Tag Archives: Sanctions

House passes Russian sanctions bill by a veto-proof majority

Back in June, a bipartisan Senate majority easily approved legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election on a vote of 97 to 2.

Putin’s pal in the White House launched an aggressive push to derail the bill, or to at least water it down considerably in the House.

The White House efforts failed.

Today the House passed a revised Russian sanctions bill on an overwhelming  — and veto-proof — vote of  419-3. That bill now goes back to the Senate where it is expected to pass by a veto-proof majority, again. What is Putin’s pal in the White House  to do? House passes Russia sanctions bill, setting up veto dilemma for Trump:

The House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to advance new financial sanctions against key U.S. adversaries and deliver a foreign-policy brushback to President Trump by limiting his ability to waive many of them.

Included in the package, which passed 419 to 3, are new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations’ weapons programs.

Members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have resisted the congressional push — in particular a provision attached to the Russian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions.

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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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Latest on the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

You’re shocked, I’m sure. America’s liar-in-chief Donald Trump: “I did not make recordings of Comey,” after teasing the possibility he did for weeks. What a drama queen. So Trump’s good with a charge of witness intimidation then. Good to know.

There’s also more evidence for the obstruction of justice charge. Intel chiefs tell investigators Trump suggested they refute collusion with Russians:

Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

Their “beliefs” or “feelings” are irrelevant. They confirmed the attempt to obstruct was made.

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Why was Jared Kushner meeting with Vnesheconombank (VEB), ‘Putin’s slush fund’ bank?

We finally have some follow-up reporting to an earlier New York Times report about Jared Kushner discussing some sweet Russian oligarch money to finance the Princeling’s troubled “Kushner Tower” during the transition back in December. Jared Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with the CEO of ‘the bank that financed Vladimir Putin’s grandest ambitions’:

Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov, the struggling bank’s CEO, came as Kushner was trying to find investors for a Fifth Avenue office building in Manhattan that is set to be heavily financed by Anbang Insurance Group, a firm with ties to the Chinese government.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Times on Monday that the “Kushner Tower” project wasn’t discussed during his meeting with Gorkov, and a White House official said in a statement that Kushner took the meetings as part of his role as “the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials.

“White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Times on Monday that the “The meeting did not appear to break any rules, and Hicks said it was “not much of a conversation” so didn’t warrant a disclosure to the rest of the Trump transition team.

So said Hope Hicks, who is no better than “Baghdad Sean” Spicer with the truth.

The Washington Post now reports, Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up:

The White House and a Russian state-owned bank have very different explanations for why the bank’s chief executive and Jared Kushner held a secret meeting during the presidential transition in December.

The bank maintained this week that the session was held as part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business.

The White House says the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The contradiction is deepening confusion over Kushner’s interactions with the Russians as the president’s son-in-law emerges as a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump team.

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Early moves by the Trump administration to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia

It appears now that the Trump administration’s moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York is a consolation prize.

Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News has evidence that there was a quid pro quo for Russian interference in the U.S. election — the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia — but it got derailed by the Michael Flynn scandal. How the Trump administration’s secret efforts to ease Russia sanctions fell short:

In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.

Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.

These efforts to relax or remove punitive measures imposed by President Obama in retaliation for Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 election alarmed some State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block the move, the sources said.

There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February. He said in the first few weeks of the administration, he received several “panicky” calls from U.S. government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions-lifting package and imploring him, “Please, my God, can’t you stop this?”

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Trump to reward Russia with first lifting of U.S. sanctions

These guys are so blatant they don’t even care about the optics of what they are doing any longer. The Trump administration is essentally telling the Russians, “That Obama dude is gone now. We’re cool with you and what you guys did to help us out. Thanks!

The Washington Post reports, Trump administration moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York:

The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

President Barack Obama said Dec. 29 that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes” and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them. Separately, Obama expelled from the United States what he said were 35 Russian “intelligence operatives.”

Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.

Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.

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