Tag Archives: Special Counsel

Trump and Tea-Publicans are leaving the U.S. vulnerable to Russian cyber attacks

The social media companies Google, Facebook, and Twitter spent the past two days testifying before Congress on how Russian intelligence agencies used their media platforms to engage in a disinformation campaign to disrupt the 2016 election and undermine confidence in the American political system, and are continuing to actively do so.

We previously learned that Facebook sold $100,000 in ads to the Russian propaganda troll farm Internet Research Agency, paid for in Rubles no less. Some Facebook ads bought by Russian company may have violated US election law. Nevertheless, Facebook and Google declined under repeated congressional questioning Tuesday to commit to stop taking Russian rubles and other foreign currencies as payment for American political advertisements, despite federal election law prohibiting payments from foreign nationals. Facebook, Google won’t commit to stop taking foreign cash for U.S. political ads.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had initially dismissed the notion that fake news stories proliferated on Facebook to manipulate voters. A preliminary internal investigation by Facebook  reported that Facebook found over 3,000 ads that came from inauthentic accounts linked to a Russian group called the Internet Research Agency that operated between 2015 and 2017. Some 10 million people in the U.S. viewed at least one of those ads, with around 44 percent of those views happening before the Nov. 8, 2016 election. 10 million saw Facebook political ads posted from Russia-linked fake accounts. Prior to this week’s congressional testimony, that number was dramatically revised upward. Russian fake accounts showed posts to 126 million Facebook users:

As many as 126 million people — or one-third the U.S. population — may have seen material posted by a Russian troll farm under fake Facebook identities between 2015 and 2017, according to testimony presented by Facebook’s general counsel at a hearing before the Senate on Tuesday.

The figure is the largest yet of the possible reach Russian operatives had on the giant social platformin the run-up to last year’s presidential election and afterwards and reflects Facebook’s new disclosures that a Kremlin-linked misinformation agency used original content in users’ feeds, as well as paid ads. Previously Facebook said 10 million people saw Russia-linked advertising that sought to sway U.S. voters.

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The conservative media entertainment complex spoils for a constitutional crisis

I have previously explained how the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump administration are amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians. The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda.

There has been a coordinated effort between our Twitter-troll-in-chief and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and GOPropaganda network FAUX News (aka Trump TV) in recent weeks to fabricate a fantastical alternate universe reality in which “President Hillary Clinton” colluded with the Russians and she and James Comey and Robert Mueller all must be prosecuted — for something. This is best exemplified by Trump’s Minister of GOPropganda at Trump TV, Sean Hannity, and Trump’s close friend “judge”Jeanine Pirro. See, The Fox News-Murdoch effect: Mueller must resign! Or be fired!, and The GOP strategy on the Russia scandal: ‘No puppet. You’re the puppet.’

While most observers argue this is an attempt to distract, divert and to mislead the public from the Russia investigation (it is), Greg Sargent explains that it is much more nefarious than this. Trump and his allies are laying the groundwork for a Saturday Night Massacre:

Let’s be clear on what’s happening in our politics right now. President Trump and his media allies are currently creating a vast, multi-tentacled, largely-fictional alternate media reality that casts large swaths of our government as irredeemably corrupt — with the explicitly declared purpose of laying the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or shut down the Russia probe, should he deem either necessary.

We often hear that Trump and his allies are trying to “distract” from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s intensifying investigation. That’s true, but this characterization inadequately casts this in terms ordinarily applied to conventional politics. Instead, Trump’s trafficking in this stuff should be seen as another sign of his fundamental unfitness to serve as president. Similar efforts by his media allies [e.g., Stepehen Bannon at Breitbart] should be labeled as a deliberate effort to goad Trump into sliding into full-blown authoritarianism, and to provide the air cover for him if he does do so.

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Trump-Putin campaign investigation developments

While you were distracted by the end of summer Labor Day weekend, a couple of new important developments in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation occurred.

First, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has enlisted an elite investigative unit of the IRS in his investigation. Exclusive: Mueller Enlists the IRS for His Trump-Russia Investigation:

Special counsel Bob Mueller has teamed up with the IRS. According to sources familiar with his investigation into alleged Russian election interference, his probe has enlisted the help of agents from the IRS’ Criminal Investigations unit.

This unit—known as CI—is one of the federal government’s most tight-knit, specialized, and secretive investigative entities. Its 2,500 agents focus exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering. A former colleague of Mueller’s said he always liked working with IRS’ special agents, especially when he was a U.S. Attorney.

And it goes without saying that the IRS has access to Trump’s tax returns—documents that the president has long resisted releasing to the public.

Potential financial crimes are a central part of Mueller’s probe. One of his top deputies, Andy Weissmann, formerly helmed the Justice Department’s Enron probe and has extensive experience working with investigative agents from the IRS.

Martin Sheil, a retired IRS Criminal Investigations agent, said “When CI brings a case to a U.S. Attorney, it is done. It’s wrapped up with a ribbon and a bow. It’s just comprehensive.”

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Key Russian witness testifies before Mueller grand jury (and more)

On  August 21, the New York Times published a report on Rinat Akhmetshin, one of the Russians who met with senior Trump campaign officials in June of last year. Akhmetshin is not just a Russian lobbyist. Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections:

[I]nterviews with his associates and documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate that Mr. Akhmetshin, who is under scrutiny by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has much deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-backed oligarchs than previously known.

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.

He also helped expose possible corruption in government contracting that complicated American efforts to keep troops at an air base in Kyrgyzstan — an American presence that the Russians fiercely opposed.

* * *

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.”

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Trump Tower Moscow, a tower of lies from Trump (Updated)

As a candidate for president (and since), Donald Trump has repeatedly denied that he had any business interests in Russia. Here’s what we know about Donald Trump and his ties to Russia; Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia.

This, of course, was a lie. And it was known to be a lie at the time. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president:

While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 and grew up in Brooklyn.

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Trump pardons his partner in crime, crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio (Updated)

The Trump administration has made prodigious use of the “Friday night news dump” since taking office. And with much of the nation distracted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the potential natural disaster of catastrophic flooding to occur over the next several days,  the Trump administration announced, among other moves, the first presidential pardon issued by President Trump to former Maricopa County Sheriff crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio. President Donald Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

It was not a pardon issued in the “regular order” of how pardons are issued by the Department of Justice, Standards for Consideration of Clemecy Petitioners, but rather was a patently political pardon issued by the president to a political supporter and friend — Trump announced his intentions at his Phoenix campaign rally — a dispensation if you will, to Trump’s partner in crime in the racist Obama “birther” movement and his anti-immigrant nationalism movement.

Arpaio was found by the court to have singled out people based on their race for disproportionate law enforcement scrutiny with his immigration sweeps, which violated their constitutional civil rights and the fundamental principle of equal justice under the law.

Arpaio was ordered by the Court to cease and desist, and his office agreed to a consent agreement with the Department of Justice to monitor his compliance. Arpaio defiantly violated the court’s order and that agreement. Arpaio had a legal duty to obey the court’s order while appealing it. Arpaio was properly found guilty of criminal contempt of the court’s order.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio sends the message that some people are above the law if they have friends in high places in the White House.

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