal with Carter Page, and it may be getting transferred through shady channels to unknown new stakeholders…

Here are links to the stories on this shady megadeal between Qatar and Russia on Dec. 9:

“Russian state holding company Rosneftegaz on Saturday signed a deal with the Qatar Investment Authority and commodities trader Glencore to sell a 19.5 percent stake in state-owned oil major Rosneft, Rosneft said. The privatization deal, which Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin called the largest in Russia’s history, was announced by Rosneft in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Its success suggests the lure of taking a share in one of the world’s biggest oil companies outweighs the risks associated with Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Rosneft had been under pressure to secure a sale of the 19.5 percent stake to help replenish state coffers, hit by an economic slowdown driven by weak oil prices and exacerbated by sanctions.”

More recent reports have focused on the shadiness of the deal and its subsequent transactions: “More than a month after Russia announced one of its biggest privatizations since the 1990s, selling a 19.5 percent stake in its giant oil company Rosneft, it still isn’t possible to determine from public records the full identities of those who bought it. The stake was sold for €10.2 billion to a Singapore investment vehicle that Rosneft said was a 50/50 joint venture between Qatar and the Swiss oil trading firm Glencore.”

The Dec. 9th deal falls in the middle of the shadiest events in the Kushner/Flynn/Kislyak timeline, which connects the dots on a mix of known illegal non-disclosures, corruption, potential espionage, and Logan Act violations. They certainly explain why Kushner advised Trump to fire Comey (obstruction of justice).

Dec. 1: Just 8 days before this oil mega-deal, Flynn & Kushner met Ambassador Kislyak at Trump Tower, and proposed secret communication link with the Kremlin through the Russian Embassy. The parties admit that the idea was to avoid any detection of these communications by U.S. authorities.

Dec. 9: The Largest Oil Deal in Russian History

Dec. 13: At Kislyak’s urging, Kushner meets Gorkov, who chairs Russia’s government-owned VE Bank and is Putin’s close confidante. Journalists describe VE Bank (VEB) as Putin’s slushfund, a source of money independent from official Russia budgeting. VE Bank is under strict US sanctions. Here is good commentary on these events.

Dec. 14: Gorkov immediately flies to Japan to meet with Putin.

Dec. 29, Obama orders new Russian sanctions for election hacking and interference. On the same day: Flynn calls Kislyak five times about Russian sanctions. Trump tweets to Putin, calling him “very smart” for not responding, effectively saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

Jan. 4: Flynn reveals to Don McGahn, chief attorney for the transition effort, that he’s under FBI investigation. (He is still appointed and receives security clearance, and he resigns on Feb. 13, long after Sally Yates reveals incriminating details about Flynn on Jan. 26-30).

Jan. 9: Trump transition team announces that Kushner will join the administration as a senior adviser.

Jan. 15: Pence denies that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions.

Jan. 18: Kushner applies for top-secret security clearance, omitting many meetings with foreign officials, including the relevant ones with Kislyak and Gorkov in December. Those omissions are potentially criminal, from my reading of security experts.

I add two more stories for context. The first is from the alleged MI6 dossier on Trump, with the caveat that the dossier has not been verified:

“A dossier with unverified claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia contained allegations that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump ally Carter Page and his associates the brokerage of a 19% stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia.”

I’m reading more about how the two Rosneft sales may have been related. Was there an initial negotiation with the Trump campaign for the Rosneft stake, as the dossier claims? It just happened to be 19% in the alleged dossier, the same number in the December deal (19.5%!). And did that turn into the December Qatar deal, which in turn was laundered into a deal for Trump Associates, through a Singapore firm? Was Kushner negotiating that deal? Lots of shell companies and the Cayman Islands are involved, perhaps as a way to hide the beneficiaries.

And everyone should listed to this TrumpCast (Slate’s chair and host Jacob Weisberg) interviewing Tim O’Brien of Bloomber Business News. O’Brien explains how, 10 years ago, a 26-year-old Jared Kushner made a terrible bet on Manhattan real estate. His father had just been released from prison, and Jared had taken over the family real estate business. He was looking to make a big splash, so he sold off his family’s holdings in New Jersey in order to purchase a huge building in midtown Manhattan (666 5th Ave., I am not making that up) for $1.8 billion. It was 2007, the peak before the crash. Suddenly, Jared had a financial disaster on his hands. He negotiated a deal to save the project from bankruptcy with a 10-year loan, but the creditors were set to call in their debts in 2017 or 2018. About a year ago, Kushner had a deal with a Chinese bank in place to re-structure the deal with a huge windfall of $500 million, but journalists at Bloomberg found out, and their story blew the deal (because it was a corrupt deal). And once again, Kushner’s real estate business is heading towards disaster… unless he can find another authoritarian state bank to bail him out.

Guess what happens next? O’Brien explains that Kislyak arranged this December meeting between Kushner and Gorkov (the chair of the Putin-affiliated Russia bank VEB).

Here is Josh Marshall’s view (and chart) from last week, without taking note the oil mega-deal:

“This chart, let me be clear, is not a statement of fact. It is an effort to illustrate a series of patterns which are the subject, the subtext, of many of the reports about the Trump/Russia story and indeed the investigation. It looks at what each side wants, what each side seems to be getting. President Trump’s efforts to destabilize NATO and the EU are the most clear. These things are happening. The election hacking and subversion did happen. We know the Trump Organization has taken vast sums of money from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union over the last twenty years. Whether there’s any explicit quid quo pro today is what we don’t know. When people talk about collusion, this is the pattern of actions they’re looking at and trying to confirm.”


Today, Bloomberg reports that the Kushners are buried in debt to Chinese lenders on a New Jersey deal. I had no idea about this other financial crisis. Like father, like father-in-law, like son. The Kushners and Trumps are all criminal fraudster/bankruptcy artists, just looking desperately to sell out the US for billlions in return for personal millions.

And NBC is following up on this story on the linke between Kushner’s 666 5th Ave. real estate disaster and potentially using the “backchannel” to find a Russian banker to bail him out.

Let me add a point/counterpoint. A friend pointed out that the 19.5% in both the dossier’s Russia/Carter Page deal and the Qatar Dec.9 deal might not be directly connected, because there may be a 20% legal threshold rule for reporting financing and investors. But the fact that each of these deals is under that 20% threshold suggests that the dealmakers are unusually focused on secrecy, so that it dictates the scope of the deal. ... -timeline/ ... mega-deal/

4/ Why is Qatar suddenly acknowledging its role in the Kushner bailout, but spinning it as unintentional to Reuters? (And Reuters is cooperating with this spin, btw)
When news of the Brookfield deal hit, "eyebrows were raised in Doha."
Really, @Reuters? More like wink-wink.

5/ @Reuters, spinning for Qatar: "The bailout, in which Doha played no part and first learned about in the media, has prompted a rethink of how the gas-rich kingdom invests money abroad via its giant sovereign wealth fund, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters."

6/ The Kushner 666 bailout was announced May 2018. Around the same time, reports emerged of a series of suspicious meetings w/ Qatari officials in Trump Tower in Dec. 2016. Many of us connected these dots in the national media.
Qatari officials started contacting me privately.

7/ It is implausible that Qatar just passively invests billions with no information or influence. Now, suddenly, Qatar is going public with its implausible claim of ignorance. Just as soon as the Brookfield purchase of 666 5th Ave from Kushner was safely completed. Convenient.

8/ I put together a timeline of the Qatar/Russia/Trump dealings here, all based on public documents with links. Pay special attention to Dec. 2016. It seems unlikely that these many remarkable coincidences were "unwitting."
Russia/Qatar/Trump Timeline
I have produced a Google Doc timeline, based on publicly available reports and documents, of the alleged bribery scheme between Russia and Trump associates, possibly through Qatar’s purchase …

9/ One possibility is, given that the Brookfield purchase of 666 5th Ave from Kushner (the aforementioned "bailout") just closed about 3 weeks ago, Qatar had wanted to keep quiet until the deal closed, but now needs to spin its defense...

10/ Another possibility is that Qatar knows bad news is coming. For example, @ErinBanco and @woodruffbets indicated that a Mueller report on the Gulf states' involvement (especially Saudi and UAE) plus Israel is coming soon. Is Qatar worried about being implicated?

11/ A third possibility is that the Qatar Investment Authority is the mystery foreign-owned state corporation in the Mueller subpoena case, and Qatar knows it can't keep this secret forever. The QIA name doesn't always fit the redacted spacing, but who knows?

12/ Look, it isn't every day you see this story:
"Corrupt nation's leaders tell global media company, 'We accidentally bribed... um, sorry... we accidentally bailed out the corrupt president's corrupt son-in-law after he pushed for us to be blockaded miltarily."
Something is up. ... 96321.html

In Closed Hearing, a Clue About ‘the Heart’ of Mueller’s Russia Inquiry

Feb. 10, 2019
Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, preparing for an interview ahead of the Republican National Convention in July 2016.Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, preparing for an interview ahead of the Republican National Convention in July 2016.Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Of the few hints to emerge from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about evidence of possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, one of the most tantalizing surfaced almost in passing in a Washington courtroom last week.

Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

The theory was offered almost as an aside by the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, during a discussion of contacts between Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a longtime Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom investigators have linked to Russian intelligence.

A closer look at the transcript, released late Thursday, shows that the prosecutors have been keenly focused on discussions the two men had about a plan to end the conflict that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Persuading the United States to ease or end the American-led sanctions imposed to punish Moscow for its aggression has been a primary goal of Russian foreign policy.

A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

Russian soldiers guarding a Ukrainian military base in Crimea in March 2014, the year Russia annexed the territory.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Russian soldiers guarding a Ukrainian military base in Crimea in March 2014, the year Russia annexed the territory.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
According to the transcript, which was heavily redacted, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik repeatedly communicated about a so-called peace plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Mr. Manafort was still running Mr. Trump’s campaign, and continuing into 2018, months after Mr. Manafort had been charged by the special counsel’s office with a litany of crimes related to his work in the country. The prosecutors claim that Mr. Manafort misled them about those talks and other interactions with Mr. Kilimnik.

Pressed by the judge at Monday’s hearing to say why Mr. Manafort’s alleged lies mattered, Mr. Weissmann gave a broad hint about the thrust of the investigation.

“This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here,” Mr. Weissmann said. “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”

Mr. Weissmann did not elaborate. The hearing’s purpose was narrow — determining whether Mr. Manafort had breached his plea agreement by misleading the prosecutors about Mr. Kilimnik and other matters. Mr. Kilimnik was charged last June with conspiring with Mr. Manafort to obstruct justice by trying to shape the accounts of prospective witnesses in Mr. Manafort’s case.

Yet Mr. Weissmann’s cryptic comments suggest that the special counsel’s investigation — which Mr. Trump has sought to dismiss as a witch hunt and which the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, has said will wrap up soon — is still pursuing the central question of whether there was some kind of deal between Russia and the Trump campaign.

To date, prosecutions by the special counsel have skirted that question. They have laid out Russia’s hacking, leaking and social media manipulation, most of it in favor of Mr. Trump. They have charged multiple Trump aides with lying, including the president’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who admitted misleading the F.B.I. about his discussions with the Russian ambassador about sanctions.

Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. was indicted last month on charges of lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks, which released tens of thousands of Democratic emails stolen by the Russians.

But the essential question of why the Kremlin bet so heavily on Mr. Trump, and whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had any indication that Mr. Trump would give him what he desired, has remained unresolved.

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CBS News on Thursday that, based on the evidence they have seen so far, the committee’s investigators “don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”

But Mr. Weissmann’s remarks seem to suggest that for the special counsel, at least, that avenue of inquiry is still alive.

Michael T. Flynn, left, President Trump’s first national security adviser, with Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, in 2016.Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Michael T. Flynn, left, President Trump’s first national security adviser, with Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, in 2016.Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
The sanctions have inflicted substantial pain on the Russian economy. As a candidate and a new president, Mr. Trump seemed skeptical that such punishment was necessary or effective.

“Trump’s unusual sympathy and receptivity to Putin and the Kremlin was evident throughout the campaign” and the first few months of his presidency, said John E. Herbst, a former United States ambassador to Ukraine. That pattern, he said, fueled the notion that Mr. Trump might seek a “grand bargain” that would end sanctions, possibly on terms deeply unfavorable to Ukraine.

The sanctions also limited business opportunities with Russia. Mr. Trump had long sought a marquee Trump Tower project in Moscow, and at least two aides were pursuing separate nuclear power projects that would have benefited from an end to the sanctions.

As Mr. Trump took office, some State Department officials described worrying inquiries that suggested the White House might be preparing to precipitously drop the sanctions. And various intermediaries floated proposals they said would end the sporadic combat in eastern Ukraine between Russian-funded separatist fighters and Ukrainian forces trying to hold back the loss of more territory.

Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, told The New York Times that he left a sealed envelope containing one such plan on Mr. Flynn’s White House desk.

The building in Kiev, Ukraine, that housed Mr. Manafort’s political consulting and advising business.Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

Mr. Kilimnik, meanwhile, was trying to use his extensive ties to Mr. Manafort to advance another. It envisioned the return of Viktor F. Yanukovych, a pro-Russia politician who had risen to the presidency of Ukraine in 2010 with the help of Mr. Manafort, who was paid tens of millions of dollars for his efforts.

Mr. Yanukovych was forced from office by a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to Russia. Mr. Kilimnik wanted to resurrect him as a semiautonomous leader in eastern Ukraine, a division of the country fiercely opposed by most Ukrainians.

In a February 2017 interview with The Times, Mr. Kilimnik described Mr. Manafort as a possible negotiator for the deal. He said that Mr. Manafort had told him that “there is only one enemy — the chaos.”

“If there is a serious project that can bring peace to Ukraine, Manafort will be back,” Mr. Kilimnik said at the time.

The first discussion between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik cited by the prosecutors took place on Aug. 2, 2016, at the Grand Havana Room in Manhattan, and also included Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s deputy on the Trump campaign and during his Ukraine work. Mr. Weissmann noted that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates tried to avoid drawing attention at that meeting, leaving separately from Mr. Kilimnik.

Banners in Red Square in Moscow in March 2014 with President Vladimir V. Putin’s portrait and the slogan “We Are Together,” referring to Russia and Crimea.James Hill for The New York Times

Banners in Red Square in Moscow in March 2014 with President Vladimir V. Putin’s portrait and the slogan “We Are Together,” referring to Russia and Crimea.James Hill for The New York Times
“That meeting and what happened at that meeting is of significance to the special counsel,” Mr. Weissmann said at the hearing.

Mr. Manafort initially told prosecutors he had dismissed Mr. Kilimnik’s proposal out of hand, Mr. Weissmann said. In fact, according to the transcript, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik talked about the proposal again in December 2016; in January 2017, when Mr. Kilimnik was in Washington for Mr. Trump’s inauguration; and again in Madrid the next month.

Mr. Weissmann noted that those talks went forward despite the “enormous amount of attention” in the United States at the time to contacts between Russians and Trump associates.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyer, Richard Westling, suggested the discussions were not all that memorable to Mr. Manafort because he had minimal interest in advancing Mr. Kilimnik’s plan. Although the two men revisited the proposal after Mr. Trump’s election, he said, “there is no real follow through.”

Mr. Westling said it was not the only such plan afloat — nor was it the only one proposed by Mr. Kilimnik, who has denied having ties to Russian intelligence. Kevin Downing, another lawyer for Mr. Manafort, argued that suspicions about Mr. Kilimnik’s communications were “nonsense” because “the sanctions were going to continue against Russia” whether or not Mr. Trump was elected.

President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has now been accused by the special counsel of violating his plea deal by repeatedly lying to federal prosecutors. But this wasn’t Mr. Manafort’s first scandal.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
What Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik discussed about the Russia-Ukraine conflict is not all that concerned prosecutors. Another issue is a directive from Mr. Manafort to Mr. Gates to turn over Trump campaign polling data to Mr. Kilimnik in the midst of the presidential race.

The transcript suggests that Mr. Manafort claims that he wanted only public data transferred. But Mr. Weissmann told the judge that the question of whether any American, wittingly or unwittingly, engaged with Russians who were interfering in the election relates to “the core” of the special counsel’s inquiry.

Mr. Manafort’s allies argue that prosecutors have not proved that Mr. Kilimnik was linked to Russian intelligence, and have suggested that he interacted with the United States Embassy in Kiev. They noted that he traveled freely to the United States and had communications with the State Department.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson seemed to agree with prosecutors that whether Mr. Manafort lied about his contacts with Mr. Kilimnik was important, saying at one point, “I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement.”

During the hearing, prosecutors suggested that Mr. Manafort was to be a spokesman in the United States, apparently for Mr. Kilimnik’s plan to divide Ukraine.

“If he were the spokesperson, and denominated as such within the United States,” Mr. Weissmann said, “he would also have access to senior people.” He then broke off, saying, “That’s as far as I can go.” ... quiry.html

Caroline Orr 11th February 2019 America, Foreign Affairs, Reportage

Special Counsel Mueller’s Team just dropped a Huge Clue about the Russia Probe during a Closed-door Hearing

President Donald Trump waves as he walks to Marine One from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after his annual physical exam in Bethesda, MD., on February 8, 2018. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)
“No collusion?” Not so fast. The special counsel’s office is still unraveling mysteries at “the heart” of the Russia investigation

A newly released transcript from a closed-door hearing last week in a Washington, D.C., courtroom reveals a detail that The New York Times described as “one of the most tantalizing” clues that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still actively investigating evidence of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The transcript comes from a Feb. 4 hearing focused on the charge that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort breached his cooperation deal by lying to federal prosecutors about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate with alleged ties to Russian intelligence.

The revelation that the special counsel’s office is still unraveling mysteries at “the heart” of the Russia investigation seems to contradict the recent suggestion by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker that the inquiry is “close to being completed.”
The theory that Trump campaign officials were engaged in talks to hand over territory in Ukraine to Russia and potentially lift Russian sanctions while the Kremlin was propping up Trump’s campaign “was offered almost as an aside by the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann,” the Times reported.

The seemingly offhand comment suggests that Mueller’s team “is still pursuing the central question of whether there was some kind of deal between Russia and the Trump campaign” during the 2016 presidential election, the Times noted.

Weissman dropped the clue in response to a question from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who asked why it was particularly significant that Manafort allegedly lied about his discussions regarding the so-called “peace plan” for Ukraine proposed by Kilimnik.

Those talks allegedly started in early August 2016 — when Manafort was still in charge of Trump’s campaign — and continued through 2017, despite the “enormous amount of attention” being paid to the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, Weissmann noted, according to the Times.

“This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here,” Weissmann said, explaining why Manafort’s alleged lies matter so much. “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”

Prosecutors specifically cited an August 2 2016, meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik as the first in a series of discussions related to a deal in Ukraine. Also present at the meeting was Manafort’s longtime associate and former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team in February 2018 as part of a plea deal.

While Manafort claims he immediately dismissed Kilimnik’s proposal for a pro-Russia deal in Ukraine, Mueller’s team contends that they discussed the proposal on at least three additional occasions.

“This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”
Judge Berman appeared to agree with the prosecutor’s argument that it was of special significance that Manafort allegedly lied about his contacts with Kilimnik.

“I am, actually, particularly concerned about this particular alleged false statement,” she said, according to the Times.

The revelation that the special counsel’s office is still unraveling mysteries at “the heart” of the Russia investigation seems to contradict the recent suggestion by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker that the inquiry is “close to being completed.”

In fact, Mueller’s team appears to be actively pursuing matters at the core of its mission — and based on the transcript, it’s clear that collusion is still very much on the table. ... r-hearing/