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Scandal Watch II

This is a continuation of the topic Scandal Watch.

Pro and Con

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May 17, 9:02am Top

Sept 14, 2013 - May 16, 2017 Comey/Trump timeline--with more to come, I'm afraid:

The Timeline of Clashes Between FBI Director Comey and President Trump
The Associated Press | 5/17/2017 7:35 AM ET


Only one person is enjoying this...hopefully the USA will give his people a demo of how a robust democracy triumphs over craven. corrupt leadership:

Putin offers to hand over records of Trump-Lavrov meeting
Cody Derespina | May 17, 2017

Edited: May 17, 9:16am Top

Duplicate: This message has been deleted by its author.

May 17, 7:01pm Top

Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation
REBECCA R. RUIZ | MAY 17, 2017

The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced on Wednesday.

...While a special counsel would remain ultimately answerable to Mr. Rosenstein — and by extension, the president — he would have greater autonomy to run an investigation than a United States attorney would. Mr. Mueller will be able to choose to what extent to consult with or inform the Justice Department about his investigation as it goes forward.

Mr. Mueller is viewed by members of both parties as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country...


May 18, 7:03am Top

Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper editorial says Paul Ryan needs to be replaced by an adult:

"Congressman Mark Pocan has summed up the relationship of House Speaker Paul Ryan to President Trump as that of a lapdog to his master. "This Paul Ryan we have now — he seems to roll over and want his belly rubbed by the president,” said the representative from Wisconsin's 2nd District, which borders Ryan’s neglected 1st District.

Pocan knows Ryan well. But we think the comparison is a bit unfair. From what we know of lapdogs, they serve many useful purposes. That cannot be said of the speaker of the House. At this point, Ryan is doing harm to his district, his state, his country and the world because, as Pocan said, the speaker is “complicit in letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump.”


May 18, 7:32am Top

>6 sturlington: I was going to post that tidbit in the Humor from both sides of the aisle thread. Haha!

May 18, 9:51am Top

In case you can't keep up with all the damaging stories that have broken since last night, WaPo has a handy breakdown: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/18/the-white-houses-absolutely-brutal-night-in-6-headlines/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.2f35f74e40b7

May 18, 5:31pm Top

Vice President Pence has a growing credibility problem
Aaron Blake | May 18, 2017

Below are three big instances in which Pence said something that turned out to be highly misleading at best and clearly false at worst, starting with the newest one.

1) Michael Flynn's status as a foreign agent for Turkey

In early March, it was reported that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had filed as a foreign agent for Turkey after failing to do so when he should have. Asked about it by Fox News's Bret Baier on March 9, Pence said twice that it was the “first I heard of it”...

2) The explanation of James Comey's firing

While defending Trump's firing of FBI Director James B. Comey last week, Pence asserted that the president had acted upon the recommendation of the Justice Department and said the decision wasn't about the FBI's Russia investigation...

3) Jan. 15: Flynn talking about sanctions with Russia...Pence assured CBS's “Face the Nation” that Flynn hadn't discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — talks that could have run afoul of the law given that Flynn wasn't yet a White House official...

In all three instances, Pence said something to defend the administration that in retrospect looks very suspect. Precisely what's happening here is up for debate, but none of it is good for Pence's political future.


Edited: May 19, 7:44am Top

Quid pro quo smoke:

Was Trump team building a backchannel with Putin?
Reuters reports that Trump campaign advisers had at least 18 previously undisclosed calls and emails with Russians during the campaign and sought a back channel with Vladimir Putin. Ned Price and Steve Clemons join Lawrence O'Donnell. Duration: 7:20



Flynn Delayed Anti-ISIS Plan That Turkey Opposed
Courtney Kube |

A former senior Obama official confirmed to NBC News that after months of disagreement, the Obama administration had decided to arm the Syrian Kurds — but in January incoming National Security Adviser Mike Flynn asked his counterpart, Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, not to do it.

McClatchy first reported that Flynn had blocked the plan to arm the Syrian Kurds for an attack on Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria, a move that was opposed by the Turkish government, which Flynn had been paid $500,000 to represent...



Maggie Haberman‏ @maggieNYT 10h10 hours ago
Retweeted Josh Caplan‏ @joshdcaplan
New video shows Turkey's Erdogan watching members of his security detail attack Kurdish protesters outside of the Turkish embassy in D.C.

Erdogan appeared to feel emboldened on this visit >

(Oh great--now my DH, a Turkish-American of Polish heritage will NEVER go to Consulate to renounce his Turkish citizenship so we can visit that country some day. (Under Turkish law, can't have dual citizenship. Husband emigrated at 4YO. He already suspected that Chicago Consulate had a dungeon rather than basement... He isn't the only wary wouldbe traveler with dual citizenship. I'm beginning to understand the reticence...)

May 19, 4:23pm Top

If it talks like a duck and its name is Donald....

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing 'nut job' Comey
Dan Merica | May 19, 2017

President Donald Trump bragged to two top Russian officials last week that firing "nut job" FBI Director James Comey eased "great pressure" on him, The New York Times reported Friday.

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump said, according to the Times. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

Trump's Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired...


Edited: May 20, 10:10am Top

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say
Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky | May 19. 2017

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said...



NYT: Kuchner omitted meeting w Russians on security clearance forms (

May 20, 8:06am Top

First on CNN: Russian officials bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump, sources say
Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, Marshall Cohen and Eric Lichtblau, CNN | May 19, 2017

Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team, sources told CNN.

The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn, who was tapped to become Trump's national security adviser, current and former governments officials said.

"This was a five-alarm fire from early on," one former Obama administration official said, "the way the Russians were talking about him." Another former administration official said Flynn was viewed as a potential national security problem.

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


May 20, 8:10am Top

Smoking gun (obstruction of justice):

Report: Trump says firing ‘nut job’ Comey took off pressure
Erica Werner and Eileen Sullivan | AP May 20, 2017

...“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” the Times reported that Trump said during the May 10 meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”...


Edited: May 20, 2:28pm Top

Especially having brought several people from his former law firm (which had several Trumpians--Kushner, Manafort--for clients), Mueller may not be free to follow evidence. Also, it may allow defense lawyers later to discount evidence against Trumpians in any legal proceeding. Unless cleared up a priori, Mueller--no matter how excellent he is--can't be allowed to foul up investigation with his past entanglements.



ETA http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-mueller-idUSKCN18F2KK?utm_source=twi...

ETA http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-rob-rosenstein-robert-mueller-special-inves...


The Scope of the Mueller Probe: Will the Public Learn What Was Uncovered?
Andrew Kent | May 20, 2017

...The Mueller probe should be quite broad, covering Russian interference and any Trump connections, and extending not just to crimes committed but also to classic counterintelligence questions about the nature of the espionage threat. But it is correct that congressional investigations—either by standing committees, as is happening now, by a select committee, or by a special commission given delegated oversight power by statute—should be much broader still than the outer limits of Mueller’s remit.

As Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey put it, writing about how congressional investigation of the Russia-Trump mess should be different and broader than a DOJ/FBI investigation: Congress is charged with ascertaining information related to legislative purposes—including the imposition of sanctions in response to the activity of a hostile foreign power, the discharging of its oversight function with regard to fraud, abuse, or corruption in the executive branch, and legislative measures that might be necessary to protect the American electoral system. It also has a duty to publicly address major questions the political system is struggling with now in a fashion the public can absorb and process: What is the President’s relationship with Russia? And is there reason to be concerned about it?

Regarding public disclosure of information collected by Mueller, I have offered four avenues by which Mueller could attempt to make a public report. (There may be others still.) All four options are uncertain, in that they require the buy-in of other actors, whether Congress, Rod Rosenstein, or a federal judge overseeing a grand jury. And, as I noted, the grand jury options would be unusual and thus potentially quite controversial.

The public may learn a lot more from the Mueller inquiry that some fear. But it still seems clear that a broad inquiry, broad public disclosure, and proportionately broad governmental response to all of the intertwined legal, diplomatic, national security, and political aspects of the Trump-Russia matter will need to come from Congress.


May 22, 9:52am Top

Trump must be claiming executive privilege? Giuilani's is on record, though.

ACLU: Trump refused to turn over Giuliani travel ban memo by court-ordered deadline
By Nikita Vladimirov - 05/20/17

May 22, 11:25am Top

Michael Flynn to take the Fifth Amendment and decline Senate subpoena
Matthew Mosk & Meghan Keneally | May 22, 2017

Edited: May 23, 4:53am Top

Trump asked DNI, NSA (directors) to deny evidence of Russia collusion
Jim Sciutto and Eli Watkins | May 22, 2017

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump called two top intelligence community figures to request that they deny in public any evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election, multiple current and former US officials with knowledge tell CNN.

Trump's requests to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers came after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly revealed before the House intelligence committee on March 20 that the FBI had an investigation into collusion to influence the 2016 election.

Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the President's request and refused to comply, the sources told CNN...



Trump is practically begging to be accused of obstruction of justice right now (analysis)
Aaron Blake | May 22, 2017


May 23, 8:39am Top

FEC member urges escalated Trump-Russia inquiry

The agency, already investigating a Trump complaint, is called on to consider reports that Russian agents bought Facebook ads.

Kenneth P. Vogel | 05/23/2017

...Weintraub’s interest was piqued by an article published last week by TIME magazine that revealed intelligence officials had evidence that Russian agents bought Facebook ads to disseminate election-themed stories. It also indicated that congressional investigators were examining whether Russian efforts to spread such content were boosted by two U.S. companies with deep ties to Trump — Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica...


May 24, 7:05am Top


The case for impeaching Trump — and fast
This is the exact situation impeachment was meant for. Let's hurry up.
Matthew Yglesias | May 22, 2017

...You don’t need to be a fan of Mike Pence on any level whatsoever to see that nobody thinks he’s in cahoots with the Russians or needs to cover for some kind of Paul Manafort money laundering scheme.

If Republicans would move quickly toward removing Trump from office, they could put a different, better-qualified man in his place. That wouldn’t settle all of Trump’s critics’ disagreements with his administration — but it would put them in the realm of ordinary politics where they belong.

...Pence. As of a week ago, his hands looked pretty much entirely clean in the whole Flynn situation. But we learned Thursday that the Trump transition project — which Pence was ostensibly heading — was in fact informed of ongoing investigations into Flynn’s secret lobbying for Turkey, at the very same time that Flynn, on behalf of the transition, was delaying a Pentagon plan to attack the ISIS capital of Raqqa that the Turkish government disliked. Given the totality of the situation and the tangential nature of Pence’s involvement, this seems forgivable enough to me.

But the longer Pence occupies a high-level role in an administration governed by gangster ethics, the more trouble he’s going to find himself in. Like a loyal soldier, Pence came out swinging with the argument that the Comey firing was all about Rosenstein’s memo, only to have Trump himself contradict him the next day. Credibility is an exhaustible resource, and with every passing day Pence has less of it...


May 28, 8:26am Top

Will Donald Trump Be Impeached?
Nate Silver | May 22, 2017

...All that work … and I’m still not going to give you a precise number for how likely Trump is to lose his job. That’s because this is a thought experiment and not a mathematical model11. I do think I owe you a range, however. I’m pretty sure I’d sell Trump-leaves-office-early stock (whether because of removal from office or other reasons) at even money (50 percent), and I’m pretty sure I’d buy it at 3-to-1 against (25 percent). I could be convinced by almost any number within that range.

The easiest-to-imagine scenario for Trump being removed is if Republicans get clobbered in the midterms after two years of trying to defend Trump, the Republican agenda is in shambles, Democrats begin impeachment proceedings in early 2019, and just enough Republicans decide that Pence (or some fresh face with no ties to the Trump White House) gives them a better shot to avoid total annihilation in 2020.

In some sense, then, the most important indicators of Trump’s impeachment odds are the ones you’d always use to monitor the political environment: presidential approval ratings, the generic congressional ballot and (if taken with appropriate grains of salt) special election results. What makes this time a little different is that if Republicans think the ship is sinking, impeachment may give them an opportunity to throw their president overboard first.


May 31, 12:25pm Top

China detains at least one monitor who was investigating factory making Ivanka Trump shoes
Eva Dou and Te-Ping Chen | May 31, 2017

A labor-rights group says it was investigating factories where Ivanka Trump’s shoes are made

...The status of the other two investigators was unclear, Mr. Li (founder of New York-based China Labor Watch) said, after he lost touch with them over the weekend.


Jun 1, 7:14am Top

@RepAdamSchiff 11h11 hours ago

.@POTUS should not return properties Russians used for espionage that were shuttered after they interfered in our election. Why reward them?


Trump administration moves to return Russian compounds in Maryland and New York
May 31, 2017

...The Russian compounds — a 14-acre estate on Long Island and several buildings on secluded acreage along the Corsica River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — have been in Russian possession since the days of the Soviet Union. According to a Maryland deed in 1995, the former USSR transferred ownership of the Maryland property to the Russian Federation in 1995 for a payment of one dollar.

Russia said it used the facilities, both of which had diplomatic immunity, for rest and recreation for embassy and U.N. employees and to hold official events. But U.S. officials dating to the Reagan administration, based on aerial and other surveillance, had long believed they were also being used for intelligence purposes.

Last year, when Russian security services began harassing U.S. officials in Moscow — including slashed tires, home break-ins, and, at one point, tackling and throwing to the ground a U.S. embassy official entering through the front of the embassy — the Obama administration threatened to close the compounds, former Obama officials said.

In meetings to protest the treatment, the Obama administration said that it would do so unless the harassment stopped, and Moscow dropped its freeze on construction of a new consulate to replace the one in St. Petersburg, considered largely unusable because of Russian spying equipment installed there. Russia had earlier blocked U.S. use of a parcel of land and construction guarantees in the city when sanctions were imposed after its military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The threat of closing the compounds was not pursued. In late December, after U.S. intelligence said there had been election meddling, and in response to the ongoing harassment in Moscow, Obama ordered the compounds closed and diplomats expelled. “We had no intention of ever giving them back,” a former senior Obama official said of the compounds.

...Flynn, in a phone conversation with Kislyak, had advised against retaliation and indicated that U.S. policy would change under the Trump administration.

The Kremlin made clear that the compound issue was at the top of its bilateral agenda. Russia repeatedly denounced what it called the “seizure” of the properties as an illegal violation of diplomatic treaties.

On May 8, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, Thomas Shannon, traveled to New York to meet with his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on what the State Department described as “a range of bilateral issues” and what Russia called “irritants” and “grievances.”

Ryabkov brought up the compounds, while Shannon raised St. Petersburg and harassment, suggesting that they deal with the operation of their diplomats and facilities in each others’ countries separate from policy issues such as Syria and proposing that they clear the decks with a compromise.

Russia refused, saying that the compound issue was a hostile act that deserved no reciprocal action to resolve and had to be dealt with before other diplomatic problems could be addressed. In an interview with Tass, Ryabkov said Moscow was alarmed that Washington “carries on working out certain issues in its traditional manner, particularly concerning Russia’s diplomatic property in the states of Maryland and New York.”

Two days later in Washington, Tillerson told Lavrov that the United States would no longer link the compounds to the issue of St. Petersburg.

Immediately after their May 10 meeting at the State Department, Tillerson escorted Lavrov and Kislyak to the Oval Office. There, they held a private meeting with Trump.

...In a news conference at the Russian Embassy after his meetings with Tillerson and Trump, Lavrov said of the compound closures, “Everyone, in particular the Trump administration, is aware that those actions were illegal.”

“The dialogue between Russia and the U.S. is now free from the ideology that characterized it under the Barack Obama administration,” he said.


Jun 1, 1:31pm Top

White House Details Ethics Waivers for Ex-Lobbyists and Corporate Lawyers

WASHINGTON — President Trump has given at least 16 White House staff members dispensation to work on policy matters they handled while employed as lobbyists or to interact with their former colleagues in private-sector jobs, according to records released late Wednesday.

The details on these so-called ethics waivers — more than five times the number granted in the first four months of the Obama administration — were made public after an intense dispute between the White House and the Office of Government Ethics, which had been pushing the Trump administration to stop granting such waivers in secret...


Jun 1, 2:46pm Top

Nigel Farage is 'person of interest' in FBI investigation into Trump and Russia

Two little pigs went to market,
One of them fell down,
and one of them ran-away.
How many got to town?


Farage is ready for his apple; Trump looks already stuffed.

Jun 2, 9:11am Top

23 contd. (Russian compounds)

Interesting how quickly Trump Administration caves to Russia--even in face of feeding collusion suspicion--when he brings all of his NY real estate negotiating instincts when dealing with allies, most recently, Paris Agreement:

3 Negotiating Tactics You Need to Watch For
December 16, 2011 by Kelley Robertson

The Nibble
The Vise
Take it or leave it


Jun 2, 1:08pm Top

Exclusive: Special counsel Mueller to probe ex-Trump aide Flynn's Turkey ties
Nathan Layne, Mark Hosenball and Julia Edwards Ainsley | June 2, 2017

Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump election campaign and Russia, is expanding his probe to assume control of a grand jury investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, three sources told Reuters.

The move means Mueller’s politically charged inquiry will now look into Flynn’s paid work as a lobbyist for a Turkish businessman in 2016, in addition to contacts between Russian officials and Flynn and other Trump associates during and after the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Federal prosecutors in Virginia are investigating a deal between Flynn and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin as part of a grand jury criminal probe, according to a subpoena seen by Reuters.

...Some members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to define the scope of Mueller’s inquiry...


Edited: Jun 5, 1:04pm Top

Follow the money: German-bank smoke?

Deutsche Bank asks for more time for U.S. query on Trump, Russia: source
Tom Sims | June 5, 2017

Germany's largest bank has asked for more time to respond to a request from Democrats on a U.S. House of Representatives panel for details about U.S. President Donald Trump's possible ties to Russia

..."Congress remains in the dark on whether loans Deutsche Bank made to President Trump were guaranteed by the Russian government, or were in any way connected to Russia," the Democrats wrote in their request to Deutsche Bank.

"It is critical that you provide this committee with the information necessary to assess the scope, findings and conclusions of your internal reviews," they said.

The Democrats cannot compel Deutsche Bank to hand over the information. The House committee has the power to subpoena the documents, but Republican committee members - who make up the majority of the panel - would have to cooperate.

No Republicans have signed the document request.

The congressional inquiry is also seeking information about a Russian "mirror trading" scheme that allowed $10 billion to flow out of Russia.

In January, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $630 million in fines for organizing the scheme that could have been used to launder money out of Russia.

The trades involved, for example, buying Russian stocks in roubles for a client and selling the identical value of a security for U.S. dollars for a related customer.


Jun 5, 1:09pm Top

Russian-bank smoke: follow the money

Was Kushner Seeking a Russian Bailout for Manhattan Building? Congress Will Ask

Ken Dilanian, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Corky Siemaszko | June 5, 2017



Bank at Center of U.S. Inquiry Projects Russian ‘Soft Power’


...The White House has said that Mr. Kislyak requested the meeting and that “Mr. Kushner was acting in his capacity as a transition official.” But VEB said Mr. Gorkov had met with Mr. Kushner, who was still running his family’s real estate company, to discuss business. The statement said VEB’s management had met with “a number of representatives of the largest banks and business circles of the U.S.,” a claim supported by the Times’s reporting about Mr. Gorkov’s meetings with banks in New York.

VEB has not disclosed specifics of the conversation with Mr. Kushner, which is of keen interest to investigators.

Mr. Kushner’s hunt for overseas investors for his company’s financially troubled Manhattan office tower on Fifth Avenue has been documented by The Times. While such an investment would not fit the profile of VEB’s past lending, it would have been possible for Mr. Gorkov to relay such information to other Russian banks. It is not known, however, whether the subject was raised in the meeting.

...This Is Not a Bank’

VEB and Mr. Putin are inextricably linked.

The bank stepped up lending after 2008 when Mr. Putin, then prime minister, became chairman of the board. And during the oil boom, VEB was seen as embodying Russia’s new financial might.

Under a 2007 law, VEB’s mandate was to lend to important but underfinanced sectors of the Russian economy, including infrastructure and businesses that help diversify the economy beyond oil dependence.

There are other government-controlled banks in Russia, Sberbank and VTB, but they are primarily retail banks. VEB serves a very different role, lending mostly to large borrowers, many of them politically connected.

To that end, VEB over the last decade has lent freely in ways that dovetail with government priorities and make it a tool of Russian soft power. The purse strings opened for two influential groups in particular: oligarchs building Olympic sites in Sochi and companies in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

“This is not a bank,” said Karen Vartapetov, a public finance analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “We should rather treat this bank as a government agency. It is used by the government as a tool to invest in politically and socially important but not always financially viable projects.”..


Jun 6, 5:58am Top

'This is huge': National-security experts were floored by the leaked NSA document on Russia's election hack
Sonam Sheth | June 5, 2017

A leaked NSA document which found that hackers connected to Russian military intelligence tried to breach US voting systems days before the 2016 election has national-security experts and former intelligence officials reeling.

Russian military intelligence, according to the document, launched an attack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to at least 100 local election officials shortly before the election.

In addition to being the strongest indication so far that Russia interfered in the US election, the document also indicates that Russian hackers may have "penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood," The Intercept, which first published the document, reported....


Jun 6, 6:08am Top

Tillerson Says Trump Wants Him to Rebuild Relations with Moscow Despite the Russia Probe
Nick Perry / Jun 05, 2017

(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) — ...Tillerson said relations with Russia are at a low point and deteriorating, and Trump asked him to try to stabilize the relationship and rebuild trust.

...couldn't comment on the details of the Russia investigations or whether they could bring down the administration because "I have no direct knowledge."

Trump has told him he should not allow the uproar to impede him from working on the relationship.

"He's been quite clear with me to proceed at whatever pace and in the areas I think we might make progress," Tillerson said. "I really am not involved in any of these other issues."...


Edited: Jun 6, 1:46pm Top

>30 margd: Interesting (though inconclusive). Too bad about the source, though.


Sloppiness all around (and stupidity by all parties), but this really is textbook-scenario stupid.

Note also: recent leaks aimed at damaging Trump have very destructive implications.


But, pilgrims, none of that is important when compared to the massive intelligence defeat suffered by the US in that the GRU now know that US SIGINT has been reading their internal communications traffic for years. Given this revelation and the earlier CNN "scoop" given to Dana Bash by US spies concerning US penetration of Russian diplomatic communications I would think it likely that the Russian government will conclude that ALL their communications are compromised. Having reached that conclusion they will set out to build completely new systems for the whole Russian government.

It will take billions of dollars and years of work to break into these new systems, Until that is achieved US intelligence will be rather close to blind. Some of you will rejoice in that, but you should not. The insight provided by SIGINT into potentially hostile acts and motives have often kept the world from nuclear war. pl

cf. this exchange:

Sam Peralta said...

Col. Lang

This leak that we can decrypt Russian secure diplomatic communications proves that those intent on bringing down Trump, hate him more than the purported enemy Russia.

It seems rather apparent that the memes of "Russia brazenly interfered in our pure American democracy" and "Trump team meeting with Russian officials had sinister motives" are just cynical sticks to beat Trump with. Actors within our federal government are quite happy destroying our SIGINT advantage if that means they can take down Trump.

Isn't it revealing that the WaPo, Times, CNN, NBC hysteria is all about the request for private communication channels between Trump transition and the Russians and not about the leak that the NSA broke Russian secure communications?
Reply 27 May 2017 at 01:36 PM
turcopolier said...

Sam Peralta

At last! someone who understands the level of intelligence disaster involved in this. pl
Reply 27 May 2017 at 01:40 PM

(And once again, pl's bio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Patrick_Lang )

Jun 6, 4:25pm Top

Yeah, I wondered if leak would alert Russians, allowing them to better conceal misbehaviours and undercut investigation. Ultimate misbehavior would be a Manchurian Candidate, though?

Jun 6, 4:55pm Top

Tacky/stingy for a billionaire-dad, though not illegal(?)

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business
Dan Alexander | June 29, 2017


Jun 7, 4:11am Top

Obstruction of justice:

Coats told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on Russia probe
Adam Entous | June 6, 2017

...On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey's handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.

After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election, as The Washington Post reported in May. The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau's probe.

Coats will testify on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

...A day or two after the March 22 meeting, the president followed up with a phone call to Coats, according to officials familiar with the discussions. In the call, Trump asked the DNI to issue a public statement denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Again, Coats decided not to act on the request.

Trump similarly approached Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to ask him to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign, as the Post previously reported, according to current and former officials. Like Coats, Rogers refused to comply with the president's request...


Jun 12, 5:29am Top

DC and MD will sue Trump over accepting money from foreign governments and favoring one state over another in his business:

D.C. and Maryland to sue President Trump, alleging breach of constitutional oath
Aaron C. Davis | June 12, 2017

Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland say they will sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House.

The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, centers on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said in January that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.

(AGs) say Trump has broken many promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests. For one, his son Eric Trump has said the president would continue to receive regular updates about his company’s financial health.

...The constitutional question D.C. and Maryland will put before a federal judge is whether Trump’s business ownership amount to violations of parts of the Constitution known as the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses.

To guard against foreign countries gaining sway over the new republic’s ambassadors in the late 1700s, drafters of the Constitution prohibited any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

In another part of the Constitution, framers sought to prevent a president from favoring one state over another, forbidding him from receiving any gift or emolument from a state and instead, only the compensation approved by Congress...

Jun 14, 5:33am Top

Courts will consider who, if anyone, has standing to challenge Trump's foreign (and interstate) business dealings--hotel competitors? states? members of Congress?

Democrats in Congress to Sue Trump Over Foreign Business Dealings

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are expected to file a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.

The plaintiffs — believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president — contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.

...Like the previous two federal lawsuits, this one, to be filed in federal court in Washington, accuses Mr. Trump of illegally profiteering from his businesses in a variety of ways, including collecting payments from foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels and accepting trademark approvals from foreign governments for his company’s goods and services.

But it creates a new group of plaintiffs who claim the president’s actions have damaged them: Democratic members of the House and Senate who say they have been wrongly deprived of their constitutional right to rule on whether Mr. Trump can accept such economic benefits from foreign governments, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led the effort with Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

...each new set of plaintiffs makes it harder for the Justice Department to defend the president on the grounds that his opponents have no legal standing to sue him, Mr. Trump’s critics said. “It puts the government in the position of saying that nobody can address this — not hotel competitors, not states, not members of Congress,” said Norman Eisen, the chairman of CREW, which started the legal efforts...


Jun 14, 5:48am Top

Intimidation almost as good as elimination, except to (70YO) highly regarded former FBI Director?

Trump Stews, Staff Steps In, and Mueller Is Safe for Now

...The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration...


Jun 14, 5:52am Top

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Jun 14, 5:52am Top

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Edited: Jun 15, 7:15am Top

Special Counsel Mueller is hiring Watergate, Enron, and mafia investigators--incl Deeben who has argued 100 cases to Supreme Court--and apparently is now investigating obstruction of justice by Trump himself (leak, perhaps by interviewees), who has contemplated firing him (Trump friend).

Given his history, I can't imagine Trump not acting eventually to remove Mueller. For Nixon, the firing of Special Counsel investigating HIM led to impeachment and resignation in disgrace before Senate removed him from office. Wonder how today's Congress would react to firing of Mueller (and probably his supervisor, Deputy AG Rosenstein).


ETA: @AriMelber: The obstruction inquiry means Rod Rosenstein is more likely to be a witness, and thus may meet standard for recusing himself.

(Some wag asked if mail clerk will be "last-man-standing" at DOJ.)

Edited: Jun 15, 8:41am Top

97-2, Senate lets Congress block President Trump from easing or ending penalties against Moscow. The deal adds new sanctions against Russia's defense and military-intelligence sectors while codifying existing sanctions into law. Some question whether House will pass and President will sign... Predictably, Russia is not amused by the Senate's action: http://tass.com/politics/951384.

Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal with new limits on Trump
The move marks the most significant GOP-imposed restriction on the White House to date.
Elana Schor | 06/14/2017


Edited: Jun 16, 4:27am Top

Bob Mueller has a Bronze Star with Valor, two Navy medals, a Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry

-Blake Hounshell, Politico editor

Edited: Jun 16, 7:06am Top

The hell that Trump is foisting onto the GOP is the hell the GOP had planned to
shower onto HRC if she had won last November!!!

Jun 16, 8:02am Top

Tillerson said something about lifting sanctions depending on Russia's helping out in Syria.
US Senate moves to limit Trump's ability to lift sanctions.
Russia may have killed ISIS leader.

Jun 16, 11:09am Top

So-o, if Trump doesn't fire Rothenstein, it's likely that the Dep AG will have to recuse himself anyway from overseeing Special Counsel obstruction of justice investigation? (Rothenstein was witness to Trump firing of Comey.) That would leave recently confirmed Associate AG Rachel Brand to supervise?

Former Bush official Rachel Brand takes over No. 3 position at Justice Dept.
Sari Horwitz May 28

Jun 16, 5:43pm Top


Cyber Threats To Canada's Democratic Process
Cdn Govt: Communications Security Establishment
38 p

Table of Contents
About CSE
Executive Summary
About This Document
Canada's Democratic Process
Overview Of Cyber Threats
Why Target Canada's Democratic Process?
How The Democratic Process Is Targeted
Target: Elections
Target: Political Parties And Politicians
Target: The Media
Explaining Cyber Threat Activity
The Cyber Toolbox
Cyber Capabilities: Sophisticated Uses
Case Study: Swaying Public Opinion Against A Candidate
Case Study: Cyberespionage Against A Candidate
Global Trends And The Threat To Canada
Global Baseline Of Known Events
Canadian Context
Annex A


Edited: Jun 17, 7:58am Top

Trump owes lenders at least $315 million, disclosure shows
Eric Beech, Mohammad Zargham and Andy Sullivan | June 16, 2017

(incl $50M to German bank)


Office Government Ethics (Trump's 2017 disclosure 98 p)

https://extapps2.oge.gov/201/Presiden.nsf/PAS+Index/12DAC79CC95F849085258142002703CA/$FILE/Trump, Donald J. final278.pdf


Also, on the financial disclosure front, EPA Director Scott Pruitt reported to have met with ~50 fossil fuel reps in Trump's DC hotel...


Why we still really need to see Donald Trump's tax returns
Chris Cillizza | June 16, 2017


Jun 18, 6:19pm Top

Emoluments file:

Russia Renewed Unused Trump Trademarks in 2016

...Last year, while hacking Democrats’ emails and working to undermine the American presidential election, the Russian government also granted extensions to six trademarks for Mr. Trump that had been set to expire. The Trump trademarks, originally obtained between 1996 and 2007 for hotels and branding deals that never materialized, each had terms that were coming to an end in 2016.

Despite their inactivity, the Trump Organization sought extensions for the trademarks from Rospatent, the Russian government agency in charge of intellectual property. In a series of approvals starting in April 2016 and ending in December, Rospatent granted new 10-year terms for the trademarks, the agency’s records show....

...“I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” He told NBC News in May that he has “no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.” And on Thursday, he expressed frustration on Twitter over scrutiny of his “non-dealings” in Russia...


Jun 19, 11:01am Top

Lawsuit Accuses Private Prison Company of Illegally Funding a Trump Super-PAC
Did it influence Trump’s pro-private prison policy?
Samantha Michaels | Jun. 15, 2017

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump has been very good for private prison executives. After the Justice Department announced earlier this year that it would continue using private lockups—a reversal of an Obama policy announced in 2016—prison companies’ stock prices soared. Now, a campaign finance watchdog is suing to figure out whether one of these prison companies influenced the Trump administration’s policy reversal by donating large sums to a pro-Trump super-PAC during the 2016 presidential campaign...

...federal law...prohibits government contractors from making political contributions...

...After Trump’s inauguration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would continue its relationship with private prisons. The following month, GEO won a $110 million contract to build a federal immigrant detention center in Texas.

In its lawsuit, the Campaign Legal Center is asking the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the administration’s decision to keep working with private prisons. In particular, the nonprofit watchdog is seeking records that might shed light on whether the administration’s decision was influenced by GEO contributions to the pro-Trump super-PAC. The Campaign Legal Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request for these records more than three months ago. But the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has delayed the fulfillment of the request, according to the lawsuit, which seeks to speed up the disclosure process...


Edited: Jun 20, 7:49am Top

House Dems seek info on General Flynn's travel re Saudi Arabia & Russia. They had questions, e.g., one hotel doesn't exist(?)


He's in such legal jeopardy, General Flynn must be target for witness-flippers now on Mueller team:

Mueller team lawyer brings witness-flipping expertise to Trump probes
Jun 19, 2017

A veteran federal prosecutor recruited onto special counsel Robert Mueller's team is known for a skill that may come in handy in the investigation of potential ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team: persuading witnesses to turn on friends, colleagues and superiors.

Andrew Weissmann, who headed the U.S. Justice Department's criminal fraud section before joining Mueller's team last month, is best known for two assignments - the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organized crime cases in Brooklyn, New York - that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation...


Investigators will need to offer witnesses protection to secure Flynn et al cooperation?

The Man Who Knew Too Much
His nuclear research helped a judge determine that former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had been assassinated – likely on Putin’s orders. Just months after the verdict, the scientist himself was found stabbed to death with two knives. Police deemed it a suicide, but US intelligence officials suspect it was murder.
Jane Bradley, Jason Leopold, Richard Holmes, Tom Warren, Heidi Blake, Alex Campbell | June 19, 2017

(See Web of Death graphic of 14 suspicious deaths.)


No wonder that

Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who produced Donald Trump Russian dossier, 'terrified for his safety' and went to ground before name released
Gordon Rayner, Patrick Sawer, Ruth Sherlock, Robert Midgley | 12 January 2017

Jun 20, 9:02am Top

Trump’s Business Ties in the Gulf Raise Questions About His Allegiances

President Trump has done business with royals from Saudi Arabia for at least 20 years, since he sold the Plaza Hotel to a partnership formed by a Saudi prince. Mr. Trump has earned millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates for putting his name on a golf course, with a second soon to open.

He has never entered the booming market in neighboring Qatar, however, despite years of trying.

Now a feud has broken out among these three crucial American allies, and Mr. Trump has thrown his weight firmly behind the two countries where he has business ties, raising new concerns about the appearance of a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives...


Jun 20, 9:20am Top

>52 margd: Worth circling this one in red.

Jun 21, 6:44am Top

Democrats believe Michael Flynn could be cooperating with FBI
Eugene Scott | June 20, 2017

...Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday that Flynn appears to have been responsive.

"All of the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time," the Rhode Island lawmaker said on "The Situation Room." "One of the more talkative people in 'Trumpland' has gone absolutely dead silent and that's what prosecutors strongly encourage cooperating witnesses to do."

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Flynn was one of Trump's more vocal surrogates -- especially when it came to criticizing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"It could be a huge deal, because who knows what Trump has said to him, both during the campaign and during the early days of the presidency," Whitehouse added. "Apparently Trump has been in touch with him after his firing from the White House to tell him to stay strong, which, in some circumstances, could be looked at as manipulation of a witness or obstruction of justice."...


Jun 22, 8:45am Top

Smoke (prior business deals):

Trump, Russia and a Shadowy Business Partnership
An insider describes the Bayrock Group, its links to the Trump family and its mysterious access to funds. It isn't pretty.
Timothy L. O'Brien | June 21, 2017

...The New York Times ... say(s) ... that Mueller is looking at whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.

Trump has repeatedly labeled Comey's and Mueller's investigations "witch hunts," and his lawyers have said that the last decade of his tax returns (which the president has declined to release) would show that he had no income or loans from Russian sources. In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. "I am not involved in Russia," he said.

But that doesn't address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump's dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president's own office in Trump Tower.

...One of Bayrock's principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

...It's unclear whether Sater and Bayrock are part of Mueller's investigation. But Mueller has populated his investigative team with veteran prosecutors expert in white-collar fraud and Russian-organized-crime probes. One of them, Andrew Weissmann, once led an FBI team that examined financial fraud leading to the demise of Enron. Before that, Weissmann was a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn and part of a team that prosecuted Sater and mob associates for investment scams in the late 1990s.

However the Mueller probe unfolds, a tour of Trump's partnership with Bayrock exposes a number of uncomfortable truths about the president's business history, his judgment, and the possible vulnerabilities that his past as a freewheeling dealmaker — and his involvement with figures like Sater — have visited upon his present as the nation's chief executive....


Jun 22, 5:43pm Top

Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say
Massimo Calabresi | 6/22/2017

The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.

In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.

The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.

Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME....


Edited: Jun 22, 5:54pm Top

Oops, meant to post in ACA thread.

Edited: Yesterday, 8:29am Top

CIA Director briefed Flynn in spite of Russia concerns, concerns he didn't discuss with Trump.
D Congressman, and now R&D leadership of Senate Judiciary Committee, ask for info on Jared Kushner security clearance, given (undisclosed) Russian ties:

The Rachel Maddow Show 6/23/17

Senate Judiciary questions Jared Kushner security clearance
Rachel Maddow reports that the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary has sent a letter to the FBI and the White House questioning Jared Kushner's security clearance and Donald Trump's role in his clearance process. Duration: 8:11


Senate Judiciary bipartisan letter:

House Oversight Dems' letter re security clearance Flyn, Kushner, etc.:

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