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Wednesday, Apr 26 2017

100 Days: Trump's Dangerous Ties To Russia

Apr 26, 2017

Spying, lying, denying, secret payouts, flip-flops and money laundering have come to define the first 100 days of the Trump administration’s dangerous ties to Russian oligarchs, gangsters and Vladimir Putin. Phone records and intercepted calls confirm that members of Trump’s campaign were in “constant communication” with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 election and the web of connections seems to grow every day.

Currently former Trump aides Michael FlynnCarter PagePaul Manafort and Roger Stone are all under FBI investigation for their various communications with Russian officials. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In the first months of this administration, we’ve learned the following about the key players in Trump’s orbit and their ties to Russia:

Almost 100 days in office and the Administration has refused to level with the American public, which is why a majority of Americans support an independent commission to immediately investigate the growing scandal between Trump aides and Russia to ensure transparency and accountability.


The FBI Is Investigating Trump Campaign Collusion With Russia

FBI Is Investigating Possible Collusion Between The Trump Campaign And Russia. “FBI Director James Comey said for the first time Monday that the bureau is investigating whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow while Russia was interfering in the presidential election.” [CNN, 3/21/17]

Trump Aides Paul Manafort, Carter Page And Roger Stone Are Under Investigation. “Mr. Manafort is among at least three Trump campaign advisers whose possible links to Russia are under scrutiny. Two others are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative. The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.’ [New York Times, 1/19/17]

Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Resigned After Lying About Discussing Sanctions During The Transition

Michael Flynn Resigned After Making Misleading Statements About His Calls To The Russian Ambassador. According to Washington Post, ‘Michael Flynn, the national security adviser to President Trump, resigned late Monday over revelations about his potentially illegal contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and his misleading statements about the matter to senior Trump administration officials. Flynn stepped down amid mounting pressure on the Trump administration to account for its false statements about Flynn’s conduct after The Washington Post reported Monday that the Justice Department had warned the White House last month that Flynn had so mischaracterized his communications with the Russian diplomat that he might be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow. In his resignation letter, Flynn said he had ‘inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president.’ [Washington Post, 2/14/17]

Flynn Spoke To The Russian Ambassador Five Times On The Day President Obama Issued Sanctions On Russia. “Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia’s ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election, three sources familiar with the matter said.The calls occurred between the time the Russian embassy was told about U.S. sanctions and the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had decided against reprisals, said the sources. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing internal U.S. government deliberations about the issue.” [Reuters, 1/23/17]

Nine Former And Current Senior Intelligence Officials Confirmed Flynn Made Explicit References To Sanctions When Speaking With The Russian Ambassador. According to Washington Post, ‘Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president. ‘Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,’ said a former official. A third official put it more bluntly, saying that either Flynn had misled Pence or that Pence misspoke. An administration official stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn. The sanctions in question have so far remained in place.’ [Washington Post, 2/9/17]

Flynn Is Now Willing To Be Interviewed By Investigators In Exchange For Immunity

Flynn Told The FBI And Congress That He Was Willing To Be Interviewed In Exchange For A Grant Of Immunity From Prosecution. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter. As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign-policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/30/17]

Payments From Russian Organizations To Flynn Surfaced Following His Resignation

RT Paid $45,386 For Michael Flynn To Fly To Moscow To Speak At Its 10th Anniversary Celebration. According to Yahoo News, “RT, the Russian state-owned television network described by U.S. intelligence officials as ‘the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,’ paid $45,386 for former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn to fly to Moscow to speak at its 10th anniversary celebration in December 2015, according to documents newly obtained by a congressional committee and provided to Yahoo News. At the Russian government’s expense, Flynn — who was fired last month as President Trump’s national security adviser — was accompanied by his son, Michael Flynn Jr., on the three-day, all-expenses-paid trip, where they both stayed at the five-star Hotel Metropol in Moscow next to Red Square, according to documents obtained from Flynn’s speakers’ bureau, Leading Authorities.” [Yahoo News, 3/16/17]

Flynn Initially Failed To Inform Federal Ethics Officials Of $45,000 In Payments From The State-Sponsored Russian Propaganda Outfit RT. According to the Daily Beast, “Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn initially failed to inform federal ethics officials of payments from a state-sponsored Russian propaganda outfit, according to newly released documents. Flynn, who left his White House post after less than a month, submitted a financial disclosure form in February that made no mention of a reported $45,000 payment from Russia Today, or RT, for a speech that Flynn gave at the network’s 10th anniversary gala. In an amended disclosure statement filed with the White House counsel’s office on Friday, Flynn disclosed receiving more than $5,000 (the threshold for reporting) from RT.” [Daily Beast, 4/1/17]

Flynn Was Paid $11,250 By The U.S. Subsidiary Of Russian Cybersecurity Firm, Kapersky Lab, And $11,250 By Russian Charter Cargo Airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines. According to the Washington Post, “The newly released documents show that Flynn was also paid $11,250 that year by the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, and another $11,250 by the Russian charter cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines. The cyberfirm said the payment came for a speech Flynn delivered in Washington.” [Washington Post, 3/16/17]

Flynn’s Amended Disclosure Statement Revealed Payments For Speeches To Two Additional Russian Companies, Cybersecurity Firm Kaspersky And Volga Dnepr Airlines. According to the Daily Beast, “In addition to RT, Flynn’s amended disclosure statement reveals payments for speeches to two additional Russian companies, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky and Volga Dnepr Airlines. Neither of those payments was disclosed in Flynn’s initial ethics filing. The White House reported receiving the amended filing on Friday, the same day that it publicly released disclosure statements for more than a hundred executive branch officials in a large evening document dump. A source close to Flynn told The Daily Beast on Saturday that his resignation from the White House last month interrupted efforts to file a complete and accurate disclosure form, and that the amendment was an effort to correct deficiencies that would have otherwise been sorted out.” [Daily Beast, 4/1/17]

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Recused Himself From Any Department Of Justice Investigation Into Trump Ties To Russia After Lying Under Oath About Meeting The Russian Ambassador

Sessions Recused Himself From Any Current Or Future Investigation Of Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. According to the New York Times, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a chorus of criticism over his contacts with the Russian ambassador, recused himself Thursday from any current or future investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His conversations with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, came amid suspected Russian hacking directed at Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Sessions said he made the decision after meeting with senior career officials at the Justice Department. He said he would not take part in any investigations ‘related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.’” [New York Times, 3/2/17]

When Asked Under Oath If He Had Been In Contact With Anyone To Any Part Of The Russian Government About The 2016 Election, Sessions Responded “No.” According to the Washington Post, “In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. ‘Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?’ Leahy wrote. Sessions responded with one word: ‘No.’” [Washington Post, 3/1/17]

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes Recused Himself From Investigation Into Trump Ties To Russia After Coordinating With The Trump White House

Nunes Announced He Would Step Aside From The Investigation Into Russian Interference In the 2016 Election. According to Politico, “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will temporarily step aside from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including interactions between Moscow and the Trump campaign.”  [Politico, 4/6/17]

House Ethics Committee Announced It Was Investigating Allegations That Nunes May Have Mishandled Classified Information. According to Politico, “The move comes as the House Ethics Committee announced that it is investigating allegations that Nunes may have mishandled classified information. With the Ethics Committee now formally involved in the dispute, Nunes could no longer oversee the Russia probe, although he will remain in place as chairman of the Intelligence Committee.” [Politico, 4/6/17]

Devin Nunes Was On White House Grounds On The Day Before His Announcement That He Saw Information Suggesting That Communication Between Trump And His Advisers May Have Been Swept Up In Surveillance Of Other Foreign Nationals. According to CNN, “It has been something of a mystery, the whereabouts of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes on the day before his announcement that he saw information suggesting that communications of then-President-elect Donald Trump and his advisers may have been swept up in surveillance of other foreign nationals. One source told CNN that Nunes, a California Republican, was seen on the White House grounds the day before his announcement. In a phone interview, Nunes confirmed to CNN that he was on the White House grounds that day — but he said he was not in the White House itself. (Other buildings, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, are on the same grounds.)” [CNN, 3/27/17]

$1.2 Million In Payments From Secret Ledger To Manafort From Pro-Putin Party Have Been Corroborated

August 2016: A Handwritten Ledger Was Discovered In Ukraine Detailing Millions In Undisclosed Cash Payments From Pro-Putin Political Party To Paul Manafort. According to the Associated Press, “Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.” [Associated Press, 4/12/17]

Manafort Resigned Amidst Fallout From The Ledger. “Paul Manafort resigned as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Friday, days after the GOP presidential hopeful brought in Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon as campaign CEO.” [CNBC, 8/19/16]

At Least $1.2 Million In Payments From The Ledger Were Received By Manafort’s Consulting Firm In The United States. According to the Associated Press, “Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.” [Associated Press, 4/12/17]

Two Payments, One Of $750,000 And Another Of $455,249, Matched Ledger Entries. And According to the Associated Press, “Previously, Manafort and his spokesman, Jason Maloni, have maintained the ledger was fabricated and said no public evidence existed that Manafort or others received payments recorded in it. The AP, however, identified in the records two payments received by Manafort that aligned with the ledger: one for $750,000 that a Ukrainian lawmaker said last month was part of a money-laundering effort that should be investigated by U.S. authorities. The other was $455,249 and also matched a ledger entry.” [Associated Press, 4/12/17]

The FBI Obtained A FISA Warrant On Trump Associate Carter Page, Who Was Recruited To Be A Spy For Russia In 2013 

Summer 2016: The FBI Obtained A “Secret Court Order” To Monitor The Communications Of Carter Page. According to the Washington Post, “The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.” [Washington Post, 4/11/17]

The FBI And DOJ Obtained The Warrant After Convincing A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge There Was Probable Cause To Believe Page Was Acting As An Agent Of A Foreign Power. According to the Washington Post, “The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.” [Washington Post, 4/11/17]

The Application Said Page Had Contacts With A Russian Intelligence Operative In 2013, As Well As Other Contacts With Russian Operatives That Were Not Publicly Disclosed. According to the Washington Post, “Among other things, the application cited contacts that he had with a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013, officials said. Those contacts had earlier surfaced in a federal espionage case brought by the Justice Department against the intelligence operative and two other Russian agents. In addition, the application said Page had other contacts with Russian operatives that have not been publicly disclosed, officials said.” [Washington Post, 4/11/17]

The FISA Warrant Application Showed That The FBI And The DOJ’s National Security Division Had Been Seeking Since July 2016 To Determine “How Broad A Network Of Accomplices Russia Enlisted In Attempting To Influence The 2016 Presidential Election.” According to the Washington Post, “An application for electronic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act need not show evidence of a crime. But the information obtained through the intercepts can be used to open a criminal investigation and may be used in a prosecution. The application also showed that the FBI and the Justice Department’s national security division have been seeking since July to determine how broad a network of accomplices Russia enlisted in attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election, the officials said.” [Washington Post, 4/11/17]

Jared Kushner Secretly Met With The Chief Of Russia’s Vnesheconombank Bank, Now Says He Will Testify For Senate Intelligence Committee 

Kushner Met With Sergey Gorkov, The Chief Of Vnesheconombank, Which Drew Sanctions From The Obama Administration After Russia Annexed Crimea. According to the New York Times, “Later that month, though, Mr. Kislyak requested a second meeting, which Mr. Kushner asked a deputy to attend in his stead, officials said. At Mr. Kislyak’s request, Mr. Kushner later met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, which drew sanctions from the Obama administration after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine.” [New York Times, 3/27/17]

Kushner Failed To Disclose The Meeting On His Security Clearance Forms. “President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to disclose dozens of meetings and contacts with foreign officials in the months before inauguration while he was seeking a top-secret security clearance, The New York Times reported Thursday. Among the meetings that Kushner omitted from his national security questionnaire were one with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and another with Sergey Gorkov, the CEO of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank.” [The Hill, 4/7/17]

Jared Kushner Stated He Would Testify To Senate Intelligence Committee In Investigation Into Trump Ties To Russia. According to the New York Times, “Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials. The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, according to the government officials. The meetings included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.” [New York Times, 3/27/17]

Erik Prince, Founder Of Blackwater And Brother Of Betsy DeVos, Secretly Advised The Trump Transition Team And Met With A Russian Close To Vladimir Putin In The Seychelles To Establish A Backchannel Between Trump And Moscow

The United Arab Emirates Arranged A Secret Meeting Between Blackwater Founder Erik Prince And A Russian Close To Vladimir Putin As Part Of An Apparent Effort To Establish A Backchannel Line Of Communications Between Moscow And Trump. According to the Washington Post, “The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.” [Washington Post, 4/3/17]

Erik Prince Advised The Trump Transition, Including Michael Flynn. “In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes, and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump’s marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a presence, giving advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with his activities. […] According to people familiar with his activities, Prince entered Trump Tower through the back, like others who wanted to avoid the media spotlight, and huddled with members of the president-elect’s team to discuss intelligence and security issues.” [Bloomberg, 4/19/17]

Published: Apr 26, 2017

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