Trump’s Personal Attorney Reached Out To The Kremlin For Help During The Campaign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

President Donald Trump’s attorney reached out to the Kremlin for assistance in building a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the business mogul’s presidential campaign, he said Monday, adding that he discussed the project with Trump three times.

The attorney, Michael Cohen, denied that the project was related “in any way” to Trump’s campaign, though the developments appear to contradict Trump’s vehement denials of any such business connections to Russia in the past.
Previous reports have indicated that efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were underway during the presidential campaign in 2015, but it had not been reported that those efforts continued into 2016.
“The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected,” Cohen said in a written statement.
“In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition,” he added. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more.”
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Cohen’s own attorney provided documents to the House intelligence committee that included a reference to the Moscow project. In a second, separate statement Monday, Cohen said the proposal “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. Both I and the Trump Organization were evaluating this proposal and many others from solely a business standpoint, and rejected going forward on that basis.”
Cohen told CNN he reached out to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, describing the message as “an email that went unanswered that was solely regarding a real estate deal and nothing more.” In the second statement, Cohen said he contacted Peskov after it was suggested that the proposal would require approval by the Russian government, but that it was never provided.
Trump and Cohen discussed the proposal three times, though Cohen said he “never considered asking Mr. Trump to travel to Russia in connection with this proposal” and did not brief on him on his decision to terminate the development.
Cohen told CNN that the conversations were “short.” The first was to inform him about negotiations happening for a possible deal. Second time was to sign a letter of intent. The third time was letting him know that the deal was off after he decided himself to terminate it.
Cohen said the proposal was under consideration from September 2015 until the end of January 2016 and progressed to soliciting building designs and negotiations over financing.
The Washington Post, citing several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers, first reported the project, which involved Russian-born developer Felix Sater.
The Post said that Sater “urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say ‘great things’ about Trump.” Cohen said he determined that the proposal was “not feasible.”
According to the Post, in a November 2015 email to Cohen, who at the time was executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Sater also said that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating the real estate project and Trump’s election.
In a statement Monday, Cohen said Sater has “sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship.'”
The Trump Organization has signed similar letters in the past, pursuing deals in Russia and elsewhere only to see those efforts fall through in the initial stages.
Cohen has been a central focus for investigators on the House intelligence committee who are digging into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia — he is one of only two people to have been subpoenaed by the committee so far; the other is former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s involvement and awareness of the negotiations remains unclear and there is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016. Trump denied having any business interests in Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” He then reiterated that point again at a news conference the following day, telling reporters “I have nothing to do with Russia.”
However, Trump has spoken out in news interviews and in sworn depositions about his previous efforts to develop properties in Russia, which date back decades, praising the market there as ripe for investment. Messages left with the White House were not returned Monday.
Sater confirmed to CNN that he put together a real estate proposal for the development of “the world’s tallest building in Moscow” in the latter half of 2015, and presented the development to Cohen, which resulted in a signed Letter of Intent for the project. Cohen was the only member of the Trump Organization he communicated with on the project, Sater said, and added that he would not have been compensated by the Trump Organization if the project had been successful.
“During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” he said. “Ultimately, in January 2016, Michael informed me that the Trump Organization decided not to move forward with the project.”
But his interest in developing a project in Russia has been well documented, and Trump himself said he wanted to build a Trump property in Moscow at the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.
Cohen said he worked with a Moscow-based development company, I.C. Expert Investment Company, through Sater. The Trump Organization would license the Trump name for the building. Other reports have detailed similar efforts between Trump and Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch close to Putin.
Agalarov is also tied to the June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. attended on the premise that he would receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin — the publicist for Agalarov’s son first proposed the meeting to Trump Jr. in an email made public last month.
New details about Trump’s business deals also come as federal investigators have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, people familiar with the investigation told CNN earlier this month.

Trump spoke positively of Putin

While Cohen was working on the Trump Tower deal, Trump was speaking positively about working with Putin and also minimizing Russia’s aggressive military moves around the world. His openness to Putin, and his willingness to accept narratives favored by the Kremlin, contrasted strongly with not only his Republican opponents but also with the Obama administration.
“I would talk to him, I would get along with him,” Trump said about Putin at a Republican primary debate in September 2015. “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
At that debate, moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump went on to suggest that the US stand back as Russia fought ISIS in Syria. But Obama administration officials at the time were saying that Russia wasn’t going after ISIS but instead was targeting other Syrian rebel groups, some of whom were trained and armed by the US government.
Two months later, Trump quickly pivoted when asked on the debate stage what he would do about Russia’s aggressive moves in both Syria and Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimean peninsula and has supported a separatist insurgency since 2014.
“First of all, it’s not only Russia,” he said. “We have problems with North Korea, where they actually have nuclear weapons.”
This friendly posture toward Russia continued after the Trump Tower deal was terminated. During a March 2016 debate, Trump lavished the Russian leader, who has been criticized for rigging elections, killing his enemies and crippling free speech.
“As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia,” Trump said. “I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia. That doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Putin.”

FBI Special Council Mueller Gets Important Warrant: Trump And Family Federal Prison Bound?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

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

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

The warrant was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on Friday night and the news was later confirmed by CNN.

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

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

Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, explained that to obtain a search warrant a prosecutor needs to prove to a judge that there is reason to believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor then has to show that the information being sought will provide evidence of that crime.

Mueller would not have sought a warrant targeting Facebook as a company, Rangappa noted. Rather, he would have been interested in learning more about specific accounts.

“The key here, though, is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” she said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”

It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia’s election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint — rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, now a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP, said that the revelation Mueller obtained a search warrant for Facebook content “may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid.”

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in late July. The bureau is reportedly investigating Manafort’s financial history and overseas business dealings as part of its probe into possible collusion between the campaign and Moscow.

jared kushnerWhite House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump answer questions regarding the ongoing situation in North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Facebook warrant “means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a ‘contribution’ in connection with an election,” Mariotti wrote on Saturday.

“It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things: first, that there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. Second, that evidence of the crime existed on Facebook.”

That has implications for Trump and his associates, too, Mariotti said.

“It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed. That’s aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller’s search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged.”

Congressional intelligence committees are homing in on the campaign’s data operation as a potential trove of incriminating information.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC earlier this month that he wants to know how sophisticated the Russian-bought ads were — in terms of their content and targets — to determine whether they had any help from the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee also wants to interview the digital director for Trump’s campaign, Brad Parscale, who worked closely with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner was put in charge of the campaign’s entire data operation and is  now being scrutinized by the FBI over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank in December.

Facebook said in its initial statement that about 25% of the ads purchased by Russians during the election “were geographically targeted,” and many analysts have found it difficult to believe that foreign entities would have had the kind of granular knowledge of American politics necessary to target specific demographics and voting precincts.

In a post-election interview, Kushner told Forbes that he had been keenly interested in Facebook’s “micro-targeting” capabilities from early on.

“I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner said.

“We brought in Cambridge Analytica,” he continued. “I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley who were some of the best digital marketers in the world, a nd I asked them how to scale this stuff . . . We basically had to build a $400 million operation with 1,500 people operating in 50 states, in five months to then be taken apart. We started really from scratch.”

Trump Tweets About 2016 Election and Border Wall in the Midst of Hurricane Harvey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

President Trump Tweets About 2016 Election and Border Wall in the Midst of Hurricane Harvey

10:44 AM ET

In the midst of a series of tweets about Hurricane Harvey Sunday morning, President Donald Trump shared a reminder of his 2016 presidential victory, asserted that Mexico will pay for the border wall and threatened to terminate NAFTA renegotiations.

Trump’s first tweet of the morning was a link to a book, “Cop Under Fire” by Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr. A controversial figure, Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement a “domestic hate group” and categorized Planned Parenthood as a “destructive racist organization”

Trump, who is currently at Camp David, quickly pivoted to the storm sweeping through Texas — vowing to visit the state, which is currently getting battered by Harvey despite it being downgraded to a tropical storm, as soon as he could “without causing disruption.” ” The focus must be life and safety,” he tweeted. This was the third tweet he had sent about the hurricane Sunday morning.

I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.

But about 15 minutes later, he tweeted that Texas would not be the only state he was visiting. ” I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!” h wrote.

I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!

“C.M.” is presumably a reference to Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri who is up for reelection in 2018. The White House has not released any details about this visit.

Shortly after, Trump shifted his Twitter discourse back to Harvey, assuring his social media followers that all would end well despite the unprecedented nature of the storm, which has been linked to at least two deaths in Texas. “Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” he wrote. He did not mention any of the reported fatalities.

He then switched back to political commentary, tweeting that Mexico would pay for his border wall with Mexico, even though a leaked transcript of a phone call with the country’s President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed Nieto was refusing to pay for it. Trump also threatened to end ongoing negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement because Mexico and Canada are being “difficult.”

We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada.Both being very difficult,may have to terminate?

With Mexico being one of the highest crime Nations in the world, we must have THE WALL. Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other.

FBI Raided Paul Manafort’s Home July 26th, 2017

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The agents seized materials in Manafort’s home as part of the ongoing Russia investigation led by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the source said.
“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort’s residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, told CNN. He declined to provide further details.
The so-called no-knock warrant, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was served at Manafort’s home in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs on July 26, the day after Manafort met with Senate intelligence committee investigators.
The tactic appears unusual for a case that has been under investigation for months and for which Manafort has already turned over hundreds of pages of documents to Senate investigators. The source told CNN the documents seized included financial and tax records and at least some of the information had already been provided to Senate investigators.
Since his appointment in May, Mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office in Washington. Officials familiar with the probe describe it as akin to a small US attorney’s office, with FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects of the investigation.
These include groups of investigators and lawyers focused separately on Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, as well as the investigations focused on Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a US official briefed on the investigation has told CNN.
So far, Trump’s campaign has turned over approximately 20,000 pages to the Senate judiciary committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the election, while Manafort turned over approximately 400 pages and Donald Trump Jr. turned over about 250 pages.
Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled a dossier at the center of the federal Russia probe, has not yet turned over any documents, according to the committee’s spokesperson, though a source told CNN the firm plans to provide the committee with “thousands” of pages of documents Wednesday.
The spokesperson declined to provide details about the specific contents of the documents.

For Donald Trump, the noose is tightening

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

For Donald Trump, the noose is tightening

At the end of six months in office, Donald Trump doesn’t have a single legislative achievement to crow about. The failure to repeal ‘Obamacare’ is the biggest. Another setback for Trump is Congress’ move to impose new sanctions on Russia. Added to this is the investigation into his and his team’s involvement with Russia during the 2016 election

OPINION Updated: Aug 08, 2017 08:21 IST

US President Donald Trump’s poll ratings are lower than ever – and the lowest of any president at such an early point in an administration. Members of his own Republican Party are distancing themselves from him
US President Donald Trump’s poll ratings are lower than ever – and the lowest of any president at such an early point in an administration. Members of his own Republican Party are distancing themselves from him(AFP)

Even with a new minder trying to bring some order to the White House, United States President Donald Trump remains in a heap of trouble. The recent installation of retired general John Kelly, formerly Trump’s secretary for homeland security, as chief of staff, replacing the hapless Reince Priebus, has reduced some of the internal chaos and induced a bit more discipline in Trump’s behaviour. But all this could change any day, or at any moment.

Kelly has put a stop to aides sauntering into the Oval Office whenever they felt like it –Trump tends to echo the last person he’s spoken with – and has demanded that papers and memos for the president be submitted to him first. For the time being, at least, the president’s tweeting has been reduced in number and nuttiness.

Keen Trump observers expect that he’ll soon begin to chafe under the discipline Kelly has encouraged. Understanding Trump’s enormous ego, Kelly is said to encourage gently rather than instruct. Kelly also has the advantage of Trump’s high regard for generals.

But Trump could well become incensed by news stories praising Kelly for bringing order to the White House. (Counsellor Steve Bannon never fully recovered in the president’s esteem after he was on the cover of Time magazine soon after the inauguration.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s poll ratings are lower than ever – and the lowest of any president at such an early point in an administration. Members of his own Republican Party are distancing themselves from him.

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The recent failure of the Republican-dominated Congress to repeal Barack Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, which made healthcare available for millions of people who previously couldn’t afford it, was a humiliating defeat for Trump. Just enough Republican senators (three, but more were in reserve if needed) voted to reject the last of several efforts to fulfil the party’s vow to replace ‘Obamacare’.

That nickname for the ACA, coined by the Republicans when the law was enacted in early 2010, was intended to be derogatory, and their opposition to the program seemed to be vindicated in that year’s midterm elections, when they swept both houses of congress. But the Republicans didn’t reckon on two things: that as people gained access to health insurance (some 20 million by this year), it became popular – as did Obama, who ended his second term as one of America’s most liked presidents.

Over Obama’s tenure, Republicans came to realise that it was no longer sufficient simply to call for a repeal of ‘Obamacare’, and their rhetoric shifted to the need to “repeal and replace”. They held more than 50 roll-call votes saying that they’d do just that, knowing that it didn’t really matter because Obama would veto any serious repeal. The roll calls were actually fundraisers: Appeals to the unsuspecting Republican base to send money to keep up the fight against the supposedly hated programme.

But when the 2016 election put a Republican in the White House, the party’s congressional leaders had nowhere to hide. The Republicans were now in full control of the government – and they hadn’t a clue about what should replace Obamacare.

At the end of six months in office, Trump doesn’t have a single legislative achievement to crow about (though he has claimed the Senate’s approval of Neil Gorsuch as a new Supreme Court justice as a victory). Significantly, Senate Republican leaders ignored Trump’s demand that they take up repeal and replace of Obamacare again, before they consider any other major issue.

While the healthcare bill was commanding most of the attention on Capitol Hill, another piece of legislation was moving along in the Congress, representing another setback for Trump. Troubled by the president’s apparent soft spot for (or perhaps fear of) Vladimir Putin, overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers passed a bill to impose more sanctions on Russia and – most unusually – to prevent the president from lifting any such penalties. And, because the bill passed with enough votes to override a presidential veto, Trump had little choice but to sign it, which he did in private, without the customary presence of a bill’s sponsors and the press.

Meanwhile, the investigation into Trump and his campaign’s relations with Russia in connection with its meddling in Trump’s favour in the 2016 election has continued out of the public’s sight. That investigation has broadened to include Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his son Donald Jr.

This spring, Trump let it be known that he wanted the special counsel running that investigation, Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who is highly respected by both parties, to be fired. He’d already fired FBI director James Comey, but by law, he couldn’t fire Mueller himself, so he tried to bully Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had (appropriately) recused himself from the investigation, into resigning. That way, Trump could appoint a replacement who would fire Mueller.

But Sessions, the first Republican senator to endorse Trump, was enjoying rolling back numerous Obama-era protections in areas like civil rights, and refused to resign. Several of Sessions’ former Senate colleagues also demanded that Trump back off. Though Kelly called Sessions to tell him that his job was safe, Republican senators, concerned that Trump might remove him during the August recess, established a procedure that would prevent Trump from appointing an interim attorney-general to fire Mueller, and warned that such a move would provoke a constitutional crisis.

Then, as Congress prepared to leave for the August recess, it was learned that Mueller – who had hired highly regarded prosecutors specialising in international financial transactions, despite Trump’s warnings not to investigate his finances – had impaneled a grand jury in Washington. The noose tightens.

Elizabeth Drew is a journalist and author

The views expressed are personal

Project Syndicate, 2017

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Is It Past Time To Arrest AG Jeff Sessions For Obstruction Of Justice And For Lying To Congress?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

 Play Video 2:09
Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to U.S. intercepts
The accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to his superiors, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Post’s Greg Miller explains. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
 July 21 at 6:51 PM
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.

Trump, in an interview this week, expressed frustration with Sessions’s recusing himself from the Russia probe and indicated that he regretted his decision to make the lawmaker from Alabama the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Trump also faulted Sessions as giving “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing about his Russian contacts during the campaign.

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Sessions removed himself from direct involvement in the Russia investigation after it was revealed in The Washington Post that he had met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016, contacts he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said when asked whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with representatives of the Russian government.

He has since maintained that he misunderstood the scope of the question and that his meetings with Kislyak were strictly in his capacity as a U.S. senator. In a March appearance on Fox television, Sessions said, “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way.”

Sessions appeared to narrow that assertion further in extensive testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, saying that he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

But when pressed for details, Sessions qualified many of his answers during that hearing by saying that he could “not recall” or did not have “any recollection.”

A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.

Sessions had a third meeting with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Officials declined to say whether U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted any Russian communications describing the third encounter.

As a result, the discrepancies center on two earlier Sessions-Kislyak conversations, including one that Sessions has acknowledged took place in July 2016 on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

By that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to embark on a secret campaign to help Trump win the White House by leaking damaging emails about his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Although it remains unclear how involved Kislyak was in the covert Russian campaign to aid Trump, his superiors in Moscow were eager for updates about the candidate’s positions, particularly regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia and long-standing disputes with the Obama administration over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kislyak also reported having a conversation with Sessions in April at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address, according to the officials familiar with intelligence on Kislyak.

Sessions has said he does not remember any encounter with Kislyak at that event. In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said, “I do not recall any conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Later in that hearing, Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that that occurred. I just don’t remember it.”

Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

Former FBI director James B. Comey fueled speculation about the possibility of a Sessions-Kislyak meeting at the Mayflower when he told the same Senate committee on June 8 that the bureau had information about Sessions that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe.

Comey would not provide details of what information the FBI had, except to say that he could only discuss it privately with the senators. Current and former officials said he appeared to be alluding to intelligence on Kislyak’s account of an encounter with Sessions at the Mayflower.

Senate Democrats later called on the FBI to investigate the event in April at the Mayflower hotel.

Sessions’s role in removing Comey as FBI director angered many at the bureau and set in motion events that led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s harsh words toward the attorney general fueled speculation this week that Sessions would be fired or would resign. So far, he has resisted resigning, saying that he intends to stay in the job “as long as that is appropriate.”

Matt Zapotosky and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

CIA: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Paul Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., testified Tuesday about a tense period last year when he came to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was trying to steer the outcome of the election. He said he saw intelligence suggesting that Russia wanted to use Trump campaign officials, wittingly or not, to help in that effort. He spoke vaguely about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, without giving names, saying they “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

Whether the Russians worked directly with any Trump advisers is one of the central questions that federal investigators, now led by Robert S. Mueller III, the newly appointed special counsel, are seeking to answer. President Trump, for his part, has dismissed talk of Russian interference in the election as “fake news,” insisting there was no contact between his campaign and Russian officials.

“If there ever was any effort by Russians to influence me, I was unaware, and they would have failed,” Mr. Manafort said in a statement. “I did not collude with the Russians to influence the elections.”

The White House, F.B.I. and C.I.A. declined to comment. Mr. Flynn’s lawyer did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The current and former officials agreed to discuss the intelligence only on the condition of anonymity because much of it remains highly classified, and they could be prosecuted for disclosing it.

Last week, CNN reported about intercepted phone calls during which Russian officials were bragging about ties to Mr. Flynn and discussing ways to wield influence over him.

In his congressional testimony, Mr. Brennan discussed the broad outlines of the intelligence, and his disclosures backed up the accounts of the information provided by the current and former officials.

“I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive,” Mr. Brennan said. Still, he said, even at the end of the Obama administration he had “unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf again either in a witting or unwitting fashion.”

Mr. Brennan’s testimony offered the fullest public account to date of how American intelligence agencies first came to fear that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding Russia’s attack on the election.

By early summer, American intelligence officials already were fairly certain that it was Russian hackers who had stolen tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. That in itself was not viewed as particularly extraordinary by the Americans — foreign spies had hacked previous campaigns, and the United States does the same in elections around the world, officials said. The view on the inside was that collecting information, even through hacking, is what spies do.

But the concerns began to grow when intelligence began trickling in about Russian officials weighing whether they should release stolen emails and other information to shape American opinion — to, in essence, weaponize the materials stolen by hackers.

An unclassified report by American intelligence agencies released in January stated that Mr. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”

Before taking the helm of the Trump campaign last May, Mr. Manafort worked for more than a decade for Russian-leaning political organizations and people in Ukraine, including Mr. Yanukovych, the former president. Mr. Yanukovych was a close ally of Mr. Putin.

Mr. Manafort’s links to Ukraine led to his departure from the Trump campaign in August, after his name surfaced in secret ledgers showing millions in undisclosed payments from Mr. Yanukovych’s political party.

Russia views Ukraine as a buffer against the eastward expansion of NATO, and has supported separatists in their years long fight against the struggling democratic government in Kiev.

Mr. Flynn’s ties to Russian officials stretch back to his time at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he led from 2012 to 2014. There, he began pressing for the United States to cultivate Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants, and even spent a day in Moscow at the headquarters of the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, in 2013.

He continued to insist that Russia could be an ally even after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea the following year, and Obama administration officials have said that contributed to their decision to push him out of the D.I.A.

But in private life, Mr. Flynn cultivated even closer ties to Russia. In 2015, he earned more than $65,000 from companies linked to Russia, including a cargo airline implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations, and an American branch of a cybersecurity firm believed to have ties to Russia’s intelligence services.

The biggest payment, though, came from RT, the Kremlin-financed news network. It paid Mr. Flynn $45,000 to give a speech in Moscow, where he also attended the network’s lavish anniversary dinner. There, he was photographed sitting next to Mr. Putin.

A senior lawmaker said on Monday that Mr. Flynn misled Pentagon investigators about how he was paid for the Moscow trip. He also failed to disclose the source of that income on a security form he was required to complete before joining the White House, according to congressional investigators.

American officials have also said there were multiple telephone calls between Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on Dec. 29, beginning shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 people suspected of being Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions.

American intelligence agencies routinely tap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, officials have said.

But after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls, Mr. Flynn was fired as national security adviser after a tumultuous 25 days in office.

Hillary Clinton’s ’email’ problem was bigger than anyone realized

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Hillary Clinton’s ’email’ problem was bigger than anyone realized

Clinton: I was on way to winning until Comey, Wikileaks

(CNN) Hillary Clinton’s ongoing struggle to deal with the revelation that she used a private email server during her time as secretary of state dominated the conversation about her presidential candidacy, and research suggests it might have doomed her campaign, according to a new study by a consortium of pollsters released over the weekend.
In the paper, presented at the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s annual conference in New Orleans, pollsters and political scientists from Gallup, Georgetown University and the University of Michigan studied the daily Gallup tracking poll from July 10 to November 7, 2016. In particular, they zeroed in on one question: “Have you read, seen or heard anything about (Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump) in the last day or two?” They then zeroed in on the “yes” responses and categorized what, exactly, people said they had read, seen or heard.
Here’s what people had read, seen or heard about Clinton looks like in a word cloud (the bigger the word, the more often it was mentioned):

As you can see, “email” drowns out every other term mentioned about Clinton. It was, without question, the dominant narrative of the election for her — at least in the five months that this paper documents. And, according to the study, the mentions of email correlate directly to negative views of Clinton.
Now, check out Trump’s word cloud:

There’s nothing to match the Clinton “email” mentions. And although some of the most commonly mentioned words are negative storylines for Trump — “women,” most notably — there’s a lot of more neutral mentions: “debate,” “people” and “president.” This speaks to the theory that by throwing so many balls up in the air every day — via his stump speeches, Twitter, etc. — Trump made it impossible for anyone to follow all of them. Everything seemed like a molehill. Even the mountains.

Clinton blames Comey, Russia for election loss

Clinton blames Comey, Russia for election loss
What’s more, the word “email” came up more and more in the final weeks of the election — particularly in the wake of then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement in late October that he was re-starting an investigation into Clinton’s server.
Here’s the word clouds broken into a week-by-week timeline of the last month of the campaign. Again, the larger the word appears, the more it was mentioned as something people had seen, read or heard about Clinton or Trump.

Not only did “email” dominate the conversation around Clinton, it dominated the entire conversation in the race. From October 23 on, Trump is barely talked about — an amazing feat for someone so willing to make news.
This study will be used by liberals as evidence that the media’s unnecessary focus on Clinton’s email server cost her the election.
I’d agree that Clinton’s email server played a decisive role in deciding the election. But I wouldn’t agree with the idea that the media is responsible for it.
After all, it was Clinton who never seemed to grasp the seriousness of the issue and how it eroded the public’s already shaky confidence in her. Her inability to do those things meant she was never able to put the story behind her. And then the Comey announcement came, which undoubtedly surged the issue back to the top of many voters’ minds.
Whatever the reasons, when people thought of Clinton in the final weeks of the race, they thought of her emails. And that was a very bad thing for her.

DNC battling class-action suit alleging Sanders was robbed in 2016: DNC Fraud Catching Up with Them?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

DNC battling class-action suit alleging Sanders was robbed in 2016

The 2016 presidential campaign is still being litigated – literally.

As Trump administration controversies command media attention, a little-noticed set of lawsuits against the Democratic Party continues to play out in the courts – including one claiming coordination with the Clinton campaign against Bernie Sanders amounted to election fraud.

The case being heard in a Florida courtroom dates back to last summer, when the Democrats were thrown into turmoil following the leak of documents that appeared to show some DNC officials sought to undermine Sanders in the party primary. Jared Beck, a Harvard law expert, shortly afterward filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of residents of 45 states against the DNC and former chairwomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The DNC has been trying for months to have the case dismissed, and scored a temporary victory last year when it was decided the plaintiffs had improperly filed paperwork.

Beck has been fighting the DNC every step of the way, and is demanding the party repay individuals and Sanders supporters for contributions made during the election, alleging misappropriation of funds.

“If we can’t trust the two political parties to run an election in a fair manner, who can we trust?” Beck told Fox News.

SANDERS-INSPIRED DEM SEEKS UPSET OVER PELOSI

During the most recent hearing on April 25 before a judge in the southern district of Florida, the DNC made a strictly legal argument – one that surely would have rankled Sanders supporters.

Bruce Spiva, a lawyer for the DNC, argued in its motion to dismiss that the party holds the right to select its candidate any way it chooses and is not bound by pledges of fairness.

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.’ That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right,” Spiva argued.

Although the Article 5, Section 4 of the Democratic Party charter stipulates that it will function with total neutrality during Democratic primaries, the DNC lawyer argued the promise was non-binding.

“And there’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here,” he said.

“This lawsuit has nothing to do with politics or political disagreements within the DNC. This case should concern everyone because it goes to the heart of the country’s democratic institutions,” Beck told Fox News.

A victory by Beck could have a profound impact on how the Democratic Party conducts business in 2020 and beyond. However, those familiar with election law say he faces an uphill climb.

“I don’t think it is going to amount to much,” said Michael Toner, a lawyer with the Wiley-Rein and a former legal counsel for the Republican National Committee.

“Courts don’t typically get in the middle of intraparty disputes and while I am sure the DNC does not appreciate having to fight this lawsuit, judges are very reluctant to exercise their jurisdiction over politics,” Toner said.

The DNC attorneys also contend the suit is meritless, arguing most Sanders donors do not even support the lawsuit.

“The vast majority of whom almost certainly do not share Plaintiffs’ political views—have no realistic means of disassociating from this action, brought in their name against the political party they likely support,” the DNC lawyers wrote in their motion.

Toner said the danger to the DNC would come if the lawsuit entered the discovery phase, which is why an affiliated case alleging the DNC failed to pay overtime wages poses a potentially greater threat.

The DNC this week filed a motion to dismiss in the second class-action lawsuit, which alleged workers at the Democratic National Convention and through the election were not paid a minimum wage, while others were refused overtime compensation guaranteed by federal and state law.

The 2016 Democratic platform characterized the current federal minimum of $7.25 per hour as “a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty.”

The suit also names the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and others involved in the party’s 2016 national convention in the lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party did not return calls for comment.

“While the DNC was not the employer in this case, the DNC follows all employment and wage laws to make sure that everyone who works a full time job receives a fair wage,” DNC spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement to Fox News.

Although the individuals participated in party-building activities, such as voter registration, soliciting volunteers and knocking on doors, the national party argues they were not officially DNC staff.

Justin Swidler, the lawyer behind the suit, told Fox News, “We believe in fair pay for fair work. The lawsuit seeks only that. We believe these ideals are consistent with the platform of the DNC.”

According to individuals familiar with the case, the DNC filed another motion to dismiss this week, but neither side anticipates a prompt resolution of the case given the court’s full docket.

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