Monday, July 17, 2017

COMRADE TRUMP—The Definitive Trump-Putin Bromance and "This Russia Thing" Timeline

Having trouble keeping up with the drip-drip of revelations about U.S. President Donald Trump and his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin? 

My definitive "Comrade Trump" timeline compiles the latest Trump-Putin bromance news. Feel free to send in your own tidbits via the comments. I don't necessarily endorse the articles linked below.

Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation

(The Washington Post) July 20, 2017, by Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger—Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people.... Read the full article here.
Exxon Mobil Fined for Violating Sanctions on Russia

(The New York Times) July 20, 2017, by Alan RappeportThe Treasury Department on Thursday fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia in 2014 while Rex W. Tillerson, now the secretary of state, was the oil company’s chief executive.

The penalty was relatively small for the Treasury and a blip on Exxon’s mammoth balance sheet, but it came as controversy over Russia policy has engulfed Washington.... Read the full article here.

Deutsche Bank expects subpoenas over Trump-Russia investigation
Source reveals Robert Mueller’s team and Trump’s exclusive bankers have established informal contacts and requests for information are forthcoming

(The Guardian) July 20, 2017, by Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Oliver LaughlandExecutives inside Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s personal bankers, are expecting that the bank will soon be receiving subpoenas or other requests for information from Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

A person close to the matter who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity said Mueller’s team and the bank had already established informal contact in connection to the federal investigation.... Read the full article here.


The Hill Staffer at the Center of the Russia Intrigue
Meet Paul Behrends, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher whose friendliness toward Moscow is raising hackles on Capitol Hill.

(Politico) July 20, 2017, by Ben SchreckingerIn the spring of 2016, a longtime Washington operative pulled aside French Hill during a trip to Moscow and introduced the conservative Arkansas congressman to two Russians who are now at the center of a firestorm over the activities of Donald Trump Jr.

In the brief encounter, which took place two months before their now-infamous meeting with the president’s son in Trump Tower, the jet-setting pair proposed the same trade they would soon be pitching all over Washington: Lift the sanctions on Russia, and we’ll make sure Americans can adopt Russian babies once again.... Read the full article here.


Manafort Was in Debt to Pro-Russia Interests, Cyprus Records Show

(The New York Times) July 19, 2017, by Mike McIntireFinancial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions.... Read the full article here.


Trump blasts AG Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe

(The Washington Post) July 19, 2017, by Abby Phillip and Sari HorwitzPresident Trump harshly criticized his attorney general and one of his most loyal supporters, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, indicating that he regretted the choice.... Read the full article here.


Big German Bank, Key to Trump’s Finances, Faces New Scrutiny

(The New York Times) July 19, 2017, by Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Jesse DruckerDuring the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump pointed to his relationship with Deutsche Bank to counter reports that big banks were skeptical of doing business with him.

After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Mr. Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among the few major financial institutions willing to lend him money.... Read full article here.


Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow

(The Washington Post) July 19, 2017, by Greg Jaffe and Adam EntousPresident Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.... Read the full article here.


Trump and Putin Held a Second, Undisclosed, Private Conversation

(The New York Times) July 18, 2017, by Julie Hirschfeld DavidHours into a dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, President Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was seated.

The two presidents had met earlier in the day for the first time and, as the White House put it, had developed a rapport even as they talked about Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 elections.

The July 7 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, was the single most scrutinized of the Trump presidency. But it turned out there was another encounter: a one-on-one discussion over dinner that lasted as long as an hour and relied solely on a Kremlin-provided interpreter.... Read the full article here.


Guest List at Donald Trump Jr.’s Meeting With Russian Expands Again

(The New York Times) July 18, 2017, by Sharon LaFraniere and Adam GoldmanSeventeen years ago, congressional investigators looking into money laundering stumbled upon an obscure Soviet-born financier who offered special services to his Russian clients. He had opened 2,000 companies in Delaware and more than 100 bank accounts for Russian clients who moved hundreds of millions of dollars through those accounts to overseas destinations, they found.

On Tuesday, that man, Irakly Kaveladze, resurfaced as the latest foreign guest on the ever-expanding list of participants at the June 2016 meeting where Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials were hoping to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton.... Read the full article here.


Why Jared Kushner has had to update his disclosure of foreign contacts more than once

(The Washington Post) July 17, 2017, by Matt ZapotoskySpecial counsel Robert S. Mueller III is likely to be interested in Jared Kushner’s evolving disclosure of foreign contacts during the security clearance process, legal analysts said, and it is possible that the president’s son-in-law could be in legal jeopardy for not fully detailing the interactions from the start.

Kushner, one of President Trump’s closest advisers, has filed three updates to his national security questionnaire since submitting it in mid-January, according to people familiar with the matter. That is significant because the document — known as an SF-86 — warns that those who submit false information could be charged with a federal crime and face up to five years in prison.... Read the full article here.


6 defenses of Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting — each more dubious than the last

(The Washington Post) July 17, 2017, by Aaron BlakeIt's been a week since the Donald Trump Jr. scandal broke, and the White House and its allies have trotted out a whole bunch of different defenses — some of them only suggestive — from the 39-year-old's age to blaming former attorney general Loretta Lynch to the idea that it was only attempted collusion. Over the weekend, President Trump's lawyer even tried to suggest the Secret Service had no problems with the meeting — only to have that argument quickly unravel.

It's getting a little hard to keep track of all it. So below is a scorecard of each one, along with how plausible it is — scored from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most plausible.... Read the full article here.


Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump's son's meeting, too

(The Associated Press) July 15, 2017, by Desmond Butler and Chad DayA prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer attended a meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, the lobbyist said Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team’s evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.

Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press in an interview. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.... Read the full article here.


Russian-American at Trump Jr. meeting is ex-military officer

(The Associated Press) July 15, 2017, by Eric Tucker and Stephen BraunThe Russian-American lobbyist who attended a meeting at Trump Tower last year is a former military officer who has attracted congressional scrutiny over his political activities and has been shadowed by allegations of connections to Russian intelligence that he denies.... Read the full article here.


Trump’s Russian Laundromat
How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.

(The New Republic) July 13, 2017, by Craig UngerIn 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army—his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam—he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn’t hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as “Little Odessa” for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.... Read the full article here.


The Real Scandal Now Is How Team Trump Helped Putin Conceal His Attack on America
Keeping Russia’s secret.

(Mother Jones) July 13, 2017, by David CornA few weeks ago, I wrote a piece noting that whether or not Donald Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin’s covert operation to subvert the 2016 campaign, the public record was already clear that Trump, knowingly or not, had aided and abetted Russia’s war on US democracy. He did so by repeatedly ignoring evidence and denying Moscow’s role in the criminal hacking of Democratic targets and the subsequent release of stolen emails. Those denials muddied the storyline and prevented a vigorous bipartisan response to Putin’s attack.

The disclosure this week of Donald Trump Jr.’s emails revealing that he, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort joined what they believed was a secret Russian government project to disseminate dirt on Hillary Clinton shows that the Trump campaign went far beyond creating a political climate favorable to Putin’s clandestine assault. The Trump camp actually protected Russian intelligence while it was waging information warfare against the United States—and Trump’s most intimate advisers knew they were doing so.... Read the full article here.


Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation

(McClatchy Washington Bureau) July 12, 2017, by Peter Stone and Greg GordonInvestigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.... Read the full article here.


New details emerge on Moscow real estate deal that led to the Trump-Kremlin alliance

(Yahoo News) July 11, 2017, by Michael IsikoffWhile in Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant in November 2013, Donald Trump entered into a formal business deal with Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, to construct a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. He later assigned his son, Donald Trump Jr., to oversee the project, according to Rob Goldstone, the British publicist who arranged the controversial 2016 meeting between the younger Trump and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Trump has dismissed the idea he had any business deals in Russia, saying at one point last October, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

But Goldstone’s account, provided in an extensive interview in March in New York, offers new details of the proposed Trump project that appears to have been further along than most previous reports have suggested, and even included a trip by Ivanka Trump to Moscow to identify potential sites.... Read the full article here.


The Trump-Russia Conspiracy Is Now Very Simple
You don’t even have to connect dots.

(Mother Jones) July 11, 2017, by David CornHere’s a point missing in much of the coverage of Donald Trump Jr.’s bombshell emails: If they are an accurate depiction of events, these messages show there was a conspiracy between the Putin regime and the Trump camp that was exceedingly simple and compact and quite easy to implement. The apparent plot—yes, it was a secret plot—involved a small number of people: three of Donald Trump’s closest advisers, a Trump business partner (and that man’s son), a Russian official close to Vladimir Putin, and two emissaries. Actually, none of this is surprising. Or complicated. You do not need Agent Mulder to get to the bottom of this.... Read the full article here.


Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said

(The New York Times) July 11, 2017, by Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Matt ApuzzoThe June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.... Read the full article here.


Trump’s Son Met With Russian Lawyer After Being Promised Damaging Information on Clinton

(The New York Times) July 9, 2017, by Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo and Adam GoldmanPresident Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.... Read the full article here.


FBI documents detail how the Russians try to recruit spies

(CNN) July 6, 2017, by Zachary CohenIt is a scene ripped from Hollywood spy thrillers: Russian agents living and working among everyday, American citizens as cover for their true mission of stealing state secrets.... Read the full article here.


Trump Campaign Chief’s Firm Got $17 Million From Pro-Russia Party

(The New York Times) June 27, 2017, by Nicholas Confessore, Mike McIntire and Barry MeierjunePaul Manafort, who was forced out as President Trump’s campaign chairman last summer after five months of infighting and criticism about his business dealings with pro-Russian interests, disclosed Tuesday that his consulting firm had received more than $17 million over two years from a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin.... Read the full article here.


Kushner firm’s $285 million Deutsche Bank loan came just before Election Day

(The Washington Post) June 25, 2017, by Michael KranishOne month before Election Day, Jared Kushner’s real estate company finalized a $285 million loan as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square in Manhattan.

The loan came at a critical moment. Kushner was playing a key role in the presidential campaign of his father-in-law, Donald Trump. The lender, Deutsche Bank, was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. The cases were settled in December and January.... Read the full article here.


How Michael Flynn’s Disdain for Limits Led to a Legal Quagmire

(The New York Times) June 18, 2017, by Nicholas Confessore, Matthew Rosenberg and Danny HakimjuneMichael T. Flynn was a man seething and thwarted. In the summer of 2014, after repeatedly clashing with other Obama administration officials over his management of the Defense Intelligence Agency — and what he saw as his unheeded warnings about the rising power of Islamic militants — Mr. Flynn was fired, bringing his military career to an abrupt end.... Read the full article here.


How the Russia Investigation Entangled a Manafort Protégé

(The New York Times) June 16, 2017, by Nicholas Confessore and Barry MeierjuneNearly everywhere Paul Manafort went, it seemed, Rick Gates followed, his protégé and junior partner. Election campaigns in Eastern Europe and Africa. Business ventures with a Russian tycoon. The upper ranks of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Gates survived Mr. Manafort’s purge last summer amid allegations that his mentor had taken millions of dollars from Kremlin allies, retaining a central role on Mr. Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee. But Mr. Gates, 45, soon followed in Mr. Manafort’s footsteps once again: In April, amid new questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, he was abruptly forced out of a lobbying group formed to advance President Trump’s agenda.... Read the full article here.


Trump’s lawyer in Russia probe has clients with Kremlin ties

(The Washington Post) June 9, 2017, by Shawn BoburgThe hard-charging New York lawyer President Trump chose to represent him in the Russia investigation has prominent clients with ties to the Kremlin, a striking pick for a president trying to escape the persistent cloud that has trailed his administration.

Marc E. Kasowitz’s clients include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager. Kasowitz also represents Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, U.S. court records show.... Read the full article here.


Did We Learn Anything New in Comey's SSCI Hearing?

(LawfareBlog.com) June 8, 2017, by Jane Chong, Susan Hennessey and Quinta JurecicFormer FBI Director James Comey testified for a little under three hours this morning in an open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Considering the detailed revelations included in his written statement released by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday in the lead-up to today’s testimony, how much new information did today’s hearing really add? Below is a brief overview of what the hearing added in terms of additional information or new confirmation of previously reported facts.... Read the full article here.


Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

(The Washington Post) May 26, 2017, by Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous and Greg MillerJared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.... Read the full article here.


Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation

(The Washington Post) May 25, 2017, by Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz, Devlin Barrett and Adam EntousInvestigators 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.... Read the full article here.


NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing "nut job" Comey

(CNN) May 19, 2017, by Dan MericaPresident Donald Trump bragged to two top Russian officials last week that firing "nut job" FBI Director James Comey eased "great pressure" on him, The New York Times reported Friday.

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


First on CNN: Russian officials bragged they could use Flynn to influence Trump, sources say

(CNN) May 19, 2017, by Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, Marshall Cohen and Eric LichtbauRussian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team, sources told CNN.

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


Trump campaign members had 18 previously undisclosed discussions with Russia ahead of presidential election 

(The New York Daily News) May 18, 2017, by Terence CullenSeveral members of the Trump campaign — including ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn — had 18 previously undisclosed discussions with Russia in the seven months before the election, multiple sources told Reuters.... Read the full article here.


Russian government bank financed asset sale with Trump partner: report

(The Hill) May 17, 2017, by Max GreenwoodA state-run Russian bank financed an asset sale in 2010 involving President Trump's partner in a Toronto hotel, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Trump's partner, Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Schnaider, pumped money into Trump's Toronto hotel after selling his company's share in a Ukrainian steelmaker. The Russian bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) provided the money for the sale, according to the Journal — a transaction worth about $850 million.... Read the full article here.


House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump

(The Washington Post) May 17, 2017, by Adam EntousA month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.... Read the full article here.


Donald Trump admits 'this Russia thing' part of reasoning for firing Comey
President admits the allegations of collusion between his advisers and Russian officials played into sacking of FBI director

(The Guardian) May 12, 2017, by David Smith, Julian Borger and Lauren GambinoDonald Trump has said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided James Comey’s fate – contradicting the White House rationale that he fired the FBI director for mishandling the Clinton email investigation.

Comey had been leading an investigation into possible collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was dismissed by the president. Defending that decision in an interview on NBC News on Thursday, Trump said: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”... Read the full article here.


Flynn May Have Broken Law by Not Disclosing Russia Dealings, Lawmakers Say

(The New York Times) April 25, 2017, by Emmarie Huetteman and Adam GoldmanMichael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work in the White House, top House oversight lawmakers from both parties asserted on Tuesday.... Read the full article here.


Sources: Russia tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate campaign

(CNN) April 22, 2017, by Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz, Jim Sciutto and Marshall CohenThe FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.... Read the full article here.


FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page

(The Washington Post) April 11, 2017, by Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam EntousThe FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.... Read the full article here.


Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel

(The Washington Post) April 3, 2017, by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeYoungThe United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.... Read the full article here.


Is Trump's Chaos Tornado a Move From the Kremlin's Playbook
It’s terrifying to think that the Trump administration is simply winging it, in a swirl of lies, contradictions, and Twitter rants. A scarier possibility is that there is, in fact, a plan, taken straight from Putin 101.

(Vanity Fair) April 2017, by Mike MarianiOn March 12, 2014, the Russian author Natan Dubovitsky published a short story titled “Without Sky” in the literary journal Russian Pioneer. In the story, which takes place in a dystopian future, a man recalls the events of the fifth World War, decades earlier. He describes these events as the first “non-linear war.” Instead of fighting in a traditional sense, as a battle between two sides, World War V was a more byzantine conflict. Multiple nations all fought one another at once and could switch sides at any time. Simplistic approaches to victory were seen as obsolete, as armed conflict itself was just one phase of a longer, more insidious “process.” Some even joined conflicts to facilitate their own defeat. Around the midpoint of the story, Dubovitsky writes that the complexity of the war was only “realized and analyzed later by historians and economists.”... Read the full article here.


AP Exclusive: Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin

(The Associated Press) March 22, 2017, by Jeff Horwitz and Chad DayBefore signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.... Read the full article here.


Trump associates' links with Russia: what we know so far
Questions continue to be asked about the scale of alleged Russian influence over the president and the campaign that took him to the White House. Here we look at the links – known and alleged – between Donald Trump’s associates and allies and Moscow

(The Guardian) March 2, 2017Jeff Sessions met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year - encounters that the attorney general did not disclose when asked under oath at his Senate confirmation hearing in January about possible contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow.

The former senator from Alabama was one of Trump’s early and most vocal surrogates on the campaign trail. Asked point-blank at his confirmation hearing “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?”, Sessions responded: “No.”... Read the full article here.


Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

(The Washington Post) March 1, 2017, by Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg MillerThen-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.... Read the full article here.


All of Trump’s Russia Ties, in 7 Charts

(Politico) March/April 2017, by Michael CrowleyWhat is the real story of Donald Trump and Russia? The answer is still unclear, and Democrats in Congress want to get to the bottom of it with an investigation. But there’s no doubt that a spider web of connections—some public, some private, some clear, some murky—exists between Trump, his associates and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

These charts illustrate dozens of those links, including meetings between Russian officials and members of Trump’s campaign and administration; his daughter’s ties to Putin’s friends; Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant; and his short-lived mixed martial arts venture with one of Putin’s favorite athletes. The solid lines mark established facts, while dotted ones represent speculative or unproven connections.... Read the full article here.


The Curious Case of Paul Manafort
The former Trump campaign chairman may have been the victim of a blackmail plot.

(Vanity Fair) February 23, 2017, by Abigail TracyAs the Russian intrigues surrounding Donald Trump and his presidential campaign have continued to pile up, one name has resurfaced at nearly every turn: Paul Manafort. Less than two weeks after it was revealed that United States law-enforcement and intelligence agents reportedly intercepted communications between suspected Kremlin operatives and a number of key Trump associates—including the president’s former campaign chairman—Politico reports that Manafort may also have been subjected to blackmail while he was serving on Trump’s campaign last summer.... Read the full article here.


Despite Denials, Michael Flynn Discussed Sanctions on Calls with Russian Ambassador

(LawfareBlog.com) February 9, 2017, by Susan HennesseyThis evening the Washington Post reported that, National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn discussed sanctions during his December phone calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Previously both Flynn and the White House had repeatedly denied the accusation. The Post cites “nine current and former officials” in senior positions at federal agencies as confirming the account.

Shortly after the inauguration, Jordan Brunner and I recapped the known state of investigations into the staff and associates of President Donald Trump and ties to Russia. At the time, here is what we said about the investigations into this particular set of phone calls... Read the full article here.


What we know – and what's true – about the Trump-Russia dossier
The dossier includes lurid details from Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow and claims an ‘extensive conspiracy’ between his team and the Kremlin – is it true?

(The Guardian) January 11, 2017, by Luke Harding

The big picture
What does the dossier which John McCain passed to FBI chief James Comey say?

It says Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years”. Moscow’s aim is “to encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance” and to upend the “ideals-based international order” set up after the second world war. Putin’s preference, according to the report, is for a return to the “Great Power” politics of the 19th century, where big states pursue their own interests.

The dossier says that Trump was offered “various sweetener business deals” by the Kremlin, but turned them down. The Kremlin also supplied Trump with “a regular flow of intelligence”, including on the Democrats and other political rivals.

Russian spies put together compromising dossiers on both Clinton and Trump, the dossier says. The Clinton one was innocuous and mostly included bugged conversations.

The Trump material, by contrast, was explosive. It includes lurid details from Trump’s visit in 2013 Moscow for the Miss Universe beauty pageant. According to the dossier, Trump stayed in the Ritz Carlton hotel, in the same suite used by Barack Obama. It says Russia’s FSB spy agency obtained compromising sexual material – kompromat – from the hotel suite. “FSB has compromised TRUMP through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him,” it says.... Read the full article here.


These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia
A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.

(BuzzFeed.com) January 10, 2017, by Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder and Mark SchoofsA dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them.... Read the full article here and the dossier here.


Danger Close: Fancy Bear Tracking of Ukrainian Field Artillery Units

(CrowdStrike.com) December 22, 2016, by Adam MeyersIn June CrowdStrike identified and attributed a series of targeted intrusions at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and other political organizations that utilized a well known implant commonly called X-Agent. X-Agent is a cross platform remote access toolkit, variants have been identified for various Windows operating systems, Apple’s iOS, and likely the MacOS. Also known as Sofacy, X-Agent has been tracked by the security community for almost a decade, CrowdStrike associates the use of X-Agent with an actor we call FANCY BEAR. This actor to date is the exclusive operator of the malware, and has continuously developed the platform for ongoing operations which CrowdStrike assesses is likely tied to Russian Military Intelligence (GRU). The source code to this malware has not been observed in the public domain and appears to have been developed uniquely by FANCY BEAR.... Read the full article here.


Meet Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin's Pal and Donald Trump's Nominee for Secretary of State

(Newsweek) December 13, 2016, by Owen MatthewsRex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, personifies two major concerns about the incoming Trump administration: conflicts of interest and ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.As the long-serving CEO of U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil, Tillerson has a close personal relationship with Putin, according to the latter’s business associates in Russia, who asked for anonymity because they still live in the country. “Probably closer than any other American,” says one senior Western banker who has worked in the country for nearly 20 years and has met Tillerson frequently. “There’s no other private U.S. citizen,” says a veteran oil industry financier, “that could get Putin on the phone.”... Read the full article here.


Trump advisers waged covert influence campaign

(The Associated Press) August 19, 2016, by Jeff Horwitz and Chad DayA firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.

The lobbying included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine’s then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her.... Read the full article here.


How Trump's campaign chief got a strongman elected president of Ukraine
Paul Manafort, who reportedly was a recipient of $12.7m in Ukraine, helped Viktor Yanukovych to victory. Could he do the same for Trump?

(The Guardian) August 16, 2016, by Luke HardingThe scene was Ostroh, western Ukraine, on the eve of parliamentary elections.

A tall figure bounded on to a stage to cheers from a crowd of elderly flag-waving supporters. They chanted: “Yan-u-kov-ych, Yan-u-kov-ych.”

The man addressing them was Viktor Yanukovych, who at this point – autumn 2007 – was Ukraine’s pro-Russian prime minister. Three years earlier he had tried to cheat his way to victory in the country’s presidential election, triggering the pro-democracy uprising known as the Orange Revolution, which swept Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko into power.... Read the full article here.


How The Trump Campaign Weakened The Republican Platform On Aid To Ukraine

(NPR) August 6, 20165One of the questions raised over the course of this year's presidential race is about how a President Trump would deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

One reason to wonder: the Republican Party platform's new language on policy towards Ukraine.

When Republican Party leaders drafted the platform prior to their convention in Cleveland last month, they had relatively little input from the campaign of then-presumptive nominee Donald Trump on most issues — except when it came to a future Republican administration's stance on Ukraine.

It started when platform committee member Diana Denman tried to insert language calling for the U.S. to provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government, which is fighting a separatist insurrection backed by Russia. Denman says she had no idea she was "going into a fire fight," calling it "an interesting exchange, to say the least."

Denman is a long time GOP activist from Texas. When she presented her proposal during a platform subcommittee meeting last month, "two gentleman," whom Denman said were part of the Trump campaign, came over, looked at the language, and asked that it be set aside for further review.... Read the full article here.


European Parliament resolution of 10 June 2015 on the state of EU-Russia relations

June 10, 2015The European Parliament,

... 15. Is deeply concerned at the ever more intensive contacts and cooperation, tolerated by the Russian leadership, between European populist, fascist and extreme right-wing parties on the one hand and nationalist groups in Russia on the other; recognises that this represents a danger to democratic values and the rule of law in the EU; calls in this connection on the EU institutions and Member States to take action against this threat of an emerging ‘Nationalist International’;

16. Is deeply concerned with Russia's support for and financing of radical and extremist parties in the EU Member States; considers a recent meeting in St Petersburg of the far right parties an insult to the memory of millions of Russians who sacrificed their lives to save the world from Nazism.... Read the full resolution here.


The Quiet American
Paul Manafort made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom. Getting Donald Trump elected will be a cinch.

(Slate.com) April 28, 2016, by Franklin FoerMar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s palace, is impressive by the standards of Palm Beach—less so when judged against the abodes of the world’s autocrats. It doesn’t, for instance, quite compare with Mezhyhirya, the gilded estate of deposed Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Trump may have 33 bathrooms and three bomb shelters, but his mansion lacks a herd of ostrich, a galleon parked in a pond, and a set of golden golf clubs. Yet the two properties are linked, not just in ostentatious spirit, but by the presence of one man. Trump and Yanukovych have shared the same political brain, an operative named Paul Manafort.

Ukrainians use the term “political technologist” as a favored synonym for electoral consultant. Trump turned to Manafort for what seemed at first a technical task: Manafort knows how to bullwhip and wheedle delegates at a contested convention. He’s done it before, assisting Gerald Ford in stifling Ronald Reagan’s insurgency at the GOP’s summer classic of 1976. In the conventions that followed, the Republican Party often handed Manafort control of the program and instructed him to stage-manage the show. He produced the morning-in-America convention of 1984 and the Bob Dole nostalgia-thon of 1996.... Read the full article here.


See links to Alex Roslin's investigative journalism here, including his book Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, winner of the Arlene Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a finalist for four other international book prizes.