President Trump Proves National Security Clearances Are Not A High Priority To Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner should “absolutely” have his security clearance suspended, Rep. Mike Quigley told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Appearing on “The Situation Room,” the Illinois Democrat said Kushner “shouldn’t have clearance at this point,” echoing a letter from House oversight committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings and citing a “whole series of activities,” including “concerns about Mr. Kushner’s activities prior to the Inauguration.”
Cummings’ letter criticized the White House for allowing fired national security adviser Michael Flynn to keep a security clearance despite concerns raised by then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates that he could be vulnerable to blackmail based on intelligence assessments that she reviewed; the letter raised “parallel concerns” about Kushner’s security clearance over previously undisclosed calls to Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak and undisclosed meetings Kushner had with Kislyak and the CEO of Vnesheconombank, a state-run Russian bank under US sanctions.
In his letter, Cummings cited an executive order requiring employees to have their security clearance preemptively suspended if they are suspected of being a national security risk.
“In general, when there are credible allegations that employees may be unfit to continue accessing classified information, security clearances are supposed to be suspended while the allegations are investigated,” Cummings wrote in the letter, sent June 21.
A spokeswoman for House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy declined comment on the letter Wednesday.
The White House declined to offer comment on Wednesday about Democrats’ requests to look into Kushner’s security clearance.
“I will have to get back to you on that,” spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One.
In his interview with CNN, Quigley indicated there were additional concerns about Kushner’s security clearance, referencing “a whole series of activities that I can’t get into at this point in time, but they raise concerns about his judgment and his ability to keep our nation’s secrets.” When pressed by Wolf Blitzer, Quigley said, “I can’t get into details, because some of those things were also discussed in classified settings.”
Kushner arrived in Israel earlier Wednesday, where he’s scheduled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to negotiate a peace deal, a role Quigley also questioned.
“Look, I like that we are always moving forward on peace deals. This is exactly what our country should do,” Quigley said. “First of all, he is wholly unqualified to make those efforts. Second, to what Mr. Cummings was referencing — that’s what I was referencing — he shouldn’t have clearance at this point.”

Kushner Is Said to Be Reconsidering His Legal Team

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Abbe Lowell, right, a prominent trial lawyer, in 2014. Mr. Lowell was said to have been recently contacted about joining Jared Kushner’s legal team. CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

Representatives of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, have quietly contacted high-powered criminal lawyers about potentially representing him in the wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Some of Mr. Kushner’s allies have raised questions about the link between his current lawyer, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one of the people who spoke on condition of anonymity. Before the Justice Department named him to the special counsel post, Mr. Mueller was a law partner with Ms. Gorelick at the Washington firm of Wilmer Hale.

Such connections are common in Washington legal circles and are often resolved by an acknowledgment from the client of the possible conflict. In this case, Ms. Gorelick urged Mr. Kushner to consider other representation first.

In recent days, Mr. Kushner has had discussions with at least one prominent trial lawyer, one of the people said. And if Mr. Kushner chooses to hire a new lawyer, this person may either supplement or replace Ms. Gorelick’s team.

Continue reading the main story

So far, Mr. Kushner’s legal team remains unchanged. Ms. Gorelick, who has repeatedly said Mr. Kushner will cooperate with all Russia-related inquiries, is preparing him for a meeting with investigators for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Kushner also provided a statement on Sunday from Ms. Gorelick describing the recent discussions with other lawyers as seeking advice as opposed to replacing or adding to his legal team.

“After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel,” the statement from Ms. Gorelick said.

The outreach to other lawyers began last month, the people briefed on the matter said, when news reports revealed that at a meeting with Russia’s ambassador in December, Mr. Kushner had reportedly discussed establishing a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow. Mr. Mueller’s investigators are examining Mr. Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials as part of a broader investigation into whether any Trump advisers colluded in Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

 

Video

Meet the Connection Between Jared Kushner and Putin

Jared Kushner is now under congressional and F.B.I. scrutiny after his meeting with a close ally of Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Here’s how the Russian banker Sergey N. Gorkov could benefit from meeting President Trump’s senior adviser.

By NATALIA V. OSIPOVA and MARK SCHEFFLER on Publish Date June 5, 2017. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters…Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Trump has denounced Mr. Mueller’s investigation, describing it on Twitter on Thursday as a “witch hunt” led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”

Given the president’s sentiments, he might view any link to Mr. Mueller with suspicion, including Ms. Gorelick’s representation of Mr. Kushner, according to one person who has been contacted about the matter. An official close to the president disputed that, saying Mr. Trump is pleased with Ms. Gorelick’s representation of his son-in-law.

Although Ms. Gorelick is a well-known lawyer who has often handled complex cases involving government investigations — and some of her colleagues on her team are noted courtroom litigators — she is also not primarily a trial lawyer.

In contrast, people within Mr. Kushner’s circle recently reached out to some courtroom litigators about possibly joining his legal team. Among the lawyers contacted, one person said, was Abbe D. Lowell, a prominent trial lawyer whose previous clients include Jack Abramoff, the powerful Republican lobbyist, in a corruption scandal that shook Washington in 2005. Mr. Lowell is currently defending Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, against federal corruption charges.

Mr. Lowell declined to comment.

The outreach has come as a number of White House officials have mulled whether to hire personal lawyers. An aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Mr. Pence had retained Richard Cullen. Other White House officials are also considering hiring lawyers, and on Friday, the president added a well-known litigator, John M. Dowd, to his legal team.

Investigators have been interested for months in Mr. Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials during the presidential transition. The meetings included a session with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.

The White House has noted that transition teams typically meet with foreign officials, and that Mr. Kushner at the time was serving as a liaison to foreign governments and officials. He reportedly met with dozens of officials from a number of countries.

At Mr. Kislyak’s request, Mr. Kushner also met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the head of the state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank. The bank is wholly owned by the Russian state and is intertwined with Russian intelligence.

F.B.I. and congressional investigators are scrutinizing whether Mr. Kushner may have met with Mr. Gorkov to help establish a direct line to Mr. Putin, or for reasons not cited by the White House.

Former FBI Director James Comey Is Testifying Before Senate Intelligence Committee

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

James Comey testifies: Former FBI director says he helped reveal details of conversations with Trump

June 8 at 12:09 PM
Former FBI director James B. Comey said Thursday he helped reveal details of his private conversations with President Trump because he thought doing so would spur the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the administration — a remarkable admission showing the degree of concern he had about both Russian interference with U.S. politics, and his doubts about the Justice Department’s ability to probe such activity.Testifying at the Senate intelligence committee, Comey described how details of his private memos about his one-on-one conversations came to light shortly after his dismissal.

“The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I’d better hope there are not tapes,” Comey said. He said he woke up on Monday thinking that if there are tapes, there might be corroboration of Comey’s account. Comey said he asked “a friend of mine to share” a memo he had written about his conversation with Trump “with a reporter.”

Comey said the memo was one he had written about his Oval Office conversation with Trump in which the president had expressed a desire that the Flynn probe be dropped.

‘Those were lies. Plain and simple.’: Comey knocks Trump administration in opening statement
At the June 8 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, former FBI director James B. Comey said the Trump Administration “chose to defame” him and the FBI after he was fired.

He said the person he asked to share the information was “a good friend of mine who’s a professor at Columbia Law School. “I thought it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Asked by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) why he felt he had the authority to do that, Comey replied, “as a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out.”

Comey said he used someone else to share the information because he was worried, with reporters camped out at his home, that giving the information to a reporter directly “would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.’’

The friend is Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor. He confirmed his role but declined further comment. The reporter is Michael Schmidt of the New York Times.

A special counsel was appointed — Robert S. Mueller III, who is a former colleague of Comey — and Comey has provided him with his memos, he testified Thursday.

Comey also blasted the Trump administration for bad-mouthing the bureau and his leadership to justify his firing, saying “those were lies, plain and simple’’—a stark challenge to the president’s rationale for his ouster.

A former federal prosecutor, Comey said he took detailed notes of his private talks with the president, a practice that was a departure from his practice with Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama. Comey said he did so because he wanted to make a clear record of what was said.

He said he took copious notes because he was “honestly concerned’’ that the president might lie about what had been said in their meeting. He kept doing so for future conversations, and the two spoke in private a total of nine times before Comey was fired, he said.

Comey sat grim-faced at a witness table before the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after 10 a.m. as the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), began the hearing by calling for a “very open and candid discussion’’ about the “strained relationship’’ between the president and Comey. Comey’s written account of those discussions, made public on Wednesday, have fueled the debate over whether the president may have attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring the FBI director about a sensitive investigation.

“This is not a witch hunt, this is not fake news,’’ said the senior Democrat on the panel, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “This is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite frankly will not go away anytime soon.’’

Comey began his testimony by saying he became “confused and increasingly concerned’’ about the public explanations by White House officials for his firing on May 9, particularly after the president said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire him.

He wasted little time repudiating White House statements that he was fired in part because of low morale among FBI employees, and those employees’ supposedly soured attitude toward his leadership.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,’’ Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’’

The former director also said that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch asked him last year to refer to the Clinton email probe as a “matter,” rather than an “investigation.”

Comey said he was concerned by Lynch’s direction to refer to it as a “matter” because the wording too closely tracked how the Clinton campaign was trying to describe the FBI investigation.

The former FBI director said he thought the wording used by Lynch “looked silly’’ but decided it was “not a hill worth dying on.’’

But, he acknowledged, “it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the campaign” was referring to it. “That was inaccurate,” he said. “That gave me a queasy feeling.”

Comey wrote in his testimony that Trump told him that “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in a private White House dinner conversation in January.

“I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey wrote. “We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

Comey said the conversation, in which Trump raised the question of whether Comey intended to stay as FBI Director, despite their three prior discussions about him doing so, raised concerns in his mind.

“My common sense told me what’s going on here is he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,’’ Comey testified.

In testimony broadcast live on national television networks, Comey described his state of mind as he tried to navigate a series of awkward conversations with the president about the investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

The former FBI director made clear he felt the discussions were problematic and improper, in that Trump repeatedly pressing him about specific investigations that involved people close to the president.

After his January dinner when the two discussed loyalty, Comey and the president had another discussion in February at the White House. A number of senior officials met in the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to discuss terrorism. At the end of the meeting, according to Comey, the president asked everyone to leave but Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingered behind until the president told him, too, to leave, Comey said.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,’’ said Comey. “I knew something was about to happen which I should pay very close attention to.’’

Once they were alone, the president told Comey he hoped he could let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had been forced out of that job a day earlier.

“When it comes from the president, I took it as a direction,’’ said Comey. He said he was shocked and concerned about the president’s request, but decided not to tell Sessions about it because he expected Sessions would soon recuse himself from the Russia probe, which he did days later.

Comey did later complain to Sessions that he should not again be left alone with the president

His account made clear that his relationship with Trump was fraught from their very first meeting, which occurred before the inauguration, when he the president-elect that a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations against Trump had been circulating around Washington.

“I didn’t want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way,’’ said Comey. “He needed to know this was being said, but I was very keen to not leave him with the impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him.’’

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly tried to learn more about any conversations between Trump and officials in which the president tries to gain help pushing back against the FBI’s Russia investigation. On Wednesday, two of the country’s top intelligence officials went before the Senate Intelligence Committee and refused to discuss the specifics of conversations with the president, frustrating several lawmakers. Based on the testimony already released, Comey will have no such hesitation on Thursday.

Former FBI Director’s Comey’s Congressional Testimony: First Stone Of Trump Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Fired FBI Director James Comey aimed a dagger blow at Donald Trump Wednesday, saying the President had demanded his loyalty, pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare that he was not under investigation.

Comey magnified the political crisis engulfing the White House by releasing his opening statement ahead of a blockbuster appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The dramatic document sketched a stunningly detailed account of Comey’s intimate meetings with the President, included direct quotes from Trump and revealed the former FBI chief’s discomfort with the President’s behavior.
The testimony appeared to bolster the case of Trump critics who believe that the President may have obstructed justice and abused his power in his dealings with Comey, who he later fired.
Comey said that Trump asked him to drop FBI investigations into Flynn centering on his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, which eventually led to his dismissal as national security adviser after it emerged he had lied about the conversations to Vice President Mike Pence.
He wrote that Trump said: “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.'” Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, then added: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”
Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn. But he says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the wider Russia investigation.
“Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
Trump critics contended that this encounter appears to be tantamount to an inappropriate pressure on the FBI by the President, an allegation that if proven could have dire consequences for Trump’s presidency itself.
“There is a criminal investigation going on of one of the President’s top associations … he gets fired, he is under investigation and the President brings in the FBI Director and says ‘please stop your investigation,'” said CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
“If that isn’t obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is,” Toobin said.
But Republicans were quick to seize on the document as well, arguing that it supported Trump’s claims that the former FBI chief had told him three times that he was not personally being investigated in the Russia probe.
The testimony was posted without notice on the website of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instantly electrifying Washington, which has been on edge for days ahead of Comey’s planned testimony.
The dramatic intervention was classic Comey: the towering FBI chief, branded a “showboat” by Trump, has a reputation for theatrical public coups, and his move will only intensify the anticipation for his appearance on Thursday.
Comey described a March 30 phone call in which he said Trump stressed “the cloud” of the Russia investigations was “interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”
But Comey determined that to offer such an assurance would be unwise, not least because it would have to be corrected should the situation change.
The former FBI chief also wrote a revealing description of Trump’s efforts to win his loyalty during their first dinner in January.
Trump, Comey wrote, told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their first dinner in January. Comey said in the statement, “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.” Comey replied, “you will always get honesty from me.” He said the President responded, “that’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”
The former FBI director wrote that he had nine separate conversations with Trump, three of which were in person and six were on the telephone. By comparison, he said he spoke twice with President Barack Obama, and never on the telephone. He said that after meeting Trump he immediately begin to write notes about his conversations with Trump, a practice he didn’t adopt before.
Comey offered intimate details of his encounter with Trump in an apparent attempt to create added authenticity to his account.
He said they dined alone on January 27 in the Green Room of the White House at a small oval table and were waited upon by two navy stewards.
He wrote that his instincts told him that the one-on-one setting and the tone of the conversation meant that Trump was seeking to get him to ask to remain in his job, in an attempt to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
“That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch,” Comey wrote. He added that he wrote a memo about the meeting and shared it with the senior leadership of the FBI.
Reaction to Comey’s dramatic testimony was swift, reflecting the political tsunami that is raging over the Russia issue and that has often seemed about to swamp Trump’s administration.
Republican Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Manu Raju that he found the testimony “disturbing.”
Rep Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Comey’s testimony “confirms a host of troubling allegations concerning the President’s conduct.”
But Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union played down the impact of Comey’s testimony.
“This is one man’s account of a conversation, it is a set of notes, it’s exactly what we expect from James Comey. … He is a grand-stander, he likes to be the honest man, he is going to play that role on Thursday,” Schlapp said, reflecting the emerging GOP attack against the former FBI director as someone who cannot resist the spotlight.
Schlapp told CNN that only the judgment of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller will establish the facts of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s effort to hack the election.
He also said it was “absolutely human nature to want to know you are a subject and Donald Trump was told from the very beginning of this that he was not.”

Russian diplomat claimed Kushner wanted back channel to Kremlin: report says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Russian diplomat claimed Kushner wanted backchannel to Kremlin: report says

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner suggested backchannel communications between the Trump transition and Russia, Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak reportedly said.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner suggested backchannel communications between the Trump transition and Russia, Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak reportedly said.

(EVAN VUCCI/AP)

Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner wanted to create a backchannel communications link between the President’s transition and the Kremlin, according to alleged discussions reported Friday.Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak told other officials in Moscow that Kushner had suggested the backchannel after a meeting at Trump Tower that also included future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to the Washington Post.

Friday night’s report, based off of information from U.S. officials, came the same day that the Post reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election had requested documents from the Trump campaign.

A letter from the committee, one of the four main inquiries into the election interference and possible Trump campaign collusion, asked for all documents going back to 2015, the Post reported.

Jared Kushner scrutinized in Trump-Russia investigation: reports

The investigations into the meddling and potential collusion have accelerated in recent weeks after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who confirmed the FBI investigation in March and reportedly resisted pressure from Trump to end it’s look at Flynn.

Flynn and former Trump campaign chair Manafort are believed to be targets of the investigation, though multiple outlets reported Thursday that Kushner was considered a person of interest.

Team Trump had previously confirmed the meeting between Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak, but has said it was not out of the ordinary.

The Post report Friday was based off of conversations Kislyak had with other Russian officials, and the Americans involved did not comment.

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner fail to disclose art worth millions

Sergey Kislyak reportedly told superiors about the potential of a backchannel after a December meeting.

Sergey Kislyak reportedly told superiors about the potential of a backchannel after a December meeting.

(CLIFF OWEN/AP)

It is not unusual for incoming presidential administrations to meet with foreign leaders, though before the December meeting the Kremlin had been accused of orchestrating a campaign to influence the November election.

A joint intelligence community report released in January said that the effort was aimed at helping Trump.

Kushner had originally failed to report his meeting with Vladimir Putin’s man in America on his application for a security clearance, but his lawyer said that the documents were submitted prematurely and his client would inform authorities in an interview.

A potential backchannel between the Trump team and the U.S.’s former Cold War foe had previously been raised by a report in April, when the Post reported that controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince, also Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s brother, had acted as a go-between in January.

Prince reportedly acted as an envoy for Trump in a secretive meeting with unidentified emissary from Putin in the Seychelles, remote islands in the Indian Ocean, though Prince and the White House denied that he was sent by the incoming adminitration.

The Post reported Friday that the Kushner-Kislyak conversation in December talked about a Trump representative meeting a “Russian contact.”

Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation

Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow , is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.

The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Target is a word that generally refers to someone who is the main suspect of investigators’ attention, though prosecutors can and do bring charges against people who are not marked with that distinction.

“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” said Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys.

In addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes — but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said, “I can’t confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or subjects of investigations.” The FBI declined to comment.

At the time of the December meetings, Trump already had won the election. Contacts between people on the transition team and foreign governments can be routine, but the meetings and phone calls with the Russians were not made public at the time.

In early December, Kushner met in New York with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak again. Flynn was also present at the early December meeting, and later that month, Flynn held a call with Kislyak to discuss U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia. Flynn initially mischaracterized the conversation even to the vice president — which ultimately prompted his ouster from the White House.

Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating back to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Kushner and Kislyak — along with close Trump adviser and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions — were present at an April 2016 event at the Mayflower where then-candidate Trump promised in a speech to seek better relations with Russia. It is unclear whether Kushner and Kislyak interacted there.

The New York Times reported that Kushner omitted from security clearance forms his December meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, though his lawyer said that was mere error and he told the FBI soon after that he would amend the forms. The White House said that his meetings were normal and inconsequential.

Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee — which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In many ways, Kushner is a unique figure inside the White House. He is arguably the president’s most trusted adviser, and he is also a close member of the president’s family. His list of policy responsibilities is vast— his foreign policy portfolio alone includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East — yet he rarely speaks publicly about any of them.

Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III is now leading the probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, and he has set up shop in the Patrick Henry Building in downtown D.C. Even before he was picked by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to take over the case, investigators had been stepping up their efforts — issuing subpoenas and looking to conduct interviews, people familiar with the matter said.

A small group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight was recently notified of the change in tempo and focus in the investigation at a classified briefing.

It is unclear exactly how Mueller’s leadership will affect the direction of the probe. This week, Justice Department ethics experts cleared him to take over the case even though lawyers at his former firm, WilmerHale, represent several people who could be caught up in the matter, including Kushner, Manafort and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.

Mueller resigned from the firm to take over the investigation.

Investigators are continuing to look aggressively into the dealings of Flynn, and a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., recently issued a subpoenas for records related to Flynn’s businesses and finances, according to people familiar with the matter.

Flynn’s company, the Flynn Intel Group, was paid more than $500,000 by a company owned by a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials for research on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Turkey’s current president believes was responsible for a coup attempt last summer. Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department in March as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests.

Separately from the probe now run by Mueller, Flynn is being investigated by the Pentagon’s top watchdog for his foreign payments. Flynn also received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization.

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.

Now Even The Pentagon Is Investigating Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn

 

Now Even The Pentagon Is Investigating Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn

on April 27, 2017

T&P ON FACEBOOK

Michael Flynn just can’t catch a break.

On Thursday, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced that the Department of Defense’s inspector general had launched an investigation into money the former national security adviser and retired Army lieutenant general received from foreign organizations, the Washington Post reports.

On April 11, acting DODIG Glenn Fine notified the House committee’s chairman, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, in writing that the Pentagon had initiated an investigation to determine “whether [Flynn] failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving any emolument from a foreign government.”

Flynn has now been subjected to investigations by the Pentagon IG, FBI, the Army, the House Intelligence Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and “U.S. counterintelligence agents” we can only presume work for the CIA and NSA.

Flynn was fired from his position as national security adviser to President Donald Trump in February after revelations he misled the White House, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. His tenure as chief security adviser to the president was the shortest in modern political history.

RELATED: MIKE FLYNN MADE A LOT MORE MONEY IN RUSSIA THAN HE DISCLOSED BEFORE »

The Pentagon investigation appears focused on the $45,000 Flynn received in 2015 to appear alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Russia Today-sponsored gala, as well as his work as the he collected $530,000 between last August and November from Turkish government interests while working for Trump’s presidential campaign (his Turkish contract reportedly concluded on November 15, 2016, three days before he was named national security adviser). Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign lobbyist with the Department of Justice in March.

Flynn, through a lawyer, has vehemently rebuffed allegations of wrongdoing. “Notwithstanding his life of national service, the media are awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo directed against him,” Flynn’s lawyer said in March, as the former sought immunity in exchange for congressional testimony. (His request was denied.) “He is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by Members of Congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated.”

Well, with good reason! According to documents released by HOC’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, was warned by Pentagon officials as early as October 2014 “not to take foreign government-sourced money without ‘advance approval’ from the Pentagon,” the Associated Press notes. Yet Flynn reportedly continued to take on foreign contracts without clearing his connections with the appropriate channels.

“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”

The letter comes just days after both Chaffetz and Cummings announced that Flynn “may have broken the law” by receiving payments from foreign groups.

RELATED: LT GEN FLYNN CONFIRMS HE WAS A FOREIGN AGENT DURING THE 2016 CAMPAIGN »

Let’s remember for a second that, during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, Flynn made a big show out of grilling then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about her mishandling of classified information as Secretary of State. “Lock her up, that’s right!” Flynn chanted along with the crowd. “Damn right, exactly right… And you know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because, if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

Karma’s a bitch, Mike — and according to these documents, you should have known better.

Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups

April 27 at 10:59 AM

The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into money that former national security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups, members of the House Oversight Committee said Thursday.

The Pentagon office will try to determine whether Flynn “failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving” the payments, according to an April 11 letter from Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman. In the past, the Pentagon has advised retiring officers that because they can be recalled to military service, they may be subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments.

Flynn received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization. He also worked as a foreign agent representing Turkish interests for a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, which paid his company, Flynn Intel Group, $530,000 in the fall.

Defense Department guidelines warn that the department’s top financial officer, the comptroller, “may pursue debt collection” if a retired officer does not seek permission to accept foreign payments before doing so. Any debt collection due to an emoluments clause violation is capped at no more than what an individual makes in retirement pay during a period of unauthorized employment. In Flynn’s case, that is more than $35,000 for the three months of the Inovo project.

Flynn was fired as national security adviser in February after revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States. The pugnacious retired officer, who once led “lock her up” chants about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during Donald Trump’s White House campaign, filed paperwork as a foreign agent about three weeks later, on March 7.

Top Pentagon watchdog opens investigation into payments to Flynn

 

 
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released a letter from the Defense Department Inspector General on April 26, saying that they launched an investigation into the money Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups. (Reuters)

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, has argued that the retired general briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, from which he retired in 2014, before and after his 2015 Russia trip.

But a letter DIA sent the House committee said that the agency has no record of Flynn seeking permission or approval to accept money from a foreign source, potentially countering Kelner’s argument. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Flynn also did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests, U.S. defense officials said last month, raising the possibility that the Pentagon could dock his retirement pay. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said then that the Defense Department was reviewing the issue.

The issue involving Turkey emerged after Flynn retroactively registered in March with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his company, Flynn Intel Group, carried out on behalf of Inovo BV. It is owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who is not a part of the Turkish government but has links to it.

Flynn’s company received three payments between September and November from Inovo BV before Trump was elected president and the arrangement was discontinued, according to Flynn’s filings. Flynn is the majority owner and chief executive officer of the Flynn Intel Group.

Rep. Cummings releases letters on Flynn’s foreign payments

 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released letters on April 27, showing that Gen. Michael Flynn was warned and did not report payments from foreign groups. (Reuters)

On Thursday, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, also released an Oct. 8, 2014, letter in which a Defense Department lawyer warned Flynn upon his retirement from military service that he was forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources without receiving permission from the U.S. government first.

“These documents raise grave questions about why Gen. Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings said. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation.  I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”

Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the Defense Department inspector general, said Thursday that the investigation into Flynn began April 4. The watchdog’s office did not discuss the investigation publicly until after the House Oversight Committee released documents about it, and it typically does not disclose what it is reviewing while an investigation is underway.

Related stories:
He was one of the most respected generals of his generation. Then he started leading ‘lock her up’ chants.

Congressional Oversight Committee: No Evidence General Michael Flynn Obeyed The Law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser did not properly disclose payments from Russia and does not appear to have complied with the law, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings said Tuesday after reviewing Michael Flynn’s application for a security clearance.

Chaffetz and Cummings announced their findings to reporters on the Hill following a classified gathering of the committee in which they reviewed documents that Cummings described as “extremely troubling.”
“I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz said, referring to whether Flynn received permission from the Pentagon or the State Department or that he disclosed the more than $45,000 he was paid for a speech he gave to RT-TV in Russia.
The request comes after the White House declined to provide documents related to Flynn that the panel investigating him had requested, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short outlined in a letter to the House oversight committee how it would not complete the request from the panel, referring some requests to the Department of Defense, saying the office doesn’t have custody of some of the other documents or simply stating “we are unable to accommodate” others.
Whether Flynn properly disclosed payments from foreign governments on his security clearance application is the subject of a House oversight committee meeting Tuesday, as members reviewed the first batch of documents related to the investigation coming from the Pentagon.
The committee is gathering Tuesday morning at the Capitol to review classified material provided by the Department of Defense in response to its March 22 request for more information on Flynn, according to MJ Henshaw, a spokeswoman for House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
The committee has sent additional requests for information about Flynn to the White House, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, Tuesday’s meeting will only include responses from the Pentagon.
Oversight investigators also revealed last month that Flynn had received $530,000 for work his lobbying firm did that, according to the committee, likely benefited the Republic of Turkey.
The House and Senate intelligence committees have been leading the primary investigations into Russia’s interference in the US elections and possible coordination with top aides to the Trump campaign. However, the House oversight panel has taken a particular focus on Flynn’s work — drilling down in a series of requests.
Flynn was forced to resign from his role as Trump’s national security adviser after it was discovered he withheld information about discussions he had with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. Flynn is one of four former Trump aides at the center of the FBI’s probe and is a top target for House and Senate investigators as well.
Since he resigned, Flynn has retained a lawyer and has offered to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution — an offer nobody has apparently taken him up on.
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