Tag Archives: FBI

Attempted collusion confirmed: ‘We are past the point of innocent explanations on Trump and Russia’

(Permanent musical accompaniment to this post, Whoomp! There It Is)

With the New York Times report Trump’s Son Met With Russian Lawyer After Being Promised Damaging Information on Clinton, we have the first direct public admission against interest that the Trump campaign attempted to collude with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in an effort to obtain damaging information against Hillary Clinton.

The most interesting point of the Times story is that it is sourced to five advisors inside the White House, after Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner updated his national security clearance forms to reveal yet another meeting that he “forgot” to disclose on his initial form. The Sunday Afternoon of the Long Knives.

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Donald Trump Jr. has recanted his earlier denials about any such meetings, saying that he did agree to the meeting to see what dirt the Russians had on Clinton, but that they didn’t deliver anything useful–instead using it as a pretext to lobby for changes to the Magnitsky Act (sanctions against Russia). When the Kremlin Says ‘Adoptions,’ It Means ‘Sanctions’.

This was not just any Russian lawyer. As Martin Longman explains in detail at the Political Animal blog, Trump’s Inner Circle Met With No Ordinary Russian Lawyer. Natalia Veselnitskaya is the lawyer for the Russian mafia:

More than that, though, she should have been seen as an attorney for murderous Russian mobsters with high-level connections to the Russian Ministry of the Interior. Simple prudence should have prevented them [Trump campaign] from getting entangled with such a person, and not just for political reasons. The potential for blackmail or violence were too high to be acceptable to a rational person.

The New York Times followed up with a third installment in its Donny Jr. series on Monday evening. Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign:

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

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You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Russian in the Trump campaign

There were no note takers allowed at Donny and Vlad’s first date, with only the principals (Trump, Putin), their foreign ministers (Tillerson, Lavrov), and translators for each side present. The Trump-Putin Bromance Is Back On. So there is no official record or transcript of what was actually said in this meeting (well, maybe the Russians have a recording). Both men, known to be world-class liars, are free to claim whatever they want in an effort to spin their first date.

Our always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief was so enamored with the man who engaged in a cyber war against the United States to hack our U.S. election for the purpose of making him president — “Oh Vlad, you bad boy! You really shouldn’t have! But thank you! It’s lovely” — that he says he wants to continue dating.  ‘Time to Move Forward’ on Russia, Trump Says, as Criticism Intensifies:

President Trump’s account of his lengthy and closely scrutinized closed-door meeting with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of theGroup of 20 summit meeting came in a series of Twitter posts the morning after he had returned from the gathering in Hamburg, Germany. They appeared to be an attempt to move beyond the controversy after Moscow characterized the election discussion as a meeting of minds rather than a showdown between the American president and his Russian counterpart.

* * *

On Sunday, it appeared that Mr. Putin had to some degree succeeded in doing just that, after Mr. Trump’s refusal to answer questions about the encounter essentially ceded the narrative to Mr. Putin.

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Trump undermines democratic institutions while in Poland

President Donald Trump gave a speech in Poland yesterday that contained all the white nationalist talking points of his alt-right advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. Trump cast the world as being in a clash of civilizations between Muslim terrorists and the West. Transcript:

This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today, we’re in the West, and we have to say, there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life.

You see what’s happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats.

We are confronted by another oppressive ideology, one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.

America and others have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop.

During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding and their networks and any form of ideological support that they may have.

While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.

We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism. And we will prevail.

We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.

Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests.

Then oddly, Trump identifies “government “bureaucracy” as enemies:

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger, one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people.

The West became great, not because of paperwork and regulations, but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

Americans, Poles and nations of Europe value freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.

If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.

This is Doctor Stragelove‘s General Jack Ripper: “I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

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Update: The ‘Flynn factor’ to Trump-Putin campaign collusion

The Wall Street Journal followed up its reporting on Friday night with another installment. GOP Activist Who Sought Clinton Emails Cited Trump Campaign Officials (sorry, pay wall article).

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo provides the details and some further analysis from a source for the story. This Is Big:

As you may have heard, this evening The Wall Street Journal published a major follow-up to its story from Thursday which described the work of a GOP money man and oppo research guy, the late Peter W. Smith, who was trying to get hacked emails from Russia and held himself out to be in contact with disgraced Trump advisor Michael Flynn. On its face, the big new break in this follow-up story is a new document from Smith. The document is from what is described as a package of recruiting materials Smith was using to enlist cybersecurity talent in his operation. The document listed key officials in the Trump campaign. These were apparently people Smith claimed he was in touch with or working with, though precisely how or why they were mentioned is not entirely clear.

Here’s the key passage from the Journal article

Officials identified in the document include Steve Bannon, now chief strategist for President Donald Trump; Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and now White House counselor; Sam Clovis, a policy adviser to the Trump campaign and now a senior adviser at the Agriculture Department; and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was a campaign adviser and briefly was national security adviser in the Trump administration.

A few caveats are in order.

From the Journal reporting at least it is not totally clear what Smith intended by listing these people. It’s also possible that Smith was freelancing. There are lots of people in the orbit of major campaigns puffing up their connections to top players. The Journal article has Bannon denying any knowledge of Smith. Conway says she knew Smith from GOP politics over the years but was never in contact with him about this.

That’s the story as presented in the Journal.

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The ‘Flynn factor’ to Trump-Putin campaign collusion

Michael Flynn is at the center of the Trump-Putin campaign investigations by the FBI, the Special Counsel, and congressional committees.

Earlier this year his lawyer publicly asked for an immunity deal for Flynn to “tell his story,” and there has been widespread speculation that Michael Flynn has turned on Donald Trump and is now cooperating with the FBI on Russia investigation. This has not yet been confirmed.

Keep this possibility in mind, however, with the Wall Street Journal’s breaking news story on the first direct evidence of collusion between Russian hackers and Michael Flynn, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, through a GOP intermediary. GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn (sorry, pay wall article).

Steve Benen provides the details from the WSJ report. Collusion questions grow louder in Trump, Russia scandal:

As Donald Trump’s Russia scandal has evolved, one of the key questions is whether the Republican presidential campaign cooperated in some way with our adversary’s attack on the American election. It is, of course, a matter of ongoing investigation . . . this line of inquiry took an important turn with this Wall Street Journal article.

Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.

So, what we have here is a Republican operative, Peter Smith, who assembled a team in the hopes of obtaining Hillary Clinton’s emails. Smith and his team reached out to people they believed to be Russian hackers, affiliated with Russia’s government, because Smith and his cohorts thought these hackers may have stolen the materials.

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Russian cyber war, Trump appeasement

TIME magazine continues its excellent reporting on the Russian hacking of the U.S. election in 2016. Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say:

The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.

In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.

The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.

Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME.

“If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?” the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, tells TIME. “That is a crux of the investigation.”

Spokesmen for the House and Senate Intelligence committees declined to comment on the search for stolen data.

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