The Russia probe 2017-18

Written by  //  December 16, 2018  //  Russia, U.S.  //  No comments

See also: Robert Mueller III, Special Counsel

Mueller Exposes Putin’s Hold Over Trump
By Steve Denning
(Forbes) Trump himself repeatedly stated since entering the presidential race in June 2015 that he had no business in Russia and no interactions with representatives of Russia. It now turns out that Putin knew what the American people didn’t, namely that Donald Trump was throughout the 2016 presidential primary campaign secretly negotiating to build a huge and lucrative hotel in Moscow, which required the personal support of Vladimir Putin. The fact that Putin knew about Trump’s secret dealings, while the American people didn’t, meant that if Trump didn’t do what Russia wanted, Russia could expose Trump’s lies and so bring him down.
The filing revealed that Mueller’s Office is now investigating the hypothesis that Donald Trump, his campaign, his organization and his associates participated in a massive election fraud, through five interlocking conspiracies—arguably the worst set of crimes against the United States in its history. For some time, it’s been obvious that Donald Trump has been acting in a weird way towards America’s adversary, Russia. Until recently, the miscellaneous bits and pieces of the Trump-Russia jigsaw puzzle didn’t fit together in any coherent way.

29-30 November
Trump calls Russia deal ‘legal and cool’ as Mueller inquiry gathers momentum
Michael Cohen’s confession casts the president himself as a pivotal figure in Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling
(The Guardian) Mueller’s team has brought charges or secured convictions against more than two dozen Russian nationals and entities, as well as several of Trump’s associates, but now the president himself is front and centre. Experts suggested that the walls are closing in.
Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst, told CNN: “Today is the first day I actually thought Donald Trump might not finish his term in office. I think this thing is enormous.” An opinion column in the Washington Post was headlined: “Trump should be freaked out right about now.”

Michael Cohen Takes Mueller Inside the Trump Organization
The president’s former personal lawyer admitted lying to Congress about efforts in 2016 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
(The Atlantic) In a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of his negotiations to build a Trump Tower Moscow in 2016, and about how often he discussed the deal with Trump during the campaign. The guilty plea is the first Mueller has secured that is related directly to Trump’s business dealings—and may be just the tip of the iceberg in the ongoing investigation of business deals involving the Trump Organization and Russian financiers, inside and outside the Kremlin.
It isn’t just Trump who may be in legal danger now that Cohen is cooperating—it’s also his family members, who Cohen admitted to briefing on the Trump Tower Moscow deal in 2016. According to the criminal information, filed by Mueller on Thursday, Cohen discussed the Moscow deal with Trump’s family members “within” the Trump Organization.

Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea These developments would, under normal circumstances, end a presidency.

Jeffrey Toobin: The Legal Perils That Michael Cohen’s Guilty Plea Poses for Donald Trump
It’s true that Trump had the right to do business in Russia during the time when he was a candidate, but the public also had a right to know where his true financial interests lay. It would have been highly relevant to the public to learn that Trump was negotiating a business deal with Russia at the same time that he was proposing to change American policy toward that country. Not only was the public deprived of this information but Cohen’s guilty plea indicates that voters were actively misled about Trump’s interests.

What Does Trump Tower Moscow Mean to the Mueller Investigation?
(New York) Another piece of Cohen news broke on Thursday, with perhaps a longer tail of significance: as part of his plea deal, the lawyer has agreed to a cooperation agreement with the special counsel. Cohen, who is scheduled for sentencing on December 12 for his tax evasion and bank-fraud charges, sat with counsel investigators for 70 hours of interviews, relaying information on Trump-Russia contacts during the campaign, obstruction of justice, Trump’s business history in Russia, and the president’s discussion of pardons.
27 November
Manafort’s Lawyer Said to Brief Trump Attorneys on What He Told Mueller
(NYT) A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.
While Mr. Downing’s discussions with the president’s team violated no laws, they helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between lawyers for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, who accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant, according to the people. That conflict spilled into public view on Monday when the prosecutors took the rare step of declaring that Mr. Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying to them about a variety of subjects.

7 November
John Cassidy: Trump’s Effort to Hobble the Mueller Investigation Must Be Stopped
(New Yorker) Officially, the rushed departure from the Justice Department of Attorney General Jeff Sessions was described as a “resignation.” Of course, it was really a firing. In fact, it was tantamount to a double firing. In appointing Sessions’s interim replacement, Matthew Whitaker, a conservative Republican lawyer who had been serving as Sessions’s chief of staff, President Trump passed over the Justice Department’s second-in-command, Rod Rosenstein, and also stripped Rosenstein of responsibility for overseeing the investigation being carried out by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
Trump Forces Out Jeff Sessions as He Cleans House After the Midterms
(NYT) The president has regularly attacked the Justice Department and Mr. Sessions, blaming the attorney general for the specter of the special counsel investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Mr. Trump has said for months that he wished to replace Mr. Sessions, but lawmakers and administration officials believed that firing the attorney general before the midterm elections would have had negative consequences for Republicans in tight races.
Such a move might clear the way for Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Mueller. To dismiss a special counsel, the president has to order the attorney general or, in the case of a recusal, the deputy attorney general to carry it out. Mr. Rosenstein has said that he sees no justification to dismiss Mr. Mueller. Mr. Trump has already fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director originally overseeing the investigation.

1 October
How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump
A meticulous analysis of online activity during the 2016 campaign makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive.
(The New Yorker) Politicians may be too timid to explore the subject, but a new book from, of all places, Oxford University Press promises to be incendiary. “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know,” by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, dares to ask—and even attempts to answer—whether Russian meddling had a decisive impact in 2016. Jamieson offers a forensic analysis of the available evidence and concludes that Russia very likely delivered Trump’s victory.
“I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers. I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”
The effect of such manipulations could be momentous in an election as close as the 2016 race, in which Clinton got nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, and Trump won the Electoral College only because some eighty thousand votes went his way in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. In two hundred and twenty-four pages of extremely dry prose, with four appendixes of charts and graphs and fifty-four pages of footnotes, Jamieson makes a strong case that, in 2016, “Russian masterminds” pulled off a technological and political coup. Moreover, she concludes, the American media “inadvertently helped them achieve their goals.”

14 September
Paul Manafort’s Cooperation With Mueller Is the Biggest Blow Yet to Trump
The president and his former campaign chairman have spent months sharing information about the Russia investigation. Now Manafort has decided to help the government.
(The Atlantic) The president’s former campaign chairman has agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation of a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, prosecutors said in court on Friday, and has already proffered information to the Justice Department. Manafort also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, avoiding the spectacle of a second trial in Washington, D.C. … Prosecutors gave him a pretty good deal, dropping five of the seven charges he would have faced in the D.C. trial, including those for money laundering and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. As part of his plea deal, however, Manafort will be required to forfeit $46 million in cash and properties to the U.S. government

30 August
Trump’s Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime
Some of President Trump’s favorite targets in the Russia probe have spent their careers in the Justice Department and FBI investigating organized crime and money laundering, particularly as they pertain to Russia.
(The Atlantic) Robert Mueller … assembled a team with revealing expertise in fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and other financial crimes. … Trump’s latest obsession is with Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official who spent years investigating Russian organized crime and corruption—an expertise he shared with another Trump target named Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who provided valuable intelligence on Russia to the State Department and the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force prior to authoring the Trump-Russia dossier in 2016.
The president has denied having any business ties to Russia, and his dream of building a Trump Tower Moscow never materialized. But his links to Russian oligarchs and mobsters from the former Soviet Union have been documented: Millions of dollars from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump’s developments and casinos throughout the 1990s, as the journalist Craig Unger has documented, as oligarchs looked for a place to hide their money in the West.

24 August
New York Prosecutors May Pose a Bigger Threat to Trump Than Mueller
(The Atlantic) The offer of immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer is reminiscent of moves law enforcement used as they were taking down the Mafia.
The man who knows “where all the financial bodies are buried” in President Donald Trump’s namesake organization may now lead prosecutors in the Southern District of New York directly to them.
The president’s legal headaches extend well beyond SDNY and Mueller, too. According to The New York Times, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is weighing whether to bring criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company executives related to how the organization accounted for one of Cohen’s hush-money payments.
The New York State attorney general is also investigating whether the Trump Foundation paid its legal bills with charitable funds, thereby operating “in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities.” Cohen has been subpoenaed as part of that investigation, and his lawyer Lanny Davis told me he intended to tell investigators “absolutely everything.”

21 August
Paul Manafort found guilty on eight counts
(CNN) … a major victory for special counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort was found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. He faces a maximum of 80 years in prison.
The news came at the same time Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was in a New York federal court to plead guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud.

18-19 August
Trump invokes Nixon and McCarthy in NYT White House counsel report rant
Don McGahn speaks to Mueller for 30 hours in Russia inquiry
President calls report ‘fake’ but also confirms its substance
(The Guardian) The president’s rage was stoked by a bombshell report that said White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian election interference, links between Trump aides and Moscow, and potential obstruction of justice.
The president both called the Times report “fake” and confirmed its substance.
… in his initial response on Saturday, when the report was published online, Trump wrote: “The failing [New York Times] wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic], he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’”
White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry
For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual, but Mr. McGahn views his role as protecting the presidency, not the president
(NYT) In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer.

3 August
Documentary filmmaker says Trump started taking Russian money after “series of bankruptcies”
Jack Bryan said the Russian mob first “made their move” in 2002 once Trump had been cut off by major US banks
(Salon) When MSNBC’s Willie Geist asked Bryan to clarify what he meant by the mob “making its move” on Trump, the filmmaker elaborated about all the shady money that started pouring into Trump properties after Trump had been cut off by major banks. … Bryan went on to say that the money was coming “particularly from the Ukraine-Russia gas trade, which is an incredibly mobbed up operation” and that “it’s been going in there to basically start the building process.”

18 July
Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina had ties to Russian intelligence agency, prosecutors say
Butina was arrested on a criminal complaint Sunday, and federal authorities indicted her Tuesday for conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. … Russian’s foreign ministry called Butina’s arrest alarming and politically motivated with an aim of undermining the outcomes of this week’s Russian-U. S. summit in Helsinki.

16 July
White House: Trump Isn’t a Traitor, Just a Cognitively Impaired Egotist
On Monday in Helsinki, Donald Trump said he didn’t “see any reason” to believe the American security state’s assessment that Russia was behind the cyberattacks on the Democratic Party during the 2016 election — because Russian president Vladimir Putin said that it wasn’t.
The president went on to blame American law-enforcement agents for bringing U.S.–Russian relations to an all-time low, and endorsed a bizarre proposal from Putin, in which Special Counsel Robert Mueller would work with Russian officials to investigate cybercrimes against American political organizations — and, also, to prosecute American citizens who’ve gotten onto the wrong side of the Kremlin.

13 July
A summary of the fruit of the Mueller investigation, to date
– There are 187 criminal charges in active indictments or to which individuals have pleaded guilty
– Another 23 counts against President Trump’s former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates were vacated when he agreed to cooperate with Mueller
– Thirty-two people and three businesses have been named in plea agreements or indictments
– Six guilty pleas from five defendants, including Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, businessman Richard Pinedo and lawyer Alex van der Zwaan
– Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort faces 25 criminal count
And the list goes on.
12 Russian Agents Indicted in Mueller Investigation
(NYT) The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election issued an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers on Friday in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. The indictment came only three days before President Trump was planning to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland.
The 29-page indictment is the most detailed accusation by the American government to date of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, and it includes a litany of brazen Russian subterfuge operations meant to foment chaos in the months before Election Day.

12 July
It Just Got Harder to Fire Mueller
By David Leonhardt
… If you buy this logic, it means Mueller’s chances of remaining on the job through at least Labor Day have risen. And Labor Day is traditionally considered the start of the most intense period of a fall campaign, which would be another bad time for Trump to make a radical power grab.
Trump is unlike any president of our lifetime — less bound by law and custom, more dangerous to democracy. So I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of his firing Mueller over the next four months. But I do think it has become less likely.
All of this creates yet another reason the midterms are so enormously important. If Republicans hold the House and Senate, imagine how emboldened Trump will feel. And imagine what he may do about the biggest threat to his presidency if he is feeling emboldened.

6 July
Shifting Strategy, Trump’s Lawyers Set New Conditions for Mueller Interview
(NYT) The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, needs to prove before Mr. Trump would agree to an interview that he has evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer in the case.
Mr. Giuliani appeared to be in part trying to shift responsibility onto the special counsel for the lengthy negotiations over an interview — and was most likely prolonging them himself.
The gambit by Mr. Giuliani was the latest maneuver in an all-out assault by the president and his legal team in recent months to alter public opinion about the inquiry. They have come to believe that, if the Democrats win control of the House in November, the chamber will vote on whether to begin the impeachment process no matter the outcome of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. So they want to sway Americans — and by extension, lawmakers.

2 July
Meet the Mueller pundits
(Politico) Former federal prosecutors are collecting five- or even six-figure salaries as cable news networks clamor to find talking heads who can opine on every aspect of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. … in the Trump era, having the Justice Department on one’s résumé has opened a new career path — the media. And these ex-prosecutors-turned pundits have a distinct assignment: To try to bring sanity to the whirlwind of information about Mueller’s probe while helping the television networks in their continuing coverage of the Trump campaign’s foreign dealings during the 2016 presidential election.
Michael Cohen Apparently Flipping Is Extremely Bad News for Trump
(New York) Cohen and Trump may have assumed that they could communicate freely because, as Trump’s “lawyer,” their communication would enjoy attorney-client privilege. But Cohen’s true role was as a “fixer,” not a lawyer, and only legal advice qualifies as privileged.
Cohen can’t be pardoned. Trump has repeatedly flaunted his pardon power in an obvious effort to persuade witnesses to stay loyal. The trouble is that Trump can only issue a pardon for a federal crime. Cohen seems to have committed many state-level crimes, and New York’s state prosecutor is cooperating with Robert Mueller.
Cohen dealt with Russia during the campaign. The Steele dossier famously identified Cohen as a point of contact for Russian intelligence in the fall of 2016. Cohen denied the specific meeting, which allegedly took place in Prague. However, Mueller has also reportedly come to doubt Cohen’s alibi.
Cohen also dealt with Russia in his attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and allegedly hand-delivered a pro-Russian peace plan to Michael Flynn.
Cohen may have collected bribes after Trump’s election. Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg met with Cohen in Trump Tower 11 days before the inauguration, and the two discussed Russian-American relations. After the inauguration, the firm Columbus Nova awarded Cohen a $1 million “consulting contract.”

16 June
Virginia Heffernan: Paul Manafort is in the klink. It’s OK to be pleased
(LATimes) Manafort is one of the most malevolent, cunning and predatory figures yet indicted in l’Affaire Russe. He has consorted with some of the worst dictators the world has ever seen.
The son of the mayor of New Britain, Conn., Manafort moved to Washington in the late 1960s to attend Georgetown University. In 1980, along with fellow Young Republicans Charlie Black and Roger Stone (who would also become a close advisor to Trump), he started a firm that eventually dominated lobbying in the Reagan era.
In 1985, Manafort hit the big time. His firm landed a hot client: the corrupt and brutal president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. By the early 1990s, the monstrous roster included dictators in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. In 1992, the Center for Public Integrity had Manafort’s firm squarely in its sights, making his work the centerpiece of a report on firms that cover for warlords and human-rights abusers called “The Torturers’ Lobby: How Human-Rights Abusing Nations Are Represented in Washington.”
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was just sent to jail — here’s what you need to know about him
(Business Insider) Manafort has since been charged with over 20 counts in Mueller’s Russia investigation, including tax and bank fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and failure to register as a foreign agent.
A federal judge on Friday revoked his bail, sending him to jail.

28 May
Paul Waldman: Trump’s craziest claim about Russia
(WaPost) We can argue about the significance of any one piece of that puzzle; some pieces are very significant, and others may be trivial. We can also argue about whether Trump is innocent or guilty of particular crimes such as obstruction of justice. But the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were so copious that it would be positively bizarre for there not to be a serious, thorough investigation, especially considering that we know Russia carried out a comprehensive effort to manipulate our election.
Yet that is exactly what Trump is trying to persuade people to believe: not just that he’s innocent, but that he and everyone around him are so obviously innocent that there should never have been an investigation in the first place. Of all his crazy claims about Russia, that may be the craziest.

27 May
Svetlana Lokhova: I’m a mum under siege, not Mata Hari (paywall)
(The Times) Svetlana Lokhova, a Cambridge expert on Soviet intelligence, has fled a whirlwind of wild reports depicting her as a serial seducer of spymasters who is the key to alleged links between Trump and Russia. She slips out of hiding to clear her name

25 May
“Spygate,” the false allegation that the FBI had a spy in the Trump campaign, explained
Stefan Halper, a professor and FBI informant, didn’t “spy” on Trump. Here’s what actually happened.
(Vox) Based on what has been publicly reported, legal experts say that Halper’s work was most likely part of a legitimate counterintelligence operation targeted at Russia’s election interference campaign and not any kind of political attack on Trump. Barbara McQuade, a former US district attorney, told Vox that the notion that the FBI was fishing for some kind of dirt on Trump is “baseless.”

21 May
Donald Trump Comes Unglued Amid Growing Pressure From Bob Mueller
(New York Magazine) Everything we know so far points to a hit on the Justice Department and the FBI simply because Trump feels besieged and out of sorts — and because Devin Nunes and his faithful allies in the House are determined to undermine Mueller and Rosenstein at every turn. They’re the ones who have been demanding for weeks that DOJ turn over more information about the secret informant, longtime intelligence source Stefan Halper, whose identity the FBI had been keeping under wraps. Based on the available information, Halper’s only job seems to have been to determine if there was anyone in the Trump campaign carrying water for Moscow.

19 May
Glenn GreenwaldThe FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election
(The Intercept) Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.

1 May
(The Atlantic) ‘Dangerous Questions’: A list of questions leaked to The New York Times reveals what Robert Mueller plans to ask President Trump if he agrees to be interviewed in the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among other matters, the questions deal with Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as FBI director, and what the president knew about the contacts that members of his team had with Russia. According to Clint Watts, a former FBI agent, the risk of Trump contradicting accounts given by other witnesses makes these “very dangerous questions for the president.”
Mueller’s questions for Trump have leaked. Here are three big takeaways
The ‘collusion’ issue is far from settled. Mueller knows a lot more about possible obstruction of justice than we do. Trump’s team may be laying the groundwork to avoid the interview.
(WaPost) The New York Times has obtained a long list of questions that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wants to pose to President Trump in a sit-down interview. One crucial revelation from the Times is this: After seeing these questions, which are mostly geared at determining whether Trump obstructed justice, Trump’s former attorney, John Dowd, became even more convinced that Trump should not sit for this interview, because of their “tone and detailed nature.”
Trump apparently disagreed, and Dowd subsequently quit, because he concluded his advice was not being followed. In short, Trump doesn’t see any threat from these questions. As he tweeted moments ago, there are “No questions on Collusion” (actually, there are), and “it would seem very hard to obstruct justice” if no crime was committed (actually, you can).

26 March
“A Target, Not a Witness”: Will Trump’s Legal B-Team Collapse Before Mueller?
The president’s struggle to recruit experienced lawyers could mask more ominous concerns. “As far as I can tell, Ty Cobb is the only attorney left on the Trump team with experience handling federal criminal investigations,” says one former prosecutor. “The team is thinner than you might expect for perhaps the most important investigation of our lifetime.”
(Vanity Fair) At the very moment when Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is spinning into higher gear, Donald Trump’s legal team is falling apart in extraordinary fashion. John Dowd, the president’s lead personal lawyer, resigned last week. Ty Cobb, who is running point for the White House on everything Russia, is on the outs. Even Joseph diGenova, the shit-kicking conspiracy theorist who was expected to join the team, unexpectedly bowed out Sunday, alongside his wife, Fox News regular Victoria Toensing, citing undefined conflicts. (The New York Times reported that Trump did not believe he had “personal chemistry” with the couple.) “I don’t think you have seen anything like this,” said former Obama general counsel Bob Bauer, struggling to identify a historical antecedent. Trump’s personal legal team now consists of just one full-time attorney—Jay Sekulow—a remarkably shallow bench for a president facing potential obstruction of justice charges and the prospect of impeachment.

25 March
In a burst of tweets, Trump insists that he’s happy with his legal team
The reasons that some firms are not interested in the work: Trump is a difficult client to work with and often ignores the advice of his legal counsel.

18 March
Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit
Graham warns Trump: Firing Mueller would be ‘beginning of the end of his presidency’
(The Hill) Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Friday that he fired the FBI’s No. 2 official in a move that roiled Washington, D.C., and spurred a series of tweets from President Trump denouncing Mueller, McCabe and former FBI Director James Comey.
McCabe said his firing was an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Moscow. The president targeted Mueller’s investigation in a series of tweets over the weekend, further alarming many lawmakers.
Democrats on Sunday were calling for proactive measures to protect Mueller and his investigation. Republicans insisted Trump has no intention of firing the special counsel, although the White House also acknowledged Trump is “frustrated.[White House vents frustration with ‘absurd’ Mueller probe]

15 March
U.S. imposes sanctions on Russians over election meddling
(AP) The Treasury Department announced the sanctions amid withering criticism of Trump and his administration for failing to use the congressionally mandated authority to punish Russia for the election interference. Trump himself has been skeptical of the allegations.
The sanctions are the first use of the powers that Congress passed last year in retaliation for Moscow’s meddling. The targets include officials working for the Russian military intelligence agency, GRU. Thursday’s action freezes any assets the individuals and entities may have in the United States and bar Americans from doing business with them.
The department said in a statement that the GRU and Russia’s military interfered in the 2016 election and were “directly responsible” for the NotPetya cyberattack that hit businesses across Europe in June 2017.
Trump administration sanctions Russian spies, trolls over U.S. election interference, cyber attacks
(WaPost) Taken together, the moves represent the administration’s most significant actions to date against Russia for its aggression against the United States. They are intended to deter tampering with this year’s midterm elections while signaling to Russia that Washington will not allow its attacks to go unchallenged, officials said. The sanctions stand in contrast to President Trump’s reluctance to blame the Kremlin for its interference in the 2016 presidential race despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow did so.

9 March
Dangers multiply for Trump in Mueller probe
Opinion is almost unanimous that there are more bombshells to come. That could be very bad news for the president and those close to him.
(The Hill) Former Justice Department veterans say that the recent revelations simply underline what some experts have pointed out repeatedly: that Mueller’s team knows far more than is in the public arena and can reveal it at a time of their choosing.
“It’s not Mueller who is discovering new things all the time, as much as it is that we are learning about areas Mueller has been investigating all along,” said Joyce White Vance, who served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama throughout the Obama administration.

6 March
What on earth was Sam Nunberg doing? A few theories
(WaPost) Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg had a surreal day Monday. After deciding he wouldn’t cooperate with a grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, he went on a media blitz to, well, air some things. Each interview seemed intent upon out-shocking the last.
By the end, he had suggested that President Trump may have worked with the Russians, dared Mueller to throw him in jail, repeatedly inquired as to what journalists thought his fate might be, and said he thought Trump knew about that Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia

27 February
Roger Stone’s Secret Messages with WikiLeaks
Transcripts obtained by The Atlantic show Donald Trump’s longtime confidante corresponded with the radical-transparency group.
Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic show that Stone and WikiLeaks, a radical-transparency group, communicated directly on October 13, 2016—and that WikiLeaks sought to keep its channel to Stone open after Trump won the election. The existence of the secret correspondence marks yet another strange twist in the White House’s rapidly swelling Russia scandal.
Russians compromised U.S. election systems in seven states: report
(Reuters) U.S. intelligence had evidence that voter registration systems or websites in seven states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin – were compromised by Russian-backed operatives before the 2016 election but never told the states, NBC News reported on Tuesday.
The Department of Homeland Security denied the report, a spokesman calling it “factually inaccurate and misleading” in a statement.
NBC, citing unnamed U.S. officials, said that top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office synthesized months of work and made the conclusions.

26 February
Trump’s Miss Universe Gambit
For years, he used his beauty pageants to boost business interests abroad. A 2013 contest, in Moscow, may also have helped give him the Presidency.
By Jeffrey Toobin
(The New Yorker) the indictments of the Russians on Friday showed Mueller’s determination to reveal the extent of foreign influence in the election and to hold accountable those who facilitated it. For decades, in Trump’s business dealings, he never paid a price for his salesman’s hype, which repeatedly edged into falsehood. The Mueller investigation may now bring an unprecedented and overdue moment of reckoning.

22 February
Special counsel Mueller files new charges against Manafort, Gates
(WaPost) Paul Manafort was using fraudulently obtained loans and tax-cheating tricks to prop up his personal finances as he became chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, according to a new 32-count indictment filed against him and his business partner Thursday.
The indictment ratchets up pressure on Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, who were already preparing for a trial in the District that could come later this year on fraud and money-laundering charges.
(The Atlantic) Last week the U.S. Justice Department charged 13 Russian nationals with attempting to undermine the 2016 presidential election through an elaborate, social media-powered disinformation scheme. The vast amounts of data that the digital-advertising industry collects about Americans could be partly to blame for the success of the Russian campaign. With the American political system still vulnerable, Daniel Fried argues that President Trump can use criminal prosecution, sanctions, regulatory actions, or digital regulations to combat Russian interference more effectively than President Obama did. But as David Frum writes, the biggest obstacle to protecting American democracy may not be a lack of retaliatory options, but rather Trump’s own disinterest.

21 February
As expected!
Trump Attacks Obama, and His Own Attorney General, Over Russia Inquiry
(NYT) President Trump attacked his own attorney general on Wednesday, asking in a Twitter post why Jeff Sessions has not been investigating Democrats for Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump has been questioning why the Obama administration did not do more to stop Russian interference, and he has said that his administration has been tougher on Russia than that of his predecessor.
Mr. Trump has denied that Russia was involved in the 2016 election meddling. But an indictment announced last week against 13 Russians and three companies described a sophisticated, multiyear Russian influence campaign designed to sow discord across the American democratic process. On Tuesday, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, announced charges against the 19th person in the sprawling probe that has dogged Mr. Trump’s presidency.

19 February
(Quartz) Donald Trump raged over Russia indictments. ….  He also lined up with a Facebook executive to give a misleading account of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments. Trump blames Obama, lashes out at Schiff and Democrats, but spares Russia criticism in weekend tweet storm

18 February
David Frum: America Is Under Attack and the President Doesn’t Care
Trump has systematically attempted to shut down investigations of the foreign-espionage operation that operated on his behalf. He fired the director of the FBI to shut it down. His White House coordinated with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to misdirect the investigation. He mobilized the speaker of the House to thwart bipartisan investigations under broadly respected leadership. He has inspired, supported, and joined a national propaganda campaign against the Mueller investigation.
And all the while, Trump has done nothing—literally nothing—to harden the nation’s voting systems against follow-up Russian operations. On Sunday, he publicly repudiated his own national-security adviser for acknowledging at the Munich Security Conference the most incontrovertible basics of what happened in 2016.

17 February
NYT’S SCOTT SHANE and MARK MAZZETTI: A 37-page indictment, handed up on Friday by a Washington grand jury and charging [Irina] Kaverzina and 12 other people with an elaborate conspiracy, showed that she and her colleagues did not, in fact, hide their tracks so well from United States investigators. The charges, brought by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, introduced hard facts to a polarized political debate over Russia’s intervention in American democracy, while not yet implicating President Trump or his associates.
“The indictment presented in astonishing detail a carefully planned, three-year Russian scheme to incite political discord in the United States, damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and later bolster the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, along with those of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. The precise description of the operation suggested that F.B.I. investigators had intercepted communications, found a cooperating insider or both.
“The Russians overseeing the operation, which they named the Translator Project, had a goal to ‘spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.’ They used a cluster of companies linked to one called the Internet Research Agency, and called their campaign ‘information warfare.'”

16 February
Mueller indicts 13 Russians for interfering in US election
(The Hill) Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections.
The explosive new charges allege that the Russians created false U.S. personas and stole the identities of real U.S. people in order to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, an assessment previously reached by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy.”

26 January
(NYT) President Trump denied that he had ordered the firing of the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller Mr. Trump invoked one of his favorite refrains: “fake news.” Here’s how writers from across the political spectrum reacted to the story.

25 January
Trump surprises his lawyers and alarms his friends by saying he will talk with Mueller
The unexpected comment reflects the president’s self-confidence. Fox News hosts are now trying to change his mind.
(WaPost) “The comments came during an impromptu meeting in the West Wing, where reporters were gathered to speak with senior officials for a background briefing about immigration,” Josh Dawsey, David Nakamura and Devlin Barrett report. “Trump walked into the meeting unannounced and began talking. The president later told reporters to quote him on the record. Trump’s remarks took White House officials by surprise and came as his lawyers were negotiating with Mueller’s team on a potential interview. The president’s lawyers have repeatedly encouraged him not to post tweets or make comments about the investigation without their knowledge, saying such comments could damage him.”
Mueller’s team wants to question Trump about his decisions to fire Michael Flynn as national security adviser and James Comey as FBI director. In recent weeks, investigators have also questioned witnesses about his attempt to push out Jeff Sessions after the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation.
People who have appeared before Mueller’s team say prosecutors have detailed accounts of events, sometimes to the minute, and have surprised witnesses by showing them emails or documents they were unaware that the team had or that their colleagues had written,” per Josh, David and Devlin. “One person said Mueller’s team has asked about Trump’s private comments around key events and how he explained decisions. ‘They are looking for a pattern,’ said this person, who has spoken with Mueller’s team and requested anonymity to speak about a federal investigation.”

16 January
Bannon Is Subpoenaed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation
Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation …
Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Mr. Bannon to cooperate with the investigation. The experts also said it could be a signal to Mr. Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Mr. Trump’s legal threats, Mr. Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.

14 January
A close reading of Glenn Simpson’s Trump-Russia testimony
By Virginia Heffernan
(LA Times) Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, released this week, is a tale of two research projects. One is about the financier turned criminal-justice crusader William F. Browder. The other is about the American president, Donald J. Trump. Taken together, they shed light on some of the darkest corners of l’Affaire Russe. But what Simpson’s testimony most starkly reveals are the hazards that journalists and politicians alike encounter when they stop working for the public — and start working for clients with tendentious personal agendas.
He organized what’s widely considered a calumny campaign against Browder, Putin’s nemesis and champion of the Magnitsky Act. That elegant piece of legislation limits banking and travel for Russian officials and oligarchs responsible for human rights abuses. (The more recent Global Magnitsky Act expanded its purview.)
At the behest of Republican groups and then Democratic ones, both conducting standard opposition research on Trump, Simpson also commissioned and oversaw the dossier that suggests Trump is vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Executive-produced by Christopher Steele, a former British spy.


22 December
(NYT) The Russia investigation. Much of Washington’s focus is on whether President Trump will fire Robert Mueller. But firing Rod Rosenstein, Mueller’s boss, may be the bigger risk, the former F.B.I. agent Asha Rangappa writes at Just Security. A replacement for Rosenstein “not fully committed to the rule of law but to insulating the president and the White House from political and legal accountability could wreak havoc,” she explains. Such a replacement could obstruct or end the investigation.

4 December
Aside from clarifying what the Logan Act is all about, the authors raise an intriguing possibility of Mike Pence being the subject of impeachment proceedings.
Why the Trump Team Should Fear the Logan Act
By Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner, professors at the University of Chicago Law School.
(NYT) President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, acknowledged in court last week that he lied to F.B.I. investigators about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States in the run-up to Mr. Trump’s inauguration. While Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to only one count of making materially false statements, his admissions leave little doubt that he also violated a federal criminal statute known as the Logan Act. Mr. Flynn’s filings further reveal that a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team almost certainly violated the Logan Act, too.
We do not yet know the identity of this “very senior” official. Possibilities include Jared Kushner, who is Mr. Trump’s son-in-law; Mike Pence, vice president-elect at the time; and Mr. Trump himself. Whoever it was, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, can make out a powerful criminal case against that person.
The Logan Act makes it a crime for a United States citizen, “without authority” from the federal government, to communicate with foreign officials in order to “influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government” in a dispute with the United States or “to defeat the measures of the United States.” A conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.

1 December
“A Really, Really Good Deal”: Mike Flynn’s Guilty Plea Suggests He’s Turned on Trump
Experts believe Flynn’s single charge of lying to the F.B.I. means he’s cooperating with Mueller.
(Vanity Fair) ABC News reported that Flynn, facing mounting legal costs and feeling “abandoned” by Trump, had made the decision to cooperate with Mueller. Sources told the outlet that after Flynn was confronted with the full array of potential charges against him, he agreed to testify about President Donald Trump, as well as members of Trump’s family and others in the White House. “He is prepared to testify that president Trump, as a candidate, ordered him and directed him to make contact with the Russians,” ABC’s Brian Ross said on air. At his sentencing, the judge reportedly said that Flynn, who faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, could see his sentence reduced “if and only if he provides substantial assistance in the prosecution of another person.”

23 November
(NYT) Cries of “Enough already” on Russian meddling aren’t coming from just Mr. Trump’s supporters. In Russia, beleaguered liberals complain that the American focus feeds propaganda portraying President Vladimir Putin as a master strategist.

16 November
The Ex-Spy Behind the Trump-Russia Dossier Left a Clue for Mueller
Christopher Steele told a reporter that one real-estate deal might be key to understanding the collusion case.
(Vanity Fair) In December of last year, Steele informed Luke Harding, a journalist for the Guardian, that “the contracts for the hotel deals and land deals” between Trump and individuals with the Kremlin ties warrant investigation. “Check their values against the money Trump secured via loans,” the former spy said, according to a conversation detailed in Harding’s new book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. “The difference is what’s important.”

13 November
Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s credulity about Russia elicits a blowback
(WaPost) To sum up, we have a president who is either scared of Putin, getting played by Putin or so emotionally fragile (or some of each) that he cannot acknowledge a factually indisputable attack on America’s electoral democracy. As a result, Trump refuses to take action to protect our electoral system and elevates a thuggish autocrat on the world stage.

11 November
Well now, that’s all settled.
Trump says he trusts Putin’s denials of election meddling
(Reuters) “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the resort of Danang. Full Transcript of Trump’s Remarks on Russia
Scott Gilmore: Donald Trump: Putin’s Manchurian Idiot
It can’t be denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. election in support of Trump. But what did the President know about it?
(Maclean’s) I think Trump sincerely believes there was no collusion. And in spite of the growing pile of evidence in front of him, he is constitutionally incapable of admitting a foreign power helped win the election, because that conclusion would dramatically diminish the single greatest accomplishment of his life. And like he has with NAFTA, NATO, climate change, ISIS, the Central Park Five and dozens of other issues, Trump will risk looking like a fool unable to grasp the evidence before his eyes or presented by all the experts, if accepting the truth would cause him to lose face.
This is still a strategic coup for Moscow. Washington is embroiled in what will be years of partisan chaos. The American people are increasingly disenchanted with democracy. And in the Oval Office there is a man few take seriously at home or abroad. Trump is, in short, Putin’s Manchurian Idiot.
Trump absolves Putin and shoots himself in the foot
(CNN) On Saturday, the President delivered his first moment of shock and awe with his Achilles’ heel on foreign policy: Russia. In an act of defiance, he said he believed President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 US election despite all the evidence to the contrary, including from US intelligence agencies. He seems more worried that Putin is “insulted” by the accusations than he is by the impact these operations had on our democratic processes. The shocking comments about Putin are likely to drown out everything else that has happened so far.
The statement is a head-turner. It is part of the ongoing puzzle from this administration: What explains Trump’s insistence on taking a relatively positive stance toward the Russian government despite the overwhelming evidence we have of an ongoing cyberwar against democratic elections and a terrible record on human rights.

10 November
Russia Scandal Befalls Two Brothers: John and Tony Podesta
(NYT) One is a rail-thin liberal idealist who spent his career in government, on campaigns and at think tanks. The other is an overweight pragmatist who made a fortune lobbying for all manner of liberal boogeymen.
And now, … the two influential Washington brothers have found themselves on opposite sides of the scandals over Russian interference in the 2016 election.
John D. Podesta, perhaps more than anyone except Hillary Clinton, was a victim of the Russian cyberassault … Mr. Podesta’s older brother, Tony Podesta, has been ensnared in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s meddling in the race and whether it involved any associates of President Trump.

4-5 November
Kremlin Cash Behind Billionaire’s Twitter and Facebook Investments
Leaked files show that a state-controlled bank in Moscow helped to fuel Yuri Milner’s ascent in Silicon Valley, where the Russia investigation has put tech companies under scrutiny.
(NYT) Obscured by a maze of offshore shell companies, the Twitter investment was backed by VTB, a Russian state-controlled bank often used for politically strategic deals. And a big investor in Mr. Milner’s Facebook deal received financing from Gazprom Investholding, another government-controlled financial institution, according to the documents.

How cases of Paul Manafort and Sergei Magnitsky are linked: money laundering through Cyprus
U.K. fund manager Bill Browder says ‘Cypriot authorities turn a very active blind eye’ to money laundering
(CBC) The indictment this week of former Donald Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide Richard Gates, runs to 31 pages. Much of it reads like a bank ledger, listing dozens of wire transfers both men allegedly made over several years, moving millions of dollars into the United States without paying taxes. Most of those wire transfers came from roughly a dozen bank accounts in Cyprus.
For anyone familiar with the money-laundering tale uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, that’s an interesting coincidence. The financial fraud case he discovered in Moscow in 2007 also saw millions passed through bank accounts in Cyprus.

3 November
(The Atlantic) The Russia Investigation: New reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions knew about two Trump campaign advisers’ outreach to Russia—and in one case, tried to stop it—cast doubt on Sessions’s confirmation-hearing testimony that he wasn’t aware of any such communications. The recent reports also seem to contradict President Trump’s own comments at a February press conference, when he dismissed questions about his team’s Russian contacts as “fake news.” Even aside from what campaign officials may have known, the evidence that Russian agents used the internet to interfere with the 2016 presidential election is mounting—and so is the publicly available information about how they did it.

30 October
Three former Trump campaign officials charged by special counsel
(WaPost) former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos … pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner who claimed to have high-level Russian connections, and the agreement was unsealed Monday. Court documents described extensive efforts Papadopoulos made to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign, though some emails show his offers were rebuffed.
Manafort indicted on 12 counts, surrenders to FBI
(The Hill) The 12-count indictment includes Manafort’s former business partner and protégé Rick Gates, who was ousted from the pro-Trump group America First Policies in April.
The charges are related to work done by Manafort and Gates on behalf of a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine. Mueller alleges they were paid tens of millions of dollars for the work and then laundered the money “in order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities.”
The sprawling 31-page indictment, unsealed on Monday morning, makes no mention of Manafort’s work for President Trump’s campaign, which began in March of 2016 and ended with his ouster in August.

29 October

Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage… bound together in an unholy alliance
By Carole Cadwalladr
(The Guardian) … if there’s one person who’s in the middle of all of this, but who has escaped any proper scrutiny, it’s Nigel Farage. That’s Nigel Farage, who led the Leave.EU campaign, which is being investigated by the Electoral Commission alongside Cambridge Analytica, about whether the latter made an “impermissible donation” of services to the Leave campaign. Nigel Farage who visited Donald Trump and then Julian Assange. Who is friends with Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. Who headed an organisation – Ukip – which has multiple, public, visible but almost entirely unreported Russian connections. Who is paid by the Russian state via the broadcaster RT, which was banned last week from Twitter. And who appears like clockwork on British television without any word of this.
This is a power network that involves Wikileaks and Farage, and Cambridge Analytica and Farage, and Robert Mercer and Farage. Steve Bannon, former vice president of Cambridge Analytica, and Farage. It’s Nigel Farage and Brexit and Trump and Cambridge Analytica and Wikileaks… and, if the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee and the FBI are on to anything at all, somewhere in the middle of all that, Russia.

(WaPost Fact checker) The ‘dossier’ and the uranium deal: A guide to the latest allegations

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.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm