The Russia probe

Written by  //  September 25, 2017  //  U.S.  //  No comments

See also: Robert Mueller III, Special Counsel

25 September
‘Private briefings,’ warrants, and wiretaps — here are the dizzying Trump-Russia developments you may have missed
(Business Insider) We learned that Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the FBI’s investigation, obtained a search warrant to examine Facebook accounts linked to Russia after the company announced that the “inauthentic” users had purchased more than $100,000 in ads during the election.
We also learned more details about the FBI’s longtime interest in Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — and his overtures to a Russian oligarch last July.
The president’s legal team, meanwhile, is clashing over how cooperative to be with Mueller, who is homing in on key White House players as he examines whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired James Comey as FBI director.

24 September
Bharara: Mueller will look at everything including obstruction of justice
(The Hill) Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Sunday he expects Robert Mueller to look at whether President Trump obstructed justice as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
“I think everything you see from our armchair seats suggests that Robert Mueller is going to chase down everything that might suggest a crime has been committed by any associated, colleague, relative of the president,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And also the president himself.”

21 September
Mark Zuckerberg Backtracks as His Russia Problem Spirals
Two weeks after disclosing that it sold thousands of ads to Russian propagandists, Facebook is finally turning over its receipts.
(Vanity Fair) Amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and the public, Facebook is handing congressional investigators more than 3,000 ads it believes were purchased by a Russian troll farm. It’s a huge reversal for the social-media platform, which had resisted sharing such information broadly, citing concerns about advertisers’ privacy. The company’s general counsel Colin Stretch made the announcement on Thursday just as Mark Zuckerberg, on his first day back from paternity leave following the birth of his second daughter, conducted a brief livestream on Facebook to discuss the decision and Facebook’s next steps.
Facebook’s decision to share information with the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are investigating Russian interference during the 2016 election, comes less than a day after Twitter confirmed it would also cooperate with the government’s Russia probe.
PBS News Wrap: Manafort offered ‘private briefings’ to Russian billionaire connected to the Kremlin
President Trump’s one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort is acknowledging that he offered private briefings to a Russian billionaire tied to the Kremlin. But a spokesman says that the offer was — quote — “innocuous” and that no briefings ever occurred.
The Washington Post reports that it happened just before last summer’s Republican National Convention. Manafort left the campaign a month later.

16 September
Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election
Facebook is under fire after revealing that a Russian group tied to the Kremlin bought political ads on its platform during the 2016 elections.
Lawmakers are demanding answers, and liberal groups, who say the company failed to crack down on fake news, are seizing on the new disclosure.
Even Hillary Clinton has cited the ads when discussing her loss during a book tour.

20 July
Report: Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
(The Daily Beast) The investigation is reportedly looking into several business deals, including Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, the president’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. See also: Trump and the Russian Money Trail

13 July
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.
By Craig Unger
(New Republic) Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

9-11 July

(The Atlantic) President Trump’s eldest son tweeted out a chain of messages that document how he agreed to meet with a “Russian government attorney” after being told she had information about Hillary Clinton that would help his father win the election. “If it’s what you say I love it,” he responded at the time. (Read the full exchange here.) The emails vindicate not only the New York Times reports of recent days on that June 9 meeting, but also the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that the Kremlin sought to aid the Trump campaign last year. They may implicate Donald Jr. in a violation of campaign finance law. And though Trump and his allies have denied all accusations of collusion with Russia, the meeting—which was also attended by Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner—is worrying evidence to the contrary. As the story continues to develop, follow our latest coverage here.
Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign
The Times now has the email to Donald Trump Jr. offering Russian aid to “incriminate Hillary.” His reply: “If it’s what you say I love it.” Read the new article.
Scathing commentary on the latest revelations by/about Donald Jr.
What Do the Russians ‘Have’ on the Trump Family? Fear.
Some thoughts on Junior’s changing story.
(Esquire) What I believe I see here is an incredibly corrupt American family doing business with criminal gangs that are way, way out of their league, and that are in league with the institutions of government, and the formidable security apparatus, of an authoritarian state.

19 June
Mueller team lawyer brings witness-flipping expertise to Trump probes
(Reuters) Andrew Weissmann, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal fraud section before joining Mueller’s team last month, is best known for two assignments – the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organized crime cases in Brooklyn, New York – that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation.

20 May
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem
(Vox) It was surprising enough, to people who had bought into the narrative that Kushner (and wife Ivanka Trump) were steadying influences on the president, that he hadn’t warned Trump not to fire FBI director James Comey — a move that anyone could have predicted would blow up in the administration’s face. (In fact, Kushner appears to have been “generally supportive” of the firing, according to the New York Times.)
By now, though, it’s clear that Kushner (at least sometimes) is the person who wants to lash out at the investigators. Here’s what happened (according to reports from the New York Times) when the Trump administration found out that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had appointed Mueller as a special counsel to lead the Trump/Russia probe …
Trump’s eventual statement was actually much less conciliatory than prior presidents have been. Yet Kushner wanted it to be even harsher — despite the existing concerns about independence at the Department of Justice.
It’s also interesting that, according to Reuters’ Julia Edwards Ainsley, the White House is considering trying to hobble Mueller — using a regulation barring Mueller from investigating anyone his former law firm had represented. In practice, that would be Kushner and former campaign head Paul Manafort.
Russians Reportedly Bragged They Could Use Michael Flynn to Influence Trump

(Slate) The conversations picked up by US intelligence officials indicated the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, sources said. That relationship developed throughout 2016, months before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn’s changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump’s first national security adviser.

17 May
Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation
(NYT) As a special counsel, Mr. Mueller can choose whether to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation. He is authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” according to Mr. Rosenstein’s order naming him to the post, as well as other matters that “may arise directly from the investigation.” He is empowered to press criminal charges, and he can request additional resources subject to the review of an assistant attorney general.

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