Category Archives: Scandals

The social media ‘coordination’ thread of the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

CNN reports that the FBI’s criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is increasingly touching on the multiple roles of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team.

Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation. FBI Russia investigation looking at Kushner role:

The FBI has collected data on computer bots, programs that perform repetitive functions like searches, allegedly linked to Russia that helped target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton and positive information on Donald Trump through Facebook and other social media, the officials say.

Federal investigators have been taking a closer look at the Trump campaign’s data analytics operation, which was supervised by Kushner, officials say, and are examining whether Russian operatives used people associated with the campaign — wittingly or unwittingly — to try to help Russia’s own data targeting.

We now know that this did, in fact, occur. GOP operative colluded with Guccifer 2.0 – Russian stolen info was used by the GOP.

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WaPo: Jared Kushner wanted to set up a secret back channel to the Kremlin

Friday night before the long Memorial Day weekend is probably the worst timing for this story, nevertheless the Washington Post follows up its reporting on Jared Kushner, his father-in-law’s Secretary of Everything, with another bombshell story. Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The White House disclosed the fact of the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.

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GOP operative colluded with Guccifer 2.0 – Russian stolen info was used by the GOP

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that How Alleged Russian Hacker Teamed Up With Florida GOP Operative (pay wall – subscribers only).

Luckily Salon has a good summary of the report. GOP strategist admits he colluded with Russian hackers to hurt Hillary Clinton, Democrats:

[A] bombshell report published on Thursday confirms that Republican political operatives were working with the Russian government to hurt Hillary Clinton and Democrats during the election — the first direct evidence of so-called collusion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that hacked information was posted on a blog run by Aaron Nevins, the political operative, and then passed along to top Trump adviser Roger Stone during the campaign. The Republican operative in Florida received a trove of Democratic documents from the allegedly Kremlin-linked hacker, Guccifer 2.0. For months, both Congress and the FBI have been scrutinizing evidence that associates of Trump may have colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Nevins confirmed to the Journal that he told hacker Guccifer 2.0 to “feel free to send any Florida based information” after learning that the hacker had tapped into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) computers last summer. From the DCCC, Guccifer 2.0 released internal assessments of Democratic congressional candidates, known as “self-opposition research,” to GOP operatives using social media. Nevins told the Journal that, after receiving the stolen documents from the hacker, he “realized it was a lot more than even Guccifer knew that he had.” The stolen DCCC documents also contained sensitive information on voters in key Florida districts, breaking down how many people were considered dependable Democratic voters, undecided Democrats, Republican voters and the like. Nevins made a war analogy, describing the data he received to Guccifer 2.0 as akin to a “map to where all the troops are deployed.”

After Nevins published some of the material on the blog HelloFLA.com, using his own pseudonym, Guccifer 2.0 sent a link of the information to close Trump associate Roger Stone — who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.

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Latest on the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

Last Friday the Washington Post reported in cryptic language, Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say:

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

As I pointed out at the time, this left only one person who fit that description, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Sure enough, the Washington Post confirmed last night that its original report was about Jared Kushner, Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation, about the same time that NBC News reported the same. Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say.

First, The Post:

Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

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Trent Franks blames the liberal media boogeyman

I happened to run across Arizona’s most embarrassing congresman, Rep. Trent Franks, in a segment on MSBC discussing The Guardian reporter who was phyically assaulted by the Montana GOP House candidate Greg Gianforte — who still won his race yesterday, by the way.

Franks told MSNBC that liberals must share the blame: “The left has precipitated this tense, confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months.”

Seriously?

This is after a campaign in which his pal Donald Trump castigated the media as the “enemy of the American people,” and continues to do so as President.

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This is after a campaign in which his pal Donald Trump incited violence against protestors and members of the media at his rallies, for which he is being sued in federal court. It’s plausible Trump incited violence, federal judge rules in OK’ing lawsuit.

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This is after his pal Donald Trump threatens to weaken First Amendment protections for reporters.

Which leads to this story in the New York Times. A Journalist Was Body Slammed, but Some Conservatives Want the News Media to Apologize:

In this time of intense partisanship, shiv-in-the-kidney politics and squabbles over the meaning of truth, can Americans come together and agree that a politician slamming a journalist to the ground for asking a question is wrong?

The answer, it turns out, is no.

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Raising the federal debt ceiling: the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time

The recurring obligation to raise the federal debt ceiling was scheduled to coincide with the end of the current fiscal year on September 30 to give GOP hostage takers some leverage with passing next year’s budget.

It does not appear remotely possible that a budget will be ready by the end of this fiscal year, so once again Congress will wind up approving another short-term continuing resolution (CR) when it returns from its August recess.

GOP leaders also may have lost any leverage they hoped to gain from holding the federal debt ceiling hostage for their budget. Congress may have to act before the August recess.  The Washington Post reports, Trump administration warns tax receipts are coming in slowly, government could run out of cash sooner than expected:

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday said that tax receipts were coming in “slower than expected” and that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than it had thought.

Mulvaney’s comments, which came during a House Budget Committee hearing, resurrected an issue that Congress has mostly ignored in recent months but that will soon force some tough political decisions.

A few hours later, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed these concerns, telling another House committee, “I urge you raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer.”

“We can all discuss how we cut spending and how we deal with the budget going forward, but it is absolutely critical that where we’ve spent money, that we keep the credit of the United States as the most critical issue,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee. “It is the reserve currency of the world.”

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