Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:02 pm


Yet another independent confirmation of the Steele dossier.

Cell signal puts Cohen outside Prague around time of purported Russian meeting

Greg Gordon
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.

The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.

The dossier, which Trump has dismissed as “a pile of garbage,” said Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The new information regarding the recovery of Cohen’s cell phone location doesn’t explain why he was apparently there or who he was meeting with, if anyone. But it adds to evidence that Cohen was in or near Prague around the time of the supposed meeting.

Both of the newly surfaced foreign electronic intelligence intercepts were shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the matter said. Mueller is investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether Trump’s campaign colluded in the scheme. Mueller also is examining whether Trump has obstructed the sweeping inquiry.

McClatchy reported in April 2018 that Mueller had obtained evidence Cohen traveled to Prague from Germany in late August or early September of 2016, but it could not be learned how that information was gleaned.

Cohen has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation since he pleaded guilty on Aug. 21 to charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations. He later pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress, and was sentenced in early December to three years in prison.

If the foreign intelligence intercepts are accurate, the big questions now are whether Cohen has acknowledged to investigators that a meeting in Prague occurred, informed them what transpired and revealed what, if anything, he told Trump about it.

Four people spoke with McClatchy on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of information shared by their foreign intelligence connections. Each obtained their information independently from foreign intelligence connections.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to comment about the electronic evidence.

Cohen gained a reputation as Trump’s “fixer” during more than a decade working as a lawyer for the billionaire real estate developer. He has vehemently denied that he ever traveled to Prague, but it’s unknown what he has told Mueller’s team.

More recently, Cohen has avoided discussing Mueller’s inquiry, saying he does not “want to jeopardize the investigation.”

Cohen’s spokesman, Lanny Davis, reiterated his client’s denials about Prague in a phone interview this week.

Cohen “has said one million times he was never in Prague,” Davis said. “One million and one times. He’s never been to Prague. … He’s never been to the Czech Republic.”

Davis, a longtime Democratic political operative, declined to comment about the new foreign intelligence.

Davis, however, is no longer part of Cohen’s legal team. He acknowledged that he has not been fully briefed on what Cohen has told Mueller’s investigative staff in some 70 hours of interviews dating to last August, when Cohen pleaded guilty. Earlier this month, Mueller advised Cohen’s sentencing judge that Cohen has provided substantial assistance in four areas, including in “core” areas of the Russia inquiry. Mueller did not elaborate.

Mueller has already secured indictments accusing 25 Russians of unleashing a cyber broadside at the United States, including the hacking and public release of top Democrats’ emails and circulation of a flood of phony and harshly critical social media messages about Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The special counsel has yet to charge any Trump surrogates or allies with colluding in the Russian offensive, though several top campaign aides have also cut plea deals for unrelated crimes in return for their cooperation in the inquiry.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said that if disclosures of the foreign intelligence intercepts are true, “This is a very significant break, because it looks like a direct link between Donald Trump’s personal fixer and Russians most likely involved in the disruption of our election.”

“It would prove that lying was going on, not only about being in Prague, but much beyond the Prague episode,” she said.

Steele’s dossier, a compilation of intelligence from his network of Kremlin sources, is full of uncorroborated details about the purported meeting.

It said Konstantin Kosachev, a longtime member of the Russian Senate and chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, “facilitated” the gathering.

Steele reported that Kosachev may well have represented the Russians in Prague, where he had extensive ties. But Mike Carpenter, a former Russia specialist at the Pentagon under President Barack Obama, said that seems unlikely – about “as discreet as sending (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo to meet with an informant on a sensitive issue.”

Kosachev has publicly denied traveling to Prague in 2016.

Among the goals of the meeting, the dossier said, was to limit negative news reports about the Russia-friendly relationships of two Trump campaign aides— foreign policy adviser Carter Page and just-ousted campaign Chairman Paul Manafort — and to ensure that European hackers were paid and told to “lie low.”

While the foreign intelligence about Cohen does not confirm a meeting even occurred, it provides evidence that he traveled to the Czech Republic, where the sources said his phone was momentarily activated to download emails or other data.

Cohen’s denials about Prague stand in the face of court admissions that have damaged his credibility.

In his second guilty plea in late November, he confessed to a single count of lying to Congress in denying that he had contact after January 2016 with Russians in pursuit of a long-sought Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. Cohen now acknowledges his contacts with Russians about the hotel continued for nearly six more months while Trump wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination.

The most publicized charges in his earlier guilty plea in New York last August related to hush money payments he arranged days before the election for two women who were about to publicly allege they had sex with Trump. Cohen kept the payments secret for more than a year after the election.

Trump has repeatedly sought to disparage Mueller’s investigation, echoing the words “no collusion” and “witch hunt” over the last two years.

My statement on Michael Cohen's sentencing:

— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) December 12, 2018

Davis said he hopes that, after Mueller has completed his investigation, Cohen “will be able to tell his story about Donald Trump and what caused him to change his mind about working for Trump and telling the truth about Trump … Then he’ll be able to talk about all the reasons why he believes Trump is a dangerous man to be president.”

Another former Watergate prosecutor, Nick Akerman, said Davis’ denials about a Prague trip can’t be taken too seriously because it would be “standard for Mueller to tell Cohen and his lawyers not to discuss publicly the details” of the investigation.

Cohen and Trump gradually became estranged after Trump’s election victory, and they severed ties entirely last May, as multiple investigations into Cohen’s activities heated up.

The cell phone evidence, the sources said, was discovered sometime after Cohen apparently made his way to the Czech Republic.

The records show that the brief activation from Cohen’s phone near Prague sent beacons that left a traceable electronic signature, said the four sources.

Mueller’s investigators, some of whom have met with Steele, likely also pursued Cohen’s cell phone records. It would be a common early step in such an investigation for a prosecutor to obtain a court warrant for all U.S. and foreign phone company records of key subjects, even those dating back more than 18 months.

Such data might enable investigators to track Cohen’s whereabouts whenever the phone was in his possession, even if it was turned off, said several experts, including a former senior Justice Department official who declined to be identified.

These officials said intelligence agencies and federal investigators often can examine electronic records to trace the location of a cell phone or any other device sending signals over phone lines or the Internet, so long as the data was still stored by phone carriers or cell phone manufacturers that offer location-tracking services, such as Apple and Google.

Jan Neumann, the assumed name of a former Russian intelligence officer who defected to the United States years ago, said that Cohen’s electronic cell tower trail appears to reflect sloppy “tradecraft.”

“You can monitor and control cell phones in Europe same as you do it here in US,” Neumann told McClatchy. “As long as the battery is physically located in the phone, even when it’s turned off, the mobile phone’s approximate location can be detected and tracked. Any attempt to use an app, to get mail, send texts, connect to a Wifi network, your phone and your location will be detected.”

“It would not be very professional to take your phone to a secret meeting,” said Neumann, who has consulted for the U.S. intelligence community. In this case, he said, “it would be more logical to leave it turned on and connected to a WIFI network in a hotel in Germany.”

It was during the same late August-early September time span in 2016 that an Eastern European intelligence agency eavesdropped on a conversation in which a Russian official advised another that Cohen was in Prague, two of the sources said.

The sources could not definitively pin down the date or dates that the intelligence indicated Cohen was in the vicinity of Prague. Cohen has insisted that he was in Southern California with his son from Aug. 23-29, 2016, but his public alibis have not been so airtight as to preclude flights to and from Europe during the relevant period.

Even if Cohen has told investigators about a furtive meeting in Prague, it could be difficult for Mueller to corroborate his story. Any Russians with whom he met are likely out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement officials, because the United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow.

If Cohen indeed made the journey to the Czech Republic, one lingering mystery is how he entered Europe’s visa-free, 29-nation Schengen area without detection. While those countries’ open-border arrangements would have spared Cohen from having to produce a visa to travel between Germany and Prague, U.S. and European authorities should have a record if he took a trip to Europe. Those records are not public.

Congressional committee chairs, including California Rep. Adam Schiff, who will lead the House Intelligence Committee beginning in January when Democrats take control, have asked Cohen to return to Capitol Hill to testify further about his knowledge of Trump’s ties to Russia.

But Davis said Cohen won’t appear publicly until Mueller completes his investigation.

Peter Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Kevin G. Hall contributed to this report. ... 16820.html
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:34 pm

Wendy Siegelman

Wendy Siegelman Retweeted Natasha Bertrand

Interesting update - Sam Patten knows a lot

Patten worked with Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort, was a consultant for Cambridge Analytica, worked on mayoral campaign of Vitalii Klitschko who had also been supported by Dmitry Firtash and Rudy Giuliani & knew Rinat Akhmetshin

Natasha Bertrand

Interesting. Government just filed a joint status report under seal for Sam Patten, a Manafort/Kilimnik associate who pleaded guilty in August to failing to register as a foreign agent and admitted to steering foreign funds to Trump's inaugural. He's been cooperating ever since
9:10 AM - 31 Dec 2018


Wendy Siegelman Retweeted Natasha Bertrand
what the status report meansWendy Siegelman added,

Natasha Bertrand

in this case, it would summarizes the status of Patten's cooperation and whether or not he's ready for sentencing.

Wendy Siegelman Retweeted Wendy Siegelman

With the news on Sam Patten today an item to watch for is if Patten turns out to be a link between Kilimnik/FSB and Manafort and activities at Cambridge Analytica w/Bannon - CA is not mentioned in today's news but worth keeping an eye on in days ahead ... 7999263744
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:01 am

Deciphering the Mystery Subpoena Case: Corporate Claims to Foreign Sovereign Immunity from U.S. Criminal Proceedings

Chimène Keitner
Speculation has been rampant about the identity of the appellant in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, the case that prompted the D.C. Circuit to seal offan entire courthouse floor for oral argument. The dispute might well end up being decided at the Supreme Court, although it would be extremely unusual and perhaps unprecedented for the Court to conduct plenary review in a case that remained entirely under seal. It would also be a shame for the Supreme Court to weigh in without the opportunity for broader input. The underlying legal questions raised should not be answered definitively by the Court based solely on the exigencies of this particular case.

Knowns and unknowns about the case at hand

For those not yet following the saga or needing a refresher: Politico reported in October that an “unknown person” had been summoned before a grand jury and was fighting a subpoena, which compels witness testimony or the production of evidence. Although the identity of the “person” and the nature of the evidence sought remain unknown, some have surmised that the case has ties to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters.

On December 18, the D.C. Circuit issued an order siding with the U.S. government. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret, as are ancillary judicial proceedings “to the extent necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury.” The order did, however, disclose that the witness is a company (referred to as “the Corporation”) owned by a foreign state (“Country A”), and that the company is fighting the subpoena based on a claim to foreign sovereign immunity. Lawfare’s Scott Anderson has speculated that the company is likely a foreign state-owned commercial bank. The anonymous Twitter account @TheHoarseWhisperer suggested that it might be the Qatari Investment Authority, which recently acquired an almost 20% stake in Russian oil company Rosneft through a somewhat opaque series of transactions. As with all things Mueller-related, the guessing-game prompted by this dispute reflects the public’s anxiousness to discern what stage the Special Counsel’s investigation has reached and what it has uncovered. The thirst for details only increased when the company asked the Supreme Court to block the imposition of monetary contempt sanctions for its refusal to comply with the subpoena. Chief Justice Roberts issued an interim stay pending a response from the U.S. government, which U.S. government attorneys filed (under seal) on December 28, in the midst of the government shutdown. The Chief Justice acting alone, or five justices if the application is referred to the full Court, can decide to grant a stay of the contempt sanctions while the Court decides whether or not to grant full review of the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

The scope and strength of the legal challenges raised by the corporation

In addition to the foreign sovereign immunity argument, which I discuss below, the company also argued that complying with the subpoena would force it to violate foreign law. Variations on this “foreign sovereign compulsion” argument come up frequently in transnational litigation, from the antitrust context (“the foreign government forced me to act anti-competitively”) to the discovery context (“foreign law prohibits me from turning over this document”). Here, the company argued that complying with the subpoena would be “unreasonable or oppressive” because doing so would violate Country A’s laws. The D.C. Circuit rejected this argument, finding that the company “has fallen well short of carrying [its] burden” to show that Country A’s law “prevents compliance with the court’s order.” The company provided (1) the text of a provision in Country A’s law and, subsequently, (2) a submission from “a regulator from Country A seeking to explain the Corporation’s atextual interpretation.” The three-judge panel found the law unpersuasive on its face, and held that the regulator’s submission did not exhibit “indicia of reliability,” according to the criteria recently articulated by the Supreme Court in an antitrust case. The panel appears not to have been impressed by, among other criteria, “the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement.” Some might interpret this as suggesting that the company, although owned by a foreign state, has not been receiving high-level support from that foreign state in opposing the subpoena. On the other hand, the foreign state also has not waived the company’s immunity, thereby creating the legal dispute that is now before the courts.

Foreign Sovereign Immunity

The crux of the legal dispute is whether the United States can exercise jurisdiction over the foreign company in the form of compelling compliance with the grand jury subpoena. Because a majority of the foreign company’s shares or other ownership interest is owned by a foreign state, the company claims that it is entitled to jurisdictional immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which provides that foreign states and companies owned by foreign states “shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the States” unless an enumerated exception applies.

A threshold question is whether the FSIA applies at all. As the U.S government did in a previous dispute over a grand jury subpoena issued to a foreign state-owned company, the government appears to have taken the position here that the FSIA does not apply to criminal proceedings, including investigations. The Court of Appeals, like district court Chief Judge Beryl Howell who initially heard this argument, “decline[d] to resolve whether foreign sovereigns are entitled to claim the protection of the Act’s immunity provision, 28 U.S.C. § 1604, in criminal proceedings.” Instead, the court “assume[d] that immunity extends to the criminal context.” If the Supreme Court reviews the D.C. Circuit’s opinion, it could also decline to resolve this question. The Supreme Court often prefers to wait until an issue has “percolated” sufficiently in federal courts of appeals before it decides to weigh in.

Although there are lower court opinions that reach opposite conclusions on whether the FSIA applies to criminal proceedings, practice is relatively sparse. As I noted before, the question of criminal immunity for foreign states has arisen most often in the context of civil liability under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant has engaged in a pattern of indictable acts. The Tenth Circuit found in a 1999 case that the FSIA provides jurisdiction over civil RICO claims, whereas the Sixth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion in 2002. The Tenth Circuit read the FSIA’s silence about criminal proceedings as meaning that criminal proceedings fall outside the scope of the statute. There is some support for that line of reasoning in the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Samantar v. Yousuf. In that case, the Court interpreted the FSIA’s silence regarding the immunities of individual foreign officials to mean that those immunities fall outside the scope of the FSIA, and are governed instead by the common law. The Sixth Circuit read the same silence to mean that there is noexception for criminal proceedings in the FSIA, and therefore no jurisdiction in U.S. courts. By contrast, as I also noted earlier, recent U.S. indictments related to malicious cyber activity have been issued on the assumption that foreign defendants, whether they are natural persons or state-owned entities, are not immune from U.S. criminal jurisdiction when they act on behalf of foreign states.

The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia all have state immunity acts that explicitly exclude criminal proceedings from their scope. The primary purpose of all of these acts, like the FSIA, was to codify the restrictive theory of foreign sovereign immunity, under which one state can exercise jurisdiction over another state’s commercial acts. Although the Supreme Court has observed that “the text and structure of the FSIA demonstrate Congress’ intention that the FSIA be the sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state in our courts,” it made that observation in the context of a civil suit for damages. The Court has also described the Act as providing “a comprehensive set of legal standards governing claims of immunity in every civil action against a foreign state or its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities.” David Stewart, one of the American Law Institute’s reporters on the topic of foreign sovereign immunity, has written that “[t]he reference to ‘civil actions’ does not suggest, however, that states or their agencies or instrumentalities can be subject to criminal proceedings in U.S. courts; nothing in the text or legislative history supports such a conclusion.” Yet, as his co-reporter, Ingrid Wuerth, has observed, there is “an unmistakable trend toward the criminal prosecution of foreign organizations with ties to foreign governments.” At some point, the jurisdictional basis for those prosecutions will need to be placed beyond doubt. In the meantime, in the mystery case, the D.C. Circuit found, based in part on evidence submitted by the government ex parte, that there was a “reasonable probability” that the FSIA’s commercial activity exception applied. The exception to immunity, cited by the court, applies in “any case” in which the proceedings are “based upon” an act outside U.S. territory “in connection with a commercial activity” of the foreign state-owned company elsewhere, and that act causes a “direct effect” in the United States.

Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

The source of jurisdiction for these criminal proceedings against the corporation can also shed light on the source of any immunities the corporation may claim. In civilactions, 28 U.S.C. § 1330(a) provides U.S. courts with personal and subject-matter jurisdiction over foreign states, as long as (1) an enumerated exception in the FSIA applies and (2) service has been effectuated using the proper procedures. The question is, where does subject-matter jurisdiction come from over criminalproceedings? The government’s answer to this question, which the D.C. Circuit found compelling, is 18 U.S.C. § 3231, which provides federal district courts with original jurisdiction over “all offenses against the laws of the United States.” A straightforward reading of this provision is compatible with the government’s apparent argument that any immunities from criminal proceedings that might exist are a matter of common law, not statute. It was therefore arguably unnecessary for the Court of Appeals (or district court) to look for a statutory exception to immunity in the first place. That said, because it found such an exception in §1605(a), it concluded that the company’s suggestion that there is nosubject-matter jurisdiction over any criminal proceedings against corporations that are majority-owned by foreign governments “seems in far greater tension with Congress’s choice to codify a theory of foreign sovereign immunity designed to allow regulation of foreign nations acting as ordinary market participants.” Denying immunity for a foreign state’s commercial activities would also be consistent with the pre-FSIA regime articulated by Acting State Department Legal Adviser Jack Tate in 1952. In addition, although the U.S. government’s filings in the grand jury disputes are not publicly available, the government has indicated in filings related to foreign official immunity that the common law entails applying “principles of immunity articulated by the Executive Branch.” As the Eleventh Circuit observed in upholding the denial of immunity to Manuel Noriega, “by pursuing Noriega’s capture and this prosecution, the Executive Branch has manifested its clear sentiment that Noriega should be denied head-of-state immunity.” The same is presumably true of the U.S. government’s decision to initiate other types of criminal proceedings.

As a side note: Although most proceedings against foreign states are governed by the FSIA, there is at least one other U.S. code provision outside the FSIA that denies immunity to foreign states in certain circumstances: §106 of the bankruptcy code, as amended in 1994. The FSIA is thus not quite as comprehensive as has often been assumed.

Contempt Sanctions

A further issue addressed by the D.C. Circuit’s opinion, albeit only in a few lines, is whether monetary contempt sanctions are available against foreign states. This is another question upon which lower courts have disagreed, with the D.C. Circuit previously upholding such an order and the Fifth Circuit vacating one as incompatible with the FSIA. In those cases and others, the United States has opposedthe imposition of civil contempt sanctions on foreign states. (It is unclear whether the government has taken a position on the imposition of contempt sanctions here.) A separate legal regime governs the immunity of foreign state assets from execution to satisfy monetary judgments, including any accrued sanctions. Over time, these amounts can become substantial. Here, the panel relied on circuit precedent to uphold the imposition of sanctions, and bracketed the question of execution for future resolution.

Given that the subpoena appears to fall within the commercial activity exception to the FSIA, the most prudent—and still legally defensible—course of action would be for the Supreme Court to let the D.C. Circuit’s decision stand. The Court should not attempt to resolve the core underlying question of the relationship between the FSIA and criminal proceedings in a sealed case that could be related to a potentially politically divisive investigation. If it does take up the dispute, the best answer is that the FSIA does not apply to criminal proceedings. However, the myriad additional questions such a holding would raise argue in favor of continuing to avoid the issue, at least for now. If the Court declines review and allows the D.C. Circuit’s decision to stand (assuming the panel’s decision is not overturned by an en banc court), the effect of contempt sanctions on the company’s eventual compliance with the subpoena remains to be seen—or inferred by investigative journalists, as the case may be. If it grants full review, the Court should not lose sight of the many interconnected pieces of the foreign sovereign immunity puzzle that could be affected by any definitive resolution of the underlying issues raised by this dispute.

Photo of U.S. Supreme Court by Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images. ... oceedings/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:55 am

Kurt Eichenwald

1. Before the year is out....the evidentiary link between Wikileaks, Russian hackers, Kremlin disinformation outlet, and Donald Trump.

In 2016, I received a phone call from someone in the intelligence world telling me to keep an eye on Sputnik that day. I did not know what.... was. I was told it was a primary propaganda site operated by Russia to spew disinformation to affect global democracies, including the United States.

At this point, I am going to crush events into sequence of what happened, not what I learned when....

3...sometime before I received the call, Wikileaks had obtained John Podesta's emails and pushed them out. One of those emails was then manipulated to make it appear as something it was not. Words from an article I wrote were placed in the mouth of a Hillary Clinton ally....

4...making it look as if even her confidantes were secretly blaming her for Benghazi. It was a fraud.

That fraudulent document was pushed onto twitter by @TEN_GOP, which posed as the Tennessee Republican Party. It was not. It was a Russian front. Mueller has since....

5...identified @ten_GOP as an account operated by Russian hackers. (It is part of indictment, see attached article.) The actual Tennessee Republican Party is a different account. I was told, in confidence by the intel guy, that the bogus document was first pushed out....

(forgot to attach article), this tweet from @TEN_GOP, the fake russian controlled account, was one of billions that day. It was traded among a group of different Russian accounts. In comes Sputnik, a Russian controlled "news" agency identified as a disinformation platform...

7...the writer of the Sputnik article has said that he obtained the bogus email from @TEN_GOP, a twitter account that Sputnik writers were following for some reason. The manipulated email was then used as the basis of a news article in Sputnik alleging that a Clinton confidante..

8...held her accountable for Benghazi. Since I knew the email was bogus - and that the words they were quoting out of context were mine, not the confidantes - I began to write a story.

Now, there is Sputnik (a Russian disinformation site), @TEN_GOP (part of the illegal....

9...Russian hacking effort), and the original Reddit account that pushed the document out onto the internet for the first time.

As I was typing my story, Trump was at a rally. This bogus document had been on the internet for a couple of hours. The Russian twitter accounts....

10...were pushing it around, apparently trying to make it go viral. Sputnik wrote about it.

And then, Trump read the bogus email out loud to his rally. Again, an email manipulated by Russians, pushed out by Russia, printed by Russia, into Trump's mouth. In a couple of hours....

11...this one piece of information got from a Russian hacker to Trump.

I contacted my original source and got a few things clarified. At that moment, I understood the magnitude of what was going on involving @TEN_GOP, although I agreed not to disclose the account name....

12....I wrote the story, Newsweek printed it. And a firestorm was set off. A number of other journalists - who apparently made no attempt to contact any intelligence sources - considered it absurd that anyone would think Trump campaign had any connection to Russia. Skepticism...

13...based on personal belief, and not reporting, transformed rapidly into a coordinated defensive attack. The New York Observer, owned by Trump's son-in-law, went after me, as did a number of other groups close to Wikileaks or Trump. In fact, according to one article....

14...about this, a number of the journalists attacking the story and me were in direct communication with each other by email, coordinating their efforts. (This attached piece is from the Daily Caller Foundation, which, whatever you think of DC, was the only publication to....) actual reporting on this matter.) Soon after, Sputnik launched an absurd attack on me, accusing me of offering bribes, lying, etc.

This ONLY ran in Sputnik. And almost immediately after it was published, the Trump Campaign emailed the link to the story to reporters....

16...covering the campaign and others. Read that again: A Russian propaganda outlet attacked an American reporter, and the Trump campaign almost immediately started pimping the story to reporters. Daily Caller Foundation is one of those that disclosed it received....

17...the email from Trump campaign. (See attached.), here is where we stand.

Wikileaks obtains hacked Podesta emails.
Russian propagandists manipulate one email to make it say what it does not.
Russian reddit account pushes it onto internet.
Twitter account Mueller says in Russian scheme (@TEN_GOP) starts tweeting email..

19....Sputnik disinformation news service picks up bogus email from @TEN_GOP and writes bogus article.
Within an hour or so, Trump is reading the bogus email at a rally.
I write story exposing.
A group of journalists coordinate an attack on me by email....

12....Sputnik launches an attack on me accusing me of irrational crimes and lies.
Trump campaign immediately emails link to article from a Russian disinformation site to reporters, along with accusations against me.
The New York Observer, owned by Trump's son in law Kushner....

13...picks up the Sputnik attacks and goes after me.

Reporters couldn't see it back then. The importance of this - a back and forth link between Russian hackers, disinformation outlets and Trump campaign - seemed to unbelievable to be considered as true. But with the....

14..revelation by Mueller that @TEN_GOP was part of Russian scheme, someone must ask Trump - where did he get the bogus email? From @TEN_GOP, from Sputnik, or from some third party? And why his campaign pushing stories from a Russian disinformation site to attack the story?


ADDENDUM: Whenever I write about these kinds of issues, my feed is swarmed by Russian trolls. So, enjoy watching them appear. ... 7088342017
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:57 pm


Salvator Mundi
Posted on January 2, 2019 by Zev Shalev
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have ‘lost’ the world’s most expensive painting. The Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, may hold the key to the Trump-Russia investigation. And, the artwork itself could be evidence of collusion.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘last’ masterpiece was to be unveiled on September 18 at the spellbinding new Louvre in Abu Dhabi, but the exhibit was put on a temporary hold, amid rumours the painting was lost.

The art world has become increasingly alarmed. After all, Salvator Mundi is the most expensive artwork ever sold. “Nobody outside the immediate Arab hierarchy knows where it is,” Da Vinci scholar Martin Kemp told The Times.

Questions are being raised. First, why did the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, an art novice, buy the masterpiece? Secondly, why did he overpay for it by $300 million? Even for the stupendously wealthy Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that’s not just a simple rounding error. How do you misplace a $450 million painting anyway?

We can also reveal Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating both the buyer and the seller of the Da Vinci masterpiece as part of the Trump-Russia investigation.

All the intrigue suits Salvator Mundi’s already storied past well, but as I write this, no-one has seen the rare masterpiece in over a year, and its exact whereabouts have been unknown for over 100 days.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi was to exhibit the Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi from September 18, this year.
Masterpiece or fraud?

Leonardo da Vinci is said to have painted the Salvator Mundi, which literally translates to ‘Savior of the World’, as a male counterpart to his Mona Lisa, and an homage to his other Christ masterpiece, The Last Supper. The result of those intersecting ideas is an eerie portrait of Jesus Christ in a blue renaissance robe, offering benediction with his right hand raised and while holding a glass orb in his left.

Da Vinci was not prolific. He only pained 20 great works his entire life. That’s why the art world heralded Salvator Mundi’s rebirth over a decade ago with a messianic zeal only it could muster. “A painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” gushed Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honour that comes around once in a lifetime.”

Salvator Mundi has a pedigree, but also a bit of a sketchy past. The painting was first recorded in the collection of King Charles I in the early 1600s, but since then ‘Salvator’ was inauspiciously passed down from one lesser royal collection to the next, until it eventually sold for a mere £45 at a Sotheby’s auction in 1958, before disappearing for more than half a century.

In 2005, ‘Salvator Mundi” had its second coming when a consortium of businessmen acquired the damaged masterpiece from the estate at a small regional auction house. The Savior needed saving itself. Christ’s hair and face were painted over, and the canvas ripped on the side of his face.

It took six years of painstaking research and inquiry by the world’s ‘leading authorities on the works and career of Da Vinci’ to not only authenticate the lost masterpiece but to completely restore it, allowing Christie’s to present it to the world as it would have looked when Da Vinci painted it.

The reborn Salvator Mundi was unveiled at London’s National Gallery in 2011 to much fanfare, although you’d be hard-pressed to find mention of the masterpiece in the gallery’s official guide. You can read a back-peddling attribution to Da Vinci in the Gallery’s statement: “an important opportunity to test this new attribution by direct comparison with works universally accepted as Leonardo’s.”

As if that weren’t enough, a quick reading of Jonathan Jones’ review in The Guardian would convince any ardent art follower something was afoot. “The transparent orb is far too brilliantly painted to be the work of one of his disciples,” Jones wrote, referring to a painting technique not yet invented in Leonardo’s time. Some doubted it was a genuine Da Vinci, others thought the reconstruction was heavy-handed. Despite the question marks over its authenticity, the world’s wealthiest art collectors scrambled to acquire it.


A Russian in the House

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s story is typical of many Russian oligarchs. He made his fortune as. a potash miner until the Kremlin bought him out, sending him into a friendly “exile”. Rybolovlev chose the Grimaldi House of Monaco to set up shop. He bought the luxurious penthouse “La Belle Epoque” on Monaco’s famous seaside cliffs, the AC Monaco football team, 10% in the Bank of Cyprus and allegedly an extensive network of corruptable judges, ministers and other officials.

He also met Swiss art dear Yves Bouvier, from whom he bought about $2 billion in art. Rybolovlev officially paid Bouvier a 2% commission per painting, but he later found out the Swiss art dealer was also acting for the seller, marking up prices and pocketing the margin along with both buyer’s and seller’s commissions.

That is how Rybolovlev came to own The Salvator Mundi for $127 million, instead of its valued $80 million. The two men have been squabbling in court ever since. Both have been arrested. And Rybolovlev is suing Sotheby’s for knowing and not telling, he was being ripped off. The case itself could be a scam: money launderers often sue each other to wash their money with a judge’s order.

Since March 2013, the now $127 million ‘Salvator Mundi’ has been hanging in Rybolovlev’s penthouse in New York City. Rybolovlev sees no shame in the $47 million he lost in the purchase of the masterpiece. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s accused him of overpaying.

In addition to several corruption investigations in Monaco and Europe, Rybolovlev is also under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the $95 million purchase of Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach in 2006, which Trump had bought four years earlier for $41 million. There was no market reason for the $ 54 million mark-up, except to save Trump from another bankruptcy.

After struggling to sell it, Rybolovlev demolished the property to sell it for its seafront land. Experts point out all three of Rybolovlev’s investment interests – football, art and real estate – are prime vehicles for money laundering.

The corruption investigations into Rybolovlev may connect his finances directly to the Kremlin. Especially if they prove he manages the assets of Russian deputy premier Yuri Trutnev, as claimed in Der Spiegel in November.

Rybolovlev occupies the same proximity to Putin as Oleg Deripaska, making him extremely rich and powerful and a loyal ally of the Russian president. Rybolovlev regularly mixes affairs of state with his personal business, In 2016, he met Donald Trump twice in the final days of the campaign. Both men deny the meetings took place, but radar tracking reveals their planes coincided on airport tarmacs in both Charlotte, NC and Las Vegas, just days before the election.

George Nader is an emissary for the Crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The ‘Other’ Don Jr. Meeting

There has been a lot of ink spilled on the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower, involving Donald Trump, Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and a significant offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, to which Don, Jr. famously responded, “I love it.”

But a far more significant meeting took place at Trump Tower three weeks later which has received far less coverage, and yet it may be the most important evidence of collusion Robert Mueller has uncovered. “The August event may well become “the single most important event of Trump-Russia.” Seth Abrahamson, author of “Proof of Collusion” told me this week.

Erik Prince arranged the meeting. Prince is a mercenary who is notorious for his work with Blackwater. He is still a gun for hire working for the Chinese and Emiratis yet somehow, Prince still played a pivotal, yet unofficial role for the Trump Transition and coordinating this meeting was as significant as they come.

Prince planned to meet his guests at a nearby hotel to avoid the glare of the media assembled in Trump Tower’s gilded lobby.

You’re wondering who the guests were? George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who was acting as an emissary for both the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MbS) and the de facto leader of the UAE, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ). Nader was accompanied by Joel Zamel, the Australian-born Israeli founder of Psy-Group, and an expert in social media manipulation.

As the three men made small talk, President Obama was on TV pleading with the Republican Party to reject Trump as their candidate, and calling him “unfit to serve.” Prince smiled and checked watch. He knew Obama’s criticism would only strengthen Trump’s chances. “We have the green light to go up,” Prince told Nader and Zamel.

The three men made their way out of the hotel for the short walk to Trump Tower through rush-hour traffic, passed the media in the lobby and up to the 26th floor in one of those golden elevators. Donald Trump, Jr. was already in the conference room with Stephen Miller, when the three men walked in.

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed poses for a photo with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Saudi-UAE Summit in Jeddah. Reuters

A Plot to Elect a President

Nader began his pitch. The Saudi and Emirati princes “were eager to help your father win election as president,” Nader said. He said Zamel’s Psy Group was particularly successful at social media manipulation and the two crown princes would bankroll a multi-million dollar plan drawn up by Zamel, to help elect his father president.

Psy-Group had figured out how to shift public sentiment by creating fake news, publishing it on fake news sites and then amplifying it through a network of some 5,000 fake social media accounts. The company’s side-hustle was providing services in the dark arts of honey-trapping, hacking and blackmail, for a fee.

Not surprisingly Don. Jr. “responded approvingly” to the pitch, according to the New York Times but he later claimed he turned down the offer. There are no contracts or invoices to prove the campaign was ever executed. Lawyers for both sides deny any campaign collaboration. Of course, if they had, it would have been illegal.

The Facts Don’t Concur

In reality, there is evidence Psy-Group carried out some work for the campaign. For one thing, the Trump Campaign’s main digital partner, Cambridge Analytica, didn’t have the tools to deliver the social media content the campaign constantly credits for its victory.

Cambridge Analytica’s raison d’etre was psychographic profiling using stolen Facebook data. Psy-Group brought to the table a fake news factory proven to sway minds.

CamAnalytica and Psy also appeared to let the cat out of the bag when, one month after Trump’s victory, they publicly announced they would partner on future campaigns together, including a joint pitch the U.S. State Department, but failed to explain how they were introduced to each other.

Sources also tell the Daily Beast contacts between Psy-Group and the Trump Campaign were far more extensive than first reported, involving at least two other members of Trump’s inner circle. Company founder Zamel also spoke to Trump officials about helping Saudi Arabia and regime change in Iran.

Psy-Group is based in Israel but it is registered in Cyprus and corporately aligns in off-shore holding databases with companies owned by Russian oligarchs and banks. Mueller has also taken a specific interest in Zamel, and his close relationship with two of Putin’s most powerful oligarchs, the aforementioned Oleg Deripaska and Dmitry Robolovlov.

In February, Mueller subpoenaed the Cypriot bank accounts of the Psy-Group and dispatched a team of investigators to Israel this Spring to interview Zamel. This clearly struck a nerve. Within a week, Psy-Group shuttered the entire operation.

And remember, George Nader is cooperating with the investigation and he was in on every conversation with Don, Jr., Zamel, Kushner and the two crown princes. Nader has already testified before a grand jury and acknowledged making a $2m payment to Zamel. Psy-Group almost certainly worked for the campaign, they question os how did they get paid?
Art of the Deal

$300 million. That’s the incredible profit Rybolovlev made on the sale of Salvator Mundi. $300 million is also the amount Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (acting through an intermediary) “accidentally” overpaid for the artwork.

At first blush, laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in full view of a global audience, may not seem like the smartest move, but the facts support this may have been what the two Crown Princes and Dmitry Rybolovlev tried to do.

Robolovlev put the masterpiece up for auction through Christie’s in November 2017. The estimated price for Lot 9B was between $80 and $120 million. Christies’s auctioneers were stunned when bidding quickly surged past $80 million in just seconds and then, just as effortlessly over $130 million. Two anonymous bidders continuously outbid each other, not stopping until they had run up the price to $450.3 million, making it the single most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

In the ensuing days, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was publicly unmasked as the real buyer of the masterpiece but another key identity wasn’t made known: the identity of the other bidder.

In March, The Daily Mail revealed the counter-bidder was Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ). The princes claimed they had no idea the other was bidding, dismissed the whole thing as a mistak.

To be clear, these are the very same crown princes George Nader represented at the August 3rd with Donald Trump, Jr. and whom, Nader promised, would pay for the social media campaign. On the seller’s side, Dmitry Rybolovlev was not only well acquainted with Psy-Group’s founder but as an owner in the Bank of Cyprus, he could quietly carve out payments to Psy-Group, along with any kickbacks to Putin without anyone noticing

It’s worth noting that four months after the Da Vinci auction Mueller sent investigators to Israel this year and asked about specific deposits to PSY-Group’s Cypriot bank accounts. The FBI travelled to Israel in February, a month before the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince was outed as Salvator Mundi’s second bidder.

I started writing this piece after watching the giddy display of backslapping by Vladimir Putin and Mohammed at the recent G20 summit. The two looked like they had gotten away with something big, It is hard to explain the series of events I’ve described in any other.

Savior of the World

The whereabouts of Salvator Mundi remain unknown, there are no plans to exhibit it, the deepening mystery of what happened at auction, as well as Mueller’s relentless investigation into Psy-Group’s Cyprus accounts, suggests to me there is much to discover.

The entire affair supports the new prevailing theory about the direction of the Mueller investigation.

Up until now, Robert Mueller’s focus has been squarely on Russian collusion but as citizens from other countries are implicated, it seems the Special Counsel has widened his purview from just collusion with Russia, to collusion with a multi-nation alliance of at least four countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Gregg Smith, the former CEO of Prince’s Frontier Services Group told me this week he believes “the Israelis, Emiratis and Saudis all had a role and [Erik] Prince was [Steve] Bannon’s conduit to them.”

There can be no certainty when the game is subterfuge, and we need to wait for Mueller’s final report before we reach any conclusions, but if Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi proves a key for Mueller’s investigation “Savior of the World” could prove to be nothing short of prophetic. ... t-davinci/
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:57 pm

Trump illegally asked Russia to help him win in 2016. He shouldn't get away with it.

Donald Trump lashed out at Hillary Clinton on two email controversies that have hindered her campaign, while also denying any financial ties to Russia following reports of possible Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race. (July 27) AP

Trump's public request for Russian help in finding Hillary Clinton’s emails was a violation of US law. There are ways to hold him accountable.

Prosecutors triggered a national firestorm last month when they asserted that President Donald Trump conspired with his ex-fixer, Michael Cohen, to commit campaign finance crimes involving hush money payments to two women. But the discussion has so far overlooked another Trump campaign finance offense — one that is even easier to prove because it occurred in plain sight.

On July 27, 2016, Trump called on Russia to find presidential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump proclaimed. He added, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Federal campaign finance law prohibits any person from soliciting campaign contributions, defined as anything of value to be given to influence an election, from a foreign national, including a foreign government.

In asking Russia to find Clinton’s emails, presidential candidate Trump violated this statutory prohibition on seeking help from a foreign country to influence an election. Trump in essence called on a foreign adversary to locate and release something that was of great value to him and his campaign.

Read more commentary:

No exit: America's not only trapped in Trump's legal reality show, we're paying for it

Trump's lies and corruption disgrace presidential legacies of Lincoln and Washington

How House Democrats can save democracy and the rule of law: Impeach Trump ASAP

The law provides that such a solicitation is illegal regardless of whether the person soliciting the help receives anything in return. The risks of foreign intrusion in our elections are so great that even asking for help from foreigners without consummation is a crime. But in this case, on or around the same day that Trump solicited help from Russia, Russia made its first attempt to break into servers that Hillary Clinton’s personal office used. That event is laid out in detail in an indictment of Russian hackers obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump can hardly claim he could not have seen that coming. Suspected Russian election-related hacking was already much in evidence at the time. Nor can he plead ignorance of the law. Trump has given sworn affidavits and made other statements in the past that he has deep understanding of campaign finance laws.

Trump was warned about foreign solicitation

Indeed, prior to his July 27, 2016 request of Russia, Trump had been put on notice that it was illegal for his presidential campaign to solicit support from foreign interests. On June 29 and July 22, 2016, watchdog groups (including one led by one of the authors) filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department, respectively, against Trump’s presidential campaign committee for illegally soliciting financial support from parliamentarians in countries around the world, including Iceland, Scotland, Australia and Great Britain. Multiple news organizations had reported that Trump’s campaign was violating the ban on foreign solicitations by emailing fundraising solicitations to foreign nationals. The Trump campaign did not respond to press requests for comments on the FEC complaint.

Then-candidate Trump, self-described as deeply familiar with campaign finance laws and on notice that his campaign committee was illegally soliciting foreign support, nonetheless proceeded to publicly request assistance from Russia to find information to hurt Clinton and help his campaign.

Some may say Trump’s invitation was merely campaign rhetoric or hyperbole, which should not be criminalized. But that is to ignore the plain language of the law, and its purpose: to protect the United States from the influence of foreign countries in our elections. The statute says “It shall be unlawful for … a person to solicit, accept or receive a contribution or donation … from a foreign national.”In using the word “or,” the statute makes plain that the act of solicitation in and of itself is a violation. The danger of Trump’s words can be seen in the fact that Russia took them both seriously and literally.

Justice Department says Trump can't be indicted

If this were an isolated incident, that would be one thing. But the Cohen revelations expose a pattern of campaign finance law violations by Trump, complete with a tape of him discussing the cover-up: evidence he knew what he was doing was wrong. Then there are the many other allegations of illegal conduct, including substantial evidence of obstruction of justice. The president appears to operate with blatant disdain for the nation’s laws, and his alleged violation in soliciting campaign help from Russia is only one instance.

The president should not be immune from accountability for this alleged misconduct. Federal prosecutors should be free to charge him for any campaign finance offenses grounded in probable cause, including, if they see fit, the July 27 solicitation of Russia. Unfortunately, they are currently blocked from doing so by opinions from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that a sitting president may not be indicted. We join eminent experts in disagreeing with those opinions, and this latest possible offense should be one more nail in his coffin.

Trump campaign and business could be charged

Even though Justice is unlikely to change its mind on charging Trump, next best options are available. The Trump campaign is legally responsible under principles of vicarious liability for the statements of its head, and so could be indicted. The Russia solicitation could be included in an indictment featuring other counts, such as charging the campaign and the Trump Organization for the separate alleged hush money violations described by Cohen.

No Justice Department policy prohibits prosecutors from naming the president as an unindicted co-conspirator in such an indictment. And with a five-year statute of limitations, he could still be prosecuted for these alleged knowing and willful 2016 offenses should he fail to seek or secure re-election in 2020.

Campaign finance laws are enacted to protect the American people. They do not exist for candidates to choose whether to comply with the laws or not, as they see fit. No one is above the law — not an ordinary citizen and not the president of the United States. President Trump must be held accountable for his allegedly illegal activities — for his apparently knowing and willful violations of the nation’s campaign finance laws. ... 449564002/
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:51 am

American Paul Whelan charged with espionage in Russia, news agency reports

By Amie Ferris-Rotman
January 3, 2019 at 10:47 AM

The family of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russia on spying charges, said on Jan. 1 that he was in Moscow for a wedding and is innocent. (Reuters)
MOSCOW — An American arrested in Russia has been formally charged with espionage, a Russian news agency reported Thursday, moving the case into Russia’s justice system and possibly deepening the diplomatic tensions with the United States.

The Interfax news agency report on Paul Whelan’s status could not be independently verified. “An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it,” Interfax quoted a person familiar with the situation as saying.

Russian lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, who was appointed to represent Whelan, said the American will remain in custody in Moscow until at least Feb. 28. It was unclear whether court proceeding could begin before that date.

Whelan, 48, who was born in Canada and once served in the Marines, was detained last week by Russia’s domestic security services while he was in Moscow for what they described as a “spy mission.”

Whelan’s family denies the claims and have said they fear for his safety. It is believed Whelan also has Canadian citizenship. Ottawa confirmed a Canadian had been arrested in Moscow, but did not specifically name Whelan.

On Jan. 2, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. officials hoped to gain consular access to see Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia on suspicions of espionage. (Reuters)
On Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., visited Whelan in a Moscow detention facility, marking the first contact U.S. officials have had with him since he was arrested at a hotel during a visit to attend a wedding in the Russian capital.

The visit came a few hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he expected officials from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to be given access to Whelan within hours. Pompeo said they need to learn more about why Whelan was detained last Friday.

The timing of Whelan’s arrest — coming weeks after Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to Kremlin interference in the United States — has raised questions about a potential swap. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty.

The arrest of and guilty plea by Butina, 30, have become a sharp thorn in the side of U.S.-Russian relations. Butina is the first Russian national to be convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy in the 2016 election campaign, and Moscow has gone to great lengths to paint her as a political prisoner. ... ssion=true

Paul Whelan's lawyer tells NYT he hopes he can be part of a prisoner exchange with the US

Maria Butina


Kevin Poulsen

Paul Whelan's arrest may be retaliation for Butina, but no way it's a scheme to get her back in a spy-swap. By her sentencing date she'll have already served more than the 6-month maximum contemplated by her plea agreement. She's looking at time-served and a plane ticket home

If Russia is really trying to engineer a prisoner exchange, it's not for Butina. It's for someone else.

Aric Toler

RosBalt (which has decent sources within Russian security services) is now reporting that detained US citizen Paul Whelan was "detained red-handed" in the Metropol hotel with Russian state secrets. This info he supposedly had listed employees of Russian security services.
Image ... 4822134784

Paul Whelan has also hired a Russian attorney who represents Russian suspects. At this point we have to at least ask if it’s possible that Whelan is in on this with Russia, and that he helped choreograph his own arrest in order to give Putin leverage to get a Russian asset back in return.

Could be

This account makes Paul Whelan sound more like Carter Page than a LeCarre spy. The weirdness continues.

The guy claimed to be a police officer, then it turns out he was a *crossing guard.*



American charged with espionage in Russia has an unlikely background for a spy

Amie Ferris-Rotman
To hear the Russians tell it, American security executive Paul Whelan was a patient spy. They claim he spent years cultivating confidential sources via social media until he was arrested last week at his room in the Metropol hotel in Moscow, allegedly having just received a flash drive containing a list of employees for a secret Russian agency.

Whelan’s family disputes allegations, filed in a Russian court on Thursday, that the 48-year-old Michigan man had engaged in espionage, and say he was in Russia only to attend a friend’s wedding. Much remains unknown about Whelan and what exactly the Russians believe he was doing.

Over the years, Whelan, a Marine Corps veteran, has held himself out to friends and family as a world traveler, accustomed to working closely with FBI agents and American embassy personnel. And he was deeply interested in Russia and its people. He spent considerable time and energy developing a network of contacts there. For the past decade, he has had a profile on the social media platform VKontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, which is unusual for a non-Russian. Whelan has cultivated connections there that blossomed into offline relationships, some of his Russian friends said.

But that doesn’t make Whelan a spy, former intelligence officers said. In fact, his résumé suggests he’s perhaps the last person that the U.S. government would use to collect intelligence, they said.

[How Russia’s military intelligence agency became the covert muscle in Putin’s duels with the West]

“From my experience, we would almost never send someone to Russia without diplomatic immunity,” said John Sipher, who ran the CIA’s operations in Russia. “Given the laxity of Russian laws and the aggressiveness of their espionage apparatus, we could not guarantee the safety of someone traveling under unofficial cover.”

The circumstances around Whelan’s arrest remain murky. The few details about his supposed spy career have run in a news service, Rosbalt, operated by the wife of a former KGB officer close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

Dan Hoffman, a former CIA officer who served as the agency’s chief of station in Moscow, said the Russians are likely to distort Whelan’s background to suggest he was engaged in espionage.

“As with all Russian propaganda, 90 percent of the story is true and the rest is lies,” Hoffman said.

Whelan was born in Canada and later moved to Michigan, where he embarked on a career in law enforcement in the early 1990s. He appears on some occasions to have exaggerated his credentials as a law enforcement and security expert and, according to former military colleagues, came across as naive.

In a 2013 deposition, stemming from a case in which Whelan wasn’t a party, he said that he had been a sheriff’s deputy in Wash­tenaw County and a police officer for the city of Chelsea.

But a representative for the Washtenaw County sheriff said the agency had no record of Whelan’s employment. And Chelsea police records show that he worked as a part-time police officer, as well as a dispatcher, a crossing guard, and a parking officer, also in a part-time capacity, from 1990 to 1996.

Whelan’s brother, David, said Paul had connections to the sheriff’s office going back to his days as a Police Explorer, a kind of law enforcement version of the Boy Scouts. But he acknowledged that he wasn’t certain Paul was a sheriff’s deputy and said that the two didn’t discuss their work lives.

Julie LeBourdais, a former colleague in the police department of Keego Harbor, Mich., said Whelan had worked as a patrol officer there from 1998 to about 2000. She remembered him being “straight as an arrow,” and said he seemed to know a lot about world affairs, which she chalked up to his experience in the military, although at that point Whelan had never deployed overseas.

In 1994, Whelan enlisted in the Marine Corps as a reservist, according to military records, and rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant, deploying twice to Iraq and working as an administrative clerk and an administrative chief — jobs akin to office management for a military unit.

His work in the Marine Corps, which included assignments at bases in Michigan, Arizona, California and Missouri, doesn’t appear to have involved anything related to Russia.

His most recent assignment was at Marine Air Control Group 38, an aviation command-and-control unit based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., that supports the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He deployed to Iraq’s al-Asad Air Base with MACG-38 for most of 2006, handling orders and other paperwork in what those familiar with the matter described as a deployment that didn’t take Marines “outside the wire.”

One person who deployed to Iraq with him in 2006 recalled Whelan learning Russian while the unit was there, writing the Cyrillic alphabet out on a board and taking the allotted holiday time to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“I did not remain in touch with him after the deployment, but I do have 15 years of experience doing intelligence,” said T.J. Sjostrom, who served as a noncommissioned intelligence officer in the Marines and was in Whelan’s unit when it deployed to Iraq in 2006. “No intelligence agency would take someone with his record to be a spy.”

In January 2008, Whelan was convicted in a special court-martial for attempted larceny, three specifications of dereliction of duty, making a false official statement, wrongfully using another person’s Social Security number and 10 specifications of making and uttering checks without sufficient funds in his account, according to military court documents.

He was sentenced to 60 days’ restriction — which usually means restriction to a base — and knocked down two pay grades, according to the military court documents. According to his military record, he received a bad-conduct discharge and was separated from the Marine Corps on Dec. 2, 2008. The disciplinary proceedings caused him to leave the Marine Corps as a private.

The Marines declined to provide the charge sheet detailing the substance of the accusations the military court made against Whelan. His brother said he had no knowledge of the charges.

After leaving the military, Whelan entered the world of corporate security, eventually becoming the senior manager of global security and investigations at Kelly Services, a staffing firm.

In the 2013 deposition, he described his work as overseeing essentially all security-related matters for the company, including inquiries into employee misconduct, managing the physical security of company buildings, and handling employees’ secure access to company computers.

The job had an international component, too. “Kelly Services is a global company, and we work with federal agencies all the time,” Whelan said, mentioning the State Department, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, among others.

But according to Kelly Services, none of that work involved Russia, although the company has an office in Moscow.

“We have no information to suggest that Mr. Whelan ever traveled to Russia on Kelly business,” the company said in a statement.

Kathy Graham, a spokeswoman for BorgWarner, an auto parts distributor where Whelan is now the director of global security, said the company had no records of Whelan ever traveling to Russia for its business, either.

Ferris-Rotman reported from Moscow. Emily Rauhala and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report. ... f1e9f51959

NEW, w the great @annanemtsova: The lawyer for Paul Whelan (American detained in Moscow) is a former Soviet gov investigator who's never tried a case involving a foreigner charged w espionage.
He refused to discuss any FSB involvement in his appointment

Whelan “is not going to get a lawyer unless it’s FSB-approved. So when the lawyer says, ‘We want to make an exchange,’ that’s the FSB saying it through the lawyer,” said Dan Hoffman, former CIA station chief in Moscow

Russian Lawyer for Alleged U.S. Spy Says, Let's Make a Deal But Not Too Soon

The same investigators who arrested Paul Whelan appointed his lawyer, who's talking up a trade. Now a new twist: Whelan's a citizen of the U.K. as well as the U.S.

01.03.19 5:24 PM ET
MOSCOW–Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen accused of spying who faces 20 years in a Russian prison, is being represented by a former Soviet government investigator who has never before tried an espionage case involving a foreign citizen.

Russian independent prison monitors and human rights defenders were surprised to hear that Whelan had accepted Vladimir Zherebenkov as his attorney, believing it likely the lawyer was the choice of the same Federal Security Service (FSB) that arrested Whelan in the first place.

“It often happens that investigators pick out an attorney who basically acts as one more investigator,” says Zoya Svetova, a veteran prison monitor.

In an exclusive interview, Zherebenkov told The Daily Beast that he had never defended U.S. citizens in the past and had no experience in working with foreigners accused of espionage. But he was happy to accept “an interesting, high-profile” case.

Zherebenkov’s stated goal is to arrange a trade and bring home "at least one Russian soul." It’s widely assumed that the intention is to exchange him for Maria Butina, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for Moscow and signed a broad cooperation agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. Prosecutors said she tried to build a back channel between Kremlin officials and Republican operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I have no inside information, but it seems unlikely that Mr. Whelan has any affiliation with the U.S. intelligence community,” Michael Morrell, host of the Intelligence Matters podcast and former acting CIA director, told The Daily Beast. “Most officers are declared and they receive diplomatic immunity. That means if they are picked up in a foreign country, then they are simply sent home. That’s not what happened here. Mr. Whelan was most likely picked up by the Russians under false pretenses to try and set up an exchange situation, Whelan for Butina.”

Dan Hoffman, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, told The Daily Beast in Washington that Whelan “is not going to get a lawyer unless it’s FSB-approved. So when the lawyer says, ‘We want to make an exchange,’ that’s the FSB saying it through the lawyer.

“That’s the Russian government saying what they’re saying and he’s saying it publicly," Hoffman told us. "They want to use the U.S. public square in their favor as a force multiplier, and the way to do that is to have this lawyer make a public statement because then Paul Whelan’s family will jump on it and pressure the U.S. government to do what the Russians want.”

“Based on my experience,” Hoffman added, “this looks like the Russians are fabricating a motive that doesn’t exist to suit their tactical plans. And we’ve seen this with the lawyer already talking about a swap. That’s clearly where they’re headed.”

Whelan’s family says he is totally innocent and was never involved in espionage. The Russophile ex-Marine was court-martialed on larceny charges and given a bad conduct discharge a decade ago after two tours in Iraq as an administrative clerk. The Guardian reported late Thursday that Whelan holds British as well as U.S. nationality. The U.K. Foreign Office said, "Our staff have requested consular access to a British man detained in Russia after receiving a request for assistance from him."

Whelan is alleged to have received a USB drive containing a classified list of names.

“Based on what I’ve seen in the past,” said Hoffman, “it’s similar to cases where they fabricate evidence.”

Zherebenkov told The Daily Beast his son, Roman Zherebenkov, had first worked on the Whelan case December 28 and 29, the first two days he was in custody, “and then I was hired.”

Whelan’s twin brother told CNN that the family had no idea where Whelan was on December 28 and 29, or even if he was alive. The family had no chance to hire anyone to defend him during the first two days of his detention.

Zherebenkov refused to explain the role the FSB investigators might have played in his appointment.

In the past, Zherebenkov said, he has won several jury trials, “at least six out of ten.” But in this case, he said, “Whelan will not have a jury trial. He is facing a very serious accusation. He is possibly going to have a trial with a three judge panel.”

The attorney said he did not have any success stories to tell about trials of that nature. “Our judicial systems is far from being perfect, there are very few acquittals in such trials.”

Several times during the interview, the defense lawyer praised the professionalism of the investigators. “I have worked with the FSB department several times before. They are professionals of a very high level,” he said. “The FSB must have collected and double-checked their evidence against Whelan before they arrested and accused him; they must have been following him for a while.” He is supposed to have landed in Russia on December 22 to attend a friend’s wedding.

Paul Whelan’s attorney confirmed that his client is now under the so-called “quarantine” regime in Lefortovo Prison, as reported previously in The Daily Beast. “He is going to stay in a single cell for the first 10 days of his arrest. He is asking to be moved to a cell with an English speaking inmate; he wears a prison robe but he is in good spirits,” the attorney told The Daily Beast.

Zherebenkov said he saw Whelan in Lefortovo Prison on Wednesday. He said that he had helped to organize the U.S. Consul General’s visit. “Tomorrow [Friday], Whelan’s parents are coming from London but I am not sure if the FSB approves their meeting with my client,” the attorney said. “Paul’s mother does not live together with him, so hopefully she can be qualified as a non-witness,” said the attorney. If she were a potential witness, she could not visit him.

The Russian court has ordered Whelan held until February 28, and his detention could be extended repeatedly pending an investigation.

Zherebenkov was convinced that his client eventually will be exchanged or returned to the United States. “The investigation will continue for at least six months. Only after that we can try to get Whelan out, under house arrest.” That would be pending the end of the investigation, and then, typically, there would be a trial and conviction, after which Whelan could ask for a pardon from President Vladimir Putin.

Although the attorney said he had no doubt that his client was innocent, “There will be no miracle, I don’t think Whelan will come out on February 28.” Meanwhile, “He has a right to have two visits a month. Yesterday he had one meeting with the U.S. consul general.”

According to the attorney, Whelan was complaining about communications problems at the prison. “He showed prison employees that he wanted to shave, that he needed paper to write on, but they did not understand him.”

Zherebenkov said he had helped to provide all the necessary things for his client. “He says he is following the news, he must have a TV set, I guess he might have CNN,” Zherebenkov added.

Experienced prison and court observers were highly skeptical about that bit of information. “This is not true,” said Svetova. “Lefortovo has very thick walls built in the 19th century. There are very few Russian channels on prison TV sets, so Whelan definitely does not have CNN or any other foreign TV channels.”

“Whelan’s relatives should hire an independent attorney who is experienced in espionage cases,” said Svetova. “There are very few in Russia,” she noted, but suggested the obvious choice would be Ivan Pavlov, founder of Team 29, a group of attorneys specialized on state treason and espionage cases. Earlier this week Pavlov told The Daily Beast that he would be happy to defend Whelan, but it’s apparent that would not fit into the Russian government’s plan.

Anna Nemtsova reported from Moscow, Betsy Woodruff from Washington, D.C. Adam Rawnsley also contributed reporting.

This story was updated at 2:30 a.m. EST, January 4, 2019. ... n?ref=home
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:31 am

parroting putin

Trump’s Cracked Afghan History

His falsehoods about allies and the Soviets reach a new low.

The Editorial Board
Jan. 3, 2019 7:03 p.m. ET

President Trump’s remarks on Afghanistan at his Cabinet meeting Wednesday were a notable event. They will be criticized heavily, and deservedly so. The full text is available on the White House website.

Mr. Trump ridiculed other nations’ commitment of troops to fight alongside America’s in Afghanistan. He said, “They tell me a hundred times, ‘Oh, we sent you soldiers. We sent you soldiers.’”

Potomac Watch Podcast
Elizabeth Warren's Presidential Prospects
This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. The United Kingdom has had more than 450 killed fighting in Afghanistan.

As reprehensible was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement there in the 1980s. He said: “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”

Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.

The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality. ... 1546560234

Jerry Nadler, top Judiciary Committee Dem, says he'll make Mueller report public - Washington Times

Republicans closed out two years of control over the political branches of Washington on Thursday with a whimper, leaving a government still in partial shutdown and a long list of priorities left undone.

Asked about their record, GOP lawmakers said they were proud of the tax overhaul in December 2017, which also included long-sought permission to drill for oil in an Alaskan preserve and a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

But they struggled to recall other marquee moves, pointing instead to promises unkept to repeal outright the 2010 Affordable Care Act, abortion politics and a host of immigration battles.

“The failure of this Republican Congress to repeal Obamacare, secure our borders and address our deficit and debt may be a pivot point in the failure of America going forward,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, Alabama Republican.

It was a major letdown for lawmakers who had been promised they would get “tired of winning.”

Even when GOP leaders won big bipartisan votes, such as pumping money into anti-opioid addiction efforts or a generational reform of sentencing policies that could cut the federal prison population by tens of thousands, they didn’t seem to earn credit, with turmoil at the White House and ego-testing skirmishes on Capitol Hill overshadowing their work.

SEE ALSO: Pelosi elected speaker of the House for 116th Congress

As they closed out the session, top Republicans insisted progress had been made.

Their lists included new laws to combat sex trafficking, imposing sanctions on bad foreign actors, repealing Obama-era regulations, and providing terminally ill patients with the right to try experimental treatments.

Senators also pointed to dozens of appeals-court judges and two Supreme Court justices approved, over vehement objections of Democrats.

But rank-and-file lawmakers easily ticked off their disappointments as the session was nearing an end last month.

“More missed opportunities than anything,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who said failing to stop taxpayer money going to Planned Parenthood was a major whiff.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, said the 2017 tax reform was a big get, but botching the immigration debate and failing on a full Obamacare repeal were fumbles.

Rep. Neal P. Dunn also pointed to the Obamacare failure, which saw the House vote for repeal only to see that fail in the Senate.

“No question about it,” the Florida Republican said. “I’m a doctor by trade, and it was one of the things I was counting on doing here.”

Mr. Trump, for his part, was much more rosy, ticking off the tax cuts, approval of drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate — all of which came in the tax-cut bill in 2017 — as big wins.

He also said he’s made strides on his own, canceling the Iran nuclear arms control agreement and, he said, pressuring oil-producing countries to keep prices low.

“They say I’m the most popular president in the history of the Republican Party. You see the same polls as I do,” the president told reporters.

Fact-checkers challenged that assertion, but Congress is under no illusions of its popularity.

Its approval ratings, which stood at 28 percent in Gallup polling just after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, fell to just 18 percent as of last month.

And that was before the new shutdown, for which voters place most of the blame on Mr. Trump or congressional Republicans, according to a slew of polls.

Mr. Brooks said the chief reason Republicans fell short over the last two years was because they repeatedly ran into Democratic filibusters in the Senate. He said GOP leaders in the upper chamber committed malpractice by refusing to use the “nuclear option” to alter Senate rules and defang the filibuster.

“I wish that Mitch McConnell and the United States Senate had understood the importance to America of utilizing our majorities instead of ceding control of the Senate to the Democrats, which is what they did when they kept the 60-vote rule on all policy votes,” he said.

Republicans said the successes they did have — the tax overhaul, repealing Obama regulations and confirming judges — came on issues where only a majority vote was needed.

“This Congress will be looked back on with a lot of success. But we still have [the] filibuster,” said Rep. Chris Collins, New York Republican.

G. William Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), identified another hurdle: While Republicans may have nominally held the White House and both chambers in Congress, internal party differences kept them from exercising real control.

“Despite ‘Republicans control,’ there still was a lot of division just under the surface in the Republican Party, and some confusion brought about by the White House itself,” he said.

Mr. Hoagland, a longtime Senate budget staffer before moving to the BPC, said there were some wins that flew beneath the radar, such as the Chronic Care Act, part of last year’s budget deal, which expands access for a number of services for long-term conditions.

Mr. Hoagland said the big failure was on deficits, where Republicans oversaw a spike in spending.

“One would have thought that Republicans who have preached and spouted fiscal responsibility for many years — you would have thought they would have been more successful,” he said.

⦁ S.A. Miller and Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

Venture Capital

BREAKING NEWS Pau Whelan was discharged from the Marines because he submitted HIMSELF for various awards
Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medaletc via the online awards system of the Commanding General of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing.

Whelan’s attempts to fraudulently secure awards for himself through a system he had admin access to, was caught when the poorly written forms were flagged by the Commanding General’s staff.

Paul Whelan also falsified orders so he would not have to return to his primary unit in Michigan and he could stay at Miramar. He was also drawing BAH and Commuted Rations pay while living in an apartment in LaJolla when he lacked orders that he was stationed there

He was convicted at a special court-martial in January 2008 as a Staff Sergeant on several charges related to larceny and was given a bad-conduct discharge in Dec 2008 at the rank of Private- subsequently he gets no veterans benefits

Here’s my take... a Marine that would fake acts of bravery and service for commendations and awards he didn’t earn and would rather go to Russia on leave then be w family and friend is a perfect mark for the FSB to recruit. Kelly Services made a huge error in hiring him

If Whelan can lie about his record, falsify forms for pay, has zero honor or integrity -than he’s very capable of selling out to the Russians. As a global security expert he was privy to a lot of secrets, key cards, passwords, key codes, access to cameras

Perhaps Putin was telling the truth. Maybe Whelan was apprehended while on a ‘spy mission’- EXCEPT- he was on the mission so Putin could trade” him for Butina. Crazy Sure. But hasn’t it been insane for the last few years

Well... apparently Whelan was caught red handed at the Metropol Hotel w a USB drive he obtained from a Russian citizen. It’s data contained info on the makeup of staff of Russian Intel and Agencies. He’s in Lefortovo prison which is known for its very harsh conditions

A key goal will be to drum up as much concern for Whelan’s well being as possible so that the public outcry for the trade of Butina for Whelan is massive. Expect Russian bot and # hashtag participation in drumming up support for this “ex” marine

Putin and Trump did not realize that we would find out that the ex marine is not a patriot and that it would undermine our sympathy for him. He was basically attempting his own version of “stolen valor” by falsifying docs to make himself out to be a hero. It’s despicable

In addition, Whelan also used someone’s social security number and wrote bad checks, according to military court documents. A military judge also found him guilty of attempted larceny and three specifications of dereliction of duty

Russia is claiming that Whelan has spent 10 years cultivating acquaintances and friends through social sites in order to gather RU secrets- this time a flash drive w names of Russian spies at various agencies

The translation is rough, but it’s weirdly interesting...


No Honey pots for Paul Whelan... Russian intel services note that “it was striking that Whelan was not at all interested in pretty RU women, preferring to drink w male acquaintances of the Internet”


Paul Whelan’s lawyer in Moscow, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said his client “is confident and has a great sense of humor and hopes for objectivity of the investigation”

Vladimir Zherenbenkov, Whelan’s defense attorney, has represented some interesting defendants

Russia seeks oligarch's extradition from UK
Russian prosecutors have said they are seeking the extradition from Britain of the oligarch Yevgeny Chichvarkin, the latest to join London's growing circle of dissidents. ... om-UK.html

Whelan‘s atty also represented Andrei Kovalchuk, charged with organising large-scale trafficking in cocaine from Argentina to Russia ... 13878.html

Whelan, accused formally of espionage by Russia, has 59 friends on his VK page, including former students at the Military University of the Russian Ministry of Defence. He met w one VK friend in 2008

We aren’t the only ones curious that Ambassador Huntsman rushed to see Whelan. It was called a “rookie mistake” by a RU foreign policy analyst. “It esculates the situation...” Was it really a ‘mistake’ or part of a pre-arranged plan?

Whelan’s brother David isn’t aware if his brother Paul is still a Canadian citizen... Canada was briefed when Paul was detained that they had an Ottawa man in custody. My question: did Whelan use a Canadian passport Why would Canada be notified

Amid Detention of US National

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Global Affairs Canada told the local CBC broadcaster it was aware that a Canadian national had been arrested in Russia in the wake of an arrest of US citizen Paul Whelan by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on the suspicion of espionage in Moscow.
"Consular officials are aware that a Canadian citizen has been arrested in Russia. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed," Global Affairs Canada said.

Jon Huntsman
US Ambassador Offers Assistance to American Detained in Russia - Embassy
The CBC noted that Whelan was born in Canada in 1970 but subsequently moved to the United States. His brother David could not confirm to the broadcaster if Whelan still had Canadian citizenship.
FSB said it arrested Whelan on December 28 during an operation in Moscow and has opened a criminal investigation over possible espionage.

Media have reported that Whelan, 48, is the director of global security for Michigan-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner, something subsequently confirmed by the company.

Whelan also served in Iraq with the US Marine Corps. Moreover, his service records, released by the media, showed he had been convicted in 2008 on charges related to unlawful taking of personal property. ... detention/

BREAKING NEWS Whelan’s attorney, Zherebenkov, is talking about a prisoner exchange ”I myself hope that we can RESCUE and bring home one Russian SOUL” He’s talking about Maria Butina...

JFC No self respecting lawyer or RU intel officer would refer to a male spy as a ‘Russian soul’ or use the term “rescue”... This ruse is becoming more transparent by the minute

Luckily, for Whelan, Vladimir Zherebenkov, his defense defense atty, is very familiar w extradition cases

Here is the first page of Whelan’s Court Martial

This is remarkable. Paul Whelan is a citizen of 4 countries: the US, U.K., Canada and Ireland. Putin hit the geopolitical jackpot when he chose to take this man hostage. He can now demand ransom from four different governments

Whelan is seeking assistance from embassies of all countries of which he is a citizen. That is four so far. Are there any others?
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:26 am

Why Is Trump Spouting Russian Propaganda?

The president’s endorsement of the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Afghanistan echoes a narrative promoted by Vladimir Putin.

David FrumJan 3, 2019

David Frum
Staff writer at The Atlantic

Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on January 2, 2019.
Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on January 2, 2019.Jim Young / Reuters
It was only one moment in a 90-minute stream of madness.

President Donald Trump convened a Cabinet meeting, at which he invited all its members to praise him for his stance on the border wall and the government shutdown. There’s always a lively competition to see which member of the Cabinet can grovel most abjectly. The newcomer Matthew Whitaker may be only the acting attorney general, but despite—or perhaps because of—that tentative status, he delivered one of the strongest entries, saluting the president for sacrificing his Christmas and New Year’s holiday for the public good, and contrasting that to members of Congress who had left Washington during the Trump-created crisis.

But that was not the crazy part.

The crazy part came during the president’s monologue defending his decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan, about half the force in that country.

David Frum: The crisis facing America

“Russia used to be the Soviet Union,” he said.

Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia … the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.

Let’s go to the replay:

The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.

To appreciate the shock value of Trump’s words, it’s necessary to dust off some Cold War history. Those of us who grew up in the last phases of the Cold War used to know it all by heart, but I admit I had to do a little Googling to refresh my faded memories.

More by David Frum

Paul Ryan
George H. W. Bush

Through the 1970s, Afghanistan had been governed by a president who was friendly to the Soviet Union, but it was not reliably under Soviet control. That president, Mohammad Daoud Khan, became convinced that the local Communists were plotting against him. He struck first, assassinating one Communist leader in April 1978, and arresting others.

Instead of preventing the plot, this coup-from-above triggered it. In April 1978, the Communists—enabled by their strong presence in Afghanistan’s Soviet-trained military—seized power.

The new regime launched an ambitious modernizing agenda: women’s rights, land reform, secularization. That project went about as well as expected. While the Communists appealed to a small, educated elite in Kabul, they offended the ultraconservative countryside. Violent guerrilla resistance gathered. The guerrillas called themselves “mujahideen,” holy warriors. The Kabul government dismissed them as “bandit elements” and “terrorists.”

Read: What Putin really wants

By the end of 1979, the Kabul-based Communist government was teetering, nearing collapse. The Soviet authorities in Moscow blamed the incompetence, corruption, and internecine violence of their local allies. In December 1979, they overthrew and killed the then-Communist leader, installed somebody more compliant, and deployed 85,000 troops to enforce their rule over the countryside. The Soviets had expected a brief, decisive intervention like those in Prague in 1968 or Budapest in 1956. Instead, the war turned into a grinding Vietnam-in-reverse. The Soviets withdrew, defeated, in 1989.

Here’s why Trump’s lopsided view of this story is so telling. Inflicting that defeat on the U.S.S.R. was a major bipartisan foreign-policy priority of the 1980s. The policy was designed by Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and executed by the Reagan administration.

It’s amazing enough that any U.S. president would retrospectively endorse the Soviet invasion. What’s even more amazing is that he would do so using the very same falsehoods originally invoked by the Soviets themselves: “terrorists” and “bandit elements.”

It has been an important ideological project of the Putin regime to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Putin does not care so much about Afghanistan, but he cares a lot about the image of the U.S.S.R. In 2005, Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as (depending on your preferred translation) “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century” or “a major geopolitical disaster of the 20th century”—but clearly a thing very much to be regretted.

Read: It’s Putin’s world

The war in Afghanistan helped bring about that collapse, not because it bankrupted the Soviet regime—that was an effect of the break in the price of oil after 1985—but because it forced a reckoning between the Soviet regime and Soviet society. As casualties mounted, as soldiers returned home addicted to heroin, Soviet citizens began demanding the right to speak the truth, not only about the war in Afghanistan, but about all Soviet reality.

It’s fitting that Putin’s campaign to reimpose official lying would culminate in a glorification of the catastrophic Afghanistan war. And clearly, that campaign has swayed the mind of the president of the United States.

As of mid-morning on January 3, the day after the president’s repetition of Soviet-Putinist propaganda in the Cabinet room, there has been no attempt by the White House to tidy things up: no presidential tweet, no corrective statement. The president’s usual defenders—Sean Hannity, Fox & Friends, the anti-anti-Trump Twitter chorus—have likewise ignored the whole matter. They’re back to denouncing the Steele dossier, fulminating against Mueller, and reprising the Clinton-email drama. There’s apparently nothing they can think of to say in exoneration or excuse.

Putin-style glorification of the Soviet regime is entering the mind of the president, inspiring his words and—who knows—perhaps shaping his actions. How that propaganda is reaching him—by which channels, via which persons—seems an important if not urgent question. But maybe what happened yesterday does not raise questions. Maybe it inadvertently reveals answers.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to ... an/579361/

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They could still get him out of office.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:31 am

It should receive scrutiny ESPECIALLY because trump mentioned his wall will be steel then slipped in the word aluminum ... is this another payoff for Russia Manafort


Dems Move to Block Trump From Lifting Sanctions on Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska

Newly empowered Democrats are trying to force the administration’s hand on Manafort-linked Oleg Deripaska.
Betsy Woodruff,
Andrew Desiderio
01.04.19 4:38 PM ET
Simon Dawson
Congressional Democrats are gaming out strategies to try to reverse the Trump administration’s controversial decision last month to lift sanctions on businesses controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), a member of the House intelligence committee, told The Daily Beast he has been discussing the matter with other members. And he’s eager for Trump administration officials to answer lawmakers’ questions about their move.

“I think senior Treasury people should come to the Hill and explain this deal,” he said, referring to the agreement between the U.S. and Deripaska that allowed the sanctions to be lifted.

“We need to get more information fast,” he added, “and of course the leverage that we have is a resolution of disapproval.”

While House Democrats are considering their own response, Senate Democrats have taken more concrete steps. On Friday, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took the first formal step in registering his caucus’ discomfort with the sanctions relief by setting the table for a resolution of disapproval.

“I do so not because I have concluded that Congress should act to disapprove this agreement—I have not made that determination yet—but to preserve the procedural option of moving to bring up such a resolution at the end of the review process, if necessary, for expedited review and a vote by the full Senate,” Schumer said in a statement.

In his statement, Schumer said lawmakers will continue to assess the basis for the Trump administration’s decision to provide sanctions relief to Deripaska-linked businesses.

Senator Rips Mnuchin for Backpedaling on Russia Sanctions

Andrew Desiderio

If Schumer decides to file a resolution of disapproval, the effort would face a tough path toward success. It would need simple majorities in both the House and Senate in order to reach President Donald Trump’s desk. But Trump would almost certainly veto the measure, so lawmakers would need to cobble together enough votes to override a presidential veto.

If successful, the resolution would prevent the Treasury Department from lifting sanctions on the Deripaska-controlled companies EN+, Rusal, and EuroSibEnergo. A mechanism in the 2017 Russia sanctions package, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), would trigger the reversal. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress over Trump’s objections, CAATSA allows the House and Senate to block White House efforts to alter sanctions by passing a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 days of the administration’s announcement.

Lawmakers involved in the talks told The Daily Beast that CAATSA appeared to be the best legislative vehicle to block the lifting of sanctions on the Deripaska-linked businesses.

Deripaska has proven to be an inviting target for lawmakers. His ties to Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort, which Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has investigated, run deep. And the nature of the deal concerns Democrats. Lord Barker, a former U.K. energy minister who now sits as a member of the House of Lords, chairs EN+ and helped negotiate the terms under which the Treasury Department would lift the sanctions on the businesses. Barker’s Russia ties have concerned some of his British colleagues, as The Daily Mail has detailed. The Guardian reported that a parliamentary committee asked Barker for information about his work for EN+, and he refused to provide anything publicly because of his work trying to lift U.S. sanctions.

Another concern for Democrats is the fact that Deripaska has maintained major holdings in the companies. As Treasury demanded, Deripaska’s stake in EN+ will go from 70 percent to just under 50 percent. He will still have major sway over the company’s activities. And he will transfer some of his EN+ shares to VTB Bank to pay down debt to the bank, as Bloomberg detailed. VTB is also under U.S. sanctions.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), one of the lawmakers who has been cued into the effort to preserve the sanctions, told The Daily Beast that lawmakers should act “in a way that avoids interference with any law enforcement investigations or the House’s possible investigations.” Other senators involved in the discussions include Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), both of whom have criticized the Trump administration’s implementation of mandatory sanctions against Russia.

House Democratic leaders have not yet committed to bringing up a resolution of disapproval, but Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told The Daily Beast that “Democrats will look at all available options on this important issue.”

Last month, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging him to reconsider his push to lift the sanctions against Deripaska. But the administration announced two weeks later that it would formally lift them, prompting furious condemnation from Menendez and other lawmakers.

The administration has argued that the sanctions—which The Daily Beast first reported were conceived inadvertently and without following proper inter-agency protocols—were roiling international markets. European nations pleaded with the U.S. to lift the sanctions in particular targeting Rusal, a major global aluminum supplier which Deripaska controls, because the financial punishments against the company had triggered significant increases in aluminum prices worldwide.

In exchange for lifting the sanctions, Deripaska was required to abandon his majority ownership in EN+, the main company which has Rusal in its portfolio. Under the agreement, Deripaska must also add Americans to his corporate boards, and he will personally remain on the official U.S. list of sanctioned Russians. Menendez had said the sanctions should not be lifted “unless and until Mr. Deripaska divests from and relinquishes control of both companies.” Himes said he wants more information from the Treasury Department about the terms of the agreement.

“I think it’s important for us to dissect the specifics of a post-transaction EN+ and Rusal because one concern I have is that Mr. Deripaska will retain effective control with the transaction as outlined by Treasury,” Himes said.

Jamil Jaffer, who previously served as chief counsel and senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he helped write two sanctions laws targeting Russia, told The Daily Beast that Treasury’s move to lift sanctions on the Deripaska-linked businesses deserves more scrutiny from Capitol Hill.

“Given that Congress overwhelmingly pushed for these sanctions in a bipartisan fashion and provided the Treasury Department with the statutory authorities in play here and particularly because Russia continues its aggressive covert and overt influence campaign against the United States, close and continuing oversight is wholly appropriate and, indeed, is critical,” said Jaffer.

A Treasury Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats’ potential move has drawn criticism from some former government officials. Dan Fried, a former State Department official who helped craft sanctions against Russia during the Obama administration, told The Daily Beast that he thinks Democrats should allow the sanctions be lifted.

“It may surprise you to hear this, given my reputation as a Putin hawk, but I think that Treasury made the right call in this deal,” Fried said. “They dug themselves out of a hole that they shouldn’t have jumped down in the first place. I think Deripaska certainly deserved to be sanctioned, but he would not have been my first choice because hitting Deripaska meant hitting Rusal, and that had downstream implications that I don’t think the U.S. government fully understood when they took that step.”

And Mike Dobson, a lawyer with the firm Morrison and Foerster who recently left the office within Treasury responsible for sanctions, said a congressional move to keep the sanctions in place would undermine Treasury’s credibility. Deripaska complied with Treasury’s requests, Dobson said, so failure by the U.S. government to uphold its end of the deal would signal to other potential sanctioned entities that changing their behavior could be fruitless.

“For Congress to come in and make what should be a straightforward administrative process into something political undermines the credibility of U.S. sanctions,” he said. ... -deripaska

Moscow accuses Washington of detaining Russian citizen after arresting ex-US Marine

3:05 AM ET Fri, 21 Dec 2018 | 02:29

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures during a joint news conference with Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018.
Leonhard Foeger | Reuters

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures during a joint news conference with Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday the United States had detained a Russian citizen, days after Moscow arrested the former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on suspicion of spying.

Whelan was arrested by Russia's Federal Security Service on Dec. 28. His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

The ministry said the United States detained Russian citizen Dmitry Makarenko on the Northern Mariana Islands on Dec. 29 and had moved him to Florida.

"... Makarenko, born in 1979, has arrived on Saipan Island with his wife, underage children and elderly parents. He was detained by FBI personnel at the airport right after his arrival," the ministry said.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow could not immediately be reached for comment. The accusations from both sides could further complicate a strained relationship between Moscow and Washington, despite the professed desire of

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to build a personal rapport. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week Washington had asked Moscow to explain Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention is inappropriate.

Britain cautioned Russia on Friday that individuals should not be used as diplomatic pawns. Whelan also holds a British passport.

The Russian ministry said in its statement Moscow diplomats had not been able to reach Makarenko in Florida and said Washington had yet to explain his detention.

Before Moscow gave details of Makarenko's detention, experts had speculated that Moscow could exchange Whelan for Russian nationals held by Washington.

Commenting on that possibility, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday:

"I see no reasons to raise this issue in context of exchanges. We should undergo all the procedures needed in this situation," Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. ... renko.html
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:29 am

Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:28 pm

Veselnitskaya has been indicted for conspiring with the Kremlin to obstruct justice, which firmly establishes that she is an official representative of the Kremlin, and has been all along. In turn, this legally establishes that Donald Trump Jr was conspiring with the Kremlin to sabotage the 2016 U.S. election when he met with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. In other words, this seals the deal when it comes to demonstrating that Trump Jr was committing treason (or the non-wartime equivalent) when he held this meeting. ... -jr/15172/

Wendy Siegelman

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who attended June 2016 Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case - with obstructing justice in a Prevezon money-laundering investigation. Veselnitskaya made a “misleading declaration” to the court in a civil case

Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case

Matt Zapotosky

A Russian lawyer whose role at a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower has come under scrutiny from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was charged Tuesday in a separate case with obstructing justice in a money-laundering investigation.

Natalia Veselnitskaya became a central figure in Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election when it was revealed that in June 2016, she met with Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign advisers after an intermediary indicated she had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[Read the indictment: United States vs. Natalia Veselnitskaya]

The indictment unsealed Tuesday relates to a different legal fight involving the Russian and U.S. governments, and charges Veselnitskaya made a “misleading declaration” to the court in a civil case arising from an investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan into suspected Russian money laundering and tax fraud. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Her work on that case attracted little attention at the time, but her role in the Trump Tower meeting made her the subject of intense investigative interest in the United States, as Mueller’s team has sought to determine whether that meeting was part of any broader conspiracy by Trump associates to seek the Kremlin’s help in defeating Clinton.

[Inside the 2016 Trump Tower meeting]

While Vesenitskaya has long proclaimed she is innocent and not a representative of the Russian government, the indictment argues she has worked closely with senior Russian officials for years.

In 2014, U.S. authorities were investigating whether Prevezon Holdings, a Cyprus-based real estate corporation, orchestrated a tax scheme in Russia by stealing the identities of companies and filing sham lawsuits to incur fake losses to generate tax refunds.

Veselnitskaya represented Prevezon Holdings in a civil case in which the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan sought millions of dollars in forfeiture from the company and others. The Justice Department had alleged in a civil complaint that a Russian criminal organization ran an elaborate tax refund scheme.

The way prosecutors described it, the members of the organization stole the identities of companies that were part of the Hermitage Fund, then filed sham lawsuits against those companies. In the lawsuits, the members of the organization posed as both plaintiffs and defendants, admitting wrongdoing so they would have large money judgments which they could claim as losses and get refunds.

The parent company of the victim firms hired attorneys to investigate after learning of the sham lawsuits, including Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and they uncovered the fraud scheme, in which Russian government officials were complicit, American prosecutors said.

Magnitsky was arrested in Russia and died in custody. On the day he died, prosecutors said, he was beaten by guards with a rubber baton, and an ambulance crew called to treat him was deliberately kept outside of his cell until he was dead.

The incident sparked the United States to pass the Magnitsky Act, which allowed the U.S. government to sanction officials found to have committed human rights violations in Russia.

As New York officials pursued the financial investigation, they sent a formal request to Russian prosecutors for assistance. In response, Russian prosecutors sent what they called “the results of the investigation carried out in its territory,” according to the new indictment. The document laid out the reasons why the Russian government “was unwilling to provide the records requested,” according to the indictment.

In November of 2015, Veselnitskaya submitted a declaration to the judge overseeing the Prevezon case, asserting that she had gone to great lengths to achieve a copy of the Russian document. In 2017, the U.S. attorney’s office settled its civil case against Prevezon for more than $5.8 million.

Veselnitskaya, who has deep experience in Russian political and legal matters, had been brought on by Prevezon to fight the lawsuit, though she also lobbied more broadly against the political outgrowths of the allegations against the company. When she met with Trump Jr. and others, she talked about her opposition to the Magnitsky Act.

Veselnitskaya has in the past sought to dispute her characterization as a “government attorney,” noting that she worked only in the prosecutor’s office of the province that surrounds but does not include Moscow. “A regional prosecutor is not the Kremlin,” she said previously. ... 9887776eb2

Veselnitskaya Allegedly Submitted Declaration to Southern District Judge That Concealed Her Role in Drafting Russian Government Report Supposedly Exonerating Veselnitskaya’s Client in United States v. Prevezon Holdings, Ltd., et al. ... tion-civil


United States of America v. Natalya Vladimirova Veselnitskaya indictment 18-cr.-904 ... 6/download


"Veslnitskaya secretly schemed with a senior Russian prosecutor to provide false information to U.S. law enforcement"

It's likely prosecutor is Yuri Chaika (or someone in his office). Chaika was involved w/discussions related to June 2016 Trump Tower mtg ... tion-civil



Supreme Court has DENIED the stay request in the mystery grand jury subpoena case

This dissolves the administrative stay that the chief justice granted last month and means the mystery company will now have to pay penalties for not complying w/ subpoena

An unidentified corporation owned by a foreign government.

News: The fine against the company is to be a fine of $50,000 per day, per the DC Circuit opinion.


Third redaction suggests witnesses have given some info to Mueller about a $125K payment involving Manafort. This payment reportedly involves a pro-Trump Super PAC.

Zev Shalev
This First time I’ve connected this.

Manafort’s dinner with Kilimnik to discuss Deripaska’s plan came HOURS after Nader and Zamel pitched Don Jr on Psy-Group.

Reps of Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE plotted on the SAME DAY w Don Jr and Manafort.

Zev Shalev
Yep, a big deal.
first shared the idea of a grand bargain with KSA ISR UAE and RU to steal the election. What are the odds reps of all four are in town to meet with the campaign manager and the candidates son on same day? Conspiracy to Defraud the American People. ... 7261671424

The Democratic chairs of 7 House committees have sent a letter to Steve Mnuchin asking the Treasury "to explain the easing of sanctions on businesses tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska."
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Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:34 pm

Can one Republican explain to me why did the Russians need polling data for a *U.S.* election? Why? Anyone?

trump paid Tony Fabrizio, a pollster, $767,000, so it looks like Trump gave away three quarters of a million dollars worth of polling to the Russians!

Exclusive: Robert Mueller met with Trump's pollster

Washington (CNN) — Special counsel Robert Mueller sought information directly last year from one of Donald Trump's campaign pollsters who is also a former business associate of Paul Manafort's.

Mueller's team met with pollster Tony Fabrizio in February 2018, an interview that has not been previously reported and takes on new significance after Manafort's attorneys revealed Tuesday that Mueller's team is still interested in how Manafort shared polling data with his Russian intelligence-linked colleague.

CNN journalists observed Fabrizio leaving the special counsel's office on the first of February last year and have since confirmed he was meeting with Mueller's team. At the time, the special counsel had been digging into Manafort's finances and political work ahead of his trial.

In a filing Tuesday, Manafort's attorneys tried to redact the fact that prosecutors knew Manafort shared polling data related to the 2016 presidential election with his Russian intelligence-linked associate Konstantin Kilimnik while Manafort was running Trump's presidential campaign. The information was supposed to remain secret because it's part of an ongoing investigation, but it was revealed because of a formatting error in the filing.

Fabrizio's involvement with Mueller is intriguing because he's one of the few people in Manafort's orbit with knowledge of the inner-workings of the Trump campaign as well as Manafort's Eastern European connections.

A veteran pollster and political strategist, Fabrizio worked on Ukrainian elections with Manafort and went on to serve as the Trump campaign's chief pollster beginning in the spring of 2016.

A source familiar with the special counsel's interest said Fabrizio's interview included questions about his polling work for Manafort in Ukraine rather than his internal Trump campaign polling. It is not clear what other topics were broached in the interview or whether it solely focused on Fabrizio's knowledge of Manafort's business dealings.

The Justice Department initially asked Mueller to look into Manafort's political ties in Ukraine because they may relate to other allegations of Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.

Fabrizio would not comment for this story.

When asked Thursday if he had any knowledge that Manafort shared polling data with a Russian, President Trump said, "No. I didn't know anything about it. Nothing about it."

More than a dozen people affiliated with the Trump campaign have been interviewed by the Mueller team, according to the President's legal team.

Trump's first pollster

For much of the 2016 race, Trump had been famously averse to hiring pollsters. He insisted they were a waste of money and that his gut was more valuable than any poll he could commission.

But when Manafort was hired, the newly minted campaign chairman aimed to professionalize the political apparatus. As part of that effort, he recruited Fabrizio, who already had close ties to Manafort and other Trump allies, including Trump's longtime political adviser Roger Stone. But he never forged particularly close ties with the candidate, despite having done some prior work for Trump's businesses.

His relationship with Trump soured late in the election as the Trump campaign disputed a bill of roughly $767,000 to Fabrizio's polling firm. Fabrizio's firm was eventually compensated.

The source familiar with the situation said Fabrizio was unaware of who Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, had shared campaign data with during the election.

The revelation about the exchange of poll data between Manafort and Kilimnik sparked alarm among Democrats this week and fueled speculation that the Russians could have used such information to tailor their efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

"This appears as the closest we've seen yet to real live actual collusion," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN Wednesday. "Did the Russians end up using this information in their efforts that took place later in the fall where they tried using the Internet Research Agency and other bots and other automated tools on social media to suppress, for example, the African-American vote? Was that something that was driven by this campaign data that was turned over to the Russians?"

Manafort's consulting world

Fabrizio had long been among Manafort's circle of political operatives and became part of the cast of characters mentioned during his criminal trial last summer.

At trial, Mueller's team painted a picture of a well-oiled Ukrainian lobbying operation in which Manafort and his colleagues took in millions of dollars a year from pro-Russian oligarchs, some of which was funneled through secret, illegal offshore bank accounts.

Fabrizio did not testify at Manafort's August trial, nor was he on the prosecutors' witness list. He has not been charged with a crime.

Fabrizio's firm earned more than a quarter million dollars from Manafort for polling and surveys in Manafort's Ukraine operation in 2012 and 2013, according to foreign lobbying disclosures.

Since the trial, the prosecutors have appeared to focus even more on Manafort's Eastern European relationships, especially with Kilimnik, which apparently continued through the presidential campaign and after Trump was elected President.

Fabrizio's Ukrainian work with Manafort in 2013 overlapped with Kilimnik, according to public filings. At the time, Kilimnik was setting up Manafort's Kiev operation.

Prosecutors have said Kilimnik has ties to the Russian military intelligence agency that hacked the Democrats during the election, according to a US intelligence assessment. Kilimnik has become a clear focus of the ongoing Mueller investigation since prosecutors accused him of attempting to tamper with witnesses following Manafort's arrest.

Prosecutors charged Kilimnik with obstructing justice for contacting the potential witnesses last spring. Kilimnik lives in Russia, prosecutors say, and has not appeared in US court to respond to his indictment.

In a portion of the Manafort court filing this week, Manafort's lawyers inadvertently revealed Manafort met with Kilimnik in Madrid in 2017. The two men also discussed a Ukrainian peace plan while Manafort was serving as Trump's campaign chairman.

As prosecutors were building their case against Manafort, they aimed to flip his longtime deputy Gates from fighting criminal charges to cooperating. Gates had unparalleled insight to offer into Manafort's finances as well as the Trump campaign, having served as Trump's deputy campaign chairman and a leader of the inaugural committee.

Soon after Fabrizio spoke to Mueller's team last year, Gates began cooperating.

Gates continues to assist Mueller in several ongoing investigations, according to prosecutors and his legal defense team.

CNN's Marshall Cohen, Liz Stark and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report. ... ssion=true

so little time so many crimes


White House Intervened in Case of Trump’s Casino Pal Steve Wynn
The move came just before the administration drafted new guidance that could have paid off for the gambling boss, and months before his resignation.
Sam Stein,
Lachlan Markay,
Betsy Woodruff
01.10.19 5:00 AM ET

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
In the summer of 2017, the Trump White House asked for a meeting with a top official at the Department of Justice to discuss a sensitive legal and administrative matter involving a top Republican donor.

The donor, then-Republican National Committee finance chairman and casino magnate Steve Wynn, was embroiled in litigation involving Obama-era rules governing how companies could distribute tips gathered by their employees. Months after the meeting request, the Trump administration revised those rules to make them far friendlier to employers.

It is unclear why the White House made the request for the meeting with acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall, which was uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act discovery by the group American Oversight and has not been previously reported. Nor is it clear if Wall actually met with White House officials about Wynn’s case. Both the White House and the Department of Justice did not return requests for comment.

Top legal officials of past administrations said it was not uncommon for White House officials to meet with the solicitor general or top DoJ officials to discuss pending business before the courts. But the email still struck legal ethicists as problematic, as it showed the Trump White House eager to keep tabs on litigation directly affecting one of the president’s highest-profile donors.

“During the early months of the Trump administration, it looked like Steve Wynn’s political connections were going to pay off.”
— Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight.
“Once there is an actual case being litigated, the norm has been that the White House stays out of it. That’s the norm. For the legal ethics point of view, the lawyers handling that case cannot allow the White House to influence their independent professional judgement on behalf of the United States,” said Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics and a professor at the New York University School of Law. “A lawyer at the Department of Justice who is approached by the White House regarding a pending matter… has to refuse to discuss it. Because that discussion cannot be allowed in any way to influence or appear to influence the decision of the Department of Justice lawyer.”

A legendary and controversial figure in the casino industry, Wynn had spent years embroiled in legal drama stemming from how his company, Wynn Resorts, chose to allocate the tips collected by workers at his casinos. At issue was a decision in 2006 to have those tips pooled and shared among both tipped and non-tipped employees, including supervisors. That decision, which compelled Wynn Resort workers to unionize, prompted legal action from tipped workers who alleged that Wynn was effectively violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by dipping into casino workers’ tips to compensate non-service employees. The case worked its way through the court system, during which it was adjoined with similar complaints.

The Obama administration Department of Labor issued regulations in 2011 saying that such tip-pooling was not permitted and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling on grounds that the opacity of the law gave the department administrative leeway to issue such guidance.

When the Trump administration took over, the expectation was that the Obama-era guidance would be reversed. But there was a secondary track as well. Wynn Resorts had appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court and so had the National Restaurant Association, which had sued the Department of Labor over the matter.

In April of 2017, Department of Justice ethics officials asked that Wall be given an ethics waiver to participate in the NRA case. Scott Schools, who was a top ranking attorney at the Justice Department at the time, approved of Wall’s “participation in the NRA matter,” according to internal emails. In August of that year, Cynthia Shaw, the director of the Departmental Ethics Office, went back to Schools, this time asking him to clear Wall to work on the Wynn case in addition to the NRA one.

“Jeff just received a request to meet with the White House about both the Wynn Las Vegas and National Restaurant Association cases,” Shaw wrote. Schools, who has since left DoJ, again authorized Wall to work on the matter.

Wynn was then a major figure in Trumpworld. He had made a $729,000 in-kind contribution to the president’s inauguration in addition to joining the inaugural committee. He was subsequently made finance chair of the RNC, helping it raise a record sum that year. The influence that came with that status and fundraising, officials say, is what made the White House’s request to talk to Wall about the Wynn case so ethically thorny.

“During the early months of the Trump administration, it looked like Steve Wynn’s political connections were going to pay off,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “Whether Wynn got the advantages he was seeking or not, the records show that the Trump administration’s first instinct was to help a wealthy patron and senior official at the RNC. Two years later, the episode looks like an early crack in the foundation of the rule of law.”

Wynn Resorts, for its part, says it was never included in any White House discussions over the FLSA and the Trump administration’s efforts to revise it. “No one [at the company] is aware of any conversations with the WH on that topic,” spokesperson Michael Weaver told The Daily Beast in an email.

And Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the Obama-era Department of Justice and a vocal Trump critic, noted that there is “nothing inherently wrong with the White House inquiring about the position DoJ intends to take on a case and being briefed by the Solicitor General’s office.” But, Miller still saw potential problems in the email. “Given that the underlying company in this case was run by the finance chair of the RNC,” he said, “it raises a number of questions about what the White House motivation was.”

Just over three months after Wall was approached with the White House’s request to meet, the Trump administration announced that it would reverse the Obama era tip-pooling guidance, pending notice of further rulemaking. Worker rights groups were aghast, with some arguing that the way the new guidance had been written would have effectively allowed employers to pocket workers’ tips.

Before the comment period on the new rule had ended, however, Wynn’s universe began to implode. On Jan. 27, 2018, The Wall Street Journal published a bombshell story detailing allegations that Wynn had engaged in sexual harassment for decades. That same day, Wynn resigned his position as RNC finance chair. Weeks later, he stepped down as Wynn Resorts CEO.

Amid heavy pushback, the Trump administration ultimately toned down the reach of its ruling. In March of 2018, it reached a compromise with Democratic lawmakers on the Hill that allowed for tip-pooling between service and non-service employees provided that both pools of workers were already paid the minimum wage. The compromise also prohibited employers from pocketing any of their employee tips.

“From our perspective it is a good change in policy and we were happy that the rule still keeps the tips out of the pockets of employers,” said Eva Putzova, director of communications at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “Obviously we know about the gaps that still exist in the restaurant industry between the back of the house and the front of the house.” ... wynns-case
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:50 pm

It was about Russia. It was always about Russia. Full stop

Donald Trump's name was in the subject line in a counterintelligence investigation

Donald Trump's name was in the subject line in a criminal investigation

As for a counterintelligence inquiry law enforcement officials "concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president"

Which they did.

Which indicates that they have strong evidence.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

Jan. 11, 2019

Following President Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, the bureau grew increasingly concerned about whether the president’s actions constituted anti-American activity.Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

The F.B.I. investigated whether the firing of Mr. Comey was a national security threat.Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.

The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry, revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation.

The decision to investigate Mr. Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Mr. Comey and enduring the president’s verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”

A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.

The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counterintelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counterintelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.

Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

How the Mueller Investigation Could Play Out for Trump

If Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finds evidence that Mr. Trump broke the law, he will have decisions to make about how to proceed. We explain them.

May 23, 2018
Other factors fueled the F.B.I.’s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.

In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump’s associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia’s campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

“In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.

“That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,” she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.

And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the president’s national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.

But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counterintelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election.

After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation.

Everyone Who’s Been Charged in Investigations Related to the 2016 Election

Thirty-seven people have been charged in investigations related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Aug. 21, 2018
Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. “He’s the wrong man for that position.”

As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russia’s interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” ... quiry.html

What if the Obstruction Was the Collusion? On the New York’s Times’s Latest Bombshell

Shortly before the holidays, I received a call from New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt asking me to meet with him about some reporting he had done. Schmidt did not describe the subject until we met up, when he went over with me a portion of the congressional interview of former FBI General Counsel James Baker, who was then my Brookings colleague and remains my Lawfare colleague. When he shared what Baker had said, and when I thought about it over the next few days in conjunction with some other documents and statements, a question gelled in my mind. Observers of the Russia investigation have generally understood Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s work as focusing on at least two separate tracks: collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, on the one hand, and potential obstruction of justice by the president, on the other. But what if the obstruction was the collusion—or at least a part of it?

Late last year, I wrote a memo for Schmidt outlining how I read all of this material, a memo from which this post is adapted.

Today, the New York Times is reporting that in the days following the firing of James Comey, the FBI opened an investigation of President Trump. It wasn’t simply the obstruction investigation that many of us have assumed. It was also a counterintelligence investigation predicated on the notion that the president’s own actions might constitute a national security threat:

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

The following is an adaption of the memo I sent Schmidt. I have updated it in important respects in light of the reporting in the Times’s actual story. The analysis remains, however, tentative; I want to be careful not to overread the threads of evidence I am pulling together here.

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The analysis that follows is lengthy and takes a number of twists and turns before laying out what I think is the significance of the whole thing. Here’s the bottom line: I believe that between today’s New York Times story and some other earlier material I have been sifting through and thinking about, we might be in a position to revisit the relationship between the “collusion” and obstruction components of the Mueller investigation. Specifically, I now believe they are far more integrated with one another than I previously understood.

Because I am certain the disclosures in this story will give rise to questions of leaks, let me start by addressing at the outset the portions of Baker’s testimony which I discuss in this post. To be very clear, I did not receive information about this from Baker. I received it from the New York Times only. And while I don’t know who gave it to Schmidt and Adam Goldman, who share the byline on the story, I am very confident it was not Baker or anyone associated with him. My assumption is that this material reached the Times from congressional sources, since the overwhelming majority of leaks of material available to Congress come from Congress, but I don’t know that for sure. Exactly one thing in the material I discuss below did come to me from Baker, and was not until today a part of the public record—and I flag that very clearly. None of this material is classified. The reporting that Schmidt shared with me made clear that the FBI specifically permitted Baker to answer the questions he addressed.

The public understanding of and debate over the Mueller investigation rests on several discrete premises that I believe should be reexamined. The first is the sharp line between the investigation of “collusion” and the investigation of obstruction of justice. The second is the sharp line between the counter-intelligence components of the investigation and the criminal components. The third and most fundamental is the notion that the investigation was, in the first place, an investigation of the Trump campaign and figures associated with it.

These premises are deeply embedded throughout the public discussion. When Bill Barr challenges what he imagines to be the predicate for the obstruction investigation, he is reflecting one of them. When any number of commentators (including Mikhaila Fogel and me on Lawfare last month) describe separate investigative cones for obstruction and collusion, they are reflecting it. When the president’s lawyers agree to have their client answer questions on collusion but draw a line at obstruction, they are reflecting it too.

But I think, and the Times’s story certainly suggests, that the story may be more complicated than that, the lines fuzzier, and the internal understanding of the investigation very different along all three of these axes from the ones the public has imbibed.

Let’s start by reexamining the most fundamental question: What is this investigation about? In his congressional testimony this fall, as Schmidt and Goldman had discovered, Baker made an arresting comment: the investigation “was about Russia, period, full stop.” The purpose of the investigation, he explained, was to assess what the Russians were up to with respect to the 2016 election. The FBI was trying to learn what the Russians had done and whether any Americans had done things in support of those efforts, either knowingly or unknowingly, so that they could understand the full scope of what the Russians had sought to do.

This quoted testimony immediately above reminded me of a passage Baker had written elsewhere, a passing discussion in an essay on a different subject which Baker wrote for Lawfare but has not yet published. This passage was cleared in pre-publication review by the FBI some months ago when we at Lawfare thought the essay’s publication was imminent. Here, too, Jim stressed that the investigation was about Russian activity. Here is the relevant passage:

A lot of the criticism seems to be driven by the notion that the FBI’s investigation was, and is, an effort to undermine or discredit President Trump. That assumption is wrong. The FBI’s investigation must be viewed in the context of the bureau’s decades-long effort to detect, disrupt and defeat the intelligence activities of the governments of the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation that are contrary to the fundamental and long-term interests of the United States. The FBI’s counterintelligence investigation regarding the 2016 campaign fundamentally was not about Donald Trump but was about Russia. Full stop. It was always about Russia. It was about what Russia was, and is, doing and planning. Of course, if that investigation revealed that anyone—Russian or American—committed crimes in connection with Russian intelligence activities or unlawfully interfered with the investigation, the FBI has an obligation under the law to investigate such crimes and to seek to bring those responsible to justice. The FBI’s enduring counterintelligence mission is the reason the Russia investigation will, and should, continue—no matter who is fired, pardoned or impeached (emphasis added).

There is a lot packed into this little paragraph, so let’s pause for a moment to unpack it. First, note the structure of Baker’s fundamental understanding of the investigation as fundamentally about Russia, with the U.S. component subsidiary to the investigation of Russian government activity. Note also that this construction is fully consistent with Jim Comey’s Mar. 20, 2017, congressional testimony in which he disclosed the existence of the investigation in the first place:

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts (emphasis added).

Comey’s construction of the investigation here is really the same as Baker’s. The investigation is not at its core an investigation of Trump campaign “coordination” with Russia, much less of Trump himself. The core of the investigation is of Russian government activity; the U.S. side is subordinate to that. It is an investigation of a foreign target that includes any “links” to “individuals associated with the Trump campaign” and “coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Remember as well that throughout the winter of 2017, Comey felt able to assure President Trump that the FBI was not investigating him.

This construction as, in Baker’s words, “always about Russia” is also consistent with the pattern of indictments brought by Mueller. With the partial exception of the Paul Manafort cluster of cases, which were—in any event—the subject of an additional, clarifying referral letter to Mueller and appear to have resulted from a preexisting U.S. attorney’s office investigation, nearly all of the people prosecuted by Mueller are charged in connection with Russian government activity or their own links to that activity. The Internet Research Agency and hacking indictments both involve Russian activity itself. The Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos cases both involve lies by “individuals associated with the Trump campaign” about their “links” to “the Russian government.” The portion of the Michael Cohen case that Mueller retained deals with lies about, among other things, interactions between the Trump Organization and the Russian government. Even the relatively obscure case against Richard Pinedo fits this pattern; Pinedo, after all, was accused of identity fraud in connection with Russian activity designed to interfere with the election. Anything that does not fit this pattern tightly—for example, the Turkish lobbying case against Flynn’s associates (spun off from the Flynn matter) or the Michael Cohen/Stormy Daniels matter—Mueller has kicked to other actors.

It was about Russia. Full stop. It was always about Russia. And it still is about Russia.

The best way to understand this probe is as an umbrella Russia-related national security investigation in which the bureau opened subsidiary files, some with a counterintelligence focus and some with a criminal focus, on individuals who proved to have substantial “links” to the broader Russian activity.

Second, let’s reexamine the relationship between the counterintelligence and criminal components of the investigation. People tend to draw a sharp line between the FBI acting as as criminal investigative agency and the FBI acting as an intelligence organization; this sharp line is a residue of the pre-9/11 period when there was, indeed, a high “wall” between the bureau’s two roles. That wall, however, came down in the now-famous FISA Court of Review opinion in 2002, after which the line between the counterintellingence and criminal functions became decidedly less stark. Put simply, an FBI investigation can be launched as a counterintelligence matter or it can be launched as a criminal matter, but when the bureau shows up, it shows up with all of its authorities, not just the ones associated with the particular type of investigation originally predicated. If FBI agents conducting a counterintelligence investigation find that a suspect has a kilogram of cocaine in his apartment, for example, they are empowered to make arrests under criminal authorities. People routinely describe separate cones of the Mueller investigation, a criminal cone and a counterintelligence cone; this is imagining a division significantly starker than the reality.

The Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations are explicit in providing that “all of the FBI's legal authorities are available for deployment in all cases” in order to “protect the public from crimes and threats to the national security and to further the United States’ foreign intelligence objectives.” As David Kris explains his landmark treatise on national security investigations, “these three strands of authority are now explicitly braided.” As a result, as the guidelines make clear, the FBI’s “information gathering activities” need not be “differentially labeled” as law enforcement, counterintelligence, or affirmative foreign intelligence, and its personnel need not be “segregated from each other based on the subject areas in which they operate.” The guidelines further explain that, “[i]n many cases, a single investigation will be supportable as an exercise of a number of these authorities—i.e., as an investigation of a federal crime or crimes, as an investigation of a threat to the national security, and/or as a collection of foreign intelligence.” There are separate investigative missions, and there are a variety of different authorities, but there is only one FBI.

Comey actually made this point with respect to the Russia investigation in his original announcement of the investigation before Congress. “As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” he said. And Baker makes it explicitly in the passage quoted above as well: “Of course, if that investigation revealed that anyone—Russian or American—committed crimes in connection with Russian intelligence activities or unlawfully interfered with the investigation, the FBI has an obligation under the law to investigate such crimes and to seek to bring those responsible to justice.”

Baker’s formulation (“or unlawfully interfered with the investigation”) also includes, importantly, an obstruction of justice component as an organic feature of the counterintelligence probe. The significance of these statements, put simply, is that the investigation was something of a criminal-counterintelligence hybrid from early on.

Again, this hybrid is visible in the pattern of cases Mueller has brought, which reflects a clear use of criminal authorities to achieve counterintelligence objectives. To go back to the FISA Court of Review opinion from 2002, Mueller’s is a textbook example—albeit in a non-counterterrorism context—of the sort of hybrid investigation that the court was contemplating when it dismantled the wall. As the court wrote:

The government argues persuasively that arresting and prosecuting terrorist agents of, or spies for, a foreign power may well be the best technique to prevent them from successfully continuing their terrorist or espionage activity. The government might wish to surveil the agent for some period of time to discover other participants in a conspiracy or to uncover a foreign power's plans, but typically at some point the government would wish to apprehend the agent and it might be that only a prosecution would provide sufficient incentives for the agent to cooperate with the government. Indeed, the threat of prosecution might be sufficient to "turn the agent."

(Interestingly, Baker was, at the time of this ruling, the Justice Department’s counsel for intelligence policy and review. His name is actually on the briefs in this case.)

So the second key point is not to get hung up on whether this is a counterintelligence or a criminal investigation. It is an investigation born out of “the FBI’s enduring counterintelligence mission,” which operates as a hybrid of the two.

Third, against the backdrop of a hybrid investigation which was “always about Russia,” let’s now revisit the sharp line between the collusion and obstruction investigations. Everyone’s working theory has been that there was this collusion (which is to say counterintelligence) investigation cooking along and then the president tried to interfere with it, first by putting pressure on Comey and then by firing him. The theory goes that this pattern of conduct predicated a separate criminal investigation of obstruction. If you’re Bill Barr or Alan Dershowitz or Josh Blackman or the president’s lawyers, this seems wrong because—as they have all argued—it would be an investigation predicated on an Article II-sanctioned exercise of presidential authority. If you’re one of the myriad commentators who take a broader view of obstruction vis a vis presidential conduct, it seems like a sensible predicate for a criminal probe.

But what if the factual premise is more complicated than that? What if the pattern that jumped out at the FBI officials was that the President of the United States had just sought to interfere in an investigation of Russian intelligence activity and then boasted on television that his action was connected in some way to the Russia probe? What if the FBI knew that by the time he did so, the president had drafted a never-sent dismissal letter to Comey, and this letter also made clear that the Russia probe was on his mind at the time he acted? These are the facts that, the Times reports, led the bureau to open a new file on Trump:

After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. . . .

Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself—I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

The facts actually got worse over the next few days. Because even as the bureau was beginning its obstruction inquiry, Trump boasted about his action to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, saying he had relieved pressure on himself by taking it.

Remember that all of this happened as the FBI was investigating “as part of [its] counterintelligence mission,” as Comey had only weeks earlier testified, “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” an investigation that Comey had announced had criminal elements and “include[d] investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

Would not a sequence of overt interferences in the investigation by Trump himself, culminating in the decapitation of the investigation’s leadership and boasted about both on national television and—later—in an Oval Office meeting to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and flagged in a draft letter to Comey as specifically connected to the Russia probe, raise all kinds of red flags within the parameters of the existing investigation the FBI was already conducting? This was, after all, one heck of “link” between an “individual[] associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government”!

The reporting Schmidt shared with me about Baker’s testimony suggests rather strongly that the FBI did not think of the Comey firing simply as a possible obstruction of justice. Officials thought of it, rather, in the context of the underlying counterintelligence purpose of the Russia investigation. At one point, Baker was asked whether firing Director Comey added to the threat to national security the FBI was confronting.

“Yes,” Baker responds.

Later, having explained—as quoted above—that the investigation was “about Russia,” Baker explains what he means. To the extent that firing Comey was the result of a decision to shut down the investigation, he said, that would frustrate the FBI’s ability to ascertain what the Russians and their confederates had done. In other words, “not only would it be an issue about obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.”

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Put simply, I don’t believe the FBI, having an open counterintelligence investigation, simply opened a new criminal investigation of obstruction in the wake of the Comey firing. I think there likely was—and still is—one umbrella investigation with a number of different threads. That one investigation was (and is) about Russia. And it had (and still has), as a subsidiary matter, a number of subsidiary files open about people on the U.S. side who had links to Russian government activity. Each of these files had (and still has) all of the counterintelligence and criminal tools available to the U.S. government at its disposal.

So when the president sought to impair the investigation, having declared both in the draft letter dismissing Comey and to Lester Holt that his action was connected in some way to the Russia investigation, that raised both potential criminal questions and major counterintelligence questions—questions that could only have been reinforced when Trump later announced to senior Russian government officials that he had relieved pressure on himself by acting as he did. It did so both because it threatened the investigation itself and because it fit directly into a pattern of interface between Trump campaign officials and Russian government actors that they were already investigating.

Remember that the standards of predication are quite low. To open an investigation, the FBI doesn’t need proof of a crime, or even probable cause of criminal activity. It need only see evidence that “An activity constituting a federal crime or a threat to the national security has or may have occurred, is or may be occurring, or will or may occur and the investigation may obtain information relating to the activity or the involvement or role of an individual, group, or organization in such activity” (emphasis added). “May” is a very flexible word. So ask yourself this: If you were the FBI and already investigating Russian activity and you saw the president’s actions in May 2017, would you believe that it “may” constitute a criminal office or “may” constitute a threat to national security or both?

What is the significance of all of this? I have two big takeaways.

First, if this analysis is correct, it mostly—though not entirely—answers the question of the legal basis of the obstruction investigation. The president’s lawyers, Barr in his memo, and any number of conservative commentators have all argued that Mueller cannot reasonably be investigating obstruction offenses based on the president’s actions within his Article II powers in firing Comey; such actions, they contend, cannot possibly violate the obstruction laws. While this position is disputed, a great many other commentators, including me, have scratched their heads about Mueller’s obstruction theory.

But if the predicate for the investigation was rooted in substantial part in counterintelligence authorities—that is, if the theory was not just that the president may have violated the criminal law but also that he acted in a fashion that may constitute a threat to national security—that particular legal puzzle goes away. After all, the FBI doesn’t need a possible criminal violation to open a national security investigation.

The problem does not entirely go away, because as the Times reports, the probe was partly predicated as a criminal matter as well. So the question of Mueller’s criminal theory is still there. But the weight on it is dramatically less.

This possibility, of course, raises a different legal puzzle, which is whether and under what circumstances the president can be a national security investigative subject of his own FBI given that it is ultimately he who defines national security threats for the executive branch. But that’s a question for another day.

Second, if it is correct that the FBI’s principle interest in obstruction was not as a discrete criminal fact pattern but as a national security threat, this significantly blurs the distinction between the obstruction and collusion aspects of the investigation. In this construction, obstruction was not a problem distinct from collusion, as has been generally imagined. Rather, in this construction, obstruction was the collusion, or least part of it. The obstruction of justice statutes become, in this understanding, merely one set of statutes investigators might think about using to deal with a national security risk—specifically, the risk of a person on the U.S. side coordinating with or supporting Russian activity by shutting down the investigation.

It was about Russia. It was always about Russia. Full stop. ... -bombshell

Tea Pain


HOLY GUACAMOLE!! If the FBI had to open a counterintelligence operation against the President of the United States for workin’ for Russia, chances are good he is.

The question we should ask is why is this comin’ out now?
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:58 pm

This is the very tip of the ice berg

Donald trump has been working as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kremlin

(((Rep. Nadler)))

Verified account

Follow Follow @RepJerryNadler
Read my statement following reporting in @NYTimes that the FBI opened an inquiry for national security concerns into whether President Trump may have been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. As Chair of @HouseJudiciary, we will take action on this matter.


This is the single greatest scandal in the history of the United States.

Ex-FBI Officials Say Spy Inquiry into President Trump Is ‘Uncharted Territory’

If the Times’ story is right, retired agents and officials say that means the highest levels of Justice and the FBI knew the president was—and may still be—under investigation.

01.11.19 11:34 PM ET
The White House is blasting as “absurd” a blockbuster new report that the FBI opened an investigation into the whether the president of the United States was working on behalf of the Kremlin. But respected former FBI special agents tell The Daily Beast such a momentous step would not be taken without “serious and substantial evidence.”

They told The Daily Beast that the senior-most levels of the FBI and Justice Department would have known about an event they considered without precedent in bureau history.

“This is uncharted territory,” said Ali Soufan, a retired FBI counterterrorism special agent. “I don’t believe that it had happened before… Ever.”

On Friday night, The New York Times reported that FBI agents opened a counterintelligence investigation in May of 2017 into whether President Trump had been operating “on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

If the Times is correct, then the FBI overcame its reluctance to investigate Trump after he fired one of its own: former director James Comey, whom the president dismissed that same month. One implication of that timeline is that Robert Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel a week later, would have had access to their investigation for at least substantial portions of his own.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the committee that oversees the FBI, said the Times’ reporting was intriguing, and “another powerful piece of the mosaic” on Trump’s relationship with Russia.

The Times’ revelations also may reignite Republican criticism of FBI officials who privately expressed concern about Trump while working on investigations concerning him. After text messages between former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok became public—revealing their criticism of Trump—congressional Republicans brought them in for grilling sessions. Page in particular faced protracted and ugly attacks from Fox News opinion hosts. And the president himself also tweeted numerous times about her, sarcastically calling her “the lovely Lisa Page.” But the Times’ reporting indicates they were far from alone in their concerns about Trump’s posture towards Russia.

“There are a variety of ways to gather information about foreign efforts to influence a U.S. official that don’t require the sensitive step of targeting that official’s communications, and those who are criticizing the FBI for pursuing a counterintelligence investigation are doing so without any knowledge of what investigative steps were actually undertaken,” a Justice Department trial attorney told The Daily Beast.

Mike German, another retired FBI special agent, said an investigation like this would likely have required assent from the very top of the Justice Department.

“It would be most likely that the highest levels of of the FBI and DOJ signed off on the investigation,” German said.

The FBI issues specific guidelines on how agents should handle different levels of counterintelligence investigations. A preliminary investigation requires a low standard of evidence, that “information or an allegation” exists as to a crime or security threat. A full investigation requires “specific and articulable facts” raising a “reasonable indication” of the same. Both are well short of the probable cause needed for an indictment. It is unclear which sort of investigation, if any, Trump was or is under.

“Of course, with the U.S. president as a subject, the threshold would be much higher than normal,” German said.

The Justice Department trial attorney agreed, saying, “foreign efforts to influence presidential candidates are of course supremely serious.”

Soufan added that to open a case “on any official, or high-ranking official, requires some serious deliberations.” He continued: “Imagine if it is a case on the president of the U.S. acting as an agent of a hostile foreign power.”

Soufan went on to note that to open up a counterintelligence investigation into Trump would require “serious and substantial” levels of evidence of a relationship with a hostile foreign power.

It’s unclear whether or not that investigation is over. Former Justice Department officials told The Daily Beast that counterintelligence probes, especially those into a president, would take years to complete.

"They take a long time. They're not over quickly. And based on the president’s public statements and actions, I think you have to open a cointel investigation,” said one former senior DOJ official with knowledge of such counterintelligence investigations. “You might never know that it's resolved. These cases often never see the inside of a courtroom. The findings are often kept within the intelligence community, indexed and filed away.”

The FBI did not comment for this story. The Department of Justice declined to comment as did the Special Counsel’s Office.

The White House was quick to lash out, however. “Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, adding that the Times report was “absurd.”

Trump’s attorney in the Mueller probe, former New York mayor and federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, dismissed the Times report and called for an investigation into Trump’s FBI investigators.

“The investigation goes back a year and a half, if it ever really happened. If it did after a year and a half if there has been no information forthcoming it obviously came to the same result as the first Peter Strzok inspired counter-intelligence investigation,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast. “As Strzok and Comey said it found no evidence of any inappropriate conduct on the part of the President. In any event, it was, if it happened, yet another example of the extent to which Trump haters like Strzok and Comey would go to carry out their insurance policy to overthrow the Trump Presidency. It calls again for a full and vigorous investigation of the so-called investigators.”

But just the idea of the sitting U.S. president being probed as a possible agent of a foreign nation, especially one like Russia, has former senior government officials and former prosecutors grasping for the right words to describe the news.

“It’s mind-blowing and even though it’s separate from criminal inquiry, any determination that the president of the U.S. had been or was a Russian agent would be out of The Manchurian Candidate,” said Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney. “And I would have to imagine it would make it untenable for him to be president but it would also be the political scandal of all time.” ... ia=desktop

Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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