Jared Kushner a ‘person of interest’ in the Russian digital operation


McClatchy News continues its investigative reporting into the Russian cyber war against the U.S. during the 2016 election. Previous post McClatchy News: Russia uses ‘bots’ and trolls for information war against U.S.

Today McClatchy News reports Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation:

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told McClatchy he wants to know whether Russia’s “fake or damaging news stories” were “coordinated in any way in terms of targeting or in terms of timing or in terms of any other measure … with the (Trump) campaign.”

By Election Day, an automated Kremlin cyberattack of unprecedented scale and sophistication had delivered critical and phony news about the Democratic presidential nominee to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of millions of voters. Some investigators suspect the Russians targeted voters in swing states, even in key precincts.

Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.

One source familiar with Justice’s criminal probe said investigators doubt Russian operatives controlling the so-called robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently “known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states.”

All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is confidential.

Top Democrats on the committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have signaled the same.

Schiff said he wants the House panel to determine whether Trump aides helped Russia time its cyberattacks or target certain voters and whether there was “any exchange of information, any financial support funneled to organizations that were doing this kind of work.”

Trump son-in-law Kushner, now a senior adviser to the president and the only current White House aide known to be deemed a “person of interest” in the Justice Department investigation, appears to be under the microscope in several respects. His real estate finances and December meetings with Russia’s ambassador and the head of a sanctioned, state-controlled bank are also being examined.

Kushner’s “role as a possible cut-out or conduit for Moscow’s influence operations in the elections,” including his niche overseeing the digital operations, will be closely looked at, said the source knowledgeable about the Justice Department inquiry.

Kushner joined Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort at a newly disclosed June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York. The meeting, revealed by The New York Times, followed emails in which Trump Jr. was told the lawyer for the Russian government would provide him with incriminating information on Clinton and he replied “If it’s what you say I love it.”

That disclosure could only serve to heighten interest in whether there was digital collaboration.

Mike Carpenter, who in January left a senior Pentagon post where he worked on Russia matters, also has suspicions about collaboration between the campaign and Russia’s cyber operatives.

“There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” he said, without naming any American suspects.

* * *

As more has been learned about the breadth of the Russian cyber onslaught, congressional Democrats have shown growing resolve to demand that the Republican-controlled intelligence committees fully investigate ways in which Trump associates may have conspired with the Russians.

Among other things, congressional investigators are looking into whether Russian operatives, who successfully penetrated voting registration systems in Illinois, Arizona and possibly other states, shared any of that data with the Trump campaign, according to a report in Time.

“I get the fact that the Russian intel services could figure out how to manipulate and use the bots,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told Pod Save America recently. “Whether they could know how to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren’t even aware (of) really raises some questions … How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?”

The Russians appear to have targeted women and African-Americans in two of the three decisive states, Wisconsin and Michigan, “where the Democrats were too brain dead to realize those states were even in play,” Warner said.

Twitter’s and Facebook’s search engines in those states were overwhelmed, he said, meaning they couldn’t discern fake news from real news.

“On your news feed, you suddenly got … ‘Hillary Clinton’s sick’ or ‘Hillary Clinton’s stealing money from the State Department,’” said Warner.

It started even before Trump locked up the nomination. Throughout the Republican primary elections in early 2016, Russia sent armies of bots carrying pro-Trump messages and deployed human “trolls” to comment in his favor on Internet stories and in social media, former FBI special agent Clint Watts told Congress weeks ago.

Watts, now a cybersecurity specialist with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the targets included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

As Donald Trump was locking up the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016, a U.S. intelligence intercept picked up Russians discussing ways to spread news damaging to Clinton, two people familiar with the matter said.

No one has proved that Russia’s attack influenced the vote count in the Nov. 8 general election., but it wouldn’t have taken much to tip the results and change the course of history.

Clinton lost the decisive states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by a combined 77,744 votes out of 13.9 million ballots cast. She could have won Michigan if 5,353 Trump voters had gone for her instead, Wisconsin if 11,375 votes had flipped to her and Pennsylvania if 22,147 Trump voters had instead picked her.

Kushner’s pivotal role in the Trump cyber effort was underscored by his hiring in 2015 of Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital guru who previously had done work for the Trump Organization, said two GOP operatives familiar with the campaign.

Parscale’s company raked in about $90 million for work targeting many states with paid advertisements, social media messages and other cyber tools.

As the Trump campaign’s top digital director, Parscale ran much of the operation from his San Antonio offices. He is expected to appear before at least one of several congressional committees investigating aspects of Russia’s interference in the election.

Parscale could not be reached for comment.

Shortly after his name arose in the inquiry, Kushner publicly volunteered to tell Congress about his Russia contacts and to answer questions about all issues for which he’s being scrutinized. Another of Kushner’s lawyers, Jamie Gorelick, says he will cooperate with both congressional and Justice Department investigations.

However, no interview date has been set, and Kushner’s attorneys decline to say whether he has produced records sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Remember that there is already a confirmed case of one GOP operative, Aaron Nevins in Florida, who openly admits to assisting the Russian hackers in “weaponizing” the information hacked and using it to target key voter demographics — a clear case of collusion with the Russians. GOP operative colluded with Guccifer 2.0 – Russian stolen info was used by the GOP.

I included in this post this additional detail flagged by Martin Longman at the Political Animal blog:

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, eventually used the material that was stolen by hackers in attack ads against several Democrats.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos returns to this detail today in Paul Ryan asked if he’d commit potential treason for his own campaign, has no comment:

House Speaker Paul Ryan had no comment when asked whether he’d do what Donald Trump, Jr. did—potentially commit treason by meeting with a foreign source offering dirt on his opponent.

“I’m not going to go into hypotheticals,” Ryan answered. He doesn’t need to. As David Weigel reminds us, when he had the chance to use Russian hackers against Democratic congressional candidates last year, he—or rather his Super PAC—ran with it. From a December 13, 2016 article in The New York Times:

By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida. AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, said he did not control how the material was used in the ad, although she did not dispute that the material had been stolen as part of an act of Russian espionage. “Speaker Ryan has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable,” she said in a written statement.

For months, Ryan had known about Russia’s interference in our election. He and his leadership team had that private meeting, which was secretly recorded, in which they all talked about the “sophisticated propaganda war” Russia was conducting in Europe and in the U.S. They talked about the DNC hacking. Then the infamous exchange with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy:

McCarthy: There’s … there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump… [laughter]… swear to God.Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…all right?! … This is how we know we’re a real family here. […]  What’s said in the family stays in the family.

It’s not a hypothetical for Paul Ryan. He knew exactly what Russia was doing in 2016, and he accepted it. Because it was all in the family.

It’s not just the Trump campaign. The RNC and its multitude of PACs used information hacked by the Russians, and may very well have cooperated with the Russian hackers in weaponizing this information and using it to micro-target key voter demographics, as GOP operative Aaron Nevins has openly admitted to having done. This scandal may be bigger than the Trump campaign.


  1. he gal said we get at the truth thru the dialectic. thesis don jr has committed treason in failed meeting to get dirt on clinton campaign. sen. tim kaine. antithesis podesta, wasserman schultz and chalupa did not commit treason by colluding with ukraine government which gave them dirt on trump campaign manager manafort. sen. tim kaine. synthesis no treason committed by anyone just more media hype!

    • ” synthesis no treason committed by anyone just more media hype!”

      You know, Captain, the reason they often ignore you is that you are telling them things they don’t want to hear AND you have the temerity to be correct! That is a combination that gets you either (1) ignored, or (2) ridiculed.

    • Stock market is at 25.6 trillion – all time record. Up 3.4 trillion since election day.

      Entire European Union is only 7 trillion.

      When Nixon was forced out, the stock market was down 40% from peak.

      Keep screaming. Not working very well so far.

      Seems to be helping Trump.

        • Well, I wouldn’t care to speak on how it benefits the average Russian household, but here is how it benefits the average American household. Those stocks are in our 401k’s, our Police pensions, our Firefighter pensions, our teacher pensions, our Individual Retirement Accounts, every possible retirement account.

          Also, for the tens of millions of people who work for listed stock companies, the value of their company on the stock market is a vote of confidence in the future of their job. Their company can just literally dip into that “future value” and pull out hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not imaginary money, it real money

          That’s why, of all the leading indicators, the stock market is the best indicator of our economic future.

          But, far from a perfect record. With all the chaos, it would not surprise me at all to wake up and see the stock market down 20%.

        • “But how does any of this benefit the average working Russian household?

          So Huppenthal is an idiot for telling the truth about basic economics now, hm-m-m? Tom, does that mean you don’t understand it? Or are you working on misusing the word “idiot” until it, like “racist”, has no further meaning?

          I will guarantee you that the stock market going up is putting money straight into your pocket and you are a bit of a hypocrite for pretending it doesn’t matter to you. You are just upset because the economy didn’t go to hell when Trump became President, and is doing better under him – in such a short timespan – than it did under Obama. Only a true ideololgical numbskull wishes himself harm based purely on politics.

  2. At first Ryan denied this, then when he found out there was audio, he admitted to it.

    From June 15, 2016.

    The entire GOP is rotten.

  3. Seems the GOP, the alt-right (or “shitlords”, as they call themselves) and some helpful countries like Russia are ramping up attacks on reporters and people like Comey and Mueller.

    It’s going to get ugly, parasites fight hard when you try to remove them. They’re going to go after reporters personal lives and families.

    Remember that there are real Patriots in the intelligence communities, and even in some dusty corners of the GOP.

    Some news outlets, including conservative outlets, are finally starting to do what they should have done in the primaries, and more and more reports are coming out about Trump’s ties to Russia organized crime, aka the Russian government, going back to the 80’s, and especially the 90’s, when Russian money laundering via buying Trump’s properties saved his business.

    Trump once claimed that he “sold one house to a Russian years ago”, and that was his only contact with Russians.

    Too bad for him there are records of Russians buying hundreds of millions of dollars of property from Trump, and pictures of him celebrating at the signings.

    The name to remember is Eric Schneiderman, New York AG, who is all over the Trump and Kushner families money laundering and fraud.

    Our Orange Nightmare is going to last a few years, but no matter how much the trolls howl and try to demoralize people, the Trump and Kushner families are going down, and there will be jail time for some of them.

    • Yeah, just saw this. It’s 11 pages and makes my head hurt. Good Lord, what has this country done to itself?

      Trump’s Russian Laundromat

      How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.

      July 13, 2017


      • I was lucky enough to hear the reporter on NPR.

        Before Trump announced he was running, a close family member told me he hoped Trump would run.

        I told him Trump was a con man, then let it go to keep peace in the family.

        The press should have been all over this during the primaries.

        They took the money and looked the other way while a New York crime family working with the Russian mob (aka Putin/Russian government) won the White House.

        BTW, seems Pence, who’s been saying no one met with any Russians, also met with some Russians, Kushner amended his security clearance form for the 4th time, adding over 100 new names, and Sessions is busted for lying on his form and has finally released a redacted document, more and more Republicans are coming out and saying Don Junior committed a crime…

        The trolls will howl louder and louder, and they’ll call us all snowflakes.

        Too bad for them and their con man cult leader, Winter Is Coming. 🙂

        • “…and they’ll call us all snowflakes”.

          This Troll won’t do that, Tom. You already know you all are snowflakes and I don’t need to remind you of it.

          “Too bad for them and their con man cult leader, Winter Is Coming.”

          That’s the way, keep stretching judgement day for the Trump’s and Associates until the issue just fades away. That way you never have to admit you were wrong.

    • “Our Orange Nightmare is going to last a few years, but no matter how much the trolls howl and try to demoralize people, the Trump and Kushner families are going down, and there will be jail time for some of them.”

      Hedging your bets, eh? Stretching your prediction out for years and then “boldly” making a prediction. That way, no matter how many people point out you are wrong, or how much evidence emerges (or doesn’t emerge) that demonstrates you are wrong, you can always respond, “Just wait! Just wait!” You are a clever man, Tom…

    • “They’re going to go after reporters personal lives and families.

      Ah, yes, those noble reporters. They would never think about going after their prey’s family or personal life, would they? It is so good that we have a reporter class filled with gentlemen and gentlewomen who play fair, aren’t lazy in their jobs, and wouldn’t cut the throat of anyone who gets between them and a hot exclusive. Such a noble group of people. Perhaps in your world, Tom, but in the real world the majority are scum sucking pigs that would sell thier own into slavery for that anchor desk and/or First Editor Spot.

      “The name to remember is Eric Schneiderman, New York AG, who is all over the Trump and Kushner families money laundering and fraud.”

      Yes, Schneiderman, a man who has made no secret of his deep and abiding hatred of Trump, and who has abused his office in a quest to hurt Trump in any way he can. Yes, there is no doubt that if he can find any way to do it, he will do whatever he can to hurt Trump. Of course, if he is not careful, he could be found guilty of abuse of office because of his prior comments about “getting Trump” and holding off on his investigation until a critical time in the election when he thought it would hurt Trump the worst.

  4. Trump was pushing for sanctions on Qatar after Qatar wouldn’t give Kushner a half billion dollar bailout loan.

    Trump lied about cutting ties with his businesses, so did Kushner.

    The guys who are supposed to guide the White House on ethics have all quit, because they can’t get the White House to act ethically.

    Welcome to the GOP. Not even trying to hide the corruption anymore.

    • “Welcome to the GOP. Not even trying to hide the corruption anymore.”

      Or…if you are Tom, you are incapable of looking at the GOP without seeing corruption. It doesn’t matter what is actually there, you see corruption. You are incapable of seeing anything else, Tom. Just as a carpenter sees everything from the perspective of a hammer and saw, you see everything from the perspective of finding corruption. It is no surprise you see corruption when that is all you will allow yourself to interpret everything as…

  5. “This scandal may be bigger than the Trump campaign.”

    We can always hope, can’t we, AzBM?? Of course, it is more likely that this “scandal” will fizzle out like all the other ones seem to have done.

    One thing that struck me about this posting was the attributes you assigned to Trump and associates in terms of the clever ways they manipulated everyone in order to achieve a win for the Presidency.

    That was in stark contrast to my observations during the campaign when I often thought that the Trump Campaign was a complete mess with no central, coordinated plan to get Trump elected. I recall him in hot water every week for some new stupid thing that he had said or done. I also recall the look of complete surprise on the faces of Trump and his campaign staff as the numbers slowly turned in Trump’s favor. They appeared to have expected defeat.

    Not exactly what I would call clever and manipulative.

    • One thing Trump said is true. He COULD walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot a random person, in front of 500 witnesses and TV cameras. Sean Hannity would say he was just defending the country. The NRA would say he was just exercising his 2nd Amendment defensive rights. Sean Spicer would say it never happened., and was fake news. Andy Biggs and Trent Franks would say the abortion industry will distort everything Trump does. And 10,000 people in Ohio on disability would still vote for him.

      • Frances, instead of freaking out about this whole fake Russia thing, how about we take a moment to remember and offer prayer to the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre, and their families?

        Never forget.

      • You know, Frances, you often spout BS in your postings, but you outdid yourself with this one. Either (1) you believe what you wrote, in which case you are an idiot, or (2) you thought you were being funny, in which case you are a putz. Neither one speaks well of you.

        • Awww, so sad. Doesn’t get the joke, stomps his little feet, says mean things, goes home and tells mommy, eats his cookies and milk, now it’s time for his nap.

          • “Awww, so sad. Doesn’t get the joke, stomps his little feet, says mean things, goes home and tells mommy, eats his cookies and milk, now it’s time for his nap.”

            Do you feel better now, Liza? I am surprised that, with all the correspondence we have exchanged you don’t know me better by now. I think that you were trying to insult me here, but if that was the case, you missed the mark. I pretty much expect that kind of response from this blog and long ago learned to just ignore.

            Regarding my comments to Frances, it had nothing to do with me being bemused by what he considered to be wit and everything to do with what Frances normally contributes to these discussions. I simply introduced a little grown up honesty…knowing full well that some would not recognize it for what it is.

        • Lucky your postings are not BS. But for someone who spends hours composing replies, they do make NRA videos look good.

          • “But for someone who spends hours composing replies…”

            You vastly overstate the amount of time I spend doing this. If it takes more than 10 minutes to respond, I don’t. I have too many things to do to waste time writing prolonged responses.

            By the way, Frances, in retrospect, I think I was a little harsh on you with that earlier message. You probably didn’t deserve it. Perhaps Liza was a little bit right and I was cranky and needed a nap. ;o)

  6. democrats working for clinton brain dead!(mark warner) russia must of hacked dnc water coolers with stupid pills! if 5,000 trump voters had voted for clinton michigan would have gone to her. michigan did go to clinton! 70,000 clinton votes were never officially counted from detroit. russia didn’t stop the votes from being counted the michigan republican party did! detroit democrats begged clinton campaign for money to repair and service voting machines ;but that doesn’t kick back money to clinton operatives like ad buying does. investigating vote suppression and mail in ballot shenanigans is where the democratic party needs to investigate. not don jr’s liaison with some hot russian lawyer.

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