Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

Moderators: DrVolin, Elvis, Jeff

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

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:49 pm

THE SUPREME COURT HAS ALREADY AGREED THAT THE MYSTERY APPELLANT CAUSED A “DIRECT EFFECT” IN THE UNITED STATES

January 14, 2019/14 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

I’d like to make a minor — but I think important — point about the DC Circuit opinion in the Mystery Appellant challenge to what is believed to be a Robert Mueller subpoena. Assuming that this is a challenge to a Special Counsel subpoena, then the Supreme Court has already agreed with Mueller — in dissolving a stay of financial penalties for blowing off a subpoena — that some company owned by a foreign country took an action outside the US that had an effect inside the US, in an investigation into what happened during an election.

This post will assume that this is a Mueller subpoena. Some of the evidence backing that assumption includes:

DC District Chief Judge Beryl Howell issued the original order; she presides over Mueller’s grand jury

A lawyer asked for Mueller’s latest sealed filing on the day a response from the Mystery Appellant was due

Greg Katsas recused from consideration of this case; he had said he would recuse on Mueller related issues

The secrecy for the hearing before the DC Circuit, and arguably the review process for this challenge, were exceptional

Mueller lawyers Michael Dreeben and Zainab Ahmad were seen returning to his office after the DC Circuit hearing

Judges David Tatel, Thomas Griffith, and Stephen Williams issued their order on December 18. The Mystery Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court, and over Christmas John Roberts took briefing on that appeal. Last week the Supreme Court declined to uphold the stay, effectively agreeing with the Circuit’s decision.

And that’s important, because a key part of the now-public (though still partly sealed) DC Circuit opinion explains how the presumed Mueller request overcomes the sovereign immunity of the company in question. The request must involve — among other things — an exception to sovereign immunity.

Taking section 1604 ‘s grant of immunity as a given, the government must check three boxes for the contempt order to stand. First, there must be a valid grant of subject-matter jurisdiction. Second, one of the Act’s exceptions to immunity must apply. And third, the contempt sanctions must be a permissible remedy. According to the district court, the government satisfies all three. We agree.


Mueller claimed that this qualified as an exception because the request involves an “act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere [when] that act causes a direct effect in the United States.”

Moving to those exceptions, in its ex parte filing the government steers us to the third clause of section 1605(a)(2). That provision denies immunity in an “action … based … upon an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere [when] that act causes a direct effect in the United States.” Ordinarily, the Corporation would bear the burden to establish that the exception does not apply. See EIG Energy FundXIV, L.P. v. Petroleo Brasileiro, S.A., 894 F.3d 339, 344- 45 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (“[T]he foreign-state defendant bears the burden of establishing the affirmative defense of immunity,” including “‘proving that the plaintiff’s allegations do not bring its case within a statutory exception to immunity.”‘ (quoting Phoenix Consulting Inc. v. Republic of Angola, 216 F .3d 36, 40 (D.C. Cir. 2000))).


And because Mueller relied on an ex parte filing to make that case, all the judges involved — Howell, Tatel, Griffith, Williams, Roberts, and whoever else at SCOTUS reviewed this — relied on the argument that Mueller’s lawyers laid out about the request.

Here, however, the government relies primarily on ex parte evidence unavailable to the Corporation. We have repeatedly approved the use of such information when “necessary to ensure the secrecy of ongoing grand jury proceedings,” In re Sealed Case No. 98-3077, 151 F.3d 1059, 1075 (D.C. Cir. 1998), and we do so again here. But where the government uses ex parte evidence, we think the burden falls on the government to establish that the exception applies, and we will conduct a searching inquiry of the government’s evidence and legal theories as a substitute for the adversarial process.


In a sealed discussion of Mueller’s ex parte filing, the DC Circuit finds a “reasonable probability” that that section covers this subpoena. It goes further and states that it doesn’t have to decide what the gravamen of the subpoena is, which suggests that something about this request makes it very clear that the company both possess the records and that they are relevant to Mueller’s investigation.

The “gravamen” of a subpoena may be the mere fact that an entity possesses the documents in question. Alternatively, the “gravamen” may be related to the content of the records and why they may be relevant to the government’s investigation. Indeed, the correct approach may well vary with the facts of a given case. Here, however, we need not resolve that issue [redacted]


There’s some other redacted discussion that dismisses a claim made by the corporation that will be interesting for the history books. But the DC Circuit is clear that the request — as laid out in an ex parte filing presumably written by Mueller’s lawyers — clears the subject matter question.

None of this analysis tells us enough about the company for us to guess what foreign company it is. The WaPo says it is a financial institution. I happen to think that Qatar or the Emirates’ investment authority are the most likely candidates but that’s just an educated guess.

Still, if this is indeed a Mueller subpoena, given the topic of Mueller’s inquiry and his fairly clear discipline at staying within the scope of it, that nevertheless is a signifiant revelation. That’s because Mueller is investigating events relating to an election. And most acts by a company owned by a foreign country that cause an effect in this country — if they have some relationship with that election — would be illegal. It could be the payoff for a bribe. It could be a more direct expenditure associated with the campaign. It could be a payment associated with activities that occurred during the campaign.

Maybe it’s something far more obscure. But any of the obvious applications here would all implicate a foreign country influencing — directly or indirectly — the election. And SCOTUS has already reviewed that Mueller argument, and found it reasonable.

That doesn’t mean SCOTUS has reviewed the evidence the company has, it doesn’t mean the company will turn over the evidence (though it would already incurred something like $300,000 to avoid compliance), it doesn’t mean the evidence proves whatever crime Mueller has cited in demanding it.

But SCOTUS has, at a minimum, found Mueller’s argument that such evidence would be relevant to his criminal investigation reasonable.

Update: Added language to make what happened — SCOTUS dissolved the stay — technically correct.

Update: And SCOTUS is now debating whether to allow the Mystery Appellant to file cert under seal or not.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/14/t ... ed-states/



Trump Says He Alone Can Do It. His Attorney General Nominee Usually Agrees.

William P. Barr has long espoused an unfettered vision of executive power. He may soon serve a president not known for self-restraint.

Jan. 14, 2019
William P. Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, has long maintained an expansive view of executive power.Erin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The meeting of President George Bush’s cabinet on Jan. 8, 1991, was even more high-stakes than usual. Iraq had invaded Kuwait. Half a million American troops were deployed and ready to attack. But many lawmakers were demanding a vote before any war.

Rejecting mainstream constitutional views, William P. Barr, the deputy attorney general, told Mr. Bush that he wielded unfettered power to start a major land war on his own — not only without congressional permission, but even if Congress voted against it.

“Mr. President, there’s no doubt that you have the authority to launch an attack,” Mr. Barr said, as he later recalled.

Ultimately, Mr. Bush was cautious about invoking that maximalist theory of executive power and asked lawmakers for support anyway — a prudent step that Mr. Barr, whom Mr. Bush soon elevated to attorney general, also recommended. Congress’s vote ensured the Persian Gulf war was lawful.

Nearly three decades later, President Trump has nominated Mr. Barr to return as attorney general. But unlike the self-restrained Mr. Bush, Mr. Trump revels in pushing limits — a temperament that, when combined with Mr. Barr’s unusually permissive understanding of presidential power, could play out very differently for the rule of law than it did last time.

“There are concerns about his independence, given his longstanding and expansive views of executive power,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which will hold Mr. Barr’s confirmation hearing starting Tuesday. “So the question is, Is he right for this time, and can he really be independent of this president and the White House?”

Mr. Barr, then the attorney general, and President George Bush in the Oval Office in 1992.Barry Thumma/Associated Press

Mr. Trump ousted his administration’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in November, after long excoriating him for having followed ethics officials’ advice that he recuse himself from overseeing what became the investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Trump said that he needed an attorney general who would protect him and that he would not have appointed Mr. Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself.

The two-day hearing for Mr. Barr, 68, will play out against the backdrop of swelling rule-of-law turmoil, from Mr. Trump’s pressuring the Justice Department to curtail investigations into his associates and to open them into his opponents to his threat to invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress on border-wall funds, to coming oversight fights with House Democrats.

Democrats have demanded that Mr. Barr protect Mr. Mueller as he completes the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the inquiry on behalf of Moscow. Democrats have also focused on whether Mr. Barr would turn over to Congress any report Mr. Mueller compiles.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the new Judiciary Committee chairman, told reporters after meeting with Mr. Barr last week that the nominee had said he saw no reason to fire Mr. Mueller and had pledged to “err on the side of transparency” about any report. But neither statement addressed what he would do if Mr. Trump ordered him to act otherwise.

Mr. Barr is likely to be confirmed because Republicans control the Senate and because defeating him would leave in place the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, a Trump loyalist whose installation in that role Democrats see as illegitimate and a threat to Mr. Mueller. Ethics officials advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia case, but he refused.

But Mr. Barr has already drawn scrutiny over the revelation last month that he sent an apparently unsolicited 19-page memo to the Trump legal team in June arguing that Mr. Mueller should not be permitted to investigate Mr. Trump for criminal obstruction of justice.

Mr. Barr’s argument derived from his broad view of executive power: The Constitution, he claimed, does not permit Congress to make it a crime for the president to exercise his executive powers corruptly — even if he were to fire a subordinate, pardon someone or use what Mr. Barr termed his “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding” to cover up crimes by himself or his associates.

The claim that the framers of the Constitution empowered presidents to impede investigations for corrupt ends goes too far, many legal scholars say. But Supreme Court precedents offer few definitive guideposts, giving the attorney general broad latitude.

“The interpretive approach of Justice Department lawyers to the Constitution is very important because many separation-of-powers issues never wind up in court,” said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor. “Barr’s method is not uniquely his, but it does represent a particularly aggressive school of executive power thought.”

Mr. Barr started his career as a C.I.A. analyst before becoming an agency legislative affairs official in the mid-1970s, during the post-Watergate and post-Vietnam War era when a congressional investigation dragged decades of intelligence abuses into the light over the executive branch’s objections.

After going to law school, he joined the Reagan White House and worked on domestic policy with C. Boyden Gray, the counsel to then-Vice President George Bush. At the time, the administration was battling Democrats in Congress over its push for deregulation. The conflicts helped spur the Reagan legal team to develop new executive power theories that would diminish the influence of Congress.

Their legal policy innovations intensified in Mr. Reagan’s second term, after Mr. Barr had returned to private practice and senior administration officials were caught steering aid to anti-Marxist militants in Nicaragua despite a law forbidding such assistance. The scandal, known as Iran-contra, set off investigations by Congress and an independent counsel.

Amid the fallout, the Reagan legal team called into question the legitimacy of both the law barring aid and one allowing for prosecutors the president could not fire. The president’s lawyers saw them as congressional encroachments on the president’s rightful powers, though the Supreme Court upheld the independent counsel law in 1988.

The next year, when Mr. Barr returned to public service in the new Bush administration, he took up the executive power mission as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the powerful agency within the Justice Department that evaluates the legality of proposed executive branch actions. Mr. Gray, who had become White House counsel under Mr. Bush, “was intent on getting someone in that position who believed in executive authority,” Mr. Barr later recalled.

A Marine patrol near Kuwait City in 1991. Mr. Barr argued that Mr. Bush could unilaterally launch the gulf war without Congress, though he advised the president to seek lawmakers' approval. Mr. Bush eventually did.John Gaps III/Associated Press

A Marine patrol near Kuwait City in 1991. Mr. Barr argued that Mr. Bush could unilaterally launch the gulf war without Congress, though he advised the president to seek lawmakers' approval. Mr. Bush eventually did.John Gaps III/Associated Press
Normally, the Office of Legal Counsel waits to be asked a specific legal question about a particular dispute before weighing in. But among his first major acts was to write an apparently unsolicited 10-page memo to top lawyers across the executive branch, urging vigilance against any attempts by Congress to limit presidential power.

“Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved,” he wrote.

Mr. Barr denounced lawmakers’ pursuit of sensitive administration information for oversight investigations and the creation of legal limits on the president’s power to fire certain officials in order to give them a degree of independence. “The power to remove is the power to control,” he wrote.

As Mr. Bush’s term progressed, Mr. Barr not only argued that the president could unilaterally launch the gulf war without Congress — echoing a move by President Harry S. Truman, to enduring legal controversy, in the Korean War four decades earlier — but also sought to push the boundaries of presidential flexibility in many other ways, large and small.

In 1990, for example, Mr. Barr asserted that the Bush administration could lawfully choose to disregard a law in which Congress, as a condition of funding a diplomatic delegation, required that a representative from a congressional panel be included. Arguing that Congress had no authority in the area of foreign affairs, he asserted that it was therefore “self-evidently” true that lawmakers could not enact a law influencing the president’s choices of diplomatic agents.

That same year, he argued more broadly in a panel discussion that even with the power of the purse, lawmakers lack the authority to influence policy by placing conditions on appropriations for government activities that fall under the president’s executive powers. Ultimately, Congress only has the power to provide a “lump sum” to the president in those cases, he said.

A portion of a memo written by Mr. Barr.
A portion of a memo written by Mr. Barr.
After Mr. Bush lost the 1992 election and before he left office, he pardoned half a dozen officials caught up in the Iran-contra affair just before one, Caspar Weinberger, was about to go to trial. Foreshadowing the controversy over Mr. Trump’s dangling of potential pardons in the Russia investigation, the prosecutor accused Mr. Bush of a cover-up that could have implicated his own conduct. Mr. Barr later said that he had personally urged Mr. Bush to pardon the officials because he thought they had been “unjustly treated.”

In the years after the Bush administration ended, Mr. Barr became a top lawyer for the telecommunications company that evolved into Verizon, working mainly on business and regulatory issues. But he also continued to play a role in legal policy debates over executive power and national security, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks.

After Congress enacted the USA Patriot Act to loosen restrictions on government surveillance that grew out of the 1970s oversight investigations, he testified that the new statute had been a good first step but did not go far enough.

In 2005, after the George W. Bush administration’s detainee abuses started coming to light, he defended Mr. Bush’s power to declare that prisoners in the war on terror were not protected by the Geneva Conventions and so could be lawfully subjected to coercive questioning.

Mr. Barr suggested that the Bush administration prosecute the Sept. 11 attacks through a military commissions system.Andres Leighton/Associated Press

Mr. Barr suggested that the Bush administration prosecute the Sept. 11 attacks through a military commissions system.Andres Leighton/Associated Press
“Generally, under the laws of war, absent treaty, there is nothing wrong with coercive interrogation, applying pain, discomfort and other things to make people talk,” he said, pausing, then adding, “as long as it doesn’t cross the line and involve the gratuitous barbarity that’s involved in torture.”

Later that year, Congress tightened laws against treating detainees in cruel or degrading ways, but Mr. Bush claimed he had constitutional power to do so anyway. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions did require humane treatment of terrorism detainees, contrary to the Bush legal team theories that Mr. Barr had echoed.

Mr. Barr also repeatedly defended Mr. Bush’s decision to create the ill-fated system of military commissions instead of civilian courts to prosecute terrorism suspects. In fact, it was Mr. Barr who privately suggested to the Bush White House that it create a tribunals system, an idea he had considered as attorney general during the investigation of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Two Libyan suspects were indicted in civilian court in 1991.

Mr. Barr has recounted a story about that case that may resonate with Democrats’ expressed concerns about whether he will maintain Justice Department independence against political interference by Mr. Trump. When prosecutors were preparing to indict the Pan Am 103 suspects, Mr. Bush cautiously asked his attorney general “would it be O.K.” to brief the National Security Council on the situation.

Taken aback at Mr. Bush’s hands-off attitude, Mr. Barr made clear that he saw the president as excessively deferential — and invoked the notion, popular among executive power maximalists, that the president, not the attorney general, is the prosecutor in chief.

“Would it be O.K.? Well, I work for you; you’re the top law enforcement officer. Of course it’s O.K.,” Mr. Barr recalled marveling. “The attitude was, You have to be very careful with pending matters of justice.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/us/p ... power.html
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:03 pm

Belligerent Savant » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:18 pm wrote:.

Mueller report is 'almost certain to be anti-climactic'


A number of us have been calling this from the onset.

We'll know for certain soon enough.



yes a number ....you NewsMax and Jonathan Karl




emptywheel



emptywheel Retweeted Glenn Greenwald
This Jon Karl piece is dogshit nonsense bc:

1) THE ENTIRE REPORT BOMBSHELL comes from Rudy G
2) Flynn was ordered to do what he did ... by Trump
3) Cohen did what he did ... for Trump


Watch @abcnews Chief WH correspondent @jonkarl say this week that a) the Mueller report will be "anti-climactic"; b) "Mueller did not go anywhere" with the Trump/Russia investigation the NYT reported; & c) Mueller likely found no evidence of collusion (his reporting, not mine):

It may well be that "the report" is a let down. In significant part bc the report WAS NEVER supposed to be the big deal people make it out to be. But that expectation came from Rudy. But Karl exhibits virtually no familiarity w/the record.

Finally, there is no credible entity "interacting with Mueller's office" (AKA, Karl's sources) who know what he's looking at. One person who's looked at more than most, Emmet Sullivan, talked abt Flynn selling out his country.


emptywheel Retweeted Rudy Giuliani
Note how @jonkarl's factually challenged claims on the morning shows sounds just like Rudy Giuliani but with more hair?
Rudy Giuliani
Verified account

@RudyGiuliani
Doesn’t anyone in the media care enough about the truth to ask the Mueller leakers if the counter intelligence report started a year and a half ago found anything. Obviously if it did the Trump hating leaker would have told the Trump hating press. Proving this is a witch-hunt.


Moreover, the funny thing abt claiming there were Mueller leakers is 1) the sources were off Mueller's team by August 2017 2) the article was actually sourced to OGR transcripts that Mark Meadows leaked highly misleading bits from last year.

Matryoshka denial doll

Image




JULY 1, 2011
A Right-Wing Mole at ABC News
PETER HART
Image
Jonathan Karl
Jonathan Karl (Randy Sager Photography/ABC)
Conservatives don’t just complain loudly, endlessly and inaccurately about liberal media bias. They also train right-leaning journalists to make their way into the supposedly hostile terrain of Beltway media. And one of the most famous alums of a conservative media training program is now a major star at a network news outlet: ABC’s senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl.

Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).

The Collegiate Network also provides paid internships and fellowships to place its members at corporate media outlets or influential Beltway publications; 2010-11 placements include the Hill, Roll Call, Dallas Morning News and USA Today. The program’s highest-profile alum is Karl, who was a Collegiate fellow at the neoliberal New Republic magazine.

After a stint at the New York Post, Karl soon found his way to CNN, but he was still connected to ideological pursuits; he was a board member at the right-leaning youth-oriented Third Millennium group and at the Madison Center for Educational Affairs—which, like the Collegiate Network, seeks to strengthen young conservative journalism. After moving to ABC in 2003, Karl contributed several pieces to the neo-con Weekly Standard, such as his April 4, 2005 article praising Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as out to “make her mark with the vigorous pursuit of the president’s freedom and democracy agenda.”

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”

During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.

And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.

Paul Ryan

Perfectly unbalanced factchecking
Karl is often tapped by ABC to offer factcheck segments, and the results frequently reinforce some of the misinformation that is supposed to be corrected, or attempt to spread the blame to “both sides.” During the debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, conservatives complained that a tax increase on the top 2 percent would actually be a crushing burden on small business owners. Karl’s “factcheck” interviewed two small business owners who claimed they would be adversely affected. One said an increase in his personal tax bill would cost him between $20,000 and $40,000, and the other claimed a potential tax bill increase of $120,000. If these estimates were true, Karl’s small businessmen were making enormous amounts of money—upwards of $700,000 a year for the first, nearly $3 million for the second (FAIR Action Alert, 9/13/10). That was never explained to ABC viewers.

Karl’s report, ironically enough, was supposed to be a “factcheck” of Democratic claims that the tax cuts would not affect many small businesses—about 2 percent. Karl finally admitted this was true—and then made it sound less so: “894,000 small businesses that would see their taxes go up. A small percentage, but a large number of small businesses.”

Karl produced one factcheck (10/25/10) of political rhetoric about the stimulus package. This would seem to be an easy one; some Republican candidates were claiming that the stimulus either created no jobs, or actually led to millions of lost jobs—both of which, as Karl noted, were not true. But due to the apparent need to create “balance,” Karl followed that debunking by stating, “The most extravagant claim related to the stimulus, though, comes from Harry Reid.” What followed was a short soundbite of the Nevada Democrat saying, “But for me, we’d be in a worldwide depression.” Karl’s retort: “Hmm, maybe not.”

Reid’s comment, however, did not seem to refer to the economic stimulus plan at all. It was drawn from an interview with MSNBC host Ed Schultz (10/21/10), where Reid was talking about the perils of campaigning in an economic downturn: “So people have been hurting, and I understand that, and it doesn’t give them comfort or solace for me to tell them, you know, ‘But for me, we’d be in a worldwide depression.’ They want to know what I’ve done for them.” How Karl came to use this quote as an example of stimulus extravagance is hard to fathom, but it was prominently featured on right-leaning websites like the Drudge Report.

Though not billed as a “factcheck,” Karl did something similar for a report on This Week (4/3/11) about the budget debate. Tea Party activists make unrelenting demands about spending cuts, explained Karl—before pivoting to say:

Democrats have their hotheads, too. One Obama administration official said the Republican bill, which cuts $5 billion from the Agency for International Development would kill kids. That’s right: Kill kids.
What Karl considered hotheaded extremism was the claim that deaths in poor countries will occur due to, among other things, cuts to USAID’s anti-malaria programs. Others will die because of a lack of life-saving medicines or cuts in programs fighting infant mortality. That cutting health aid to poor countries will cost lives, apparently, is a claim only a “hothead” would make.

Stimulus cop: looking for pork!
One of the most frequent themes of Karl’s ABC reporting is government spending. After the passage of the economic stimulus bill, Karl set out to track potential signs of wasteful “pork.” According to anchor Diane Sawyer (2/10/11), “Jon Karl really is a Sherlock Holmes of waste in Washington.” What he produced was a series of trivial reports that seemed to mimic standard Republican complaints about government waste: Two reports complaining about Recovery Act signs (7/14/10, 7/10/09), a railroad/flood prevention project in California’s Napa Valley “wine country” (2/2/10), and small airports receiving government funding (4/23/09, 9/18/09).

In the midst of these reports, Karl could go back to more mundane complaints about government spending, which usually mean relying on Republican politicians for your research: “For the past week, [John] McCain has been twittering a daily top 10 list of the bill’s porkiest projects,” Karl (3/4/09) reported about a government spending bill. “Today’s top 10 includes $150,000 for lobster research, $950,000 for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.”

A few months later Karl wasn’t just reading McCain’s Twitter feed—he had a downright “exclusive” from McCain and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. On ABC’s Good Morning America (8/3/10), Karl outlined the Republican complaints, mocking the stimulus bill for including “nearly $1 million for the California Academy of Sciences to study exotic ants.” (How crazy to study potential pest species—it’s not like California has a $37 billion agriculture industry or anything.)

On another program (12/20/10), Karl derided a government “cow burp study”—related to the trivial problem of global climate change—while earlier he joked (6/16/09): “Why did the turtle cross the road? Because $3.4 million in stimulus money hadn’t been spent yet to build them a tunnel. But that’s about to change.”

It’s a timeless theme. “The bill is supposed to fund government operations,” he explained on one newscast (2/24/09) “but it includes things like more than $1 million for so-called ‘Mormon crickets’ in Utah, $200,000 for tattoo removal in Los Angeles and $443,000 to control beavers in Mississippi.” If Republican congressional leaders ever need someone to fill in on their PR team, Karl would be a perfect fit.

What’s striking about Jonathan Karl’s reporting, however, is that it’s not flagrant Fox News-type bias. Rather, Karl comes across as a somewhat exaggerated version of the kind of Beltway center-right conventional wisdom you’re likely to see on any network newscast. Perhaps the lesson is that right-wing pressure to push the news business to the right has been so successful, a conservative movement plant fits right in.
https://fair.org/extra/a-right-wing-mole-at-abc-news/



Trump and Putin’s Cone of Seclusion

It’s not just unusual that there are no notes from Trump’s meetings with Putin. It’s unprecedented.

Fred KaplanJan 14, 20191:37 PM
Trump looking at Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Nov. 30, 2018.
Marcos Brindicci/Reuters
The Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday that President Donald Trump’s confiscation of the translator’s notes from a one-on-one conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 was “unusual.” This is incorrect. It was unprecedented. There is nothing like it in the annals of presidential history.

It is also truly unusual that Trump failed to bring in a note taker, along with his translator, during his meetings with Putin, as almost every other president has done when meeting with foreign heads of state since the end of World War II. Usually the note taker is an official or aide with deep background in the subject under discussion.

Michael McFaul, who was President Barack Obama’s adviser on Russia, then his ambassador to Moscow, tells me that he routinely took notes in meetings between Obama and either Putin or his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev. In some of these meetings, McFaul says, Obama took a few moments of “set-aside” time for a personal discussion with the Russian president; but in those instances, he briefed McFaul afterward, and McFaul then consulted with the translator to make sure that, in the notes of that debriefing, he got the wording as accurate as possible.

There are good reasons for presidents to bring a note taker with them to such meetings. First, they want a record of what was said, both to remind themselves later of what happened and to confirm or dispute some later account of the meeting, either by the foreign leader or some reporter. Second, the president’s national security officials want to know what was said so that they can orient policy accordingly. Third, historians value these notes, once they’re declassified, as a record of behind-the-scenes U.S. foreign policy.

In the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, you can read the very detailed notes of the extensive conversations Ike had with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David in September 1959. It’s a fascinating glimpse of both men’s views of war, peace, and the international tensions of the day. It also reveals a ray of trust that might have brightened U.S.-Soviet relations, and transformed Cold War politics, had it not been snuffed out by the U-2 spy plane crisis one year later.

The John F. Kennedy Library contains a massive archive of exchanges—in the form of memorandums of conversation, telegrams, and transcripts of secret tape recordings—between JFK and the leaders of France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and many other countries. There are also, of course, the invaluable tapes of his lengthy discussions with his advisers during the 13 days of the Cuban missile crisis (which completely contradict the version of events put out, years earlier, by his “palace historians”).

Lyndon Johnson taped even more of his historically interesting conversations, and not just with world leaders.

Richard Nixon sometimes met with foreign leaders, including Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, without a note taker. But according to historian Tim Naftali, a former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, he did tape-record those conversations—like Kennedy and Johnson, without the other party knowing it—and those tapes have been declassified.

Among the most fascinating documents of this sort are the notes—the ones taken by the American aide and the Soviet aide—of the 10 hours of conversations between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the historic 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. This was the summit where the two presidents, to the alarm of their aides, almost agreed to destroy all of their nuclear weapons, but for an irreconcilable dispute over the “Star Wars” missile defense system (Gorbachev wanted to ban testing of the system outside a laboratory, Reagan didn’t). The fascinating thing here is the fact that they had 10 hours of substantive conversation about arms control and nuclear strategy. Reagan, who is widely recalled as a bit of a dolt, was in fact well briefed on the subject; and while he had some wacky ideas, he fully understood the implications of those ideas. It is hard to imagine Trump holding court on such complexities for as long as 10 minutes.

Most recently, the National Archives released transcripts of the many hours of telephone conversations that Bill Clinton had with Boris Yeltsin on arms control issues in the early post–Cold War era.

The point here is that all of these presidents understood the value of keeping a record of conversations with foreign leaders—both for their own understanding of what was going on and for the enlightenment of posterity.

Trump cares nothing about either.

Whether his translator’s notes hold anything incriminating about Trump’s fealty to Putin, it is appalling that he would go into a one-on-one meeting with the Russian president without a note taker—especially given his shallow grasp of the issues and the very real possibility that he could have given away U.S. interests or disclosed vital secrets without understanding what he was doing. He also conducted his one-on-one with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at their summit in Singapore, without a note taker present.

Did Trump concede these issues in his one-on-one without telling his subordinates? We may never know.
In both cases, there were translators on both sides, but, as McFaul, a fluent Russian speaker, told me, their job is completely different from that of a note taker. The former has to focus on translating the foreign leader’s words to the president as quickly and accurately as possible. The latter has to transcribe what both sides are saying as fully as possible. It is very difficult to do both—impossible to do both well.

The irony—and perhaps the tragedy, for U.S. foreign policy and possibly (depending on what he did tell Putin) for Trump personally—is that the Russians, and probably the North Koreans, do have records of their one-on-one sessions with Trump. Putin did bring along a note taker. It is also likely that he or one of his aides tape-recorded the conversations. (The photograph of their tête-à-tête in Helsinki reveals a suspicious vase of flowers on the table between them.)

Quite aside from matters that may be of concern to special counsel Robert Mueller, who knows what concessions Trump may have made in these sessions? In the follow-on meetings that have since taken place between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, American diplomats have sometimes raised points that they consider vital—only to have their North Korean counterpart wave it away, saying, “Go talk with your president.” Did Trump concede these issues in his one-on-one without telling his subordinates? We may never know; some U.S. officials suspect he did.

Another appalling fact is that Republicans in Congress don’t want to know either. Rep. Adam Schiff, who is now the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted on Sunday that, last year, he “sought to obtain the interpreter’s notes or testimony, from the private meeting between Trump and Putin. The Republicans on our committee voted us down.” Schiff asks, “Will they join us now? Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first?’ ”

The question is urgent not just for the historical record but for the political crisis that enmeshes us today, especially given the New York Times’ report on Friday that, in 2017, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation on whether Trump was working as, in effect, a Russian agent. Whatever the outcome of that probe, the fact that the question can be seriously raised—given the clear convergence, if not the outright collusion, of their interests—is worthy of several gulps.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/201 ... taker.html



Trump Confronts the Prospect of a ‘Nonstop Political War’ for Survival

Jan. 13, 2019

President Trump at the Rio Grande, near McAllen, Tex., on Thursday.Doug Mills/The New York Times


WASHINGTON — So it has come to this: The president of the United States was asked over the weekend whether he is a Russian agent. And he refused to directly answer.

The question, which came from a friendly interviewer, not one of the “fake media” journalists he disparages, was “the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he declared. But it is a question that has hung over his presidency now for two years.

If the now 23-day government shutdown standoff between Mr. Trump and Congress has seemed ugly, it may eventually seem tame in light of what is to come. The border wall fight is just the preliminary skirmish in this new era of divided government. The real battle has yet to begin.

With Democrats now in charge of the House, the special counsel believed to be wrapping up his investigation, news media outlets competing for scoops and the first articles of impeachment already filed, Mr. Trump faces the prospect of an all-out political war for survival that may make the still-unresolved partial government shutdown pale by comparison.

The last few days have offered plenty of foreshadowing. The newly empowered Democrats summoned the president’s longtime personal lawyer to testify after he implicated Mr. Trump in an illegal scheme to arrange hush payments before the 2016 election for women who claimed to have had affairs with him. Legal papers disclosed that Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman shared polling data with an associate tied by prosecutors to Russian intelligence.

New reports over the weekend added to the sense of siege at the White House. The New York Times reported that after Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, in 2017, the bureau opened an investigation into whether the president was working for the Russians. And The Washington Post reported that Mr. Trump has gone out of his way as president to hide the details of his discussions with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even from members of his own administration.

What all this adds up to remains unclear. Whether it will lead to a full-blown impeachment inquiry in the House has yet to be decided. But it underscores the chance that with candidates already lining up to take him on in 2020, Washington will spend the months to come debating the future of Mr. Trump’s presidency and the direction of the country.

“The reality,” said Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist and former special assistant to Mr. Trump, is “that the next two years are going to be nonstop political war.”

The White House has begun recruiting soldiers. The new White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, has hired 17 new lawyers, according to The Post, as he prepares for a barrage of subpoenas from House Democratic committee chairmen.

But Mr. Trump’s inner circle has shrunk, and he has fewer advisers around him whom he trusts. His White House chief of staff is still serving in an acting capacity, and the West Wing is depleted by the shutdown. As he himself wrote on Twitter this weekend, “There’s almost nobody in the W.H. but me.”

Mr. Surabian said the rest of the party must recognize the threat and rally behind the president. “Republicans need to understand that Democrats in Congress, beholden to the ‘resistance,’ aren’t interested in bipartisanship, they’re out for blood,” he said. “It’s a war we can win,” he added, “but only with fortitude, unity, coherent messaging and a willingness to fight back.”

Democrats, for their part, say they are out for accountability, not blood, intent on forcing a president who went largely unchecked by a Republican Congress during his first two years in office to come clean on the many scandals that have erupted involving his business, taxes, campaign and administration.

They plan to get started in the coming days. On Tuesday, they will grill former Attorney General William P. Barr, who has been nominated by Mr. Trump to assume his old office again, about his approach to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Barr wrote a private memo last year criticizing Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and Democrats will use his confirmation hearings to press him on whether the special counsel will be allowed to finish his work and report it to Congress.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, also plans to force a vote in the Senate this week on the Trump administration’s plans to lifts sanctions on the companies of Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Mr. Putin’s government, if he reduces his ownership stakes. Democrats plan to use the issue to argue that Mr. Trump has been soft on Russia.

Even committees that are not usually in the investigation business are jumping into the fray. Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The New Yorker last week that he was eliminating the subcommittee on terrorism in favor of a subcommittee aimed at investigating Mr. Trump’s foreign policy.

Lost in all this may be any chance of bipartisan policymaking. At stake in the current fight is just $5.7 billion for Mr. Trump’s promised border wall, roughly one-eighth of one percent of the total federal budget. If one-eighth of one percent of the total budget can prompt the longest government shutdown in American history, then the potential for further clashes over the remaining 99.87 percent seems considerable. On issues like health care, taxes, climate change, guns and national security, the two sides start this era of divided government far apart.

“That’s the flashing yellow light here,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a former top White House aide to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “If you can’t do Government 101, what makes you think you’re going to do Advanced Placement Government like finding the money for an infrastructure bill?”

Julian Epstein, who was the counsel for Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment fight 20 years ago, said big issues like a shrinking middle class largely untrained for the 21st-century economy would go unaddressed during the battles to come.

“The political class is now addicted to Manichaean conflict as a way of life,” Mr. Epstein said. “It’s become the mother’s milk — for base voters in both parties who together make up a minority share of voters, for cable television and for social media.”

Given the investigations, Mr. Trump may prefer a battle over the wall as more favorable ground to fight even with 800,000 federal workers furloughed or forced to work without pay. Polls suggest he is not winning with the broader public but has rallied his base in the fight.

More Americans blame Mr. Trump for the government shutdown than blame Democrats, and most oppose a border wall, according to a new survey by The Post and ABC News. But support for a wall has grown over the last year from 34 percent to 42 percent, fueled largely by Republicans, while opposition has slipped from 63 percent to 54 percent.

Negotiations have broken down. While Mr. Trump had gambled that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, would back down, she has made clear that she has no interest in compromise. She and Mr. Schumer have insisted that Mr. Trump reopen the government while negotiations over a border wall proceed, which the president has refused to do. Mr. Trump walked out of their talks last week after he asked Ms. Pelosi if she would support his wall if he reopened the government and she said no.

“It’s all about their own sense of strength,” said John Feehery, a former senior House Republican aide. “Pelosi wants to be validated. She wants to be seen as a strong leader. Trump feels like he has to govern through strength. This is strength versus strength. Unfortunately, the people in the middle are the government workers who can’t afford to lose a paycheck.”

Instead of talks to end the shutdown, the president spent at least part of his weekend defending himself against the suspicions about his affinity for Mr. Putin. He insisted that he has actually been tougher on Russia than his predecessors and that the F.B.I. was led by “losers that tried to do a number on your President.”

He picked up the telephone on Saturday night to call into the Fox News show hosted by Jeanine Pirro, who participated in a campaign rally with him last fall. She asked him about the F.B.I. investigation reported by The Times with a tone of scorn.

“I’m going to ask you, are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?” Ms. Pirro asked.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he answered. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.”

She then cited the Post article about his efforts to conceal details of his private meetings with Mr. Putin. “We had a great conversation,” he said. “We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things, and it was a great conversation. I’m not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn’t care less.”

Ms. Pirro expressed sympathy for the battles he was waging.

“You’ve got such fight in you, it’s unbelievable,” she said.

“Well,” he answered, “I guess I have good genes.”

Correction: January 13, 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/us/p ... tdown.html



If The U.S. Government Needs A Tape Of That Helsinki Meeting, We Could Just Ask Putin

The former spy may well have secretly recorded his two-hour one-on-one with Trump last year, former U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers say.

S.V. Date

Former U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials said that in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s experience as a spy, he could have secretly recorded his meetings with President Donald Trump.
WASHINGTON — If U.S government officials get truly desperate for a good record of President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with his Russian counterpart last year, they might consider just asking the KGB-trained spy himself.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as an agent in Eastern Europe for 16 years after university, and would certainly have been trained in the use of surreptitious recording equipment, according to former U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials — who added that he may well have used that tradecraft in his two-hour one-on-one meeting with Trump.

“Putin is a former KGB officer first and the Russian president second. We can’t say with any certainty what he did in this instance, but seeking leverage over the world’s highest-value intelligence target would surely be something he would seek to do,” said Ned Price, formerly a CIA analyst and a National Security Council spokesman under President Barack Obama.

Eliot Cohen, who was a top State Department official under President George W. Bush, said there was no reason for uncertainty, given Putin’s background. “Of course he recorded it,” he said. “This is one more major breach of norms, and another example of dysfunctional diplomacy at work.”

Neither Trump’s White House nor his National Security Council responded to HuffPost queries about the possibility that Putin secretly recorded the meeting.

If Putin has an audio record of the meeting and the United States does not, that would provide Russia with a considerable advantage should a dispute arise over what was agreed to during that exchange. House Democrats, newly in control of that chamber, are discussing whether to demand that the U.S. linguist at that meeting come before the relevant committees to brief lawmakers on what was said.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Trump has refused to divulge what precisely he and Putin discussed at Helsinki as well as in other meetings, going so far as to confiscate a State Department linguist’s notes from at least one session.

The president has, in recent months, started adopting the propaganda of Putin’s Russia. In a Jan. 2 Cabinet meeting, for example, Trump claimed that the then–Soviet Union was correct to invade Afghanistan because terrorists were using it as a base for attacks in the USSR. While Putin’s government makes this assertion, most Western historians believe it is completely groundless.

A day before the Post story about the Putin meetings, The New York Times reported that the FBI was so alarmed by Trump’s firing of Director James Comey in May 2017 because of the Russia investigation that it opened a counterintelligence probe to determine whether the new president was, in fact, acting in the interest of Russia rather than the United States.

Saturday evening on Fox News, Trump attacked the nature of the inquiry at length but failed to deny the allegation. Monday morning, he told reporters that he was not a Russian agent.

“Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question, because it’s a whole big fat hoax. It’s just a hoax,” he said, responding to questions before leaving on a day trip to New Orleans.

He and his campaign’s relationship to Putin and Russia have been a focus of federal investigators since the summer of 2016, when Trump was still a candidate. His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lawyers recently admitted that Manafort shared internal campaign polling data with a former Russian intelligence agent in 2016.

Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer close to Putin’s government at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.

And Trump Sr. personally praised and urged his supporters to read stolen emails released by WikiLeaks to hurt opponent Hillary Clinton through the final month of the 2016 campaign — even though he had already been told that the emails had been stolen by Russian intelligence agents.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tr ... 403b95?9dr



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

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:08 am


Mueller Probes a Nunes Meeting at Trump’s D.C. Hotel

Erin Banco, Asawin Suebsaeng

The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the National Rifle Association and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by The Daily Beast tells a different story.

Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.

While there has been speculation that Torshin and his protegée, Maria Butina, had the Kremlin’s blessing to woo the NRA—and federal prosecutors have vaguely asserted that she acted “on behalf of the Russian federation”—no one in the White House or the U.S. intelligence community has publicly stated as much. Senior Russian government officials, for their part, have strenuously distanced themselves from Butina’s courtship of the NRA, which she did at Torshin’s direction.

The report, on the other hand, notes that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fine with Torshin’s courtship of the NRA because the relationships would be valuable if a Republican won the White House in 2016.

“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” one European intelligence official told The Daily Beast. The official added that this reporting is consistent with his group’s understanding of how the Kremlin operates.

“The NRA is quite powerful, so when you look to influence U.S. politics, you should consider them as a convenient target,” the official added.

The report, published last year, is based on conversations that happened in 2015, before NRA leaders visited Moscow on a trip arranged by Torshin and Butina. The document does not specifically name the NRA or the Republican Party, but its context makes clear it is discussing those two American organizations. (American intelligence reports generally do not name U.S. persons or organizations for privacy and legal reasons.)

According to the report, Torshin suggested that Russian officials use the NRA to reach out to politically active Americans. Torshin, then a deputy governor at Russia’s central bank, noted the gun-rights group’s influence in U.S. politics. He told the Kremlin about his contacts in the NRA, including conversations and meetings in the United States, and suggested that Kremlin officials scrutinize how some people affiliated with the group viewed relations between the U.S. and Russia.

The report notes that Russian officials discussed having their embassy in Washington participate in the work of courting the NRA. Kremlin officials also discussed preparations for NRA members’ upcoming trip to Moscow. Torshin recommended that someone from President Vladimir Putin’s executive office, meaning the group of people who support his day-to-day activities, meet with the group.

“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S. with a couple of different goals,” said Steve Hall, who spent 30 years in the CIA and oversaw its Russia operations. “The obvious goal was the one the intelligence community assessed back in 2016, which was to help Donald Trump win and increase the likelihood that Hillary Clinton would lose. In addition, they wanted to create as much chaos in our democracy as possible.”

Spokespeople for the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment for this story. A lawyer for Butina declined to comment as well.

Kremlin officials at the highest levels have tried to distance themselves from Torshin’s outreach to the NRA. Last month, Putin denied that he or his security chiefs were aware of the undertaking. “I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is going on,” he said, regarding Butina. “Nobody knows anything about her.”

And in April of 2017, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s longtime spokesman, said nobody in the Kremlin knew anything about the broader courtship of American conservatives by prominent Russians. “We know nothing about that,” Peskov told The Washington Post.

Torshin and the Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Torshin spent years building relationships with the NRA, as The Daily Beast previously detailed. A Tennessee lawyer named G. Kline Preston, who practices law in the U.S. and Russia, has said he introduced Torshin to David Keene, who helmed the NRA for a time and remained deeply active in its work after ending his time running it. Thanks to Keene, Torshin built connections throughout the gun-rights movement and among prominent American conservatives. Torshin also dispatched Butina, a Siberian gun-rights activist, to work in the U.S., maintaining those relationships and developing new ones. Butina struck up a romance with Paul Erickson, also an influential member of the American gun-rights movement, and with his help built more elaborate plans for winning allies in the NRA.

“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S.”

— CIA veteran Steve Hall

Before moving to the U.S., she helmed a Russian gun-rights organization called The Right to Bear Arms. Oligarch Konstantin Nikolaev, with the help of PR operator Igor Pisarsky, helped fund the group.

In December of 2015, she and Torshin helped arrange for a group of influential NRA members to travel to the Kremlin, where they had high-level meetings—including with the country’s powerful minister of foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, and sanctioned Putin deputy Dmitry Rogozin, an ultra-right-wing politician who oversaw the country’s defense industry. A schedule of the 2015 trip reviewed by The Daily Beast showed attendees also planned to drive to the Presidential Administration Office on Dec. 9, 2015, for a meeting with Evgeny Lukyanov, then the deputy secretary of the Security Council. NRA trip participants did not respond to queries about whether the scheduled meeting with Lukyanov took place. When the trip made national news after the U.S. intelligence community publicly asserted that the Kremlin had tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 campaign, Keene said it wasn’t about politics.

“Rogozin is chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation and his board hosted a tour of Federation HQ for us while we were there,” he told The Daily Beast. “It was non-political. There were at least 30 in attendance and our interaction consisted of thanking him and his board for the tour.”

Torshin and Butina’s outreach to the NRA ended unhappily for both of them. The U.S. placed Torshin under sanctions, and he recently left his post at the central bank. Butina, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to act as a covert foreign agent. She is in jail awaiting sentencing, and agreed to cooperate with American prosecutors on their investigations.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also probing Russian efforts to court the NRA. Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating the NRA’s Russia ties as well.

One veteran CIA officer noted that references to the Kremlin in intelligence reports have a more specific meaning than in general parlance, where Americans sometimes use the phrase as a metonym for the entire Russian government.

“In U.S. intelligence reports like this one, the phrase ‘the Kremlin’ generally refers to Vladimir Putin and his small inner circle, which would include key power ministers, including the heads of the intelligence services (SVR, FSB, GRU), the foreign minister, and oligarch cronies,” said a 30-year veteran of the CIA with deep knowledge of the Russian intelligence services who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity around issues related to Russia. “In this case, Kremlin decision-making would have likely been a smaller, even more limited, group.”

International Affairs Prof. Nina Khrushcheva of the New School, meanwhile, told The Daily Beast that the American intelligence officers who produced the report described in this piece may have overstated the Kremlin’s organization and efficiency.

“I’m sure there’s truth to the report,” she said, “but that kind of incredible consistency and logic that Americans have in their report about what and how Russia is doing is just culturally wrong.”

“Russia is a chaotic country that makes it up as it goes along,” she added.

—with additional reporting by Anna Nemtsova
https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-p ... s-dc-hotel
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:23 pm

Looks like the only country trump didn't collude with was America.

And Psy Group had a business deal with....Cambridge Analytica. Are you paying attention, Britain?

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Rick Gates Tells Mueller About Trump Team’s Dealings With Israeli Intelligence Firm

Psy Group delivered plans for ‘social media manipulation’ in 2016 and the special counsel is digging in as part of his probe into Mideast influence.

01.16.19 2:15 PM ET
MORE TO COME



Rick Gates, the former campaign aide to Donald Trump, is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether individuals from the Middle East worked with the Trump campaign to influence the election, according to two individuals with first-hand knowledge of the investigation.

Gates has answered questions specifically about Psy Group, an Israeli firm that ex-employees say drew up social media manipulation plans to help the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the questions. Mueller’s team also asked Gates about interactions with Psy Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who worked as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the sources said.

On Tuesday, Mueller’s team said that Gates was cooperating with “several ongoing investigations” in asking a federal judge to delay his sentencing for financial crimes he pleaded guilty to committing with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. One of the ongoing investigations is into possible Middle Eastern election influence, three people with knowledge of the probe told The Daily Beast.

A lawyer for Gates did not respond to requests for comment. Zamel’s lawyer declined to comment for this story, but previously said in other reports that Zamel cooperated with the special counsel’s office. The special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Gates requested proposals in 2016 from Psy Group that would help Trump in his campaign for president, The New York Times reported last year. Those proposals included social media manipulation tactics such as creating fake avatars to engage voters and Republican campaign delegates. Gates reportedly spoke about the proposals with George Birnbaum, a Republican consultant with connections in Israel. Former Psy Group employees who spoke with The Daily Beast said they only interacted with Birnbaum, whom they were introduced to by an intermediary, and did not have contact with Gates.

Mueller asked Gates whether the Trump campaign approached Psy Group, or whether Psy Group, through intermediaries like Birnbaum, approached representatives of the Trump team, according to two sources familiar with Gates’ cooperation.

“Joel is a very secretive guy, he holds all his cards very close to the chest. It’s very possible he was running some sort of side operation that used Psy resources but didn’t include the staff.”

— former Psy Group employee

Former employees of Psy Group told the Times they asked Washington-based law firm Covington and Burling if the plan violated laws that regulate foreign participation in American elections. Employees told The Daily Beast that the law firm said it was legal to proceed with the plan if the firm took certain steps to involve U.S. individuals. Covington and Burling did not comment for this story.

Psy Group employees told The Daily Beast they have been interviewed by the FBI, which asked about two Republicans other than Gates who had made overtures from Trump world to Psy Group in 2016. Both represented themselves as members of Trump’s inner circle and were introduced to Psy Group by “brokers,” including Birnbaum, the former employees said. Former employees said they could not reveal the names, citing non-disclosure agreements. (Psy Group is in the process of liquidation.)

It is unclear if Zamel or Psy Group ever carried out the campaign for Trump.

At the same time, Zamel had his own discussions with Trump associates. The special counsel’s office has examined whether Zamel’s interactions with the Trump team, and his conversations about a plan to help Trump win the election, overlapped or coincided with conversations Psy Group employees had with Birnbaum and Gates.

Zamel told employees he used Psy Group material in conversations with Trump associates, the employees said.

“Joel is a very secretive guy, he holds all his cards very close to the chest,” one former employee said. “It’s very possible he was running some sort of side operation that used Psy resources but didn’t include the staff.”

Mueller’s team is still actively looking at Zamel’s interactions with the Trump team beyond Psy Group, according to sources familiar with Gates’ cooperation.

After the election, Zamel helped craft a plan a plan for regime change in Iran. The Daily Beast was the first to report the meeting, which included Zamel, Nader, incoming national security advisor Flynn, and a Saudi general, Ahmed al-Assiri. During this time, Nader was also promoting a plan for the U.S. to carry out economic sabotage against Tehran. The meeting appears to be part of Saudi and Emirati efforts to lobby the incoming Trump administration against Qatar and Iran, their top regional competitors.

The special counsel’s office is also probing a payment made from Zamel to Nader for $2 million after the election. Mueller has questioned multiple witnesses, including Gates, about that payment, according to three sources with knowledge of his team’s questioning.

Mueller’s team is also examining whether foreigners illegally donated to Trump’s inaugural committee via American intermediaries leading up to Trump taking office. One matter of interest is a breakfast meeting that took place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington three days before the presidential inauguration. That event included Flynn, then-House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and GOP mega donors. Dozens of foreign officials, including those from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Qatar, were invited to the event.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/rick-gate ... ia=desktop





"Grand Bargain"

SPOILER: Trump conspired pre-election with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Russia, and Egypt




Putin told trump how to publicly respond to Trump Tower meeting with the Russians

Andrew S. Weiss


Andrew S. Weiss Retweeted Greg Miller

THREAD: Has anyone noticed the very disturbing overlap between Trump’s insistence on preventing his own staff from learning about discussions with Putin at the Hamburg G20 meeting in July 2017 and how he handled initial revelations about the infamous Trump Tower meeting? 1/

Greg Miller
Verified account

@gregpmiller
NEW: After closed door mtg with Putin, Trump took his interpreter's notes, told linguist not to reveal what had transpired to other administration officials. Pattern of concealing communications with Putin. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-has-concealed-details-of-his-face-to-face-encounters-with-putin-from-senior-officials-in-administration/2019/01/12/65f6686c-1434-11e9-b6ad-9cfd62dbb0a8_story.html?utm_term=.866a342cc660&wpisrc=al_post_exclusive__alert-exclusive--alert-national&wpmk=1 …



Consider the following timeline: on July 7–8, 2017,Trump attends the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany the site of his first face to face encounter with Putin. 2/


On the morning of July 7, 2017, the New York Times informs the White House--for the first time--that it has learned about the Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer with Russian government connections, Natalya Veselnitskaya. 3/


The New York Times asks the White House to comment. 4/

On the afternoon of July 7, 2017, Trump and Putin, accompanied only by Rex Tillerson, Sergei Lavrov and their interpreters, meet for 2 and 1/2 hours. 5/



We now know from @gregpmiller that after the meeting Trump seizes the US interpreter’s notes and tells her not to brief senior NSC or State Department aides about the conversation with Putin. https://wapo.st/2Fyrqtt?tid=ss_tw&utm_t ... ec17269030 … 6/


Later that evening on July 7, 2017, during the formal G20 summit dinner, Trump seeks out Putin for another conversation. Putin’s interpreter is the only other participant. 7/


The fact of this meeting is not publicly revealed until more than a week later after @ianbremmer hears about it from other G20 attendees. (The White House doesn’t officially confirm it until July 18, 2017.) http://reut.rs/2vfTTwi @steveholland1 8/


As Bremmer points out, Trump oddly doesn’t even inform his own staff afterwards that he’s had this second conversation with Putin. https://twitter.com/ianbremmer/status/1 ... 8152428545 … 9/



On the AF1 flight back to Washington the next day on July 8, 2017, Trump dictates the text of the now infamous, misleading statement (for Don Jr. to release) about the Trump Tower meeting. http://wapo.st/2vh7dmA?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.c483e459eca7 … @AshleyRParker @CarolLeonnig @PhilipRucker @thamburger 10/


Don Jr.’s statement to @nytimes emphasizes: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” at the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya 11/



The @nytimes story about the Trump Tower meeting appears later that same day (July 8, 2017) https://nyti.ms/2uWPOMw


On July 11, 2017 the same @nytimes team breaks the story that Don Jr was told in advance that Veselnitskaya intended to provide dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign at the behest of the Russian government. Don Jr. replies: "I love it." https://nyti.ms/2u4Ly0W 13/



On July 19, 2017 Trump repeats the false assertion that he talked to Putin about adoption in a conversation with @peterbakernyt, @nytmike and @maggieNYT
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/p ... ule=inline … 14/




In the same interview, Trump also floats the idea that there was nothing inappropriate about his senior-most campaign officials meeting with foreign emissaries who wanted to help his campaign. “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” 15/



All of this begs the question: What did Trump and Putin actually discuss at that impromptu one-on-one dinner meeting at the Hamburg G20 on July 7, 2017? 16/



Moreover, why did they huddle together by themselves within hours of the White House learning that the at-that-point-still-secret Trump Tower meeting between Trump, Jr. and the Russians was about to become public? 17/



Put another way, shortly after the New York Times reached out to the White House to ask about a secret meeting with the Russians, Trump himself sought a secret meeting with the Russians. 18/


h/t Former federal prosecutor who helped compile this timeline and series of as-yet unanswered questions END
https://twitter.com/andrewsweiss/status ... 0051736577
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:34 pm

this is it ...truly is a Nixon moment :yay

collusion and obstruction

Adam Schiff
The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.


The other big thing here is that Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar just finished expertly cornering Donald Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr, getting him to specifically admit that if the president suborns perjury, it’s felony obstruction. Unless Klobuchar got incredibly lucky on this with regard to specificity and timing, she must have known this story was about to break. In other words, forces are now aligning against Trump by the hour.



President Trump Directed His Attorney To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project


Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Jason Leopold
Posted on January 17, 2019, at 10:11 p.m. ET


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Donald Trump and his longtime attorney Michael Cohen.
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to "minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — "in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Got a tip? You can email tips@buzzfeed.com. To learn how to reach us securely, go to tips.buzzfeed.com.
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Cohen and an associate, Felix Sater, had continued working on Trump Tower Moscow through June 2016. Sater communicated with Russian bankers, developers, and officials connected to the Kremlin. That revelation was confirmed in Mueller’s filings against Cohen in court last November.

Attorneys close to the administration helped Cohen prepare his testimony and draft his statement to the Senate panel, the sources said. The sources did not say who the attorneys were or whether they were part of the White House counsel’s staff, and did not present evidence that the lawyers knew the statements would be false.

An attorney for Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel who reportedly gave about 30 hours of testimony to the special counsel, told BuzzFeed News: “Don McGahn had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”

Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Former White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II in the lobby of Trump Tower in 2016. His attorney told BuzzFeed News Mr. McGahn "had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”
After Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the matter, Mueller’s team filed a memo in court saying he had offered them “credible” and “useful” information over the course of seven interviews. The special counsel wrote that Cohen had provided details about his contacts with “persons connected to the White House” in 2017 and 2018 and about how he had prepared his statements to Congress.

The White House did not return detailed messages seeking comment, nor did an an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. or the Trump Organization.

A spokesperson for the Office of Special Counsel declined to comment.

Cohen also declined comment — but the law enforcement sources familiar with his testimony to the special counsel said he had confirmed that Trump directed him to lie to Congress, and also that he had provided details of his conversations about the project with the president and Ivanka and Donald Jr.

Those three members of the Trump family have distanced themselves from the Moscow project, saying that they had little knowledge of the negotiations. But a picture of their deep involvement is now emerging, as FBI agents and prosecutors pore over witness interviews and internal documents from Cohen and other Trump Organization officials and executives.

Trump was even made aware that Cohen was speaking to Russian government officials about the deal. The lawyer at one point spoke to a Kremlin aide as he sought support for the tower.

Trump also encouraged Cohen to plan a trip to Russia during the campaign, where the candidate could meet face-to-face with Putin.

BuzzFeed News has previously reported that text messages and emails show Sater — a real estate developer, convicted stock swindler, and longtime asset for US government intelligence agencies — worked furiously to arrange a trip for Cohen to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he was supposed to meet with top Russian bankers and government officials. Cohen told Sater that to advance the deal, Trump himself would also go to Russia, after the Republican National Convention in July 2016.

Melissa Lyttle / Melissa Lyttle for BuzzFeed News
Felix Sater, who worked with Michael Cohen to get Trump Tower Moscow built, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2018.
The trip to St. Petersburg never took place and the plans to build Trump Tower Moscow never came to fruition. But the negotiations occupy an important place in Mueller’s investigation, as agents try to learn whether it is connected to the Kremlin’s interference campaign and whom Trump associates were in contact with to close the deal.

After Cohen pleaded guilty last November, Trump defended his continued involvement in the Moscow project during the election, telling reporters: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”


Federal agents looking into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election also tried to clarify the roles that Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. played in the Moscow tower negotiations, the sources said.

In his plea deal with Mueller’s team, Cohen acknowledged that the conversations he had about the project with Trump exceeded the three short briefings he testified that he gave the president and that he also held more extensive discussions about it with other members of the Trump family. The sources said Cohen gave Trump’s children “very detailed updates.”

Provided to BuzzFeed News
An architectural rendering of the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.
Ivanka Trump was slated to manage a spa at the tower and personally recommended an architect. She also instructed Cohen to speak with a Russian athlete who offered “synergy on a government level” to get the Moscow project off the ground, in another aspect of the deal first revealed by BuzzFeed News that later was affirmed by the special counsel’s sentencing memo. Cohen rebuffed the athlete’s proposal, which angered Ivanka Trump, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump's attorney wrote that she was only "minimally involved" in the project. "Ms. Trump did not know about this proposal until after a non-binding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, never visited the prospective project site and, even internally, was only minimally involved," wrote Peter Mirijanian.

Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2017, that he was only “peripherally aware” of the plan to build a tower in Moscow. “Most of my knowledge has been gained since as it relates to hearing about it over the last few weeks.”

The two law enforcement sources disputed this characterization and said that he and Cohen had multiple, detailed conversations on this subject during the campaign.

Cohen will testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 7. ●

Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.

Contact Jason Leopold at jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com.

Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/amphtml/ja ... ssion=true



President Trump Directed His Attorney To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project


This is why we are in government shutdown wall hysteria.



WHY IS TRUMP IN A JOINT DEFENSE AGREEMENT WITH MANAFORT IF RUDY CONCEDES MANAFORT MAY HAVE “COLLUDED”?

January 17, 2019/24 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

Rudy Giuliani had yet another of his limited hangout meltdowns on CNN last night. (This thread has the best summary I’ve seen until CNN posts a transcript.) In it, Rudy significantly moved his previous goalposts on “collusion,” by claiming that he had never said no one on the campaign had “colluded,” he had only made such claims about the President.

Rudy: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign. I have no idea —

Cuomo: Yes you have.

Rudy: I have not. I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.

[snip]

Cuomo: The guy running his campaign was working on an issue at the same time as the convention.

Rudy: He didn’t say nobody, he said he didn’t. He said he didn’t. He didn’t say nobody. How would you know that nobody in your campaign–

Cuomo: He actually did say that, Rudy — as far as I know.

Rudy: Well I didn’t say that. Well, as far as he knows that’s true!

In this clip, Rudy even says, “I have no idea — never have — what other people were doing.”

Except he did — or claimed he did. Rudy has claimed over and over again that he’s sure the President is not at any risk of being charged with “collusion” because he knows what all of the critical witnesses — who are all in a Joint Defense Agreement with the President — told Mueller.

GIULIANI: Well, I have a pretty good idea because I have seen all the documents that they have. We have debriefed all their witnesses. And we have pressed them numerous times.

BASH: You have debriefed all of their witnesses?

GIULIANI: Well, I think so, I mean, the ones that were — the ones that were involved in the joint defense agreement, which constitutes all the critical ones.


That’s actually not true. Rick Gates was reportedly never part of a JDA. Mike Flynn famously pulled out of it to turn state’s evidence. Don McGahn apparently didn’t share all the details of his 30 hours of interviews with Mueller’s team.

But it is true with respect to one person: Paul Manafort. Hell, even after Manafort flipped, his lawyer continued to brief Rudy about what was said and Rudy based certain defense strategy decisions — most notably whether and how to answer Mueller’s questionnaire for the President — on what he heard from Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing.

Rudy says he never learned that Manafort had shared campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik until Manafort’s lawyers “accidentally” failed to redact that detail a few weeks ago (in fact, Rudy hilariously blames that revelation on a leak). Yet he was getting briefed on what Manafort was saying — he was in a Joint Defense Agreement!! — during the entire period when Manafort was lying about sharing polling data with Kilimnik.

Rudy insists that, even if Manafort “colluded,” the President did not. And yet, the President was in — remains in, as far as we know — a Joint Defense Agreement with this guy that Rudy now concedes may have “colluded” during the election.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/17/w ... -colluded/




Did Russian developers give Trump a $1 million payment on the Moscow Trump Tower contract?

Grant SternJan 17
Trump’s contract required a hefty up-front fee to him from the Moscow developers licensing his brand.


Donald Trump superimposed over the Moscow City high-rise district and his licensing agreement’s key terms.
The signed contract for a Trump Tower Moscow real estate licensing deal which CNN’s Chris Cuomo obtained last month contains a clear provision requiring the Russian developers to pay $1 million to Donald Trump on the execution of the deal by both sides.

Nobody knows today if Donald Trump collected the $1 million payoff from his Russian developer partners during the last Presidential election when the deal was signed by both sides.

Trump’s license payment before the Moscow project would open with his name on it totaled $4 million altogether.

The relevant portions of the Trump Tower Moscow agreement are on pages 4 and 5, which specify that the licensor (Trump’s partner) shall deposit a $100,000 expense fee upon signing the deal, which can be used towards the million dollars down payment required from the partner at signing per the contract’s “Schedule 2" as described on page 16 of the contract below.

Here are the up-front fee provisions of the deal (click images to enlarge):



Excerpts of the Trump Tower brand licensing agreement for a building in the Moscow City development.
A contract is considered “executed” when both parties sign the deal.

“If money changed hands during the campaign, then that means Russia got its corrupt tentacles into the heart of the Trump organization,” a former Russia director on the National Security Council, Dr. Michael R. Carpenter told me, after examining the written agreement today.

“In addition to whatever kompromat they may have already had on Trump,” says Carpenter. “This would have been the icing on the cake.”
Reports of a Moscow City deal to build a Trump Tower emerged in August 2017 and former Trump Org executive and presidential personal lawyer Michael Cohen denied at the time that the business deal progressed past October 2015, professing that the deal was not signed.

In September 2017, a copy of the Trump Tower Moscow contract leaked to the media, and it wasn’t signed by Trump.

But this past December, Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress, specifically to mislead them over the Moscow City Trump Twitter agreement.

CNN obtained the fully executed agreement soon afterward.

It turns out that not only did it continue through the entire GOP primary, but the agreement was actually signed, meaning the payment came due and that Donald Trump certainly knows about the Trump Tower Moscow deal he denied throughout the campaign.


Signature block in the Trump Tower Moscow license agreement.
The Moscow City deal wasn’t even the only Trump Tower development plan kicking around in Moscow in 2015, while Trump started running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Donald Trump also had a signed deal with his Miss Universe 2013 hosts Crocus City, the realty company owned by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. That earlier Trump Tower plan was most likely sidelined by its source of funds.

After Trump inked the deal with Agalarov, state-owned Sberbank – who agreed to fund the tower with Agalarov – got sanctioned by the US government after the Russian Federation’s illegal land annexation of Crimea.

“Trump has never done anything for free,” says Democratic Coalition senior advisor Scott Dworkin who pointed out that the agreement calls for a generous up-front payment last week. “If Trump’s former lawyer Cohen was planning a trip to Moscow as late as June 2016, eight months later, then they probably bagged the million dollars.”

Public corruption cases require a quid pro quo, a favor for a favor.

If Donald Trump collected a million dollars up front from Russian interests while running for the Republican Presidential nomination and Mueller’s investigators found the money, it could become the first hard evidence of the most consequential bribery crime in American history.


Here is a copy of the complete Trump Tower Moscow contract via CNN:

https://thesternfacts.com/did-russian-d ... 20045fc676
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:04 pm


COMPROMISE: BEFORE TRUMP WON HIS FIRST PRIMARY, PUTIN COLLECTED HIS FIRST RECEIPT


January 18, 2019/0 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
In this post, I noted that, while important, the Buzzfeed story on Trump’s role in Michael Cohen’s lies to Congress did not advance our understanding of how the Trump Tower deal fits into the larger Trump conspiracy with Russia.

It doesn’t include a number of details that would be more important for understanding how the Trump Tower deal relates to other parts of Trump’s conspiracy with Russians: who (if not Trump himself or Don Jr) was the senior campaign official who knew of Cohen’s negotiations, precisely what Don Jr knew of the negotiations on June 3 when he took a meeting described to be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and whether the timing of Cohen’s plans for a trip to St. Petersburg — which started on June 9 and ended on June 14 — related somehow to the June 9 Trump Tower meeting and the June 14 revelation that Russians had hacked the DNC. It’d also be useful to know whether Cohen had any 2016 dealings with Ike Kaveladze, who knew of Cohen from the 2013 business dealings between Trump and the Agalarovs, and who had a curious reaction to a video of him in the wake of the June 9 meeting story breaking. Those are the details that would advance the story of how the Trump Tower deal relates to Russia’s efforts to hack the election.


But there is a piece of the Cohen statement of the offense the significance of which hasn’t gotten sufficient attention. That’s the detail that Dmitry Peskov’s personal assistant took detailed notes from a 20-minute January 20, 2016 phone call with Cohen, which led to Putin’s office contacting Felix Sater the next day.

On or about January 16, 2016, COHEN emailed Russian Official l’s office again, said he was trying to reach another high-level Russian official, and asked for someone who spoke English to contact him.

On or about January 20, 2016 , COHEN received an email from the personal assistant to Russian Official 1 (“Assistant 1 “), stating that she had been trying to reach COHEN and requesting that he call her using a Moscow-based phone number she provided.

Shortly after receiving the email, COHEN called Assistant 1 and spoke to her for approximately 20 minutes. On that call, COHEN described his position at the Company and outlined the proposed Moscow Project, including the Russian development company with which the Company had partnered. COHEN requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction. Assistant 1 asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia.

The day after COHEN’s call with Assistant 1, Individual 2 contacted him, asking for a call. Individual 2 wrote to COHEN, “It’s about [the President of Russia] they called today.”

Cohen had lied about this, claiming that he had emailed Peskov’s public comment line just once, but gotten no response.

But this language is important not just because they showed that Cohen lied. It’s important because of what Cohen would have said to Peskov’s assistant. And it’s important because a written record of what Cohen said got handed on to Putin’s office, if not Putin himself.

BuzzFeed’s piece from May reveals that Cohen would have been in discussions with one of two banks in January 2016: VTB or GenBank.

Their surrogates in Moscow would be meeting with Putin and a “top deputy” just two days later, and they had financing: VTB Bank President and Chairman Andrey Kostin was on board to fund the project, Sater said in an email.

The bank was a dicey choice. VTB was under US sanctions at the time, with American citizens and companies forbidden to do business with it. Asked by congressional investigators if he knew the bank was blacklisted, Sater responded: “Of course. I wasn’t seeking funding, the local development partner would have. Trump Organization never gets financing from local partners.”

[snip]

New Year’s Eve 2015, he sent Cohen an image of a letter from GenBank — not VTB Bank, as they had earlier discussed — inviting the men to Moscow for a visit.

Just nine days earlier, the US Treasury Department had sanctioned GenBank for operating in Crimea after the disputed Russian takeover. GenBank became the first Russian financial institution to move into the Crimean peninsula.


Both were sanctioned at the time.

A former GRU officer contact of Sater’s was key to obtaining funding from VTB.
This friend is a former member of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit that the US intelligence community believes interfered during the 2016 election.

[snip]

[On December 19], Sater told Cohen that their invitations and visas were being arranged by VTB Bank, and that Kostin, the bank’s powerful president and chairman, would meet Cohen in Moscow. Key to getting VTB on board was the former GRU spy; Sater told congressional and special counsel investigators that the former spy said he had a source at VTB Bank who would support the deal.


Obtaining funding from GenBank would have relied on Putin and Peskov.
Sater told Cohen that GenBank operates “through Putin’s administration and nothing gets done there without approval from the top. The meetings in Moscow will be with ministers — in US, that’s cabinet-level and with Putin’s top administration people. This likely will include Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary. To discuss goals, meeting agenda and meeting time between Putin and Trump.”


The BuzzFeed article makes it clear that Sater’s GRU contact got back involved after Cohen’s conversation with Peskov’s assistant.

All of which is to say that when Cohen called Peskov’s assistant, he would have told her that he was speaking on behalf of Donald Trump, that Trump remained interested in a Trump Tower in Moscow (as he had been in 2013, the last time Putin had dangled a personal meeting with Trump), and that on Trump’s behalf Cohen was willing to discuss making a deal involving both a sanctioned bank (whichever one it was) and a GRU officer.

So it’s not just that Trump was pursuing a real estate deal while running for President. He was pursuing a real estate deal involving a sanctioned bank — possibly one sanctioned for its involvement in Crimea — and involving someone with ties to the intelligence agency that was preparing to hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

Cohen told Peskov’s assistant Trump was willing to negotiate that deal while running for President. The assistant wrote all that down (how Mueller knows this is an interesting question on its own right). And then she or Peskov passed on at least the content of the notes to get Putin’s office to contact Sater.

And all that happened before Trump performed unexpectedly well in the Iowa caucuses on February 1.

Last year, I argued that — pee tape or no — the kompromat Putin has on Trump consists of a series of receipts of Trump formally communicating his willingness to enter into a conspiracy with Russia, receipts that would be devastating if Putin released them.
Trump and the Russians were engaged in a call-and-response, a call-and-response that appears in the Papadopoulos plea and (as Lawfare notes) the GRU indictment, one that ultimately did deal dirt and got at least efforts to undermine US sanctions (to say nothing of the Syria effort that Trump was implementing less than 14 hours after polls closed, an effort that has been a key part of both Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn’s claims about the Russian interactions).

At each stage of this romance with Russia, Russia got a Trump flunkie (first, Papadopoulos) or Trump himself to publicly engage in the call-and-response. All of that led up to the point where, on July 16, 2018, after Rod Rosenstein loaded Trump up with a carefully crafted indictment showing Putin that Mueller knew certain things that Trump wouldn’t fully understand, Trump came out of a meeting with Putin looking like he had been thoroughly owned and stood before the entire world and spoke from Putin’s script in defiance of what the US intelligence community has said.

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

Vladimir Putin obtained receipts at each stage of this romance of Trump’s willing engagement in a conspiracy with Russians for help getting elected. Putin knows what each of those receipts mean.


What Cohen plea deal makes clear is that Putin pocketed the first of those receipts — a receipt showing willingness to work with both sanctioned banks and the GRU — even before the first vote was cast. Even before GRU hacked its first Democratic target (though APT 29 had been spying on the Democrats since the previous summer).

Discussing a real estate deal is not, as Trump has repeated, illegal. If that’s all this were about, Trump and Cohen might not have lied about it.

But it’s not. Even before the GRU hacked John Podesta, even before Don Jr told his June 9 visitors that his dad would consider lifting sanctions if he got election, Michael Cohen let a key Putin deputy know that Trump would be happy to discuss real estate deals that involved both partnering with the GRU and with sanctioned banks.

And Putin has been sitting on that receipt ever since.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/18/c ... t/#respond




Shorter Special Counsel statement: ‘Your report may not be precise ... but, more importantly WE don’t leak.


Jason Leopold

UPDATE: The special counsel's office has taken the rare step of issuing a statement in response to our report on Michael Cohen being directed by Trump to lie to Congress
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:04 pm



COMPROMISE: BEFORE TRUMP WON HIS FIRST PRIMARY, PUTIN COLLECTED HIS FIRST RECEIPT


January 18, 2019/126 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, emptywheel, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel
In this post, I noted that, while important, the Buzzfeed story on Trump’s role in Michael Cohen’s lies to Congress did not advance our understanding of how the Trump Tower deal fits into the larger Trump conspiracy with Russia.

It doesn’t include a number of details that would be more important for understanding how the Trump Tower deal relates to other parts of Trump’s conspiracy with Russians: who (if not Trump himself or Don Jr) was the senior campaign official who knew of Cohen’s negotiations, precisely what Don Jr knew of the negotiations on June 3 when he took a meeting described to be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and whether the timing of Cohen’s plans for a trip to St. Petersburg — which started on June 9 and ended on June 14 — related somehow to the June 9 Trump Tower meeting and the June 14 revelation that Russians had hacked the DNC. It’d also be useful to know whether Cohen had any 2016 dealings with Ike Kaveladze, who knew of Cohen from the 2013 business dealings between Trump and the Agalarovs, and who had a curious reaction to a video of him in the wake of the June 9 meeting story breaking. Those are the details that would advance the story of how the Trump Tower deal relates to Russia’s efforts to hack the election.

But there is a piece of the Cohen statement of the offense the significance of which hasn’t gotten sufficient attention. That’s the detail that Dmitry Peskov’s personal assistant took detailed notes from a 20-minute January 20, 2016 phone call with Cohen, which led to Putin’s office contacting Felix Sater the next day.

On or about January 16, 2016, COHEN emailed [Peskov]’s office again, said he was trying to reach another high-level Russian official, and asked for someone who spoke English to contact him.

On or about January 20, 2016 , COHEN received an email from the personal assistant to [Peskov] (“Assistant 1 “), stating that she had been trying to reach COHEN and requesting that he call her using a Moscow-based phone number she provided.

Shortly after receiving the email, COHEN called Assistant 1 and spoke to her for approximately 20 minutes. On that call, COHEN described his position at the Company and outlined the proposed Moscow Project, including the Russian development company with which the Company had partnered. COHEN requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction. Assistant 1 asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia.

The day after COHEN’s call with Assistant 1, [Sater] contacted him, asking for a call. Individual 2 wrote to COHEN, “It’s about [the President of Russia] they called today.”

Cohen had lied about this, claiming that he had emailed Peskov’s public comment line just once, but gotten no response.

This language is important not just because it shows that Cohen lied. It’s important because of what Cohen would have said to Peskov’s assistant. And it’s important because a written record of what Cohen said got handed on to Putin’s office, if not Putin himself.

BuzzFeed’s piece from May reveals that Cohen would have been in discussions with one of two banks in January 2016: VTB or GenBank.

Their surrogates in Moscow would be meeting with Putin and a “top deputy” just two days later, and they had financing: VTB Bank President and Chairman Andrey Kostin was on board to fund the project, Sater said in an email.

The bank was a dicey choice. VTB was under US sanctions at the time, with American citizens and companies forbidden to do business with it. Asked by congressional investigators if he knew the bank was blacklisted, Sater responded: “Of course. I wasn’t seeking funding, the local development partner would have. Trump Organization never gets financing from local partners.”

[snip]

New Year’s Eve 2015, he sent Cohen an image of a letter from GenBank — not VTB Bank, as they had earlier discussed — inviting the men to Moscow for a visit.

Just nine days earlier, the US Treasury Department had sanctioned GenBank for operating in Crimea after the disputed Russian takeover. GenBank became the first Russian financial institution to move into the Crimean peninsula.

Both were sanctioned. While Sater (who seems to have knowingly set this trap) dismissed the import of the sanctions, Cohen clearly knew — and left record that he knew in communications with Sater — that they were the intended funders.

A former GRU officer contact of Sater’s was key to obtaining funding from VTB.
This friend is a former member of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit that the US intelligence community believes interfered during the 2016 election.

[snip]

[On December 19], Sater told Cohen that their invitations and visas were being arranged by VTB Bank, and that Kostin, the bank’s powerful president and chairman, would meet Cohen in Moscow. Key to getting VTB on board was the former GRU spy; Sater told congressional and special counsel investigators that the former spy said he had a source at VTB Bank who would support the deal.

Obtaining funding from GenBank would have relied on Putin and Peskov.

Sater told Cohen that GenBank operates “through Putin’s administration and nothing gets done there without approval from the top. The meetings in Moscow will be with ministers — in US, that’s cabinet-level and with Putin’s top administration people. This likely will include Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary. To discuss goals, meeting agenda and meeting time between Putin and Trump.”

The BuzzFeed article makes it clear that Sater’s GRU contact got back involved after Cohen’s conversation with Peskov’s assistant.

All of which is to say that when Cohen called Peskov’s assistant, he would have told her that he was speaking on behalf of Donald Trump, that Trump remained interested in a Trump Tower in Moscow (as he had been in 2013, the last time Putin had dangled a personal meeting with Trump), and that on Trump’s behalf Cohen was willing to discuss making a deal involving both a sanctioned bank (whichever one it was) and a former GRU officer.

So it’s not just that Trump was pursuing a real estate deal while running for President. He was pursuing a real estate deal involving a sanctioned bank — possibly one sanctioned for its involvement in Crimea — and involving someone with ties to the intelligence agency that was preparing to hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

Cohen told Peskov’s assistant Trump was willing to negotiate that deal while running for President. The assistant wrote all that down (how Mueller knows this is an interesting question on its own right). And then she or Peskov passed on at least the content of the notes to get Putin’s office to contact Sater.

And all that happened before Trump performed unexpectedly well in the Iowa caucuses on February 1.

Last year, I argued that — pee tape or no — the kompromat Putin has on Trump consists of a series of receipts of Trump formally communicating his willingness to enter into a conspiracy with Russia, receipts that would be devastating if Putin released them.
Trump and the Russians were engaged in a call-and-response, a call-and-response that appears in the Papadopoulos plea and (as Lawfare notes) the GRU indictment, one that ultimately did deal dirt and got at least efforts to undermine US sanctions (to say nothing of the Syria effort that Trump was implementing less than 14 hours after polls closed, an effort that has been a key part of both Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn’s claims about the Russian interactions).

At each stage of this romance with Russia, Russia got a Trump flunkie (first, Papadopoulos) or Trump himself to publicly engage in the call-and-response. All of that led up to the point where, on July 16, 2018, after Rod Rosenstein loaded Trump up with a carefully crafted indictment showing Putin that Mueller knew certain things that Trump wouldn’t fully understand, Trump came out of a meeting with Putin looking like he had been thoroughly owned and stood before the entire world and spoke from Putin’s script in defiance of what the US intelligence community has said.

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

Vladimir Putin obtained receipts at each stage of this romance of Trump’s willing engagement in a conspiracy with Russians for help getting elected. Putin knows what each of those receipts mean.

What Cohen’s plea deal makes clear is that Putin pocketed the first of those receipts — a receipt showing Trump’s willingness to work with both sanctioned banks and the GRU — even before the first vote was cast. Even before GRU hacked its first Democratic target (though APT 29 had been spying on the Democrats since the previous summer).

Discussing a real estate deal is not, as Trump has repeated, illegal. If that’s all this were about, Trump and Cohen might not have lied about it.

But it’s not. Even before the GRU hacked John Podesta, even before Don Jr told his June 9 visitors that his dad would consider lifting sanctions if he got elected, Michael Cohen let a key Putin deputy know that Trump would be happy to discuss real estate deals that involved both partnering with the GRU and with sanctioned banks.

And Putin has been sitting on that receipt ever since.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/18/c ... t-receipt/



How Michael Cohen’s Plea Deal Implicates Donald Trump Jr.

Marcy Wheeler
Donald Trump Jr.'s claims that he knew little about Russian talks seem inconsistent with Michael Cohen's latest plea agreemen
William Campbell via Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr.’s claims that he knew little about Russian talks seem inconsistent with Michael Cohen’s latest plea agreement.
When Donald Trump Jr. was interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September of last year ― a conversation that mostly focused on the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting in which Russians were supposedly going to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton ― he claimed to know “very little” about talks to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow. He claimed to be “peripherally aware” of the negotiations, but said he did not know of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s outreach to the Kremlin seeking President Vladimir Putin’s help on the deal until that news had been reported by the press.

Perhaps the president’s son was playing word games in sworn testimony to the Senate. But his claims seem inconsistent with a detail from Cohen’s latest plea agreement.

In a letter to the congressional intelligence committees sent in August 2017, Cohen had falsely contended that he “did not brief [the elder Donald Trump] or any of his family” on the Moscow deal, save for three briefings to Trump himself. As his latest statement of the offense lays out, Cohen now says that he did brief Trump’s family members within the company about the project. And The Wall Street Journal reported that Don Jr. was included on emails about the project.

Don Jr.’s exposure may extend well beyond the perjury charges that Trump advisers reportedly worry he could face for lying to Congress.
Cohen’s statement of the offense describes lying about the Trump Tower deal to “give the false impression the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and … the very first primary,’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigation.”

At least for the purposes of Don Jr.’s congressional appearance (the only public transcript of an investigative interview that addresses the topic), that effort to mislead had its desired effect. By sending his letter to the intelligence committees last August, Cohen established his lies before Don Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2017. Perhaps as a result, Judiciary Committee staffers didn’t challenge the claims by the president’s son that he knew very little about the deal.

So Don Jr.’s claims to the committee regarding the Moscow project remain uncorrected, along with a number of other statements that we now know to be false. For example, contrary to his claim that no other foreign nationals offered or provided assistance to the Trump presidential campaign (as the Russians had done), a group from the Middle East ― including Israeli, Saudi and United Arab Emirate nationals ― had offered social media manipulation services at another Trump Tower meeting he attended. Don Jr.’s claims that there was no follow-up to the June 2016 meeting with the Russians are also belied by later testimony and documentary evidence provided to the same Senate committee, which showed that the intermediary who set up the meeting, Rob Goldstone, made extensive efforts to set up a second meeting after Trump won and probably had direct contact with the president’s son in doing so.

This likely explains the multiple reports ― going back as far as August of this year and expressed more urgently in the wake of the midterm elections ― that Trump fears that special counsel Robert Mueller will seek to indict his son.

But the substance of Cohen’s new plea suggests Don Jr.’s exposure may extend well beyond the perjury charges that Trump advisers reportedly worry he could face for lying to Congress.

A key part of the negotiations over the Moscow Trump Tower deal, according to Cohen’s plea, involved the pursuit of a meeting between Trump and Putin. As early as Jan. 21, 2016, Putin’s office was responding to Cohen’s requests for assistance with the real estate deal. On May 4, Cohen laid out how any meeting between the two leaders should be deferred until Trump had sealed the Republican presidential nomination. Cohen envisioned traveling to Russia himself before the Republican National Convention in July in a discussion with businessman Felix Sater, who was trying to broker the tower deal, but said that Trump’s meeting with Putin should take place “once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

That puts the other efforts to work toward a meeting between Trump and Putin ― including those involving the National Rifle Association and campaign staffer George Papadopoulos ― in a significantly different light. Trump had a financial incentive, in the form of Putin’s support for a big real estate deal in Moscow, to pursue such a meeting.

More importantly, it puts the June gathering at Trump Tower in New York in a dramatically different light. The email that Goldstone sent to set up the meeting included a line describing his offer of dirt as being part of other Russian support for Trump. The dirt he was offering, Goldstone asserted, “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” That email means one thing if ― as Don Jr. claimed ― he didn’t really know that his father might gain a huge real estate development by sidling up to Russians. It means something entirely different if Don Jr. knew, as Cohen’s plea strongly suggests he did, about ongoing discussions regarding the Moscow project that relied on the support not just of Russian bureaucrats, but of Putin himself.

Furthermore, the timing laid out in Cohen’s plea hints that there may be an even closer tie. In the immediate wake of the Trump Tower meeting, at the end of which several attendees believed that Don Jr. had promised to consider eliminating Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russians if his father got elected, Cohen and Sater finalized a trip to St. Petersburg, where Cohen expected he might meet Putin. “From on or about June 9 to June 14, 2016,” the plea deal says, Sater “sent numerous messages to COHEN about the travel, including forms for COHEN to complete.” Something happened at the last minute to change Cohen’s mind. On June 14, the same day The Washington Post revealed that Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee, Cohen met Sater in the lobby of Trump Tower and said he would “not be traveling at that time.”

At least in Sater’s mind, the Moscow project was always connected to the presidential election. “Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater emailed Cohen in November 2015. “I will get Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

With Cohen’s negotiations to set up meetings with Putin in the background, the case that Don Jr. was discussing a deal in which Russia would provide dirt and facilitate a real estate project in exchange for sanctions relief gets far stronger.

Mueller’s not there yet, at least with the information he’s made public. But with Cohen’s plea, he’s inching closer to laying out a complex conspiracy in which Russians offered stolen emails and real estate in exchange for sanctions relief, with the president’s son at the center of everything.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog and is the author of Anatomy of Deceit. Follow her on Twitter at @emptywheel.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/op ... 4f48b3c882
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:08 pm

Confidential doc shows that sanctions on Deripaska's firms are weaker than advertised and Trump admin's sanctions relief deal frees him of huge debt by transferring shares to Russian govt-owned VTB bank while he & his allies retain majority stake.
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Russian Oligarch and Allies Could Benefit From Sanctions Deal, Document Shows

Jan. 21, 2019
An agreement that the companies controlled by the Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska negotiated with the Trump administration may have been less punitive than advertised.Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters


An agreement that the companies controlled by the Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska negotiated with the Trump administration may have been less punitive than advertised.Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted.

But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised.

The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.

With the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election continuing to shadow President Trump, the administration’s decision to lift sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies has become a political flash point. House Democrats won widespread Republican support last week for their efforts to block the sanctions relief deal. Democratic hopes of blocking the administration’s decision have been stifled by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions last April against Mr. Deripaska, six other Russian oligarchs and their companies, including Mr. Deripaska’s aluminum giant, Rusal, as well as the holding company that owns it, EN+, and another company it controls, EuroSibEnergo. Like other oligarchs, Mr. Deripaska is closely allied with the Kremlin.

The sanctions were in retaliation for “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Russia, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said at the time.

The personal sanctions on Mr. Deripaska went into effect immediately, but those on his companies were delayed several times, and Mr. Mnuchin struck a conciliatory tone toward the companies. He clarified that the goal of the sanctions was “to change the behavior” of Mr. Deripaska, and “not to put Rusal out of business,” given the company’s pivotal role as a global supplier of aluminum.

Mr. Mnuchin indicated that the Treasury Department might be willing to lift the sanctions from Mr. Deripaska’s companies if he reduced his stake to less than 50 percent.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, pressed lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week to back the sanctions deal.Alex Brandon/Associated Press


Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, pressed lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week to back the sanctions deal.Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Last month, Mr. Mnuchin announced that the department had reached an agreement to lift the sanctions on Mr. Deripaska’s companies in exchange for a commitment “to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control.”

The department laid out the broad contours of the agreement in a letter to Congress, which was released publicly. But the confidential document, which was not released publicly but was reviewed by The New York Times, describes the deal in considerably greater detail, including proprietary information about the corporate restructuring, much of it not previously reported.

It shows that the sanctions relief deal will allow Mr. Deripaska to wipe out potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in debt by transferring some of his shares to VTB, a Russian government-owned bank under limited United States sanctions that had lent him large sums of money.

The confidential document, titled “Terms of Removal,” also shows that the agreement would leave allies of Mr. Deripaska and the Kremlin with significant stakes in his companies. The document is signed by executives representing Mr. Deripaska’s three companies as well as the official in the Treasury Department who oversees the division that handled the negotiations.

The new information could lend ammunition to criticism that the Trump administration either knowingly let a Kremlin-allied oligarch off easy, or was outmaneuvered by a sophisticated legal and lobbying campaign funded by his companies.

Mr. Deripaska has attracted particular attention because he has been a bit character in the story lines around the Russia investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Deripaska had a business relationship with Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort has been convicted and pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s team.

In response to questions about the details outlined in the confidential document, the Treasury Department issued a statement broadly defending the deal, citing provisions that keep Mr. Deripaska and his allies from exerting voting control of some of their shares.

“Deripaska’s control over these entities is severed by this delisting, and he can no longer use them to carry out illicit activities on behalf of the Kremlin,” the statement said. “En+, Rusal and ESE have committed to provide Treasury with an unprecedented level of transparency into their dealings to ensure that Deripaska does not reassert control. Treasury will be vigilant in ensuring these commitments are met, and failure to comply will bring swift consequences, including the reimposition of sanctions.”

VTB Bank, a Russian government-owned bank whose main building in Moscow is at center, will receive additional shares in the business empire of Mr. Deripaska.Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

VTB Bank, a Russian government-owned bank whose main building in Moscow is at center, will receive additional shares in the business empire of Mr. Deripaska.Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Yet Mr. Deripaska’s associates have privately expressed satisfaction with the deal. And representatives for EN+ suggested to at least one prospective outside buyer who expressed interest in Mr. Deripaska’s shares that the company would only consider selling to an independent investor as a fall back option if Treasury did not approve the restructuring agreement.

The publicly released letter sent to Congress said the under the agreement to lift the corporate sanctions, Mr. Deripaska would reduce his ownership stake in EN+ from approximately 70 percent to 44.95 percent. That would include a “restructuring transaction” with a Swiss mining company with which he has worked closely, Glencore, and the transfer of one block of his EN+ stock to VTB Bank and another to a charitable foundation.

The letter did not identify either the number of shares to be transferred, or the name of the foundation. And it stressed that “none of the transactions to be undertaken consistent with the agreement will allow Deripaska to obtain cash either in return for his shares or from future dividends” issued by his companies, which “will be placed into a blocked account.”

But the unreleased, confidential document contains raw numbers, names and other details that raise questions about the degree to which the deal is penalizing Mr. Deripaska.

The document identifies the foundation as Volnoe Delo, which was founded and funded by Mr. Deripaska. It supports programs ranging from stray dog rescue to archaeological excavations to book fairs. Under the deal, it will receive nearly 21 million shares of EN+, amounting to 3.22 percent of the company.

The confidential document reveals that Glencore, which is among Rusal’s biggest customers for aluminum, will receive 67.4 million shares of EN+, good for 10.55 percent of the company.

And VTB, which reportedly already owned nearly 10 percent of EN+, will receive nearly 92 million additional shares, bringing its total stake in the company to about 24 percent.

In return for the additional shares going to VTB, which were worth nearly $800 million at the close of trading Friday on the Moscow stock exchange, Mr. Deripaska would be released from debts he owes the bank, the document shows. Mr. Deripaska had secured the loans with stock in one of his companies before the sanctions were announced. The stock prices of Rusal and EN+ plummeted after the sanctions were announced last year, but rose on the news of the deal to lift them — in effect allowing Mr. Deripaska to pay off more of the loans than he would have been able to do absent a deal with the administration.

Another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, owns a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire. He also faces sanctions from the United States.Pool photo by Alexander Ryumin

Another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, owns a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire. He also faces sanctions from the United States.Pool photo by Alexander Ryumin
Notably, VTB would be able to collect dividends from its EN+ shares, according to the confidential document, despite the bank being under limited United States sanctions.

Another Russian oligarch who faces sanctions by the United States and has attracted the interest of Mr. Mueller’s investigators, Viktor Vekselberg, also has a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire through a company called SUAL Partners Limited. Another investor in SUAL Partners is Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who has British and American citizenship. He donated $1 million through another company he controls to the committee that funded Mr. Trump’s inaugural festivities, which Mr. Vekselberg attended and to which Mr. Blavatnik was invited.

According to the confidential document, under the restructuring agreement approved by the Treasury Department, SUAL would own 22.5 percent of Rusal, while EN+ would own 56.88 percent of Rusal.

The document specifies the precise ownership stakes in EN+ of other people and entities with personal relationships to Mr. Deripaska. That includes shares owned by his ex-wife, Polina Yumasheva, a British-educated daughter of the chief of staff to Boris N. Yeltsin, a former president of Russia. She owns 5.19 percent of EN+, while her father, Valentin Yumashev, owns 1.57 percent, and a firm called Orandy Capital Limited, which reportedly has links to the family, owns another 1.78 percent, according to the document.

Taken together, Mr. Deripaska, his foundation, his ex-wife, her father and Orandy Capital would own nearly 57 percent of EN+ under the deal.

In its letter to Congress outlining the deal, Treasury stressed that independent trustees with “no personal or professional ties” to Mr. Deripaska will control the EN+ board votes associated with the shares owned by Mr. Deripaska’s foundation, his ex-wife, her father and the family-linked Orandy Capital, as well as those being transferred to VTB.

The deal also requires Mr. Deripaska to hand over voting authority for 10 percent of his shares to “a voting trust obligated to vote in the same manner as the majority of shares held by shareholders other than Deripaska.”

Critics of the deal pointed out that, after Treasury announced it, the share prices of Rusal and EN+ rose sharply, providing a boost to the portfolios of Mr. Deripaska, his family and VTB.

“Score that a win for Putin,” tweeted Michael A. McFaul, a former United States ambassador to Russia, referring to the Rusal share price surge.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/us/p ... tions.html
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:20 pm


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx0E9i78QZk


seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:33 pm wrote:
FBI tried to contact jailed ’sex coaches’ who say they have proof of Russian interferences: CNN
BY MAX GREENWOOD - 03/13/18 08:16 AM EDT

FBI tried to contact jailed ’sex coaches’ who say they have proof of Russian interferences: CNN
The FBI has tried to meet with two self-proclaimed "sex coaches" held in a Thai jail who claim to have information about Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, CNN reported Tuesday.

FBI agents contacted Thailand's Immigration Bureau last week to try to set up a meeting with Anastasia Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, both Belarusian citizens, CNN reported, citing a high-level Thai official.

Thai officials turned down that request, however, because only the detainees' lawyers and family members are permitted access to them.


The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok referred CNN's questions about the matter to Thai law enforcement.

Vashukevich and Kirillov sent a handwritten letter to the U.S. Embassy last month offering to provide evidence of Russian meddling to U.S. authorities in exchange for asylum.

The U.S. intelligence community has previously concluded that Moscow sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and favored President Trump's candidacy. Special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a criminal investigation into the matter.

Vashukevich and Kirillov were among several Russian-speaking sex coaches arrested at a seminar in Thailand last month for working without permits.

Vashukevich, who is known on social media by the name Nastya Rybka, claims that she is the former mistress of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

She alleges that she witnessed meetings between Deripaska and unnamed Americans in 2016 and 2017. Deripaska denies having an affair with Vashukevich.
http://thehill.com/homenews/news/378069 ... of-russian




Model who alleged Russian meddling in US election tells Moscow court she will not publish Deripaska recordings

Alec Luhn, Moscow
Anastasia Vashukevich
Anastasia Vashukevich claims she is the subject of 'fabricated' criminal cases in Thailand, Russia and Belarus Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/ AP
Anastasia Vashukevich, the model who recorded a former employer of Paul Manafort allegedly discussing US relations with a Russian deputy prime minister during the 2016 election, has promised in a Moscow court not to release any further recordings.

Ms Vashukevich previously claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the US election from a fling with Oleg Deripaska, the metals magnate to whom Donald Trump's campaign manager Manafort reportedly promised private briefings, something Deripaska always denied.

Video she uploaded to Instagram showed Mr Deripaska speaking on a yacht in 2016 with Sergei Prikhodko, a deputy prime minister and long-time aide to Vladimir Putin. In a separate audio recording, Mr Deripaska is heard discussing Russia's “bad relations with America”. The pair talked about the “issue with America,” Ms Vashukevich had claimed.

After her Instagram posts were discovered in February 2018, Ms Vashukevich was arrested while leading a sex training seminar in Thailand, and Mr Deripaska successfully sued Ms Vashukevich for violating his right to privacy with her photographs and recordings. A Russian court ordered her to delete the posts and pay him £5,800 in emotional damages.

She and her partner from the sex training received a suspended sentence for soliciting and conspiracy last week and deported to Belarus, their native country. On her way there, they were arrested in a Moscow airport on Thursday. They face prostitution charges carrying up to six years in prison.

After being led by bailiffs into a glass defendant's cage on Saturday, Ms Vashukevich asked Mr Deripaska's forgiveness and promised no more revelations.


Ms Vashukevich was deported by Thailand and arrested at Moscow airport Credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP
“There won't be any more audio recordings about Oleg Deripaska,” she told journalists from a glass defendant's cage. “I won't compromise him anymore, so he can relax, really, I've had enough."

She claimed that she was now subject to "fabricated" criminal cases in Thailand, Russia and Belarus.

Ms Vashukevich declined to comment when asked by The Telegraph if the prostitution charges against her were related to claims of Russian election interference.

The court delayed a hearing on her confinement until Tuesday after investigators said they didn't have enough evidence to make their arguments.

Mr Deripaska has denied interference and said he never received an offer of private briefings. He is under US sanctions, but sanctions against some of his companies are set to be lifted this week despite controversy in congress.


Mr Deripaska is seen speaking to Mr Prikhodko in footage posted by Ms Vashukevich Credit: Instagram
The meeting on the yacht took place in August 2016 off the coast of Norway, according to an investigation by opposition activist Alexei Navalny. A private jet linked to Mr Deripaska had flown between New York and Moscow and then to Norway in the previous days, Mr Navalny found.

Manafort, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation into election interference, told a Russian acquaintance he could offer private briefings to Mr Deripaska the month before, according to emails seen by The Atlantic and other publications.

Russia ordered YouTube to take down Mr Navalny's video investigation, but it is still available and has more than 8 million views.

While in jail in Thailand, Ms Vashukevich claimed to have more than 16 hours of audio recordings and photographs providing evidence of Russian interference in the US election. She promised to provide the evidence if the United States gave her asylum.


Miss Vashukevich in detention in Thailand Credit: JORGE SILVA/REUTERS
Ms Vashukevich told CNN she witnessed Mr Deripaska meeting three Americans in 2016 and 2017 and said “they had a plan for the election”. She said she had photographs of one of the Americans with Mr Deripaska, but refused to name any of the men.

CNN also reported FBI agents had unsuccessfully tried to see her in Thailand.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/0 ... court-not/


Leaked audio records allegedly show how Oleg Deripaska's associates plotted the arrest of the ‘sex trainers’ who claimed to have ‘RussiaGate’ dirt on him

13:40, 21 january 2019
Anastasia Vashukevich (also known as “Nastya Rybka”) at Moscow’s Nagatinsky District Court, January 19, 2019

Sergey Fadeichev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA
Opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny announced on Monday that he has learned about recordings of telephone calls apparently involving Oleg Deripaska and some of Deripaska's associates. Navalny says an anonymous source contacted him “a couple of months ago” with several tapes uploaded to YouTube. Navalny says he believes the recordings are authentic, arguing that the voice on file sounds like Deripaska's. He also points out that Deripaska filed a lawsuit in the town of Ust-Labinsk (where the billionaire is registered) demanding that Russian Internet service providers block access to this data.

There are three different audio recordings: one about the seizure of a water bottling plant, and two about Anastasia Vashukevich (“Nastya Rybka”), including one call that includes people named “Tatiana,” “Georgy,” and “William” talking about Vashukevich’s arrest in Thailand. In the recording, Georgy insists that everyone in Vashukevich’s group needs to be “locked up,” while William points out that Thai law doesn’t imprison “sex trainers.” Georgy then says Vashukevich’s group could be charged with illegal business activities, instead.

In February 2018, when Vashukevich, her associate Alexander Kirillov (who goes by the name “Alex Leslie”), and eight participants in their “sex training” group were arrested in Thailand, they were initially charged with illegal business activity. The 10 suspects were acquitted in April, but subsequently charged with conducting illegal sex work. After pleading guilty, everyone in the group was sentenced to probation and deported.

Who are the voices on the tapes?

Alexey Navalny believes that the “Tatiana” in the audio recording is Tatiana Monegen, the secretary general of the Russian branch of International Chamber of Commerce (which has close ties to Oleg Deripaska). Navalny says “Georgy” is likely Georgy Oganov, the former spokesman for Russia’s U.S. embassy, a board member at Deripaska’s “Basic Element” industrial group, and one of Deripaska’s advisers.

In February 2018, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigative report about Deripaska’s yachting excursion with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko. The report was based largely on photographs and videos shared on Instagram by Vashukevich, who was present on the yacht, apparently as an escort. Shortly after the report was released, Thai police arrested Vashukevich and her associates. She says she believes the two events are linked.

How did these “sex trainers” end up prosecuted all over again?

Vashukevich was supposed to be deported home to Belarus, but she and three others were arrested during their layover at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport in connection with a prostitution case (an offense punishable by up to six years in prison). According to the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, officials launched the investigation after two “sex training” graduates came forward and revealed that they had become prostitutes after the program. Sources told The Bell that one of these women was Alexandra Davydova (also known as Sasha Travka), who helped Vashukevich and Kirillov organize the sex-training program (which Vashukevich confirmed in court).

On January 19, Vashukevich was arraigned at Moscow’s Nagatinsky District Court, where she said she is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit. She also apologized personally to Oleg Deripaska, saying, “Mr. Deripaska, please forgive me. I was just a tool and people used me.”

A source familiar with the Russian investigation into Vashukevich and her “sex training” group told Business FM that the case was launched after Alexandra Davydova and her roommate came to the police, claiming that Vashukevich, Kirillov, and others in the group had effectively forced her into prostitution through blackmail and by seizing her Kazakh passport. Besides Vashukevich and Kirillov, there are two other suspects in the case who have been released on their own recognizance: Andrey Zhemko (“Andrey Poker”) and Maria Zharkova. Davydova says another man named Grigory Kogan was also involved in blackmailing her into prostitution work.

Vashukevich and Kirillov return to court on Tuesday, January 22, for a decision about the terms of their arrest during the trial.
https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/01/21 ... irt-on-him


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

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:20 am

RUDY IS RELYING ON TAPES TO CLAIM BUZZFEED IS PHONY: BUT THERE AREN’T TAPES OF EVERYTHING

January 22, 2019/2 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

Yesterday, I noted that Rudy could not be sure the Buzzfeed story was phony when Trump’s lawyers called Mueller’s office Friday, because the White House should have no knowledge of what Michael Cohen said in his interviews with law enforcement.

Today, the New Yorker provided Rudy’s latest splutter explaining why he believed he could be sure the story was phony.

Where are we now with Trump and Cohen and the BuzzFeed story, and your response to it?

I guess the BuzzFeed story—I don’t remember what it said about Cohen—but it said there was corroboration that the President talked to Cohen and told him to lie about, I guess it was, the Moscow proposal. There are no tapes, there are no texts, there is no corroboration that the President told him to lie. That’s why the special counsel said that the story was inaccurate. First time the special counsel has ever done that. As a prosecutor, having done that for fifteen years, that is quite a heavy rebuke of BuzzFeed. And the reality is that the President never talked to him and told him to lie. And I don’t know what Cohen is saying, but certainly the idea that two federal agents said that there was corroboration is totally untrue.

Did President Trump’s lawyers or you yourself reach out to the special counsel’s office after the story, as has just been reported?

I can’t discuss that. President Trump would not have done that. If anybody would have done it, obviously it would have been his lawyers, and I really can’t discuss that. That would be confidential.

Do you—

But I can tell you, from the moment I read the story, I knew the story was false.

Because?

Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed. And then, basically, when the special counsel said that, just in case there are any others I might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same thing.

Wait, what tapes have you gone through?

I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie.

So, there were no tapes you listened to, though?

No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.


This passage explains everything we need to know both about why Mueller’s office set the bar on Cohen’s testimony where they did, and why the White House responded the way it did.

But it doesn’t mean Rudy can be certain that Cohen didn’t tell authorities that Trump ordered him to lie.

Remember that when Cohen was raided, Trump squealed like having his fixer raided was the biggest constitutional crime of the century. Both Trump Org and Trump himself insisted on paying $1 million to get a special master appointed to conduct the privilege review.

The results were expansive and seemingly an expensive dud for Trump. Special Master Barbara Jones ended up finding just 7,434 items out of boxes and boxes of evidence to be privileged. There were 57 other items Trump and friends wanted to claim were privileged, but not enough to argue why they were publicly.

In her summary, Jones described that altogether 7,434 items had been deemed privileged. Trump and or Cohen had objected to Jones’ designations with regards to 57 items, but were unwilling to fight to have Wood overrule Jones’ designation if their arguments would be public.


It was part way through the Special Master process when Cohen started talking about being abandoned by Trump and warming up to flipping on the guy he had been loyal to for so long.

On July 2 and July 13, Jones started releasing big chunks of non-privileged items. Almost 2.2 million items were turned over. On July 10, Cohen moved to share all these materials with Guy Petrillo. By this point, Cohen felt he had been abandoned by Trump and was preparing to flip against his client. July 23 is when Jones reported that Cohen and Trump had withdrawn designations of privilege with respect to 12 audio files, which were then released to the government (and began to be leaked on cable shows).


I guess I was wrong when I said this process was an expensive dud. Trump’s lawyers weren’t using it to assert privilege over stuff they knew was mostly not.

They were using it to assess how much damage Cohen could do to the President. Once they reviewed that discovery, they recognized they didn’t have to continue to dangle a pardon for Cohen, because there wasn’t documentary or recorded evidence to back up the most damning allegations he might make against the President. It’d just be Cohen’s word against Trump’s.

And that’s the basis on which the White House contacted Mueller’s office Friday: Having reviewed everything seized from Cohen’s raid, including any tapes Cohen made of conversations with Trump, they believed they could assert to Mueller’s office that the Buzzfeed story was not true.

This also explains why Mueller set the bar on Cohen’s allocution where he did. Cohen may well have told Mueller that he believed Trump ordered him to lie. Trump likely did! Certainly, Rudy is not denying that happened. But unless Cohen recorded that conversation — as he did for the hush payments — then Mueller is not going to set himself up to have to prove that. That necessarily partly explains (in addition to the issues I raised here) the difference in how SDNY allocuted Cohen and how Mueller did. SDNY has tapes, courtesy of Cohen, of Trump ordering him to pay off his sex partners; Mueller does not have tapes, courtesy of Cohen, of Trump ordering Cohen to lie to Congress.

That said, Rudy still should have no basis for asserting what Cohen has said to one or another law enforcement agent. While it’s not clear what Cohen’s status was at various times of this process, he would only have been recorded by the FBI if he was in custody. And the White House should not have his 302s (nor might they have all the other materials from others who have been interviewed, though admittedly would have lot from having done Trump Organization’s document production and being in a joint defense agreement with most of the relevant people).

One more thing: The degree to which Rudy emphasizes that Trump would not have reached out to Mueller’s office makes me believe we’re shortly going to learn he did reach out to Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker.

President Trump would not have done that.

That’s one of the most logical explanations for the currently contradictory messages coming from seemingly official DOJ sources about what Rod Rosenstein’s office did.

Epic cheap-ass Donald Trump paid $500,000 to figure out whether Michael Cohen had recorded the most damning conversations between them. But it was worth it! He paid it to be able to do what he did Friday, demand a statement disclaiming what is obviously true: that has Trump repeatedly suborned perjury from his advisors to hide what he did with Russia.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/22/r ... verything/


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

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:34 pm

posts moved from another thread


Mueller doesn't impeach the Russian Asset ...Congress starts the process

progressives lost......no they won the last election and they are winning the Russian Asset's government shut down war


side note I do enjoy every time Glenn Greenwald is on Fox News with noted racist Tucker Carlson


RT points out that ......... :roll:


The left will not be silenced ....

simple corruption.....trump crimes were never about simple corruption

PufPuf93 » Tue Jan 22, 2019 11:04 am wrote:
seemslikeadream » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:53 am wrote:Mueller doesn't impeach the Russian Asset ...Congress starts the process

progressives lost......no they won the last election



The House impeaches, the Senate convicts (or does not convict) to remove from office.

But we wait for the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

Progressives lost the 2016 election and won back the House in the 2018 election.

My keyboard has jussss gone whack where cannot e sucesfullwih ny eas.




Congress does not have to wait for Mueller conclusion ....Cohen's testimony is on Feb 7 and all the other folks that lied to Congress will be called back ...lying to Congress is a felony ..that's why Mueller made Cohen plead guilty to that

Public testimony is key ...it was key for Nixon ......key for trump

it's always the cover up and Nunes is no longer in charge of the cover up

based on the heavily redacted sentencing memo, we know that Mueller is sitting on a powder keg of Flynn-related evidence against tump and Pence and Flynn Jr just scrub his Twitter account :)


Oh and by the by trump doesn’t have to have committed a crime to be impeached ...just that he is unable to govern


there are more than just Russian/trump crimes

the rats are turning on each other

can't have a conspiracy talk without mentioning the king of conspiracies

Image

protect his reputation :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


One question for Greenwald ....do you really think FoxNews is a news outlet and not an infotainment network?

That Putin giving direct orders to Trump is ridiculous.


then why is trump hiding all his private communications with Putin?

Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/us/p ... tings.html



liminalOyster » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:20 pm wrote:Friendly reminder that this is meant to be:

a thread devoted to agnostic and/or slightly more woo synchronistic speculation about [#RussiaGate].


Thanks.



sorry liminalOyster but do you consider Jack's post about Greenwald off topic? At least Corsi is definitely part of the "Russian" conspiracy as defined by you

ok I didn't realize this was a dissent thread I thought it was a woo thread....no room for dissenting in this dissenting thread :) .....I forgot we have to have separate threads now for everything ...I won't be back here now that I know I am not welcome...sorry to trouble you ...no problem

and it seems I am the only one you feel is off topic ...strange



Mueller wants to know about 2016 Trump campaign's ties to NRA

Robert Mueller looks at Trump's NRA ties
Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has expressed interest in the Trump campaign's relationship with the National Rifle Association during the 2016 campaign.

"When I was interviewed by the special counsel's office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA," Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, told CNN.

The special counsel's team was curious to learn more about how Donald Trump and his operatives first formed a relationship with the NRA and how Trump wound up speaking at the group's annual meeting in 2015, just months before announcing his presidential bid, Nunberg said.

Nunberg's interview with Mueller's team in February 2018 offers the first indication that the special counsel has been probing the Trump campaign's ties to the powerful gun-rights group. As recently as about a month ago, Mueller's investigators were still raising questions about the relationship between the campaign and the gun group, CNN has learned.

Exclusive: NRA gathers documents amid scrutiny over ties to Kremlin-linked banker
A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

President Trump was not asked about his connection with the NRA in the written questions Mueller posed to him, according to a source familiar with the questions.

The NRA had already come under scrutiny from lawmakers for its massive spending in support of Trump in 2016 and its ties to Russian nationals.

Maria Butina, a Russian national, pleaded guilty in DC federal court in December to engaging in a conspiracy against the US. As part of her plea, she acknowledged that she attempted to infiltrate GOP political circles and influence US relations with Russia, in part by building ties with prominent members of the NRA.
Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina cooperating ahead of plea hearing Thursday
She also admitted she was working at the direction of a prominent former Russian central banker, Alexander Torshin, who was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department last year for his role in the Russian government. Torshin is also a lifetime member of the NRA.
Law enforcement has not accused the NRA of any wrongdoing.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is among the lawmakers who has pressed the NRA for more information, particularly about its finances.

In letters to Wyden, the NRA revealed it had received contributions from more than 20 Russian nationals in the US or people associated with Russian addresses since 2015. But the donations amounted to a little more than $2,500, according to the NRA's letter. The group also insisted it did not use foreign funds for election-related purposes.
Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty to engaging in conspiracy against US
Under the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee last year, Democrats complained that Republicans were thwarting their efforts to investigate whether Russia used the NRA as part of its broader influence operations. It's unclear how Democrats might proceed now that they control the committee.

Until now, though, it had been unclear whether Mueller's team had any interest in digging into the Trump campaign's dealings with the NRA.

Trump and the NRA


Trump quickly became a darling of the NRA during the 2016 campaign, despite his history of supporting a ban on assault weapons.
Trump spoke at the NRA's annual meeting in Tennessee in 2015, along with a number of other GOP presidential hopefuls. By May 2016, the NRA was all in for Trump, officially endorsing his candidacy at the group's annual meeting in Kentucky.

"To get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor," Trump told the NRA crowd in 2016. "I will not let you down."

The NRA spent more than $30 million to back Trump's candidacy -- a stunning sum even for an organization known for its political might.

NRA claims it didn't use foreign funds for election spending
It was more than the NRA had spent on all races combined -- presidential, House and Senate -- in the 2008 and 2012 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. is an avid outdoorsman who helped his father build closer ties to the NRA.

"They love the NRA more than anyone I know," Trump said at the 2015 NRA meeting, as he brought his sons Trump Jr. and Eric Trump onstage with him. "They happen to be my sons. They're lifetime members."

"These are our people," Trump Jr. said as he took the stage. "We're shooters, we're hunters, we're outdoorsman, we're sportsman and we love the Second Amendment."

A year later, Trump Jr. had a brief meet-and-greet with Torshin, the former Russian banker, on the sidelines of the 2016 NRA meeting.

Torshin had hoped to use the NRA meeting to initiate back-channel lines of communication between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While he failed to land a meeting with Trump, he and his associate, Butina, encountered Trump Jr. at a dinner with NRA officials.

Trump Jr. testified to the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 that he and Torshin "exchanged casual hellos" but did not discuss the upcoming presidential election.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/22/politics ... index.html



The NRA The Russia Connection
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:43 am

Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to take things too far by insisting that Trump Tower Moscow was little more than a myth, and that no plans for the project even existed.

Here's Donny Jr. being interviewed by Laura Ingram......the same Laura Ingram that Glenn Greewwald loves to talk with


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6qpU0Sq590


Trump’s Lawyer Said There Were “No Plans” For Trump Tower Moscow. Here They Are.

Rudy Giuliani claims the Moscow tower was barely more than a notion. “There were no drafts. Nothing in the file.” Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News tell a different story.

Azeen Ghorayshi
Posted on January 22, 2019, at 4:53 p.m. ET

Image
BuzzFeed News; Wikimedia; Getty Images; Trump Tower rendering provided to BuzzFeed News
The plan was dazzling: a glass skyscraper that would stretch higher than any other building in Europe, offering ultra-luxury residences and hotel rooms and bearing a famous name. Trump Tower Moscow, conceived as a partnership between Donald Trump’s company and a Russian real estate developer, looked likely to yield profits in excess of $300 million.

The tower was never built, but it has become a focal point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s relationship with Russia in the lead-up to his presidency.

The president and his representatives have dismissed the project as little more than a notion — a rough plan led by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his associate Felix Sater, of which Trump and his family said they were only loosely aware as the election campaign gathered pace.

On Monday, his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said “the proposal was in the earliest stage,” and he went on to tell the New Yorker that “no plans were ever made. There were no drafts. Nothing in the file.”

However, hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans, obtained by BuzzFeed News over a year of reporting, tell a very different story. Trump Tower Moscow was a richly imagined vision of upscale splendor on the banks of the Moscow River.

A long-held dream

Trump had for 30 years tried to extend his real estate empire to Moscow. He even wrote about it in his book The Art of the Deal. But he never found the right opportunity — until 2013, when he visited Russia to host the Miss Universe pageant. “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next,” he tweeted after the event.
Image
Image



Provided to BuzzFeed News
The tallest skyscraper in Europe

Two years later, a vision had emerged. Trump Tower Moscow was to be much more than just another upscale apartment building. It was to be a vast — and vastly lucrative — undertaking that would elevate the Russian capital’s skyline and extend the perimeter of the New York developer’s influence.

By September 2015, a New York architect had completed plans for a bold glass obelisk 100 stories high, to be topped by a gleaming, cut-diamond–like shape emblazoned on multiple sides with the Trump logo.

“The building design you sent over is very interesting,” the Russian real estate developer Andrey Rozov wrote to Cohen in September 2015, “and will be an architectural and luxury triumph. I believe the tallest building in Europe should be in Moscow, and I am prepared to build it.”

“First class luxury”

Image
BuzzFeed News; Google Maps
According to a finalized letter of intent signed by Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2015, the tower would have “approximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums.”

It would be located in Moscow City, a former industrial complex outside of the city center that has since been converted into an ambitious commercial district clustered with several of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe.

Its hotel portion would feature “approximately 15 floors” and contain “not fewer than 150 hotel rooms,” the letter of intent stated. The building would feature a luxury spa and fitness center, a commercial component “consistent with the overall luxury level of the Property,” and an office space “consistent with Class A luxury office properties,” as well as “luxury” parking.

Spa by Ivanka

Image
Sergey Alimov / Getty Images
As with most of Trump’s other big real estate ventures, the plan was for a local developer — Rozov — to build Trump Tower Moscow. Trump’s team would provide the glittering name and would manage the building’s operations, such as restaurants and bars.

The Trump team would also have the option to “brand all or any portion of the spa or fitness facilities” as “The Spa By Ivanka Trump,” according to the plans. If they exercised that option, Ivanka or one of her representatives would choose all interior design elements for the spa and health club.

Other Spas by Ivanka Trump offer a clue as to what it might have looked like. At the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, the 10,000-square-foot spa and fitness center offers “a carefully orchestrated spa experience” designed to produce “a fresh, authentic and purposeful visit.” Guests are invited to enjoy “an immersion lounge, reflective of local culture and craftsmanship,” specialized massage treatments called “curated rituals,” “aspirational quotes,” a Himalayan salt chamber, a waterfall, and hallways, curtains, and floors in her signature color of rose gold.

Putin’s perks
Image

Provided to BuzzFeed News
The top residence of the Moscow tower, enjoying a view without equal in all the continent, was to be a gleaming penthouse, the most luxurious property in a seriously luxurious building.

A show-stopping apartment like that could have been marketed for $50 million. But as BuzzFeed News reported in November, Trump’s fixers planned not to sell it — but to give it away for free, to none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Two US law enforcement officials confirmed that Cohen discussed the idea with an aide to Putin’s press secretary.

The hope was that the lavish gift would help grease the wheels, and in the process entice more Russian elites to move in. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units,” Felix Sater told BuzzFeed News in November. “All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”

Provided to BuzzFeed News
The Oct. 28 letter of intent, signed by Trump and Rozov.

An eye on the bottom line

The plans included detailed financial arrangements. According to the signed letter of intent, Trump’s company would get a $4 million up-front payment — a quarter when the licensing agreement was executed, another quarter when they finalized a location for the tower, and the other half either a week before the project’s groundbreaking or two years after the execution of the licensing agreement, whichever came first.

From there on out, Trump’s company would also get a cut of all the condominium sales at the tower, the agreement stated. From the total selling price of each unit, his company would get 5% for sales up to $100 million, 4% for the next bracket up to $250 million, 3% for anything between that and $500 million, 2% for anything up to $1 billion, and thereafter, a solid cut of 1%. For commercial and office spaces, it would get a 3% cut of all the rent. It’d get another 3% of sales on food and beverages, spa and fitness center use, and conference fees.

The deal also stipulated how much Trump’s management company would get paid for running operations at Trump Tower Moscow over 25 years. For the first five years, it would get 3% of all revenue generated by operating the hotel per month. Over the next two decades, it’d receive a flat 4%. In addition, the management company would also receive a monthly “incentive fee” — an additional 20% of the gross operating profit for the hotel — subject to annual negotiations.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment on this story, nor did Giuliani, Rozov, Ivanka Trump, or the White House. A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment.

Frequent updates

Trump has many times denied having any business interests in Russia. But last year, BuzzFeed News revealed that negotiations over the tower lasted at least through June 2016, just a few weeks before Trump clinched the Republican nomination. The special counsel has since confirmed this fact, saying in a court filing that Cohen discussed the plan multiple times with the Trump Organization and asked Trump and a senior campaign staffer about traveling to Russia.

Last November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about when the deal ended. Trump then struck a new note, defending his involvement in the Moscow project during the election: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won,” he told reporters, “in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday that Trump received at least 10 updates about the plans, and then directed Cohen to lie to Congress about when those negotiations ended in order to obscure his own involvement. Mueller’s office issued a statement Friday saying that “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.” BuzzFeed News stands by its story and the two law enforcement sources who informed it.

Giuliani has since acknowledged the plan went on longer than previously stated. “It’s our understanding that it — that they went on throughout 2016,” Giuliani told CNN. “Weren’t a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it.”

He then told the New York Times that Trump remembers discussing the project with Cohen up until November 2016, when Trump was elected president. “It was all going from the day I announced to the day I won,” Trump said, according to Giuliani.

He has since backtracked, stating that his comments on Trump Tower Moscow were “hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president.”

A great lifetime goal

Image
Provided to BuzzFeed News
Sadly for luxury-loving Muscovites, the tower project never came to be. It’s not entirely clear why the deal fell through, but today on the bend of the Moscow River, on the edge of the Presnensky District and only a few miles from the Kremlin, there is no Ivanka-branded salt chamber and no Trump-approved luxury parking.

By the time Donald Trump signed the project’s letter of intent, he was four months into his presidential campaign — running for the highest office in America while conducting private business negotiations with a hostile nation.

Today that choice has produced controversy and possible legal risk. But back then, it seemed to be pure upside.

“Let’s make this happen and build a Trump Moscow,” Sater wrote to Cohen shortly beforehand. “And possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce & business are much better and more practical than politics. … Help world peace and make a lot of money, I would say that’s a great lifetime goal for us to go after.”
Image
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/az ... scow-plans




Wendy Siegelman


Ex-Trump Associate Felix Sater Draws Scrutiny in Bank Suit - Kazakh BTA Bank is suing Mukhtar Ablyazov & Khrapunov family over $4 bil in stolen funds. Sater a key witness who worked w/Khrapunovs was paid $2.5 mil by BTA thru 3rdy party to his co Litco LLC

11:40 AM - 22 Jan 2019
127 Retweets 143 Likes KathyLinda DireseHelen Jacobsen #anotheraussie #notabotRosyGeorge N.GianopoulosSallbyKenneth JohnsondpfaffEric/Kelly Bradstreet

Sater's company Litco LLC had an agreement with BTA’s corporate intelligence firm, Arcanum - In addition to the monthly payments, Litco was guaranteed 16 percent of recovered assets - a potentially amount since BTA was pursuing $4 billion in stolen funds

https://www.bloombergquint.com/business ... dge-rebuke
Image

An FT story by @tomburgis described how in 2009 Arcanum founder Ron Wahid met with Mukhtar Ablyazov to pitch Arcanum work - Ablyazov was suspicious that a trap was being set and Wahid was working for the other side (Kazakh president Nazarbayev)
https://www.ft.com/content/1411b1a0-a31 ... 5e6a7c98a2

Image
A quick tinfoil hat theory on the BTA & City of Almaty lawsuits vs Ablyazov & the Khrapunovs - sometimes it almost seems like they are all in on the scam together, using the lawsuits as coverage as they steal billions and spread the wealth around (Sater flipping sides etc)



Ex-Trump Associate Felix Sater Draws Scrutiny in Bank Suit

January 21 2019, 11:00 PM
(Bloomberg) -- A Kazakh bank entrenched in a global effort to track down $4 billion it claims was embezzled hit a bump in the U.S. after being accused of paying a key witness $100,000 a month to wrangle favorable evidence.

The New York case dates to 2015, when BTA Bank JSC -- once Kazakhstan’s biggest bank -- sued its former chairman, Mukhtar Ablyazov, and the wealthy Khrapunov family, alleging they laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen funds through real-estate deals in Europe and the U.S.

To help build its case, BTA hired an investigator, which in turn retained a litigation adviser to provide related information and witnesses. BTA says it didn’t know who was behind that company. As it turns out, the owner was someone whose name has cropped up in various legal filings and investigations in recent years -- Felix Sater, a former business partner of Donald Trump.

The wrinkle is that Sater is a former associate of the Khrapunovs who worked on the disputed deals with the family before falling out with them, according to filings in the matter. In that capacity, Sater is a key witness for BTA. The judge in the case is now questioning whether payments Sater’s company received from the bank, via a third party, will impact his objectivity. Sater’s firm, Litco LLC, got $2.5 million over several years, court records show.

The previously secret arrangement was accidentally exposed by a third party last year and confirmed by Sater himself in a September deposition, triggering claims by the Khrapunovs’ lawyer that BTA broke the law by paying a fact witness.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Parker in Manhattan last week ordered Sater, who isn’t a defendant, to testify further about his relationship with BTA in a deposition by Feb. 5. Parker in December called the deal “tremendously concerning” because it may prompt a witness “to testify in such a way as to maximize plaintiff’s recovery.”

She said BTA must surrender evidence related to the so-called “confidential assistance agreement.”

To read more about BTA’s quest to reclaim assets, click here.

“The additional discovery ordered by this court and obtained from the deposition of Sater may shed more light on this situation and provide a firmer basis” for determining whether to refer it to prosecutors, as one defense lawyer requested, Parker said in December, disclosing their deal.

Sater, a Russian-born U.S. citizen who twice pleaded guilty to felonies in the 1990s, isn’t a party to the agreement, which was between Litco and BTA’s corporate intelligence firm, Arcanum. In addition to the monthly payments, Litco was guaranteed 16 percent of recovered assets.

Disclosure of the deal is the latest twist in a sprawling legal war waged on three continents between BTA and Ablyazov, his family and associates. Since its $12 billion bankruptcy in 2009, the Almaty-based bank has employed an army of investigators to hunt for missing assets, with Ablyazov and his allies countering each move with their own legal action.

BTA and another plaintiff in the case, the city of Almaty, say they didn’t know Sater was behind Litco, though Sater said in September that he met repeatedly with the bank’s lawyers “to discuss facts relevant to this case as a representative of Litco.” The agreement says that no witnesses provided under the deal “shall have an ownership interest in Litco.”

BTA has since terminated the deal and is demanding the money be returned.

“Neither BTA Bank nor the city of Almaty did anything remotely wrong, and neither of them had any idea about Litco’s true owner,” Matthew L. Schwartz, BTA’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Mukhtar Ablyazov, Ilyas Khrapunov and the other defendants are trying to distract attention” from allegations in the case.

Click here to read more about the Trump-Russia saga

BTA claims Ablyazov used a secret stake in the bank and a web of shell companies to siphon money before fleeing. The city of Almaty claims $300 million was embezzled by its ex-mayor, Viktor Khrapunov, who is a close Ablyazov associate. Ablyazov and Khrapunov deny stealing money and say they’re being targeted in retaliation for supporting opponents to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Sater, who cooperated with U.S. investigations into the mob’s role on Wall Street years ago and has provided intelligence in government terror probes, has known Khrapunov and his son, Ilyas, for about 15 years, court records show. Ilyas Khrapunov is accused of aiding his father and Ablyazov by arranging the real-estate deals at the center of the suit through a Swiss company he set up, Triadou SPV SA. Alex Hassid, Triadou’s lawyer, declined to comment.

In the unfinished September deposition, Sater testified that he met Khrapunov dozens of times and worked on oil-drilling and coal-mining deals. Sater said Khrapunov asked him to start working with his son as Ilyas was getting started in real-estate investing. But he clashed with the family in 2013 over a U.S. deal that generated tens of millions of dollars, according to court papers.

Sater and Litco are represented by Robert Wolf, who declined to comment. The bank hasn’t accused Sater of wrongdoing, and the defendants are seeking sanctions against only BTA.

Sater’s acknowledgement that he owned Litco triggered questions about his credibility and claims of possible bias. That confirmed defense suspicions after an email referencing the deal was accidentally handed over by a non-party to the suit.

“It is illegal to shower a potential fact witness with financial payments,” Andrew Solomon, the Khrapunovs’ lawyer, said in a letter to the court, adding that such compensation “provides an incentive to commit perjury or, if not outright perjury, to tailor testimony in order to obtain compensation and foster the relationship created.”

To read more about Sater’s role in Trump’s Moscow plans, click here.

Solomon declined to comment for this story. Ablyazov is defending himself in the case; a lawyer for him in France didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone call.

Sater once had an office in Trump Tower and helped develop the 46-story luxury Trump Soho in Manhattan, where Khrapunov family members purchased three units. Sater wasn’t involved in arranging them. He was also central to a plan to build a Trump tower in Moscow.

The Litco agreement could spell trouble for BTA’s case if it leads to court sanctions or is used to undermine the bank’s witnesses. There also could be a criminal probe of the payments, though that remains a long shot.

The deal isn’t the only one under scrutiny. Triadou is questioning BTA’s cooperation agreements with other witnesses, including one who says he can link money allegedly stolen by Ablyazov to money used by Triadou to buy New York real estate -- an allegation that Triadou denies.

The case is City of Almaty v. Ablyazov, 15-cv-5345, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
https://www.bloombergquint.com/business ... s.Le9YuS4H



The three intersecting threads linking Trump’s campaign to Russian intelligence

Michael Cohen walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, Jan. 12, 2017, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Philip Bump
January 22 at 12:47 PM
Many questions remain about President Trump’s familiarity during the 2016 campaign with a proposed development project in Moscow. Those questions were stoked in recent days thanks to BuzzFeed News’s claim last week that Trump told his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie about the extent of those conversations — a claim denied by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office. The questions were amplified when one of Trump’s current attorneys, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, claimed over the weekend that discussions about the project may have continued until Election Day. (Giuliani later walked back this assertion.)

Obscured in this discussion is an aspect of that discussion that’s flown under the radar: The involvement of yet another figure with links to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, better known as GRU. This link was highlighted in the wake of recent reporting by journalist Marcy Wheeler, but deserves to be considered in light of the broad range of contacts between the Trump campaign and active or former members of that intelligence group.

We’ve isolated three threads in which people linked to Russian intelligence overlapped with the Trump campaign and Trump advisers over the course of the election. There’s the Moscow development, as above ), the hacking of Democratic targets believed to have been conducted by the GRU and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s interactions with his longtime business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller’s team believes is linked to intelligence as well.


Timeline

June 16, 2015. Trump announces his candidacy.

September 2015. An intermittent business partner of the Trump Organization, Felix Sater, contacts Cohen to discuss a possible development project in Moscow. Eventually, that conversation includes a proposed trip to Moscow. Sater is a felon who has, at times, cooperated with federal officials in criminal investigations.

Dec. 13, 2015. Sater emails Cohen to say that he was in contact with Evgeny Shmykov, who would help arrange the trip. Shmykov was at one point a general in the GRU.

Dec. 19, 2015. Sater again emails to tell Cohen that Shmykov had helped line up a bank with U.S. sanctions against it, VTB, to move the project forward and requested passport information for an upcoming Moscow trip by Cohen and Trump. (The idea? Get a visa through the bank to avoid political complications.) Cohen sends his passport information and pledges Trump’s at a later point.


Jan. 20, 2016. Cohen speaks with an assistant to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, about the Moscow project after becoming frustrated by Sater’s progress.

Jan. 21, 2016. Sater emails Cohen to tell him that Putin’s office “called today.” It’s unclear what happened after that.

Jan. 26, 2016. Sater emails Cohen to ask him to speak with Shmykov by phone. Cohen agrees. At some point afterward, Sater emails Cohen to tell him the trip is “set.” As it turns out, it isn’t.

At some point early in 2016, Cohen and Sater begin communicating using an encrypted messaging platform.

Feb. 1, 2016. The Iowa caucuses take place. Trump comes in second.

March 15, 2016. Hackers associated with the GRU allegedly begin probing the Democratic National Committee network for vulnerabilities.


March 19, 2016. Various members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign are targeted with emails intended to access their network log-in credentials.

March 21, 2016. Hackers gain access to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account.

March 28, 2016. Manafort joins the Trump campaign to manage the delegate process before the convention.

Spring 2016. At some point, both Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates transfer both public and proprietary campaign polling data to Kilimnik, their business associate. The information is then shared with two Russian oligarchs with whom Manafort has worked in the past.

April 6, 2016. An employee of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accidentally provides her network credentials to the hackers.

April 11, 2016. Manafort emails Kilimnik to ensure that a Russian oligarch with whom the two had a long-standing business relationship, Oleg Deripaska, is aware of Manafort’s new position with the campaign.


April 12, 2016. Hackers gain access to the DCCC network.

April 18, 2016. Using credentials stolen from a DCCC employee, the hackers gain access to the DNC network.

April 22, 2016. The hackers steal several gigabytes of material from the DNC network.

April 26, 2016. Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos is informed by a professor linked to the Kremlin that Russia has dirt on Clinton in the form of emails.

May 2016. The DNC and DCCC learn that their networks were compromised.

Early May 2016. Kilimnik and Manafort meet in the United States about two weeks before the latter is named campaign chairman for Trump.

May 4, 2016. Sater tells Cohen he “had a chat with Moscow” and clarifies when Cohen and Trump plan to visit to move the building project forward. Cohen says he’ll visit before the Republican convention in late July and that Trump will visit after. It’s not clear if Shmykov is still involved.


May 5, 2016. Sater extends an invitation from Peskov for Cohen to attend an event in St. Petersburg in late June. Cohen agrees to attend.

May 19, 2016. Manafort is named Trump’s campaign chairman.

May 25, 2016. Hackers access the DNC’s email server.


(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)
June 7, 2016. After Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian developer named Emin Agalarov speak by phone several times (according to Agalarov), a meeting is set at Trump Tower ostensibly to share incriminating information about Clinton.

June 9, 2016. Sater begins pressuring Cohen to finalize his travel to the St. Petersburg forum, including sending him forms to complete to facilitate his travel.

June 9, 2016. Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort meet with a Kremlin-linked attorney at Trump Tower. Another attendee is a man named Rinat Akhmetshin, who had worked with the intelligence arm of the Soviet military decades earlier.


June 14, 2016. After Sater repeatedly texts Cohen, the two meet in the lobby of Trump Tower that afternoon at which point Cohen finally says that he won’t attend the event.

June 14, 2016. The Post first reports on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

June 15, 2016. The first document stolen from the DNC is published, an opposition file obtained by Gawker from a hacker later linked to the GRU who referred to himself as “Guccifer 2.0.” Other files are released over the next several weeks.

June 22, 2016. WikiLeaks contacts the hackers to offer to host future leaks.

July 7, 2016. Manafort contacts Kilimnik to offer a private briefing on the campaign to Deripaska.

On the same day, campaign adviser Carter Page is in Moscow where he has a conversation with Russian deputy prime minister Arkadiy Dvorkovich who, Page later says, “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.”


July 22, 2016. WikiLeaks releases emails stolen from the DNC.

July 27, 2016. At a news conference, Trump publicly calls on Russian hackers to release emails that may have been stolen from Clinton’s private email server. On the same day, the hackers first try to access that server.

July 29, 2016. Kilimnik emails Manafort to tell him that he has several messages from a former client, apparently Deripaska. They agree to meet.

August 2, 2016. Kilimnik and Manafort again meet in the United States, this time for dinner a few weeks before Manafort is fired from the campaign.

Aug. 14, 2016. Guccifer 2.0, the hacker believed to be working for GRU, contacts longtime Trump ally Roger Stone over Twitter. The two have a brief discussion over a few weeks.

Aug. 19, 2016. Manafort is fired from the Trump campaign after news reports draw attention to alleged illicit payments during his time working in Ukraine.

Oct. 7, 2016. WikiLeaks begins releasing emails stolen from Podesta.

Nov. 8, 2016. Trump is elected president.

This article has been updated.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:28 pm

HOW TRUMP “DIRECTED” DON JR’S JUNE 9 “NO FOLLOW-UP” FALSE STATEMENT TO CONGRESS

January 23, 2019/5 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by empty wheel

In the New Republic, I have a piece expanding on what I laid out in my first post on last week’s BuzzFeed story. It should not have been a big deal that BuzzFeed claimed Trump had “directed” Michael Cohen to lie, because we already had plenty of evidence that Trump had induced his top aides to lie. In it, I note an even more clear cut example of Trump scripting his aides’ lies with the June 9 meeting.

Then last June, the Times published a January 2018 letter in which Trump’s lawyers admitted to Mueller’s office that “the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.” The letter tied that statement directly to Don Jr.’s testimony to Congress about the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016, in which Don Jr. sought to procure damaging information about Hillary Clinton from Russian agents. “His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.” Trump’s statement to the Times claimed there had been “no follow-up” after the June 9 meeting, and Don Jr.’s testimony to Congress sustained that claim. But the public record shows there was follow-up after the election.


And I suggest, later in the piece, that what we know happened with the June 9 meeting is probably what happened with Cohen’s Trump Tower story.

Mueller has hinted that Trump’s other subordinates were involved in just one of these lies: Cohen’s. In a filing describing how Cohen explained “the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries,” Cohen suggested he coordinated with “White House-based staff and legal counsel to Trump.”

That’s what the public record shows happened with Cohen’s statements about the Trump Tower meeting, in which he falsely claimed there was no “follow-up.”


As I suggested, how that happened is already in the public record, in documents released by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As early as June 3, 2017, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten called Rob Goldstone to find out details about the June 9, 2016 meeting, including who the Russian lawyer who attended was. On June 26, Garten contacted Goldstone again to find out about and get contact information for Ike Kaveladze. In a call with Goldstone the next day, Garten expressed “concern” because the June 9 meeting “links Don Jr. to officials from Russia, which he has already denied meeting.”

On June 8, the White House put out a Trump (and Putin) statement claiming the meeting was only about adoptions, and therefore didn’t include any topic that was a campaign issue. As part of that statement, Trump claimed that “there was no follow-up.”

It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand. [my emphasis]


On June 9, Don Jr put out his own statement, admitting that Goldstone had also offered dirt and that Magnitsky sanctions were discussed, but repeating that “no follow-up” line (as well as telling some other lies).

I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events. [my emphasis]


That’s when Goldstone — who had been on a cruise in Europe and so out of the loop — got angry that, after having asked for advance warning a week earlier, was now fielding calls from the press without first knowing what Trump had put out.

I had requested last week of you guys to see what was being put out, so I could be able to prepare our own statement but never received anything from you or your colleague. Can I please at least now see the statement you guys put out.


Goldstone wanted that statement, he explained to SJC, so he could match what Trump put out. “I just felt it would be useful if I knew what they had put out, the style, the type.” He wasn’t so much looking to coordinate; he was just trying to message effectively. “This — this was area was really alien to me. I’m a music publicist. We talk about ego and nonsense. I’m not used to this kind of structured world.”

Then, on July 10, both Alan Futerfas and Alan Garten sent Goldstone a statement they wanted him to put out under his own name. It included the claim that there had been no follow-up.

As the person who arranged the meeting, I can definitely state that the statements I have read by Donald Trump Jr. are 100 percent accurate. The meeting was a complete waste of time, and Don was never told Ms. Veselnitskaya’s name prior to the meeting. Ms. Veselnitskaya mostly talked about the Magnitsky Act and Russian adoption laws, and the meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes at most. There was never any follow-up and nothing ever came of the meeting. [my emphasis]


Goldstone told SJC he thought the “ludicrous” because it sounded nothing like him, and so kept trying to put out his own statement.

But (as SJC made clear in questions about the statement) the two Trump Organization Alans, who had been chasing down what happened at this meeting for over a month by the time they drafted a statement for Goldstone, had to have known that the statement they wanted Goldstone to adopt was partly incorrect (in spite of their exhortations that any statement be accurate). That’s because they would already have reviewed an email Goldstone sent to Rhonna Graff the previous fall.

Image

On November 28, after ten days of efforts to set up another meeting for Veselnitskaya after the election and on directions that almost certainly had to have come from Don Jr, Goldstone sent Veselnitskaya’s latest statement on sanctions to Trump’s Assistant, Rhona Graff. On July 15, 2017, after Trump and Don Jr had already issued statements claiming there had been no follow-up to the meeting — and after Trump’s lawyers tried to get Goldstone to say that publicly, too — Graff forwarded Goldstone’s email back to show that there had, in fact, been follow-up.

Nevertheless, almost two months after Graff identified this proof of follow-up (there are also some calls between Don Jr and Goldstone that are in some ways even more damning, though Goldstone disclaims them), Don Jr continued to hew to the family line that there had not been follow-up.

Even in response to a direct question about it, Don Jr insisted there had been no follow-up,

Q. There was, in your view, no follow-up at all from this meeting?

A . Correct.


So Trump dictated a statement (and the lawyers tried to massage it even while leaving a number of lies in the statement), his son repeated it, his lawyers tried to get Goldstone to repeat it, even while they had clear documentary evidence it was not true.

And then Don Jr repeated that lie — there was no follow-up at all from this meeting — in September 2017, sustaining the lie his father first told, only this time to Congress, where it counts as a criminal false statement.

Last week, people on both sides of the aisle treated the BuzzFeed story as the first evidence that Trump had suborned false statements. It’s not. We’ve seen how he does so in very detailed form already.
https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/01/23/h ... -congress/


As part of House Oversight's investigation into security clearances, the committee is demanding docs from the NRA relating to John Bolton's foreign contacts.

NPR has the letter Cummings sent to the NRA president:


Image

How Trump Suborns Perjury

Even without BuzzFeed’s explosive report about Michael Cohen, the evidence shows that the president has persuaded his associates to lie to Congress and the feds.

Marcy WheelerJanuary 23, 2019
BuzzFeed set off a cascading series of controversies last week when it reported that President Donald Trump had “directed” his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Trump Tower deal in Moscow that was being negotiated during the 2016 election. The immediate takeaway was that, if the report were true, then Trump had committed a straightforwardly impeachable offense. The allegation was “so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment,” wrote Aaron Blake in The Washington Post. Democrats in Congress raised the alarm. “If the President directed Cohen to lie to Congress, that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop,” Rhode Island’s David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted.

But then, as happens so often in this presidency, the story quickly became clouded by uncertainty and accusations of media bias. The office of the special counsel issued its first public response to a specific story since Robert Mueller began investigating Russia’s involvement in the election. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” the statement read. You could practically hear the sighs of relief in the Oval Office. Trump even went so far as to express gratitude to Mueller, his most implacable enemy: “I appreciate the special counsel coming out with a statement last night,” he said. “I think it was very appropriate that they did so, I very much appreciate that.”

But there’s no reason to doubt that Trump has, in fact, repeatedly instructed subordinates to tell lies to Congress and law enforcement authorities, including lies that amount to crimes. The difference is that the media outlets that reported those other cases didn’t say, explicitly, that the president “directed” his aides to lie. Another important difference is the way in which Trump gets his subordinates to lie, which has served to delay the moment when we all admit that he is quite clearly suborning perjury.

BuzzFeed, which sourced its claims to “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter,” claimed that this was “the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.”

It wasn’t.

In September 2017, The New York Times revealed that over a weekend at Bedminster Golf Club with Trump, White House aide Stephen Miller drafted a memo explaining why the president was firing former FBI Director James Comey—the event that immediately precipitated the launch of the special counsel’s investigation. The letter cited comments Comey had made about the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. White House counsel Don McGahn later massaged those references in Comey’s actual termination letter, to suggest that Comey was being fired for a different reason (though Trump would admit that the Russia investigation was the actual cause days later on television). Given that McGahn’s letter was sent to the FBI director, it amounted to a lie to the bureau.

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The president’s subordinates and son lied to authorities, including Congress and the FBI, with his tacit knowledge and even scripting.
Then last June, the Times published a January 2018 letter in which Trump’s lawyers admitted to Mueller’s office that “the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.” The letter tied that statement directly to Don Jr.’s testimony to Congress about the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016, in which Don Jr. sought to procure damaging information about Hillary Clinton from Russian agents. “His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.” Trump’s statement to the Times claimed there had been “no follow-up” after the June 9 meeting, and Don Jr.’s testimony to Congress sustained that claim. But the public record shows there was follow-up after the election.

Both of these instances (and other less clear-cut examples) show how Trump has gotten aides to provide false statements to investigating authorities and Congress. It’s just that the Times didn’t state what was clear: The president’s subordinates and son lied to authorities, including Congress and the FBI, with his tacit knowledge and even scripting.

BuzzFeed, however, was not so squeamish about identifying what—it continues to insist—its evidence showed.

The response was explosive. Democrats like Representative Ted Lieu of California suggested impeachment proceedings could arise from Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice. Even House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who has cautioned against a rush to impeachment, asserted, “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction,” before promising, “The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.” (The House Judiciary Committee would oversee any impeachment inquiry.)

The alarm wasn’t limited to Democrats. White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley, after claiming to Fox News that media outlets were “just using innuendo and shady sources,” still did not deny the story. Fox’s Chris Wallace, while warning to take the BuzzFeed story “with a giant grain of salt,” admitted, “It’s the kind of thing that can get you impeached.”

It didn’t help that William Barr, Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, agreed twice in his confirmation hearing last week that if a president encouraged someone to testify falsely it would amount to obstruction of justice. Barr agreed that a president—or any person—who persuades a person to commit perjury or change testimony would be committing obstruction. Barr also concurred when Senator Lindsey Graham asked, “If there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify or to testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice.”

The president’s lawyers were apparently so anxious that, according to multiple news outlets, they “raised concerns” in a letter to Mueller’s office. And according to The Washington Post, the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called Mueller’s office to find out if he would be releasing a statement.

When the statement from Mueller’s office finally dropped, the discussion of impeachment, which had rapidly grown rampant, was curbed. But what we know so far indicates that Trump, in at least one previously known case involving Don Jr., scripted someone to lie under oath, which means that all the concerns voiced by Democrats and Fox News anchors in response to the BuzzFeed story remain as valid as ever. It’s the kind of thing that can get you impeached.

Furthermore, the special counsel’s statement did not exonerate the president, rare as it might be for his office to rebuke the press. The statement merely distinguished what that office had obtained in its investigation from what BuzzFeed said the office had obtained. That’s significant because, in Cohen’s case, Mueller’s prosecutors are working with another Justice Department office, the Southern District of New York, on parallel prosecutions. Indeed, FBI agents working with SDNY conducted the raid on Michael Cohen’s home in April, gathering information that was then shared with Mueller’s people.

Indeed, there are notable differences in the way the two prosecutions characterize the degree to which Trump—referred to as Individual-1 or Client-1 rather than by name—directed Cohen’s illegal conduct. With respect to hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Cohen admitted in the SDNY case that he acted “on Client-1’s instruction, to attempt to prevent [women alleging to be the Candidate’s former sex partners] from disseminating narratives that would adversely affect [his] Campaign.” By contrast, in Mueller’s case, Cohen claimed that, when he lied to Congress about the Trump Tower deal in Moscow, he was “seeking to stay in line with” the message Trump and “White House-based staff and legal counsel to Trump” were pushing regarding Trump’s ties to Russia.

That is, in pleading guilty to SDNY prosecutors, Cohen said Trump “instructed” him to take action. But in pleading guilty to Mueller’s prosecutors, Cohen said he was following the messaging of Trump’s advisers, without claiming to have been instructed to do so. In both cases, however, Cohen said loyalty to Trump led him to commit crimes to sustain Trump’s desired message.

This dynamic may be why it has been so hard for other news outlets to do what BuzzFeed did: to state that Trump induces his aides to lie, not just as a routine matter, but also in ways that break the law. Trump gets those around him to lie in a different manner than past presidents.

Under Trump, the lies are facilitated not through any kind of bureaucratic genius, but instead through an insistence that underlings toe the public line.
Consider how some of George W. Bush’s most disastrous lies worked. With both the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the CIA was just vigorously interrogating detainees rather than torturing them, Bush’s top aides either ensured he retained plausible deniability to the lies or his public claims were technically correct. It was technically true that, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Left unsaid was that the U.S. government had already judged that Saddam didn’t actually obtain the uranium he sought.

With Bush’s lies, the buck often stopped with Vice President Dick Cheney. And Cheney exploited his bureaucratic genius, both inside and outside government, to ensure message discipline. One reason Cheney started collecting information on Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger, in an effort that would lead to the disclosure of her CIA status, was because CIA analysts close to Plame were leaking details of what the CIA had really known to the press. Similarly, people close to Cheney had a hand in the consistent use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the most secret realms of government, in memos rubber-stamping the torture, and on the front page of The New York Times.

There is no such plausible deniability in the Trump administration. Under Trump, the lies are facilitated not through any kind of bureaucratic genius, but instead through an insistence that underlings toe the public line. These lies include more innocuous ones like inauguration attendance, as well as more serious ones involving Trump’s awareness that a Russian linked to military intelligence was brokering a $300 million real estate deal at the same time that Russia’s military intelligence was offering dirt stolen from Trump opponent’s server to his son.

In fact, that’s the theory presented in all three of Mueller’s cases in which a Trump aide lied about matters pertaining directly to Russia’s involvement in the campaign. Under oath, Cohen explained that he lied about the Trump Tower deal “to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1.”

In his sentencing memo, George Papadopoulos said his lies about Russians offering the campaign Hillary Clinton’s emails were not meant to impede the investigation but “to save his professional aspirations and preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master.” By his own account, Papadopoulos lied “out of loyalty to the new president and his desire to be part of the administration.”

And in explaining why former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn told lies—which included false statements to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.—the government said, “By the time of the FBI interview,” Flynn “was committed to his false story.” We know that Flynn took those actions, in part, to avoid a “tit-for-tat escalation” that would make it difficult to improve relations with the Russians after they had just “thrown [the] USA election” to Trump, according to Flynn’s deputy K.T. McFarland.

Mueller has hinted that Trump’s other subordinates were involved in just one of these lies: Cohen’s. In a filing describing how Cohen explained “the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries,” Cohen suggested he coordinated with “White House-based staff and legal counsel to Trump.”

That’s what the public record shows happened with Cohen’s statements about the Trump Tower meeting, in which he falsely claimed there was no “follow-up.” Trump dictated that line himself in July of 2016, and his camp has never deviated from it. Trump Organization lawyers urged Rob Goldstone, who set up the meeting, to endorse the claim. They did this even though they had to have known it wasn’t true. Indeed, less than a week after Trump’s lawyers tried to get Goldstone to back him up, Trump’s assistant forwarded Goldstone an email he sent her the prior year, showing it to be false.

So where do all the lies come from? The record indicates that Trump decides what lie is going to be told, and the people around him, indirectly or otherwise, do what they need to sustain it, even if it includes lying to Congress, the FBI, and Mueller’s team.

Legally, the difference between ordering someone to lie and simply ensuring they follow your message out of abject loyalty may not save Trump. There is one law, subornation of perjury, that imposes up to five years in prison if a person “procures another to commit any perjury.” Even aside from whether Trump personally directed his aides to tell lies, the crime Trump’s aides, including Cohen, have been prosecuted for thus far has been false statements, not perjury. A more basic law makes it a crime to “aid, abet, counsel, command, induce, or procure” an offense against the United States, in which case that person can be charged “as a principal.” In past presidential cover-ups, conspiracy to obstruct justice was charged. So Trump could be on the hook for the lies he encouraged his subordinates to tell, too, sometimes with the help of his lawyers.

In this administration, the president doesn’t need to order his subordinates to lie for him. It’s a daily matter of course. Mueller’s team seems to be wise to that, even if Congress and much of the media aren’t quite there yet.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:15 am

Revealed: US Intelligence community has mobilized against Trump and Russia — and he doesn’t even know it

Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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It is safe to say President Trump did not read the new National Intelligence Strategy of the United States (NIS) released on Tuesday.

Which is a good thing.

The document shows the intelligence community (meaning the 17 U.S. government intelligence agencies) has mobilized against the threat posed by President Trump, his incoherent impulses on war and peace, and his furtive machinations with Russia.



Much of the 36-page glossy report, issued by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, will be daunting to outsiders: boilerplate mission statements mixed with inter-office shoutouts, and deep dives on complex organizational issues.

But the conclusions of the Intelligence Community (IC) (which some will call the “deep state”) are stated up front.

If Trump had read them, he would have noticed his government’s 17 clandestine services had targeted his friends in Moscow, his business partners in the skyscraper hotel business.

The IC is on the record (again) as saying the threat of Russian penetration is not “fake news,” not a hoax, but a menace.

‘Radical Islamic Terror’ Redefined

Some argue that the IC finding on Russian interference in the 2016 election was only signed by four of these 17 agencies.

In the new document, the other 13 agencies weigh in. They don’t disagree much: Russia is the emerging threat.

The report opens:

Traditional adversaries will continue attempts to gain and assert influence, taking advantage of changing conditions in the international environment—including the weakening of the post-WWII international order and dominance of Western democratic ideals, increasingly isolationist tendencies in the West, and shifts in the global economy. These adversaries pose challenges within traditional, non-traditional, hybrid, and asymmetric military, economic, and political spheres. Russian efforts to increase its influence and authority are likely to continue and may conflict with U.S. goals and priorities in multiple regions.

Note the absence in the above of the T-word. The threat of transnational terrorism—that hardy perennial of U.S. national security doctrine for 20 years—is not mentioned.

No mention of “radical Islamic terrorists,” which was once a go-to line for Trump.

The 2019 IC has made it official: the “radical Islamic terrorists” have been replaced by “traditional adversaries.”

This is a good thing, too. The idea that a network of religious fundamentalists, armed with rifles and homemade explosives, posed an existential threat to the American people was a Bush-Cheney meme that expired about the same time that Osama bin Laden departed.

The rise of Trump has coincided with—perhaps caused—the decline of counterterrorism as a declared U.S. policy priority.

This is another good thing. This is not to praise Trump’s geopolitical acumen (of which he has none), merely to state the facts.

The last 18 years of U.S. counterterrorism policy have made Americans (but not Europeans) marginally safer. It has cost us $5 trillion. It has embroiled our volunteer army and legion of contractors in undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, eastern Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

The benefits of these wars to the American people are far from clear. Yet, in all five theaters, victory is clearly impossible.

The 2019 strategy document says, in effect, it’s time to move on.

The question is where does U.S. intelligence go under a president of dubious loyalty and confirmed ignorance.

Cold War II?

Is it time to confront Russia? Is the National Intelligence Strategy a declaration of Cold War II?

Russia has been elevated as a threat, but it is not defined as an existential threat, as jihadist terrorism was from 2001 to 2018.

I think the IC—or, if you prefer, “the deep state”—is looking for legitimacy, which Trump threatens. Russia now seems more threatening to the U.S. intelligence community than Iran or jihadist terror. This is accurate but no reason for a new Cold War. It is a reason to reduce and eliminate Russia’s nuclear arsenal—and to do the same with our own nukes.

Bottom line: Russia is the growing threat to the United States, according to the intelligence community. If the president says Russia is no threat, well, he doesn’t read U.S. intelligence reports, least of all this one.

This report is a sign that Trump is losing control of his government. Don’t take it from me. Listen to the insiders.

On Twitter

Daniel Benjamin, late of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, and David Rothkopf, host of Deep State Radio, explain the reality: Trump is getting played by his spies, and he doesn’t know it.

This is one of the few benefits of having a president who reads absolutely nothing. No way he would have signed off on the the intel strategy if he knew what was in it. https://t.co/Xx8HTuq9Hp

— Daniel Benjamin (@Benjamin05055) January 22, 2019

Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon. He is the editor and co-founder of JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of JFK. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.

This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
https://www.rawstory.com/2019/01/reveal ... even-know/


Trump’s Moscow tower deal is the key

It’s at the heart of Trump’s Russia connections, and that’s why he and Giuliani have lied about it repeatedly

Lucian K. Truscott IV
Did you watch Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the past couple of days, doing his Double-Reverse Triple Salchow about the Moscow Trump tower story? Trying to pull Trump’s ass out of the fire, he somehow managed to rescue the Buzzfeed story, for crying out loud!

You remember the scoop Buzzfeed published an eon ago . . . ooops, it was only last Friday . . . that Trump ordered his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to a congressional committee about the Trump Moscow tower deal. The office of the Special Counsel surprised everyone the next day with a non-denial denial that somehow managed to avoid saying that Buzzfeed got its story wrong, while saying that the information in their story didn’t come from the Special Counsel.

The White House could have left it there, with doubt cast on whether Trump committed a felony by suborning perjury, but nooooooooo! They sent Rudy out to do the Sunday morning talk shows to “set the record straight,” or maybe to hide the record behind a fogbank of bullshit where it would hopefully be swept up by a waterspout and disappeared into the upper atmosphere.

(substitute “Giuliani” for “he” in the first sentence below.)

On Meet the Press on Sunday Giuliani said, “They [Trump and Cohen] did have conversations about it [Trump Tower Moscow]. The conversations lasted throughout parts of 2016, the president is not exactly sure when they ended. Probably up to . . . could be probably up to as far as October, November.”

Apparently, that answer displeased the man in the Oval Office, because Giuliani made a statement on Monday morning saying, “My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President.”

Asked later the same day by the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner whether Trump had spoken to Cohen about the Moscow project, Giuliani said, “I am not saying that he did it. I just told you he didn’t do it. I am telling you that their investigation is so ridiculous that, even if he did do it, it wouldn’t be a crime.”

Chotiner asked, “Wait, Mr. Mayor, if he had a project in Moscow that his attorney was discussing and he himself may have been involved in while he was calling for a loosening of sanctions against Russia and a different policy in Ukraine, and the American people didn’t know anything about that, you wouldn’t find that problematic?”

To which Giuliani responded, “First of all, the project was over in November, December, January, right into 2016. So there was no project. So there was no project. There was no project.”

But what about the story in The New York Times on Monday: “President Trump was involved in discussions to build a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign, his personal lawyer said on Sunday, a longer and more significant role for Mr. Trump than he had previously acknowledged. ‘Discussions were going on from the day I announced to the day I won,’ Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times.”

“He’s wrong! They’re wrong!” Giuliani told Chotiner. “I didn’t say that. Go find out where I said that on Sunday. I never said he was involved in such conversations . . . What I was talking about was, if he had those conversations, they would not be criminal.”

The Trump defense strategy (if it can be called that) surrounding the Moscow Trump tower deal is so hard to keep up with because it changes so rapidly. First Giuliani admits there was a Trump Moscow tower deal, and Cohen and Trump talked about it from 2015 through out 2016 all the way up until the day Trump was elected. Then Trump didn’t talk to Cohen about it. Then, even if Trump did talk to Cohen about the Moscow project, it wouldn’t have been a crime. Then there was no Moscow project at all. Then Giuliani himself never told the newspaper of record that Trump had talked about the Moscow project at all.

Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on here. The Times dropped a hint in its Monday story when they reported, “The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen.”

But that only scratches the surface. The real reason Trump has Giuliani out there trying out new lies to cover up old truths was revealed in what Cohen himself told prosecutors about his negotiations for the Moscow Trump tower. He said they began in 2015 and ended on June 14, 2016. But it’s known that Trump had been pursuing a Moscow deal for at least a decade. According to the Atlantic, he first traveled to Moscow to look at locations for a hotel in 1987. He tried again in 1996, and again in 2008, and yet again in 2013, when he was in Moscow with his Miss Universe pageant.

That was when he made the connection that would trap him in the impenetrable fog of admissions and denials we’ve seen over the past few days. His partner in the Miss Universe pageant was a good buddy of Russian President Vladimir Putin: Aras Agalarov, a prominent real estate developer in Moscow. Trump and Agalarov allegedly talked about partnering on a Trump Moscow tower at the time of the Moscow pageant.

Recognize that name, Agalarov? It was the mega-developer’s son, wannabe Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, who was the connection behind the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016.

On June 3, Emin’s British PR man, Rob Goldstone, sent Donald Trump Jr. an email loaded with goodies that caught the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”

On June 7, Donald Trump Jr. scheduled a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who was flying in from Moscow, according to an email he received from Rob Goldstone.

Also on June 7, Donald Trump gave a speech promising to reveal “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons” the following week, a suspected reference to the “dirt” Russians were promising on Clinton.

On June 8, Goldstone emailed Don Jr. offering help to the Trump campaign from the Russian media company, Vkontakte, or VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook.

Also on June 8, Russian intelligence agents working for the GRU launched “dcleaks.com,” a public website that would be used over the next several months to release stolen Democratic Party emails. The agents responsible for “dcleaks.com” have been indicted by Special Counsel Mueller.

The next day, on June 9, Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Russia-connected campaign manager Paul Manafort met with six Russians in Don Jr.’s office in Trump Tower. The person who professed to represent the Russian crown prosecutor was Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who had been involved in lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, a law passed during the Obama administration which imposed sanctions on numerous high-level Russian government officials and businessmen.

Veselnitskaya was recently indicted by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with trying to quash an investigation into a wealthy Russian businessman for money laundering. She brought with her to the Trump Tower meeting two very interesting Russian compatriots: Rinat Akhmetshin was a former Russian intelligence agent now working as a lobbyist against the Magnitsky Act; Ike Kaveladze was a vice president of Aras Agalarov’s Moscow development company who had been investigated by the General Accounting Office for setting up at least 2,000 Delaware corporations and bank accounts for Russian entities without knowing their identities or what the accounts were to be used for, a suspected scheme by wealthy Russians to launder money and avoid taxes (Kaveladze was not charged with committing a crime).

So into Don Jr.’s Trump Tower office on June 9 walked two Russians heavily involved in lobbying against sanctions imposed by Obama on Russians, and one Russian connected to a real estate company in Moscow that Trump had talked to about a Moscow project. The subject of the meeting was “information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton” that would come from the “Russian government.”

On June 12, Julian Assange told a British TV talk show that Hillary Clinton’s emails were “pending publication.”

On June 14, the Washington Post reported that “Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

Later the same day, Michael Cohen met with Trump business associate Felix Sater in the lobby of Trump Tower and told him he was canceling a planned trip to Moscow on the Trump tower project. Cohen was convicted of lying to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about his plans to travel to Russia for the Trump Moscow project, when in fact, he and Sater had exchanged “numerous messages” about the trip, including several travel documents Cohen would have to complete in advance of the trip, according to Mueller’s indictment of Cohen.

The indictment also states that Cohen discussed with “Individual 1” (identified as Donald Trump) the possibility of Trump traveling to Russia to discuss the Moscow project.

Discussions between Cohen and Sater about traveling to Moscow for the Trump project began on May 4, according to the Mueller indictment.

On May 3, 2016, Trump became the presumptive nominee of the Republican party when he won the Indiana primary, and his last two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, withdrew from the race.

It seems clear as spring water that the minute Trump effectively became the Republican nominee for president, he started being taken seriously in Moscow, and the tower deal picked up steam. That lasted right up until the day it was revealed that the Russians had hacked Hillary’s emails, when it became too dangerous for Trump to be associated with Russia in any way.

Trump denied any connections at all with Russia or Russians throughout the campaign and after his inauguration as president. He repeatedly and specifically denied that he had any “deals” or “investments” or “possible deals” in Russia.

Meanwhile, his people were meeting with and talking with Russians about sanctions imposed on prominent Russians by the Obama administration, at the same time they were talking with Russians about a deal to build a Trump tower in Moscow that is estimated to have earned Trump as much as 300 million dollars if the deal went through.

That’s why you’re seeing Giuliani tie himself in knots trying to deny stories that Trump was involved with Cohen in any way with the Moscow project, or that he ordered Cohen to lie about it to the Congress. Every time you see Trump or one of his lawyers execute a Double Reverse Triple Salchow, it’s because they’re jumping over the truth: that Trump was neck deep in connections to Putin.. That is why Trump is so panicked by any mention of the Moscow Trump tower. It’s evidence that his deal with Putin was a two-way street.

Putin wanted sanctions lifted and a puppet in the White House. Trump wanted money and to win the presidency. It was a deal neither of them could resist.


Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.
https://www.salon.com/2019/01/23/trumps ... s-the-key/





This Time It’s Russia’s Emails Getting Leaked

The Russian oligarchs and Kremlin apparatchiks spared by WikiLeaks in the past will not be so lucky this week, when transparency activists drop a massive archive of leaked docs.

01.24.19 1:45 AM ET
Russian oligarchs and Kremlin apparatchiks may find the tables turned on them later this week when a new leak site unleashes a compilation of hundreds of thousands of hacked emails and gigabytes of leaked documents. Think of it as WikiLeaks, but without Julian Assange’s aversion to posting Russian secrets.

The site, Distributed Denial of Secrets, was founded last month by transparency activists. Co-founder Emma Best said the Russian leaks, slated for release Friday, will bring into one place dozens of different archives of hacked material that, at best, have been difficult to locate, and in some cases appear to have disappeared entirely from the web.

“Stuff from politicians, journalists, bankers, folks in oligarch and religious circles, nationalists, separatists, terrorists operating in Ukraine,” said Best, a national-security journalist and transparency activist. “Hundreds of thousands of emails, Skype and Facebook messages, along with lots of docs.”

Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoS, is a volunteer effort that launched last month. Its objective is to provide researchers and journalists with a central repository where they can find the terabytes of hacked and leaked documents that are appearing on the internet with growing regularity. The site is a kind of academic library or a museum for leak scholars, housing such diverse artifacts as the files North Korea stole from Sony in 2014, and a leak from the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan.

The site’s Russia section already includes a leak from Russia’s Ministry of the Interior, portions of which detailed the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine at a time when the Kremlin was denying a military presence there. Though some material from that leak was published in 2014, about half of it wasn’t, and WikiLeaks reportedly rejected a request to host the files two years later, at a time when Julian Assange was focused on exposing Democratic Party documents passed to WikiLeaks by Kremlin hackers.

“A lot of what WikiLeaks will do is organize and re-publish information that’s appeared elsewhere,” said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute. “They’ve never done that with anything out of Russia.”

There’s no shortage of information out there. While barely known in the West, hacker groups like Shaltai Boltai, Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, and CyberHunta have been penetrating and exposing Russian secrets for years. Those leaks can be hard to find, though, particularly if you can’t read Russian.

Last year, Best agreed to help another journalist locate a particular Shaltai Boltai leak, a hunt that sent her into the world of Russian hacktivism. “Later I’m talking to some hackers—this is after DDoS’ public launch—and they hooked me up with a few archives,” Best told The Daily Beast. “A couple gigabytes, something like that. I do some digging, ask around, and manage to stir up a good bit more.”

Once word got around that Best was collecting Russian hacks, the floodgates opened. In late December, the project was on the verge of publishing its Russia collection when “middle of the night, more files come in,” Best said. Then an organization with its own collection of Russia leaks opened its archives to Best and her colleagues.

The DDoS project compiled more than 200,000 emails into a spreadsheet for ease of searching. In all, its cache now contains 61 different leaks totaling 175 gigabytes, dwarfing, by quantity at least, Russia’s leaks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The collection includes files from Alexander Budberg, a Russian columnist married to Dmitry Medvedev’s press secretary; Kirill Frolov, vice-director of the Kremlin-backed Institute for CIS Countries; and Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to Vladimir Putin who was hacked by CyberHunta in October 2016. The Surkov files contained documentary evidence of the Kremlin’s covert coordination with pro-Russia separatists within Ukraine, and though the Kremlin denounced the leak as a fake, several independent forensics examiners agreed the emails were the real deal.

DDoS differs from WikiLeaks in that it doesn’t solicit direct leaks of unpublished data—its focus is on compiling, organizing, and curating leaks that have already appeared somewhere in public. “Emma Best, I think, is someone who will actually do a good job,” said Weaver, citing Best’s aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act to extract documents from recalcitrant U.S. agencies. “Things get so scattered that putting it all into one place is a huge benefit.”

In an age where leaks and counterleaks have become geopolitical blood sport, any secret-spilling organization has to weigh the risks of a hoax or a leak that’s been maliciously tampered with. DDoS mitigated that danger in its Russian email leaks using the same technique WikiLeaks employed to authenticate the DNC emails—verifying the cryptographic signatures added by the receiving mail server under a security standard called DKIM. “In order to fake that, post hoc, you need the mail server’s private key,” said Weaver. “So when you deal with mail dumps where you have DKIM signatures, tampering can only act to remove entries. You can’t add or modify.”

The DDoS project received some pushback ahead of its December launch over plans to include the 2015 Ashley Madison leak, which exposed thousands of users of the infidelity dating site. Best rethought the plan and now keeps that leak offline, along with other sensitive database breaches primarily affecting people who aren’t public figures.

Though the project is less than two months old, Best is already feeling the creeping paranoia that comes with publishing secrets. At one point, while compiling the Russia leaks, she and her colleagues thought they detected signs of potential “cyber shenanigans” aimed at interfering with the release. They reacted quickly.

“We moved things up and sent copies to several servers and arranged for some secure offline storage by third parties,” she said. It may have been nothing, Best added. “We opted for caution.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-time ... ing-leaked


ABOUT

The Collective

We are a small group, but our reach expands far beyond just our members, not all of who are listed or ever acknowledged by their own preference. We have informally worked together for many years and have developed deep connections in the field of data gathering, research, journalism, activism and technology. In 2018, we decided to pool together our expertise and time to create a unified project representing our shared goals, and provide a platform for others to know and trust.

The modern state of “leaking” organizations has detoriorated rapidly for many years, poisoned by their own egos and interests. Our view is that data is a resource and a record - this data can never tell the whole story. We trust the public to be responsible with data, and open it to them for the rigorous examination of it. In time, the truth can always emerge.

The Team

Emma Best - @NatSecGeek

Emma is an independent journalist who has spent more years filling out FOIA’s than most people have spent reading the news. Known for her tenacity in always finding the next lead and penetrating the bureaucratic walls of government, she has a keen eye for the details in every document and is a ruthless advocate for the truth even when all others dare not dig deeper.

“Vexsome” - Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016

“The Architect”

A pseudonym for our technical behemoth who wishes to remain anonymous. He is no stranger to controversy and has been involved in privacy and technology activism for at least 10 years. The Architect is primarily responsible for advising on the operational security of the collective and maintains web and technical operations for the group.
https://ddosecretspzwfy7.onion.to/about/


Spencer Hsu


@hsu_spencer
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Spencer Hsu Retweeted Rosalind Helderman
NOW Jerome Corsi stepson Andrew Stettner has arrived at the U.S. district courthouse in D.C. to testify to a grand jury working with the Mueller Russia investigation. "He doesn't have much to say," said his attorney Larry Klayman, anticipating his appearance would not take long

Rosalind Helderman

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@PostRoz
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After a few weeks off, Mueller grand jury apparently preparing to hear new witnesses. Jerome Corsi says his stepson has been subpoenaed to appear.

MUELLER NEWS: Mueller's Grand Jury is meetin' today (Thursday) which is a bit unusual. WaPo reporter Spencer Hsu notes the last time they met on Thursday was the day before the last batch of indictments were rolled out on Friday.

Today is first time that I've seen since July 12, day before the 12 GRU agents indictment.
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Re: Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Elec

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:32 pm

I'm sure there's an innocent explanation for all of this. Right? Right?


trump and his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russians
russiatrump.tiff
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Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee who has also been newly named to the House Oversight Committee, appeared on MSNBC on Friday. She stated that she plans to use her newfound position in the House majority to investigate the recently exposed financial connection between Blavatnik and Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Trump inauguration donor Blavatnik had business ties to Russia official — Quartz

Max de HaldevangJanuary 22, 2019
GOP donor Len Blavatnik had Kremlin business ties
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Blavatnik, who owns Warner Media, attending the 2018 Grammys with his wife, Emily Appelson.
For most of his life, billionaire Len Blavatnik put few of his vast resources into US politics. That changed in 2015.

Since then, the oligarch, a US citizen who was born and raised in the former Soviet Union and made his fortune in Russia, has donated more than $6 million to Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission data cited by the Dallas Morning News, plus $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, and several hundred thousand dollars to Democrats, including relatively small sums to senators Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden, FEC filings show.

The question of Russia-linked money entering US politics has been of interest to law enforcement and congressional investigators since reports of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election surfaced that year. Now, numerous ties between the Kremlin and people in the Trump orbit have been revealed, and Russian graduate student Maria Butina has pleaded guilty to trying to infiltrate the Republican party as a foreign agent for Russia.

Quartz’s reporting shows that, during at least part of the time Blavatnik was stepping up his GOP donations, one of his many companies was partnered with a firm that was reportedly part-owned by a then-official in the Russian government. He also was in business with two other oligarchs now sanctioned by the US government. (Blavatnik’s contributions are legal—he became a naturalized US citizen in 1984.)

Asked in September 2017 by ABC News about a report that US special counsel Robert Mueller was looking into donations to Trump’s inauguration fund by Blavatnik and other Republican donors with Russian ties, Adam Schiff, now chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said, “if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also reportedly investigating whether big donors to Trump’s inauguration committee gave money in exchange for access to the administration. It’s unclear if they are looking into Blavatnik, but his was among the bigger donations to the controversial fund.

Blavatnik owns stakes in companies that have together received millions of dollars in contracts from sensitive US government agencies such as the departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, according to federal filings. Those firms include biotech company Humacyte, chemicals firm LyondellBasell, and natural-gas giant Calpine, which was recently bought by a consortium co-led by Blavatnik’s main holding company Access Industries.

Access Industries declined to answer detailed questions for comment on this story, sending a short statement via an outside public-relations company that said Blavatnik’s donations are “motivated by a desire to further a pro-business, pro-Israel agenda,” and “are a matter of public record and comply with all legal requirements.” Humacyte, LyondellBasell, and Calpine didn’t reply to emailed requests for comment.

Meet Len Blavatnik

Blavatnik left the USSR for America at age 21 in 1978, became a US citizen, and returned to Russia as a businessman in the 1990s. He swiftly became one of the richest of a generation of post-Soviet oligarchs, making a fortune in the newly privatized oil sector and the notorious “aluminum wars.”

As recently as May 2016, Blavatnik’s business linked him to Russia’s then-deputy minister of Internal Affairs, Alexander Makhonov, Panama Papers files show. Amediateka, a major Russian TV-streaming company majority owned by Blavatnik’s Access Industries, seems to have outsourced part of its subscription services to Nemo TV, a company in which Makhonov and his business partner Dmitry Karyakin, who apparently founded Nemo, reportedly held a stake via offshore companies. Nemo also reportedly embedded Amediateka into its product and was its “exclusive technology partner” for smart TV platforms, according to a former Nemo executive. (The size of Makhonov’s stake in Nemo is unclear. When he and Karyakin set up what was reportedly the parent company for their offshore businesses in 2012, they split the shares 50-50. It’s unclear if the ownership structure changed or if there were other investors in Nemo.)

The connection between the two companies and Makhonov’s stake in Nemo TV was first reported by investigative journalism nonprofit OCCRP, based on Panama Papers files. That story didn’t mention Blavatnik or his umbrella company Access Industries.

It’s unclear whether Blavatnik had any interaction with Makhonov through the arrangement, but the small window into the apparent offshore entanglements of Russian businesses provided by the Panama Papers shows that Blavatnik did indeed share financial interests with a Russian official while heavily donating to the Republican party. There is no allegation of any illegality in these shared interests nor in holding those interests while making US political donations.

As number two in the Interior Ministry, Makhonov had a critical role in Russian law enforcement. His former boss Alexander Prokopchuk recently lost a bid to lead Interpol, after human-rights activists and US senators accused him of using Russia’s Interpol office to go after Kremlin enemies. Makhonov resigned from his government role—the level below a cabinet position—in October 2017, after an official he had hired was arrested in a corruption scandal. (Quartz was unable to reach Makhonov for comment on this story.)

Louise Shelley, director of George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, says these government ties are indicative of Russia’s general business climate. “To operate the businesses [Blavatnik] does, you can’t be a major actor without political ties—that’s just the way business operates [in Russia],” says Shelley, author of Dark Commerce. “It’s very hard to function in the [commodities] sector without having those relationships.”

The ties to Makhonov and other Russian oligarchs suggest Blavatnik “has good relations with people high up in the Russian government,” says University of Dallas academic Ruth May, who first unearthed many of Blavatnik’s political contributions in two Dallas Morning News pieces.

Blavatnik’s donations to US politicians

Between 2009 and 2014, Blavatnik, a dual US-UK citizen, had been giving relatively small donations to both US political parties; his biggest spend was a total $273,600 in the 2014 election cycle.

However, from 2015 to late 2017, he donated at least $6.35 million to Republican party institutions, PACs, and candidates, May wrote in the Dallas Morning News, based on FEC data. He gave the money in a mixture of personal donations and contributions via Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, which he also reportedly owns. (The two firms share the same CEO and Blavatnik’s brother is listed as AI Altep’s director, according to Open Corporates.)

Most of that cash went to Super PACs associated with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and onetime presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Lindsey Graham. McConnell, Rubio, Walker, and Kasich didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment. A spokesman for Graham said the South Carolina senator “has been one of the harshest critics of Russia/Putin out there” and noted that it’s illegal for candidates to coordinate with Super PACs, while inexplicably linking to an article on how politicians are almost never actually punished for such coordination.

Trump’s campaign didn’t receive any Blavatnik cash during the 2016 campaign but he has donated large sums to the Republican National Committee’s legal fund, which has helped finance Trump’s legal defense for the Russia probe, according to the Wall Street Journal. He also gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. The committee raised an astonishing $107 million and reportedly spent $104 million; around double the cost of Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural celebrations. More than $1.5 million went to Trump’s hotel in Washington, according to the New York Times. The White House did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Two donations had particularly bad optics, May says: $1 million to the McConnell-associated Senate Leadership Fund PAC on Oct. 25, 2016, and $250,000 to the Rubio-tied Florida First Project on Oct. 27. Two weeks earlier, America’s top intelligence officials had accused Russia of hacking Democratic National Committee servers. Former vice president Joe Biden has since accused McConnell of refusing, during the 2016 campaign, to sign onto a bipartisan statement criticizing the Russian attacks. Neither McConnell nor Rubio replied to emailed requests for comment.

In a letter sent to Quartz in December, Blavatnik’s lawyer, Martin Singer, denied any suggestion of wrongdoing by Blavatnik, saying that he had “zero” involvement in Russian politics.

Blavatnik also gave hundreds of thousands to Democrats in the same period. Senators Harris, Wyden, and Bob Menendez were among the dozen or so politicians to receive comparatively small donations. None of the three senators have replied to emailed requests for comment.

Blavatnik’s donations to right-wing causes continued late into 2018. His foundation paid $50,000 to be the “Patron Sponsor” of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank’s annual gala on Dec. 3, honoring the outgoing House speaker Paul Ryan and UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Past Hudson Institute honorees include former president Ronald Reagan, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, and vice president Mike Pence. The founder of Hudson’s vaunted Kleptocracy Initiative, which publishes reports on the influence of Russian money in global politics, quit the think tank as a result of the donation, telling the New York Post: “Blavatnik is precisely what the Kleptocracy Initiative is fighting against.” The Hudson Institute did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Since becoming a British citizen in 2010, Blavatnik has given the ruling Conservative party £94,500 ($121,000), according to Britain’s Electoral Commission. The Conservative party did not respond to a request for comment.

Blavatnik the philanthropist

Blavatnik takes great pains to distance himself from Russian politics. Within hours of describing Blavatnik as an “oligarch” when breaking the news of his donation to Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017, Quartz received an email from his PR representative. An outside spokesperson for Blavatnik’s Access Industries called the term oligarch “both highly inaccurate and offensive,” arguing that it implied having a “great deal of political influence” in Russia. The spokesperson said that Blavatnik hadn’t had any contact with president Vladimir Putin since 2000 and that he “plays no role in Russian politics.”

The tycoon has instead styled himself as a “major American industrialist and philanthropist.” In 2017, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for services to philanthropy. Candidates for knighthoods are typically recommended by the British government, currently headed by Conservative prime minister Theresa May.

He is a major funder of institutes, government schools, museum wings, and even seating tiers at the likes of Harvard, Oxford, London’s Tate Modern, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. A Tate spokesperson said Blavatnik has “a well-known track record for philanthropy” and that the museum is “grateful for his generous support.” The other three institutions didn’t reply to emailed requests for comment.

Under Mueller’s eye

In September 2017, an unnamed Republican campaign aide who had been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators told ABC News the probe was looking at the timing of contributions to Trump’s political funds by Blavatnik and two other US businessmen with Russian ties.

Mueller has taken an interest in Blavatnik’s longtime business partner Viktor Vekselberg, who reportedly met with Trump’s then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen just days before Trump’s inauguration. A couple of weeks after that meeting, a private-equity firm run by Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin, paid Cohen $1 million in consulting fees. (Intrater says Vekselberg had nothing to do with the decision to pay Cohen.)

Earlier this year, Mueller‘s team questioned Vekselberg, according to the New York Times and CNN. Vekselberg has since been sanctioned by the US Treasury in response to a broad array of alleged global “malign activity” by the Kremlin. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said the sanctions targeted oligarchs who “profit from [Russia’s] corrupt system.” Vekselberg reportedly had $1.5 billion to $2 billion of his firms’ assets frozen due to the sanctions. The Treasury department added that two of Vekselberg’s top executives were arrested in 2016 for bribing Russian officials.

As recently as April, Blavatnik and Vekselberg’s company Sual Partners owned 26.5% of Rusal, an aluminum giant long owned by yet another Russian of interest to Mueller: Oleg Deripaska.

A close Putin confidante, Deripaska’s relationship with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is one of the central questions of the Trump-Russia affair. In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, Deripaska and Rusal were sanctioned by the US Treasury department, which says the oligarch “does not separate himself from the Russian state” and accuses Deripaska of links to organized crime, ordering the murder of a businessman, and wiretapping a government official.

In December 2018, the Treasury department announced it planned to remove sanctions from Rusal, after the company committed to reducing Deripaska’s stake in it to below 50%. The move looks likely to go ahead despite bipartisan opposition in the House and Senate.
https://qz.com/1521847/major-gop-donor- ... -official/



To target Blavatnik is to target McConnell


How Putin's oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns

May 8

The Dallas Morning News

Editor's note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycle. Blavatnik's family emigrated to the U.S. in the late '70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late '80s.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik's campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik's political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

In 2017, donations continued, with $41,000 going to both Republican and Democrat candidates, along with $1 million to McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund.

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So is this legal?

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News in September: "Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern."

Under federal law, foreigner nationals are barred from contributing directly or indirectly to political campaigns in local, state and federal elections.

Should Blavatnik's contributions concern Mueller's team of investigators? Take a look at his long-time business associates in Russia.

The Oligarchs

Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia's Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world. Blavatnik holds a stake in Rusal with a business partner.

Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska's stake in Rusal is owned by Putin's state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions. VTB was exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Putin.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, began collecting $10 million a year in 2006 from Deripaska to advance Putin's interests with Western governments. Deripaska's name turned up again in an email handed over to Mueller's team by Manafort's attorneys. According to The Washington Post, in the email dated July 7, 2016, just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, Manafort asked an overseas intermediary to pass a message on to Deripaska: "If he [Deripaska] needs private briefings, tell him we can accommodate."

Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal. (They met while attending university in Russia.)

In 1990, Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group for large-scale investments in energy, infrastructure, aluminum and other metals. One of their earliest investments was in Tyumen Oil Co. (TNK), founded in 1995. TNK is best known for its contentious partnership with British Petroleum after the two entities formed a joint venture in 2003. That rocky relationship ended 10 years later when they sold out to the state-controlled energy giant, Rosneft, under pressure from the Russian government.

As for BP, that pressure took the form of growing harassment and intimidation from Russian authorities who at one point, according to Forbes, refused to renew visas for BP employees, forcing BP's joint venture chief Robert Dudley (who is now chief executive of BP) to flee Russia and manage TNK-BP from a foreign outpost in a secret location.

Vekselberg has connections to at least two Americans who made significant GOP campaign contributions during the last cycle. They are among several Americans who also merit Mueller's scrutiny.

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The Americans

Andrew Intrater, according to Mother Jones, is Vekselberg's cousin. He is also chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova's U.S. investment arm located in New York. (FEC records list his employer as Renova US Management LLC.)

Intrater had no significant history of political contributions prior to the 2016 elections. But in January 2017 he contributed $250,000 to Trump's Inaugural Committee. His six-figure gift bought him special access to a dinner billed as "an intimate policy discussion with select cabinet appointees," according to a brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Alexander Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250,000 in 2000 to support the George W. Bush presidential campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government, according to Quartz. So why didn't the Trump team reject Shustorovich's $1 million check to Trump's Inaugural Committee?

Simon Kukes is an oil magnate who has something in common with Intrater. From 1998 to 2003, he worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik as chief executive of TNK. Redacted CIA documents released in 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act said "TNK president Kukes said that he bribed local officials." The CIA confirmed the authenticity of the reports to The Guardian newspaper but would not comment further. In 2016, Kukes contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before last year's election.

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There is no doubt that Kukes has close ties to the Putin government. When he left his job as CEO of TNK in June 2003, he joined the board of Yukos Oil, which at the time was the largest oil company in Russia owned by the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Four months after Kukes joined the board, authorities arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint on his private plane in Siberia on trumped up charges of tax evasion and tapped Kukes to be CEO. This decision could only have been made at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The arrest of Khodorkovsky rattled the nerves of international investors and was the first tangible sign that Putin was not going to be the kind of leader that global executives and Western governments had expected him to be when he first took office in 2000.

Khodorkovksy was given a 13-year sentence in a Siberian prison and served 10 years before being released by Putin in December 2013, a month before the start of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, as a sign of goodwill. As for the fate of Khodorkovksy's company, its largest oil subsidiary was sold in a sealed bid auction to Baikal Financial Group, a shell company with an unpublished list of officers. Baikal was registered at an address that turned out to be a mobile phone store in Tver, Russia. Three days after the auction, all of Baikal's assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant that went on to buy TNK-BP in 2013.

In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

Even if the donations by the four men associated with Russia ultimately pass muster with Mueller, one still has to wonder: Why did GOP PACs and other Trump-controlled funds take their money? Why didn't the PACs say, "Thanks, but no thanks," like the Republicans said to Shustorovich in 2000? Yes, it was legal to accept their donations, but it was incredibly poor judgment.

McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell's PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik's AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia's interference in the election.

And consider Steve Mnuchin, Trump's campaign finance chairman. Could he have known that the Trump Victory Fund, jointly managed by the Republican National Committe and Trump's campaign, took contributions from Intrater and Kukes? Mnuchin owned Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump's appointment as the Treasury secretary.

Which PAC officials are making the decisions to accept these donations?

The Supreme Court

The contributions are legal because the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling, Citizens United, and several subsequent decisions, allowed American corporations and citizens to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and non-profit 501c4 organizations, regardless of how they make their money, where they make their money, or with whom they make their money. The only caveat is that PACs and non-profits cannot coordinate their activities with the political candidates they support.

The man who led the winning fight for Citizens United was David Bossie, president of the conservative non-profit since 2001. In 1996, Bossie was hired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton to lead an investigation into President Bill Clinton's campaign fundraising. Burton fired him 18 months later for manipulating recordings of conversations among law officials and Webb Hubbell, a Clinton confidant who resigned as associate attorney general and pleaded guilty to tax fraud during the Whitewater investigation. CNN reported at the time that Newt Gingrich, who was speaker of the House, called Bossie's tampering with the Hubbell recordings an embarrassment to the Republicans.

Bossie served as Trump's deputy campaign chairman.

The Super PAC, Make America Number 1, is primarily funded by Trump's largest donor, Robert Mercer. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund donated $15.5 million to the PAC.

Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, assumed control of Make America Number 1 in September 2016 and is now tainted by her role in the communications between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hired for $5.9 million to handle the digital portion of the Trump campaign.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix if the firm could compile stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton so that they could be more easily searched. (This suggestion came from someone she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, according to The Hill. Cambridge Analytica had worked on digital marketing for Cruz before he dropped out of the Republican primary.)

Nix confirmed that he had asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to forward the Clinton-related emails. Assange said he declined the request.

Rebekah Mercer also heads the non-profit Making America Great, formed in March 2017. The non-profit ran a seven-figure ad campaign highlighting Trump's achievements. Bossie is the group's chief strategist.

Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contributed $150,000 to Mercer's Make America Number 1 PAC and another $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Prince has recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his trip to the remote Seychelles for a secret meeting in December 2016 with a close ally of Putin, Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to setup a back channel of communication between then president-elect Donald Trump and the Russians, though Prince has denied this allegation. Before the 2015-16 elections, Prince's political contributions totaled a mere $31,800 as far back as 2007, according to FEC records.

The hybrid super-PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, was formed in 2013 under the name Stop Hillary PAC. It is managed by Dan Backer, the lead attorney who won the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission case in 2014. The Supreme Court decision eliminated the cap on how much wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties and PACs in a single, two-year election cycle.

Like Bossie, Dan Backer helped to open the floodgates to millions of dollars of influence brought to bear on incumbents and their political challengers who are now pressured to kowtow to their donors with the biggest bank accounts, even if their billions are earned in Russian rubles.

Backer was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1978.

The changes to our campaign finance laws created an avenue for Russia to try to influence our elections. There are holes in our firewall and they aren't on the internet.

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Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmay
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