🇷🇺 Trump/Russia

This bibliography starts 7/26/2017
Key People: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, Rinat Akhmetshin, Andrii Artemenko, Leonid “Len” Blavatnik, Wm Browder, Yuri Chaika, Igor Chekunov, Oleg Deripaska, Kirill Dmitriev, Dmitri Firtash, Sergei Gorkov, Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab), Denis Katsyv, Irakly Kaveladze, Konstantin Kilimnik, Konstantin Kosachev, Viktor Medvedchek, George Nader, Alexander Perepilichny, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Christopher Steele, Ruslan Stoyanov, Oleg Solodukhin, Viktor Vekselberg, Natalia Veselnitskaya,

Wikipedia: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, Rinat Akhmetshin, Leonid “Len” Blavatnik, Andrii Artemenko, William Browder, Yuri Chaika, Igor Chekunov, Oleg Deripaska, Kirill Dmitriev, Dmitri Firtash, Sergei Gorkov, Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Lab), Denis Katsyv, Irakly Kaveladze, Konstantin Kilimnik, Konstantin Kosachev, Viktor Medvedchek, Alexander Perepilichny, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Christopher Steele, Ruslan Stoyanov, Oleg Solodukhin, Viktor Vekselberg, Natalia Veselnitskaya,

Key Documents

⋙ 💙💙🔄 Moyers&Co: Interactive Timeline: Everything We Know About Russia and President Trump http://bit.ly/2uVHc9j
// continually updated

⋙ 💙💙🔄📒 DocumentCloud: Steele Dossier [pdf] http://bit.ly/2y5ZhnF 35p

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ AP: Mueller Investigation documents http://bit.ly/2ihbK0l

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ CNN, Marshall Cohen, Tal Yellen & Liz Stark: Tracking the Russia investigations (documents) http://cnn.it/2hVCpU5

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ Politico: The people connected to the Russia probes [ Interactive ] http://politi.co/2FUDhz2 //➔ Democrats, Prosecutors, Law Enforcement/Lobbyists/Media,Team Trump, Foreign Nationals

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ NBCNews: Russia timeline: Key players, meetings and investigation details http://nbcnews.to/2vtR3YW

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ DailyBeast: Democrats Release the Fusion GPS Testimony on Trump and Russia http://thebea.st/2qMmH1d w attachment [pdf]
⋙ via Dianne Feinstein http://bit.ly/2FjtlPP

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ NYT: Justice Department Gives Congress Comey’s Memos on Trump http://nyti.ms/2HdLe2Z
// 4/19/2018 ➔ DocumentCloud: http://bit.ly/2HOGC4z

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ DOJ: Indictment of Internet Research Agency LLC et al … [PDF] http://bit.ly/2CqdHzD 37p //➔ Mueller Investigation
// 2/16/2018

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ Amy Siskind: The Weekly List ~ “This is How Democracy Ends” https://theweeklylist.org

⋙ 💙💙🔄≣ NYT: Mueller Has List of Questions for Trump http://nyti.ms/2rfDuqK + http://nyti.ms/2HExEKi
// 4/30/2018, Majority Relate to if Trump Obstructed Inquiry on Russia

⭕ 20 May 2018

WaPo: Justice Department calls for inquiry after Trump demands probe into whether FBI ‘infiltrated or surveilled’ his campaign http://wapo.st/2rV3Pve

Under pressure from President Trump, the Justice Department on Sunday asked its inspector general to assess whether political motivation tainted the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign — a remarkable step officials hoped might avert a larger clash between the president and federal law enforcement officials.

Trump, who spent much of Sunday railing against the year-old special counsel probe, tweeted in the afternoon that “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Hours later, the Justice Department responded by saying it had asked its inspector general to expand an ongoing review of the applications to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser “to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”

The department noted that a U.S. attorney would be consulted if evidence of criminal conduct was found.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

NYT: Trump Demands Inquiry Into Whether Justice Dept. ‘Infiltrated or Surveilled’ His Campaign http://nyti.ms/2s0niKh

But in ordering up a new inquiry, Mr. Trump went beyond his usual tactics of suggesting wrongdoing and political bias by those investigating him, and crossed over into applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department to do his bidding, an extraordinary realm where past presidents have hesitated to tread.

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon, “and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Legal experts said such a presidential intervention had little precedent, and could force a clash between the sitting president and his Justice Department that would be reminiscent of the one surrounding Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, when a string of top officials resigned rather than carry out his order to fire a special prosecutor investigating him.

In response to Mr. Trump’s post, the Justice Department asked its internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, to expand its current inquiry into the surveillance of a former Trump campaign official to include the questions raised by the president.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who is overseeing the Russia inquiry, said in a statement.

By handing the question to the inspector general, Mr. Rosenstein appeared to be trying to thread the needle, giving the president what he said he wanted without fully bowing to his demands.

But it was not clear whether that would satisfy Mr. Trump, who in February complained that it was “disgraceful” for the Justice Department to hand over the surveillance investigation to an inspector general who lacks prosecutorial power, saying it would “take forever” and suggesting that he was “an Obama guy.”

WaPo: Michael Cohen payments put spotlight on New York investment firm linked to Russian billionaire http://wapo.st/2wY8pxT

Slate, Daniel Politi: Trump Doubles Down on Unhinged Rant, “Hereby Demands” Probe Into Whether FBI “Infiltrated” Campaign http://slate.me/2x0TW40

With the tweet, Trump was taking to a new level his response to reports that an FBI informant talked to two of his campaign advisers that investigators believe had suspicious contacts with people tried to the Kremlin. And it came shortly after House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes fanned the outrage flames by saying that “if they ran a spy ring or an informant ring and they were paying people within the Trump campaign—if any of that is true, that is an absolute red line.” In an interview on Fox News, Nunes said he and his fellow Republicans have not been able to confirm whether there really was an informant because they haven’t received the appropriate documents from the FBI and Justice Department. But officials warn that turning over the information that Republicans are requesting would pose a serious risk to the source’s life.

The New York Times reported that the FBI used an informant to covertly approach Trump campaign associates that had suspicious contacts with people tied to Russia, and not that it had infiltrated the informant to spy on the campaign. “No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal,” notes the Times.

PhillyInquirer, Will Bunch: How the Trump family sold U.S. foreign policy to the highest bidder http://bit.ly/2IVQfBj

Trump stunned his own foreign policy team — including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis — when he tweeted [on 6/6/2017] that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism and seemingly endorsed an economic and political blockage of the tiny, oil-rich nation organized and led by two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

How to make sense of a 180-degree shift in policy that seemed so counter to U.S. interests in the region? A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Not long before Team Trump switched gears on Qatar, key officials from the emirate had met with Charles Kushner — father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared, who’s in charge of Trump’s Middle East portfolio — to discuss a massive Qatar-funded bailout of 666 Fifth Ave., the debt-laden Manhattan skyscraper that was threatening to sink the Kushner family real estate empire. But the Qataris rejected the deal — just weeks before the policy about-face. Whatever actually happened, the appearance was simply awful.

It also seems not to have been the full story. This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

“The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the Times reported. Some key elements — exactly who was behind the plan, and what parts, if any, were carried out — remain murky.

But like a lot of Trump scandals, the smoke from any alleged fire was clearly visible. Nader became a Trump ally who met frequently with key players like then-national security adviser (and future felon) Michael Flynn. He also, according to the Times, later made a large payment to the ex-spy Joel Zamel, as much as $2 million. After Trump was elected, Erik Prince attended a then-secret meeting in the Seychelles believed to have been brokered by UAE to cement ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. After Trump became president, American foreign policy has been almost unwaveringly consistent in fighting for the foreign policy goals of nations believed to have supported his 2016 election: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — most notably with Trump’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal that is seriously destabilizing the Middle East. These dealings increasingly appear to have benefited the Trumps and Kushners not just politically but financially — even as they are not helpful, and even counterproductive at times, to the American people whom Trump was allegedly elected to represent.

The Times scoop on Trump’s dealings with the Saudis and UAE is the puzzle piece that finally brings the big picture into focus. As Trump’s unlikely 2016 campaign drew closer to the White House, it triggered a mad dash to sell American foreign policy to the highest bidder — and some of the world’s worst autocrats stepped up to the plate. What happened next is arguably tantamount to treason. What is beginning to take shape is the outlines of a scandal that threatens to be worse than Watergate on a massive scale, that would make Richard Nixon’s crimes truly seem like “a third-rate burglary” in comparison.

A shadowy network of computer hackers in Eastern Europe and experts in psywar techniques used illegal methods — including voter suppression aimed at African Americans — to essentially steal a U.S. presidential election decided by a mere 100,000 or so votes in a few key states. Meanwhile, the foreign countries that backed this enterprise and their billionaire allies also found myriad ways to financially support America’s new ruling junta — dangling real estate deals, hiring Trump allies, booking big parties at Trump hotels, giving millions to Trump’s inauguration that no one can now account for — in ways that have built a bonfire out of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

And here’s the worst part: The sudden trashing of long-standing American policy objectives — like the Iran deal or delaying any move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem until a true Israel-Palestinian peace deal — risks war on large scale. People could die in the name of keeping 666 Fifth Ave. and the Trump Organization afloat. Arguably, some already are.

The scope of the Trump-Kushner foreign policy auction is so vast that it would take a whole book to cover, and indeed several have been written. But it helps to break down the outlines of a conspiracy into three simple components. In each of these areas, the accumulating evidence has grown from a whisper to a scream over the last two years. …

It never should have gotten to this point. The political pundits are still busy debating whether Trump impeachment is a good fall political strategy for the Democrats or a losing hand. But things have already moved way beyond that. If we’re at the point where we can tolerate soliciting foreign governments for help in a presidential election, using stolen data, reality-bending psychological warfare and voter suppression of blacks to win, a president and his son-in-law senior adviser profiting from deals while sitting in the White House, slush funds to pay off mistresses and God knows what else, and then making life-or-death decisions based on all of these utterly corrupt things, then the United States is not a country anymore. How much worse does the worst political scandal in American history have to get before the people who actually can do something wake up and do something?

🐣 RT @JohnBrennan Senator McConnell & Speaker Ryan: If Mr. Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy. You do a great disservice to our Nation & the Republican Party if you continue to enable Mr. Trump’s self-serving actions.
↥ ↧
💥🐣 RT @realDonaldTrump I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!

NYT: Mueller Hopes to Wrap Up Obstruction Inquiry Into Trump by Sept. 1, Giuliani Says http://nyti.ms/ 2IyE2Dz

⭕ 19 May 2018

WSJ: Mueller Probe Expands to Israeli Entrepreneur With U.A.E. Ties http://on.wsj.com/2rWM0Ll
// Investigation has sought testimony regarding work of Joel Zamel, founder of several private consulting firms http://on.wsj.com/

NYT: Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election http://nyti.ms/2wYrtfg
↥ ↧
WaPo: Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel http://wapo.st/2k7Ytbw
// 4/3/2018

NYT: F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims http://nyti.ms/2rTDPAf
// “According to people familiar with Mr. Flynn’s visit to the intelligence seminar, the source was alarmed by the general’s apparent closeness with a Russian woman who was also in attendance. The concern was strong enough that it prompted another person to pass on a warning to the American authorities that Mr. Flynn could be compromised by Russian intelligence, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

⭕ 18 May 2018

WaPo: Your cheat sheet to Trump’s push to expose an FBI informant http://wapo.st/2wSWNvJ

⭕ 17 May 2018

WaPo: ‘Bigger than Watergate’: Trump joins push by allies to expose role of an FBI source http://wapo.st/2GxeK2Q

NYT: ‘Bigger Than Watergate’? Both Sides Say Yes, but for Different Reasons http://nyti.ms/2KwDlHq

⭕ 16 May 2018

 TheAtlantic: The Lingering Mysteries of a Trump-Russia Conspiracy http://theatln.tc/2IsStF4
// A year of dizzying developments have bolstered both Mueller’s critics, who say he’s on a “fishing expedition,” and his defenders, who believe he’s leaving no stone unturned.

NewYorker, Ronan Farrow: Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records http://bit.ly/2wN0kvQ
⋙ Excerpts under Articles

Politico: Senate intelligence leaders: Russians schemed to help Trump http://politi.co/2GmN68l

It’s a powerful bipartisan endorsement of a conclusion that had been called into question by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who have accused intelligence agencies of failing to employ proper “tradecraft” when they concluded Russia came to support Trump’s candidacy. Instead, it’s the Republicans on the House panel who find themselves isolated in their position in what has become an increasingly antagonistic relationship with the FBI and Justice Department.

The assessment, which U.S. intelligence leaders issued weeks before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, concluded that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had ordered an “influence campaign” intended ” to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” It added that the Russians eventually developed “a clear preference” for Trump, and in time “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
🐣 RT @SenatorBurr Vice Chairman @MarkWarner and I released the following statements regarding today’s Senate Intelligence Committee closed hearing to complete its review of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: https://twitter.com/SenatorBurr/status/996782613611282434/photo/1
⇈ ⇊
🐣 RT @MarkWarner CONFIRMED: After a thorough review, Senate Intel has found no evidence to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia, on orders from Putin, carried out an unprecedented election interference effort to help the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign in 2016.

🐣 RT @krassenstein This week @EdKrassen & I have been concentrating on the “brokerage of 19%” of the sale of Rosneft from the dossier. Today’s Senate release of 1,500 documents and testimony related to the June 9 Trump Tower Meeting, seems to perhaps confirm this deal was discussed! (1)
Link: https://twitter.com/krassenstein/status/996755836352548867

DailyBeast: ‘Kremlin Used’ NRA to Help Trump in 2016, Says Senate Judiciary Committee http://thebea.st/2KumLbb

The Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that the Russian government apparently used the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. “The committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,” according to a report on the panel’s preliminary findings on Russia and the presidential campaign. The NRA may have been used to “secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign,” the report states. While the report didn’t discuss the documents, it said two Russian nationals—Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina—were “involved in this effort.” Torshin, a member of Russia’s central bank, hosted an NRA delegation in Moscow in 2013. Butina, founder of a pro-gun group in Russia, boasted at a Washington, D.C. party following the election that she was “part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia,” The Daily Beast reported last year.

🐣 RT @brianklaas Remember: Trump publicly announced that he would be unveiling new dirt on Hillary Clinton related to Russia *three hours* after Don Jr. confirmed the meeting with the Russians who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a “high-level” effort to help Trump win.
⋙ 🐣 RT @MaggieNYT What @DonaldJTrumpJr told committee re whether he spoke to his father re the statement on Russian lawyer meeting: “I chose not to because I didn’t want to bring him into some thing that he had nothing to do with.”

⭕ 15 May 2018

NYT: Tantalizing Testimony From a Top Trump Aide Sets Off a Search for Proof http://nyti.ms/2jXmm5E

⭕ 14 May 2018

Politico: Ukrainian politician behind controversial peace proposal to appear in Mueller probe http://politi.co/2jV1KuI

🐣 RT @HowardDean Finally I get why Nunes is such a toady. It’s not about Trump. He is terrified of his own fate because of his role on the transition team which might well be treasonous and land him in prison.
⋙ 🐣 RT @AshaRangappa_ December 2016. So much going on. The Kushner-Kislyak secret back channel proposal. Flynn’s secret convo with the Russians. That pesky Carter Page FISA which @DevinNunes is *terrified* of (and during which time he was on the transition team). And now this.
↥ ↧
MotherJones, Dan Friedman: Qatari Investor Accused in Bribery Plot Appears With Michael Cohen in Picture Posted by Stormy Daniels’ Lawyer http://bit.ly/
// 5/13/2018, He’s shown meeting with Cohen at Trump Tower shortly after the election.

⭕ 12 May 2018

NYT: Suspicions, Demands and Threats: Devin Nunes vs. the Justice Dept. http://nyti.ms/2jP4ry6

“The goal is not the information,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee. “The goal is the fight. And the ultimate objective is to undermine the Justice Department, undermine Bob Mueller and give the president a pretext to fire people.”

The requests have also sent waves of tension through the department itself. The F.B.I. is generally opposed to giving lawmakers access to any materials related to a continuing investigation. But Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, has political considerations to weigh. To completely withhold information could be politically untenable — and potentially put the Mueller investigation at risk — given the support Mr. Nunes enjoys from Mr. Trump.

“If we were to just open our doors to allow Congress to come and rummage through the files, that would be a serious infringement on the separation of powers,” Mr. Rosenstein said at an event this month, amid reports that another House Republican had drafted articles of impeachment against him.

But Mr. Nunes’s handling of his secretive memo, released in early February, has been a source of lasting ill will. The document accused top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials, including Mr. Rosenstein, of abusing their authorities to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser suspected of being an agent of Russia. Law enforcement officials warned that the document was dangerously misleading and pointed out that Mr. Nunes had not read the underlying surveillance applications on which his four-page document was based.

⭕ 11 May 2018

WIRED: If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It Works http://bit.ly/2G8Gdrr
⋙ See under Entire Articles

NBC: Former Diplomats: Trump Team Sought to Lift Sanctions on Russia http://nbcnews.to/2IcL4tq
// 7/1/2017

WIRED: Robert Mueller Likely Knows How the Trump Russia Investigation Ends http://bit.ly/2Kht41y
// 5/1/2018

⭕ 10 May 2018

🐣 Yogi Berra to @MikePenceVP: It ain’t over til it’s over. #MuellerTime

ChicagoSunTimes/AP (6:44am): Pence to Mueller: ‘Wrap it up’ http://bit.ly/2I4wrw5 (‼️)

⭕ 9 May 2018

WaPo: ‘I’m crushing it’: How Michael Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions http://wapo.st/2jKzE5l

WaPo: Russia-linked company that hired Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites during election http://wapo.st/2KciLMj

Politico: How Michael Cohen cashed in http://politi.co/2IzVlmC
// ‘It’s a little bit like Lucy hanging out behind her table and charging people five cents for wisdom,’ said Rich Gold, a longtime Democratic lobbyist.

🐣 I worked as a healthcare consultant for 20 years for the world’s premiere group practice (yeah, that one) to put away for my kids what Michael Cohen made in 8 months pretending to be one. Our society is seriously broken. @Morning_Joe @MorningMika @JoeNBC

Slate, Shugerman: How Michael Cohen’s Apparent Russia Payment Might Help Prove Collusion http://slate.me/2KMKrZ9
// We might have a quid. Here’s the possible pro quo.

First, Vekselberg recently increased his share to 26.5 percent in the aluminum firm Rusal. That firm was owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire whose ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Two of Vekselberg’s American partners, meanwhile, donated more than $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and Vekselberg also had business ties to Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross.

Now, Congress has been legislating tougher sanctions against Putin and Russia over the past year by sweeping, close to unanimous bipartisan majorities. But the Trump administration has been softening or delaying those sanctions at every turn. Last month, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control finally implemented Congressional sanctions against Deripaska and Rusal, in addition to other Russians. The Treasury Department cited allegations that Deripaska ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organized crime group. But on April 23, the Trump administration announced major delays on implementation, “slow-rolling” the sanctions seemingly to give Rusal time to minimize the damage and to appeal the sanctions. Treasury gave Rusal an extension to next October, and Reuters reported the department would “consider lifting [the sanctions] if United Company Rusal PLC’s major shareholder, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, ceded control of the company,” which he soon did. “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are… extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Given the outrageous conduct of Putin and Deripaska, and given the almost unanimous votes in Congress to impose tough sanctions, these accommodations should have been considered stunning. As of Tuesday night, they stink to high heaven.

And the question must be raised: Was there a quid pro quo understanding between Vekselberg and Trump associates in January 2017? It is crucial to remember here what was happening in December 2016 and January 2017 in regards to Russia sanctions. Here’s what I summarized in an earlier Slate piece on Kushner, Qatar, and Russian money: The Steele Dossier alleged that Russians had made a deal with Trump associates for the Russians to sell Rosneft, the massive state energy company, and use the commissions to give Trump associates payments under the radar, in return for lifting or softening sanctions. The Rosneft sale went through in December 2016, a month after the election, coinciding with Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page’s various alleged communications with Russians. Just eight days before this oil megadeal, Flynn and Kushner met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower, and Kushner reportedly proposed a secret communication link with the Kremlin through the Russian embassy. Then, a few days after the Rosneft deal, Kushner met Sergey Gorkov, chair of Russia’s government-owned VE Bank (VEB) and Putin’s close confidant.

Analysts have described VEB as Putin’s “private slush fund,” a source of money independent from official Russia budgeting. VEB is under strict U.S. sanctions.

Gorkov reportedly flew to Japan to meet with Putin practically immediately. On Dec. 29, President Obama ordered new Russian sanctions for election hacking and interference—and Flynn reportedly had five calls with Kislyak. We later learned that they discussed Russian sanctions after Flynn pled guilty to lying about this fact to federal investigators. Trump tweeted about Putin the next day, calling him “very smart” for not responding to Obama’s sanctions before Trump has had a chance to transition into office.

We’ve now learned, in the very next month after the Kushner/Flynn backchannel contacts with Russia, the Vekselberg-connected payments to Cohen began. And they occurred, inexplicably enough, after the Steele Dossier was published. Again, this is all clearly now a subject of Mueller’s probe. As the New York Times first reported last week, Mueller’s agents questioned Vekselberg when he flew into New York earlier this year. CNN reported on Tuesday that they asked him about these particular payments. What might be the plausible innocent explanation for a Putin-associated Russian oligarch, to use Rudy Giuliani’s phrase, “funneling” money to Trump’s personal lawyer through a fund used to pay hush money to one or more women and as that oligarch was due to benefit from Trump’s sanction policies? Maybe they have an explanation, but it’s hard to imagine it, and it’s hard to imagine how persuasive a jury would find it.

The Avenatti document, meanwhile, suggests a road map for trying to substantiate this hypothetical. The first part of Avenatti’s summary offers more detail for the allegation that Cohen may have committed bank fraud, misrepresenting the reasons for opening his bank account. I’ve explained in an earlier piece how this is one of several federal and state crimes that Cohen is potentially facing. He is also still on the hook for possible campaign finance felonies, even if one accepts all of Giuliani’s spin about reimbursement. Furthermore, Avenatti suggests that California has jurisdiction over these possible crimes, opening up another set of state and federal prosecutors who could potentially bring charges. Which is all just to say, there is more pressure on Cohen to cooperate with Mueller and other prosecutors than ever. If he were to flip, he would presumably have to provide insight into what these payments were for.

This new information about Vekselberg potentially puts pressure on other witnesses as well. Who else in Trump’s orbit had contact with Vekselberg, and might they have more information about the communications and intent behind the payments? Rick Gates, Manafort’s former deputy who has pled guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators, was also helping with the transition as these events were unfolding. What has Gates already told Mueller in exchange for a plea deal and what might he have to say now? Vekselberg was also at the Moscow dinner attended by Putin and Michael Flynn. What has Flynn told Mueller? One road to proving any conspiracy now clearly goes through Vekselberg, those who were in contact with him, and those who may have been paid off by him.

Finally, even if Trump denies that he knew about any of the questionable Cohen payments, he still might not be off the hook. If it can be demonstrated that he found out later about an illegal such payment but sought to cover it up, Trump might have committed one of the following felonies: a) being an accessory after the fact (18 U.S.C. 3), b) misprision of a felony (18 USC 4, especially by a public official), and c) obstruction of justice

⭕ 8 May 2018

DallasNews, Ruth May: How Putin’s oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns http://bit.ly/2I6EicN
// interactive charts

VanityFair: Michael Cohen Must Be the Most Gifted Consultant in America http://bit.ly/2wrGPIN
// The four corporations that hired Cohen’s shell company claim they were paying for his “insights” into government, “health-care policy,” “real estate,” and “accounting advice.” Who knew the president’s lawyer was such a renaissance man?

⭕ 7 May 2018

WaPo (Costa): Secret intelligence source who aided Mueller probe is at center of latest clash between Nunes and Justice Dept http://wapo.st/2KPC5jg

WaPo: Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen was hired by U.S. affiliate of Russian company http://wapo.st/2wroHPh

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was hired last year by the U.S.-based affiliate of a Russian business magnate who attended Trump’s inauguration and was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government, the company said Tuesday.

The New York investment firm Columbus Nova said it retained Cohen as a consultant “regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.” Though Columbus Nova has been described in federal regulatory filings as an affiliate of the Renova Group, founded by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, the company said Vekselberg was not involved with hiring or paying Cohen.

NYT: Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen http://nyti.ms/2FWzmkK

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions totaling at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

MotherJones: Here’s Another Trump Cabinet Pick With Close Financial Ties to Russians http://bit.ly/
// 12/19/2016, Wilbur Ross joined with a Russian oligarch and a former KGB official to run a troubled bank in Cyprus.

MotherJones: A Putin-Friendly Oligarch’s Top US Executive Donated $285,000 to Trump http://bit.ly/2rtdGHq
// 8/17/2017, The head of Viktor Vekselberg’s American subsidiary helped finance Trump’s inauguration.

WaPo: Trump pulls United States out of Iran nuclear deal, calling the pact ‘an embarrassment’ http://wapo.st/2wjYke6

NBC: Daniels’ lawyer: Cohen got $500K from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg http://nbcnews.to/2I0QHyO
// Michael Avenatti provided no documentation for his claims, which he posted on Twitter

SeekingAlpha: 10 Reasons To Buy Comcast Near Its 52-Week Low http://bit.ly/2woK6J8

CREW, Bookbinder, Eisen et al: The Smear Campaign Against Mueller: Debunking the Nunes Memo and the Other Attacks on the Russia Investigation http://bit.ly/2wlXnCa
// 1/31/2018, link to PDF 45p

⭕ 5 May 2018

TheGuardian: Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal http://bit.ly/2HXfbop
// Israeli agency told to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated deal with Tehran

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

🐣 RT @tribelaw I know both @AlanDersh and Richard Painter. Alan was totally out of line in attacking @RWPUSA on MSNBC as “unAmerican.” His denunciation of Mueller shocked me. Sorry to have to say it, but this unhinged assault on Painter leaves me aghast.
↥ ↧
RawStory: MSNBC segment explodes after Dershowitz calls lawyer Richard Painter ‘un-American and a liar’ http://bit.ly/2FPeXhc

NYT: How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire http://nyti.ms/2HVtIRu

CNN: FBI officials Lisa Page and James Baker resign http://cnn.it/2JXxNWa

Lisa Page, who served as an FBI lawyer and close adviser to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, voluntarily resigned Friday, a source close to Page told CNN.

Page came under increasing attack after her text messages with FBI special agent Peter Strzok criticizing President Donald Trump came to light last winter. She briefly served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last summer before returning to her duties at the FBI.

The text messages between Strzok and her became fodder for the President and Republican lawmakers who leveled accusations that some members of the FBI working on the Russia probe are biased against Trump.

James A. Baker, the former general counsel for the FBI and one of former FBI Director James Comey’s closest advisers, also resigned Friday, according to a source familiar with Baker’s departure. A second source familiar with Baker’s thinking said his departure was unrelated to Page’s resignation and that hers came as a surprise to him.

Baker will be going to Lawfare, a national security blog affiliated with the Brookings Institution. He was tapped as the FBI’s top lawyer in January 2014, but was reassigned from his post as general counsel elsewhere in the agency last year.

Comey said in a statement on Friday, “Jim Baker represents the best of the Department of Justice and the FBI. He has protected the country and the rule of law throughout his career and leaves an inspiring legacy of service. He is what we should all hope our kids become, a person of integrity.”

⭕ 4 May 2018

NYT: Judge Questions Whether Mueller Has Overstepped His Authority on Manafort http://nyti.ms/2rmbEts

NYT: Viktor Vekselberg, Russian Billionaire, Was Questioned by Mueller’s Investigators http://nyti.ms/2HVgPai

⭕ 3 May 2018

HuffPo: Fox News Host Neil Cavuto Tells Trump He Stinks In Fiery Takedown http://bit.ly/2FHgJB4
// “I guess you’re too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink you’re creating.”

NYT, Michele Goldberg: Does Giuliani Have a Plan, or Is This Just a Freakout? http://nyti.ms/2riZ0LL

… Rudy Giuliani, whose appointment to Trump’s legal team was announced two weeks ago, appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and casually admitted that Trump had repaid Cohen for the money he gave to Daniels “over a period of several months.”

This was a bombshell. And in the 12 hours that followed, both Trump and Giuliani made a series of statements so seemingly self-sabotaging and undisciplined that observers began searching for some sort of hidden strategy or logic. Were they trying to get out ahead of a coming revelation? To set off a metaphorical smoke bomb that would distract from some other scandalous development? Or were they really as blundering and incompetent as they appeared?

NYT: Giuliani May Have Exposed Trump to New Legal and Political Perils http://nyti.ms/2waTwaT

WaPo: ‘I was going to get this over with’: Inside Giuliani’s explosive Stormy Daniels revelation http://wapo.st/2HMgBpG

WaPo: Analysts: Giuliani’s media blitz gives investigators new leads, new evidence http://wapo.st/2wdrg7u

⭕ 2 May 2018

NYT: Cambridge Analytica to File for Bankruptcy After Misuse of Facebook Data http://nyti.ms/2KwGQOP

NYT: Trump Assails Justice Dept., Siding With House Conservatives in Dispute http://nyti.ms/2I8i758

WaPo, Philip Bump: What is Trump threatening to do to the Justice Department, exactly? http://wapo.st/2rfhQTY

⭕ 1 May 2018

WaPo: Mueller raised possibility of presidential subpoena in meeting with Trump’s legal team http://wapo.st/2re68t5

⭕ 30 Apr 2018

💙💙 NYT, Matt Apuzzo and Michael Schmidt: The Questions Mueller Wants to Ask Trump About Obstruction, and What They Mean http://nyti.ms/2HExEKi
// The questions show the special counsel’s focus on obstruction of justice and touch on some surprising other areas.

WaPo: Trump-allied House conservatives draft articles of impeachment against Rosenstein as ‘last resort’ http://wapo.st/2r9Apcy

NYT: Mueller Has List of Questions for Trump http://nyti.ms/2rfDuqK
// Majority Relate to if Trump Obstructed Inquiry on Russia

⭕ 27 Apr 2018

NYT: Lawyer Who Was Said to Have Dirt on Clinton Had Closer Ties to Kremlin Than She Let On http://nyti.ms/2I22YzD
// Natalia V. Veselnitskaya

WaPo: House Intelligence Committee Republicans release final Russia report http://wapo.st/2r458r8

NYT: Trump Renews Attacks on Comey Before Turning to Praise of Korean Talks http://nyti.ms/2HzaL78

⭕ 26 Apr 2018

Dkos: Donald Trump was so unhinged in this call to ‘Fox & Friends,’ even they had to cut him off http://bit.ly/2I3sqET

CNN: Trump’s ‘Fox & Friends’ rant was beyond unhinged http://cnn.it/2I1zKAP

NYT: For Many, Life in Trump’s Orbit Ends in a Crash Landing http://nyti.ms/2KjzIoH

WaPo, Aaron Blake: Trump’s unwieldy ‘Fox and Friends’ interview, annotated http://wapo.st/2HTSZig

CNN: The 53 most stunning lines from Donald Trump’s ‘Fox & Friends’ interview http://cnn.it/2FiArCR

⭕ 25 Apr 2018

WSJ: Trump Lawyers Seek to Determine Whether Mueller Has ‘Open Mind’ http://on.wsj.com/2HsRrwp
// Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani met with special counsel’s team this week to discuss interview with president

WaPo: Michael Cohen to invoke Fifth Amendment right in Stormy Daniels case http://wapo.st/2qZH34Z

⭕ 24 Apr 2018

WaPo: Three Mexican film students were killed, their bodies dissolved in acid, authorities say http://wapo.st/2HrfjfJ
// The Stewmaker comes true

WaPo, David Ignatius: We know an awful lot about Manafort and Russia. Trump can’t make it disappear. http://wapo.st/2qXCvuP

WaPo, Philip Rucker: Trump keeps saying he’s innocent. So why does he keep sounding like he’s guilty? http://wapo.st/2vGxzQL

⭕ 23 Apr 2018

Politico: U.S. eases sanctions on aluminum firm tied to Russian oligarch http://politi.co/2JlYmUC
// Oleg Deripaska, RUSAL

⭕ 20 Apr 2018

WaPo: Democratic Party files lawsuit alleging Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks conspired to disrupt the 2016 campaign http://wapo.st/2HPUZWv

NYT: D.N.C. Lawsuit Alleges Trump-Russia Conspiracy http://nyti.ms/2qT8lJx

NYT: Michael Cohen Has Said He Would Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore. http://nyti.ms/2Jcyb2w

NYT: 6 Takeaways From the James Comey Memos http://nyti.ms/2HitfJ1

🐣 Trump needs to slap an import/excise tax on Russian hookers. “Screw American!” @Morning_Joe

🐣 RT @AvoAhVee Trump’s claim that he didn’t spend a night in Moscow is disproven by his own tweets. Let’s take a look: https://twitter.com/AviAhvee/status/987200983884320768

⭕ 19 Apr 2018

WaPo: Comey memos offer new details on his interactions with Trump as the FBI’s Russia probe intensified http://wapo.st/2F2I3Jv

NYT: Comey Memos Provide Intimate Look Into Trump Presidency http://nyti.ms/2qN2jtM

WaPo: Trump hires Giuliani, two other attorneys amid mounting legal turmoil over Russia http://wapo.st/2J9RxW4

Trump also loudly and repeatedly complained to several advisers earlier this week that former FBI director James B. Comey, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, among others, should be charged with crimes for misdeeds alleged by Republicans, the associates said.

Although White House officials said Thursday that Trump has not called Justice Department officials or taken any formal action, the persistent grousing has made some advisers anxious, according to two people close to the president. A publicity tour by Comey to promote his book critical of Trump, “A Higher Loyalty,” has attracted particular attention from the president, who has disparaged Comey publicly and privately.

Trump also complained this week about Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, saying the judge had proved too liberal in recent cases, according to administration officials who heard about the complaints. Associates said he was incensed that Gorsuch had voted against the administration on an immigration case and said it renewed his doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative. One top Trump adviser played down the comments as unhappiness with Gorsuch’s decision rather than with Gorsuch broadly.

Giuliani is certain to come under intense scrutiny for his role. His own pre-election activities two years ago have been the subject of criticism from Democrats, especially television interviews in which he suggested he had sources providing him inside information about the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s private email server when she was secretary of state.

NYT: Justice Department Gives Congress Comey’s Memos on Trump http://nyti.ms/2HdLe2Z
//➔ DocumentCloud: http://bit.ly/2HOGC4z

WSJ: Michael Cohen Drops Defamation Suits Against BuzzFeed, Fusion GPS Over Russia Dossier http://on.wsj.com/2HeL7bJ

WaPo: Giuliani says he is joining Trump’s legal team to ‘negotiate an end’ to Mueller probe http://wapo.st/

WaPo: Republicans are actively interfering in the Mueller probe to protect Trump http://wapo.st/2JaLmRz

⭕ 18 Apr 2018

Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes: Behind James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty’ http://bit.ly/2JY6VG2

WaPo, EJ Dionne: Trump can’t steer a steady course. Maybe Nikki Haley should jump ship. http://wapo.st/2HIDffr

WaPo: Trump allies press Rosenstein in private meeting in latest sign of tensions http://wapo.st/2HaNCvz

WSJ: Cohen Would Turn Against President if Charged, Counselor Warned Trump http://on.wsj.com/2J6Uy9r
// Former prosecutor Jay Goldberg says he cautioned president that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, could be compelled to cooperate with prosecutors

NYT, Nancy Gertner: Smearing Robert Mueller http://nyti.ms/2qHC20J

⭕ 17 Apr 2018

NYT: ‘I Don’t Get Confused,’ Nikki Haley Says, Rebuffing White House in Sanctions Dispute http://nyti.ms/2HxpaE6

⭕ 16 Apr 2018

NYT: Judge Says Trump and Cohen Can’t Yet Review Materials Seized by F.B.I. http://nyti.ms/2ERU1Wz

NYT: Trump Scraps New Sanctions Against Russia, Overruling Advisers http://nyti.ms/2J1xB7K

💙💙 DailyBeast: Julian Assange Offered Hannity Impersonator ‘News’ About Top Democrat http://thebea.st/2ER1SDG
// 1/29/2018

“I can’t believe this is happening. I mean… I can. It’s crazy. Nothing can be put past people,” Gilliam, posing as Hannity, wrote to Assange. “I’m exhausted from the whole night. What about you, though? You doing ok?”

“I’m happy as long as there is a fight!” Assange responded.

Gilliam reassured Assange that she, or Hannity, was also “definitely up for a fight” and set up a call for 9:30 a.m. Eastern, about six hours later.

“You can send me messages on other channels,” said Assange, the second reference to “other channels” he made since their conversation began.

“Have some news about Warner.”

Less than 48 hours later, Warner made headlines claiming that the Senate intelligence committee received “end-of-the-year document dumps” that “opened a lot of new questions” about Trump and Russia.

When reached by The Daily Beast about the messages, Warner’s spokesperson pointed to WikiLeaks’ ties to the release of recent document drops performed by Russian entities, like Kremlin cutout Guccifer 2.0.

“Give me a break. WikiLeaks is a non-state hostile intelligence service with longstanding ties to the Russian government and Russian intelligence.”
↥ ↧
💙💙 Dkos: Hannity Might Be Partly The Reason Cohen’s Offices Were Raided. He’s Involved With Assange. http://bit.ly/2HDlDBN

🐣 RT @RVAwonk (Caroline O.) Gabriel Sherman just told @MSNBC that Sean Hannity hired Michael Cohen to defend against “left-wing groups” who were boycotting other Fox hosts. Hannity reportedly got really paranoid and even hired private investigators to look into these “left-wing groups.”

WaPo: Trump puts the brakes on new Russian sanctions, reversing Haley’s announcement http://wapo.st/2JNYey6

NYT: Sean Hannity Is Named as Michael Cohen’s Client http://nyti.ms/2EQRGuU

WaPo: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen did legal work for Fox News commentator Sean Hannity http://wapo.st/2vk7nLF

⭕ 15 Apr 2018

🐣 When Trump told Comey “There’s no way I’d let people pee on each other around me” he’s actually being more specific than the description in the dossier. Insider knowledge?

WaPo: Whom is Comey trying to convince? The third of Americans with no opinion of him. http://wapo.st/2IXA42P

WaPo: Comey says Trump ‘morally unfit to be president,’ possibly susceptible to Russian blackmail http://wapo.st/2J0h5Vr

NYT: James Comey’s Interview on ABC’s ‘20/20’: Annotated Excerpts http://nyti.ms/2vjtFwX

NYT: In Interview, Comey Calls Trump ‘Morally Unfit’ and a ‘Stain’ on All Around Him http://nyti.ms/2JLFFL7

⭕ 14 Apr 2018

Vox, Andrew Prokop: Why the question of whether Michael Cohen visited Prague is massively important for Donald Trump http://bit.ly/2quLPHw
// The Steele dossier claimed Cohen went to Prague to meet Russians. He’s said for more than a year that he didn’t.

WaPo: Michael Cohen’s visiting Prague would be a huge development in the Russia investigation http://wapo.st/2JKBnDD

[McClatchy] suggests that Cohen took over management of the relationship with Russia after campaign chairman Paul Manafort was fired from the campaign in August (because of questions about his relationship with a political party in Ukraine). Cohen is said to have met secretly with people in Prague — possibly at the Russian Center for Science and Culture — in the last week of August or the first of September. He allegedly met with representatives of the Russian government, possibly including officials of the Presidential Administration Legal Department; Oleg Solodukhin (who works with the Russian Center for Science and Culture); or Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of parliament. A planned meeting in Moscow, the dossier alleges, was considered too risky, given that a topic of conversation was how to divert attention from Manafort’s links to Russia and a trip to Moscow by Carter Page in July. Another topic of conversation, according to the dossier: allegedly paying off “Romanian hackers” who had been targeting the Clinton campaign.

⭕ 13 Apr 2018

💙💙 McClatchy: Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier http://bit.ly/2JKJz6F

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

Trump’s threats to fire Mueller or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.

Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

U.S. intelligence agencies and cyber experts say Kremlin-backed hackers pirated copies of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta during 2015 and 2016, some politically damaging, including messages showing that the DNC was biased toward Clinton in the party’s nomination battle pitting her against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mueller’s investigators have sought to learn who passed the emails to WikiLeaks, a London-based transparency group, which published them in July and October, causing embarrassment to Clinton and her backers.

Citing information from an unnamed “Kremlin insider,” Steele’s dossier says the Prague meeting agenda also included discussion “in cryptic language for security reasons,” of ways to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven.” Romanians were among the hackers present, it says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could “lie low.”

It is a felony for anyone to hack email accounts. Other laws forbid foreigners from contributing cash or in-kind services to U.S. political campaigns.

If Cohen met with Russians and hackers in Prague as described in the dossier, it would provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that the Russians and Trump campaign aides were collaborating. Mueller’s office also has focused on two meetings in the spring of 2016 when Russians offered to provide Trump campaign aides with “dirt” on Clinton – thousands of emails in one of the offers.

If the Prague meeting actually occurred, Kosachev’s possible involvement would be especially significant given his close ties to Putin and other roles he has played in covert Moscow efforts to destabilize other countries, Russia experts said.

“While not a member of Putin’s innermost circle, (Kosachev) is one of the most influential Russian voices on foreign affairs,” said Michael Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official. “When Kosachev speaks, everyone knows he’s speaking for the Kremlin.”

Kosachev appears to have been a booster of Trump over Clinton in early June of 2016, according to a post on his Facebook page at the time.

“Trump looks slightly more promising,” Kosachev wrote. “At least, he is capable of giving a shake to Washington. He is certainly a pragmatist and not a missionary like his main opponent [Hillary] Clinton.”

The Prague meeting would have occurred during a period when Trump advisers had become jittery about publicity swirling around the campaign’s Russian connections and seemingly friendly posture toward Moscow, according to the dossier and a source familiar with the federal investigation.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned abruptly on Aug. 19, shortly after the revelation that he had received $12.7 million in secret consulting fees over five years from the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine. Manafort was instrumental in the 2010 election of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and fled to Moscow.

Another flap stemmed from a secretive maneuver at the Republican National Convention in July. Party officials weakened language in the 2016 Republican platform calling for a boost in U.S. military aid to support Ukraine’s fight with Russian-backed separatists who invaded Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The dossier cited multiple sources as reporting that Kremlin officials also had grown edgy about the possible exposure of their secret “active measures” effort to defeat Clinton and help Trump. According to the dossier, Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was brought home from Russia’s embassy in Washington last August because he had played a key role in coordinating the cyber offensive. McClatchy quoted several Russia experts on Feb. 15 as saying they suspected Kalugin was an intelligence operative. Kalugin has denied any espionage activities.

NYT: Madeleine Albright Is Worried. We Should Be, Too. http://nyti.ms/2qwmP2y

NYT: Trump Sees Inquiry Into Cohen as Greater Threat Than Mueller http://nyti.ms/2qysST8

The raids on Mr. Cohen came as part of a monthslong federal investigation based in New York, court records show, and were sweeping in their breadth. In addition to searching his home, office and hotel room, F.B.I. agents seized material from Mr. Cohen’s cellphones, tablet, laptop and safe deposit box, according to people briefed on the warrants. Prosecutors revealed in court documents that they had already secretly obtained many of Mr. Cohen’s emails.

But it is difficult to extract Mr. Cohen from his work for Mr. Trump. For more than a decade, Mr. Trump has unleashed Mr. Cohen on his foes — investigative journalists, business rivals and potential litigants. And the New York search warrant makes clear that the authorities are interested in his unofficial role in the campaign.

Prosecutors also seized recordings of conversations that Mr. Cohen had secretly made, but he told people in recent days that he did not tape his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen frequently taped conversations with adversaries and opposing lawyers, according to the two people briefed.

Federal agents seized documents that dated back years, some of which are related to payments to two women who have said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. Other documents seized included information about the role of The National Enquirer in silencing one of the women, people briefed on the investigation have said.

WaPo: U.S. launches missile strikes in Syria http://wapo.st/2EJr8Mb

WaPo: RNC deputy finance chair steps down after admitting Trump’s lawyer negotiated settlement between him and pregnant Playboy model http://wapo.st/2GYrQeB

Los Angeles-based investor Elliott Broidy, who has been a top fundraiser for Trump and the party, issued a statement Friday acknowledging that he “had a consensual relationship” with the woman, who got pregnant. He said he retained Cohen after Trump’s personal lawyer told Broidy he had been contacted by the woman’s attorney.

⭕ 12 Apr 2018

WaPo: Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney http://wapo.st/2GVfHXD

WaPo: Trump touts Hannity’s show on ‘Deep State crime families’ led by Mueller, Comey and Clintons http://wapo.st/2HgAVia

WaPo: Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump http://wapo.st/2qnIzO4

⭕ 10 Apr 2018

RollingStone, Seth Hettena: A Brief History of Michael Cohen’s Criminal Ties http://rol.st/2qw72Av
// From the Russian mob to money launderers, Trump’s personal attorney has long been a subject of interest to federal investigators

During Trump’s presidential run, reporters noticed a curious thing about Cohen. Questions about Trump’s business or his taxes went to his chief legal officer or another staffer, but Cohen handled questions about Russia. “One of the things that we learned that caught my interest,” Simpson testified to Congress in November 2017, “serious questions about Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and the former Soviet Union went to Michael Cohen, and that he was the only person who had information on that subject or was in a position to answer those questions.”

In the 1990s, there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves “Red Star.” They shared information they learned from informants. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen’s father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures. Several sources have told me that Cohen was one of several attorneys who helped money launderers purchase apartments in a development in Sunny Isles Beach, a seaside Florida town just north of Miami. This was an informal arrangement passed word-of-mouth: “We have heard from Russian sources that … in Florida, Cohen and other lawyers acted as a conduit for money.”

An investigation by Reuters found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in the seven Trump-branded luxury towers. And that was a conservative estimate. At least 703 – or about one-third – of the 2044 units were owned by limited liability companies, or LLCs, which could conceal the property’s true owner. Executives from Gazprom and other Russian natural resource giants also owned units in Trump’s Sunny Isles towers. In an observation that several people I spoke with echoed, Kenneth McCallion, a former prosecutor who tracked the flows of Russian criminal money into Trump’s properties, told me, “Trump’s genius – or evil genius – was, instead of Russian criminal money being passive, incidental income, it became a central part of his business plan.” McCallion continued, “It’s not called ‘Little Moscow’ for nothing. The street signs are in Russian. But his towers there were built specifically for the Russian middle-class criminal.”

Cohen joined the Trump Organization around the time that the second Sunny Isles tower was being built. A few years earlier, he had invested $1.5 million in a short-lived Miami-based casino boat venture run by his two Ukrainian business partners, Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk. Only three months after its maiden voyage, it would become the subject of a large fraud investigation. But Cohen was saved from his bad investment by none other than Trump himself, who hired Cohen as an attorney just before his casino ship sank. A source who investigated Cohen’s connections to Russia told me, “Say you want to get money into the country and maybe you’re a bit suspect. The Trump organization used lawyers to allow people to get money into the country.” 

Residents at Sunny Isles included people like Vladimir Popovyan, who paid $1.17 million for a three-bedroom condo in 2013. Forbes Russia described Popovyan as a friend and associate of Rafael Samurgashev, a former championship wrestler who ran a criminal group in Rostov-on-Don in southeastern Russia. Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman arrested on fraud charges in San Francisco in 1999, and his daughter owned two units at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach worth $2.56 million. (Kiritchenko testified against a corrupt former Ukrainian prime minister who was convicted in 2004 of money laundering.) Other owners of Trump condos in Sunny Isles include members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran a sports betting ring out of Trump Tower, which catered to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. Michael Barukhin, who was convicted in a massive scheme to defraud auto insurers with phony claims, lived out of a Trump condo that was registered to a limited liability corporation.

Selling units from the lobby of the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles was Baronoff Realty. Elena Baronoff, who died of cancer in 2015, was the exclusive sales agent for three Trump-branded towers. Glenn Simpson, who spent a year investigating Trump’s background during the campaign, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Baronoff was a “suspected organized crime figure.”

An Uzbek immigrant who arrived in the United States as a cultural attaché in public diplomacy from the Soviet Union, Baronoff became such a well-known figure in Sunny Isles Beach that she was named the international ambassador for the community. Baronoff accompanied Trump’s children on a trip to Russia in the winter of 2007–2008, posing for a photo in Moscow with Ivanka and Eric Trump and developer Michael Dezer. Also in the photo, curiously, was a man named Michael Babel, a former senior executive of a property firm owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian metals tycoon Paul Manafort allegedly offered personal updates on Trump’s presidential campaign. Babel later fled Russia to evade fraud charges.

Michael Cohen’s in-laws, the Shustermans, also bought real estate in Sunny Isles. The development was paying off. Trump’s oldest son, Don Jr., would later note, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” There is no question Trump owed his comeback in large part to wealthy Russian expatriates.

Cohen and Felix Sater have known each other for nearly 30 years. They met in Brighton Beach when Cohen started dating his future wife, Shusterman’s daughter, Laura, who Sater says he knew from the neighborhood. When Cohen joined the Trump organization, Sater had become a fixture in the office. Sater was developing Trump SoHo, a hotel-condo in lower Manhattan that later would be consumed by scandal, and had earned Trump’s trust. Trump asked him to look after his children, Ivanka and Don Jr., on a 2006 visit to Moscow. (It was during the Moscow trip that Sater used his Kremlin connections to impress Trump’s daughter. Sater would later boast: “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.”) When Sater’s criminal past was exposed in The New York Times, Trump suddenly looked and acted like a man with something to hide. Despite laying claim to “one of the great memories of all time,” he seemed to be having trouble recollecting who Sater was. “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,” Trump told The Associated Press in 2015. “I’m not that familiar with him.” Sater flatly contradicted Trump’s version of their relationship. In a little-noticed interview with a Russian publication, Snob, Sater was asked if his criminal past was a problem for Trump. “No, it was not. He makes his own decision regarding each and every individual.”

In the midst of Trump’s presidential run, Sater was shopping a deal to build a Trump World Tower Moscow. Between September 2015 and January 2016, Sater tried to broker a deal for a Moscow company called IC Expert Investment Company. (Sater worked for IC Expert’s owner, Andrei Rozov, after he left Bayrock.) Trump signed a letter of intent in October with IC Expert Investment for a Moscow hotel-condo with the option for a “Spa by Ivanka Trump.” Providing financing was VTB, a Russian bank subject to U.S. sanctions. Sater’s contact at the Trump Organization was his old friend, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. In mid-January, Sater urged Cohen to send an email to Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, “since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued.” Cohen sent the email, got no reply, and said he abandoned the proposal two weeks later.

What Cohen called his old friend’s “colorful language” attracted attention from congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office: “Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” Sater emailed Cohen in November 2015. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. We both know no one else knows how to pull this off without stupidity or greed getting in the way. I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this.”

Sater gave an unsatisfactory answer to BuzzFeed about why he wrote this email. “If a deal can get done and I could make money and he could look like a statesman, what the fuck is the downside, right?”

Shortly after Trump took office, Sater teamed up with Cohen to submit a Ukrainian peace plan to then national security advisor Michael Flynn that would have opened the door to lifting sanctions on Russia. What happened to the plan? The lawyer at first told The New York Times that he left the plan in Flynn’s office. Then, after the story became an embarrassment, he called the Times story “fake news” and claimed he pitched the plan into the trash.

Cohen has always acted to protect Trump, and he likely believed that he could always rely on the impenetrable shield of attorney-client privilege. Arguably, no one who has worked with Trump over the past decade knows more about the president’s past business dealings in Russia and elsewhere abroad than Cohen. Now that prosecutors have him in their sights, here’s the question: Will Cohen’s shield, now broken, become a sword?

NYT Editorial: The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump http://nyti.ms/2Jysb50

Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

Early Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.

That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”

Oh, also: The Times reported Monday evening that investigators were examining a $150,000 donation to the president’s personal foundation from a Ukrainian steel magnate, given during the American presidential campaign in exchange for a 20-minute video appearance.

Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign chairman is under indictment, and his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. His son-in-law and other associates are also under investigation.

This is your president, ladies and gentlemen. This is how Donald Trump does business, and these are the kinds of people he surrounds himself with.

Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado. Those methods may be proving to have their limits when they are applied from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

On Monday, when he appeared with his national security team, Mr. Trump, whose motto could be, “The buck stops anywhere but here,” angrily blamed everyone he could think of for the “unfairness” of an investigation that has already consumed the first year of his presidency, yet is only now starting to heat up. He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible mistake” by recusing himself from overseeing the investigation — the implication being that a more loyal attorney general would have obstructed justice and blocked the investigation. He complained about the “horrible things” that Hillary Clinton did “and all of the crimes that were committed.” He called the A-team of investigators from the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, “the most biased group of people.” As for Mr. Mueller himself, “we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’”

In fact, the raids on the premises used by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, were conducted by the public corruption unit of the federal attorney’s office in Manhattan, and at the request not of the special counsel’s team, but under a search warrant that investigators in New York obtained following a referral by Mr. Mueller, who first consulted with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. To sum up, a Republican-appointed former F.B.I. director consulted with a Republican-appointed deputy attorney general, who then authorized a referral to an F.B.I. field office not known for its anti-Trump bias. Deep state, indeed.

Mr. Trump also railed against the authorities who, he said, “broke into” Mr. Cohen’s office. “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” the president tweeted early Tuesday morning, during what was presumably his executive time. He was wrong. The privilege is one of the most sacrosanct in the American legal system, but it does not protect communications in furtherance of a crime. Anyway, one might ask, if this is all a big witch hunt and Mr. Trump has nothing illegal or untoward to hide, why does he care about the privilege in the first place?

The answer, of course, is that he has a lot to hide.

This wasn’t even the first early-morning raid of a close Trump associate. That distinction goes to Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and Russian oligarch-whisperer, who now faces a slate of federal charges long enough to land him in prison for the rest of his life. And what of Mr. Cohen? He’s already been cut loose by his law firm, and when the charges start rolling in, he’ll likely get the same treatment from Mr. Trump.

Among the grotesqueries that faded into the background of Mr. Trump’s carnival of misgovernment during the past 24 hours was that Monday’s meeting was ostensibly called to discuss a matter of global significance: a reported chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. Mr. Trump instead made it about him, with his narcissistic and self-pitying claim that the investigation represented an attack on the country “in a true sense.”

No, Mr. Trump — a true attack on America is what happened on, say, Sept. 11, 2001. Remember that one? Thousands of people lost their lives. Your response was to point out that the fall of the twin towers meant your building was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan. Of course, that also wasn’t true.

NYT: Trump Sought to Fire Mueller in December http://nyti.ms/2JAy15S

⭕ 9 Apr 2018

WaPo: Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, campaign finance violations http://wapo.st/2qiodog

NYT: Trump Denounces F.B.I. Raid on His Lawyer’s Office as ‘Attack on Our Country’ http://nyti.ms/2Jz7ztI

NYT: F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen; Trump Calls It ‘Disgraceful’ http://nyti.ms/2Hn8Zqg

WaPo, Fred Hiatt: McMaster warned against officials who ‘glamorize and apologize’ for dictators. Hmm. http://wapo.st/2GN4W5J

“The victory of free societies is not predestined,” the general warned. “There’s nothing inevitable about the course of human events and history. And there is no arc of history, there is no so-called end of history, that will ensure our success.”

⭕ 6 Apr 2018

NYT: Facebook to Require Verified Identities for Future Political Ads http://nyti.ms/2HfBLJt

NYT: Trump Administration Imposes New Sanctions on Putin Cronies http://nyti.ms/2GFJeQY

⭕ 4 Apr 2018

WaPo: H.R. McMaster delivers a parting shot to Russia as he prepares to bow out as national security adviser http://wapo.st/2IsnAQK

⭕ 3 Apr 2018

NYT, Clint Watts: For Russia, Trump Was a Vehicle, Not a Target http://nyti.ms/2Gzjg5x

In Trump and his campaign, Mr. Putin spotted a golden opportunity — an easily ingratiated celebrity motivated by fame and fortune, a foreign policy novice surrounded by unscreened opportunists open to manipulation and unaware of Russia’s long run game of subversion.

Mr. Putin has succeeded where his Soviet forefathers failed by leveraging money and cyberspace to subtly infiltrate and influence Americans while maintaining plausible deniability of their efforts. And the Kremlin’s ground game “cut outs” — intermediaries who facilitate communication between agents — conducted a more complex game.

Each Mueller indictment and investigative lead illuminates more Kremlin influence avenues into President Trump’s inner circle. Mr. Van Der Zwaan, whose father-in-law is the Russian oligarch German Khan, lied to investigators about his conversations with Mr. Gates, the Trump deputy campaign manager, and a Person A, whom the F.B.I. assessed as a Russian intelligence agent and many believe to be Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of both Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort, a Trump campaign manager.

Evidence of Russia’s intent to interfere in the election is overwhelming, and documentation of Trump campaign members’ collusion not only exists but is growing. The special counsel’s investigation into collusion ultimately comes down to two questions. First, did President Trump or any member of his campaign willingly coordinate their actions with Russia? And did President Trump or any member of his campaign knowingly coordinate their action with Russia?

Trump campaign members certainly colluded with Russian influence efforts, some willingly, some possibly knowingly. The president denies the Kremlin’s hand, either still unaware or in denial of being manipulated by Mr. Putin’s minions. For Mr. Putin, it’s likely everything he hoped for — America riddled with political infighting and mired in investigations, a weakened NATO alliance vulnerable to aggression and a United States president seeking his adoration, obstinate and ignorant of the great caper the Kremlin just orchestrated.

The problem for the president is that ignorance is not immunity. The problem for America is that ignorance of Russian interference is vulnerability.

WaPo: Mueller told Trump’s attorneys the president remains under investigation but is not currently a criminal target http://wapo.st/2uO43bo

⭕ 2 Apr 2018

ThinkProgress: At Chicago nightclub, George Papadopoulos allegedly makes explosive new claim about Jeff Sessions http://bit.ly/2GPXzgN
// A chance encounter with a man at the center of the Russia investigation.

… Papadopoulos, according to this new acquaintance, said that Sessions was well aware of the contact between Papadopoulos and Joseph Mifsud, an academic from Malta with high-level connections in Russia. Papadopoulos’ indictment revealed that Mifsud had told Papadopoulos that the Russians had “‘dirt’ on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’”

Jason Wilson, a computer engineer who lives in Chicago, told ThinkProgress that Papadopoulos said during their conversation that “Sessions encouraged me” to find out anything he could about the hacked Hillary Clinton emails that Mifsud had mentioned.

Wilson said he recognized Papadopoulos and his wife Simona Mangiante at Hydrate, a Chicago nightclub, on Thursday night at approximately 11 p.m. Wilson sat down their table and introduced himself. He said the couple, who were drinking vodka, were extremely friendly and a bit flattered that Wilson had recognized them.

After some conversation about the city and their marriage, Wilson turned the topic to the Russia investigation, asking Papadopoulos whether he thought Wilson would be disappointed when all the facts came out. Papadopoulos responded that things were “just getting started” and emphasized Sessions’ role, particularly his connection to Papadopoulos’ contacts with Mifsud.

Wilson provided ThinkProgress with a photo of Papadopoulos, Mangiante, and himself outside of Hydrate. The bar’s address is visible over Papadopoulos’ shoulder.

Simona Mangiante, in an interview with ThinkProgress on Friday night, confirmed that she was at Hydrate with George Papadopoulos on Thursday.

In an interview last December with ABC News, Mangiante said that Papadopoulos was “constantly in touch with high-level officials in the campaign.” Speaking on Friday with ThinkProgress, Mangiante said that Sessions was one of the officials in contact with Papadopoulos. “[Sessions] talked with George,” Mangiante said. She declined to provide further details. …

⭕ 29 Mar 2018

WaPo: Sessions, for now, rebuffs GOP calls for second special counsel to probe FBI actions in Clinton and Russia investigations http://wapo.st/2pTHGvl

DailyBeast: Trump and His Lawyer May Have Conspired to Obstruct Justice If They Dangled Pardons for Manafort and Flynn http://thebea.st/2GnGEyZ

⭕ 28 Mar 2018

Vox: It’s not just elections: Russia hacked the US electric grid http://bit.ly/2GDFORW
// And it may be just the first phase of a bigger attack.

WaPo: Ecuadoran Embassy in London cuts off Julian Assange’s Internet http://wapo.st/2J4kN12

WaPo: Mueller just drew his most direct line to date between the Trump campaign and Russia http://wapo.st/2utCS5l

That line is drawn in a new court filing related to the upcoming sentencing of London attorney Alex van der Zwaan. Van der Zwaan has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates and a person identified in the document only as “Person A.” Person A appears to be a former Ukraine-based aide to Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort named Konstantin Kilimnik.

NYT: Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort http://nyti.ms/2IdYyEX

⭕ 22 Mar 2018

DailyBeast: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Guccifer 2.0 Slipped Up and Revealed He Was a Russian Intelligence Officer http://thebea.st/2puiYCz

⭕ 20 Mar 2018

NYT: Cambridge Analytica Suspends C.E.O. Amid Facebook Data Scandal http://nyti.ms/2u2zYog

DailyBeast, Michael Tomasky: Yes, This Is Going to Be Worse Than Watergate http://thebea.st/2fe5QPM
// In 1973, there were still some independent-minded lawmakers in the Grand Old Party. Today, not so much.

WaPo: Fox News commentator exits with a searing attack on Fox News http://wapo.st/2u7v1u7
// military Ralph Peters, “He described President Trump as being “terrified” of Russian president Vladi­mir Putin”

Slate: The Real Scandal Isn’t What Cambridge Analytica Did http://slate.me/2pwGL4X
//. It’s what Facebook made possible.

WaPo, James Homan: Trump’s increasingly confrontational approach to Mueller enabled by congressional GOP timidity http://wapo.st/2psmk8m

DailyBeast, Nik Ackerman and Jonathan Alter: The Opening Argument in the Trial of Donald J. Trump http://thebea.st/2FR1sP6
⋙ This is the Best Article I’ve read so far in 2018 on where we’re at with #TrumpRussia ~ pulls all the pieces together and makes a convincing case w/o assuming things we don’t know (yet). By Nik Ackerman and Jonathan Alter //➔ #HighlyRec

⭕ 19 Mar 2018

NYT: Alex Stamos, Facebook Data Security Chief, To Leave Amid Outcry http://nyti.ms/2FYPLWn

NYT: Cambridge Analytica, Trump-Tied Political Firm, Offered to Entrap Politicians http://nyti.ms/2FKaL7r

NYT: Trump to Hire Lawyer Who Has Pushed Theory That Justice Dept. Framed the President http://nyti.ms/2u1nME1
// Joseph diGenova

Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January. He added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.”

Mr. diGenova is law partners with his wife, Victoria Toensing. Ms. Toensing has also represented Sam Clovis, the former Trump campaign co-chairman, and Erik Prince, the founder of the security contractor Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump. Mr. Prince attended a meeting in January 2017 with a Russian investor in the Seychelles that the special counsel is investigating.

Axios, Mike Allen: A huge clue about Mueller’s endgame http://bit.ly/2GHIdbN

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump’s lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Why it matters: That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey’s firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

The Mueller and Trump teams are hoping to work out the specifics of a presidential interview within the next few weeks.

The big question they’re debating is whether it’ll be in person, in writing, or some combination of the two.

After a weekend of increasingly personal and vocal battles with Mueller, the White House extended an awkward olive branch on Sunday night, with White House lawyer Ty Cobb issuing this statement:

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

But that’s too late. Veering from the White House legal strategy of cooperating with Mueller, Trump attacked him by name on Twitter, seeking to discredit the eventual findings with Republican supporters.

Someone familiar with the process said that was presidential frustration, and that the Trump team continues its ongoing dialogue with Mueller.

⭕ 18 Mar 2018

DailyBeast, Nik Ackerman and Jonathan Alter: The Opening Argument in the Trial of Donald J. Trump http://thebea.st/2FR1sP6
⋙ This is the Best Article I’ve read so far in 2018 on where we’re at with #TrumpRussia ~ pulls all the pieces together and makes a convincing case w/o assuming things we don’t know (yet). By Nik Ackerman and Jonathan Alter //➔ #HighlyRec

⭕ 17 Mar 2018

🐣 RT @JohnBrennan When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.
⋙ to Trump

WSJ: Andrew McCabe Kept Notes About Conversations With Trump, Gave Them to Mueller http://on.wsj.com/2pm9uZj
//John Dowd, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, called for the Mueller probe to end ‘on the merits in light of recent revelations’

WaPo: Trump’s lawyer calls on Justice Department to immediately end Russia probe http://wapo.st/2FHamlX

⭕ 15 Mar 2018

WaPo, Max Boot: Russia’s been waging war on the West for years. We just haven’t noticed. http://wapo.st/2FYuWxH

WaPo, David Ignatius: Putin has finally gone too far http://wapo.st/2DxTQie

🐣 RT @tribelaw BREAKING NEWS: The Trump administration today announced that Russia has successfully launched a cyberattack on our nuclear power grid, has compromised the grid, and can shut it down at will. This is on top of what Russia did to our election. We are under attack by a hostile power

WaPo: New Russia sanctions are Trump’s strongest action against Moscow — but far short of what Congress wanted http://wapo.st/2FXLZQp

NYT: Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia http://nyti.ms/2HEJq39

NYT: Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says http://nyti.ms/2FMmzSF

⭕ 13 Mar 2018

LawfareBlog: Document: House Intelligence Committee Minority Russia Investigation Status Report http://bit.ly/2pcSLrd

⭕ 12 Mar 2018

Slate, Sam Berger: Mueller’s Choice of Criminal Charges: Why the Trump Team Should Be Very Worried http://slate.me/2tFfHVt

Ryan Goodman recently highlighted an important revelation contained in the memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee: Not only had the Russians told the Trump campaign that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, but they had also previewed for George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on the campaign, that they could help with disseminating them.

This revelation would suggest significant legal exposure on its own. But when viewed within the broader context of what we know about the Russia investigation, it is further evidence of an extremely troubling pattern of interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia-linked operatives, which show an intertwining of two campaigns to elect Donald Trump: one run out of Trump Tower and one run out of the Kremlin.

Goodman and the experts he spoke with identified four types of actions that could create criminal liability for the Trump team stemming from this new information: if the campaign consulted with the Russians on their plans to disseminate the emails, if the Trump campaign gave tacit assent or approval or support, if Trump officials intentionally encouraged the Russians, or if they sought to conceal the facts of a crime. Just looking at the publicly available information shows the outlines of a potential legal case against members of the Trump team along these very lines.

As campaign finance law expert Paul S. Ryan points out, campaigns cannot coordinate with foreign nationals on any expenditure that seeks to influence a U.S. election. Coordination includes cooperation, consultation, or acting in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of the candidate or his team. A key word is or—each of those actions could independently suffice to establish a violation.

The emails to set up the now infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting contain a particularly incriminating piece of evidence on this score. While significant focus has been given to Donald Trump Jr.’s enthusiastic response to the offer of damaging information on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” equal attention should be paid to the rest of his response, in which he says that such information would be helpful “especially later in the summer.” In this statement, Trump Jr. was not only communicating a willingness to collude with Russia; he was also telling them when the campaign thought the release of such information would be most politically useful. …

After Trump Jr. shared his assessment of the best timing for the release of damaging material on Clinton, WikiLeaks, which the U.S. intelligence community assessed with high confidence was provided the stolen Democratic emails by Russia, released a slew of emails later that summer right before the Democratic National Convention, exacerbating divisions within the Democratic Party and undermining the convention’s unifying message.

… Perhaps the starkest example was the timing of WikiLeaks’ release of the hacked emails of John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign. His emails were made public a scant 29 minutes after the Washington Post broke the story late on a Friday afternoon of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. …

… Trump campaign … proved surprisingly effective at weaponizing the Clinton-linked emails released by WikiLeaks. Trump mentioned the website 164 times—an average of more than five times per day—in the final month of the campaign …

… We now know that Trump Jr. was also exchanging private messages with WikiLeaks both during and after the campaign. In one instance, Trump tweeted about the hacked emails just 15 minutes after WikiLeaks messaged Trump Jr. suggesting his father promote them. Trump Jr. wasn’t the only person talking with the people behind WikiLeaks; both Roger Stone and the head of Cambridge Analytica, a firm the Trump campaign employed to help with data analytics, were also reportedly in contact with them.

But what we do know is that the Trump team undertook a massive effort to cover up its collusion with Russia. They repeatedly denied any contacts with Russian officials, calling the claims “absurd,” “disgusting,” and even “dangerous.” But subsequent reporting, admissions, and indictments have revealed there were many, many contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives, including numerous in-person meetings. Knowledge about these contacts was widespread in the campaign: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Jeff Sessions, Sam Clovis, and Corey Lewandowski all knew, as did many others.

Yet no one on the campaign ever revealed these contacts or told the authorities about Russia’s hacking and offers of help. In fact, they actively participated in the cover-up by lying about their contacts every step of the way. …

NYT: Britain Blames Russia for Nerve Agent Attack on Former Spy http://nyti.ms/2HpkBbi

⭕ 9 Mar 2018

 MotherJones: “Why the Hell Are We Standing Down?” http://bit.ly/2p6wsDg
// The secret story of Obama’s response to Putin’s attack on the 2016 election.

MotherJones: Trump Spoke to a Russian Activist About Ending Sanctions—Just Weeks After Launching His Campaign http://bit.ly/2Ge3sBG
// Here’s the video of their exchange.

⭕ 8 Mar 2018

CNN: Amid renewed scrutiny, Erik Prince to host fundraiser for Russia-friendly congressman http://cnn.it/2oZJuCw
// Dana Rohrabacher

RawStory: Trump partied with Russian oligarchs at Vegas nightclub shut down over ‘lewd’ acts involving women and urine: report http://bit.ly/2tvFbEv
// David Corn and Michael Isikoff book; possible source of “pee tape” legend

MotherJones: The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump http://bit.ly/2oWn2eB
// Here’s what we uncovered about an odd pair from Moscow who courted the Trump campaign.

NYT: How Russian Trolls Crept Into the Trump Campaign’s Facebook Messages http://nyti.ms/2IdG5ZF

 MotherJones: What Happened in Moscow: The Inside Story of How Trump’s Obsession With Putin Began http://bit.ly/2oShFNy
// His 2013 visit paved the way for a scandal that shook the world; This is the first of two excerpts adapted from Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (Twelve Books), by Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, and David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones. The book will be released on March 13.

NYT: Trump Accepts Kim Jong-un’s Invitation to Meet http://nyti.ms/2p3uweK

⭕ 7 Mar 2018

WaPo: Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 Seychelles meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin http://wapo.st/2FyLbRT

In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

⭕ 6 Mar 2018

NYT: Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel http://nyti.ms/2D6hEcM

Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president’s political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.

Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Nader’s cooperation in the special counsel’s investigation could prompt new legal risks for the Trump administration, and Mr. Nader’s presence at the Seychelles meeting appears to connect him to the primary focus of Mr. Mueller’s investigation: examining Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.

[ UAE, US, Russia ]

Mr. Nader represented the crown prince in the three-way conversation in the Seychelles, at a hotel overlooking in the Indian Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meeting, Emirati officials believed Mr. Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team, and a Russian fund manager, Kirill Dmitriev, represented Mr. Putin, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Nader, who grew close later to several advisers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a consultant to Blackwater, a private security firm now known as Academi. Mr. Nader introduced his former employer to the Russian. …

Mr. Dmitriev, a former Goldman Sachs banker with an M.B.A. from Harvard, was tapped by Mr. Putin in 2011 to manage an unusual state-run investment fund. Where other such funds seek to earn returns on sovereign wealth, Mr. Dmitriev’s Russian Direct Investment Fund seeks outside investments, often from foreign governments, for unglamorous infrastructure projects inside of Russia.

The Obama administration imposed sanctions on the fund as part of a raft of economic penalties after the Russian government sent military forces into Ukraine in 2014.

The United Arab Emirates, which Washington considers one of its closest Arab allies, has invested heavily in Mr. Dmitriev’s fund as part of an effort to build close relations to Russia as well. After Crown Prince Mohammed met with Mr. Putin in 2013 in Moscow on a state visit, two investment arms of the government in Abu Dhabi committed to invest $6 billion in the Russian Direct Investment Fund …

Mr. Dmitriev became a frequent visitor to Abu Dhabi, and Emirati officials came to see him as a key conduit to the Russian government. In a 2015 email, the Emirati ambassador to Moscow at the time described Mr. Dmitriev as a “messenger” to get information directly to Mr. Putin. The email was among a large number hacked from the account of the ambassador to Washington and published online. The now former ambassador to Moscow, Omar Saif Ghobash, did not respond to an email about the leak.

Mr. Nader was first served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on Jan. 17, shortly after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, according to two people familiar with the episode. He had intended to travel on to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, to celebrate the president’s first year in office, but the F.B.I. had other plans, questioning him for more than two hours and seizing his electronics.

Since then, Mr. Nader has been questioned numerous times about meetings in New York during the transition, the Seychelles meeting and meetings in the White House with two of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, who has since left the administration.

The meeting in the Seychelles also took place against the backdrop of a larger pattern of secretive contacts between the Trump team and both the Russians and the Emiratis. In the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Crown Prince Mohammed aroused the suspicions of American national security officials when they learned that he had breached protocol by visiting Trump Tower in Manhattan without notifying the Obama administration of his visit to the United States.

Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a senior transition adviser, met at Trump Tower with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington at the time, and discussed setting up a back channel to communicate with Moscow during the transition — circumventing American diplomatic channels normally used during a presidential transition. Mr. Kushner met a few days later with a Russian banker close to Putin, Sergey N. Gorkov — whose bank was also under sanctions — in what Mr. Kushner has said was an attempt to establish a direct line of communication to Mr. Putin during the transition.

Public accounts of the Seychelles meeting have varied sharply. Questioned about it during testimony in November before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Prince dismissed his encounter with Mr. Dmitriev as little more than a chance run-in.

He was in the Seychelles for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed and Emirati officials, Mr. Prince said, and after the meeting, the officials suggested he meet Mr. Dmitriev at the bar of the Four Seasons hotel.

“I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, then certainly Donald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism,” he told lawmakers.”

Shortly after the Seychelles meeting, Mr. Dmitriev met with Anthony Scaramucci, then an informal Trump adviser, at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In an interview afterward with TASS, a Russian news agency, Mr. Scaramucci criticized the Obama administration’s economic sanctions on Russia as ineffective and suggested that the Trump administration and Russia could find common ground on numerous issues.

“We have to make the world safer, we have to eliminate from the world the radical Islamic terrorism, and we have to figure out the ways to grow the wages for working class-families,” said Mr. Scaramucci, who later had a brief but calamitous stint as White House communications director. “Whether in Russia or in the U.S., I think there are a lot of common objectives.”

For his part, Mr. Dmitriev seemed particularly optimistic at the dawn of the Trump era. In an interview with The New York Times two days after the 2016 election, he said he was excited that Mr. Trump’s dramatic victory would “reshape the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

“When Russia is treated with respect,” he said, “we can move forward.”
↧(also this)↧
WaPo: Businessman with ties to United Arab Emirates is cooperating with Mueller probe http://wapo.st/2oVb2Jy

The UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions, those officials said.

Prince, the founder of the former Blackwater contracting firm, had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition. However, according to officials familiar with the meeting, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Russian official.

Prince has sharply disputed that account, saying he did not present himself as a representative of the incoming administration. He told congressional investigators that his meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, was a passing encounter over a drink at the bar of the Four Seasons in the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Prince said his meeting with Dmitriev came up at the last minute and at the suggestion of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who Prince said invited him to the Seychelles — although he told congressional investigators he could not remember when or who from Zayed’s staff extended the invitation. The crown prince is widely known as MBZ.

H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials, including from the UAE, that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials.

WaPo, David Ignatius: America ignores Russia at its peril http://wapo.st/2D6H4XM

Putin’s speech was a plea for attention by a leader who sees himself avenging his nation’s humiliation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite Putin’s wounded, chip-on-the-shoulder posture, this struck me as the core of his address, and worth a well-considered response.

The crux of Putin’s argument is that Russia was ignored during its years of weakness and is only taken seriously now because it looks threatening. Putin recounted that before he took power, “the military equipment of the Russian army was becoming obsolete, and the armed forces were in a sorry state.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said, “the nation had lost 23.8 percent of its territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 percent of its gross domestic product and 44.6 percent of its military capability.

“Nobody really wanted to talk to us about the core of the problem [of the nuclear-weapons balance], and nobody wanted to listen to us. So listen now,” he demanded.

Putin is a bully, but a predictable one. He has been advertising his desire to restore Russia’s lost glory since he became president in 2000. Last month’s indictment by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of 13 Russians and three companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election describes an organization, the Internet Research Agency, that, according to other accounts, field-tested Putin’s Internet manipulation techniques in 2014 in Ukraine before deploying them in America. To manage these covert actions, Putin turned to a billionaire oligarch pal, Yevgeniy Prigozhin , who also helped organize Russian mercenaries in Syria.

Ukraine has been Putin’s laboratory. Oleksandr Danylyuk was, the chairman of the Center for Defense Reforms in Ukraine, warned in a 2016 paper for the Naval Postgraduate School that Russia has “been carrying out not only information operations but also other clandestine and special operations against Ukraine for more than a decade.” His conclusion: “Russia is not preparing for war with the West; the war is already being actively conducted — on Russia’s terms.” …

“In an autocracy, the traits of character are magnified; everything personal is political,” wrote Montefiore about the Romanovs. Putin is inescapable. The U.S. military will counter Putin’s death-star weapons, but in the meantime, American diplomacy needs to open better channels. Ignoring Russia may be good politics, but it is bad policy.

CNN: ‘Man of mystery’ cooperates with Mueller in Russia probe http://cnn.it/2oTwb6I
// George Nader, UAE, Seychelles

⭕ 5 Mar 2018

WaPo: Mueller is casting a wide net. We now know the target is Trump. http://wapo.st/2I51mEU

WaPo: Ex-Trump aide: Trump ‘may very well have done something during the election with the Russians’ http://wapo.st/2D2gIGF

There have been few more surreal moments in the Russia investigation — indeed, in the entire Trump era — than the one we just witnessed. …

NewYorker, Jane Mayer: Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier http://bit.ly/2oSvMl8
// 3/12/2018 Issue; How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.
⋙ See under Entire Articles

⭕ 4 Mar 2018

NYT: State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. http://nyti.ms/2H2BsAi

Axios: Scoop: Mueller’s hit list http://bit.ly/2oHICTM

🔆 This❗️⋙ DailyBeast: Mueller Subpoenas Communications With Trump and Inner Circle http://thebea.st/2FhHaO8

⭕ 2 Mar 2018

Buzzfeed: Even Italian Prosecutors Can’t Find The Professor At The Center Of The Trump-Russia Probe http://bzfd.it/2FMdx8X
// Papadopoulos contact; Records at the prosecutor’s office in Palermo, Italy, show that Joseph Mifsud is “unreachable”.

⭕ 1 Mar 2018

JustSecurity, Ryan Goodman (3/1): Russia “Previewed” Plan to Disseminate Emails with Trump Campaign http://bit.ly/2FAZQsF
// And how that’s legally significant

A significant recent revelation in the Russia investigation has been largely overlooked in the rush of several breaking news stories over the past few days. A nugget of information is contained in the memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee (the so-called Schiff Memo), which was released on Saturday morning.

Prior to the memo, we knew that a Russian agent told Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos of “Moscow possessing ‘dirt’” on Hillary Clinton “in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’” according to Papadopoulos’s plea statement. The memo went a legally significant step further. As Rep. Adam Schiff recently told Chris Hayes, “our memo discloses for the first time that the Russians previewed to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen emails.” Rep. Schiff added, “When Donald Trump openly called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, they’d be richly rewarded if they released these to the press, his campaign had already been put on notice that the Russians were prepared to do just that and disseminate these stolen emails.” (The full transcript and video clip is below.)

A legally important question is what the Trump campaign did after the Russians previewed that they could help disseminate the stolen emails. If Trump campaign officials consulted with the Russians on their plans to disseminate the emails, it could involve direct violations of campaign finance laws (see the statement below from leading election law expert Paul Seamus Ryan). If Trump campaign officials gave tacit assent or approval or support, it could directly implicate them in the “conspiracy to defraud the United States” by evading the Federal Election Commission—the very conspiracy for which Mueller has already indicted thirteen Russian nationals (see the statement below by former White House official and also top election law expert Bob Bauer). If Papadopoulos intentionally encouraged the Russians and if he was instructed to do so by other campaign officials, they could be liable as accomplices (see statements below from law professors and former federal prosecutors Barbara McQuade and Alex Whiting). The Trump campaign as an organization could also be criminally liable (see statement below from McQuade). Finally, if members of the Trump campaign tried to conceal the facts of a crime (potentially including either the original DNC hack or the dissemination of the stolen emails) they could be guilty of “misprision of a felony” (see statements below by former federal prosecutors including Renato Mariotti).

REP. SCHIFF [All In]: “Well, unfortunately, I can’t go beyond what the Department of Justice has authorized us to disclose in the memo, but I think it’s the first time the public’s been able to see one of the links here. And that is we knew from the Papadopoulos plea that the Russians had told the Trump campaign very early on in April 2016 that they were in possession of these stolen emails. We now know that the Department of Justice presented to the FISA Court information that the Russians previewed what they would do with this information, their dissemination of it. So when Donald Trump openly called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, they’d be richly rewarded if they released these to the press, his campaign had already been put on notice that the Russians were prepared to do just that and disseminate these stolen emails.”

DailyBeast: Leaked: Secret Documents From Russia’s Election Trolls http://thebea.st/2GWcB0X
// An online auction gone awry reveals substantial new details on Kremlin-backed troll farm efforts to stir up real protests and target specific Americans to push their propaganda.

NBC: Mueller eyes charges against Russians who stole, spread Democrats’ emails http://nbcnews.to/2HXHWBG

WaPo: Putin speech adds to freeze in U.S.-Russia relations http://wapo.st/2GXo5Bk

⭕ 28 Feb 2018

WaPo: Mueller investigation examining Trump’s apparent efforts to oust Sessions in July http://wapo.st/2COFWrO

Axios: Scoop: Besieged Sessions dines with Rosenstein http://bit.ly/2F4vcHC

The symbolism was unmistakable: the three top ranking officials in the Justice Department appearing together in a show of solidarity on the same day Trump is publicly and privately raging about Sessions.

When Trump sees this photo he’ll have to absorb a concept that some of his aides have been trying to impress upon him for nearly a year, since he first began telling them he wanted to get rid of Sessions.

The concept: Fire Sessions, then what next? Are you going to fire Rosenstein too? And then what after that? 

Sources close to the situation say today feels different than Trump’s usual rages. Sessions’ allies are deeply concerned and Trump is totally fed up with his AG.

Trump has been taunting and publicly humiliating Sessions for months now, but his tweet this morning was as rough as any he’s sent:

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

NYT: Trump Calls Sessions’s Handling of Surveillance Abuse Allegations ‘Disgraceful’ http://nyti.ms/2CQaPvS

The long-simmering friction between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions erupted into an extraordinary public face-off on Wednesday as the investigation into Russia’s election interference roiled the administration and raised new questions about the independence of law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Trump excoriated Mr. Sessions for not ordering his own investigation into the handling of the Russia inquiry during its early months, calling his attorney general “DISGRACEFUL” in a lacerating Twitter post. Mr. Sessions, who has absorbed blows from the White House since last year mostly in silence, responded with a rare statement defending his “integrity and honor.”

The back-and-forth, unthinkable in previous administrations, came during a week of unrest at the White House. As the president railed about the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, was stripped of his top-secret security clearance. One of Mr. Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, announced that she will step down as communications director. And Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman was back in court pleading not guilty to new charges.

The schism between Mr. Trump and his attorney general has become a persistent subplot of his administration, an almost Shakespearean rift between a president and one of his earliest and strongest supporters. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to back Mr. Trump’s candidacy but has fallen out of favor because the president wanted an attorney general who would protect him and investigate his political enemies.

⭕ 27 Feb 2018

NBC: U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 elections http://nbcnews.to/2GPcnc0

CNN: US cyber chief says Trump hasn’t told him to confront Russian cyber threat http://cnn.it/2t00Zbf

🐣 RT @jimsciutto Explain: @NSA chief Mike Rogers told lawmakers he would need to be granted authority to “disrupt Russian cyber threats where they originate” by President or SecDef. Asked if he has been directed by President to do so, Rogers said “No, I have not.”

CNN: Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president http://cnn.it/2CNkH9C

⭕ 26 Feb 2018

NewYorker, Jeffrey Toobin: Trump’s Miss Universe Gambit http://bit.ly/2CMLSS9
// For years, he used his beauty pageants to boost business interests abroad. A 2013 contest, in Moscow, may also have helped give him the Presidency.

⭕ 24 Feb 2018

WaPo, Jennifer Rubin: Democratic memo discredits Nunes, tantalizes on dossier corroboration http://wapo.st/2Cj1aT4

As Democrats have said publicly, the memo from committee ranking member Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) states there was ample evidence to conduct surveillance of Carter Page entirely apart from the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, including “contemporaneous evidence of Russia’s election interference; concerning Russian links and outreach to Trump campaign officials; Page’s history with Russian intelligence; and … Page’s suspicious activities in 2016, including in Moscow.”

Notice that the memo says the suspicious activities included not merely the trip itself but activities in Moscow. If the FBI had detailed knowledge of Page’s activities beyond his bizarre pro-Russia speech, that could provide insight into the interaction between the Trump campaign and the Russian campaign for then-candidate Donald Trump. Those activities reportedly include meeting with Igor Sechin, a close associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin, to discuss energy deals if sanctions were lifted and meeting with a senior Kremlin official who disclosed that the Russians had compromising information on Hillary Clinton and that such information might be released to the Trump campaign. 

In short, not only did the dossier play a minor role in obtaining the surveillance of Page, but Page’s own actions provide an extraordinary window into communications from and to the Russians about dirt on Clinton. Do we think Page kept all this to himself when he returned?

The Schiff memo also makes clear that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was told the dossier was funded by a political operation “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” although Steele did not know the identity of the person who funded his work. …

The memo also states that “Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails.” Was this a heads-up to Roger Stone? If they were previewing the email release to anyone associated with the Trump campaign, that surely constitutes collusion by anyone’s definition.

[I]t also hints at a wealth of information not yet revealed that may substantiate ties between the Russians and the Trump campaign. The more of these ties, the more people involved and the more detailed these interactions were, the more likely, of course, is that someone, at some point told Trump or his inner circle about them. If Schiff intended to whet our appetite for more details and confirm the extent of the Trump campaign-Russia ties, he succeeded.

🐣 RT @RepAdamSchiff Wrong again, Mr. President. It confirms the FBI acted appropriately and that Russian agents approached two of your advisors, and informed your campaign that Russia was prepared to help you by disseminating stolen Clinton emails. (‼️)
⋙ Re: Trumptweet: The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!

CNN: New indictment accuses Manafort of paying European politicians http://cnn.it/2GGaChm

NYT: Mueller Is Gaining Steam. Should Trump Worry? http://nyti.ms/2ESvilP

Mr. Trump’s defenders have focused on questioning the original basis for the investigation, accusing the F.B.I. of misconduct in relying on an unverified dossier assembled by a former British spy hired by investigators working for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

To the extent that Mr. Mueller is exploring whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey, the president’s defenders contend that under the Constitution, he has the power to dismiss executive branch officials and dictate their work. They also point to testimony by Mr. Comey and other officials who said the investigation was not impeded.

Therefore, they argue, the original order appointing Mr. Mueller was itself invalid and should be revoked.

Mr. Wittes said Mr. Mueller’s actions could be seen as building a pyramid — establishing that there was a Russian influence campaign and assembling a group of cooperating witnesses. But the special counsel has not tipped his hand yet.

“The basic contours of the puzzle is that he’s constructed his actions in a way that we don’t know where it’s leading,” he said, “and that’s on purpose.”

⭕ 23 Feb 2018

DailyBeast: Putin Sends His Stealth Jets Into Air War Over Syria http://thebea.st/2EZDP9M
// Two of Russia’s T-50s prototype stealth fighters landed at Khmeimim air base this week, potentially intensifying the risk to U.S. and allied warplanes over the war-ravaged country.

CNBC: NRA, Russia and Trump: How ‘dark money’ is poisoning American democracy http://cnb.cx/2Cf4mig

CNN: Putin’s ‘chef’ accused of trying to cover his tracks http://cnn.it/2EOlGMQ

WaPo: What we know about the shadowy Russian mercenary firm behind an attack on U.S. troops in Syria http://wapo.st/2CDbNvn

WaPo: Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of influence-peddling, lavish spending and alleged fraud http://wapo.st/2BNju5C

WaPo: Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates plans to plead guilty to 2 charges http://wapo.st/2CEfqkQ

Rick Gates, a former top official in President Trump’s campaign, plans to plead guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, according to court papers filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

According to a criminal information — a document filed with the permission of the defendant which traditionally signals that person plans to plead guilty — Gates conspired to defraud the United States regarding the money he and his business partner Paul Manafort earned and lied to the FBI in a Feb. 1, 2018 interview about a 2013 meeting he’d had with Manafort and an unidentified lobbyist.

NYT: Rick Gates, Trump Campaign Aide, to Plead Guilty in Mueller Inquiry and Cooperate http://nyti.ms/2CFkvJu

⭕ 22 Feb 2018

WaPo: Putin ally said to be in touch with Kremlin, Assad before his mercenaries attacked U.S. troops http://wapo.st/2ork1Sk
⋙ 🐣 Fascinating stuff: Guy behind the Russian troll farm was also involved with attack on Americans in Syria that left dozens of Russian “mercenaries” dead: WaPo: Putin ally said to be in touch with Kremlin, Assad before his mercenaries attacked U.S. troops https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/967128458747838465/photo/1

A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February.

Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct “information warfare” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. …

Prigozhin has made himself indispensable to the Kremlin, said Andrew S. Weiss, a Eurasia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“On the one hand, he does things that are at the pointy end of the spear, like operating a significant information operation against America,” Weiss said. “On the other, he is deeply intertwined in the activities of the Ministry of Defense and provides combat capabilities and other services.”

NYT: Mueller Files New Fraud Charges Against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates http://nyti.ms/2FqiQL9

⭕ 18 Feb 2018

TheAtlantic, Franklin Foer: Cover Story: Franklin Foer on Paul Manafort and the Fall of Washington http://theatln.tc/2CClWbU
// 1/18/2018, on Paul Manafort

NYT, Thomas Friedman: Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now http://nyti.ms/2EPNlMB

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”

NYT: Inside the Russian Troll Factory: Zombies and a Breakneck Pace http://nyti.ms/2sFT42G

LATimes: Former Trump aide Richard Gates to plead guilty; agrees to testify against Manafort, sources say http://lat.ms/2ENF9MO

NYT: Trump’s Evolution From Relief to Fury Over the Russia Indictment http://nyti.ms/2BBrCG9

WaPo: Trump lashes out over Russia probe in angry and error-laden tweetstorm http://wapo.st/2CuKS4X

WaPo, Glenn Kessler: Fact-checking Trump’s error-filled tweetstorm about the Russia investigation http://wapo.st/2ERSYty

TheHill: Gates plans to testify against Manafort in Mueller probe: report http://bit.ly/2Fe3WHR

⭕ 17 Feb 2018

WaPo: A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’ http://wapo.st/2Ezg44V

“I arrived there, and I immediately felt like a character in the book ‘1984’ by George Orwell — a place where you have to write that white is black and black is white. Your first feeling, when you ended up there, was that you were in some kind of factory that turned lying, telling untruths, into an industrial assembly line. The volumes were colossal — there were huge numbers of people, 300 to 400, and they were all writing absolute untruths. It was like being in Orwell’s world.”

⭕ 16 Feb 2018

WaPo: Russian troll farm, 13 suspects indicted for interference in U.S. election http://wapo.st/2HohYHe

TheIntercept, James Risen: Is Donald Trump a Traitor? http://bit.ly/2GnyBl9

NYT: Meet Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Oligarch Indicted in U.S. Election Interference http://nyti.ms/2sCHtBz

🔆 This❗️⋙ NYT: 13 Named in Russia Indictment by Special Counsel in First Charges on 2016 Election Interference http://nyti.ms/2o4iySq

⭕ 10 Feb 2018

WaPo: Trump seizes on report that Russian sold ‘phony secrets’ about him to the U.S.  http://wapo.st/2CbxmDd

⭕ 9 Feb 2018

NYT: U.S. Spies, Seeking to Retrieve Cyberweapons, Paid Russian Peddling Trump Secrets http://nyti.ms/2G484c

WaPo, Woodward and Bernstein: Nixon fired the man investigating him. Will Trump? http://wapo.st/2EhXL85
// history of Watergate ~ excerpt from “The Final Days”; Woodward and Bernstein: Are we watching the lead-up to another Saturday Night Massacre?

⭕ 7 Feb 2018
CNN: Right-wing media obsesses over FBI text message story; hours later it’s debunked http://cnnmon.ie/2BL5LNw

In the early hours of the morning, Fox News published an article on its website based on newly-released communications between senior FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The text messages were released Tuesday in a report produced by the office of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

In one September 2, 2016, text message, Page wrote that there was a meeting at the bureau setup because Obama wanted “to know everything we are doing.”

Johnson, in his report, said the text message raised questions about Obama’s involvement in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. In fact, the message more likely indicated that Obama wanted to be kept informed of an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In its story, Fox News reiterated Johnson’s claim without scrutiny. In fact, it’s not clear if Fox News even reached out to Obama’s office prior to publishing to see if there were any other explanation for what Page said in her text. The story makes no note of the reporter having sought comment. In an email to CNN, Fox News spokeswoman Carly Shanahan declined to answer whether Fox’s reporter had contacted Obama’s office. “It’s clear you’re getting your talking points from a partisan analysis by Think Progress,” Shanahan said, referring to a liberal news website.

⭕ 6 Feb 2018

WaPo: Hero or hired gun? How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation. http://wapo.st/2FSJ0Fd
// Christopher Steele dossier

⭕ 5 Feb 2018

 WIRED: Robert Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think http://bit.ly/2Bhmoz0
// rec’d by Sen Sheldon Whitehouse

NYT: Trump’s Lawyers Want Him to Refuse an Interview in Russia Inquiry http://nyti.ms/2sfcA60

⭕ 4 Feb 2018

WaPo: Devin Nunes tried to discredit the FBI. Instead, he proved it’s onto something. http://wapo.st/2BUc3WH

⭕ 3 Feb 2018

TIME: Carter Page Touted Kremlin Contacts in 2013 Letter http://ti.me/2FK2GLB

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

Esquire, Adam Schiff: Memo to the Public: The President Wants to Make the FBI His Instrument http://bit.ly/2GKyeCh

NBC: Democratic rebuttal calls Nunes memo ‘deliberately misleading’ http://nbcnews.to/2GIZ5i3

⭕ 2 Feb 2018

Vox: The 9 biggest questions about the Nunes memo, answered http://bit.ly/2GNSTpd
// The controversial memo about the FBI and the Trump-Russia investigation, explained.

Vox: Read: the full text of the Nunes memo http://bit.ly/2nHPlfi
// transcript, The allegations aim to call the FBI and Justice Department’s professionalism into question.

CommonDreams: ‘Shit Show of Dishonesty Across the Board’: #MemoDay Sparks Wave of Critique http://bit.ly/2GIXBUS
//. Critics unleashed ire at Republicans—including Trump, Ryan, and Nunes—while offering an array of informed context regarding the memo

Esquire, Charles Pierce: ‘Nothingburger’ Doesn’t Do This Memo Justice http://bit.ly/2BTyBXD
// Devin Nunes, everybody.

WaPo, Ruth Marcus: Trump is far worse than Nixonian http://wapo.st/2BRP5iV

“Nixonian” is not the right word to use to describe the behavior of President Trump. In important ways, that characterization smears Richard Nixon.

It is hard to believe I am writing this. But it is also hard to believe it has come to this: The president is in open warfare with his Justice Department and the FBI — asserting flatly that its “top Leadership and Investigators . . . have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.”

This was a breathtaking gut punch to the constitutional system. The release of the House Intelligence Committee memo purporting to discredit the Russia probe was predictably followed by a White House statement bemoaning “serious concerns about the integrity of decisions” by senior law enforcement officials.

Politico: GOP defies FBI, releases secret Russia memo to partisan fury http://politi.co/2GGaEXn
// ‘Congress will do whatever they’re going to do, but I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,’ the president says.

Politico: Trump escalates his war with U.S. law enforcement after memo release http://politi.co/2s4xdSi
// The president hinted openly that he might yet fire senior officials over claims of bias against him.

WSJ: Inside the FBI Life of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as Told in Their Text Messages http://on.wsj.com/2E1jFfN

Politico: GOP defies FBI, releases secret Russia memo to partisan fury http://politi.co/2GGaEXn
// ‘Congress will do whatever they’re going to do, but I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,’ the president says.

⭕ 1 Feb 2018

Politico: How the Nunes memo became the latest political football in the Russia investigation http://politi.co/2E533Dj

WaPo, Eugene Robinson: Trump has picked a fight with the FBI. He’ll be sorry. http://wapo.st/2BO1hBj

WaPo Editorial: A process that tarnishes the House http://wapo.st/2BOrkbk

NYT Editorial: The Republican Plot Against the F.B.I. http://nyti.ms/2rWfCvE

⭕ 31 Jan 2018

WaPo, Adam Schiff: Nunes’s memo crosses a dangerous line http://wapo.st/2nyScag

On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) moved to release a memo written by his staff that cherry-picks facts, ignores others and smears the FBI and the Justice Department — all while potentially revealing intelligence sources and methods. He did so even though he had not read the classified documents that the memo characterizes and refused to allow the FBI to brief the committee on the risks of publication and what it has described as “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” The party-line vote to release the Republican memo but not a Democratic response was a violent break from the committee’s nonpartisan tradition and the latest troubling sign that House Republicans are willing to put the president’s political dictates ahead of the national interest.

The reason for Republicans’ abrupt departure from our nonpartisan tradition is growing alarm over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. In a matter of months, the president’s first national security adviser and a foreign policy adviser have pleaded guilty to felony offenses, while his former campaign chairman and deputy campaign manager have also been indicted. As Mueller and his team move closer to the president and his inner circle, a sense of panic is palpable on the Hill. GOP members recognize that the probe threatens not only the president but also their majorities in Congress.

In response, they have drawn on the stratagem of many criminal defense lawyers — when the evidence against a defendant is strong, put the government on trial. The Nunes memo is designed to do just that by furthering a conspiracy theory that a cabal of senior officials within the FBI and the Justice Department were so tainted by bias against President Trump that they irredeemably poisoned the investigation. If it wasn’t clear enough that this was the goal, Nunes removed all doubt when he declared that the Justice Department and the FBI themselves were under investigation at the hearing in which the memo was ordered released.

This decision to employ an obscure rule to order the release of classified information for partisan political purposes crossed a dangerous line. Doing so without even allowing the Justice Department or the FBI to vet the information for accuracy, the impact of its release on sources and methods, and other concerns was, as the Justice Department attested, “extraordinarily reckless.” But it also increases the risk of a constitutional crisis by setting the stage for subsequent actions by the White House to fire Mueller or, as now seems more likely, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, an act that would echo the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre.

⭕ 30 Jan 2018

WaPo: FBI challenges accuracy of GOP’s surveillance memo http://wapo.st/2rT3fk1

WaPo: Justice Dept. officials appealed to White House to halt release of memo alleging FBI abuses related to author of Trump dossier http://wapo.st/2E0KBvl

⭕ 29 Jan 2018

Politico: White House to Congress: Russia sanctions not needed now http://politi.co/2nq3uO9

NYT: House Republicans Vote to Release Secret Memo on Russia Probe http://nyti.ms/2EmKR5M

⭕ 28 Jan 2018

NYT, David Leonhardt: An Article of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump http://nyti.ms/2nob9fV

NYT: Secret Memo Hints at a New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein http://nyti.ms/2DMaID9

⭕ 27 Jan 2018

WaPo: Trump sought release of classified Russia memo, putting him at odds with Justice Department http://wapo.st/2Gra5AE

As Mueller narrows his probe — homing in on the ways Trump may have tried to impede the Russia investigation — a common thread ties many of the incidents together: a president accustomed to functioning as the executive of a private family business who does not seem to understand that his subordinates have sworn an oath to the Constitution rather than to him. 

On Wednesday, speaking briefly to reporters, Trump defended his actions in the probe as “fighting back” against unfair allegations. “Oh, well, ‘Did he fight back?’ ” Trump said. “You fight back, ‘Oh, it’s obstruction.’ ” …

Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general whom Trump fired early last year for failing to enforce his travel ban, said in an interview that Trump’s behavior — from his June decision to call for Mueller’s firing to other meddling throughout the year — is “beyond unusual” and “really dangerous.” 

“If you get to what’s most essential and important and, I think, really damaging to our country, beyond just the confines of this administration, it’s this attack on our democratic institutions and particularly the Department of Justice,” she said. “It is a firm tradition at the Department of Justice that the White House just has absolutely no involvement in criminal investigations or prosecutions, period.”

She added: “It seems like there are almost weekly efforts to try to get DOJ to open up a case on his former political rival. . . . The near daily attacks on the FBI — we’ve never seen anything anywhere close to this before.” 

Indeed, Trump has shown a repeated pattern of attempting to regain control of the Russia investigation and deploy the Justice Department for his own protection and personal gain — comments and actions Mueller’s team could include in the obstruction-of-justice portion of their probe.  …

A person who has interacted with Mueller’s team said the prosecutors seem to be pursuing a theory that Trump’s actions over months have followed a consistent pattern. “Their theory appears to be that he goes after people who are not loyal,” this person said. “He wants in place people who are loyal, to make sure he doesn’t get in trouble in the investigation.”

This person added that key episodes in this narrative include Trump’s order that Sessions not recuse himself from the investigation; the firing of Comey; his efforts to intervene to get the Flynn investigation dropped; and then, above all, Trump’s dictation aboard Air Force One in July of a misleading statement to be released by his son, Don Jr., about his meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the campaign — “the most obvious obstructive act,” this person said.

To prove obstruction of justice, Mueller would have to show that Trump didn’t just act to derail the investigation but did so with a corrupt motive, such as an effort to hide his own misdeeds. Legal experts are divided over whether the Constitution allows for the president to be indicted while in office. As a result, Mueller might seek to outline his findings about Trump’s actions in a written report rather than bring them in court through criminal charges. It would probably fall to Rosenstein to decide whether to submit the report to Congress, which has the power to open impeachment proceedings.

⭕ 26 Jan 2018

ForeignPolicy: Trump Launched Campaign to Discredit Potential FBI Witnesses http://bit.ly/2ncWPHI
// The president targeted three bureau officials who could provide key testimony in the Mueller probe.

WaPo, Aaron Blake: Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation has never looked more like a coverup http://wapo.st/2DQDG7U

⭕ 25 Jan 2018

WaPo Editorial: GOP leaders’ complicity grows as their members undermine the rule of law http://wapo.st/2BwZ1OG

Republicans have embarked on a smear campaign of the FBI that can end only in a dangerous erosion of trust in law enforcement, the subjugation of law enforcement to partisan interests or both.

[T]hey are allowing Fox News personalities, the president and loose cannons such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (Wis.) to turn the United States into a country where law enforcement becomes another pawn in the partisan war.

Mr. Johnson irresponsibly recycles nonsense about corruption “at the highest levels of the FBI,” offering no evidence because of course there is none. Mr. Nunes abuses his access to classified information as Intelligence Committee chairman, a title Mr. Ryan long ago should have revoked, to manufacture dark conspiracies.

“We learned today about information that in the immediate aftermath of his election, there may have been a ‘secret society’ of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI . . . working against [Mr. Trump],” Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) says.

Then he adds: “I’m not saying that actually happened.”

No matter; the purpose is achieved. Doubts are planted, and a share of the country will discount anything federal law enforcement says about Mr. Trump.

These men are destroying something that won’t be easily recovered: faith in the idea of impartial law enforcement. It amounts to an assault on the rule of law. Mr. Trump openly wishes for an attorney general who will protect him, asks law enforcement officials whom they voted for, and fires or attempts to fire those he deems disloyal. He does not believe that FBI agents or anyone else is motivated by public-spiritedness or respect for the law, only by self-interest and personal loyalty to his or some other clan.

If Mr. Ryan, Mr. McConnell and others continue in their acquiescence, his cynical view may come closer to reality.

⭕ 24 Jan 2018

WaPo, Paul Waldman: Republicans are desperate to protect Trump from Mueller. But will their strategy work? http://wapo.st/2Bw4c14

⭕ 23 Jan 2018

WaPo: Top Democrats warn of ‘ongoing attack by the Russian government’ amid push to publish classified memo http://wapo.st/2n6azEa

⭕ 20 Jan 2018

WaPo: In the crowd at Trump’s inauguration, members of Russia’s elite anticipated a thaw between Moscow and Washington http://wapo.st/2mYEaz6

The Washington Post identified at least half a dozen politically connected Russians who were in Washington on Inauguration Day — including some whose presence has not been previously reported. Among them was Viktor Vekselberg, a tycoon who is closely aligned with Putin’s government.

Another was Natalia Veselnitskaya , the Russian lawyer whose June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. has become a focus of the Russia investigation. She attended a black-tie inaugural party hosted by the campaign committee of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), according to an associate who accompanied her.

⭕ 16 Jan 2018

WaPo, David Ignatius: Are Republicans right about the Russia probe? http://wapo.st/2DhPDnJ

What’s true here, and what’s false? A careful look at the evidence rebuts the claim that the FBI was misused by Steele and that the bureau’s operations are in disarray. The FBI isn’t perfect, and text messages show that some officials favored Clinton (just as others supported Trump). But Republicans delude themselves in claiming that the Russia probe is a partisan concoction. Trump operatives have admitted in plea agreements that they lied to the FBI about their contacts with Russia.

What about Republican claims that Steele spawned what Trump calls a “witch hunt”? It’s true that Steele was hired by Fusion GPS, an investigative firm paid to dig up dirt on Trump, first by Republican opponents, then by Clinton supporters. But Steele went through well-established contacts, and the FBI got serious only after it obtained its own independent information. …

What does this narrative tell us? Far from a yarn concocted by Steele, the FBI probe was driven by its own independent reporting about Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last October to lying about his Russia contacts. The bottom line: There may be something in tatters at the center of this investigation, but it isn’t the FBI.

⭕ 10 Jan 2018

USSenateForRelCom: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Releases Report Detailing Two Decades of Putin’s Attacks on Democracy, Calling for Policy Changes to Counter Kremlin Threat Ahead of 2018, 2020 Elections | United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations http://bit.ly/2FsvEjt
// Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy” [pdf] http://bit.ly/2D0bXSN

⭕ 9 Jan 2018

🐣 RT @tedlieu Fusion GPS transcript shows that what Senators Grassley & Graham did last week in publicly referring Christopher Steele for criminal investigation was, at best, a partisan publicity stunt and, at worst, intentionally designed to mislead the American people.

WaPo: Fusion GPS founder told Senate investigators the FBI had a source in Trump’s network http://wapo.st/2DfVp5S

WaPo, Glenn Kessler: What you need to know about Christopher Steele, the FBI and the Trump ‘dossier’ http://wapo.st/2mc3a4J

🔆 This❗️⋙ DailyBeast: Democrats Release the Fusion GPS Testimony on Trump and Russia http://thebea.st/2qMmH1d w attachment
⋙ via Dianne Feinstein http://bit.ly/2FjtlPP

⭕ 8 Jan 2018

WaPo: Mueller indicates he will likely seek interview with Trump http://wapo.st/2FhJx3U

⭕ 6 Jan 2018

NYT: ‘Everything I’ve Done Is 100 Percent Proper,’ Trump Says of Russia Inquiry http://nyti.ms/2F3UHJE

⭕ 5 Jan 2018

WaPo, Jennifer Rubin: Senate Republicans become Trump accomplices in manipulating the system http://wapo.st/2D2HsZ7

MotherJones, David Corn: Republican Senators Target Christopher Steele—and the Reason Is Obvious http://bit.ly/2F5xs1X
// Anything to distract from the big picture: Putin’s attack on the US and Trump-Russia contacts.

NYT: Republican Senators Raise Possible Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier http://nyti.ms/2m367FJ

⭕ 4 Jan 2018

CNN: Ryan backed Nunes in spat with Justice Dept. over Russia documents, sources say http://cnn.it/2CU7AFB

NYT: Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation http://nyti.ms/2AtYOeB
// Don McGahn tried to keep Sessions from recusing himself; McGahn works for taxpayers, not trump

TheGuardian: Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book http://bit.ly/2qkT2fg

⭕ 2 Jan 2018

🔆 This❗️⋙ NYT, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch [FusionGPS]: The Republicans’ Fake Investigations http://nyti.ms/2qkEDjB
// Simpson and Fritsch, both former journalists, are the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS.

WaPo, Glen Kessler er al: In 347 days, President Trump has made 1,950 false and misleading claims http://wapo.st/2CrhUYD
// The Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false and misleading claims made by President Trump during his first 365 days in office.

WaPo, Greg Sargent: How bad is the Republican coverup on Trump and Russia? We may soon find out. http://wapo.st/2lFAth7

⭕ 30 Dec 2017

NYT: Republican Attacks on Mueller and F.B.I. Open New Rift in G.O.P. http://nyti.ms/2zThSm3

NYT: How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt http://nyti.ms/2lw6V4M //➔ the jig is up!

WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. …

⭕ 28 Dec 2017

McClatchy: Jailed Russian says he hacked DNC on Kremlin’s orders and can prove it http://bit.ly/2E8qska

NYT: Trump Says Russia Inquiry Makes U.S. ‘Look Very Bad’ http://nyti.ms/2BQSv6o

⭕ 25 Dec 2017

WaPo: Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options http://wapo.st/2DQhmss
// re: “freelancer” for Counterpunch

The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions. …

The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election trace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a “third-rate regional power” that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery.

Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States. “I thought our ground was not as fertile,” said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. “We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.” …

[F]or U.S. officials, the real wake-up call came in early 2014 when the Russians annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. An intercepted Russian military intelligence report dated February 2014 documented how Moscow created fake personas to spread disinformation on social media to buttress its broader military campaign.

The classified Russian intelligence report, obtained by The Washington Post, offered examples of the messages the fake personas spread. “Brigades of westerners are now on their way to rob and kill us,” wrote one operative posing as a Russian-speaking Ukrainian. “Morals have been replaced by thirst for blood and hatred toward anything Russian.” …

The Obama administration had gone through an agonizing learning curve. The Russians, beginning in 2014, had hacked the State Department and the White House before targeting the Democratic National Committee and other political institutions. By the time U.S. officials came to grips with the threat, it was too late to act. Now they wanted to make sure NATO allies didn’t repeat their mistakes.

Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, gaveled the closed-door session to order, and the Americans ran through their 30-minute presentation. The Europeans had for years been journeying to Washington to warn senior U.S. officials about Russian meddling in their elections. The Americans had listened politely but didn’t seem particularly alarmed by the threat, reflecting a widely held belief inside the U.S. government that its democratic institutions and society weren’t nearly as vulnerable as those in Europe. …

When the briefers finished, the allies made clear to the Americans that little in the presentation surprised them. “This is what we’ve been telling you for some time,” the Europeans said, according to Lute, the NATO ambassador. “This is what we live with. Welcome to our lives.” …

The Russians are taking advantage of “seams between our policies, our laws and our bureaucracy,” said Austin Branch, a former Defense Department official who specialized in information operations.

⭕ 22 Dec 2017

CNN: Top FBI official grilled on Comey, Clinton in Hill testimony http://cnn.it/2Bz5kWX

⭕ 20 Dec 2017

ForeignPolicy: White House Counsel Knew in January Flynn Probably Violated the Law http://atfp.co/2DqIbTU

⭕ 4 Dec 2017

ForeignAffairs, Colin Kahl: The Evidence Is Damning: What Team Trump Knew and When We already know that the Trump campaign was aware of — and intended to profit from — Moscow’s interference in the election. http://atfp.co/2AWgqUQ

⭕ 1 Dec 2017

NYT: Documents Reveal New Details on What Trump Team Knew About Flynn’s Calls With Russia’s Ambassador http://nyti.ms/2AmHiMM

NYT: Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways http://nyti.ms/2iAUx6g

WaPo: Flynn said to have acted in consultation with Kushner, transition team on contacts with Russian ambassador http://wapo.st/2BCwM2g

New bio: “But justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” Amos 5:24 (via Former FBI Dir James Comey 12/1/2017)

🐣 RT @TheTweetOfGod You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool Robert Mueller.

⭕ 30 Nov 2017

NYT: Trump Pressed Top Republicans to End Senate Russia Inquiry http://nyti.ms/2zR5jMZ

⭕ 27 Nov 2017

NYT, Michele Goldberg: Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump http://nyti.ms/

But three months feels like three decades in Trump years, and I mostly forgot about these reports until I read Luke Harding’s new book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one.

That’s why “Collusion” is so essential, and why I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it. This country — at least the parts not wholly under the sway of right-wing propaganda — needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power.

Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy. He was able to interview Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier attempting to detail Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, and who describes the conspiracy between the American president and the Russians as “massive — absolutely massive.”

⭕ 23 Nov 2017

NYT: A Split From Trump Indicates That Flynn Is Moving to Cooperate With Mueller http://nyti.ms/2zhLFFy

WaPo: Flynn’s lawyer shuts down communications with Trump’s team, a sign he may be cooperating with Mueller probe http://wapo.st/2A6Qy5I

WaPo: ‘Keep coming at me guys!!!’: Donald Trump Jr. meets Russia scrutiny with defiance http://wapo.st/2A2o6nT

⭕ 21 Nov 2017

NPR: Journalist Investigating Trump And Russia Says ‘Full Picture Is One Of Collusion’ http://and%20transcript http://n.pr/2A6iskq

WSJ: Special Counsel Mueller Probes Jared Kushner’s Contacts With Foreign Leaders http://on.wsj.com/2hYJtzx
// Investigators look into Trump senior adviser’s role in talks about U.N.’s resolution condemning Israel

⭕ 20 Nov 2017

USAToday: Russia probe: Trump’s tweets could be evidence against him, legal experts say http://bit.ly/2zYVkSz

⭕ 19 Nov 2017

Politico, Luke Harding: The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow http://politi.co/2zRphXf
// In 1987, a young real estate developer traveled to the Soviet Union. The KGB almost certainly made the trip happen.

⭕ 17 Nov 2017

PoliticusUSA, Jason Easly: The Truth Comes Out As Trump Made Millions Off Of Project Tied To Russian Organized Crime http://bit.ly/2zSfOws

⭕ 16 Nov 2017

NewYorker, Ryan Lizza: The GOP’s “Boil the Frog” Strategy to Save Trump http://bit.ly/2hBKyt0

TheHill: Worker describes experience in Russian troll factory http://bit.ly/2A8Vz0k

TheHill: Mueller subpoenaed Trump campaign for Russia documents: report http://bit.ly/2zc6qGK

⭕ 15 Nov 2017

MotherJones, Kevin Drum: Jared Kushner Forgets Yet Another Russian Contact http://bit.ly/2mBlMyO

TheGuardian, Luke Harding: How Trump walked into Putin’s web http://bit.ly/2A2o4gd
// The inside story of how a former British spy was hired to investigate Russia’s influence on Trump – and uncovered explosive evidence that Moscow had been cultivating Trump for years.

⭕ 13 Nov 2017

TheAtlantic: The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks http://theatln.tc/2yAheKE

⭕ 6 Nov 2017

WaPo, Jennifer Rubin: The Trump administration is up to its neck in Russians http://wapo.st/2zmhU7e

WaPo, Greg Sargent: What did Donald Trump Jr. ask for at that meeting? The Russian lawyer just spoke out. http://wapo.st/2zjo76x

⭕ 5 Nov 2017

WaPo: The Saudi crown prince just made a very risky power play http://wapo.st/

DailyBeast: Massive Leak Reveals New Ties Between Trump Administration and Russia, Implicating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner http://thebea.st/2y6eOmA
// The so-called Paradise Papers have revealed secrets of politicians worldwide, including new links between the Trump administration and Russia.

NYT: Commerce Secretary’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies’ http://nyti.ms/2zkuPc8
// Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, retained investments in a shipping firm with business ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle.

TheGuardian: Paradise Papers leak reveals secrets of the world elite’s hidden wealth http://bit.ly/2zkoai8

WaPo: At least nine people in Trump’s orbit had contact with Russians during campaign and transition http://wapo.st/2zeBZit ⭕ 3 Nov 2017

⭕ 3 Nov 2017

NYT: Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian Officials in 2016 http://nyti.ms/2lPTvE7
// Carter Page

AP, Raphael Satter: Inside story: How Russians hacked the Democrats’ emails http://bit.ly/2hCjWbS //➔ edited to make them seem worse

⭕ 2 Nov 2017

NYT: Trump and Sessions Denied Knowing About Russian Contacts. Records Suggest Otherwise. http://nyti.ms/2A4u0kC

⭕ 1 Nov 2017

Frontline: Putin’s Revenge http://to.pbs.org/2zcTSgY
// 54 mins

⭕ 30 Oct 2017 💥Face the Music💥 Day

CNN: Special counsel’s office: Papadopoulos ‘small part’ of ‘large scale investigation’ http://cnn.it/2zSTZvl

NYT: Former Trump Aides Charged as Prosecutors Reveal New Campaign Ties With Russia http://nyti.ms/2ltYXwe

🔄≣💙💙 AP: Mueller Investigation documents http://bit.ly/2ihbK0l

🐣 RT @tribelaw .@LindseyGrahamSC today: “If Trump fires Mueller, there’ll be hell to pay.”

🐣 RT @ericgarland Reminder: It’s the 17 best prosecutors in America versus guys that tried to collude with Russia using Facebook Messenger. Place your bets.

🐣 RT @tribelaw The info POPADOPOULIS has already given Mueller ever since he flipped MONTHS ago can’t be erased even if Mueller is fired. The jig is up ‼️

WSJ: Former Trump Adviser’s Guilty Plea Ties Campaign to Russian Officials http://on.wsj.com/2iPSn27
// George Papadopoulos admitted to lying to FBI about his contacts with a professor tied to the Kremlin

⭕ 29 Oct 2017

WaPo: Frustrated with the Russia investigation, Trump demands Democrats and Hillary Clinton face more scrutiny http://wapo.st/2zOLmC3

In four tweets sent over 24 minutes, Trump wrote: “Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia, ‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R’s are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!”

⭕ 28 Oct 2017

TheGuardian, Carol Cadwallad: Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage… bound together in an unholy alliance http://bit.ly/2iddiZh

⭕ 27 Oct 2017

WSJ: First Charges Filed in Russia Probe Led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller http://on.wsj.com/2z0vbUT
// At least one defendant is expected to be taken into custody as soon as Monday

WaPo: Trump, Republicans steer Russia probes in new directions http://wapo.st/2hijsHA

NYT, Tim Wu: How Twitter Killed the First Amendment http://nyti.ms/2yZWkHF

NYT: Conservative Website First Funded Anti-Trump Research by Firm That Later Produced Dossier http://nyti.ms/2iGn6Po

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor, first hired the research firm that months later produced for Democrats the salacious dossier describing ties between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government, the website said on Friday.

The Free Beacon, funded in large part by the New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, hired the firm, Fusion GPS, in 2015 to unearth damaging information about several Republican presidential candidates, including Mr. Trump. But The Free Beacon told the firm to stop doing research on Mr. Trump in May 2016, as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican nomination.

NYT: Talking Points Brought to Trump Tower Meeting Were Shared With Kremlin http://nyti.ms/2yPYMkx

⭕ 25 Oct 2017

WSJ: Democrats, Russians and the FBI ~ Did the bureau use disinformation to trigger its Trump probe? http://on.wsj.com/2lttNW2

DailyBeast, Betsy Woodruff: Trump Data Guru: I Tried to Team Up With Julian Assange http://thebea.st/2z84ZZr

⭕ 24 Oct 2017

PolitiFact: What you need to know about Hillary Clinton, Russia, and uranium http://bit.ly/2yMyI8Q

⭕ 20 Oct 2017

WaPo, Kathleen Parker: Dear Donald http:/wapo.st/2yGihJO

George W. Bush’s speech this last week at a forum hosted by his eponymous institute might as well have been titled “Dear Donald.” The 43rd president all but called out the current president by name as he lamented the tone and character of today’s political rhetoric.

“Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said . “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”


Bush’s suffering on behalf of the injured and killed whom he sent into harm’s way as president is apparent in his visage, in the portraits of wounded soldiers he has painted, and in his ongoing work with troops and military families. Such actions don’t alter the pain of a deadly mistake, but they at least indicate a profound empathy that is utterly lacking in the current president.

No stranger to media criticism — crushing criticism — Bush never attacked the fourth estate. He also obviously recognizes that worse than a reporter’s or editor’s error is the undermining of public faith in a free press. Once the government succeeds in eliminating a country’s watchdogs, the government becomes the only source of information. Most people know, or should know, how that ends.

Russians are also very good at this. Recent revelations about fake Twitter accounts tied to Russia through which genuinely fake news was posted and distributed to influence the 2016 election remind us of how vulnerable we are to real fake news. Unfortunately, Trump has helped blur the line between propaganda and what is otherwise known simply as news.

The fact that members of Trump’s campaign and family retweeted some of these real-fake news items demonstrates how difficult it can be to recognize what’s real and what’s not. This may be the greatest challenge of our times. Disinformation combined with generalized antipathy toward the traditional press may be the toxic combination that poisons unity and condemns democratic principles to the hazardous-waste dump. One cannot overemphasize the importance of these developments or of the president’s contributions to the undermining of institutions created by our Constitution to monitor government power.

Recall that a president’s primary duty, in addition to defending the country, is to protect the Constitution. Yet, in just nine months in office, Trump has done more to challenge the integrity of the First Amendment than any other president in history, including expressing interest in making it easier to sue journalists for libel.

In other remarks clearly aimed at Trump, Bush addressed bullying and prejudice in public life that “sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.” And: “We can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the Industrial Revolution.”

One needn’t be a sleuth to infer that Bush was speaking to the man oft referred to as our bully in chief, as well as to Trump the salesman, who convinced working-class Americans that he would bring back all those jobs lost to globalization. As Bush suggested, globalization is the new age and the old one isn’t coming back.

⭕ 19 Oct 2017

NYT: Senators Demand Online Ad Disclosures as Tech Lobby Mobilizes http://nyti.ms/2yAhUQP

⭕ 18 Oct 2017

DailyBeast: Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election http://thebea.st/2yAV6lI
// Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. pushed messages from an account operated from Russia’s ‘troll farm’—including allegations of voter fraud a week before Election Day.

WaPo: Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj shared content from this Tennessee GOP account. But it wasn’t real. It was Russian. http://wapo.st/2gQPWsf

The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes.

There is no evidence that any of them knew the account was run by Russians. Independent researchers had suspected the account was Russian, and their work was confirmed Wednesday by two people familiar with the investigations into the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

⭕ 17 Oct 2017

MotherJones: Memo Undermines Russian Lawyer’s Account of Trump Tower Meeting http://bit.ly/2xMcqQZ
// It bolsters the case that she was acting on behalf of the Kremlin.

⭕ 14 Oct 2017

NYT: Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems http://nyti.ms/2icbtzg
// alt title: Spooked by Russia …

⭕ 11 Oct 2017

Politico: Feds won’t confirm Comey assurances to Trump on Russia probe http://politi.co/2kT5HDG

DailyBeast, Betsy Woodruff & Spencer Ackerman: Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus http://thebea.st/2zr3ZN3
DailyBeast: Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus http://thebea.st/2zr3ZN3
// They were once Steve Bannon’s favorite analytics shop. Now investigators want to know if the Kremlin had a thing for Cambridge Analytica, too.

⭕ 10 Oct 2017

NYT: How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets http://nyti.ms/2yYWf3V

⭕ 9 Oct 2017

NYT: How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics http://nyti.ms/2xysA0l

TheDailyBeast: Russia Recruited YouTubers to Bash ‘Racist B*tch’ Hillary Clinton Over Rap Beats http://thebea.st/2xsks6f
// Wannabe YouTube stars and diehard Donald Trump supporters ‘Williams & Kalvin’ totally swear they’re from Atlanta. In reality, they were working for the Kremlin.

FinancialTimes: Is Facebook spinning out of control over Russian revelations? http://on.ft.com/2y7atjS
// Moscow’s weaponisation of the social network to influence last year’s US election raises grave questions

WaPo: Newly disclosed email sheds light on Trump Jr. meeting with Russian lawyer http://wapo.st/2yTmbhf

CNN: Russians’ lawyer says new documents show Trump Tower meeting not about dirt on Clinton http://cnn.it/2ybEeSl

WaPo: Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms http://wapo.st/2wIWFuc

The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.

⭕ 8 Oct 2017

NPR: Senators Say Russia Probe Is ‘Incomplete’; Trump Jr. May Return To The Hill http://n.pr/2yaHGwl

BusinessInsider: Mueller’s next move, the Steele dossier, and an NSA hack — the latest in a wild week of Trump-Russia developments http://read.bi/2hZntnI

🐣 RT @SethAbramson [ Media sitting on evidence of existence of pee tape ]
// twitter thread, dossier

⭕ 7 Oct 2017

Newsweek: Here’s What the ‘Golden Shower’ Dossier Now Being Investigated by Mueller Claims About Trump and Russia http://bit.ly/2y5IT6H

NYT: Hoping to Have Trump Cleared, Legal Team Eases Resistance to Inquiry http://nyti.ms/2y4gjVz

TheGuardian, Julian Borger: The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day http://bit.ly/2fVFHSN
// As US officials investigate potential collusion between Trump and Moscow, the series of reports by the former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele are casting an ever darker shadow over the president

MSNBC: How does Trump dossier coincide with timeline of Russia contacts? http://on.msnbc.com/2yaN0k3
//. New reporting overlays a timeline of known contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials against a salacious (but unverified) dossier about Trump. The author, Natasha Bertrand, discusses.

TheHill: Ken Starr predicts indictments in Russia probe http://bit.ly/2y9Eem2

⭕ 6 Oct 2017

Newsweek/JustSecurity: What Exactly Does the Steele Dirty Russian Dossier on Trump Contain? http://bit.ly/2wIYs2o

TheNation, Aaron Maté: Russiagate Is More Fiction Than Fact http://bit.ly/2yaMIZP
// From accusations of Trump campaign collusion to Russian Facebook ad buys, the media has substituted hype for evidence.

DailyBeast, Betsy Woodruff: Exclusive: Senate ‘Russia Probe’ Is Not Investigating Russia http://thebea.st/2g5lFZN
// The Judiciary Committee may be issuing press releases about its ‘Russia Probe.’ But staffers say there’s no full-blown investigation, just routine oversight of the FBI.

⭕ 5 Oct 2017

CNN: Exclusive: Mueller’s team met with Russia dossier author http://cnn.it/2y4sAsD

WSJ: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense http://on.wsj.com/2xXeUQu
// The breach, considered the most serious in years, could enable Russia to evade NSA surveillance and more easily infiltrate U.S. networks

The revelation comes as concern over Russian infiltration of American computer networks and social media platforms is growing amid a U.S. special counsel’s investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sought or received assistance from the Russian government. Mr. Trump denies any impropriety and has called the matter a “witch hunt.”

Intelligence officials have concluded that a campaign authorized by the highest levels of the Russian government hacked into state election-board systems and the email networks of political organizations to damage the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The Kaspersky incident is the third publicly known breach at the NSA involving a contractor’s access to a huge trove of highly classified materials. It prompted an official letter of reprimand to the agency’s director, Adm. Michael Rogers, by his superiors, people familiar with the situation said.

⭕ 4 Oct 2017

Tttthread, @SethAbramson: The single most important fact in the Trump-Russia investigation is a never-discussed one http://bit.ly/2xUVMCI
// when each person knew Russia was trying to help Trump

Reuters: ‘Trump dossier’ on Russia links now part of special counsel’s probe: sources http://reut.rs/2fNLdXJ

Two officials familiar with the investigations said that both Mueller’s team and the Senate Intelligence Committee are seeking any evidence that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort or others who had financial dealings with Russia might have helped Kremlin intelligence agencies target email hacking and social media postings undermining Trump’s election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

NYT: Senate Intelligence Heads Warn That Russian Election Meddling Continues http://nyti.ms/2xikXQo

⭕ 3 Oct 2017

NYMag, Jonathan Chait: Did Manafort Use Trump’s Campaign to Pay Back Russia? http://nym.ag/2yTnzAx

⭕ 2 Oct 2017

WaPo: Trump’s company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over http://wapo.st/2xTrmQK
// to investigators

TheAtlantic, Julia Ioffe & Franklin Foer: Did Manafort Use Trump to Curry Favor With a Putin Ally? http://theatlntc/2xaU80n

⭕ 26 Sep 2017

WIRED: What We Know—and Don’t Know—About Facebook, Trump, and Russia http://bit.ly/2hycGgp

⭕ 25 Sep 2017

WaPo: Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit divisions over Black Lives Matter and Muslims http://wapo.st/2wPXOo7

⭕ 24 Sep 2017

Slate, Asha Rangappa: What Mueller Might Have on Manafort http://slate.me/2yAUCKc
// Two FBI surveillance orders suggest that the special counsel sees Trump’s former campaign chairman as the key to the Russia investigation.

LondonTimes: Russian link to Trump and UK ‘murder’ http://bit.ly/2fi4znr
// Tweeted by Bill Browder

A whistleblower allegedly murdered in Surrey by Russian assassins has been linked to a lawyer named in the investigation of Kremlin interference in Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Alexander Perepilichnyy was a key witness for Swiss prosecutors investigating an alleged tax fraud involving Russian officials when he died while jogging near his Weybridge mansion in 2012.

Two months before he collapsed, vomiting “greeny-yellow” liquid, information from him allowed the Swiss attorney-general to freeze the assets of Denis Katsyv, son of a former Moscow official.

Katsyv was also accused of laundering profits from the £150m tax fraud by buying properties in New York.

Katsyv hired Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, the president’s son and son-in-law, in June last year to discuss Hillary Clinton, his election rival. The US case against Katsyv was settled for $6m (£4.4m) this year and the Russian admitted no guilt.

There is no evidence that Veselnitskaya or Katsyv were involved in Perepilichnyy’s death, which Surrey police ruled was “non-suspicious”. However, it is now being investigated by an inquest at the Old Bailey.

“Perepilichnyy opened up a Pandora’s box of criminal investigations around the world,” said his associate William Browder, a US businessman who believes the Russian was killed. “He probably had no idea of the atomic bomb he was dropping on alleged Russian money launderers.”

Veselnitskaya has denied working for the Kremlin and said her meeting with Trump Jr and Kushner was to discuss lifting US sanctions on Moscow. She did not respond to requests for comment.

⭕ 23 Sep 2017

NYT, Zeynep Tufekci: Facebook’s Ad Scandal Isn’t a ‘Fail,’ It’s a Feature http://nyti.ms/2fIWVDl

The trouble is Facebook’s business model is structurally identical whether advertisers are selling shoes, politics or fake diet pills, and whether they’re going after new moms, dog lovers or neo-Nazis. The algorithms don’t know the difference, and Facebook’s customers are not its users.

Rather, as this latest incident should remind us, we are Facebook’s product. Our attention and eyeballs are sold to the highest bidders, whatever they may be peddling.

⭕ 22 Sep 2017

WSJ: GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People http://on.wsj.com/2xnxIIy
// Payment arrangement is legal, but ethics experts warn that reliance on party and campaign accounts could raise thorny political issues

MotherJones: Putin Just Held a Meeting With Manafort’s Russian Billionaire Buddy http://bit.ly/2wOk5xL
// A Kremlin gathering hosts several business figured linked to the Russia investigation.

TheHill: DHS tells 21 states they were Russia hacking targets before 2016 election http://bit.ly/2hpQ8yi

⭕ 21 Sep 2017

ForeignPolicy: How a Russian Outlet Sought to Reach American Voters on Twitter | Foreign Policy http://atfp.co/2wLedFf

◕ WaPo: Every contact between Trump’s team and Russian actors, graphed http://wapo.st/2wajC9D

NYT: Facebook to turn over thousands of Russian ads to Congress, reversing decision http://nyti.ms/2xi0P00

🐣 @robreiner please consider producing a documentary-style TV movie on #TrumpRussia. “Recount” educated tons on people – and won Emmys.

NYU: Academic Articles on Russia https://wp.nyu.edu/fas-joshuatucker/research/

⭕ 20 Sep 2017

Politico: Manafort used Trump campaign account to email Ukrainian operative http://politi.co/2fl2YRA
// Manafort sent the emails to seek repayment for previous work he did in Ukraine.

🐣 RT @SethAbramson Per THE INDEPENDENT (UK) Deripaska is “among the 2 or 3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.” THAT’S who Manafort offered access to.

WaPo: Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign http://wapo.st/2fcx99A

⋙ Puerto Rico, with a population of about 3.4M, is more populous than 21 individual states. Let that sink in. #Maria

WaPo: Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House http://wapo.st/2yqqaT9 incl Trump’s private talks on Comey and Flynn

⭕ 19 Sep 2017

CBS: Surveillance of Paul Manafort occurred during 2016 campaign http://cbsn.ws/2hh5K7c

⭕ 18 Sep 2017

TheHill: Clinton won’t rule out questioning legitimacy of election http://bit.ly/2xi0ZUi

NYT (Jun): U.S. Moves to Seize Diamonds, a Picasso and Hollywood Films in Malaysian Case http://nyti.ms/2w3S4CV
// 6/15/2017, also Ukraine

Politico, Renato: How to Read Bob Mueller’s Hand http://politi.co/2yaQNup
// Based on what we know so far, here’s a former federal prosecutor’s expert read on where the Russian investigation is heading.

 CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman http://cnn.it/2ylpvSH

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.

Manafort was ousted from the campaign in August. By then the FBI had noticed what counterintelligence agents thought was a series of odd connections between Trump associates and Russia. The CIA also had developed information, including from human intelligence sources, that they believed showed Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to conduct a broad operation to meddle with the US election, according to current and former US officials.

NYT: With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone http://nyti.ms/2xcQ8Jz

Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach.

“They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. “You want people saying to themselves, ‘Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.’”

The wide-ranging nature of Mr. Mueller’s investigation could put him on a collision course with Mr. Trump, who has said publicly that Mr. Mueller should keep his investigation narrowly focused on last year’s presidential campaign. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller would be overstepping his boundaries if he investigated his family’s finances unrelated to Russia.

Nonetheless, the demand for documents has provoked at least one angry confrontation between Mr. Cobb and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, over whether certain documents should be withheld to protect the president’s right to confidentiality.
↥ ↧
NYT: Trump Lawyers Clash Over How Much to Cooperate With Russia Inquiry http://nyti.ms/2wqPbzZ

President Trump’s legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyers and that could shape the course of the investigation.

At the heart of the clash is an issue that has challenged multiple presidents during high-stakes Washington investigations: how to handle the demands of investigators without surrendering the institutional prerogatives of the office of the presidency. Similar conflicts during the Watergate and Monica S. Lewinsky scandals resulted in court rulings that limited a president’s right to confidentiality.

Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation — or at least its focus on Mr. Trump.

Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House long after Mr. Trump’s tenure is over. He is described as particularly concerned about whether the president will invoke executive or attorney-client privilege to limit how forthcoming Mr. McGahn could be if he himself is interviewed by the special counsel as requested.

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said.

Mr. Cobb sought to defuse the conflict in an interview over the weekend, praising Mr. McGahn as a superb lawyer. “He has been very helpful to me, and whenever we have differences of opinion, we have been able to work them out professionally and reach consensus,” Mr. Cobb said. “We have different roles. He has a much fuller plate. But we’re both devoted to this White House and getting as much done on behalf of the presidency as possible.”

🐣💙💙‼️RT @olex_scherba Russia TV yesterday: Democracy is nothing but a modern religion. Its temples stand empty now & very soon will be abandoned for good.
// https://twitter.com/olex_scherba/status/909797145926098945

WaPo, Dana Milbank: A Trump lawyer caught gabbing about Russia at lunch racks up career errors http://wapo.st/2yamZh9

Vogel heard Cobb, who is overseeing the White House response to the Russia probe, say, among other things, that one White House lawyer was a “spy” for White House counsel Don McGahn and that McGahn has “a couple documents locked in a safe” related to the Russia inquiry.

And we’re only eight months in! It won’t be long, at this rate, before Cobb tries to address a sensitive email to White House colleague Stephen Miller but accidentally sends it to Robert Mueller. Or he leaves his briefcase in a taxi and the next passenger is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of the House Intelligence Committee. Or he has an incriminating phone conversation with Trump while in an Uber driven by Vogel, who is moonlighting to pay off his BLT Steak tab.

⭕ 16 Sep 2017

🐣 RT @RenataMariotti THREAD: Why news that Mueller obtained a search warrant for Facebook content may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid. https://twitter.com/renato_mariotti/status/909046433931841537

🐣 RT @SethAbramson This PARTIAL list of Trump-Russia news from the LAST WEEK—a LIGHT week—underscores the scandal’s scope. Please share widely! https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/909061434692259841/photo/1

⭕ 15 Sep 2017

Newsweek: Russia Investigation & Facebook: Why Mueller’s Counterintel Effort is Just as Important as His Criminal Probe http://bit.ly/2y523IG
Newsweek: Russia Investigation & Facebook: Why Mueller’s Counterintel Effort is Just as Important as Criminal Probe http://bit.ly/2y523IG

BusinessInsider: New details about major Russian money laundering probe raise the stakes of Trump Tower meeting http://read.bi/2wv1l6a

TheHill: Senators propose 9/11-style commission on Russian interference http://bit.ly/2ycIU8q Sens Gillibrand (D-NY) & Graham (R-SC)

SFChronicle: Mueller meets with House Judiciary chairman, top Democrat http://bit.ly/2x52Vhe

Several congressional committees are also investigating, but Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia has said his panel will defer to Mueller. Goodlatte has said the panel will exercise oversight over Mueller as appropriate, and that Mueller should not be impeded by politics.

Goodlatte has also called on the Justice Department to appoint a second special counsel to investigate “unaddressed issues” related to the 2016 election and former Obama administration officials, including Hillary Clinton.

⭕ 14 Sep 2017

TheHill: Russian-linked Facebook group asked Texas secession movement to be in anti-Clinton rallies: report http://bit.ly/2h7BSdi

Msnbc, Maddow: Clinton: Comey a reliable witness on Trump Russia case http://on.msnbc.com/2h6KCEg
// Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Rachel Maddow about former Director of the FBI, James Comey, how he handled Clinton’s e-mail case and whether he is a reliable witness in the Trump Russia investigation.

TheAtlantic, Julia Ioffe: Why Didn’t Trump Build Anything in Russia? http://theatln.tc/2h5FzAe
// The art of the deal runs into the reality of “a really scary place.”

TheGuardian, Jake Nevis: Late-night on Trump and Russia: ‘Why can’t Don Jr pick one lie and stick to it? http://bit.ly/2xoszPT
// Comics, including Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah, weighed in on the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the latest in the Russia investigation

MotherJones, David Corn: Who’s Telling the Truth About the Russia Meeting: Kushner or Trump Jr.? http://bit.ly/2vXrJGr
// And did they actually accept an opposition research document from Moscow?

USAToday, Erin Kelly: Congress struggles to figure out which Russia investigation trumps the others http://usat.ly/2wtkOEq

 MotherJones, David Corn & Hannah Levintova: How Did an Alleged Russian Mobster End Up on Trump’s Red Carpet? http://bit.ly/2x07xaR
// And here’s a coincidence: The guy was indicted for being part of a global gambling ring run out of Trump Tower.

NYT: Trump Humiliated Jeff Sessions After Mueller Appointment http://nyti.ms/2x4c8q0

NYT: ISIS Convoy Reportedly Crosses Syria, at Russia’s Request http://nyti.ms/2y244VQ

StarTrib: Confusion hits consumer market over US ban of Kaspersky http://strib.mn/2f6MVqa

⭕ 13 Sep 2017

DailyBeast, Ben Collins & Spencer Ackerman: Exclusive: Facebook Won’t Reveal if Russia Targeted You During the Election http://thebea.st/2wsnodz
// Facebook refused to commit to releasing the Kremlin-backed propaganda it uncovered. Users may never know if they were targeted during the election—or are still being targeted now.

Bloomberg: Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media, Officials Say http://bloom.bg/2fkqpXS

BusinessInsider, Natasha Bertrand: Facebook and Twitter are becoming a ‘red-hot’ focus of Mueller’s Russia investigation http://read.bi/2wbQ1Rb

🐣 RT @robreiner I know Mueller needs to connect the dots. But for those who have been following DT/Russia scandal,the dots have formed one big criminal blob

WaPo/AP: Prominent journalist flees Russia after arson attack on car http://wapo.st/2xlMUWi

🐣 RT @oversightdems READ: Responses from colleagues of #Flynn confirming he traveled to meet w/ leaders on scheme to build nuclear reactors in #SaudiArabia.
// multiple pages, Tweet link: https://twitter.com/OversightDems/status/907938768753250311
↥ ↧
🐣 RT @oversightdems READ IT HERE: New Letter from Top Dems on #Flynn’s Foreign Contacts That He Withheld From Security Clearance Investigators—A Potential Crime
// multiple pages, Tweet link: https://twitter.com/OversightDems/status/907931138500460544

WSJ: Flynn Promoted Nuclear-Plant Project While in White House http://on.wsj.com/2vUuhoA
// Then-Trump security adviser had his staff meet with those involved in Middle East proposal that once included Russian firms

Newsweek (Jun): Michael Flynn, Russia and a Grand Scheme to Build Nuclear Power Plants in Saudi Arabia and the Arab World http://bit.ly/2fkcOja
// 6/9/2017

🐣 Maybe Russia figures if they’re not going to get anything out if US re: sanctions etc, might as well invade another country. #Belarus

NYT: Russia’s War Games With Fake Enemies Cause Real Alarm http://nyti.ms/2h3gBoX

NBC: Mike Flynn’s Son Is Subject of Federal Russia Probe http://nbcnews.to/2h5cXdZ

Politico, Bradley Moss: The Hapless Smear Campaign Against Jim Comey http://politi.co/2wYhyFn
// The White House is making legal arguments about the former FBI director that barely pass the laugh test.

 NYT Mag, Jim Rutenburg: RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War http://nyti.ms/2xz8S90
// How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

🐣 Yes, Comey cost Hillary the election, but so did any of a hundred other things. On 11/9, I made a list & stuck it on our refrigerator … https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/908113208946327552/photo/1

CNN: Exclusive: Rice told House investigators why she unmasked senior Trump officials http://cnn.it/2y05wrE

(CNN) Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.

The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.

The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.

CNN: Dems to Mueller: Flynn failed to disclose trip to broker Saudi-Russian business deal http://cnn.it/2h2kbzC

⭕ 12 Sep 2017

💙💙 ReverbPress, Marc Belisle (Mar): Top Trump Financier Linked To Russian Big Data, Putin http://bit.ly/2f52grc //➔ wow. scary wow.
// 3/3/2017

During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s biggest donor was, by far, Robert Mercer, who donated over $15 million to Trump’s campaign and related PACs. An early IBM computing pioneer, Mercer is the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies LLC, a quantitative hedge fund that uses complex algorithms to drive investment strategies, and manages $65 billion in assets. Mercer has been active in right wing fundraising for years, and in 2016, he emerged as one of the campaign’s biggest overall donors.

Mercer was also the top donor to John Bolton Super PAC, which funneled millions in donations to cutting edge data analytics contractors, who used data mining to micro-target political ads to millions of individuals based on information gleaned from their personal online habits.

The election of Trump was not even Mercer’s first multi-million dollar data mining manipulation campaign of 2016. Mercer funded a similar data mining operation in support of the United Kingdom’s Brexit campaign, and did so in a way that likely violated British campaign finance laws, according to Dealbreaker.

But Mercer did more for Trump than merely fund his campaign and new advertising technology. Mercer also recommended that Trump hire key messaging and strategy figures who are now considered central to Trump’s inner circle, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. During the campaign it was known that Mercer was a major donor to Breitbart, the white nationalist propaganda publication that Bannon directed. But it was only on February 24th that it was discovered that Mercer is one of the owners of Breitbart, when an intrepid reporter staked out a hearing as Breitbart sought press credentials.

Mercer’s daughter Rebekah is often seen on conservative boards. She gained a spot on Trump’s 16-person transition team.

Mercer not only bankrolled Trump’s road to the White House, but his family helped prepare him to move in, and some of his top communications people are now running it.

Why did Mercer invest so heavily and risk such political exposure for both Brexit and Trump? A hint may lie in a risky investment he made in Russian telecoms that is quickly beginning to bear fruit.

In August, 2014, CNN Money reported rather quizzically that Renaissance Technologies was deepening its investments in two huge Russian telecom companies whose stocks were in rapid decline, even as international security analysts were warning investors to steer clear of investing in the region as the situation in Ukraine exploded into armed conflict. The two companies that Renaissance invested in were VimpelCom and Mobile TeleSystems, “two Russian telecommunications firms with significant operations in Russia and Ukraine, according to data from FactSet.”

Alfa Group, a holding company owned by Mikhail Fridman, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with Russian and Israeli citizenship, owns a nearly controlling share of VimpelCom. Fridman has popped up before in the investigation into Trump’s Russia connections. Fridman featured prominently in the less lewd parts of the notorious Trump-Russia dossier, compiled by a former MI6 agent. On January 11th, Forbes argued that parts of the dossier should be taken seriously,

“The dossier paints a picture of a long-standing symbiotic relationship between Alfa Group and the Russian leader. More recently, the dossier claims, Alfa owners Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven have provided Putin with valuable information through their own network of business contacts in the U.S., valued particularly because of the conflicting signals Putin was getting from his diplomats and spies regarding the success of the alleged operation.”

In October, Franklin Foer published a report in Slate about how investigators had pored over internet servers under Trump’s control to look for evidence that Trump had been hacked by Russian intelligence. Instead they found something odd. They discovered a server owned by Trump, and set up in 2009, which was set up to only allow communications from a handful of other servers.

“The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.”

The amount of incoming information was tiny, and hardly worth the price of maintaining the server. The investigators had never seen anything like it. They discovered that 87% of the incoming communication originated from two servers controlled by Alfa Bank. Fridman co-founded Alfa Bank, and he is its chairman.

When Foer reached out to Alfa for comment about the apparent relationship between a Trump owned server and two Alfa servers, Alfa replied by denying that there had ever been any contact between Fridman and Trump, or that there was any special contact or relationship between Alfa and the Trump Organization.

In 2005, US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against Alfa Bank in a defamation case. Alfa sued the Center for Public Integrity for publishing material saying that Fridman and Alfa Bank, as well as Russian banker Petr Aven, were connected to Russian organized crime. The Court ruled that Fridman was powerful enough to be considered a public figure, and thus lacked standing. In the ruling, the judge found,

In short, Aven and Fridman have assumed an unforeseen level of prominence and influence in the economic and political affairs of their nation. Russian newspapers coined a name for the leading oligarchs (Aven and Fridman among them) and the power they wielded: “semibankirschina,” or the “reign of the seven bankers.” The Financial Times in 1996 named Aven and Fridman as among the “group of seven businessmen and bankers that, according to one of their number, is now running Russia.” As the Moscow Times put it: “When Soviet leaders were in trouble, they turned to the Politburo for help. When President Boris Yeltsin is in dire straits, he turns to his own, updated version of the Politburo — the coterie of bankers and businessmen who, by all accounts, run modern Russia.”

Fridman’s Alfa Bank may be seen as the most stable and influential of this group, since it was one of the only Russian banks that survived the 1998 Russian financial crisis relatively unscathed and able to continue issuing loans.

Renaissance Technology’s seemingly ill-advised investment in VimpelCom, which is incorporated in Bermuda, was structured under Sponsored American Depository Receipts. Sponsored ADRs are a way for a foreign company to enter into a relationship with an American bank, so that an American company can buy its stocks. The stocks continue to fall, though, under the legal control and are marketed in the currency of the foreign country. This also, incidentally, falls outside of a lot of American oversight and transparency laws.

In October, an unnamed blogger at HSquared Magazine noted that, given Mercer’s relationship with Trump, his company’s relationship with VimpelCom was potentially alarming, since the walls between large Russian companies and the Russian government are often vanishingly thin.

“…there is the more serious question of Renaissance’s larger positions in Russian telecommunication firms, and, the type of information Renaissance is afforded as an investor in Russian firms with ties to the Russian government.”

It also raises the question of what information Fridman, Alfa and their friends in the Russian government may have gained access to from Renaissance, which has funded an extraordinary amount of data mining in Britain and the US.

On Monday, VimpelCom announced that it would be reinventing itself from a telecom into a global technology company with the new brand name VEON.

“We are now on course to deliver strong free cash flow growth and to paying a meaningful dividend to our shareholders.”

Mercer’s investment in VimpelCom, which flouted conventional wisdom, is suddenly about to pay major dividends for him. It’s almost like he could clearly see something just over the horizon that no one else could see. Something like a major thaw in relations between Russia and the West–an idea that would have gotten you laughed out of an international security conference in the summer of 2014.

VimpelCom-cum-VEON already had major interests around the world. The company owns 6 brands that control a top share of the overall telecom market in Russia, Ukraine, Algeria, Italy, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It has a reputation for creating major friction when it seeks to expand. In 2015, VimpelCom (VEON) was at the center of a massive corruption scandal that rocked several countries when the company tried to conquer the telecom industry in Uzbekistan. Bloomberg reported in June, 2015,

“The U.S. claims VimpelCom Ltd., part-owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, and Mobile TeleSystems OJSC used a web of shell companies and phony consulting contracts to funnel bribes to a close relative of Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, in exchange for access to that country’s telecommunications market.”

The financial and political windfall of Brexit and the Trump presidency for the billionaires who invested in this new data and technology business arrangement is astounding. Now, with Britain disappearing into its own navel and Trump in the White House, a potential cynical detente over the fate of Ukraine and Syria is creating the geopolitical space for a company like VimpelCom to reinvent itself. Suddenly, an investment which seemed moronic two years ago is now funding a company ready to pounce on opportunities nobody else would have banked on. VEON, which has cornered the market for landline and mobile platforms in six countries, now plans to become “a revolutionary mobile internet platform that integrates powerful data analytics and artificial intelligence.” That should position them nicely to take the kind of data mining that Mercer funded in 2016 into new markets around the world. The new world order of billionaires mining the data of hundreds of millions of people to push whole societies into their pockets is only just getting started.

Msnbc, Ari Melber: Fmr. Sputnik employee: Right wing sites spread our Russian propaganda http://on.msnbc.com/2f3Wwyh
// In his first TV appearance since his FBI interview, fmr. Sputnik employee Andrew Feinberg says the FBI is scrutinizing whether Sputnik should register under criminal laws regulating foreign agents.

On December 2, 2015, during an interview with an Associated Press reporter, Trump was asked about his relationship with a fellow named Felix Sater. Trump, who was then the front-runner in the GOP presidential nomination contest, replied, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.” He referred questions to his Trump Organization. One of his lawyers, Alan Garten, subsequently told the AP that Sater once prospected for real estate deals for the Trump Organization and that the arrangement lasted for six months in 2010.

What neither Trump nor Garten said was that—at that very moment—Trump was in the middle of the deal to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital and that Sater had put together the venture. As he was running for president, Trump was hiding this project from the American public, and he was insisting he barely knew the man at the center of it. This was serious deceit.

MotherJones, David Corn: How Donald Trump Lied to Conceal His Moscow Business Partner http://bit.ly/2xwcEQD
// Perhaps this was his greatest deception of the 2016 campaign.

Buzzfeed, John Hudson: Russia Sought A Broad Reset With Trump, Secret Document Shows http://bzfd.it/2xv2fVh
// A Russian proposal obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals Moscow’s ambitious plan to break with the past and launch a major rapprochement with the United States.

⭕ 11 Sep 2017

ChicagoTrib: Lawyer says extradition of oligarch tied to Trump campaign chief imminent http://trib.in/2wW3GJ3

Reuters, Mark Hosenball: Republican attempt to deflect Trump-Russia probes could backfire: sources http://reut.rs/2wWaWFa

WaPo: How Russia quietly undercuts sanctions intended to stop North Korea’s nuclear program http://wapo.st/2jj4btD

MSN/USAToday: Exclusive: Hillary Clinton says Trump associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 election http://bit.ly/2xsX5t5

🐣 RT @kurteichenwald By accusing Comey of perjury, @PressSec just won time under klieg lights of a grand jury. These ppl need 2 start consulting w/ real lawyers.

DailyBeast: Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil http://thebea.st/2eSnTqZ
// Pushing fake news was just one component of the Russian campaign to shape American minds. Part two: organizing anti-immigrant events echoing themes from the pro-Trump press.

WSJ: Some Trump Lawyers Wanted Kushner Out http://on.wsj.com/2f0kAlE
// Aides, worried about complications arising from Russia probe, drafted statement explaining departure

TheHill: Russian pol: US intel missed ‘Russian intelligence’ stealing ‘the president of the United States’ http://bit.ly/2xWHU7E

On a Sunday panel show, a Russian politician said U.S. “intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States.”

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian parliamentary body, the Duma, made the remarks on the panel show “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.” 

The focus of the episode was the decline of U.S. power in the world. In that context, said University of Virginia professor Allen Lynch via email, Nikonov was less stating the extent of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and more mocking the resulting chaos as emblematic of U.S. weakness.

“His point in making the remark was that if the U.S. can’t protect the integrity of its own electoral system, then how powerful can it really be?” wrote Lynch.

Yahoo, Michael Isikoff & Hunter Walker: Sputnik, the Russian news agency, is under investigation by the FBI http://yhoo.it/2eQwLgY

⭕ 10 Sep 2017

🐣💙 RT @realDonaldTrump 11 Nov 2013
@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!

 Politico Mag, Molly McKew: The Gerasimov Doctrine http://politi.co/2wQm9cA
// Sep/Oct issue; It’s Russia’s new chaos theory of political warfare. And it’s probably being used on you.

⭕ 9 Sep 2017

⭕ 8 Sep 2017

VanityFair: Trey Gowdy’s War on the Steele Dossier http://bit.ly/2faSyAL

 WaPo, Anne Applebaum: The case for Trump-Russia collusion: We’re getting very, very close http://wapo.st/2wXlSC5

TheNation, Bob Dreyfuss: Who Is Felix Sater, and Why Is Donald Trump So Afraid of Him? http://bit.ly/2gYfFSI
// This mob-linked operator and ex-con could be the key to the Russiagate investigation.

NYT, Siva Vaidhyanathan: Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses http://nyti.ms/2xbYoeG

Reuters: Best Buy stops sale of Russia-based Kaspersky products http://reut.rs/2xVqE3q

DailyBeast, Betsy Woodruff: Mueller Wants to Talk to Hope Hicks Over Misleading Russia Statement http://thebea.st/2xSy9ap
// “No doubt in my mind [Hope Hicks] is going to be a witness,” a source familiar with the Mueller probe told The Daily Beast.

WaPo: Mueller gives White House names of 6 aides he expects to question in Russia probe http://wapo.st/

TheHill: US pulls back surveillance on ISIS convoy at Russian request http://bit.ly/2wOI9V5

Reuters: New Russian envoy describes ‘warm’ meeting with Trump: agencies http://reut.rs/2f95arR

TheGuardian: Nato chief: world is at its most dangerous point in a generation http://bit.ly/2eMyfca
// Jens Stoltenberg warns of converging threats as Russia mobilises estimated 100,000 troops on EU’s borders

⭕ 7 Sep 2017

Medium, Casey Michel: How Russia Created the Most Popular Texas Secession Page on Facebook http://bit.ly/2wPyiyi
// When is a Texan not a Texan?

Dkos: Alpha Bank, Putin, Trump and Betsy DeVos. Why the bizarre Russian-Trump computer connections? http://bit.ly/2vJR9XM

WaPo, Margaret Sullivan: Facebook’s role in Trump’s win is clear. No matter what Mark Zuckerberg says. http://wapo.st/2wMx4nD

Would Donald Trump be president today if Facebook didn’t exist? Although there is a long list of reasons for his win, there’s increasing reason to believe the answer is no.

ThinkProgress: Donald Trump Jr.’s statement to Senate investigators is bad news for his dad http://bit.ly/2xQjNau

Eight people attended the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer: Donald Trump Jr. himself, Jared Kushner, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, publicist Rob Goldstone, a translator, and Irakly Kaveladze — who runs the company of the Russian billionaire who set up the meeting. Many of the Russian attendees have checkered pasts, ranging from money-laundering schemes to associations with Russia’s counterintelligence service.

DailyBeast, Katie Zawadski: Russians Flock to Trump Properties to Give Birth to U.S. Citizens http://thebea.st/2f6X3vP
// While the president rails against children of undocumented immigrants, wealthy Russians rent his condos—at huge costs—so they can have American kids.

 Grist: Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash http://bit.ly/2wb6a4o
// 11/14/2016

ForeignPolicy: The Robots Will Run the CIA, Too http://atfp.co/2vPi5tl

NYT: Trump Jr. Says He Wanted Russian Dirt to Determine Clinton’s ‘Fitness’ for Office http://nyti.ms/2xdQDpw

NYT, Scott Shane: The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election http://nyti.ms/2f8sV3x

Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.

The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site’s phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.

The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails or the fire hose of stories, true, false and in between, that battered Mrs. Clinton on Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik. Far less splashy, and far more difficult to trace, was Russia’s experimentation on Facebook and Twitter, the American companies that essentially invented the tools of social media and, in this case, did not stop them from being turned into engines of deception and propaganda.

An investigation by The New York Times, and new research from the cybersecurity firm FireEye, reveals some of the mechanisms by which suspected Russian operators used Twitter and Facebook to spread anti-Clinton messages and promote the hacked material they had leaked. On Wednesday, Facebook officials disclosed that they had shut down several hundred accounts that they believe were created by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin and used to buy $100,000 in ads pushing divisive issues during and after the American election campaign.

On Twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on hundreds or thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated Twitter accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart — and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names, according to the FireEye researchers. On Election Day, for instance, they found that one group of Twitter bots sent out the hashtag #WarAgainstDemocrats more than 1,700 times.

The Russian efforts were sometimes crude or off-key, with a trial-and-error feel, and many of the suspect posts were not widely shared. The fakery may have added only modestly to the din of genuine American voices in the pre-election melee, but it helped fuel a fire of anger and suspicion in a polarized country.

Given the powerful role of social media in political contests, understanding the Russian efforts will be crucial in preventing or blunting similar, or more sophisticated, attacks in the 2018 congressional races and the 2020 presidential election. Multiple government agencies have investigated the Russian attack, though it remains unclear whether any agency is focused specifically on tracking foreign intervention in social media. Both Facebook and Twitter say they are studying the 2016 experience and how to defend against such meddling.

Though both companies have been slow to grapple with the problem of manipulation, they have stepped up efforts to purge fake accounts. Facebook says it takes down a million accounts a day — including some that were related to the recent French election and upcoming German voting — but struggles to keep up with the illicit activity. Still, the company says the abuse affects only a small fraction of the social network; Facebook officials estimated that of all the “civic content” posted on the site in connection with the United States election, less than one-tenth of one percent resulted from “information operations” like the Russian campaign.

Twitter, unlike Facebook, does not require the use of a real name and does not prohibit automated accounts, arguing that it seeks to be a forum for open debate. But it constantly updates a “trends” list of most-discussed topics or hashtags, and it says it tries to foil attempts to use bots to create fake trends. However, FireEye found that the suspected Russian bots sometimes managed to do just that, in one case causing the hashtag #HillaryDown to be listed as a trend.

Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent who has closely tracked Russian activity online, said that Facebook and Twitter suffered from a “bot cancer eroding trust on their platforms.” But he added that while Facebook “has begun cutting out the tumors by deleting false accounts and fighting fake news,” Twitter has done little and as a result, “bots have only spread since the election.”

Asked to comment, Twitter referred to a blog post in June in which it said it was “doubling down” on efforts to prevent manipulation but could not reveal details for fear of tipping off those trying to evade the company’s measures. But it declared that Twitter’s “open and real-time nature is a powerful antidote” to falsehoods.

Leaks and Counterfeit Profiles

Russia has been quite open about playing its hacking card. In February last year, at a conference in Moscow, a top cyberintelligence adviser to President Vladimir V. Putin hinted that Russia was about to unleash a devastating information attack on the United States.

“We are living in 1948,” said the adviser, Andrey Krutskikh, referring to the eve of the first Soviet atomic bomb test, in a speech reported by The Washington Post. “I’m warning you: We are at the verge of having something in the information arena that will allow to us to talk to the Americans as equals.

Mr. Putin’s denials of Russian meddling have been coy. In June, he allowed that “free-spirited” hackers might have awakened in a good mood one day and spontaneously decided to contribute to “the fight against those who say bad things about Russia.” Speaking to NBC News, he rejected the idea that evidence pointed to Russia — while showing a striking familiarity with how cyberattackers might cover their tracks.

“IP addresses can be simply made up,” Mr. Putin said, referring to Internet protocol addresses, which can identify particular computers. “There are such IT specialists in the world today, and they can arrange anything and then blame it on whomever. This is no proof.”

Mr. Putin had a point. Especially in the social media realm, attributing fake accounts — to Russia or to any other source — is always challenging. In January, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency concluded “with high confidence” that Mr. Putin had ordered an influence operation to damage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and eventually aid Donald J. Trump’s. In April, Facebook published a public report on information operations using fake accounts. It shied away from naming Russia as the culprit until Wednesday, when the company said it had removed 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages that were “likely operated out of Russia.” Facebook officials fingered a St. Petersburg company with Kremlin ties called the Internet Research Agency.

Russia deliberately blurs its role in influence operations, American intelligence officials say. Even skilled investigators often cannot be sure if a particular Facebook post or Twitter bot came from Russian intelligence employees, paid “trolls” in Eastern Europe or hackers from Russia’s vast criminal underground. A Russian site called buyaccs.com (“Buy Bulk Accounts at Best Prices”) offers for sale a huge array of pre-existing social media accounts, including on Facebook and Twitter; like wine, the older accounts cost more, because their history makes chicanery harder to spot.

The trail that leads from the Russian operation to the bogus Melvin Redick, however, is fairly clear. United States intelligence concluded that DCLeaks.com was created in June 2016 by the Russian military intelligence agency G.R.U. The site began publishing an eclectic collection of hacked emails, notably from George Soros, the financier and Democratic donor, as well as a former NATO commander and some Democratic and Republican staffers. Some of the website’s language — calling Mrs. Clinton “President of the Democratic Party” and referring to her “electional staff” — seemed to belie its pose as a forum run by American activists.

DCLeaks would soon be followed by a blog called Guccifer 2.0, which would leave even more clues of its Russian origin. Those sites’ posts, however, would then be dwarfed by those from WikiLeaks, which American officials believe got thousands of Democratic emails from Russian intelligence hackers through an intermediary. At each stage, a chorus of dubious Facebook and Twitter accounts — alongside many legitimate ones — would applaud the leaks.

During its first weeks online, DCLeaks drew no media attention. But The Times found that some Facebook users somehow discovered the new site quickly and began promoting it on June 8. One was the Redick account, which posted about DCLeaks to the Facebook groups “World News Headlines” and “Breaking News — World.”

The Redick profile lists Central High School in Philadelphia and Indiana University of Pennsylvania as his alma maters; neither has any record of his attendance. In one of his photos, this purported Pennsylvania lifer is sitting in a restaurant in Brazil — and in another, his daughter’s bedroom appears to have a Brazilian-style electrical outlet. His posts were never personal, just news articles reflecting a pro-Russian worldview.

⭕ 6 Sep 2017

CNN: Schiff: Russian Facebook ad buy confirms disinformation finding http://cnn.it/2gJf1Vp

💙💙 McClatchy (Jul): Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation http://bit.ly/2uiiVOa
// 7/12/2017

 TIME, Massimo Calabresi (May): Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America http://ti.me/2wHRXj0
// 5/18/2017

 JustSecurity: A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know Now http://bit.ly/2wHK6BO rec’d by @SethAbramson

WIRED (Jul): Did Trump’s Data Team Help Russian Hackers? Facebook Might Have the Answer http://bit.ly/2xbQtie
// 7/15/2017

NYT: Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads http://nyti.ms/2gMWFq3

WaPo: Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian company during 2016 election http://wapo.st/2eGDR7H

DailyBeast: Russia-Linked Hackers Breached 100 Nuclear and Power Plants Just This Year http://thebea.st/2wGELLq

PublicIntelligence[.]net: DHS Report Finds “Immeasurable Vulnerabilities and Attack Vectors” Against U.S. Critical Infrastructure http://bit.ly/2wGyijz

⭕ 2 Sep 2017

 Politico: U.S. Army unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe http://politi.co/2evvzQ4
// A self-assessment by the 173rd Airborne Brigade is called ‘a real eye-opener’ to how some critical capabilities to deter Russia have eroded.

The U.S. Army’s rapid reaction force in Europe is under-equipped, undermanned and inadequately organized to confront military aggression from Russia or its high-tech proxies, according to an internal study that some who have read it view as a wake-up call as the Trump administration seeks to deter an emboldened Vladimir Putin.

Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army’s years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.

🐣 RT @jedshug Pence may now be implicated w/ S. Miller in conspiracy/aiding obstruction of justice,18 USC 1512 or misprision of felony
⋙ @maggieNYT Pence was in the Oval for key meetings on May 8 as Trump read his letter draft

⭕ 1 Sep 2017

WaPo, Ruth Marcus: The deal Trump wanted with Russia http://wapo.st/2wvuWhB

RawStory: Law prof explains legal reasoning why Trump’s new memo puts Mike Pence ‘in legal jeopardy’ for impeachment http://bit.ly/2grCVVk

WaPo, James Downie: Republicans’ newest charge against James Comey is a cheap stunt http://wapo.st/2xF6eeH

NYT: Software Glitch or Russian Hackers? Election Problems Draw Little Scrutiny http://nyti.ms/2woNnpA

⭕ 31 Aug 2017

Politico, Josh Gerstein: GOP senators: Comey drafted statement clearing Clinton before her interview http://politi.co/2vOwHV4
// Grassley, Graham say evidence suggests decision not to file charges was ‘prejudged’.

BusinessInsider: Manafort’s notes from the Trump Tower Russia meeting reportedly mention ‘donations’ and the RNC http://read.bi/2vvIhsJ

MotherJones, Bill Buzenberg: All the Trump-Russia News You May Have Missed. http://bit.ly/2enj8FZ
// The scandal engulfing the White House didn’t pause for Charlottesville, North Korea, or Hurricane Harvey.

Vox, Andrew Prokop: Paul Manafort’s central role in the Trump-Russia investigation, explained http://bit.ly/2wmR8Ms

WaPo, Eugene Robinson: The bad news about ‘this Russia thing’ keeps pouring in for Trump http://wapo.st/2xBER5b

DailyBeast, Betsy Woodruff: Exclusive: Mueller Enlists the IRS for His Trump-Russia Investigation http://thebea.st/2wrzt4q

Bloomberg: Kushners’ China Deal Flop Was Part of Much Bigger Hunt for Cash http://bloom.bg/2wq0G7D

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, wakes up each morning to a growing problem that will not go away. His family’s real estate business, Kushner Cos., owes hundreds of millions of dollars on a 41-story office building on Fifth Avenue. It has failed to secure foreign investors, despite an extensive search, and its resources are more limited than generally understood. As a result, the company faces significant challenges.

Over the past two years, executives and family members have sought substantial overseas investment from previously undisclosed places: South Korea’s sovereign-wealth fund, France’s richest man, Israeli banks and insurance companies, and exploratory talks with a Saudi developer, according to former and current executives. These were in addition to previously reported attempts to raise money in China and Qatar.

⭕ 30 Aug 2017

Politico: Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe http://politi.co/2vu51JC
// The cooperation is the latest sign that the investigation into Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying.

FinancialTimes: Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin testifies to Mueller grand jury http://on.ft.com/2vGH51P

PBS/AP: Kremlin confirms Trump’s lawyer reached out about deal http://to.pbs.org/2wonJj8

⭕ 29 Aug 2017

WaPo, Philip Lacovara: How the pardon power could end Trump’s presidency http://wapo.st/2wIjP7A
// Philip Allen Lacovara, a former U.S. deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.

TheGuardian (Dec): Czechoslovakia spied on Donald and Ivana Trump, communist-era files show http://bit.ly/2x2E4wz
// 12/15/2016

CNN: Special counsel subpoenas Manafort’s former attorney and spokesman http://cnn.it/2vI1RgD

MotherJones, Russ Choma: Trump’s Moscow Partner Was Apparently Financed by a Russian Bank Under US Sanctions http://bit.ly/2vCSwYe

⭕ 28 Aug 2017

🐣 RT @brianklaas The Don Jr & Felix Sater e-mails make it undeniably clear that Trump’s associates aimed to collude with Vladimir Putin to get Trump elected.

 NYT, Odd Arne Westad: The Cold War and America’s Delusion of Victory http://nyti.ms/2xHwPa3

NBC: Mueller Team Asking If Trump Tried to Hide Purpose of Trump Tower Meeting http://nbcnews.to/2wdQtNi

WaPo: Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal http://wapo.st/2xHrhg0

NYT: Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’ http://nyti.ms/2xstY5L

⭕ 27 Aug 2017k

🐣 RT @ABCPolitics Houston SWAT officer carries mother and her 13-month-old son to safety amid rising floodwaters from #Harvey http://abcn.ws/2xot4qN 
// Pulitzer class photo

WashingtonMonthly: Mitch McConnell’s Sinister Role in the Russian Hacks http://bit.ly/2ggGS2E
// 6/28/2017, With the normalization of Trump’s antics, it is unfortunately all too easy to overlook the sheer rottenness of Mitch McConnell.

WaPo: Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president http://wapo.st/2vBoSln https://twitter.com/ABCPolitics/status/901907098308575232/photo/1

⭕ 26 Aug 2017

⭕ 25 Aug 2017

Trump’s “Good News about Trump” finder guy also resigned today. Likely because there was no good news about Trump.

TheHill: Phoenix mayor rips Trump: Pardoning Arpaio ‘a slap in the face’ http://bit.ly/2veLTPX

Mayor Greg Stanton: “Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated their civil rights.

“Arpaio target and terrorized Latino families because of the color of their skin. He was ordered by a federal judge to stop and he refused,” Stanton continued. “He received a fair trial and a justifiable conviction, and there’s nothing the President can do to change the awful legacy and the stains he left on our community.

“Donald Trump can ignore the rule of law, but it was our voters who removed Joe Arpaio from power.”

🐣 RT @CatherineRampell If you ever doubted “law & order” was just code for encouraging police harassment of people of color, Arpaio pardon should put that to rest

WaPo: Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Texas as Category 4 storm http://wapo.st/2wP5Ufx

Senator John McCain’s statement on pardon of Joe Arpaio http://bit.ly/2wwx2Ab https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/901284229987880960/photo/1

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today on President Trump’s pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

“No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

NYT: Trump Pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio http://nyti.ms/2xAyA97

TheHill: Gorka resigns from White House http://bit.ly/2xkfeWz

BerkmanKleinCenter (Harvard): Partisan Right-Wing Websites Shaped Mainstream Press Coverage Before 2016 Election, Study Finds http://bit.ly/2wwyWAQ
BerkmanKleinCenter (Harvard): Partisanship, Propaganda, & Disinformation: Online Media & the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election [pdf] http://bit.ly/2xkh0ag 140p
// separately, exec summary, introduction

WaPo, Eric Wemple: Studies agree: Media gorged on Hillary Clinton email coverage http://wapo.st/2vwMUhH

WaPo: Trump confronts unprecedented public rebuke by Gary Cohn after Charlottesville http://wapo.st/2wvQ6i4

🔆 This❗️⋙ WSJ: Special Counsel Examines Possible Role Flynn Played in Seeking Clinton Emails From Hackers http://on.wsj.com/2wFZXlE
// Mueller probe of potential link between Trump campaign and Russia follows trail of GOP operative’s correspondence

1 ⋙ U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence said investigators also have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary.

It isn’t known if those hackers are ones that Mr. [Peter W.] Smith contacted.

In a document Mr. Smith used to explain his efforts and recruit assistance, he named several Trump campaign officials he said were working “in coordination” with him, including Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist for the president, and Kellyanne Conway, the former campaign manager and now White House counselor. They both said they were unaware of Mr. Smith’s work and played no role in it.

2 ⋙ The investigators have also been trying to determine whether Mr. Smith or anyone working with him paid hackers for Mrs. Clinton’s emails, the people with knowledge of the investigation said. Mr. Smith set up a limited-liability company in Delaware, called KLS Research LLC, that he intended to use to pay people assisting him with his work and to collect contributions, people with direct knowledge of Mr. Smith’s efforts said.

Mr. Smith told the Journal that he never intended to pay for any of the emails found by hackers. Ultimately, he said, he couldn’t verify that all the emails the hacker groups claimed to have found were genuine, and so he didn’t acquire them. Instead, Mr. Smith said he encouraged the hackers to give the emails to WikiLeaks.

The website released emails that intelligence officials have said were stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

NBC: Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort http://nbcnews.to/2voNu1I

Salon, Heather Digby Parton: Yeah, there’s still a Russia probe — and it looks worse for Trump all the time http://bit.ly/2wN8yCv
// Trump has hissy-fits at GOP senators while Mueller interviews “Dossier Guy.” Bipartisan consensus: Big trouble

TheHill: Five things to know about Fusion GPS, the firm behind the #TrumpRussia dossier http://bit.ly/2xyxyub

⭕ 24 Aug 2017

DailyBeast: The Curious Case of the Dying Russian Diplomats http://thebea.st/2voquzJ
// Since November, at least six have passed away. Only one is known to have been murdered.

Msnbc, Rachel Maddow: Pattern of hacking preceded attendee of Trump camp Russia meeting http://on.msnbc.com/2wEj2EZ

Vox: A GOP senator wrote a bill to protect Robert Mueller. Trump called him to try to kill it. http://bit.ly/2wEvHrE Thom Tillis (R-NC)
// The president wants to keep his option to fire Mueller open.

WaPo: At CIA, a watchful eye on Mike Pompeo, the president’s ardent ally http://wapo.st/2vv21rU

WaPo, Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s obsession: Russia, Russia, Russia http://wapo.st/2w4sEY8

CNN: Top Trump aide’s email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry http://cnn.it/2iwTeEB

The aide, Rick Dearborn, who is now President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff, sent a brief email to campaign officials last year relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin, the sources said.

⭕ 23 Aug 2017

Politico: Trump clashed with multiple GOP senators over Russia http://politi.co/2xdGgyB

CNN: Russia dossier firm founder speaks with Senate judiciary investigators http://cnn.it/2wA6rme

🔆 Breaking❗️⋙ Politico: Trump clashed with multiple GOP senators over Russia http://politi.co/2xdGgyB
// The conversations are evidence of rising tensions between the president and congressional Republicans heading into a critical legislative span.

CNN: 2016 Presidential Campaign Hacking Fast Facts http://cnn.it/2g60EgY
// 8/6/2017; includes timeline

══════════ ▼ TheNation: Russian Hack
TechDirt: Stories Claiming DNC Hack Was ‘Inside Job’ Rely Heavily On A Stupid Conversion Error No ‘Forensic Expert’ Would Make http://bit.ly/2wngcUo
// 8/16/2017, from the don’t-trust-anonymous-sources-unless-you-agree-with-them dept

WaPo, Eric Wemple: The Nation is reviewing a story casting doubt on Russian hack of DNC http://wapo.st/2g4JEIf
// 8/15/2017

TheHill, Joe Uchill: Why the latest theory about the DNC not being hacked is probably wrong http://bit.ly/2voaw87
// 8/14/2017

“In short, the theory is flawed,” said FireEye’s John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye, a firm that provides forensic analysis and other cybersecurity services. 

“The author of the report didn’t consider a number of scenarios and breezed right past others. It completely ignores all the evidence that contradicts its claims.”

The theory behind the report is that it would have been impossible for information from the DNC to have been hacked due to upload and download speeds.  

The claims have slowly trickled through the media, finding backers at the right-wing site Breitbart in early June. Last week, the left-wing magazine The Nation published a 4,500-word story on the allegations.

The claims are based on metadata from the files, which were leaked by their purported hacker, Guccifer 2.0, during the 2016 election season. 

Metadata is information recorded in a file for archiving purposes and is not displayed when a file is open. It can include the last date a file is modified and note what software and devices were involved in creating the file, among other information.

When files are copied to a new device, the metadata can record the time each file finishes being duplicated as the time it was “last modified.” 

A blogger named “The Forensicator” analyzed the “last modified” times in one set of documents released by Guccifer 2.0. Based on the size of the documents and the times they were downloaded, Forensicator calculated that a hacker was able to copy the files at a speed of more than 20 megabytes per second. 

That is faster than consumer internet services in the United States can upload documents.

As a result, Forensicator concluded that the documents could not have been copied over the internet. Instead, someone with physical access to the network must have copied them in person to a USB drive, the blogger concluded. 

“This theory assumes that the hacker downloaded the files to a computer and then leaked it from that computer,” said Rich Barger, director of security research at Splunk. 

But, said Barger and other experts, that overlooks the possibility the files were copied multiple times before being released, something that may be more probable than not in a bureaucracy like Russian intelligence. 

“A hacker might have downloaded it to one computer, then shared it by USB to an air gapped [off the internet] network for translation, then copied by a different person for analysis, then brought a new USB to an entirely different air gapped computer to determine a strategy all before it was packaged for Guccifer 2.0 to leak,” said Barger.

Every time the files were copied, depending on the method they were transmitted, there would be a new chance for the metadata to be changed. 

Hultquist said the date that Forensicator believes that the files were downloaded, based on the metadata, is almost definitely not the date the files were removed from the DNC. 

That date, July 5, 2016, was far later than the April dates when the DNC hackers registered “electionleaks.com” and “DCLeaks.com.” Hulquist noted that the DNC hackers likely had stolen files by the time they began determining their strategy to post them. 

The July date is also months after the DNC brought in FireEye competitor CrowdStrike to remove the hackers from their network and well after Crowdstrike first attributed the attack to Russia. 

With increased scrutiny on the network, it would be a high-risk way to remove files. And if an insider removed files from the DNC on July 5, it could just as likely be a second, unrelated attack to the Russian one. 

Even if there were no other scenarios that would create the same metadata, experts note that metadata is among the easiest pieces of forensic evidence to falsify. It would be far more difficult to fabricate other evidence pointing to Russia, including the malware only known to be used by the suspected Russian hackers, and internet and email addresses seen in previous attacks by that group.

Forensicator’s claim that 20 to 25 megabyte per second downloads would be impossible over the internet also raised eyebrows. 

John Bambenek, threat systems manager at the security firm Fidelis, noted that while home internet, where uploads are much slower than downloads, would not allow that speed, corporate and cloud networks could do so.

The DNC would not provide details about its upload speeds in July of 2016.

Proponents of the Forensicator theory have accused CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch of being biased against Russia, negating his firm’s analysis. 

But CrowdStrke was not the only firm to conclude Russia was behind the attack. 

Other companies independently discovered evidence that linked the attacks to the same culprit. SecureWorks found an improperly secured URL shortening account used by Fancy Bear while investigating other attacks by the group. That account contained evidence of nearly 4,000 phishing attacks Fancy Bear waged against Gmail addresses — the attack that ensnared Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account among them. 

In the end, Fidelis, FireEye, SecureWorks, Threat Connect and other CrowdStrike competitors all confirmed Crowdstike’s results.

The intelligence community, including the CIA, FBI and NSA, also claims to have evidence the attacks were coordinated by Moscow, though they have not released their evidence to the public.

“I find it interesting that people are so eager to believe that Dmitri Alperovitch is biased, but willing to accept the forensics of an anonymous blogger, with no reputation, that no one knows anything about,” said Hultquist.

The cybersecurity industry is not shy about shaming competitors for spurious research. Companies have gone out of business after high-profile reports were disproven.

“This industry loves to eat itself up. If you get something wrong, your peers will tell you,” said Barger.

“When this many brands agree on something, come together to provide several different aspects of the attack, sometimes it’s true.”

NYMag, Brian Feldman: The Nation Article About the DNC Hack Is Too Incoherent to Even Debunk http://slct.al/2w3qI0c
// 8/10/2017

Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky: Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don’t Buy the Russia Story http://bloom.bg/2wxIvwt
↥ ↧
TheNation, Patrick Lawrence: A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack http://bit.ly/2vlm6DU
// 8/9/2017

Editor’s note: After publication, the Democratic National Committee contacted The Nation with a response, writing, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. It’s unfortunate that The Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.”
══════════ ▲

⭕ 22 Aug 2017

WaPo, Casey Michel: America’s neo-Nazis don’t look to Germany for inspiration. They look to Russia. http://wapo.st/2xseeit

FastCompany: #FireMcMaster, Not Damore: Twitter Bots Are Thriving, And They’re More Lethal Than Ever http://bit.ly/2vr2xtZ
// 8/10/2017

⭕ 21 Aug 2017

NYMag, Jonathan Chait: That Russian Guy Who Attended the Trump Tower Meeting Is Almost Definitely a Spy http://nym.ag/2vU9eoL

NYT: Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections http://bit.ly/2vd6HXS Rinat Akhmetshin

He has an association with a former deputy head of a Russian spy service, the F.S.B., and a history of working for close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Twice, he has worked on legal battles for Russian tycoons whose opponents suffered sophisticated hacking attacks, arousing allegations of computer espionage. He helped federal prosecutors bring corruption charges against an American businessman in the former Soviet Union who turned out to be working for the C.I.A.

Mr. Akhmetshin’s meeting with Trump campaign officials is of keen interest to Mr. Mueller, who is investigating the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Of all the visitors who attended the June 2016 session at the Trump Tower, he appears to have the most direct ties to Russian intelligence. The session was arranged by a Russian businessman close to Mr. Putin whose emissary promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

⭕ 17 Aug 2017

WaPo, David Ignatius: Russia’s election meddling backfired — big-time http://wapo.st/2uWazsm

 Salon, Heather Digby Parton: Trump, the alt-right and the Kremlin: White supremacists’ Russia links are no secret http://bit.ly/2weGSqB
// Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Donald Trump all have deep ties to Russia — and this “conspiracy” isn’t hidden

WaPo: The story behind a retracted CNN report on the Trump campaign and Russia http://wapo.st/2weVrus

ForeignPolicy: WikiLeaks Turned Down Leaks on Russian Government During U.S. Presidential Campaign http://atfp.co/2w6ljZ1
// The leak organization ignored damaging information on the Kremlin to focus on Hillary Clinton and election-related hacks

MotherJones: A Putin-Friendly Oligarch’s Top US Executive Donated $285,000 to Trump http://bit.ly/2x7aOBt

⭕ 16 Aug 2017

TheHill: Assange meets US congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents http://bit.ly/2uVjFWd

MSNBC, Rachel Maddow: Russia still helping Trump, hacked mail story suggests http://on.msnbc.com/2uNibBb
// Rachel Maddow looks at the timeline of a Trump-promoted, hacked e-mail-driven conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton collusion with Ukraine as it made its way through the White House, a Russian web site, and Fox News on its way to Trump supporters.

BI: Trump-Russia emails suggest Moscow’s attempt to infiltrate the campaign may have gone further than we knew http://read.bi/2i9Yuhb

 🔆 This❗️⋙ NYT: In Ukraine, a Malware Expert Who Could Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking http://nyti.ms/2x5rFEG

TheGuardian: Will 2017 be Rupert Murdoch’s summer of despair? http://bit.ly/2vGhKHJ
// Seth Rich story

NPR: The Man Behind The Scenes In Fox News’ Discredited Seth Rich Story http://n.pr/2vGh8lD Ed Butowsky

⭕ 14 Aug 2017

DailyBeast, Lachlan Markay, Spencer Ackerman: Paul Manafort Sought $850 Million Deal With Putin Ally and Alleged Gangster http://thebea.st/2w8q57Y

WaPo: Trump campaign emails show aide’s repeated efforts to set up Russia meetings http://wapo.st/2wZ0DPe

CBS: Trump adviser emails show attempts to set up Russia meeting, report says http://cbsn.ws/2uEawFy

NYT: Russia-West Balancing Act Grows Ever More Wobbly in Belarus http://nyti.ms/2vD4Jx1 joint Russian/Belarus military exercises

⭕ 13 Aug 2017

ForeignAffairs, Robert David English (Mar): Russia, Trump, and a New Détente ~ Fixing U.S.-Russian Relations fam.ag/2vASWzv
// 3/10/2017

 WIRED, Garrett Graff: A Guide to Russia’s High Tech Tool Box for Subverting US Democracy http://bit.ly/2vzLKDv

Newsweek: Trump and Russia: We Are Losing the War Against Disinformation, and It Is Our Fault http://bit.ly/2w3SdsS

Through his inaction, Tillerson is not only sending the Kremlin a message that the U.S. does not care to combat Russian disinformation. To date, the European Union has also been absent in many of the policymaking discussions surrounding fake news in Europe, as Frederica Mogherini has refused to dedicate monetary or human resources to the EU’s East Stratcom Task Force, leaving the continent’s efforts to fight disinformation disjointed and duplicative. The United States seems to be headed down a similar path. The Global Engagement Center could serve as the convener and agenda-setter for the response to disinformation both in Washington and among allies in Europe. By blocking its funding, Tillerson is once again abdicating U.S. leadership where it is needed most.

⭕ 12 Aug 2017

NYT: Mueller Is Said to Seek Interviews With West Wing in Russia Case http://nyti.ms/2wETkgu

⭕ 11 Aug 2017

NYT, Peter Baker: Combative Trump Pulls His Punches for One Man: Putin http://nyti.ms/2vuMcmn

🐣 Trump is a demagogue, not a populist. #inners

TheHill: Merkel: Escalation of rhetoric on North Korea is wrong answer http://bit.ly/2vrc9oG

Slate: Paul Manafort Is Toast. The FBI Raid Was Just the Beginning. http://slate.me/2fyy87w

RT @TeaPainUSA Mueller’s workin’ hard to make sure Manafort has unpardonable RICO charges so Trump’s pardons are useless. Manafort will take Trump down.

PoliticusUSA: Trump’s Russia Troubles Grow As Congressional Investigators Want To Question His Secretary http://bit.ly/2vYAdQz

⭕ 10 Aug 2017

 ForeignPolicy: Here’s the Memo That Blew Up the NSC http://atfp.co/2uyB4ns
// about Richard Higgins, “leftists and Islamists”; Fired White House staffer argued “deep state” attacked Trump administration because the president represents a threat to cultural Marxist memes, globalists, and bankers

Politico: Legal fight breaks out over deposition of Trump dossier author Christopher Steele http://politi.co/2wQKwTK

RawStory: Former Russian Ambassador goes on epic rant after Trump ‘disses Americans – to praise Putin’ http://bit.ly/2hPXhvd

Newsweek (Jul): Bernie Sanders Says ‘It’s No Great Secret’ Russia Was Trying to Divide Democrats Against Hillary http://bit.ly/2wzQNnq
// 7/19/2017

NPR: Russian Cyberattack Targeted Elections Vendor Tied To Voting Day Disruptions http://n.pr/2fwOgGH

Buzzfeed: Four Top Cybersecurity Officials Are Leaving US Government http://bzfd.it/2uLkNLi

 TheIndependent: Anne Frank Centre warns of ‘alarming parallels’ between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany http://ind.pn/2vTGoGa

NYT: Trump Offers Putin Thanks, Not Critique, for Throwing Out U.S. Diplomats http://nyti.ms/2wyUvh4

Bloomberg: With Bank Subpoenas, Mueller Turns Up the Heat on Manafort http://bloom.bg/2vrao9j
// Manafort told FBI about June 2016 meeting

Politico: Trump thanks Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats http://http://politi.co/2vr481p

 Axios, Mike Allen & Jim Vandehei: The Committee to Save America http://bit.ly/2vncBEs //➔ actually, I’ve prayed for something like this
// 4 generals, McConnell, Ryan, “New Yorkers”: Dina Powell, Steve Mnuchin

RollingStone, Bob Dreyfus: Sebastian Gorka, the West Wing’s Phony Foreign-Policy Guru http://rol.st/2fvCjRz
// Gorka’s a former Breitbart editor with Islamophobic views and ties to neo-Nazi extremists – and he has the ear of the president

… “It’s surreal and quite horrifying that someone who’s such an amateur has reached such heights,” says David Ucko, associate professor in the Department of War and Conflict Studies at National Defense University. Adds Michael S. Smith II, a veteran terrorism analyst who’s had unpleasant run-ins with Gorka, “This is not somebody who should be working anywhere near the White House.” Even more bluntly, a colleague of Smith’s, Cindy Storer, an ex-CIA terrorism analyst, said, “He’s nuts.” …

[A] former top White House official tells Rolling Stone, “His only job appears to be to go on talk radio or Fox News to defend the indefensible.” That he does constantly, spinning the administration’s confused, roller-coaster ride of a foreign policy; slamming “the fake-news industrial complex,” on CNN; supporting a Supreme Court decision as “a slap in the face” to critics of Trump’s Muslim travel ban, on talk radio; and, on MSNBC, explaining Donald Trump Jr.’s secret meeting with a team of Russians peddling dirt as “a massive nothingburger.”

Almost as soon as they entered the Trump administration, the Gorkas absorbed withering incoming fire from national-security experts and in a series of exposés in The Forward, a progressive Jewish periodical. By late April, White House sources told The New York Times and The Washington Post that Gorka was on the way out. Yet so far – likely thanks to support from Bannon – both Gorkas have defiantly stayed in place. According to one insider, Gorka’s dubious qualifications may have saved him. “The White House tried to find him a job at another agency,” says the source. But no luck: “Nobody wanted him.” 

Insisting everywhere that he be referred to as “doctor,” Gorka began his rise with a 2008 Ph.D. awarded by little-known Corvinus University of Budapest, an institution that several scholars who spoke to Rolling Stone described as having a questionable reputation. “Corvinus is pretty low-tier, maybe third- or fourth-tier,” says Daniel Nexon, a scholar at Georgetown University who has reviewed Gorka’s dissertation. “He might as well have mail-ordered his Ph.D.” Nexon ran its text through plagiarism software and found that portions of it were “repurposed.”

[T]hree people who served as endorsers of Gorka’s Ph.D., two didn’t have any academic credentials whatsoever, and a third was György Schöpflin, a right-wing Hungarian politician who, Reynolds adds, was a Gorka family friend and once suggested studding a Hungarian border fence with pig heads to send a message to Muslim refugees.

Perhaps even more worrisome, Gorka’s thesis proposed a dramatic restructuring of the national-security apparatus to create a police state. He suggests a radical reform of “internal barriers between the police force, the army and various intelligence services.” This could also be seen as the start of a Gestapo-like, all-powerful national system of repression. “That’s about as Nazi Germany- or Soviet Union-like a proposal as I’ve ever heard,” says Patrick Eddington of the conservative Cato Institute. “The net effect would be to suspend the Bill of Rights, if his proposal ever saw the light of day.”

During the decade and a half Gorka spent in Hungary, he was enmeshed in a web of ultraright, anti-Semitic and even Nazi-like parties, politicians and media outlets. For most of the 2000s, the Gorkas ran a think tank in Budapest called the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security (ITDIS). For funding, Gorka received at least $27,650 in U.S. federal grants, according to government records. “We worked for ourselves,” Katharine Gorka tells Rolling Stone.

In the mid-2000s, Hungary’s left-leaning government found itself besieged by right-wing street protests. Many of the protesters were affiliated with ultranationalist leader Viktor Orbán, who’s been called a “neo-fascist dictator” by Sen. John McCain, and who leads Hungary today. Gorka served as adviser to Orbán, and later wrote for an overtly anti-Semitic newspaper, Magyar Demokrata. By all accounts, Gorka’s own writing and statements at the time included no anti-Semitic comments, and neither The Forward nor other reporters who’ve investigated his background in Hungary have turned up any evidence that Gorka himself participated in anything that could be called anti-Jewish. “What you can say for sure is that he was allied with people who have very extremist views,” says Péter Krekó of the Political Capital Institute in Hungary. “He was an opportunist, and he cooperated with figures who were very marginal.”

For his part, Gorka denies any knowledge of the anti-Semitic backgrounds of his colleagues. Katharine Gorka says that all of the charges about her husband’s years in Hungary have been debunked. “He has never in any way been associated with the far right,” she says. “One of the reasons why we left Hungary was because of Sebastian’s discomfort with the far right.”

Yet these denials are hard to square with Gorka’s family background. Having fled Hungary for London after 1956, Gorka’s parents joined a raucous mix of anti-Communist, right-wing exiles, including those who belonged to the Order of Knights (Vitézi Rend), an organization with an unsavory past. Vitézi Rend was created by the Nazi-backed ruler of Hungary, and many of its members were involved in the slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust. Today, members of the Order fall under an immigration watch by the State Department on groups that have violated human rights. Gorka and his father were reported to have joined (Katharine says this is false). And in photographs, Gorka has been spotted sporting a Vitézi Rend medal that, he insisted, he wore only to honor his father.

Since this affiliation was exposed by The Forward, Gorka has been engulfed in a storm of criticism, with members of Congress writing the White House to demand that he be fired. “Our main concern is that Dr. Gorka is a member of certain anti-Semitic Nazi groups such as Vitézi Rend,” says Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat. “There’s a lot of evidence that he was a member: He swore a lifelong loyalty, he’s used the honorific initial v., he’s been photographed with some of their insignia.” So far, Nadler and his colleagues haven’t heard back from the White House.

In 2008, the Gorkas moved to the United States. They established a network of organizations in the Virginia area: the Westminster Institute, the Council on Global Security, the Threat Knowledge Group and TheGorkaBriefing.com. According to Katharine Gorka, the council was a nonprofit “doing work on extremism,” and the Threat Knowledge Group was a business “providing training to law enforcement and the military.” Katharine founded the Westminster Institute as a think tank to do research “on the rise of radical Islam.”

In his published biographies, Gorka provides a long list of places where he peddled his views, including the FBI, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the National Counterterrorism Center, West Point and more. Gorka’s most-touted position was a two-year stint at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. James Joyner, a retired Army officer and associate professor of strategic studies at MCU, who saw Gorka in action, wasn’t impressed, saying that Gorka was hardly an academic: “He’s kind of the guy you see on TV. He’s bombastic.” Gorka’s views, adds Joyner, were well out of the mainstream. “To the Bush administration’s credit, one thing that they got right was, they said, ‘This is not a war against Islam.’ But Gorka is like, ‘No, these people are very dominant within the religion, their religion leads this way, and even though most Muslims aren’t terrorists, they at least lean that way.’ And that’s wrong.”

In many lectures, Gorka lumps together Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Iran’s clerical rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood in one box: as proponents of a world-dominating Muslim caliphate that must be crushed. Even the differences between Sunnis and Shiites don’t faze him. “Today, the Global Jihad has two brands,” he wrote for Breitbart. “It is a war of the ‘Sunni Coke’ versus the ‘Shia Pepsi.’ ” Gorka insists that everyone in Washington is wrong, and only he understands the fearsome nature of the enemy. “He is speaking the truth, and if you disagree with it,” Joyner says, “you’re an idiot.”

Mia Bloom, a widely published expert on terrorism and a professor at Georgia State University, recalls an encounter with Gorka on a terrorism panel at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Gorka knows virtually nothing,” she says. “His views are a mixture of Islamophobia and racism. We’d been given questions in advance, we were paid for our appearance, and he just bullshitted his way through it – and he brought books to sell!” All of which is why Paul Pillar, a former national intelligence officer for the Middle East, says Gorka is too dangerous to be allowed to remain in the White House: “Gorka represents an intolerance that offends American values and is likely to gain the United States more enemies than friends.”

 Politico (Jan): Bill Perry Is Terrified. Why Aren’t You? http://politi.co/2vIixch How an 89-year-old cold warrior became America’s nuclear conscience.
// 1/6/2017

CNN: Exclusive: The chaos behind the scenes of Fox News’ now-retracted Seth Rich story http://cnnmon.ie/2fvuefQ

⭕ 9 Aug 2017

CNN, Chris Cillizza: FBI’s Manafort raid means Bob Mueller means business http://cnn.it/2vQsggV

Newsweek: Russia Plans to Annex Belarus in Military Drill, Says Georgia’s Ex-President http://bit.ly/2vPWq2Y https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/895427181047816192/photo/1

Russia’s leadership is angling to annex its closest western neighbor during upcoming military drills, according to the former leader of Georgia. Mikheil Saakashvili made the comments on the anniversary of his own country’s brief conflict with Moscow that resulted in Russian troops cordoning off Georgia’s two northern regions.

Referring to the much anticipated joint Russian-Belarusian drill in the Baltic region, the former president said: “What we are seeing in Belarus, I think that Russia is planning to take and annex Belarus.” Saakashvili, who is a longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, spoke to told Baltic news agency BNS ahead of the drill, called Zapad and scheduled for September.

Lithuania, a NATO ally that borders with Russia, has expressed concern that the drill indicates a wider threat to the alliance, constituting a “simulated” attack. NATO has demanded that Russia allows for more transparency in the drill, nominally set to involve around 12,000 troops. However, Russia has previously sparked much bigger exercises to go in tandem with drills such as Zapad, upping the number of troops from the promised levels.

NYT, John McLaughlin: The Smart Way to Deal With Putin’s Russia http://nyti.ms/2wHGqx6

🐣 #TrumpRussia was off Page 1 for 24 hours. @realDonaldTrump’ mission accomplished @JoeNBC @Morning_Joe #NukeShinyObject

WaPo Factchecker: Trump, Russia and the opposition research firm run by ex-journalists Fusion GPS http://wapo.st/2vlRUHa
// Glenn Kessler; @JustinHendrix onTwitter: @GlennKesslerWP takes an indepth look at @PressSec’s claim Russia paid Fusion GPS and finds it not at all credible; Steele dossier, Magnitsky

AP: FBI agents searched former Trump campaign chair’s home http://bit.ly/2ftFvgz

Haaretz: Israel Held Secret Talks With Russia, U.S. Over Cease-fire in Southern Syria http://bit.ly/2wGVfAl objectioned pact empowers Iran
// Meetings held in Jordan and Europe days before Moscow and Washington announced the Syria deal. Jerusalem raised objections that pact empowers Iran, allies in war-torn country

⭕ 8 Aug 2017

NYMag, Jonathan Chait: The Alt-Right and Glenn Greenwald Versus H.R. McMaster http://nym.ag/2vP31LU

WaPo, David Von Drehle: Why the Trump Organization could be Trump’s undoing http://wapo.st/2vmiikg money-laundering

WSJ Editorial: McMaster and the Commander ~ The NSC adviser is the latest target of Steve Bannon’s media friends http://on.wsj.com/2fs6Ks0

WaPo, Anne Applebaum: If this were the Cold War, America would be poised to lose http://wapo.st/2vCEyJu

Back then, it took two years for “the CIA created AIDS” to spread; nowadays, conspiracy theories can be passed along by networks of bots and trolls in seconds. But even then, the nature of propaganda had to be defined, explained and framed before it could be countered. Someone in power had to decide, in other words, that disinformation was a problem and had to hire people to think about the solution.

Eventually, they did — and not just in the United States. In the 1940s, the British government created a covert research group, the Information Research Department, that put together material on the realities of Soviet life and quietly passed it on to politicians and journalists across Europe. In the 1980s, the U.S. government set up the Active Measures Working Group, a small interagency team that kept track of constantly changing Soviet narratives and came up with responses. Eventually the United States would threaten the U.S.S.R. with sanctions unless it stopped pushing the “CIA created AIDS” mythology. There were ups and downs, successes and failures. But in the end Soviet propaganda failed to win hearts and minds, in part because the United States and its allies pushed back.

WaPo: Mueller, several team members gave up million-dollar jobs to work on special counsel investigation http://wapo.st/2vCyMXX

TheHill: Trump campaign hands over documents in Russia investigation http://bit.ly/2vkhFYF

WaPo, Dana Milbank: The 144 million people who like Trump best http://wapo.st/2vjFMGN https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/895093507970486272/photo/1
// Russians

Politico (Jul): Sinclair increases ‘must-run’ Boris Epshteyn segments http://politi.co/2vAkDdT Sinclair is pro-Trump org taking over local news stations

Reuters: Moscow to cut dependence on U.S. payment systems: RIA http://reut.rs/2fo8diO

TechnologyReview: First Evidence That Social Bots Play a Major Role in Spreading Fake News http://2vJuOxu
// Automated accounts are being programmed to spread fake news, according to the first systematic study of the way online misinformation spreads

⭕ 7 Aug 2017

 Wonkette, Eva: Oh Go Fuck Yourself, Glenn Greenwald http://bit.ly/2vPixYc

Oh and he’s mad about the Deep State, because of course he is. Greenwald spends a lot of his column beating a straw man to death, claiming that all the sane people who HAAAAAATE Trump, many of them conservatives who worked tirelessly to keep him from getting elected, and who have been in “COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY, MOTHERFUCKERS” mode since Greenwald’s pals at WikiLeaks and the Russians he is SO IN LOVE WITH (he would deny that accusation, but ya know, actions speak louder than words, and also fuck him) helped Trump get elected, think Greenwald and his weirdo friends are dumb for believing there is a “Deep State.” This is a false construct. We very much know there is a Deep State, and we know it makes Greenwald and Sean Hannity shit the bed, so we make fun of them about it.

But he’s really really confused about which is worse: that Trump is in office and beating the shit out of American institutions and the Constitution, or that the so-called Deep State (normal people refer to them as “career public servants”) is trying its damnedest to protect the Republic from Trump’s damage. The horrors! It reminds us of that thing Anthony Scaramucci whined during his 120-some-odd-hour tenure as White House Communications Director, about how there are some White House staffers who “think it is their job to save America from this president.” It’s almost as if there is a wide consensus among thinking Americans that the traditions we hold dear are in danger, and that we should do something about it. (Also, to all those people, thank you!)

But Greenwald can’t abide that, because how DARE the Deep State Military-CIA-Industrial Complex act all high and mighty like they for real care about protecting America from the authoritarian dipshit in the White House, when it’s very clear that #BothSidesDoIt anyway? How could Donald Trump possibly be more evil than the United States Of America has always been since forever?

Is it really hard to imagine any group that’s hurt people more than the Bush era neocons? What kind of pathetic What-About-Ism is this, GLENN? Is it not possible to simultaneously believe that the neocons empowered by George W. Bush did a lot of really bad shit (and that America in general has some blood on its hands), AND ALSO that Russia under Putin, the Rwandan genocide, North Korea, hell, a bunch of Communist governments going way the fuck back, are WORSE? What about ISIS? The dead exploded babies his beloved Russians killed in Aleppo?

WaPo, Abby Philip: The curious case of ‘Nicole Mincey,’ the Trump fan who may actually be a Russian bot http://wapo.st/2veb57C

McClatchy: Trump hands US policy writing to shadow groups of business execs http://bit.ly/2uEm073

WaPo, Greg Sargent: As Mueller closes in, Trump prepares his base for the worst http://wapo.st/2vGRq0u

Reuters, Peter Apps: Commentary: Amid White House chaos, a rise of the generals http://reut.rs/2wBFZET

⭕ 6 Aug 2017

 Politico: When a Candidate Conspired With a Foreign Power to Win An Election http://politi.co/2wG6ngC
// It took decades to unravel Nixon’s sabotage of Vietnam peace talks. Now, the full story can be told.

⭕ 5 Aug 2017

WashingtonJrnl, Grant Stern: New Report Reveals McConnell And Ryan Took Millions From Russian Oligarch Tied To Putin http://bit.ly/2uchAog https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/894166020667166720/photo/1

A series of top Republican elected officials have just been exposed for accepting outsized donations from one of the world’s richest men,  Leonid “Len” Blavatnik. Blavatnik is a Ukrainian-born businessman whose fortune comes from owning a company purchased by Putin’s Rosneft, the state-run Russian oil company cited in the infamous Russian “pee tape” dossier.

The Dallas News just issued a stunning report based on public records recently uncovered by the Democratic Coalition, that the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority leader McConnell have taken a Putin-connected billionaire Blavatnik’s cash:

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Len Blavatnik now owns Warner Group Music and has become a pillar of the Republican Party’s donor class, but many of his billions come from windfall profits on a Russian oil deal personally orchestrated by Vladimir Putin.

These days, Blavatnik is so close to the Trump administration that he recently announced a partnership deal with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to finance Hollywood films!

Republicans have reaped a major benefit from Russian oil money for twenty years, since the dark days of Jack Abramoff, whose lobbying scandal led to multiple felony corruption convictions and the GOP losing the House of Representatives.

Who can forget that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Super PAC also benefitted from targeted opposition research hacked by Russians from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?

In the last election, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) received over $8 million dollars from McConnell’s Super PAC in last year’s election. He later became part of Trump’s transition team and is now heading the Senate’s investigation into Russian election interference.

Republican mega donor Len Blavatnik moved to America for a time in the mid-1970s to obtain American citizenship and education before expatriating to become a Russian oil billionaire.

Blavatnik’s appropriately named Access Industries Inc. scored a $7 billion dollar windfall a few years ago in partnership with Alfa Bank, the Kremlin-linked bank caught communicating with Trump’s campaign using a secretive email server, and Putin’s best friend, an ex-KGB agent who happens to be Russia’s richest man.

His Access Industries partnered to win a privatization auction of a state-run oil company in 2003 with Alfa Bank’s Mikhail Fridman and Victor Vekselberg, who is coincidentally the largest shareholder in Bank of Cyprus which Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross built into a rogue’s gallery.

The three men formed AAR partners, got an insider’s deal based on their access to Putin to buy an oil company called TNK and partner with BP.

Privatization deals in Russia like these are considered a form of public corruption since they deliver great state-owned wealth to a connected few, and sometimes only take small loans back in exchange for gushers of money from oil companies.

After the Russian oil money flowed, rich dividends piled up for an entire decade until Putin ordered Blavatnik and AAR to sell their shares to Rosneft when oil was at a high price, $92 dollars a barrel 2013.

Luckily for Blavatnik and company, they sold out to Putin at the very top of the market, but the results for both Rosneft and Russia since then have been disastrous:

Sechin [Igor Ivanovich Sechin is a Russian official, considered a close ally and “de facto deputy” of Vladimir Putin. Wikipedia] and Putin’s mega-energy merger may have seemed like a “good” strategic deal for Russia, but for Fridman, Vekselberg, Blavatnik and Khan, whose combined net worth now hovers around $55 billion, cashing out of Russia’s most oil-dependent company in the spring of 2013, with West Texas Crude selling at $92 per barrel and Western banks pumping loans into Russia, may go down as the most brilliantly timed profit-taking of the decade. It also may have set off a chain of events in global financial markets that has contributed to the collapse of Russia’s currency, which plummeted 40% against the dollar in 2014. Putin’s state has been thrown into recession.

Putin was ecstatic. “This is a good big deal, which is important not only for Russia’s energy sector but for the entire Russian economy,” he said as the deal was being announced. Rosneft’s $55 billion TNK-BP purchase transformed it into the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company and cemented Sechin’s position as a global energy czar, with Putin presumably pulling the strings.

It’s important to understand that many Russian oil billionaires aren’t allowed to cash out so gracefully, and instead put on trial for bogus charges, stripped of their wealth and imprisoned like Yukos Oil’s former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Only pro-Putin oligarchs are allowed to cash out their Russian oil fortunes and legally take the money to a foreign country.

Following the money to Republican donors is showing exactly how Vladimir Putin has used Russian oil money to edge his way past Jesus in the GOP’s hierarchy of personalities.

The ties between the GOP and Putin have grown so extremely close today, that one Congressional Republican flew to Moscow last year just to take orders from Putin’s cronies, and nobody in his caucus is doing a thing about it.

If you have any doubt whatsoever that Len Blavatnik’s money comes from Russian oil, here is a copy of the wire transfer from the Putin-controlled Rosneft Oil Company.

NYT: Trump Defends McMaster Against Calls for His Firing http://nyti.ms/2uf2djf https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/893978159212883969/photo/1

DailyBeast: White House ‘Enemies List’ Drove McMaster-Bannon Feud http://thebea.st/2va5ld6
// Two of the White House’s most senior officials are locked in a power struggle over influencing President Trump on national security—and an internal ‘enemies list’ may be to blame.

An internal White House enemies list of alleged Obama loyalists to be fired early in the Trump administration is a key contributor to a long-running feud between the National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, two senior administration officials tell The Daily Beast.

Team Trump never acted on the list, the officials said, and now those employees have finished their tenure at the National Security Council and returned to their home agencies.

But fallout over the list—and questions about loyalty to Bannon versus McMaster—led the three-star general to fire two of his top aides, an act that’s landed McMaster in the firing line of Bannon’s alt-right media allies and Russian troll bots, both calling for his ouster.

It’s the kind of personality clash and conflicting lines of authority that ret. Marine Gen. John Kelly has been brought in to quiet as chief of staff. He gave McMaster the go-ahead to remove people whose loyalty he questioned, including NSC intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick and ret. Col. Derek Harvey, the NSC Mideast director. Both had meetings with Bannon throughout their tenure, described as hushed national-security related “chats,” by one senior White House official, without seeking McMaster’s permission beforehand.

Multiple administration sources confirmed to The Daily Beast that these “chats” between Bannon and Harvey and Cohen Watnick vexed Trump’s national security adviser, and contributed to McMaster’s desire to “finally make moves against” them, as one senior official recounted.

A third more junior director, Rich Higgins, disseminated his own paper to senior U.S. officials that argued globalists and leftists were trying to undermine Trump, without showing it to anyone within the NSC first. He was fired by McMaster’s deputy Rick Waddell for presenting his work as administration policy, one administration official said. But his firing added fuel to the alt-right ire against McMaster. Higgins did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

But that hasn’t satisfied supporters of the fired men from Bannon world.  Bannon was removed from his controversial post on the NSC shortly after the end of Flynn’s brief tenure and the start of the McMaster era. For months, the two have butted heads over foreign policy issues, particularly the preferred level of U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan—a heated disagreement that has sometimes escalated to raised voices and, as one White House adviser said, “palpably uncomfortable” meetings.

Furthermore, there is, according to multiple senior administration sources, no trust whatsoever between the two men. McMaster has long suspected Bannon of covertly engineering an aggressive leak campaign against him in an attempt to caricature him as anti-Israel and weak on terror—suspicions that persist to this day.

Bannon, for his part, is a huge fan of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser—a man who was far more sympathetic to the less restrained, right-wing nationalist elements of the Trump administration. President Trump himself has been known to express regret for the need for Flynn’s departure, and has privately expressed his hope that a resolution of the FBI’s investigation in Flynn’s favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity—a scenario Trump’s closest advisers in and outside of the West Wing have stressed to him is politically untenable, as The Daily Beast previously reported.

And now, some of Flynn’s acolytes appear to be striking back, through leaks to nationalist and America-First-leaning media outlets, leading to yet another guerilla war against McMaster and his allies in recent days influential arms of pro-Trump media. Breitbart, the right-wing news outlet formerly run by Bannon, blared headlines across its homepage on Thursday accusing McMaster of being “deeply hostile” to Trump’s agenda. Gateway Pundit, another prominent pro-Trump news site, derisively dubbed McMaster an arch “globalist.”

And Mike Cernovich, the Alex Jones acolyte and Trump-boosting social media personality, is promoting a website this week devoted to attacking McMaster and trying to publish leaked info about him. (A cartoon that led the website showed McMaster and Gen. David Petraeus dancing on the ends of puppet strings held by billionaire hedge fund manager and bogeyman to the American right George Soros.)

As with any firing, the Bannon chats weren’t the sole reason either Harvey nor Cohen-Watnick were removed.

With Harvey, his dealings with the Pentagon and State Department had become fractious, two officials said. One Trump official called his personality difficult, but another said the agencies were waging some of their battles against White House through Harvey, slow-rolling his information requests.

But the original sin in McMaster’s eyes was agreeing to look over the so-called enemies list early in the Trump administration, but not informing McMaster that such a list was even being contemplated, two of the senior administration officials explained.

Harvey had been called to the meeting with Bannon to discuss the list by then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, one of the officials said. It had been compiled by campaign staffers during the transition, in part by comparing White House staff lists with their social media profiles, noting any anti-Trump posts.

Harvey managed to convince the two men not to act on it, as the staffers in question were temporarily detailed to the NSC by their agencies and would all be gone by the summer.

McMaster found out about the meeting weeks later and berated Harvey for attending what he thought was a Bannon meeting, never giving Harvey a chance to explain the chief of staff had convened it—and that he had argued against firing staff. It was a first strike against him.

Another strike, one of the officials said, was that Harvey let White House adviser Sebastian Gorka sit in on Mideast-related meetings without checking with McMaster.

A third strike occurred the Friday before Harvey was fired, when he met with Bannon again. This time, it was because McMaster had asked staff to set up a chart laying out campaign promises kept and yet to achieve for the Middle East. Bannon’s office walls were covered with those campaign promises so it seemed a logical step, one of the officials said.

Less than a week later, Harvey was fired, but McMaster did hold a farewell party for him at the NSC, and told staff “sometimes brothers disagree,” the administration official said.

Trump administration officials were less kind describing the departure of Cohen-Watnick, blaming him for a slew of poisonous leaks about other staff throughout his tenure and since his departure. Cohen-Watnick was an even more frequent visitor to the West Wing to see both Bannon and Gorka.

Days after he was dismissed, a letter from McMaster to Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice was leaked, in which he informed her that he was extending her security clearance.

Yet the only letter that was leaked after Cohen-Watnick was fired was the one to Rice, which McMaster saw as an effort to tar him with a connection to the previous Democratic administration, the source explained.

The leak is part of a pattern of disclosures that McMaster supporters believe is designed to paint him as a leading obstacle to the Bannon World/American First vision for the White House, with some of the ugliest coverage being levied at him by Bannon’s former publishing concern Breitbart.

“H.R. is under a crazy assault from social media,” one of his supporters told The Daily Beast.

It also follows a pattern of leaks from within the NSC to right-wing blogger Cernovich, in which minor NSC staffers would be called out for anti-Trump infractions like being seen talking to a former Obama official, a source close to McMaster said. It became a source of bemusement and trepidation that if one crossed Cohen-Watnick in a staff meeting, a punishing leak to Cernovich would soon follow. Cohen-Watnick could not be released for comment.

He’s ruining any chance of working in the administration again, one of the officials said.

🔄💙💙 Hamilton 68: A Dashboard for Tracking Putin’s Propaganda Push on Twitter http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org
// formatted partial into under ⋙ Complete Articles: Hamilton 68

⭕ 4 Aug 2017

AP: Flynn details tie to data firm, transition pay http://bit.ly/2wcnjfr

Michael Flynn[,] is revealing a brief advisory role with a firm related to a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign, … Flynn entered into a consulting agreement with SCL Group, a Virginia-based company related to Cambridge Analytica, the data mining and analysis firm that worked with Trump’s campaign. … Flynn terminated his involvement shortly after Trump won the presidency.

Cambridge Analytica was heavily funded by the family of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager who also backed the campaign and other conservative candidates and causes. Cambridge Analytica also worked for the successful pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 to pull Britain out of the European Union. Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon was a vice president of Cambridge Analytica before he joined the Trump campaign.

In the filing, Flynn reports earning about $28,000 from the Trump presidential transition and more than $5,000 as a consultant to an aborted plan to build nuclear power plants across the Middle East. Flynn’s new filing also provided more details about his consulting work for NJK Holding Corporation, a firm headed by Iranian-American multi-millionaire Nasser Kazeminy. The filing shows that Flynn was paid more than $140,000 for his roles as adviser and consultant to Minneapolis-based NJK.

Flynn also served as vice chairman at GreenZone Systems, a tech firm funded by NJK and headed by Bijan Kian, who was Flynn’s business partner in Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm that was active last year but is now defunct. Flynn Intel is now under scrutiny by federal authorities and congressional investigators for its role in research and lobbying work for a Turkish businessman tied to the government of Turkey.

In a statement to the AP, NJK said Flynn “played an advisory role to NJK Holding relative to its investment interests in security.” The firm added that in his roles with NJK and GreenZone, Flynn “provided his counsel and guidance on public sector business opportunities for secure communications technology within the U.S. Department of Defense” and with other agencies.

WaPo, Ruth Marcus: Trump is a one-man assault on the rule of law http://wapo.st/2usBIC9

Inciting supporters to equate a criminal investigation (and potential prosecution) with a usurpation of their democratic choice is the most chilling yet. What Trump decries as a witch hunt is an authorized investigation being conducted pursuant to Justice Department rules, by an experienced prosecutor, selected for this job by another experienced prosecutor, who was nominated by Trump himself. That Trump and his allies are scheming to undermine Mueller’s legitimacy underscores that their sole goal is retaining power, the law be damned.

🔆 Important❗️⋙ DallasNews, Ruth May: Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns http://bit.ly/2vAMStx

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Blavatnik’s relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik’s money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world’s second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected. Blavatnik’s resignation from RUSAL’s board was published on the company’s website with a note in all caps: “NOT FOR RELEASE, PUBLICATION OR DISTRIBUTION IN OR INTO THE UNITED STATES.”

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin’s family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as “The Family.” According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin’s global agenda.

Len Blavatnik’s co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to  Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as “Russia’s Fertilizer King” and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump’s 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

[T]here have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska’s rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin’s “pet bank,” is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia’s international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner’s failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

WaPo, Christian Caryl: Why is Trump so reluctant to defend us from Russia’s lie machine? http://wapo.st/2usrAcj

If the Russians had done these things in the old-fashioned way, with real people lurking about, and if we’d caught dozens of their agents red-handed, riffling through sensitive papers or trying to steal ballots, we’d have probably treated it all as something close to an act of war. But because the operation was waged remotely, in the murky realms of the Internet, we continue to refer to it, halfheartedly, as a “hacking” …

Yet this was, in fact, an attack — a large-scale, multidimensional, coordinated attack on the foundations of our democratic system.

Today, in August 2017, we receive confirmation that the Trump administration has done exactly zero to bolster our defenses against hostile information operations. Last year, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) co-authored a law aimed at providing the State Department with the resources to start pushing back. Even though Trump signed the bill into law, his administration has done nothing to act on its provisions. This week a report in Politico revealed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made zero effort to use the $80 million provided for the purpose by Congress.

Even so, the failure to respond to Moscow is particularly striking, especially since Russia is the only state to launch such a blatant attack on the very heart of our democratic system.

This all comes as Tillerson is considering eliminating the State Department’s cyber-coordinator, a crucial position in shaping our efforts to fight back against the growing power of lies.

“It’s the biggest issue going on in our politics right now, and there’s nothing,” says Clint Watts, an information warfare expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. When I ask him what the Trump administration has been doing to fight back against foreign influence campaigns, he groans. “No action. No plans, no execution, no willingness to do it.”

And that’s not just in the State Department — it’s government-wide. This should be priority No. 1. Yet there is only silence from the White House. What explains this startling apathy in the face of a clear threat?

Watts, a former Army officer and former FBI agent, has an interesting theory on this score. It used to be, he says, that we had a pretty clear message we could deploy against hostile propagandists. We used to talk proudly of our democratic values, our rights, our freedoms. But now, Watt says, the Trump administration is keen to de-emphasize what we once stood for — as demonstrated by Tillerson’s recent push to remove anything evoking democracy from the State Department’s job description. “The sad part,” says Watts, “is that the Trump message is pretty similar to the Russian message: anti-NATO, anti-E.U., anti-immigration, nationalist but not globalist.” He pauses. “That’s where we’re having the problem. You can’t counter what you agree with.”

And especially if the people you’re supposed to be countering helped you to get where you are today.

🐣 RT @DavidFrum Why is Trump so protective of Putin? Remember this: WikiLeaks dropped the Podesta hack w/in ONE HOUR of release of Access Hollywood tape

Politico, Ali Watkins: Hunt for Trump dossier author inflames Russia probe http://politi.co/2wrCsc5
// An overseas trip to contact a former British spy exposes friction among House, Senate investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

MMFA: 22 ways Sean Hannity has tried to undermine the Russia probes http://mm4a.org/2v2yloU and counting …

⭕ 3 Aug 2017

TheNation: What Did Trump and Kushner Know About Russian Money Laundering, and When Did They Know It? http://bit.ly/2u9HsoX

AP: Flynn details tie to data firm, transition pay http://bit.ly/2wcnjfr

Crooks&Liars: UPDATED: Seb Gorka Voted Off The White House Island? http://bit.ly/2wqQ0nX

 DemocracyNow: A New McCarthyism: Greenwald on Clinton Camp’s Attempts to Link Trump, Stein & WikiLeaks to Russia http://bit.ly/2febXDD
// 7/31/2016, transcript

MMFA: Hannity: Special prosecutor “has put together a Democratic hit squad” to take down Trump http://mm4a.org/2wqQD0Q

💙💙 WaPo, Marc Thiessen: Putin’s interference in our election clearly backfired http://wapo.st/2u7G0DI

First, Russia’s meddling has not helped it achieve its policy objectives. Russia wanted sanctions lifted; instead, they have been strengthened. Russia hoped that Trump would splinter the NATO alliance with his threats not to defend members who were not meeting their financial commitments. Instead, allies are increasing their defense spending by $12 billion, the Trump administration continued the deployment of NATO forces to the Baltics and sent an additional 900 troops to Poland’s border with Russia, and the president has now reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Article V of the NATO charter. None of these outcomes please Moscow.

The Trump administration is considering plans to provide Ukraine with advanced anti-tank weapons, including Javelin missiles, and possibly anti-aircraft weapons — a move that is sure to anger Putin. In Warsaw, Trump delivered one of the most anti-Russian speeches any American president has given in a generation, and proposed a natural gas deal with Poland to decrease its energy dependence on Moscow. Administration officials have also accused Moscow of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty and arming the Taliban in Afghanistan. … Relations between the United States and Russia are so bad that Putin is now expelling hundreds of American diplomats, the largest such expulsion since the Communist revolution. We are in a new Cold War.

Even if Trump wanted to pursue détente with Russia, he cannot do so, because any concessions he makes to Putin will be seen through the prism of the Russia investigation. Every step taken that benefits Moscow will cost him politically at home, while tough stances will insulate him from accusations that he is Putin’s puppet.

Russia’s election meddling has achieved something no Russian leader has previously been able to do: It has turned Democrats into modern-day Cold Warriors.

It’s ironic. During the Cold War, when the Kremlin was throwing people into the gulag and threatening the United States with nuclear annihilation, many Democrats were all for accommodating Moscow. They opposed the Reagan defense buildup, the Strategic Defense Initiative and aid to anti-Soviet freedom fighters and chafed when Reagan declared the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire.” But the Kremlin finally crossed a line when it messed with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. None of this is what Putin was hoping for when he decided to interfere in the 2016 election.

Noted: ⋙ [T]he stories that cemented these perceptions in Americans’ minds had nothing to do with Russia or WikiLeaks — and most came out many months before the first WikiLeaks emails were published. It was the New York Times that broke the story that Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state. It was The Post that revealed the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments during the same period. It was ABC News that revealed that the Clinton State Department gave special treatment to “FOBs” (friends of Bill Clinton) after the Haiti earthquake. None of that had anything to do with Russia.

So while Russia’s interference did not change the outcome of the 2016 election, it certainly has changed U.S. policy since. Relations with Moscow are at an all-time low, and there has not been such bipartisan unity in opposing Russia in decades. That’s actually a pretty good outcome for the United States and her allies — but not exactly what Putin had in mind when he decided to meddle in American democracy.

⭕ 2 Aug 2017

WaPo/AP: Russia vents frustration over Trump signing sanctions bill http://wapo.st/2wdCntb

“Trump’s administration has demonstrated total impotence by surrendering its executive authority to Congress in the most humiliating way,” said Medvedev, who presided during a brief period of improved relations early in Obama’s presidency.

The Kremlin had been encouraged by Trump’s campaign promises to improve the Russia-U.S. ties that had grown increasingly strained under President Barack Obama. With the White House preoccupied by congressional and FBI investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, the hoped-for relationship reset has not materialized.

“Trump’s administration has demonstrated total impotence by surrendering its executive authority to Congress in the most humiliating way,” said Medvedev, who presided during a brief period of improved relations early in Obama’s presidency.

“The American establishment has won an overwhelming victory over Trump,” he added. The president wasn’t happy with the new sanctions, but he had to sign the bill. The topic of new sanctions was yet another way to put Trump in place.”

Medvedev emphasized that the stiff new sanctions amount to the declaration of an “all-out trade war against Russia,” but added that it will cope with the challenge and only get stronger.

“We will continue to work calmly to develop our economy and social sphere, deal with import substitution and solve important government tasks counting primarily on ourselves,” he said. “We have learned how to do it over the past few years.”

Without waiting for Trump to sign the bill, which was passed by Congress with overwhelming, veto-proof numbers, Russia fired back Friday. It ordered deep cuts in the number of personnel working at the U.S. embassy and consulates in Russia and the closure of a U.S. recreational retreat and warehouse facilities.

📒 CenterForAmericanProgress: Report: Russiagate: The Depth of Collusion http://bit.ly/2vqqiCY //➔ briefing book for Dem legislators
⋙ See under Complete Articles: CAP Russiagate

 TheAtlantic, Daniel Fried: Russia’s Back-to-the-80s Foreign Policy http://theatln.tc/2wb9Cxi
// Moscow has reprised Cold War tactics against the United States. It’s worth remembering that they didn’t work out well for the Soviet Union last time.

YahooNews: Reporter says bosses at Sputnik pushed him to cover Seth Rich conspiracy theory http://yhoo.it/2vkWIyY fired him when he refused

Politico: Senators blast Tillerson delay on spending funds to counter ISIS, Russia http://politi.co/2fasFUd
// Rob Portman and Chris Murphy: Lawmakers are angry he isn’t using money allocated by Congress, possibly to avoid offending Kremlin

But during the discussions, Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond also mentioned that Tillerson is trying to work through disagreements with Russia, and that the center’s work could undermine that effort, the former senior State official said.

NYT: White House Purging Michael Flynn Allies From National Security Council http://nyti.ms/2ulFoWj

💙 NYT, John Sipher and Steve Hall: Oh, Wait. Maybe It Was Collusion. http://nyti.ms/2uYa0AH

TheIntercept: White House Says Russia’s Hackers Are Too Good to Be Caught but NSA Partner Called Them “Morons” http://bit.ly/2ulDAMM

🐣 From: @MedvedevRussiaE The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way

💙💙 From @McFaul Hamilton 68: Tracking Putin’s Propaganda Push… To America:
SecuringDemocracy[.]org: A Dashboard for Tracking Russian Propaganda on Twitter http://bit.ly/2u0ljp6
↥ ↧
BusinessInsider: A new website named after a Founding Father is tracking Russian propaganda in real time http://read.bi/2uYcwXF

LATimes, Max Boot: Russia slaps the U.S., but Trump won’t slap back http://lat.ms/2uZevtf

NYT Editorial: Whose Message to Believe on Russia? http://nyti.ms/2wl9J8A

Politico: Tillerson spurns $80 million to counter ISIS, Russian propaganda http://politi.co/2u3Gn1V

⭕ 1 Aug 2017
HuffPo: Mueller Team Adds Lawyer With Experience In Foreign Bribery, White-Collar Crime https://tinyurl.com/y9o476zr
// Greg Andres is the 16th lawyer on the team.

WaPo (5/23): We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder https://tinyurl.com/ycuchbpk
// 5/23/2017

CNN: Lawsuit: Fox News concocted Seth Rich story with oversight from White House https://tinyurl.com/y76u8ety
// The White House worked with Fox News and a wealthy Republican donor to concoct a story about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, according to an explosive lawsuit filed Tuesday.

WaPo: Sean Spicer claimed to be unaware of Seth Rich story after meeting with donor who pushed it https://tinyurl.com/yd9k7jbg

WaPo: You don’t have to believe everything in that Seth Rich lawsuit. What’s been confirmed is bad enough. http://wapo.st/2wjlnkk

At its most outrageous, the conspiracy theory that grew out of that initial Fox story suggested that Hillary Clinton arranged to have Rich assassinated after he betrayed the DNC by sending internal information to WikiLeaks during the campaign. All of this was based on the idea that an internal mole betrayed the DNC and that Russian hackers had nothing to do with it.

Let’s be clear: There’s no basis for that craziness and never has been. Although the killing remains unsolved, D.C. police continue to view the shooting of 27-year-old Rich as part of a botched robbery attempt.

Fox retracted the story May 23, a week after it aired, but by then, it was far too late. It was out there in the media ecosystem, seized on by the likes of Alex Jones of Infowars and even former House speaker Newt Gingrich. As Gingrich said on Fox: “It wasn’t the Russians [who hacked the committee’s emails]. It was this young guy who was disgusted by the corruption of the DNC.”

The suit claims that Fox’s report was intended to “establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election.” (Fox called that accusation “completely erroneous.”)

And once it was published, it become endless fodder for the president’s staunchest defenders: Jones, Gingrich and, more than any other person, Fox’s Sean Hannity — who stopped hammering away at it only when Rich’s parents implored him to stop trashing their son’s name.

WaPo, Callum Borchers: How to tell when Trump is hiding something? The Trump Jr. saga offers 2 clues. http://wapo.st/2vlqqUo

PolitiFact (updated 6/14): The possible ties between Trump and Russia, explained http://bit.ly/2hlXIwW
// 2/22/2017, updated 6/14/2017

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Donald Trump’s tweets about Hillary Clinton and Russia http://bit.ly/2vqephi
// 3/28/2017

Reuters: Trump administration sends conflicting signals on Russia sanctions http://reut.rs/2uWtsw5

WaPo, David Rothkopf: How Trump’s White House is making global crises even worse http://wapo.st/2hl0m6e

WaPo, Philip Bump: President Trump is now directly implicated in trying to cover up the Russia scandal http://wapo.st/2vlj4zX

WaPo, Philip Bump: A timeline of the explosive lawsuit alleging a White House link in the Seth Rich conspiracy http://wapo.st/2tWX4Is

NYMag, Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Has Finally Erased the Line Between Conservatism and Conspiracy Theories http://nym.ag/2tXenJ4 https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/892487877006950401/photo/1

More disturbing is the apparent seamless integration of the White House with the fever swamp. This represents a historical milestone of sorts. Trump’s administration has fully erased the boundary between legitimate conservatism and the most disreputable paranoid discourse on the far right. The allegations, contained in a lawsuit, have not been proven. But the most important fact they allege, that Fox News commentator Ed Butowsky claimed Trump himself reviewed the story in the White House and was eager to see it published, is substantiated by a screenshot of a text from Butowsky. (Butowsky now claims this statement was a joke, which is also the defense the White House offers of Trump’s urging of police to rough up suspects, Trump ordering Comey to back off investigating Michael Flynn, Trump urging Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, as well as the explanation Kevin McCarthy has put forward for his recorded suspicion that Trump was paid by Russia. It is a true age of dry wit in the Republican Party.)

NYT, Yascha Mounk: The Past Week Proves That Trump Is Destroying Our Democracy http://nyti.ms/2wj5zOu

In their first years in office, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Viktor Orban in Hungary claimed that they wanted to fix, rather than cripple, democratic institutions. Even as it became clear that these strongmen sought to consolidate power, most of their opponents told themselves that they were saving their courage for the right moment. By the time the full extent of the danger had become incontrovertible, it was too late to mount an effective resistance.

But in other respects the United States is already well on the way to what I have, in my academic work, called “democratic deconsolidation.” Mr. Trump is increasingly emulating the playbook of popularly elected strongmen who have done deep, lasting damage to their countries’ democratic institutions.

Congress must send a clear message that these types of violations won’t be tolerated. If Mr. Trump fires Mr. Mueller, Congress can ask him to continue his investigation under the auspices of the legislative branch. And if Mr. Trump pardons himself, disregards court rulings or blatantly oversteps the boundaries of his legitimate authority in some other way, Congress should impeach him.

No flashing light will announce that the very survival of democracy is now at stake if Mr. Mueller is fired. And since nobody can say for sure that the Constitution will become toothless if congressional Republicans let yet another infraction pass, their instinct will be to defer their patriotic duty to some more opportune moment in the future. But that moment may never come. There may never be a time when we know for sure that this decision, today, will determine whether the American republic lives or dies.

The temptation to delay opposing Mr. Trump until the right moment comes along is understandable. It’s also very dangerous. Even if congressional Republicans abdicate their duty, the Constitution may turn out to be unusually resilient. But the only sure way to save the Republic is for them to start standing up to the president’s authoritarian behavior — not next week, or next month, but today.

Politico: Lawsuit says Fox knowingly faked Seth Rich story http://politi.co/2vqLUQl
// Former Fox contributor says reporter misquoted him to imply DNC staffer was murdered for leaking to WikiLeaks.

WaPo Factchecker: The facts behind Trump’s repeated claim about Hillary Clinton’s role in the Russian uranium deal http://wapo.st/2uhqLDj
// 10/26/2016

PolitiFact Pre-Factchecked @SHSanders45 on investigating Clintons’ ties to Russia http://bit.ly/2vqephi
PolitiFact on “Clinton/Russia” ties http://bit.ly/2vqephi

Bloomberg: Trump Worked With Fox News on DNC Staffer Story, Suit Claims http://bloom.bg/2tWIO22

NPR: Behind Fox News’ Baseless Seth Rich Story: The Untold Tale http://n.pr/2u0Yvtf

Reply to @GabrielSherman I had this conspiracy theory that the Russians might have killed Seth Rich to create a counter-narrative. But – the Russians would never…(!)

WaPo, Paul Waldman: President Trump is now directly implicated in trying to cover up the Russia scandal http://wapo.st/2vko1cC

TheHill: Lawsuit claims Trump involvement in retracted Fox story on Seth Rich http://bit.ly/2hkYmuE //➔ great way to deflect from Russia

A lawsuit filed in federal court claims a Fox News report about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was reviewed prior to publication by President Trump and manipulated at the request of the White House.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York by a private investigator and Fox contributor who says his quotes in the story, which was later retracted, were fabricated by Fox.

“Fox News was working with the Trump administration to disseminate fake news in order to distract the public from Russia’s alleged attempts to influence our Country’s presidential election,” states the lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler, a former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who investigated Rich’s murder.

The complaint was filed by Douglas Wigdor on behalf of Wheeler. Wigdor serves as legal counsel for several cases alleging discrimination or harassment by Fox News executives.
Fox’s president of news, Jay Wallace, told NPR, which first reported the lawsuit, that there was no “concrete evidence” that Wheeler was misquoted. NPR said that Wallace did not address a question about the story’s allegedly partisan origins, and it said Fox News declined to allow Zimmerman to comment.

Fox News and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Wheeler, who frequently appeared as a guest on Fox News to discuss the case, said he never said quotes attributed to him that his investigation “shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks” and that “someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the investigation from going forward.”

The lawsuit states that Wheeler was the only quoted, named source in the story and that he did not make the statements.

It alleges that the statements were falsely attributed to Wheeler “because this is the way the president wanted the article.”

Wheeler has previously backtracked on claims he has made about the Rich investigation.

In a May interview with Fox 5 in Washington, he was asked by a reporter if he had sources in the FBI saying there was information to link Rich, who was shot and killed in the early hours of July 10 in Northwest D.C., to WikiLeaks.

“Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler then told other media outlets that he did not get this information from the FBI, according to Fox 5. He then told Fox 5 it had been a “miscommunication.”

Several conspiracy stories circulated after Rich’s death that sought to draw a link between the 27-year-old staffer’s work at the DNC and the email controversy that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, including that Rich intended to deliver damaging emails about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to Wikileaks.

No evidence has ever surfaced to back up that theory or to suggest Rich had any inside knowledge of the hacking of the DNC. The intelligence community later concluded that Russia had hacked the DNC in order to influence the outcome of the election.

Rich’s family was reportedly unhappy with Wheeler’s statements to the media that suggested a connection between Rich and WikiLeaks.

“The family has relayed their deep disappointment with Rod Wheeler’s conduct over the last 48 hours, and is exploring legal avenues to the family,” a spokesperson for Seth Rich’s family told Fox 5.

Wheeler’s lawsuit names Fox on-air guest Ed Butowsky and reporter Malia Zimmerman, saying they “fabricated two quotations and attributed them to Mr. Wheeler.”

Butowsky, a wealth manager and Trump supporter, periodically appears on the network as a guest to provide financial analysis. Zimmerman is a Fox News investigative reporter.

The lawsuit cites a text message from Butowsky to Wheeler that states the president “wants the article out immediately.”

“Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure,” the text of the message in the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit argues that Trump wanted the story because it established that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails, which would shift the blame from Russia.

“[Wheeler] was subsequently forced to correct the false record, and, as a result, lost all credibility in the eyes of the public,” the lawsuit states.

Wheeler, a Fox News contributor, seeks damages for mental anguish and emotional distress and lost earnings at his private investigation firm.

NPR: Lawsuit Alleges Fox News And Trump Supporter Created Fake News Story http://n.pr/2voyHaN on death of DNC staffer

⭕ 31 Jul 2017

 Newsweek: Did an Author From the 1800s Predict the Trumps, Russia and America’s Downfall? http://bit.ly/2uRlHsA //➔ creepy
// main character Baron Trump

IR[.]net: Colbert Actually Found Possible Evidence that Trump ‘Pee Tape’ May Exist http://bit.ly/2uUvxIL

NYT: Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression http://nyti.ms/2tZMYdM

🐣 A “quiet coup,” as it were. If so, Donny will be kept quietly in the attic Tweeting in an AI-created bubble. … lol

🐣 I wonder if the generals got together and decided something needed to be done to save the US til the next election. Hubby: “Hope so!”

⭕ 30 Jul 2017

NYT: Putin’s Bet on a Trump Presidency Backfires Spectacularly http://nyti.ms/2v9A8t8

NYT: Russia Showcases Global Ambitions With Military Parades, One in Syria http://nyti.ms/2vX1rEO

NYT: Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders U.S. to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755 http://nyti.ms/2v93bgo

⭕ 29 Jul 2017

TheGuardian Editorial: Donald Trump’s unfitness for office http://bit.ly/2uNLy3f https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/891658446042529792/photo/1

The sense of things falling apart in Washington is palpable – and a matter of growing, serious international concern. Donald Trump’s latest asinine act of gesture politics, the forced resignation of his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, has shone a spotlight on the extraordinary chaos inside the White House. Even normally sober, experienced Washington observers now refer to the West Wing as a viper’s nest of seething rivalry, bitter feuds, gross incompetence and an unparalleled leadership vacuum.

Like some kind of Shakespearean villain-clown, Trump plays not to the gallery but to the pit. He is a Falstaff without the humour or the self-awareness, a cowardly, bullying Richard III without a clue. Late-night US satirists find in this an unending source of high comedy. If they did not laugh, they would cry. The world is witnessing the dramatic unfolding of a tragedy whose main victims are a seemingly helpless American audience, America’s system of balanced governance and its global reputation as a leading democratic light.

As his partisan, demeaning and self-admiring speech to the Boy Scouts of America illustrated, Trump endlessly reruns last year’s presidential election campaign, rails against the “fake news” media and appeals to the lowest common denominator in public debate. Not a word about duty, service, shared purpose or high ideals was to be found in his gutter-level discourse before a youthful gathering of 30,000 in West Virginia. Instead, he served up a sad cocktail of paranoia and narcissism. It was all about him and what he has supposedly achieved against the odds.

Trump, a supposedly ace chief executive, has now lost a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, a national security adviser, a communications director and a press secretary in short order. To lose one or even two of his most senior people might be excused as unfortunate. To lose all five suggests the fault is his.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, heads the realist, pragmatic group of leaders who are learning to deal with a post-Obama world where the word of the American president cannot be trusted. In this new world, longstanding US commitments and treaties may not be honoured and future collaboration on key policies, such as climate change, Russia and Chinese military expansionism, is held hostage to presidential whim and the blinkered perspectives of the Ohio bar-room.

Recent months have produced a litany of Trump threats and boasts over North Korea. There was no way, he said, that Pyongyang would deploy an ICBM capable of hitting the mainland US. “It’s not going to happen,” he tweeted. Wrong again, Donald. It did. By conducting its own satellite launch last week, ignoring western concerns, Iran has similarly thumbed its nose at Washington. Iran’s leaders should understand there would be “very serious” consequences if they pursued their ballistic missile programme, Trump had warned. Additional hints from Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, and Jim Mattis, Pentagon chief, about regime change in Iran further darkened the strategic horizon. But guess what? Tehran took no notice at all. It went ahead anyway.

Or take Russia. Having played Trump to its advantage, Moscow’s open hand is turning into a clenched fist as it threatens reprisals over a new Congressional sanctions package. It was not hard to see this tactical switch coming, once it was clear Trump could not deliver the sort of concessions on Ukraine Putin craves. Except, in his fecklessness and blind vanity and courting Putin to the end, Trump didn’t see it coming at all. You can almost see Putin’s lip curl.

‼️ Strange: MT @StateDept Vote in Congress for sanctions legislation represents will of Americans to see #Russia improve relations w/ the U.S. https://go.usa.gov/xRUDN

Reuters, Arshad Mohammed: For Trump, the honeymoon with Putin may be finally over http://reut.rs/2v9XVIZ

🐣 WT? @StateDept Vote in Congress for sanctions legislation represents will of Americans to see #Russia improve relations w/ the U.S. https://go.usa.gov/xRUDN 

TheGuardian: China and Russia have ‘responsibility’ for North Korea nuclear threat, says US http://bit.ly/2w8DrO8
// As Kim Jong-un hails latest test-launch, Rex Tillerson says two powers are ‘enablers’ of Pyongyang’s program

The United States has accused China and Russia of bearing “unique and special responsibility” for North Korea’s “belligerent” pursuit of nuclear weapons, after Pyongyang tested its latest ballistic missile.

“As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” [Tillerson] said in a statement.

On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry made no reference to Tillerson’s comments but called on Pyongyang “to respect United Nations security council resolutions and stop all acts that could worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula”.

Last week the US’s top military officer told a security forum in Aspen, Colorado that conflict with North Korea was not “unimaginable”.

“Attacking a nuclear-armed state is usually a bad idea – which is why countries build nuclear weapons. That is kind of the appeal.”

NPR: Businessman Paints Terrifying And Complex Picture Of Putin’s Russia http://n.pr/2eYpCi0

 NYT, Daniel Hoffman: The Russians Were Involved. But It Wasn’t About Collusion. http://nyti.ms/2uLrjmx
// ⋙ see Comment under Correspondence

Vox, Dara Lind: Trump wants Robert Mueller gone. He needs to get rid of Jeff Sessions first. http://bit.ly/2vfBMK4

WashingtonExaminer: Sebastian Gorka: Trump’s military transgender ban shows his ‘warmth’ http://washex.am/2vRqQ2v

Bloomberg (7/11): Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence http://bloom.bg/2haaRJB
// 7/11/2017

🐣 RT @RichardEngel 455: thats the # of Americans allowed to serve in Russia. Our story on the tit for tat between Washington and Moscow

NYT, Sally Yates: Protect the Justice Department From President Trump http://nyti.ms/2v4IAd0

NYT, Roger Cohen: The Desperation of Our Diplomats http://nyti.ms/2h9JKyv

Buzzfeed: “Everyone thinks he was whacked” http://bzfd.it/2u58Gbx
// Russia, Putin, trail of murders, trail of bodies

The US government ruled Mikhail Lesin’s death an accident, but multiple intelligence and law enforcement officials suspect it was a Russian hit. The government is withholding information so today BuzzFeed News has filed a lawsuit to pry the records loose.

Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was murdered in Washington, DC on the eve of a planned meeting with the U.S. Justice Department, according to two FBI agents whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death.

“What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”

In another previously unreported revelation, the two FBI agents said it was the Department of Justice that paid for the hotel room where Lesin died. DOJ officials had invited the Russian to Washington to interview him about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that Lesin founded, they said.

But Lesin never made it to the interview. He died the night before it was scheduled to take place.

Last month, ⋙ a two-year investigation ⋘ by BuzzFeed News revealed explosive evidence pointing to Russia in 14 suspicious deaths on British soil that the UK government had largely ignored. Four high-ranking US intelligence officials confirmed that those deaths had been linked to Russian security services or mafia gangs, two groups that sometimes work in tandem, by “intelligence gathered in the field and analysed” by US spies and handed to Britain’s security services. But the UK police publicly declared that none of the 14 incidents involved foul play. As a result, the public has been kept in the dark about what national security officials have long suspected: Russian assassins may have murdered in the UK with impunity.

At that point, his activities became more murky. Intelligence and law enforcement sources said Lesin had a falling out with Putin’s close confidants and then went into hiding abroad. But five sources told BuzzFeed News he was forced out of Gazprom after US Senator Roger Wicker got wind of Lesin’s US spending spree and wrote to the Department of Justice demanding it investigate. The Justice department, in turn, referred the matter to the FBI.

Lesin “was feeling good until that letter came out,” said the US intelligence officer. But “Putin decided to cut him loose as a potential liability. Once Putin ditched him, once he lost his protection, Lesin’s partners and competitors started going after him.”

One of the FBI agents said that he learned Lesin was put up by the Justice Department at the Dupont Circle Hotel — a mid-range hotel out of keeping with Lesin’s extravagant lifestyle — during an informal “water cooler talk” with a “case agent” working on the investigation. Lesin, he was told, “was going to talk about the inner workings of RT — basically, how the propaganda machine works. DOJ was investigating RT. These are the types of meetings we have with people when we want to recruit them as informants.”

Does he believe Lesin was murdered over RT? “Whether it was over RT, money, pissing off Putin or a combo or all of it, I don’t know,” he answered. “But falling down drunk? Come on. That’s bullshit.”

The second FBI agent said he learned that the Justice Department had put Lesin up at the hotel from a DOJ official on the case. The DOJ “was investigating something with RT,” he recalled being told, and investigators planned to ask Lesin “how the station operated — how it was run and how the Kremlin used it.”

BuzzFeed News filed suit today to compel the swift release of investigative records and other documents about Lesin because American intelligence agencies have said that Russia interfered in the US presidential election, ties to Russia are at the heart of the investigations underway involving President Donald Trump’s campaign, and we have revealed that US intelligence officials suspect Russian involvement in 14 deaths on the territory of one of America’s closest allies, Great Britain.

DailySignal: This Key Reform Must Be Central to Any New [Corporate] Tax Plan “full expensing” http://bit.ly/2w6ZaGk

Slate: Putin has run out of patience with Trump http://slate.me/2w6XFaW

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to take any retaliatory measures, saying he would pursue better ties with the incoming Trump administration. Trump, naturally, immediately praised that decision, tweeting on Dec. 29, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” (We now know that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak had discussed the sanctions the day they were announced.)

Six months into the Trump administration, not only has there been no movement toward lifting those sanctions—despite many indications that administration officials would like to—but Congress just made doing so a lot harder. Congress has overwhelmingly passed a bill—419-3 in the House, 98-2 in the Senate—that codifies as law Obama’s executive orders sanctioning Russia and constrains Trump’s ability to lift sanctions without congressional approval. Evidently, about the only thing that has wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill right now is the notion that Trump can’t be trusted to cut deals with the Russians. The White House has indicated it will support the bill, though as always, it’s hard to predict what Trump will actually do when it lands on his desk.

Whatever role the Russian government played in helping Trump’s campaign, this certainly wasn’t what it had in mind.

ForeignPolicy: Browder Says “No Doubt” Lawyer Who Met With Trump Jr. a Russian Agent http://atfp.co/2vPOs7F
// Senate weighs closing loopholes in the Foreign Agent Registration Act; Magnitsky, Fusion GPS

 WSJ, Kimberly Strassel: Who Paid for the ‘Trump Dossier’? http://on.wsj.com/2vQ0ZYU
// Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.; Browder, Simpson, Fusion GPS, Steele dossier; conspiracy

Here’s a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign? What if that money flowed from a political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources? Moreover, what if those Kremlin-tied sources already knew about this dirt-digging, tipped off by Mr. Akhmetshin? What if they specifically made up claims to dupe Mr. Steele, to trick him into writing this dossier?

🐣 Unfortunately both “skinny” and the GOP counter-narrative blocked out good new info from Bill Browder on #TrumpRussia before SenateJudiciary

⭕ 28 Jul 2017

WaPo, Anne Applebaum: Maybe the A.I. dystopia is already here http://wapo.st/2ug4L0p

NYT, David Sanger: Putin’s Bet on a Trump Presidency Backfires Spectacularly http://nyti.ms/2v9A8t8 “Trump’s hands are now tied”

If the sanctions overwhelmingly passed by Congress last week sent any message to Moscow, it was that Mr. Trump’s hands are now tied in dealing with Moscow, probably for years to come.

Just weeks after the two leaders spent hours in seemingly friendly conversation in Hamburg, Germany, the prospect of the kinds of deals Mr. Trump once mused about in interviews seem more distant than ever. Congress is not ready to forgive the annexation of Crimea, nor allow extensive reinvestment in Russian energy. The new sanctions were passed by a coalition of Democrats who blame Mr. Putin for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s defeat and Republicans fearful that their president misunderstands who he is dealing with in Moscow.

Mr. Putin, known as a great tactician but not a great strategist, has changed course again. For now, American officials and outside experts said on Sunday, he seems to believe his greater leverage lies in escalating the dispute, Cold War-style, rather than subtly trying to manipulate events with a mix of subterfuge, cyberattacks and information warfare.

But it is unclear how much the announcement will affect day-to-day relations. While the Russian news media said 755 diplomats would be barred from working, and presumably expelled, there do not appear to be anything close to 755 American diplomats working in Russia.

“One of Putin’s greatest goals is to assure Russia is treated as if it was still the Soviet Union, a nuclear power that has to be respected and feared,” said Angela Stent, the director of Eurasian, Russian and East European studies at Georgetown University. “And he thought he might get that from Trump,” said Ms. Stent, who was the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia during the administration of George W. Bush.

Those in the administration who served during the Cold War are also returning to that terminology. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told a security conference in Aspen, Colo., this month that he had no doubt that the Russians “are trying to undermine Western democracy.” His boss has never uttered a similar phrase.

Mr. Putin’s interview on Russian television, in which he announced the reduction in staff, was free of bombast, the official noted. Russia seems uncertain about the direction of the relationship, leaving open the possibility of a reversal.

“The Russians would have preferred not to head down this path, but Putin didn’t feel he had a choice but to respond in the classic tit-for-tat manner,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, who has served in a number of senior intelligence roles for the United States, including in Russia. “We’ve been in a new Cold War for some time now. Any hope for a short-term improvement in relations is gone.”

But the fundamental issue will not go away by then. Mr. Putin has now concluded that his central objective — getting relief from the American and European sanctions that followed the annexation of Crimea in 2014 — is years away. Once new sanctions are enshrined in law, like the ones Congress passed and Mr. Trump has reluctantly agreed to sign to avoid an override of his veto, they generally stay on the books for years.

Moreover, Washington is awash in warnings that the attacks on the election system last year are just a beginning. “They are just about their own advantage,” James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, told the Senate Intelligence Committee just before he was fired by Mr. Trump. “And they will be back.”

James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence and a veteran of the Cold War, echoed that thought recently and mixed in more than a few issues that sounded straight out of the 1980s nuclear competition. “What we don’t mention very often is the very aggressive modernization program they’re embarked on with their strategic nuclear capability,” he said.

And that, in the end, is the real risk. With the exception of Syria — where the militaries of both nations have had sporadic, if mutually suspicious, contact — there is virtually no military-to-military conversation of the kind that took place routinely during the Cold War. And with Russian and American forces both operating near the Baltics, and off the coast of Europe, the chances for accident and miscalculation are high.

This latest plunge in relations comes at the 70th anniversary of “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” an article George Kennan, the architect of Cold War strategy, published in Foreign Affairs in July 1947 under the pseudonym “X.”

It defined the strategy that dominated Washington for the next four decades, captured in Mr. Kennan’s line that the “United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

That was not the approach Mr. Trump had in mind a year ago. It may now be the approach forced upon him.

✛💙💙 CNN, Frida Ghitis: Congress’ message to Donald Trump on Russia is tough http://cnn.it/2hbuGjV //➔ a bigger win than healthcare?

NPR: Businessman Paints Terrifying And Complex Picture Of Putin’s Russia http://n.pr/2eYpCi0

William Browder knows Vladimir Putin’s Russia all too well.

Browder made a fortune in Russia, in the process uncovering, he says, incredible amounts of fraud and corruption. When he tried to report it to authorities, the government kicked him out of the country and, he alleges, tortured and killed the lawyer he was working with.

In what one senator called one of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “most important” hearings, Browder, a wealthy businessman-turned-activist-turned Putin-adversary shed a chilling new light on a Russian system of government that operates ruthlessly in the shadows — as Browder described it for lawmakers: a “kleptocracy” sustained by corruption, blackmail, torture and murder with Putin at its center.

Browder founded and ran one of the largest investment firms in Russia, Hermitage Capital Management, from 1996-2005. When he and his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky discovered a massive corruption scheme, they went to the authorities.

“And we waited for the good guys to get the bad guys,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It turned out that in Putin’s Russia, there are no good guys.”

After making their complaint, Browder was accused of tax evasion; he alleges the $230 million he thought his business was paying in taxes to the Russian Treasury was misappropriated and funneled to those in power, at once making him a criminal and making Putin’s circle richer.

He was denied access back into the country after an international trip, but Magnitsky wasn’t so lucky. Browder told the senators the Russian lawyer was detained by the authorities, denied medical treatment for pancreatitis while he was jailed, and then allegedly beaten to death in 2009 while chained to a prison cell bed.

⋙ After advocacy by Browder, in 2012, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act.

Putin has spent the last half decade fighting through various methods to undermine and ultimately repeal the eponymous law.

The first is purely financial. Browder believes Putin is the richest man in the world, with an assortment of assets worth what Browder estimates to be $200 billion at his disposal, but those assets are “held all over the world” including in America. When the accounts of Putin’s intermediaries are frozen because of the law, that is in effect, freezing some of Putin’s cash flow as well.

The second is that the banking sanctions imposed by the law devalue Putin’s promises, and so decrease his power. Putin gets his intermediaries to “arrest, kidnap, torture and kill” by promising absolute impunity, Browder said. But the law’s sanctions create a tangible consequence. Not only do the sanctions affect violators vis-a-vis their U.S. dealings, but, internationally, other banks abide by a sanctions list put out by the Treasury Department that includes those found to have violated the Magnitsky Act, Browder explained to lawmakers. “As a result, you basically become a financial pariah,” he said.

“This is a war of ideology between rule of law and criminality,” Browder also told the senators. “And if we allow all the corrupt money to come here, then it’s going to corrupt us until we end up like them.”

Natalia Veselnitskaya has become what Browder called “the point person” for Russia’s fight to repeal the law. The Russian attorney has been lobbying against the Magnitsky Act for years, and fighting to discredit Browder.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee’s ranking member, asked Browder if the meeting [w Trump Jr] could have been the Russian government’s way of offering a “quid pro quo” in exchange for repealing the Magnitsky Act.

“This was a big ask,” Browder said in response — in reference to repealing the U.S. law that essentially imposes global banking sanctions of Russian human rights abusers who are found to have violated it. “They wouldn’t have gone in and said ‘please can you repeal this for us,’ without having something to offer in return.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s almost entire line of questioning on Thursday focused on the seeming contradiction in the fact that Russia allegedly has ties to a company behind the controversial and unverified dossier on Trump while Russia was also rooting for Trump to win on Election Day, according to to the emails exchanges with Trump Jr. prior to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

“What you need to understand about the Russians is there is no ideology at all,” Browder said. “Vladimir Putin is in the business of trying to create chaos everywhere.”

On Thursday, the White House used the hearing as further proof President Trump wasn’t colluding with the Russians to get himself elected.

“We learned that the firm that produced (the dossier) was also being paid by the Russians,*” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “This is yet the latest piece of evidence that vindicates what the President has said, that this is a witch hunt and a hoax.”
[*not sure this was said]

Browder explained to lawmakers, however, that it’s not really a contradiction or a disconnect at all for Russia to be gathering potentially compromising information on Trump while also reaching out to his campaign to provide assistance and incriminating information about Clinton. That’s because Putin’s activities always seem to be designed to find leverage over his targets. In some cases, Russia will engage in an illegal activity to help a target and then hold the threat of exposure of that activity over the target’s head.

“They’ve got you both ways: with the carrot of continued bribery, and the stick of exposure and blackmail if you defect?” asked Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn

“That is how every single one of their relationships work,” Browder confirmed. “That’s how they grab people and keep them.

 NYT, Daniel Hoffman: The Russians Were Involved. But It Wasn’t About Collusion. http://nyti.ms/2uLrjmx

WashingtonExaminer: Sebastian Gorka: Trump’s military transgender ban shows his ‘warmth’ http://washex.am/2vRqQ2v

Bloomberg (7/11): Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence http://bloom.bg/2haaRJB
// 7/11/2017

Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab boasts 400 million users worldwide. As many as 200 million may not know it. The huge reach of Kaspersky’s technology is partly the result of licensing agreements that allow customers to quietly embed the software in everything from firewalls to sensitive telecommunications equipment—none of which carry the Kaspersky name.

That success is starting to worry U.S. national security officials concerned about the company’s links to the Russian government. In early May six U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agency chiefs were asked in an open Senate hearing whether they’d let their networks use Kaspersky software, often found on Best Buy shelves. The answer was a unanimous and resounding no. The question, from Florida Republican Marco Rubio, came out of nowhere, often a sign a senator is trying to indirectly draw attention to something learned in classified briefings.

While the U.S. government hasn’t disclosed any evidence of the ties, internal company emails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia’s main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency’s behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public.

Adding to the U.S. government’s jitters, Kaspersky recently has developed products designed to help run critical infrastructure such as power grids.

The previously unreported emails, from October 2009, are from a thread between Eugene Kaspersky and senior staff. In Russian, Kaspersky outlines a project undertaken in secret a year earlier “per a big request on the Lubyanka side,” a reference to the FSB offices. Kaspersky Lab confirmed the emails are authentic.

Kaspersky Lab would also cooperate with internet hosting companies to locate bad actors and block their attacks, while assisting with “active countermeasures,” a capability so sensitive that Kaspersky advised his staff to keep it secret.

“The project includes both technology to protect against attacks (filters) as well as interaction with the hosters (‘spreading’ of sacrifice) and active countermeasures (about which, we keep quiet) and so on,” Kaspersky wrote in one of the emails.

“Active countermeasures” is a term of art among security professionals, often referring to hacking the hackers, or shutting down their computers with malware or other tricks. In this case, Kaspersky may have been referring to something even more rare in the security world. A person familiar with the company’s anti-DDoS system says it’s made up of two parts. The first consists of traditional defensive techniques, including rerouting malicious traffic to servers that can harmlessly absorb it. The second part is more unusual: Kaspersky provides the FSB with real-time intelligence on the hackers’ location and sends experts to accompany the FSB and Russian police when they conduct raids. That’s what Kaspersky was referring to in the emails, says the person familiar with the system. They weren’t just hacking the hackers; they were banging down the doors.

The project lead was Kaspersky Lab’s chief legal officer, Igor Chekunov, a former policeman and KGB officer. Chekunov is the point man for technical support to the FSB and other Russian agencies, say three people familiar with his role, and that includes gathering identifying data from customers’ computers. One Kaspersky Lab employee who used to ride along with Russian agents on raids was Ruslan Stoyanov, whose technology underpinned the company’s anti-DDoS efforts, says the person familiar with the program. Stoyanov previously worked in the Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit. In December he and a senior FSB cyber investigator were arrested on treason charges, adding a bizarre twist to the company’s relationship to the government. Kaspersky Lab has said the case involved allegations of wrongdoing before Stoyanov worked for the company. Stoyanov couldn’t be reached for comment.

[A] bill was introduced in Congress that would ban the U.S. military from using any Kaspersky products, with one senator calling ties between the company and the Kremlin “very alarming.” Russia’s communications minister promptly threatened sanctions if the measure passed.

Last year, Eugene Kaspersky announced the launch of the company’s secure operating system, KasperskyOS, designed to run systems that control electrical grids, factories, pipelines, and other critical infrastructure. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly circulated a warning that the product could let Russian government hackers disable those systems, a claim Kaspersky denied.

🐣 RT @RichardEngel 455: thats the # of Americans allowed to serve in Russia. Our story on the tit for tat between Washington and Moscow

Buzzfeed: “Everyone thinks he was whacked” http://bzfd.it/2u58Gbx
// Russia, Putin, trail of murders, trail of bodies

The US government ruled Mikhail Lesin’s death an accident, but multiple intelligence and law enforcement officials suspect it was a Russian hit. The government is withholding information so today BuzzFeed News has filed a lawsuit to pry the records loose.

Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was murdered in Washington, DC on the eve of a planned meeting with the U.S. Justice Department, according to two FBI agents whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death.

“What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”

In another previously unreported revelation, the two FBI agents said it was the Department of Justice that paid for the hotel room where Lesin died. DOJ officials had invited the Russian to Washington to interview him about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that Lesin founded, they said.

But Lesin never made it to the interview. He died the night before it was scheduled to take place.

Last month, ⋙ a two-year investigation ⋘ by BuzzFeed News revealed explosive evidence pointing to Russia in 14 suspicious deaths on British soil that the UK government had largely ignored. Four high-ranking US intelligence officials confirmed that those deaths had been linked to Russian security services or mafia gangs, two groups that sometimes work in tandem, by “intelligence gathered in the field and analysed” by US spies and handed to Britain’s security services. But the UK police publicly declared that none of the 14 incidents involved foul play. As a result, the public has been kept in the dark about what national security officials have long suspected: Russian assassins may have murdered in the UK with impunity.

At that point, his activities became more murky. Intelligence and law enforcement sources said Lesin had a falling out with Putin’s close confidants and then went into hiding abroad. But five sources told BuzzFeed News he was forced out of Gazprom after US Senator Roger Wicker got wind of Lesin’s US spending spree and wrote to the Department of Justice demanding it investigate. The Justice department, in turn, referred the matter to the FBI.

Lesin “was feeling good until that letter came out,” said the US intelligence officer. But “Putin decided to cut him loose as a potential liability. Once Putin ditched him, once he lost his protection, Lesin’s partners and competitors started going after him.”

One of the FBI agents said that he learned Lesin was put up by the Justice Department at the Dupont Circle Hotel — a mid-range hotel out of keeping with Lesin’s extravagant lifestyle — during an informal “water cooler talk” with a “case agent” working on the investigation. Lesin, he was told, “was going to talk about the inner workings of RT — basically, how the propaganda machine works. DOJ was investigating RT. These are the types of meetings we have with people when we want to recruit them as informants.”

Does he believe Lesin was murdered over RT? “Whether it was over RT, money, pissing off Putin or a combo or all of it, I don’t know,” he answered. “But falling down drunk? Come on. That’s bullshit.”

The second FBI agent said he learned that the Justice Department had put Lesin up at the hotel from a DOJ official on the case. The DOJ “was investigating something with RT,” he recalled being told, and investigators planned to ask Lesin “how the station operated — how it was run and how the Kremlin used it.”

BuzzFeed News filed suit today to compel the swift release of investigative records and other documents about Lesin because American intelligence agencies have said that Russia interfered in the US presidential election, ties to Russia are at the heart of the investigations underway involving President Donald Trump’s campaign, and we have revealed that US intelligence officials suspect Russian involvement in 14 deaths on the territory of one of America’s closest allies, Great Britain.

Slate: Putin has run out of patience with Trump http://slate.me/2w6XFaW

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to take any retaliatory measures, saying he would pursue better ties with the incoming Trump administration. Trump, naturally, immediately praised that decision, tweeting on Dec. 29, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” (We now know that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak had discussed the sanctions the day they were announced.)

Six months into the Trump administration, not only has there been no movement toward lifting those sanctions—despite many indications that administration officials would like to—but Congress just made doing so a lot harder. Congress has overwhelmingly passed a bill—419-3 in the House, 98-2 in the Senate—that codifies as law Obama’s executive orders sanctioning Russia and constrains Trump’s ability to lift sanctions without congressional approval. Evidently, about the only thing that has wide bipartisan support on Capitol Hill right now is the notion that Trump can’t be trusted to cut deals with the Russians. The White House has indicated it will support the bill, though as always, it’s hard to predict what Trump will actually do when it lands on his desk.

Whatever role the Russian government played in helping Trump’s campaign, this certainly wasn’t what it had in mind.

ForeignPolicy: Browder Says “No Doubt” Lawyer Who Met With Trump Jr. a Russian Agent http://atfp.co/2vPOs7F
// Senate weighs closing loopholes in the Foreign Agent Registration Act; Magnitsky, Fusion GPS

 WSJ, Kimberly Strassel: Who Paid for the ‘Trump Dossier’? http://on.wsj.com/2vQ0ZYU
// Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.; Browder, Simpson, Fusion GPS, Steele dossier; conspiracy

Here’s a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign? What if that money flowed from a political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources? Moreover, what if those Kremlin-tied sources already knew about this dirt-digging, tipped off by Mr. Akhmetshin? What if they specifically made up claims to dupe Mr. Steele, to trick him into writing this dossier?

⭕ 27 Jul 2017

💙💙 WIRED: The Trump-Russia Scandal’s Many Swirling Unknowns http://bit.ly/2uHwQfL

 FoxNews: Firm behind anti-Trump dossier also worked for Russia, Senate witness says http://fxn.ws/2v90kDO
// cited by Trump in Tweet as proof of “witch hunt”

WaPo, David Ignatius: It’s time to start thinking about the unthinkable http://wapo.st/2v3WLPA

NYT Editorial: Congress Defies Trump on Russia http://nyti.ms/2tP3bm4

The Court of Mad King Donald is not a presidency. It is an affliction, one that saps the life out of our democratic institutions, and it must be fiercely resisted if the nation as we know it is to survive.

I wish that were hyperbole. The problem is not just that President Trump is selfish, insecure, egotistical, ignorant and unserious. It is that he neither fully grasps nor minimally respects the concept of honor, without which our governing system falls apart. He believes “honorable” means “obsequious in the service of Trump.” He believes everyone else’s motives are as base as his.

The Trump administration is, indeed, like the court of some accidental monarch who is tragically unsuited for the duties of his throne. However long it persists, we must never allow ourselves to think of the Trump White House as anything but aberrant. We must fight for the norms of American governance lest we forget them in their absence.

Trump has no respect for the rule of law. He is enraged that Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election, and thus is not in a position to protect the House of Trump from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. According to the New York Times, “Sharing the president’s frustration have been people in his family, some of whom have come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation.” I’m guessing that means the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Who elected them, by the way?

Trump seeks to govern by whim and fiat. On Wednesday morning, he used Twitter to announce a ban on transgender people serving in the military, surprising his own top military leaders. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters to ask the White House for details; White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters to ask the Pentagon. Was Trump trying to reignite the culture wars? Would the thousands of transgender individuals now serving in the military be purged? Was this actual policy or just a fit of indigestion?

Do not become numb to the mad king’s outrages. The worst is yet to come.

WaPo (5/17): House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump http://wapo.st/2w4NrrD transcript: http://wapo.st/2tOGAWN
WaPo (5/17): Ryan to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump http://wapo.st/2w4NrrD transcript: http://wapo.st/2tOGAWN
⇈ ⇊
WaPo: Read the transcript of the conversation among GOP leaders obtained by The Post http://wapo.st/2tOGAWN
// 5/17/2017

💙🐣 Why Bernie voted against the Russia sanctions bill: It includes additional sanctions on Iran which go beyond & endanger nuclear agreement.

══════════ ▼ Magnitsky Fusion GPS

BusinessInsider: Inside the battle between an anti-Putin banker and the firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier http://read.bi/2u3idzX

Esquire, Charles Pierce: This Is How the Russian Kleptocracy Operates http://bit.ly/2vc1NKy

Testimony of William Browder to Senate Judiciary Committee on #FARA Violations connected to anti-Magnitsky Act Campaign http://bit.ly/2v0RcBJ
// dated 7/26/2017, presented 7/27/2017

BusinessInsider: Top Democrat: Trump’s DOJ nominee helped Russian bank sue over Trump-Russia dossier http://read.bi/2v2hl2D
// 7/25/2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat; Brian Benczkowski
↥ ↧
HuffPo (7/20): A Top Republican Wants You To Believe Russia Was Behind That Famous Trump Dossier http://bit.ly/2v2dZfL Senator Grassley
// 7/20/2017
↥ ↧
ThinkProgress (7/15): Fox News host rewrites history, wildly speculates that Clinton wanted to collude with Russia http://bit.ly/2v0JlDX
// 7/15/2017
↥ ↧
TheIndependent (7/13): British tycoon to tell Senate Trump Jr Russia lawyer is linked to secretive group behind Steele Dossier http://ind.pn/2vasHCp
↥ ↧
WaPo (7/11): Inside the link between the Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump dossier http://wapo.st/2eQR9Sj #FARA
// 7/11/2017

🐣 Apparently, although there is no chance Trump could get the Magnitsky Act repealed, but he can get people off the list. Senate may try to block. #FARA
// Lobbying Disclosure Act? “OFAC list”

🐣 The Senate Judiciary Hearing on The Foreign Agent Registration Act w Mr Browder (of the Magnitsky Act) is beginning CSPAN3

🐣 William Browder, testifying to Senate Judiciary Committee, says Vladimir Putin is the richest man in the world, worth $200 Billion #FARA #Magnitsky
// Hermitage Capital is Browder’s company

🐣 The hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee right now keys in on the Magnitsky Act, the Steele dossier & Trump Jr meeting. CSPAN3

🐣 I thought keeping all the characters in “War and Peace” was hard. #TrumpRussia is getting close #FARA #Magnitsky

══════════ ▲

NYT Editorial: Donald Trump’s Assault on Jeff Sessions http://nyti.ms/2h46Hmu

Mr. Trump’s debasement of Mr. Sessions — starting with a mind-boggling interview he gave last week to The Times — is in line with everything he’s said and done since he fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director, in May, in an inept attempt to shut down the bureau’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has been unpredictable in many things, but he has been utterly consistent when it comes to resisting any inquiry, however warranted and public-spirited, into his campaign or his close associates.

WaPo, Kenneth Starr: Mr. President, please cut it out http://wapo.st/2v9NXIA

The attorney general is not — and cannot be — the president’s “hockey goalie,” as new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci described Sessions’s job. In fact, the president isn’t even his client. To the contrary, the attorney general’s client is ultimately “We the People,” and his fidelity has to be not to the president but to the Constitution and other laws of the United States. Indeed, the attorney general’s job, at times, is to tell the president “no” because of the supervening demands of the law.

… As a member of the president’s Cabinet, the attorney general needs to be a loyal member of the president’s team, yet at the same time he must have the personal integrity and courage to tell the president what the law demands — and what the law will not permit. That’s especially true with respect to enforcing the nation’s criminal laws, and why — rightly — the attorney general needs to step aside on matters where his own independence of judgment has potentially been compromised.

That’s the key to solving the paradox. Independence of judgment, as opposed to blind loyalty, characterizes great attorneys general.

Mr. President, for the sake of the country, and for your own legacy, please listen to the growing chorus of voices who want you to succeed — by being faithful to the oath of office you took on Jan. 20 and by upholding the traditions of a nation of laws, not of men.

NBC: DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian Mobsters http://nbcnews.to/2h4HSqs

 AmericanInterest: The FSB Goes After an American Company http://bit.ly/2h45fAI #TrumpRussia

Vox, Zeesham Aleem: Why Europe is so angry over the big Russia sanctions bill http://bit.ly/2v0u6uq
// The GOP’s effort to tie Trump’s hands on Russia looks like it could be very costly.

Panel: Russian and Government Corruption Kleptocracy
// CSPAN 7/20/2017; $40B/yr comes into US through LLCs and Law Fir

NYT, Ross Douthat: A Trump Tower of Folly http://nyti.ms/2uwDdCm https://twitter.com/Auriandra/status/890215562747551744/photo/1

This blame-Sessions perspective is warped, since it was Trump’s decision to fire James Comey (an earlier monumental folly) that was actually decisive in putting Robert Mueller on the case. But regardless of whether he has his facts straight, Trump’s logic is a straightforward admission that he wants to eject his attorney general because Sessions has not adequately protected him from legal scrutiny — an argument that at once reveals Trump’s usual contempt for laws and norms and also suggests (not for the first time) that he has something so substantial to hide that only omerta-style loyalty will do.

Which, of course — now we’ve reached the peak of the tower of folly — he probably will not get if Sessions goes, because no hatchet man will win easy confirmation, and until Sessions is replaced the acting attorney general will be Ron Rosenstein, the man who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the first place!

So it’s basically madness all the way to the top: bad policy, bad strategy, bad politics, bad legal maneuvering, bad optics, a self-defeating venture carried out via deranged-as-usual tweets and public insults.

But he is nonetheless clearly impaired, gravely deficient somewhere at the intersection of reason and judgment and conscience and self-control. Pointing this out is wearying and repetitive, but still it must be pointed out.

You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.

⭕ 26 Jul 2017

CNBC: Russian energy sanctions bill puts another crack in strained US-Europe relations http://cnb.cx/2v9wtLD

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