2017 Trump-Russia Connection

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein at a hearing in December. Mr. Rosenstein is said to have approved an application for surveillance of a former Trump associate. Credit Pete Marovich for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.

The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Democrats who have read the document say Republicans have cherry-picked facts to create a misleading and dangerous narrative. But in their efforts to discredit the inquiry, Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, who served as a Trump foreign policy adviser until September 2016.

A handful of senior Justice Department officials can approve an application to the secret surveillance court, but in practice that responsibility often falls to the deputy attorney general. No information has publicly emerged that the Justice Department or the F.B.I. did anything improper while seeking the surveillance warrant involving Mr. Page.

Mr. Trump has long been mistrustful of Mr. Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, who appointed the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and now oversees his investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president. Mr. Trump considered firing Mr. Rosenstein last summer. Instead, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired, then backed down after the White House counsel refused to carry out the order, The New York Times reported last week.

Mr. Trump is now again telling associates that he is frustrated with Mr. Rosenstein, according to one official familiar with the conversations.

It is difficult to judge whether Republicans’ criticism of the surveillance has merit. Although House members have been allowed to view the Republican memo in a secure setting, both that memo and a Democratic one in rebuttal remain shrouded in secrecy. And the applications to obtain and renew the warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are even more closely held. Only a small handful of members of Congress and staff members have reviewed them.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, whose staff wrote the memo, could vote as early as Monday, using an obscure House rule, to declassify its contents and make it available to the public. Mr. Trump would have five days to try to block their effort, potentially setting up a high-stakes standoff between the president and his Justice Department, which opposes its immediate release.

The White House has made clear to the Justice Department in recent days that it wants the Republican memo to be made public. Asked about the issue on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Marc Short, the White House’s head of legislative affairs, said that if the memo outlined serious concerns, “the American people should know that.”

But Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, warned in a letter last week to the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release a memo drawing on classified information without official review and pleaded with the committee to consult the Justice Department. He said the department was “unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process.”

To obtain the warrant involving Mr. Page, the government needed to show probable cause that he was acting as an agent of Russia. Once investigators get approval from the Justice Department for a warrant, prosecutors take it to a surveillance court judge, who decides whether to approve it.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, and a spokesman for Mr. Nunes did not reply to requests for comment. The people familiar with the contents of the memo spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details remained secret.

A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said in a statement: “The president has been clear publicly and privately that he wants absolute transparency throughout this process. Based on numerous news reports, top officials at the F.B.I. have engaged in conduct that shows bias against President Trump and bias for Hillary Clinton. While President Trump has the utmost respect and support for the rank-and-file members of the F.B.I., the anti-Trump bias at the top levels that appear to have existed is troubling.”

Mr. Page, a former Moscow-based investment banker who later founded an investment company in New York, had been on the F.B.I.’s radar for years. In 2013, an investigation revealed that a Russian spy had tried to recruit him. Mr. Page was never charged with any wrongdoing, and he denied that he would ever have cooperated with Russian intelligence officials.

But a trip Mr. Page took to Russia in July 2016 while working on Mr. Trump’s campaign caught the bureau’s attention again, and American law enforcement officials began conducting surveillance on him in the fall of 2016, shortly after he left the campaign. It is unclear what they learned about Mr. Page between then and when they sought the order’s renewal roughly six months later. It is also unknown whether the surveillance court granted the extension.

The renewal effort came in the late spring, sometime after the Senate confirmed Mr. Rosenstein as the Justice Department’s No. 2 official in late April. Around that time, following Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in May, Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller, a former head of the bureau, to take over the department’s Russia investigation. Mr. Rosenstein is overseeing the inquiry because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.

Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, who is close to Mr. Trump and House Republicans, signaled interest in Mr. Rosenstein this month as news of the memo’s existence first circulated, asking on air if Mr. Rosenstein had played a role in extending the surveillance. “I’m very interested about Rod Rosenstein in all of this,” he said.

In a speech on Friday in Norfolk, Va., Mr. Sessions appeared to wade into the debate. Without mentioning the Republican memo, he said that federal investigations must be free of bias, and that he would not condone “a culture of defensiveness.” While unfair criticism should be rebutted, he added, “it can never be that this department conceals errors when they occur.”

It’s no secret that President Trump isn’t a fan of the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Even when he’s conceded it, he’s gone only halfway. He’s accepting of Vladimir Putin’s denials. He clearly only begrudgingly signed Congress’s new Russia sanctions. And he has even reportedly dispatched a conspiracy theorist to brief his CIA director on the matter.

But seldom have we seen Trump’s insecurity and stubbornness on this topic in such stark relief as we do today.

The Post’s Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker are out with an extensive, tour-de-force account of Trump’s handling of Russian meddling in the election during his first year in office — based on more than 50 interviews. And they conclude that over the course of that year, “Trump became only more adamant in his rejections of it.”

Some of the accounts are jaw-dropping. A few worth highlighting:

  • Trump said it was “a trap” to admit that Russia hacked Democratic emails after being briefed on the intelligence community’s conclusions on Jan. 6.
  • Five days later, after admitting under pressure that he thought Russia was behind it, Trump clearly regretted it. He told aides, “It’s not me,” and, “It wasn’t right.”
  • A former U.S. intelligence official said, “If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the [president’s daily brief] off the rails.”
  • “If you say ‘Russia interference’ to him, it’s all about him,” a senior Republican strategist said. “He judges everything as about him.”
  • While being briefed by his special envoy to Ukraine about a proposal within the administration to arm Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed separatists, Trump asked why it was in the U.S. interest. The conversation was about Ukraine but seemed to capture Trump’s frustration on so many Russia-related fronts. The envoy, Kurt Volker, told The Post that Trump repeated at least five times, “I want peace.”

Trump has taken few concrete actions to hold Russia accountable or prevent future interference, even while he has gone hard at trying to prove his mythical claims of voter fraud.  Source and video here

Dec 6, 2017
Newsweek
FLYNN’S SECRET TEXT MESSAGES SHOW TRUMP COLLUDED WITH RUSSIA, EXPERTS SAY

Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business partner that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as soon as Donald Trump took office, according to an anonymous whistleblower.

The revelation is the latest evidence suggesting the Trump campaign may have agreed to help Russia in exchange for Russia’s help getting Trump elected president, experts say.

Special counsel Robert Mueller had already secured Flynn’s cooperation in his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, and Wednesday’s revelation publicly provides new evidence that will embolden Trump critics, experts say.

“It won’t come as a surprise to the special counsel, but it reveals to the public that there was something in the nature of an exchange or quid pro quo,” Lisa Griffin, a law professor at Duke University, told Newsweek.

“There are at least four potential avenues of criminality that the special counsel and others are exploring, and this provides more circumstantial evidence,” Griffin continued. “This might be relevant to the possibility of a bribery case, or assistance with the campaign that was done in exchange for what the Russians want most: the easing of sanctions.”

Whistleblower: Flynn was doing private Russia-related business on his phone during Trump’s inaugu…

A whistleblower has provided an account of businessman texting with Trump’s ex-national security adviser about a Middle East nuclear power projec

Flynn pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador at the time, including speaking with him about U.S. sanctions against Russia. Flynn is known to have maintained close business ties with people in Russia and Turkey.

According to the whistleblower, Flynn also wanted U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted in order to complete an international energy project he was working on. The whistleblower said Flynn texted his former business associate on the day of Trump’s inauguration to say that the project was “good to go.”

The information was given to Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who published an open letter on Wednesday to the committee’s chairman, Trey Gowdy, explaining the revelations.

“General Michael Flynn—within minutes of Donald Trump being sworn in as president—was communicating directly with his former business colleagues about their plans to work with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East,” the letter reads.

“Our committee has credible allegations that President Trump’s national security advisor sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners,” Cummings continued. “These grave allegations compel a full, credible and bipartisan congressional investigation.”

The revelation is one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to cancel U.S. sanctions against Russia, and it sheds light on why Flynn originally lied about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, a former Watergate prosecutor says.

“This just confirms the materiality of Flynn’s lies about what happened during the elections. This confirms that there is a quid pro quo for Russian help with winning the elections,” Nick Akerman told Newsweek. He was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation.

The whistleblower first approached Cummings after Newsweek published an account of Flynn’s role in pursuing a joint U.S.-Russian plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East, according to the letter.

Cummings reportedly chose not to go public with the information because Mueller asked him to delay acting on it until the special counsel completed his investigation. Cummings decided to go public with the information after Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller.

President Barack Obama first imposed economic sanctions on Russia in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. New sanctions were levied in December 2016 to punish Russia for its attempts to disrupt the U.S. election.

In June 2016, the Trump campaign was directly lobbied by a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, who met with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, among others, to discuss lifting human rights sanctions.  Source and video here

Dec 1, 2017
The New York Times
Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to the F.B.I. and Will Cooperate With Russia Inquiry

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December, becoming the first senior White House official to cut a cooperation deal in the special counsel’s wide-ranging inquiry into election interference.

Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, were part of a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump’s aides to create foreign policy before they were in power, documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show. Their efforts undermined the existing policy of President Barack Obama and flouted a warning from a senior Obama administration official to stop meddling in foreign affairs before the inauguration.

The documents do not disclose what Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Flynn’s discussions. But in at least one instance, prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a “very senior member” of the presidential transition team to discuss a United Nations resolution. Mr. Trump’s lawyers believe that unnamed aide was Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, according to a lawyer briefed on the matter.

The transition team was led by Vice President Mike Pence. Its top members included Mr. Kushner; Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff; and K.T. McFarland, who was Mr. Flynn’s deputy and was later appointed to be the ambassador to Singapore. Mr. Flynn spoke to Ms. McFarland about another of his conversations with Mr. Kislyak, according to the lawyer.

Slide Show

 

SLIDE SHOW

Read Flynn’s Statement of the Offense

Credit

Mr. Flynn’s decision to plead guilty to lying to investigators about those conversations marked a significant new phase in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and a politically treacherous development for the president and his closest aides, whose activities in the West Wing are being scrutinized by F.B.I. agents, lawmakers, federal prosecutors and the media.

The admissions by Mr. Flynn have the potential to reshape the public’s understanding of what the president’s associates said and did in the days after Mr. Trump’s unexpected election victory. And they suggest that prosecutors now have a cooperative source of information from inside the Oval Office during the administration’s chaotic first weeks

Mr. Flynn’s plea deal could deeply undercut the claims made in January by Mr. Trump and his aides that they were misled by Mr. Flynn about his discussion with Russians regarding sanctions imposed on Moscow by the Obama administration over the election interference. In fact, the documents say multiple members of the team coordinated the specifics of Mr. Flynn’s outreach to Russia and knew that the conversations were about sanctions.

Mr. Flynn’s agreement also provided new context for Mr. Trump’s efforts to get F.B.I. officials to back off their investigation of Mr. Flynn.

A Quick Look at the Ties Between Trump Officials and Russia

At least eight people met or corresponded with Russian officials or business people during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition.

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has said that the president asked him to shut down the investigation one day after Mr. Flynn was firedin February. “I hope you can let this go,” the president said, according to congressional testimony by Mr. Comey.

The information provided by Mr. Flynn, who promised to provide prosecutors with information on “any and all matters,” suggests one possible motivation for the president’s efforts to shut down the Flynn investigation: to avoid revealing the deep involvement of his top transition officials in Mr. Flynn’s discussions with Mr. Kislyak.

In May, the president fired Mr. Comey as well and said the Russia investigation was on his mind at the time. Mr. Mueller is investigating whether Mr. Trump’s firings of Mr. Comey or Mr. Flynn amount to obstruction of justice.

Mr. Trump made no public comments on Friday, though Mr. Flynn’s plea provided an awkward backdrop for a closed-door holiday reception for members of the press corps at the White House.

Ty Cobb, the president’s lawyer dealing with the Russia inquiry, played down the potential impact of Mr. Flynn’s deal, saying that Mr. Flynn served only briefly in the administration and had pleaded guilty to just a single count of lying to the F.B.I.

“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” Mr. Cobb said in a statement.

But while the court documents released on Friday show no direct evidence of collusion with Russia, the special counsel’s filings so far paint a damning portrait of Mr. Trump’s associates. His former campaign chairman, two other campaign aides and his former national security adviser have now all been charged with felonies.

In a statement, Mr. Flynn, 58, denied “false accusations of ‘treason,’” but said that he had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, who are examining whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians during the election and whether anyone sought to cover it up.

“I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right,” Mr. Flynn said. “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Slide Show

 

Friday’s 45-minute hearing in federal court in Washington was a humiliating moment for Mr. Flynn, a decorated Army general who had risen to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired by Mr. Obama before joining the Trump campaign.

Dressed in a crisp gray suit, Mr. Flynn arrived at the courtroom with his wife, holding hands. They occasionally traded glances, and her legs trembled before prosecutors laid out their case that Mr. Flynn had repeatedly lied to investigators about his dealings with Russia and his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.

Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement requires his full cooperation. He agreed to take a polygraph and, if asked, to participate in covert law enforcement activities. Such undercover activities are unlikely, however, since the plea agreement was filed publicly.

Prosecutors said they would delay Mr. Flynn’s sentencing, a sign that their investigation was not over and that they had not exhausted Mr. Flynn’s cooperation. Lying to the F.B.I. carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, but court documents indicate Mr. Flynn faces a likely sentence of zero to six months in prison.

Because he pleaded guilty to lying, Mr. Flynn hurt his credibility as a witness if he ever offered evidence against someone else at trial. But Mr. Flynn’s cooperation could still be valuable in guiding Mr. Mueller’s understanding of the campaign’s contacts with Russia, even if he cannot directly implicate anyone in a crime.

According to prosecutors, on Dec. 22, Mr. Flynn discussed with Mr. Kislyak an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.

Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kushner took the lead in those efforts.

GRAPHIC

Timeline: What We Now Know About Flynn’s Phone Calls With Russia

What happened behind the scenes and what was known and said publicly.

 OPEN GRAPHIC

Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Flynn also spoke to Mr. Kislyak on Dec. 29, according to court documents, about the sanctions against Russia announced that day. He had consulted with Ms. McFarland about the matter. She was with other members of the team at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, the court documents revealed, “to discuss what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian ambassador about the U.S. sanctions.”

Mr. Flynn asked Mr. Kislyak that Moscow refrain from escalating the situation, and Mr. Kislyak said Russia “had chosen to moderate its response,” the documents said. The following day, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Moscow would not retaliate against the United States for the sanctions.

American intelligence agencies had grown so concerned about Mr. Flynn’s communications with Mr. Kislyak and false accounts that he provided to Mr. Pence that he was interviewed by F.B.I. agents at the White House four days after the president was sworn into office. Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, warned the White House that its national security adviser might be compromised by the Russians.

Even before Mr. Trump said he would appoint Mr. Flynn to the post, questions swirled around his connections to foreign governments, particularly a dinner he was paid to attend in Moscow in 2015 when he sat at the same table as Mr. Putin.

Mr. Flynn had also formed a consulting group after he left the Obama administration that led to inquiries into questionable lobbying for foreign governments, including the Turkish government.

Investigators working for the special counsel have questioned witnesses about whether Mr. Flynn was secretly paid by Turkish officials during the campaign. After he left the White House, Mr. Flynn disclosed that the Turkish government had paid him more than a half-million dollars to represent its interests in a dispute with the United States.

Prosecutors did not charge Mr. Flynn with crimes related to his work with the Turkish government. But in documents, they made clear that they have evidence that Mr. Flynn “made materially false statements and omissions” in his federal filings about that lobbying work.

Mr. Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., was intimately involved with his father’s undisclosed lobbying efforts. The son has not been charged with a crime and it is not clear whether his possible legal exposure put extra pressure on his father to plead guilty. Barry Coburn, a lawyer for Mr. Flynn Jr., declined to comment.  Source

Nov 5, 2017
theguardian
Russia funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner investor
Institutions with close links to Kremlin financed stakes through investor in Trump son-in-law’s venture, leaked files reveal

Two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial stakes in Twitter and Facebook through an investor who later acquired an interest in a Jared Kushner venture, leaked documents reveal.

The investments were made through a Russian technology magnate, Yuri Milner, who also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser.

The discovery is likely to stir concerns over Russian influence in US politics and the role played by social media in last year’s presidential election. It may also raise new questions for the social media companies and for Kushner.

Alexander Vershbow, who was a US ambassador to Russiaunder George W Bush and to Nato under Bill Clinton, said the Russian state institutions were frequently used as “tools for Putin’s pet political projects”.

Vershbow said the findings were concerning in light of efforts by Moscow to disrupt US democracy and public debate. “There clearly was a wider plan, despite Putin’s protestations to the contrary,” he said.

The investments are detailed in the Paradise Papers, a trove of millions of leaked documents reviewed by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other partners, along with other previously unreported filings.

Facebook and Twitter were not made aware that funding for the investments came from the state-controlled VTB Bank and a financial arm of the state oil and gas firm Gazprom, according to Milner.

The files show that in 2011, VTB funded a $191m investment in Twitter. About the same time, Gazprom Investholding financed an opaque offshore company, which in turn funded a vehicle that held $1bn-worth of Facebook shares.

The money flowed through investment vehicles controlled by Milner, who in 2015 invested in a startup in New York that Kushner co-owns with his brother. Kushner initially failed to disclose his own holding in the startup, Cadre, when he joined Trump’s White House. A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment.

Milner once advised the Russian government on technology through a presidential commission chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister. Now based in California’s Silicon Valley, Milner has invested $7bn in more than 30 online companies including Airbnb, Spotify and the Chinese retailers Alibaba and JD.com.

In a series of interviews, Milner said VTB’s funding did not buy it influence at Twitter. He said he was not aware that Gazprom Investholding had backed the stake in Facebook. Milner said the deals were a small part of his overall investment portfolio and were done when US-Russia relations were better.

Milner disputes that he is an associate of Kushner. He said he had invested in Kushner’s business purely for commercial reasons. He said they had met only once, over cocktails in the US last year. “I’m not involved in any political activity. I’m not funding any political activity,” said Milner.

The disclosure that stakes in two of the US’s biggest technology companies were financed by Russian entities with links to the Kremlin comes as the covert use of their platforms by Russians aiming to boost Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign is under intense scrutiny. Both VTB and Gazprom are now under US sanctions.

Though Milner said the investments had no connection to the controversy, the findings are likely to add to pressure on Facebook and Twitter to give a full and transparent account of their interactions with Moscow entities before and during the US election.

Vanessa Chan, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the investment backed by Gazprom Investholding had been sold five years ago, after Facebook went public. Chan said Facebook “rejected the notion of a lack of due diligence” being done on its investors. A Twitter spokesperson said: “As a matter of policy Twitter conducted reviews of all pre-IPO investors.”

The Twitter and Facebook investments were made by Milner’s investment company DST Global, which was set up in 2009. At the time, Milner joined forces with the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a co-owner of Arsenal FC, who invested heavily in DST Global funds.

Alisher Usmanov.
Pinterest
 Alisher Usmanov. Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Purchases of Facebook and Twitter were public knowledge and turned out to be lucrative. Usmanov is estimated to have made more than $1bn on his original $200m stake. Usmanov sold the last of his Facebook holdings in September 2013 and Milner said DST Global had sold all stakes in Facebook and Twitter by 2014.

But the role of major state-run Russian banks in funding some stakes – including in Twitter, Trump’s favourite medium – was previously unknown.

Born in Soviet Moscow in 1961, Milner was named after Yuri Gagarin, who had become the first man in outer space earlier that year. Milner studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University and in 1990 moved from the Soviet Union to the US, where he attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Yuri Milner with his wife, Julia.
Pinterest
 Yuri Milner with his wife, Julia. Photograph: Trisha Leeper/WireImage

After a stint at the World Bank in Washington, he returned to Russia and set up Mail.ru, an email and social networking service, which became popular and profitable. In 2009, he was asked to join Medvedev’s innovation commission. Milner said the role involved advising Russian ministers and officials on moving public services online.

Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was so impressed with Milner’s rise that he invited the Russian to invest in Facebook. Milner’s company “stood out because of the global perspective they bring”, Zuckerberg said when announcing their first $200m deal in 2009. “I believe I had some expertise at the time that Mark found valuable,” Milner said.

The pair became friends and Zuckerberg attended Milner’s wedding in California late in 2011. The ceremony was held at a vast mansion atop a hillside near Silicon Valley that Milner had recently bought for $100m. Milner and Zuckerberg are advisers to each other’s philanthropic ventures and remain close.

Associates of Milner told the Guardian that he tried to secure funding for new investments from western banks. But they turned him down, forcing him after the 2008 financial crisis to go instead to Russian institutions. His exit from Moscow followed Putin’s return as president in 2012, as Russia moved in a more authoritarian direction. Milner has lived in the US with his family since 2014.

Yuri Milner’s Los Altos Hills house, bought for $100m.
Pinterest
 Yuri Milner’s Los Altos Hills house, bought for $100m. Photograph: Google Earth

Milner said that as a management company, DST Global had sole discretion over its investment decisions. He said that he, like other investment managers, did not disclose the identities of his funders to the companies where DST Global invested. He said funders such as VTB received only basic updates on investments.

He briefly mentioned VTB’s role in the Twitter investment during an interview with Forbes magazine last month. The partial disclosure appeared to have been prompted by questions put to him by the Guardian and other media partners.

It is unclear if Moscow saw a political interest in funding stakes in Facebook and Twitter, or if the acquisitions were only intended to make money. Sources familiar with the situation told the Guardian that Facebook had carried out a discreet internal review of Russian investments before its IPO in 2012, and that the review was unable to draw firm conclusions.

Karen Vartapetov, the director of sovereign ratings at Standard & Poor’s, said the Russian government had “a strong influence on VTB’s strategic and business plans” even when these were not expected to be lucrative. “VTB plays a very important role for government policies, including implementation of some less profitable and socially important tasks,” said Vartapetov.

Russia’s role in exploiting Facebook and Twitter to influence the 2016 US election is an important strand of an FBI inquiry and congressional investigations. Facebook has identified 3,000 advertisements and 470 fake accounts on its network that were set up by a “troll factory” in St Petersburg. Details have been passed to Congress and to the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who is examining alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

VTB has a close relationship with the Kremlin and, according to analysts, has received more state subsidies than any other Russian bank. In 2009, the bank boasted that its investment banking arm was “pivotal in managing the state’s interests”.

VTB also has close ties to Putin’s FSB intelligence agency. The bank’s chairman, Andrey Kostin, is a former KGB foreign intelligence operative, it has been reported, who has received several state decorations from Putin. Milner denied knowing about VTB’s ties to Russian intelligence. VTB funded 45% of the Twitter stake. The bank denies Kostin worked for the KGB.

In an email, Milner’s spokeswoman said: “Yuri Milner has never been an employee of the Russian government.” Milner said he not spoken to Medvedev nor any other Russian minister about social media, and that he and Zuckerberg had not discussed the controversy over Russian exploitation of social media.“Politics is something I’m very uninterested in,” Milner told the Guardian.

They operate in the shadows’

The Paradise Papers help to unravel complex arrangements that led Russian state money to fund investments in the US social media companies.

They involve a bewildering array of companies using similar names and acronyms, some registered offshore in places that offer secrecy about ownership. The arrangements are legal, but have led campaigners to demand more transparency.

The trail begins in December 2005, when Gazprom Investholding began putting money into Kanton Services, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Usmanov was at the time general director of Gazprom Investholding, which the Kremlin has used to renationalise assets sold off in the 1990s.

Gazprom in effect took control of Kanton in 2009 in return for $920m. In 2011, Kanton in turn took a majority stake in DST USA II, a vehicle publicly associated with Milner. By 2012, DST USA II had bought more than 50m shares in Facebook, according to filings at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, amounting to more than 3% of the social media company.

Over the following months, ownership of DST USA II was transferred to an Usmanov company, which sold off $1bn worth of the shares in Facebook at a significant profit after the social network floated on the stock market.

The ultimate owner of Kanton was not made clear, but the company has several ties to Usmanov. An executive who dealt with Kanton on another deal, who requested anonymity to discuss private details, said: “I was led to believe this was one of Usmanov’s investment companies.”

Milner said he knew who owned Kanton but declined to name them, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said he did not know where Usmanov and his other partners obtained funding. “I had no knowledge of him using state funds to invest with us – he had enough funds already from the holdings that he owned,” said Milner.

Rollo Head, a spokesman for Usmanov, said in an email: “To be absolutely clear, Mr Usmanov did not borrow from or use state or quasi-state funds to make investments in Facebook.”

Alina Polyakova, a specialist in Russian foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said Moscow frequently used intermediaries to ensure “plausible deniability” for the actions of senior officials.

“Russia’s influence over operations – whether that be allocating funds for disinformation campaigns or providing financing to extremist movements, or others – are intentionally opaque,” said Polyakova. “They operate in the shadows.”

The leaked documents, together with public filings, show that VTB funded another offshore investment vehicle, DST Investments 3, which was registered on the Isle of Man, a tax haven and UK crown dependency.

VTB put about $191m into this vehicle, which bought 11m shares in Twitter in 2011. When Twitter was preparing to float on the stock market in 2013, the VTB-funded vehicle held a 2% stake in the company. The VTB-funded stake was sold in May 2014, according to Milner. Stock prices from that time indicate the sale would have returned more than $240m in profit.

In July 2014, shortly before the US imposed sanctions on Russian entities such as VTB and Gazprom over the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine, control of DST Investments 3 was transferred to Kanton, the same company tied to Usmanov that was used as a go-between in the Facebook deal.

Milner insisted VTB had been treated like his other investors, but acknowledged it was different in one respect. “VTB Bank is clearly an institution controlled by the Russian government,” he said.

The Russian companies denied that their funding of the investments was politically motivated.

“The loans were provided for general corporate purposes,” said Oleg Maksimov, a spokesman for Gazprom Investholding. A VTB spokesperson said that in 2011 the bank “executed several deals in the high-tech industry, as we considered this field to have high potential” but had since sold its stakes.

Russian investor backed Kushner

The disclosure of Milner’s partial backing by Russian state interests may also cause difficulties for Kushner.

Milner in 2015 contributed $850,000 from his family trust to a $50m investment in Cadre, a New-York-based company that Kushner co-founded in 2014 with his brother, Joshua, and a friend of theirs from Harvard. The startup, which the Kushners claim is worth $800m, is based around an online marketplace where wealthy financiers can club together to invest in properties.

Cadre has attracted an estimated $133m of venture capital from backers including Peter Thiel, the controversial libertarian billionaire who co-founded PayPal and backed Trump’s campaign for president in 2016.

Jared Kushner.
Pinterest
 Jared Kushner. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The company has already caused controversy for Kushner, after he initially failed to detail his stake in Cadre in financial disclosures to the US Office of Government Ethics. Kushner later added Cadre to revised paperwork, saying his stake in the firm was worth up to $25m.

Cadre initially said in a June press release that Milner’s stake in the company was held through his firm DST. A different version of the release on Cadre’s website said, however, that Milner himself was the investor in Cadre. The breakdown of the $50m funding was not made public by Cadre.

Milner said in an interview that he had invested in Cadre based only on the merits of the business. “I just thought it was an attractive opportunity,” he said.

He said he knew Joshua Kushner and had met Jared Kushner once, at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, in autumn 2016. “He was very pleasant and nice, and it was sort of a cocktail-type conversation,” said Milner, adding that politics was not discussed.

Cadre operates from the Puck Building in the Nolita section of Manhattan. The Kushners’ father, Charles, bought the building in the 1980s before being jailed for a string of crimes including 18 counts of tax evasion. The building, a red-brick Romanesque revival, was named after the 19th-century satirical magazine based there. A gilded Puck statue, wearing a top hat and tails, gazes down on staff as they arrive for work.

Mueller’s inquiry is believed to be reviewing Jared Kushner’s finances. Kushner was questioned by US senators in July about his connections to Russia. The closed-door session followed a series of explosive reports, including that Kushner had undisclosed contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the US.

Key revelations from the Paradise Papers

In remarks at the White House in July, Kushner said he had “not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector”.

Kushner attended a meeting at Trump Tower in June last year at which Donald Trump Jr was expecting to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton, their Democratic opponent, which he was told had come from the Russian government. Kushner claimed he knew nothing about the meeting’s purpose before attending and left shortly after it began.

He has also denied reports that following his father-in-law’s election victory, he proposed setting up a secure communication channel between Trump’s team and Moscow to avoid snooping by the US before Trump took office. Kislyak reportedly told his superiors in Moscow, during conversations intercepted by American intelligence, that Kushner had asked for the backchannel during a meeting at Trump Tower last December.

 This article was amended on 6 November 2017 to include VTB’s denial that Kostin worked for the KGB, and on 10 November 2017 to change a description of Yuri Milner’s involvement with the Kushner venture, Cadre, from “business associate” to “investor”.   Source

 

Nov 13, 2017
The Hill
Trump Jr. corresponded with WikiLeaks privately on Twitter

President Trump’s eldest son occasionally exchanged private messages with WikiLeaks on Twitter before the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. confirmed on Monday.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a direct message to Trump Jr. in late September 2016 alerting him that an anti-Trump site run by a political action committee (PAC) was “about to launch.” The message offered the password to the site.

“The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” WikiLeaks wrote, as first reported by The Atlantic.

“Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” Trump Jr. responded to the account the following day. It is unclear if he followed through with the offer.

Trump Jr. later confirmed the interactions on Twitter:

The correspondence has reportedly been given to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

WikiLeaks published troves of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta ahead of the election. The U.S. intelligence community has linked the releases to a multi-pronged effort by the Russian government to interfere in the election. WikiLeaks has denied any connections to the Kremlin.

A representative for WikiLeaks did not immediately return a request for comment.

The correspondence continued until July 2017 and largely consisted of WikiLeaks sending messages to Trump Jr. that went unreturned. The organization, for instance, asked for Trump’s tax returns, which the president has refused to release to the public.

In an October message, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to “push” a story in right-wing media that alleged Hillary Clinton joked about wanting to “drone” Julian Assange, the website’s founder. Trump Jr. reportedly responded that he “already did that earlier today.”

In another message in late October, WikiLeaks suggested that Trump Jr. “leak” the organization one of his father’s tax returns. “If we publish them it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality,” the account said, according to The Atlantic.

“That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing on Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source,” the message from WikiLeaks said.

In another message on the day of the election, WikiLeaks suggested that Trump contest the results of the election if he didn’t win.

Trump Jr. did not respond to either solicitation.

In a statement to the Atlantic, an attorney for Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, said, “we can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these documents and any questions raised about them have been easily answered in the appropriate forum.”

Trump Jr. has already come under scrutiny from congressional investigators for his meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last June that he took after being offered damaging information on Clinton.  Source

This post was updated at 7:31 p.m.

Oct 30, 2017
Chicago Tribune
First guilty plea, indictment of Trump aides in Russia investigation

In a black Monday for Donald Trump’s White House, the special counsel investigating possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump presidential campaign announced the first charges, indicting Trump’s former campaign chairman and revealing how an adviser lied to the FBI about meetings with Russian intermediaries.

The formal charges against a total of three people are the first public demonstration that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team believe they have identified criminal conduct. And they send a warning that individuals in the Trump orbit who do not cooperate with Mueller’s investigators, or who are believed to mislead them during questioning, could also wind up charged and facing years in prison.

Paul Manafort, who steered Trump’s campaign for much of last year, and business associate Rick Gates ended the day under house arrest on charges that they funneled payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their private political work in Ukraine.

George Papadopoulos, also a former campaign adviser, faced further questioning and then sentencing in the first — and so far only — criminal case that links the Trump election effort to the Kremlin. Read more

Oct 29, 2017
Uranium One: Joy Reid debunks fake news targeting Clinton

Watch video here

Oct 27, 2017
The Hill
First charges filed in special counsel Mueller’s Russia probe: report

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has reportedly approved the first charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

CNN reported Friday that the charges are sealed under a federal judge’s order, with sources telling the network that those charged could be taken into custody as soon as Monday.

It is unclear what the charges are, according to the network. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment to The Hill.

Mueller is investigating ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials, and several congressional committees are also probing the matter.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that the Kremlin sought to disrupt the 2016 election and sway the race in Trump’s favor.  Read more

Oct 9, 2017
The Washington Times
New email says Trump Jr. meeting with Russians not on Hillary Clinton dirt

A new email between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer attending the now-notorious July 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan contradicts previous accounts that they gathered to exchange political dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The new email, which surfaced on Monday, asserts that Natalia Veselnitskaya believed she was meeting President Trump’s eldest son to discuss the Magnitsky Act — a 2012 sanctions law created in response to Russian human rights violations, which is opposed by the Kremlin.

The Russian lawyer has repeatedly claimed this was her reason for meeting with Mr. Trump Jr. at the height of the 2016 presidential election.

The new email contradicts previously released email exchanges between Donald Trump Jr. and meeting organizer Rob Goldstone, a music industry publicist, which suggested Ms. Veselnitskaya had damaging information about Ms. Clinton the Russian government wanted to pass along to the Trump campaign.

The new email was made public by Scott Balber, a U.S. lawyer representing Aras Agalarov, the Russian billionaire who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013 and who had helped secure the July Trump Tower meeting for Ms. Veselnitskaya. Read more

Sept 24, 2017
Washington Examiner
7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious

While President Trump made headlines this week for his provocative rhetoric on North Korea and the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, several major developments related to the ongoing probe of possible collusion between his associates and Russia flew quietly under the radar.

Each new disclosure about the direction and breadth of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation lent credence to what many legal experts have been saying since the former FBI director began hiring lawyers with expertise in corruption, foreign bribery, and white collar crime: This is serious, and some in Trump’s orbit should be worried. Read more

Sept 23, 2017
6abc.com
Federal government notifies 21 states of election hacking

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year’s presidential election.

The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. The states that told The Associated Press they had been targeted included some key political battlegrounds, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The AP contacted every state election office to determine which ones had been informed that their election systems had been targeted. The others confirming were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Read more

Sept 20, 2017
Media Matters for America
How Matt Drudge became the pipeline for Russian propaganda
Drudge Report has linked nearly 400 times to RT, Sputnik News, TASS since 2012

On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 passengers and crew. The next day, President Barack Obama alleged that the responsible parties were Russian-backed separatists seizing territory in the region following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Obama’s statement came amid a furious effort by Russian propaganda outlets to foster confusion about the act. In their telling, the tragedy had actually been a failed attempt by Ukrainians to shoot down President Vladimir Putin’s plane.

The Russian propaganda effort received a substantial boost when right-wing internet journalist Matt Drudge highlighted a story on the topic from RT.com, the website of the Russian government-backed English-language news channel RT. Drudge titled the resulting item on the Drudge Report, his highly trafficked link aggregation website, “RT: Putin’s plane might have been target…” in bright red text.

After Drudge propelled the RT story to his massive audience, it was picked up by right-wing U.S. conspiracy websites. (Others on the right warned that Drudge had gone too far by aiding a Russian disinformation campaign.)

This was not an anomaly. Drudge has for years used his site as a web traffic pipeline for Russian propaganda sites, directing his massive audience to nearly 400 stories from RT.com and fellow Russian-government-run English-language news sites SputnikNews.com and TASS.com since the beginning of 2012, according to a Media Matters review. Those numbers spiked in 2016, when Drudge collectively linked to the three sites 122 times.

Drudge’s increasing affinity for and proliferation of Russian propaganda comes amid what The New York Timescalls “a new information war Russia is waging against the West.”

RT and Sputnik News are part of what the Times’ Jim Rutenberg has termed “the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far,” a coordinated network of state-controlled TV and online media outlets and social media accounts that take advantage of the traditional protections of Western liberal democracies to undermine public confidence in the governments of those nations. TASS, which has received less attention in the United States, is a Russian news agency similar to The Associated Press but owned by the state.

Russia’s English-language propaganda operation came under increasing scrutiny from the U.S. intelligence community during and following the 2016 presidential election, during which, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, it was part of an effort to bolster now-President Donald Trump’s campaign. Mixing slanted coverage with outright lies, the state media effort promotes an anti-establishment worldview featuring criticisms of the U.S. from both the far left and far right, packaged with the same strategies used by modern American news outlets to increase viewership.

When the Kremlin’s interests converge with the right’s interests in undermining Democratic politicians like former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, its outlets find prominent allies in the U.S. conservative media landscape. As Andrew Feinberg, the former White House correspondent for Sputnik News, has explained, the Russian media outlets are part of the “right-wing media ecosystem,” with their stories picked up and promoted by prominent far-right news sites like Breitbart.com and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars.com.

For decades, Drudge has played a dominant role in that ecosystem. The Drudge Report is one of the most highly trafficked news websites in the country, and because it simply aggregates links, it is the top source of referral traffic to a host of right-wing and mainstream news websites. That ability to create a firehose of traffic leads some reporters, especially on the right, to craft stories for the explicit purpose of getting Drudge links, allowing him to serve as the media’s assignment editor. And the media outlets benefiting from that traffic are not only U.S. traditional media or conservative outlets, but the press organs of one of the nation’s top adversaries.

To measure this effect, Media Matters wrote a program to crawl through Drudge’s archives and create an index of all instances in which the website linked to pages that included the URLs “rt.com,” “sputniknews.com,” or “tass.com.”

We found that the Drudge Report has promoted dozens of RT articles every year since 2012. Soon after Sputnik launched in November 2014, it, too, began regularly receiving attention from Drudge. TASS articles receive much less promotion, but Drudge’s website features a permanent link to the TASS main page (listed as ITAR-TASS).

As the U.S. presidential race and Russia’s machinations both escalated in 2015, the number of Russian propaganda articles promoted by Drudge shot up to 79 for the year. The total jumped again to a high of 122 articles in 2016, before dropping down to 45 this year through September 18.

The articles Drudge highlighted cover a wide range of U.S. and international topics, but — as one might expect from the content of Russian propaganda outlets — many fall into discrete categories that fit the interests of the Kremlin.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, for example, several of the Drudge-promoted articles reported on the contents of emails and voicemails the U.S. intelligence community says were stolen from the Democratic National Committee or former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta by Russian hackers.

Others promoted the claims of WikiLeaks founder and former RT host Julian Assange. Drudge highlightedcoverage from Russian propaganda outlets of his attacks on Clinton and his contradiction of the U.S. intelligence community over whether Russia was the source of the Democratic emails he published.

Drudge has also regularly turned to RT and Sputnik for unskeptical coverage of statements from Putin and other Kremlin officials, including their denials of Russian election interference, their criticisms of the U.S. role in Syria, and their efforts to undermine NATO members.

And he’s frequently highlighted the Russian outlets’ conspiracy theories and hysterics, including their reports on meetings of the “mysterious Bilderberg Group,” debunked claims that Google manipulated its search results to favor Clinton, and warnings of increasing Western support for satanism.

Drudge’s affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin and his propaganda outlets is undoubtedly a major asset for the Kremlin. Drudge has rare power as a media gatekeeper due to his unusual ability to push reporting from previously unknown outlets to a massive audience.

Jones’ Infowars — also a favorite of the Russian government — is a case study in the potential impact of sustained promotion from Drudge. A 2013 Media Matters study found that the Drudge Report linked to Infowars hundreds of times over the previous two years, giving the conspiracy theory website crucial exposure to the rest of the right-wing media space.

As Jones himself put it, Drudge was the “one source who really helped us break out, who took our information, helped to punch it out to an even more effective level.”

Putin could say the same.

Research provided by Adama Ngom and Shelby Jamerson.  Source

Sept 16, 2017
Yahoo
Mueller just obtained a warrant that could change the entire nature of the Russia investigation

  • Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant for records of “inauthentic” Facebook accounts
  • It’s bad news for Russian election interference “deniers”
  • Mueller may be looking to charge specific foreign entities with a crime

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

The warrant was first disclosed by theWall Street Journalon Friday night and the news was laterconfirmed by CNN.

Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump’s campaign team.

“This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers,'”said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent. Read more

Sept 11, 2017
thedailybeast.com
Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil

Pushing fake news was just one component of the Russian campaign to shape American minds. Part two: organizing anti-immigrant events echoing themes from the pro-Trump press.

Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.” The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)

The Facebook events—one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets—are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action. Read more

August 31, 2017
The Hill
Mueller teams up with IRS in Russia probe: report

Special counsel Robert Mueller is working with members the IRS’ Criminal Investigations (CI) unit as part of the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to a new report.

The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that Mueller has teamed up with agents from the IRS’ unit dedicated to prosecuting financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. One retired agent from the team said that the FBI doesn’t have the “expertise” that the CI has when it comes to investigating financial crimes.

“The FBI’s expertise is spread out over so many statutes—and particularly since 9/11, where they really focused on counterintelligence and counterterror—that they simply don’t have the financial investigative expertise that the CI agents have,” Martin Sheil told the Daily Beast. “When CI brings a case to a U.S. Attorney, it is done. It’s wrapped up with a ribbon and a bow. It’s just comprehensive.”

The news comes just a day after it was revealed that Mueller is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate possible ties to Russia involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Read more

August 31, 2017
Dailybeast.com
Someone’s Lying About the Money for Trump Tower Moscow

It could be a key link between Trump world and the Kremlin: Trump’s pal says he lined up a sanctioned Russian bank to finance the project. But VTB says that’s completely false.

Someone is lying.
Either it’s Felix Sater, President Trump’s felonious old crony, who claimed that a sanctioned Russian bank was ready to finance a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Or it’s representatives of the bank, Russia’s second-largest, who say they never considered providing cash to the project, contradicting Sater’s emailed assertions to his boyhood friend, Trump attorney Michael Cohen, revealed by congressional investigators this week. Read more

August 28, 2017
nytimes.com
Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’

WASHINGTON — A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin. He predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”


Read more

July 13, 2017
New Republic
Trump’s Russian Laundromat

In 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army—his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam—he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn’t hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as “Little Odessa” for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.

A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hit—all but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn’t deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos. The big check apparently caught the attention of the owner. According to Wayne Barrett, who investigated the deal for the Village Voice, Trump personally attended the closing, along with Bogatin. Read more

July 12, 2017
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation

WASHINGTON
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. Read more

 

July 11, 2017
nytimes.com
Read the Emails on Donald Trum Jr.’s Russia Meeting

On Tuesday morning, after being told that The Times was about to publish the content of emails setting up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Donald J. Trump Jr. posted the email chain on Twitter, along with a comment.
The emails, from June 2016, are between Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, a British-born former tabloid reporter and entertainment publicist. Mr. Goldstone told Donald J. Trump Jr. that he was writing on behalf of a mutual friend, one of Russia’s biggest pop music stars, Emin Agalarov.
The emails were posted as images and were not in the order that they were written. The text of the emails is presented here, in chronological order. Read more

June 2017
PoliticoMagazine
All of Trumps Russia Ties, in 7 charts

What is the real story of Donald Trump and Russia? The answer is still unclear, and Democrats in Congress want to get to the bottom of it with an investigation. But there’s no doubt that a spider web of connections—some public, some private, some clear, some murky—exists between Trump, his associates and Russian President Vladimir Putin. See more charts here

213total visits,2visits today