THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Jan 28, 2018
New York State Probes Social Media Bot Firm Exposed By New York Times
The company is accused of selling millions of fake social media followers to its customers.
New York is investigating an American company accused of selling millions of fake followers to social media accounts, the state’s chief prosecutor said Saturday.
The announcement from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman follows an in-depth New York Times investigation into Devumi, which it alleges has sold automated followers to politicians, celebrities and other public figures, often using the names, pictures and personal details of real people on those bot accounts.
If the accusations prove true, Schneiderman tweeted, Devumi may be found guilty of impersonation and deception. The violations alleged in the Times, he added, unfairly allow people with money to buy “apparent influence.”
Devumi, which the Times described as trafficking in “counterfeit coins in the booming economy of online influence,” advertises on its website that $10 will buy customers at least 500 Twitter followers in one to two days. For $49, it guarantees 10 times that number in two weeks or less. The firm also offers other forms of online social currency, such as retweets and video views.
Customers run the gamut. The Times named China Xinhua News, the country’s state-run news agency; Michael Dell, the computer billionaire; Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Lenín Moreno, president of Ecuador; and a slew of actors, athletes, reality stars and other public figures.
Devumi did not immediately return a request for comment on Schneiderman’s investigation.
Meanwhile, social media giants, Facebook and Twitter in particular, face immense scrutiny as they struggle to protect their users from the misinformation spreading on their platforms. While the federal government continues to probes Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Facebook admitted in September that an operation likely based in Russia had spent $100,000 on thousands of U.S. ads on its platform promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year period leading up to May 2017. Source
Jan 28, 2018
Secret Memo Hints at a New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein
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.”
Jan 25, 2018
Dutch agencies provide crucial intel about Russia’s interference in US-elections
Hackers from the Dutch intelligence service AIVD have provided the FBI with crucial information about Russian interference with the American elections. For years, AIVD had access to the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear. That’s what de Volkskrant and Nieuwsuur have uncovered in their investigation.
It’s the summer of 2014. A hacker from the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD has penetrated the computer network of a university building next to the Red Square in Moscow, oblivious to the implications. One year later, from the AIVD headquarters in Zoetermeer, he and his colleagues witness Russian hackers launching an attack on the Democratic Party in the United States. The AIVD hackers had not infiltrated just any building; they were in the computer network of the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear. And unbeknownst to the Russians, they could see everything.
That’s how the AIVD becomes witness to the Russian hackers harassing and penetrating the leaders of the Democratic Party, transferring thousands of emails and documents. It won’t be the last time they alert their American counterparts. And yet, it will be months before the United States realize what this warning means: that with these hacks the Russians have interfered with the American elections. And the AIVD hackers have seen it happening before their very eyes.
The Dutch access provides crucial evidence of the Russian involvement in the hacking of the Democratic Party, according to six American and Dutch sources who are familiar with the material, but wish to remain anonymous. It’s also grounds for the FBI to start an investigation into the influence of the Russian interference on the election race between the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate Donald Trump.
After Trump’s election in May 2017, this investigation was taken over by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. While it also aims to uncover contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government, the prime objective is bringing to light the Russian interference with the elections. An attempt to undermine the democratic process, and an act that caused tensions between the two superpowers to rise to new heights, bringing about a string of diplomatic acts of revenge.
Three American intelligence services state with ‘high confidence’ that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party. That certainty, sources say, is derived from the AIVD hackers having had access to the office-like space in the center of Moscow for years. This is so exceptional that the directors of the foremost American intelligence services are all too happy to receive the Dutchmen. They provide technical evidence for the attack on the Democratic Party, and it becomes apparent that they know a lot more.
The prime objective is bringing to light the Russian interference with the elections
Specialists from the best intelligence services have been hunting them for years
It’s somewhat of a ‘fluke’ that the AIVD hackers were able to acquire such useful information in 2014. The team uses a CNA, which stands for Computer Network Attack. These hackers are permitted to perform offensive operations: to penetrate and attack hostile networks. It’s a relatively small team within a larger digital business unit of about 80-100 people. All cyberoperations converge here. Part of the unit is focused on intercepting or managing sources, while another team is dedicated to Computer Network Defence. In turn, this team is part of the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit, a collaborative unit of the AIVD and the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service MIVD, of about 300 people.
It’s unknown what exact information the hackers acquire about the Russians, but it is clear that it contains a clue as to the whereabouts of one of the most well-known hacker groups in the world: Cozy Bear, also referred to as APT29. Since 2010, this group has attacked governments, energy corporations and telecom companies around the world, including Dutch companies and ministries. Specialists from the best intelligence services, among them the British, the Israelis and the Americans, have been hunting Cozy Bear for years, as have analysts from major cybersecurity companies.
The Dutch hacker team spends weeks preparing itself. Then, in the summer of 2014, the attack takes place, most likely before the tragic crash of flight MH17. With some effort and patience, the team manages to penetrate the internal computer network. The AIVD can now trace the Russian hackers’ every step. But that’s not all.
The Cozy Bear hackers are in a space in a university building near the Red Square. The group’s composition varies, usually about ten people are active. The entrance is in a curved hallway. A security camera records who enters and who exits the room. The AIVD hackers manage to gain access to that camera. Not only can the intelligence service now see what the Russians are doing, they can also see who’s doing it. Pictures are taken of every visitor. In Zoetermeer, these pictures are analyzed and compared to known Russian spies. Again, they’ve acquired information that will later prove to be vital.
The AIVD hackers manage to gain access to a security camera
What follows is a rare battle between the attackers and its defenders
The Dutch access to the Russian hackers’ network soon pays off. In November, the Russians prepare for an attack on one of their prime targets: the American State Department. By now, they’ve obtained e-mail addresses and the login credentials of several civil servants. They manage to enter the non-classified part of the computer network.
The AIVD and her military counterpart MIVD inform the NSA-liaison at the American embassy in The Hague. He immediately alerts the different American intelligence services.
What follows is a rare battle between the attackers, who are attempting to further infiltrate the State Department, and its defenders, FBI and NSA teams – with clues and intelligence provided by the Dutch. This battle lasts 24 hours, according to American media.
The Russians are extremely aggressive but do not know they’re being spied on. Thanks to the Dutch spies, the NSA and FBI are able to counter the enemy with enormous speed. The Dutch intel is so crucial that the NSA opens a direct line with Zoetermeer, to get the information to the United States as soon as possible.
Back and forth
We could see how they were changing their methods
Richard Ledgett, NSA
Using so-called command and control servers, digital command centres, the Russians attempt to establish a connection to the malware in the Department, in order to request and transfer information. The Americans, having been told by the Dutch where the servers are, repeatedly and swiftly cut off access to these servers, followed each time by another attempt by the Russians. It goes back and forth like this for 24 hours. Afterwards, sources tell CNN that this was ‘the worst hack attack ever’ on the American government. The Department has to cut off access to the e-mail system for a whole weekend in order to upgrade the security.
Luckily, the NSA was able to find out the means and tactics of their attackers, deputy director of the NSA Richard Ledgett states at a discussion forum in Aspen in March 2017. ‘So we could see how they were changing their methods. That’s very useful information.’ On the authority of intelligence services, American media write that this was thanks to a ‘western ally’. Eventually, the Americans manage to dispel the Russians from the Department, but not before Russian attackers use their access to send an e-mail to a person in the White House.
Sources tell CNN that this was ‘the worst hack attack ever’ on the American government
He thinks he’s received an e-mail from the State Department – the e-mail address is similar – and clicks a link in the message. The link opens a website where the White House employee then enters his login credentials, now obtained by the Russians. And that is how the Russians infiltrate the White House.
They even gain access to the email servers containing the sent and received emails of president Barack Obama, but fail to penetrate the servers that control the message traffic from his personal BlackBerry, which holds state secrets, sources tell The New York Times. They do, however, manage to access e-mail traffic with embassies and diplomats, agendas, notes on policy and legislation. And again, it’s the Dutch intelligence agencies who alert the Americans about this.
Access to Cozy Bear turns out to be a goldmine for the Dutch hackers. For years, it supplies them with valuable intelligence about targets, methods and the interests of the highest ranking officials of the Russian security service. From the pictures taken of visitors, the AIVD deduces that the hacker group is led by Russia’s external intelligence agency SVR.
There’s a reason the AIVD writes in its annual report about 2014 that many Russian government officials, including president Putin, use secret services to obtain information. Recently, the head of the AIVD, Rob Bertholee, said on the Dutch TV program CollegeTour that there is ‘no question’ that the Kremlin is behind the Russian hacking activities.
There is ‘no question’ that the Kremlin is behind the Russian hacking activities
Rob Bertholee, head of the AIVD
We’d never expected that the Russians would do this
The Americans were taken completely by surprise by the Russian aggression, says Chris Painter in Washington. For years, Painter was responsible for America’s cyber policy. He resigned last August. ‘We’d never expected that the Russians would do this, attacking our vital infrastructure and undermining our democracy.’
The American intelligence services were unprepared for that, he says. That is one of the reasons the Dutch access is so appreciated. The Americans even sent ‘cake’ and ‘flowers’ to Zoetermeer, sources tell. And not just that. Intelligence is a commodity: it can be traded. In 2016, the heads of the AIVD and MIVD, Rob Bertholee and Pieter Bindt, personally discuss the access to the Russian hacker group with James Clapper, then the highest ranking official of the American intelligence services, and Michael Rogers, head of the NSA.
In return, the Dutch are given knowledge, technology and intelligence. According to one American source, in late 2015, the NSA hackers manage to penetrate the mobile devices of several high ranking Russian intelligence officers. They learn that right before a hacking attack, the Russians search the internet for any news about the oncoming attack. According to the Americans, this indirectly proves that the Russian government is involved in the hacks. Another source says it’s ‘highly likely’ that in return for the intelligence, the Dutch were given access to this specific American information. Whether any intelligence about MH17 was exchanged, is unknown.
There’s a long aftermath to the Russian attacks, particularly the attack on the Democratic Party. Moreover, the FBI investigation into the Russian interference adds a political dimension. After her defeat in November 2016, Clinton will say that the controversy about her leaked emails are what cost her the presidency. President elect Donald Trump categorically refuses to explicitly acknowledge the Russian interference. It would tarnish the gleam of his electoral victory. He has also frequently praised Russia, and president Putin in particular. This is one of the reasons the American intelligence services eagerly leak information: to prove that the Russians did in fact interfere with the elections. And that is why intelligence services have told American media about the amazing access of a ‘western ally’.
This has led to anger in Zoetermeer and The Hague. Some Dutchmen even feel betrayed. It’s absolutely not done to reveal the methods of a friendly intelligence service, especially if you’re benefiting from their intelligence. But no matter how vehemently the heads of the AIVD and MIVD express their displeasure, they don’t feel understood by the Americans. It’s made the AIVD and MIVD a lot more cautious when it comes to sharing intelligence. They’ve become increasingly suspicious since Trump was elected president.
It’s absolutely not done to reveal the methods of a friendly intelligence service
The AIVD hackers are no longer in Cozy Bear’s computer network. The Dutch espionage lasted between 1 and 2,5 years. Hacker groups frequently change their methods and even a different firewall can cut off access. The AIVD declined to respond to de Volkskrant’s findings.
Translated by: Lisa Negrijn
Jan 23, 2018
FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.
All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Mueller’s investigation is confidential and mostly involves classified information.
A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined comment.
Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.
The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.
However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.
During the campaign, Trump was an outspoken advocate of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, at one point drawing a hail of criticism by suggesting that, if Clinton were elected, gun rights advocates could stop her from winning confirmation of liberal Supreme Court justices who support gun control laws.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said at a rally in August 2016. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Spanish authorities tag Torshin for money laundering
Torshin, a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain, as Bloomberg News first revealed in 2016. Spanish investigators alleged in an almost 500-page internal report that Torshin, who was then a senator, capitalized on his government role to assist mobsters laundering funds through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg reported
A summary obtained by McClatchy of the still-secret report links Torshin to Russian money laundering and describes him as a godfather in a major Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.
Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the investigation.
“We have not been contacted by the FBI about anything related to Russia,” said Steven Hart, an outside attorney for the NRA, in a statement provided to McClatchy five days after publication of this story.
Torshin could not be reached for comment, and emails to the Russian central bank seeking comment from Torshin and the bank elicited no response.
Mueller’s investigation has been edging closer to Trump’s inner circle. This week, The New York Times reported that Mueller had negotiated an agreement under which Steve Bannon, who was recently ousted from his post as a senior White House adviser, would fully respond to questions about the Trump campaign. Bannon headed the campaign over its final weeks.
Since taking over the investigation last May, Mueller has secured guilty pleas from two former Trump aides, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom agreed to cooperate with prosecutors; and criminal charges against two other top campaign figures, former campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Read more
Jan 18, 2018
The Trump-Russia-NRA Connection: Here’s What You Need to Know
Did the Kremlin funnel payments to help Trump’s campaign through the National Rifle Association?
Did a shadowy Russian banker close to Vladimir Putin illegally give money to the National Rifle Association to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump? That’s the subject of an active FBI investigation, according to an explosive report by McClatchy.
Here’s what you need to know:
Unprecedented Trump Support
The National Rifle Association spent tens of millions of dollars backing Trump’s presidential bid in 2016. The NRA endorsedTrump in May 2016. And the NRA disclosed it spent at least $30 million on Trump’s behalf and attacking Hillary Clinton. That level of support is unprecedented – more than twice what the NRA disclosed it spent on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.
The true sum the NRA spent to install Trump in the White House may be far higher. Campaign finance disclosures do not cover spending on unregulated Internet advertising or voter mobilization; citing two sources close to the gun group, McClatchy suggests the NRA may have spent upwards of $70 million on Trump’s presidential bid.
President Trump is clearly indebted: “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump promised the NRA at its 2017 convention. “I will never, ever let you down.”
In the age of Citizens United and unlimited campaign donations, the NRA has emerged as an important “dark money” hub in Republican politics. Under its tax code designation, the NRA is a “social welfare” organization, largely exempt from disclosing its donors. To skirt disclosure, other big-dollar political players – including a SuperPAC linked to Karl Rove and a “chamber of commerce” controlled by the Koch Brothers – have routinely steered money into the NRA, confident that the gun group’s spending will advance the GOP cause.
It is illegal, however, for foreign money to be used to influence U.S. elections. According to McClatchy, the heart of the FBI investigation is whether the NRA became a conduit for Russian cash, linked to the Kremlin, that bolstered Trump.
The Banker and “Godfather”
The key figure in the NRA/Russia investigation, McClatchy reports, is Alexander Torshin. Torshin is a longtime Putin ally who previously served as a top Russian senator. He is now a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, where his purview includes cracking down on the outflow of dirty money.
That’s ironic, because Torshin has been linked to money laundering. Bloomberg reported on the conclusions of a 2013 investigation by Spanish authorities, writing that “Alexander Torshin instructed members of the Moscow-based Taganskaya crime syndicate how to launder ill-gotten gains through banks and properties in Spain.”
As a result of this investigation, Spain convicted a Torshin underling – who reportedly called Torshin “boss” and “godfather” in recordings – and sentenced this man to nearly four years in prison for illegal transactions totaling more than $1.8 million. Torshin himself was not charged; a Spanish official told Bloomberg that Russia won’t cooperate in cases against top politicians. Toshin has denied any wrongdoing.
Torshin helped establish a Russian gun group called Right to Bear Arms, whose president calls Torshin “a great gun lover.” Torshin is also a life member of the NRA – and forged ties to its leadership after attending the NRA’s national convention in 2013. McClatchy reports that, in 2015, Toshin hosted “a high-level NRA delegation” during a week-long Moscow trip “that included meetings with influential Russian government and business figures.” An attendee describes a debauched week: “They were killing us with vodka and the best Russian food,” he told McClatchy. “The trip exceeded my expectations by logarithmic levels.”
At the May 2016 NRA convention in Louisville, Kentucky, where Donald Trump accepted the group’s endorsement, Torshin shared a table at dinner with the candidate’s son Donald Jr. According to Bloomberg, Torshin claimed to also have met now-president Trump at the convention, and that: “He keeps photos of the event on his computer tablet.”
The 2016 NRA convention came off just as Russians were actively seeking contact with the Trump campaign – just weeks earlier, a Russian conduit told Trump staffer George Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including thousands of her emails. – and hoping to set up a meeting with Trump and Putin.
According to the New York Times, Torshin tried to set up a dinner meeting in Louisville at the time of the NRA convention with then-candidate Trump – with the aim of connecting Trump with Putin. The request was conveyed through a Trump ally in the Christian conservative world, who reportedly sent the campaign an email with the subject line: “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” (Trump did not attend that dinner.)
Separately, an NRA member, Paul Erickson – who had been part of the 2015 NRA delegation to Moscow – wrote an email titled, “Kremlin Connection,” to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn, according to the New York Times. Erickson reportedly told the campaign that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would be seeking “first contact” at the NRA convention.
Weeks later, in early June 2016, the trio of Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner took a meeting with a Putin-connected lawyer who had offered incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon has dubbed that meeting “treasonous.”
A Potential Game Changer
The allegation that Russia funneled money into the NRA – to directly support Trump’s presidential bid – is staggering. Until now, we’ve understood the Russian support of Trump to have been oblique, delivered by a cadre of Facebook and Twitter trolls, and by the release of hacked DNC and Clinton campaign emails through Wikileaks.
The notion that the Kremlin was supporting Trump’s presidential bid financially – and through an organization that holds itself up as a paragon of American patriotism – is almost unreal.
If the allegation bears out, it raises unsettling questions:
How much money did Torshin deliver?
Did the NRA understand that this money was coming from Moscow?
Did the Trump campaign?
Did Russian funds only support Trump – or did the money infiltrate the NRA’s broader mission of electing Republicans? (In total, the NRA spent nearly $52 million in the 2016 general election on dozens of House and Senate races.)
Does Russian influence have anything to do with the fascistic turn in NRA messaging?
The NRA did not return a call seeking comment from Rolling Stone.
We will update if we hear back. Source
Jan 9, 2018
New York Times
Read the Transcript of Glenn Simpson’s Testimony to Congress
The Fusion GPS founder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Aug. 2017 to answer questions about the dossier on President Trump that the research company compiled with the assistance of Christopher Steele, a former British spy
Read the transcript here
357total visits,1visits today