<a href=”http://wtvr.com” rel=”nofollow”>wtvr.com</a>–Oct 13, 2017
Professor Jonathan Albright has discovered that a Cambridge Analytica intern posted the company’s voter targeting algorithms to an online personal account just after Super Tuesday, and then bizarrely left them there for the entirety of the election. The intern listed them as “work samples” but it’s difficult to believe that any intern would have been publicly posting his company’s secret algorithms just to show off his skills. It raises the question of whether this was how the company was clandestinely making its secret algorithms available to Russian hackers in plain sight.
Cambridge Analytica has largely been funded by the Mercer family, which also heavily funded the Donald Trump campaign. Furthermore, Steve Bannon was running Cambridge Analytica at the time he was hired to run the Trump campaign. It has long been widely suspected, but never proven, that the company was working with U.S. voter data that had been supplied by the Russian hackers who tried to get into the voter registration databases of dozens of states during the election. Proving this suspicion would require uncovering potential communication channels between the company and the Russians.
If it turns out the Cambridge Analytica intern’s posting was indeed an intentional method of backdoor communication between the company and Russian hackers, it may open the door to exposing the full extent of the collusion that’s suspected to have taken place. You can read Professor Albright’s full research findings link).
The post Potential voter data backchannel uncovered between Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers appeared first on Palmer Report.
The Trump-Russia scandal—with all its bizarre and troubling twists and turns—has become a controversy that is defining the Trump presidency. The FBI recently disclosed that since July it has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, as part of its probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election. Citing “US officials,” CNN reported that the bureau has gathered information suggesting coordination between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. Each day seems to bring a new revelation—and a new Trump administration denial or deflection. It’s tough to keep track of all the relevant events, pertinent ties, key statements, and unraveling claims. So we’ve compiled what we know so far into the timeline below, which covers Trump’s 30-year history with Russia. We will continue to update the timeline regularly as events unfold. (Click here to go directly to the most recent entry.) If you have a tip or we’ve left anything out, please email us at email@example.com.
1986: Donald Trump is seated next to Russian Ambassador Yuri Dubinin at a lunch organized by Leonard Lauder, the son of cosmetics scion Estée Lauder, who at the time is running her cosmetics business. “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin” in partnership with the Soviet government, Trump later writes in his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. Also present at the event is Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin, later the Russian ambassador to the United Nations. (Churkin died in February 2017 at 64.)
January 1987: Intourist, the Soviet agency for international tourism, expresses interest in meeting with Trump.
“Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said of his 2013 visit to Moscow for his Miss Universe contest.
July 1987: Trump and his then-wife, Ivana, fly to Moscow to tour potential hotel sites. Trump spokesman Dan Klores later tells the Washington Post that during the trip, Trump “met with a lot of the economic and financial advisers in the Politburo” but did not see Mikhail Gorbachev, then the USSR’s leader.
December 1, 1988: The Soviet Mission to the United Nations announces that Gorbachev is tentatively scheduled to tour Trump Tower while the Soviet leader is visiting New York and that Trump plans to show him a swimming pool inside a $19 million apartment.
December 7, 1988: Trump welcomes the wrong Gorbachev to New York—shaking hands with a renowned Gorbachev impersonator outside his hotel.
December 8, 1988: President Ronald Reagan invites Donald and Ivana Trump to a state dinner, where Trump meets the real Gorbachev. According to Trump’s spokesman, the real estate mogul had a lengthy discussion with the Soviet president about economics and hotels.
January 1989: For $200,000, Trump signs a group of Soviet cyclists for the Albany-to-Atlantic City road race, dubbed the Tour de Trump, that will take place that May.
November 5, 1996: Media reports note that Trump is trying to partner with US tobacco company Brooke Group to build a hotel in Moscow.
January 23, 1997: Trump meets with Alexander Lebed, a retired Soviet general then running to be president of Russia, at Trump Tower. Trump says they discussed his plans to build “something major” in Moscow. Lebed reportedly expressed his support, joking that his only objection would be that “the highest skyscraper in the world cannot be built next to the Kremlin. We cannot allow anyone spitting from the roof of the skyscraper on the Kremlin.”
2000: Michael Caputo, who later runs Trump’s primary campaign in New York during the 2016 race, secures a PR contract with the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media to burnish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image in the United States.
Date unknown: Trump reportedly signs a development deal with Bayrock Group, a real estate firm founded by a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan, to develop a hotel in Moscow and agrees to partner on a hotel tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump works on the projects with Bayrock managing partner Felix Sater, a Russian American businessman. The New York Times will later publish a story revealing Sater’s criminal record, which includes charges of racketeering and assault.
June: Paul Manafort, later Trump’s campaign chairman, pens a strategy memo to Russia oligarch and Putin confidant Oleg Deripaska, with whom he would sign a $10 million lobbying contract the following year. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort writes, noting that the effort “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” (Manafort later denies working to advance Russian interests as part of this contract, first reported by the Associates Press. Deripaska later calls the AP story a “malicious…lie” and says, “I have never made any commitments or contacts with the obligation or purpose to covertly promote or advance ‘Putin’s Government’ interests anywhere in the world.”
September 19: Sater and the former Soviet official who founded Bayrock, Tevfik Arif, stand next to Trump at the launch party for Trump SoHo, a hotel-condominium project co-financed by Bayrock.
November 22: Trump Vodka debuts in Russia, at the Moscow Millionaire’s Fair. As part of its new marketing campaign, Trump Vodka also unveils an ad featuring Trump, tigers, the Kremlin, and Vladimir Lenin.
At the Millionaires’ Fair, Trump meets Sergey Millian, an American citizen from Belarus who is the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA (RACC). Subsequently, Millian later recounted, “We met at his office in New York, where he introduced me to his right-hand man—Michael Cohen. He is Trump’s main lawyer, all contracts go through him. Subsequently, a contract was signed with me to promote one of their real estate projects in Russia and the CIS. You can say I was their exclusive broker.” According to Millian, he helped Trump “study the Moscow market” for potential real estate investments.
December 17: The New York Times publishes a story about Felix Sater’s controversial past, which includes prison time for stabbing a man with a margarita glass stem during a bar fight and a guilty plea in a Mafia-linked racketeering case. The article characterizes Sater as a Trump business associate who is promoting several potential projects in partnership with Trump.
December 19: In a deposition, Trump is asked about his plans to build a hotel in Moscow. He says, “It was a Trump International Hotel and Tower. It would be a nonexclusive deal, so it would not have precluded me from doing other deals in Moscow, which was very important to me.”
April: Trump announces he is partnering with Russian oligarch Pavel Fuks to license his name for luxury high-rises in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But Fuks ultimately balks at Trump’s price, which the Russian business newspaper Kommersant estimated could have been $200 million or more.
July: Billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, buys a Palm Beach mansion owned by Trump for $95 million, despite Florida’s crashing real estate market and an appraisal on the house for much less. Trump bought the property for $41.35 million four years earlier. Rybolovlev goes on to give conflicting explanations for why he bought the property.
September 15: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at a real estate conference in Manhattan, where he says “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Date unknown: Trump’s team reportedly invites Sergei Millian to meet Trump at a horse race in Florida, where, according to Millian, they sit in Trump’s private suite at the Gulfstream race track in Miami. “Trump team, they realized that we have a lot of connection with Russian investors. And they noticed that we bring a lot of investors from Russia,” Millian told ABC News in a 2016 interview. “And they needed my assistance, yes, to sell properties and sell some of the assets to Russian investors.” Millian says that following this meeting with Trump, he works as a broker for the Trump Hollywood condominium project in Miami, selling a “nice percentage” of the building’s 200 units to Russian investors.
May 10: Jody Kriss, a former finance director at Bayrock, files a lawsuit against the company. The suit alleges that Bayrock financed Trump SoHo with mysterious cash from Kazhakstan and Russia and calls the building “a Russian mob project.” (The complaint notes that “there is no evidence that Trump took any part in” Bayrock’s interactions with questionable Russian financing sources.)
Date unknown: Bayrock’s Sater becomes a senior adviser to Trump, according to his LinkedIn profile. Though Trump later claims he would not recognize Sater, Sater has a Trump Organization email address, phone number, and business cards.
January (date unknown): At an energy conference in New York, energy consultant Carter Page meets Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence operative who in 2015 will be charged with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government, along with two other Russians. Until June 2013, Page will continue to meet, email, and provide documents to Podobnyy about the energy business, thinking that he is an attaché at the Russian mission to the UN who can help broker deals in Russia. Meanwhile, Podobnyy and one of his colleagues discuss efforts to recruit Page as an asset.
May 29: Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and the son of billionaire real estate developer Aras Agalarov, releases a music video for his song “Amor.” In the video, he pursues Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo, through dark, empty alleys with a flashlight. Following the video’s release, representatives of Miss Universe, which Trump at the time owns, discuss with the Agalarovs holding the next pageant in Moscow. The Agalarovs persuade them to host Miss Universe at a concert hall they own on the outskirts of Moscow.
June 18: Following the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas, Trump announces that he will bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
He also wonders if Putin will attend the pageant, and if Putin might “become my new best friend?”
June (date unknown): Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn visits Moscow at the invitation of Igor Sergun, the chief of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. During his visit, Flynn gives an hour-long lecture on leadership and intelligence to a group of GRU officers at the agency’s headquarters. He is reportedly the first US intelligence officer ever allowed inside the headquarters.
June 21: Vladimir Putin awards Rex Tillerson, now Trump’s secretary of state, with Russia’s Order of Friendship. As the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had developed a long-standing relationship with the head of Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, dating back to 1998.
October 17: In an interview with David Letterman, Trump says, “I’ve done a lot of business with the Russians,” noting that he once met Putin.
November 5: In a deposition, Trump is asked about a 2007 New York Times story outlining the controversial past of Felix Sater. Trump replies that he barely knows Sater and would have trouble recognizing him if they were in the same room.
“Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present,” Trump boasted.
November 8: Trump, in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant, meets with more than a dozen of Russia’s top businessmen at Nobu, a restaurant 15 minutes from the Kremlin. The group includes Herman Gref, the CEO of the state-controlled Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s biggest bank. The meeting at Nobu is organized by Gref—who regularly meets with Putin—and Aras Agalarov, who owns the Nobu franchise in Moscow.
– According to a source connected to the Agalarovs, Putin asks his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, to call Trump in advance of the Miss Universe show to set up an in-person meeting for the Russian president and Trump. Peskov reportedly passes on the message and expresses Putin’s admiration for Trump. Their plans to meet never come to fruition because of scheduling changes for both Trump and Putin.
November 9: Trump spends the morning shooting a music video with Emin Agalarov.
-The Miss Universe pageant takes place near Moscow. A notorious Russian mobster, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, attends the event as a VIP, strolling down the event’s red carpet within minutes of Trump. At the time, Tokhtakhounov was under federal indictment in the United States for his alleged participation in an illegal gambling ring once run out of Trump Tower. Emin Agalarov performs two songs at the pageant.
– MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts asks Trump if he has a relationship with Putin. Trump replies, “I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.”
November 11: Trump tweets his appreciation to Aras Agalarov, the Russian billionaire with whom he partnered to host Miss Universe, also complimenting Emin’s performance at the pageant and declaring plans for a Trump tower in Moscow.
November 12: Trump tells Real Estate Weekly that Miss Universe Russia provided a networking opportunity: “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” he says. The same day, two developers who helped build the luxury Trump SoHo hotel meet with the Agalarovs to discuss replicating the hotel in Moscow. Aras Agalarov, whose real estate company secured multiple contracts from the Kremlin and who once received a medal of honor from Putin, later claims he and Trump signed a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow following the pageant. (The deal never moved past preliminary discussions.)
November 20: Emin Agalarov releases a new music video featuring Trump and the 2013 Miss Universe contestants.
March 6: Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and boasts of getting a gift from Putin when he was in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. “You know, I was in Moscow a couple months ago, I own the Miss Universe pageant, and they treated me so great,” Trump said. “Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note.”
May 27: At a National Press Club luncheon, Trump says, “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
October 8: The counsel’s office of the Defense Intelligence Agency responds to an inquiry from Michael Flynn about ethics restrictions that will apply to him after his Army retirement. The office explains in a letter that he can not receive foreign government payments without prior approval, due to the constitution’s emoluments clause. “If you are ever in a position where you would receive an emolument from a foreign government or from an entity that might be controlled by a foreign government, be sure to obtain advance approval from the Army prior to acceptance,” the letter states.
September: FBI special agent Adrian Hawkins contacts the Democratic National Committee, saying that one of its computer systems has been compromised by a cyberespionage group linked to the Russian government. He speaks to a help desk technician who does a quick check of the DNC systems for evidence of a cyber intrusion. In the next several weeks, Hawkins calls the DNC back repeatedly, but his calls are not returned, in part because the tech support contractor who took Hawkins’ call does not know whether he is a real agent. The FBI does not dispatch an agent to visit the DNC in person and does not make efforts to contact more senior DNC officials.
September 21: On a conservative radio show, Trump says, “I was in Moscow not so long ago for an event that we had, a big event, and many of [Putin’s] people were there…I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”
September 29: Trump praises Putin during an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly: “I will tell you, in terms of leadership he is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
November 10: At a Republican presidential primary debate, Trump says of Putin that he “got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates.”
November 11: The Associated Press, Time, and other media outlets report that Trump and Putin were never in the same studio. Trump was interviewed in New York, and Putin was interviewed in Moscow.
December 10: Retired General Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was reportedly forced out in 2014, attends and is paid more than $30,000 to speak at Russia Today’s 10th anniversary dinner in Moscow, where he is seated next to Putin.
December 16: Then-CIA Director John Brennan writes in an internal memo that some members of Congress don’t “understand and appreciate the importance and gravity” of Russian interference in the Presidential election. The criticism is reportedly directed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), according to a BuzzFeed article published in August 2017. Brennan’s memo also says that then-FBI director James Comey and then-national intelligence director James Clapper agree on the scope of Russian involvement.
December 17: Putin praises Trump in his year-end press conference, saying that he is “very talented” and that “he is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia…How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it.” Trump calls the praise “a great honor” from “a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He adds, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”
February 17: At a rally in South Carolina, Trump says of Putin, “I have no relationship with him, other than that he called me a genius.”
March 21: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump identifies Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers.
March 30: Bloomberg Businessweek reports on Page’s past advising of Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company. Page tells Bloomberg Businessweek that after Trump named him as an adviser, positive notes from his Russian contacts filled his inbox. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation” in terms of easing US sanctions on Russia, Page explained.
April 26: The Washington Post reports that Paul Manafort, then Trump’s convention manager (who would later be promoted to campaign chairman), has long-standing ties to pro-Putin Ukrainian officials. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort worked as a political consultant to Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Russia part. He helped Yanukovych remake his image following the Orange Revolution and mount a successful bid for the Ukrainian presidency.
April 27: Trump gives his first foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. During the speech, he calls for an “easing of tensions” and “improved relations” with Russia. The Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak is in attendance, as well as Sen. Jeff Sessions. According to the Wall Street Journal, before Trump’s remarks, he “met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. Mr. Trump warmly greeted Mr. Kislyak and three other foreign ambassadors who came to the reception.”
April and May: The DNC’s IT department contacts the FBI about unusual computer activity and hires cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to investigate. In May, Crowdstrike determines that hackers affiliated with Russian intelligence infiltrated the DNC’s network.
June: The Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a government think tank run by retired foreign intelligence officials appointed by Vladimir Putin, drafts and circulates a strategy paper among top Russian government officials. According to Reuters, it recommends that the Kremlin help spur a propaganda campaign—via social media and state-controlled news outlets—that would help elect a more pro-Russia US president. This is based on information provided to Reuters by seven current or former US officials in April 2017.
June 3: Rob Goldstone, publicist for Emin Agalarov, emails Donald Trump Jr. to say that Russia’s crown prosecutor met with Aras Agalarov—Emin’s dad and a Russian oligarch—and told him that he possessed “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” that could be shared with the Trump campaign. Goldstone adds that the information: “is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responds by asking to speak to Emin about the material described in Goldstone’s email, and he adds, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
June 6: Goldstone tries to coordinate a phone call between Trump Jr. and Emin over email.
June 7: Goldstone emails Trump Jr. to say that Emin asked that Trump Jr. meet with a “Russian government attorney” in New York. They set a time over email for June 9, and Trump Jr. responds that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will also likely sit in on the meeting.
June 8: Trump Jr. forwards the email with the updated meeting time to Kushner and Manafort.
June 9: Promised damaging information on Clinton, Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner meet with a Kremlin-tied Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. She says she has evidence that individuals linked to Russia are funding the DNC. Trump Jr. will later characterize her statements on this topic as “vague” and “ambiguous” and will claim that the discussion turned to the Magnitsky Act and Russia’s policy on US adoptions of Russian children.
June 14: The Washington Post reports that Russian hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee and stole opposition research on Donald Trump.
June 15: Guccifer 2.0, an online persona that US intelligence officials link to Russia’s military intelligence service, takes credit for the DNC hack and posts hacked DNC documents. Guccifer will go on to post additional hacked documents—from the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and purportedly from the Clinton Foundation—at least nine more times in the months leading up to the election. (Some reports contest that the documents came from the Clinton Foundation itself.)
– During a private meeting, Republican leaders discuss the DNC hack. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy remarks, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (Rorhbacher is California Republican Dana Rohrbacher, a steadfast defender of Putin and Russia.) When his colleagues laugh, McCarthy adds, “Swear go god.” (McCarthy later says he was joking.)
July 7: Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page criticizes US sanctions against Russia during a speech at the New Economic School in Moscow. Politico later reports that Page asked for and received permission from Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to speak at the Moscow event. Page’s trip spurs the FBI—which has had an interest in the investor since discovering in 2013 that a Russian operative had tried to recruit him—to begin investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
July 18: The Washington Post reports that the Trump campaign worked with members of the Republican Party platform committee in advance of the Republican National Convention to soften the platform’s position related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The platform reportedly included a provision that promised to provide arms to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, but Trump campaign staffers encouraged the committee to jettison this language.
– Trump surrogate Sen. Jeff Sessions meets with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, on the sidelines of a Republican National Convention event put on by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
July 20: New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza asks Sam Clovis, Trump’s top policy adviser, about allegations that the Trump team worked with the Republican party to soften the party platform’s position on Russia in advance of the RNC. Clovis responds with “I can’t talk about” and walks away.
July 18-21: Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, the campaign’s director of national security, also meet with the Russian ambassador during the convention.
July 22: WikiLeaks publishes nearly 20,000 hacked DNC emails, in advance of the Democratic National Convention. Some of the emails indicate that DNC officials favored Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders.
July 24: Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, appears on ABC’s This Week, where he is asked whether there are connections between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime. Manafort says, “No, there are not. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
July 25: Trump tweets about the hacked DNC emails:
July 26: US intelligence agencies tell the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the DNC hack. This is reported by media outlets but not publicly confirmed by intelligence agencies.
– In an interview with NBC News, Obama says hacks are being investigated by the FBI, but that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.” He notes, “What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that—I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”
-Trump tweets, calling the Russia allegations “crazy”:
July 27: Trump encourages Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, saying during a news conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” At the same event, he declares, “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”
July 31: On ABC’s This Week, Trump again denies knowing Putin, saying, “I have no relationship with him.” Trump also denies that his campaign played any role in getting the Republican Party to soften its platform on arming Ukraine.
– On Meet the Press, Manafort denies that he or anyone within the Trump campaign worked to change the platform.
– Sen. Jeff Sessions defends Trump’s efforts to cultivate a friendship with Russia during an appearance on CNN: “Donald Trump is right. We need to figure out a way to end this cycle of hostility that’s putting this country at risk, costing us billions of dollars in defense, and creating hostilities.”
Late July: The FBI launches a counterintelligence investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russia. There is no public confirmation of this investigation at the time, but FBI Director James Comey later confirms the investigation in a March 2017 hearing before the House intelligence committee.
August 4: In a phone call with Alexander Bornikov, the head of Russia’s FSB, CIA Director John Brennan puts his counterpart on notice about further interference in the US election. Bornikov denies efforts targeting the election.
August 5: Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, asked by the Washington Post about Carter Page’s July speech in Moscow, downplays his role as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, saying he “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.”
– Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone writes an article for Breitbart in which he denies that Russia was behind the DNC hack. He argues that Guccifer 2.0 has no ties to Russia.
August 6: NPR confirms the Trump campaign’s involvement in encouraging the Republican Party to soften its platform’s pro-Ukraine position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
August 14: The New York Times reports that Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau has discovered Manafort’s name on a list of “black accounts” compiled by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. The tallies show undisclosed payments designated for Manafort totaling $12.7 million between 2007 and 2012, the years that Manafort worked for Yanukovych as a political consultant. (Manafort denies receiving any illicit payments.)
August 17: Trump receives his first classified intelligence briefing as the GOP nominee for president. He brings Michael Flynn with him to the meeting, which includes discussion of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was interfering in the US election.
August 19: Manafort resigns from the Trump campaign.
August 21: Roger Stone tweets:
August 29: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pens a letter to the FBI, asking the bureau to investigate the possibility of election-tampering by Russia in the upcoming presidential election. “I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known,” Reid writes. “The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly.”
August 29: Yahoo News reports that the FBI has found evidence that the state voter systems in Arizona and Illinois were breached by hackers possibly linked to the Russian government.
August 30: House Democrats send a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on the bureau to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and any impact these ties may have had on the hacking of the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
September 5: The Washington Post reports that US intelligence agencies, including the FBI, are investigating possible plans by Russia to disrupt the presidential election.
– Putin and Obama have a tense meeting at the G20 summit in China, where they discuss Syria, Ukraine, and cybersecurity. In December, Obama will tell reporters that he confronted Putin about Russia’s alleged interference in the election and told him to “cut it out.”
September 7: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggests publicly for the first time that Russia may be responsible for the DNC hack, pointing to Obama’s July statement that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.” Clapper adds that “the Russians hack our systems all the time.”
September 8: Trump responds to Clapper’s comments in an interview with RT, the English language arm of a Russian state-controlled media conglomerate, casting doubt on whether Russian hackers were responsible for the DNC hack. “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” Trump says. “Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.”
– Jeff Sessions meets with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his Senate office. He is the only one of the Senate armed services committee’s 26 members to meet with the ambassador in 2016. The meeting occurs days after Putin and Obama’s tense G20 meeting.
September 22: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, release a statement about Russia’s interference in the US election. “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election,” they said. “We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from the very senior levels of the Russian government.”
September 23: Yahoo News reports that US intelligence officials are investigating whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page discussed the possible lifting of US sanctions on Russia and other topics during private communications with top Russian officials, including a Putin aide and the current executive chairman of Rosneft, who is on the Treasury Department’s US sanctions list. Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller claims that Page “has no role” in the Trump campaign and says that “we are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.”
September 25: In a CNN interview, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denies that Page is affiliated with the Trump campaign. “He’s certainly not part of the campaign that I’m running,” she said.
In response to a question about Page’s possible connections to Russian officials, Conway says, “If he’s doing that, he’s certainly not doing it with the permission or knowledge of the campaign,” She adds, “He is certainly not authorized to do that.”
September 26: Page takes a leave from the campaign.
– During the first presidential debate, Clinton brings up the allegations that Russia orchestrated the DNC hack. Trump responds: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”
October 1: Roger Stone tweets:
October 3: Roger Stone tweets:
October 7: US intelligence agencies issue a joint release saying they are “confident” the Russian government interfered in the US election, in part by directing the leaking of hacked emails belonging to political institutions like the DNC. This is the first official government confirmation that Russia orchestrated the hacking and leaks during the election.
-Late on Friday afternoon, a leaked video of Trump boasting of groping and kissing women without their consent is published by the Washington Post. Half an hour later, WikiLeaks begins to release several thousand hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
October 9: During the second presidential debate, Clinton accuses Trump of benefiting from Russian hacking and other interference in the election. Trump responds, “I don’t know Putin. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin.”
Referring to Trump campaign staffers Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said the day after the election: “A number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives. There were contacts. We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign.”
October 11: The Obama White House promises a “proportional” response following the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC and other groups.
October 12: Sources briefed on the FBI examination of Russian hacking say the agency suspects that Russian intelligence agencies are behind the hacking of the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Florida election systems vendor.
– Roger Stone says he has “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, through a mutual friend.
October 19: During the final presidential debate, Trump casts doubt on the US intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the election. He also denies having ever met or spoken to Putin, despite his previous statements to the contrary. “I never met Putin,” Trump says. ” I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him.”
October 30: The plane belonging to Dmitri Rybolovlev, the Russian oligarch who purchased Trump’s Florida mansion in 2008, is in Las Vegas the same day Trump holds a rally there.
– Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sends a letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on him to release what Reid calls “explosive” information about Trump’s Russia ties. “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government,” Reid writes. “The public has a right to know this information.”
October 31: Mother Jones reports that a veteran of a Western intelligence service has given the FBI memos saying that Russia had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and that the Kremlin had gathered compromising information on Trump during his visits to Moscow that could be used for blackmail. The story notes that the FBI has requested more information from this source.
October: Russian government think tank RISS drafts and circulates a document among top Russian officials warning that Hillary Clinton is likely to win the US presidential election. According to Reuters, the memo advises the Kremlin to revise its strategy for influencing the election: Instead of focusing on pro-Trump propaganda, it should instead seek to undermine Clinton’s reputation and the legitimacy of the US electoral system by stoking fears about voter fraud.
Date unknown: Prior to Election Day, Flynn contacts Kislyak. It’s unknown how often the pair communicated or what they talked about.
November 1: NBC News reports that the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into Paul Manafort’s business ties to Russia and Ukraine. Manafort tells NBC, “None of it is true.” He denies having dealings with Putin or the Russian government and says any allegations to the contrary are “Democratic propaganda.”
November 3: Dmitri Rybolovlev’s plane lands in Charlotte, North Carolina, about 90 minutes before Trump’s plane lands at the same airport in advance of a Trump rally to be held that day in nearby Concord.
November 9: Trump wins the presidential election.
November 10: Interfax news agency reports that the Russian government had contact with the Trump campaign during the campaign. Referring to Trump campaign staffers, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, says, “A number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives” in the Russian Foreign Ministry. And he adds, “There were contacts. We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign.”
– Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells the Associated Press that Russian foreign policy experts have been in contact with the Trump campaign. “And our experts, our specialists on the U.S., on international affairs…Of course they are constantly speaking to their counterparts here, including those from Mr. Trump’s group,” Peskov said.
November 11: Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells the Associated Press that the allegations of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials are false. “It never happened,” she says. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
November 16: The director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, implies that he believes Russia interfered in the US election. In response to a question about WikiLeaks hacks during the election, Rogers says, “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
November 17: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, sends a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee’s top Republican, calling for an investigation into Russia’s interference in the election.
November 23: The Wall Street Journal reports that in October 2016, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at a meeting of a French think tank run by a couple, Fabien Baussart and Randa Kassis, who have “worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict” in Syria. Kassis is the leader of a Syrian group endorsed by the Kremlin that seeks to cooperate with Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad.
November 29: Seven members of the Senate intelligence committee write a letter to Obama asking him to declassify relevant intelligence on Russia’s role in the election.
Early December: Two Russian intelligence officers who worked on cyber operations and a Russian computer security expert are arrested in Moscow and charged with treason for providing information to the United States. (There is no indication of whether the arrests are related to the Russian hacking of the 2016 campaign.)
December 8: Carter Page, no longer a foreign policy adviser to Trump, visits Moscow, where he tells a state-run news agency that he plans to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.”
December 9: The Washington Post reports that a secret CIA assessment concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency. In response, the Trump transition team issues a statement attempting to discredit the CIA’s conclusion: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago…It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
December 11: In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Trump again casts doubt on the US intelligence community’s findings on Russia’s interference in the election. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody,” Trump says of the CIA’s findings. “It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.”
December 13: Trump names Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as his secretary of state nominee. Tillerson has long-standing ties to Russia and Putin. Tillerson helped Exxon cut several oil-drilling deals with Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, and in 2013 Putin awarded Tillerson the Russian Order of Friendship.
December (date unknown): Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower. Kislyak was not caught on tape entering the building, suggesting that he may have been brought in through a back entrance.
December (date unknown): Kislyak requests another meeting with Kushner. Kushner sends a deputy, Avrahm Berkowitz, to meet with the Russian ambassador in his stead. At that meeting, Kislyak requests that Kushner meet with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state-owned development bank. Kushner meets with Gorkov later that month.
December 29: Obama announces sanctions against Russia for the country’s alleged interference in the presidential election. The measure includes the ejection of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States; the closure of Cold War-era Russian compounds in Long Island, New York, and in Maryland; and sanctions against the GRU and the FSB (Russian intelligence agencies), four employees of those agencies, and three companies that worked with the GRU.
– Michael Flynn holds five phone calls with Kislyak, during which they at some point discuss US sanctions on Russia. (White House press secretary Sean Spicer later claims falsely that they held just one call, in which they merely discussed “logistical information.”)
January 4: According to the New York Times, Flynn tells Don McGahn, who at the time was the transition team’s top lawyer, that he is under investigation for failing to disclose his work as a lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.
January 6: Flynn’s attorney and transition team lawyers hold another discussion about the investigation involving Flynn.
-The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a report saying that the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA believe there is evidence that Russia actively tried to help Trump win the election. They also conclude with “high confidence” that Russian military intelligence used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and a website called <a href=”http://DCLeaks.com” rel=”nofollow”>DCLeaks.com</a> to release the hacked documents and that Russia’s military intelligence branch channeled hacked material to WikiLeaks.
Early January: Concerned that classified material relating to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election might disappear once the Trump administration took office, Obama administration officials create a listcontaining the serial numbers of key documents. An administration official hand-delivers this list to senior members of the Senate intelligence committee.
January 10: CNN reports that Obama and Trump received classified briefings that covered allegations contained in the Russia-Trump memos authored by the Western intelligence official that Russian intelligence possessed compromising material on Trump.
– BuzzFeed publishes the Trump-Russia memos in full.
– Trump calls the Russia memos story “#fakenews” on Twitter.
– During his Senate confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions responds to questions about alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia by saying, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
– FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate intelligence committee hearing. He is asked whether the FBI is investigating Trump campaign staffers’ ties to Russia. Comey declines to answer the question.
– According to McClatchy‘s reporting in May 2017, Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, informs Michael Flynn of the Pentagon’s plan to use Syrian Kurdish forces to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa. Flynn asks Rice to delay the operation, a position that “conformed to the wishes of Turkey.”
January 11: Trump again denies the allegations in the Russia memos in a series of tweets. Also in reference to the Russia allegations, he asks, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
– At his first news conference since being elected, Trump acknowledges that Russia was behind the hacks, saying, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
Around January 11: A secret meeting takes place in the Seychelles between Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a major Trump campaign donor and brother of education secretary Betsy DeVos, and a Russian close to Vladimir Putin in an effort to establish an unofficial back channel between Moscow and Donald Trump. According to sources who would later speak to the Washington Post, the meeting was allegedly coordinated by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and his brother. It occurred shortly after a December visit to the US by Zayed, which the UAE did not disclose to the Obama administration.
January 13: Trump again calls claims about his Russian connections “fake news.” His tweet refers to a comment by a Kremlin spokesman earlier in the month that called the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the US election “absolutely unfounded.”
January 15: In an appearance on Face the Nation, Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Michael Flynn told him that he did not discuss US sanctions during his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
January 19: The New York Times reports that the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit are investigating Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone for their possible contacts with Russia during the campaign. As part of their investigation, the Times reports, these agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions.
January 20: Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
January 23: White House press secretary Sean Spicer holds his first White House press briefing. He insists that national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador included no discussion of US sanctions.
January 24: The FBI interviews Flynn about his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn reportedly denies having discussed US sanctions on Russia.
January 26: Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, informs White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador, despite Flynn’s claims to the contrary in his FBI interview.
– McGahn informs Trump of Yates’ report that Flynn had a conversation with the Russian ambassador in December that included a discussion about US sanctions. This reveals that Flynn misled Pence when he said he had not had substantive conversations with the Russian ambassador.
January 27: In a one-on-one dinner at the White House, Trump reportedly asks FBI director James Comey whether he is personally under investigation by the FBI for possible Russia ties, according to a May 2017 NBC interview with Trump. Trump claims that Comey reassures him that he is not under investigation. Two of Comey’s associates who speak to the New York Times in May 2017 have a different account of the dinner: They say that Trump asked Comey for loyalty. Comey reportedly declined, but offered “honesty.”
January (date unknown): Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, meets at a Manhattan hotel with Felix Sater and a pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker to discuss a potential peace plan for Ukraine and Russia. The New York Times reports that Cohen delivered this plan to Flynn. Cohen confirms he met with Sater and the Ukrainian lawmaker, but denies that they discussed a Ukraine-Russia peace plan or that he delivered such a plan to Flynn or the White House.
February 7: Trump tweets:
February 8: In an interview with the Washington Post, Flynn denies discussing US sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
February 9: A spokesman for Flynn softens the national security adviser’s denial, telling the Washington Post that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
February 10: Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump says he is not aware of reports that Flynn has discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador. He has in fact been aware of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak since late January.
– Dmitri Rybolovlev’s plane lands in Miami, the day before Trump is set to arrive at Mar-a-Lago for the weekend.
February 13: Flynn resigns following reports that the Justice Department warned the White House that Flynn had misled senior members of the administration, including Pence, about whether he discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
February 14: The New York Times reports that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies have intercepted repeated communications between Trump campaign officials and other Trump associates and senior Russian intelligence and government officials.
– Spicer denies that Trump or his campaign had any contacts with Russia during the election.
February 15: During a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump does not answer a question about potential connections between his campaign and Russia during the election. He blames Flynn’s ouster on leaks. This is a different position than the one taken by the White House previously: that Flynn was asked to resign because he misled Pence about his communication with the Russian ambassador.
– Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, asks the FBI to publicly knock-down media reports that the US intelligence community was investigating the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia intelligence operatives during the election. The FBI refuses to do so. The administration then enlists the help of the intelligence community and several members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees, both of which are conducting investigations into Trump’s Russia connections—to call media outlets to counter stories about contacts between Trump staffers and Russians.
– In an appearance on PBS Newshour, Carter Page denies that he had any meetings with Russian officials in 2016.
February 16: At a news conference, Trump is asked whether anyone in his campaign had been in contact with Russia. He replies, “Nobody that I know of.” He also denies having any contact with Russia, saying, “Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.”
February 17: FBI Director James Comey meets with members of the Senate intelligence committee. That same day, the committee sends letters to more than a dozen agencies, groups, and individuals, asking them to preserve all communications related to the committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
February 19: During an interview on Fox News, Priebus denies that the Trump camp had any contact with Russia.
February 28: Republicans on the House judiciary committee vote down a Democrat-sponsored resolution that would have required the Trump administration to disclose information about Trump’s ties to Russia (and his possible financial conflicts of interest).
– White House lawyers ask Trump staffers to preserve any materials related to possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
March 1: The Washington Post reports that Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, did not disclose in his January confirmation hearings that he twice met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Sessions had said during a confirmation hearing that “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Sessions’ Justice Department spokeswoman says Sessions met with Kislyak in his capacity as a senator on the armed services committee, and that the question during the confirmation hearing was about the Trump campaign’s Russian connections.
March 2: Facing criticism over the revelations that he withheld information regarding his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearings, Sessions announces that he will recuse himself from any investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
– On NBC, Sessions denies that he ever discussed the Trump campaign with Russians. “I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false,” he said. “And I don’t have anything else to say about that.”
– Alex Oronov, a Ukrainian billionaire businessman who was connected by marriage to Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and associate, dies unexpectedly. Oronov’s daughter was married to Cohen’s brother. Oronov reportedly set up a January 2017 meeting between Cohen and Russian officials to discuss a possible “peace plan” between Russia and Ukraine that would have formalized Putin’s control over Crimea. The New York Times reported that this peace proposal was hand-delivered to Michael Flynn prior to his forced resignation.
– The White House acknowledges that Jared Kushner and Flynn met with Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in December. The meeting was first reported by The New Yorker.
– The Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump Jr. was paid at least $50,000 for his October 2016 appearance before a French think tank run by a couple allied with Russia on ending Syrian conflict.
– USA Today reports that two other Trump advisers, Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, met with Sergey Kislyak during the Republican National Convention.
– In an MSNBC appearance, Page says he doesn’t deny that this meeting took place.
– J.D. Gordon tells CNN that during the Republican National Convention, he did in fact push to alter the Republican platform’s draft policy on Ukraine to align it with Trump’s views on Russia.
March 3: Trump dresses down senior staffers in a meeting in the Oval Office over Jeff Sessions’ recusal and over news reports connecting the Trump administration to Russia.
March 4: Without providing any proof, Trump alleges that President Obama wiretapped his phones during the election.
March 5: Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the White House is requesting that the congressional intelligence committees examine Trump’s allegations that Obama wiretapped Trump during the campaign as part of their investigation into Russia’s election activity. Spicer also says the White House will not comment further on the wiretapping allegation until the completion of this investigation.
March 10: Trump adviser Roger Stone acknowledges that during the 2016 campaign he exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that US intelligence agencies believe was a front for Russian intelligence. Stone claims the conversations were so “perfunctory” and “banal” that he had forgotten about them.
– The yacht belonging to Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev anchors in a cove in the British Virgin Islands. Another yacht anchors next to Rybolovlev’s—the Sea Owl, owned by Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s biggest donors during the 2016 election and an investor in the conservative Breitbart News.
March 15: Asked about his decision to accuse Obama of wiretapping him without evidence, Trump hints that information will soon emerge to back up his claims. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
March 20: Shortly before the House intelligence committee holds its first public hearing on its investigation into Russia’s interference in the US election, a senior White House official tells the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, “You’ll see the setting of the predicate. That’s the thing to watch today.” Lizza later reports:
He suggested that I read a piece in The Hill about incidental collection. The article posited that if “Trump or his advisors were speaking directly to foreign individuals who were the target of U.S. spying during the election campaign, and the intelligence agencies recorded Trump by accident, it’s plausible that those communications would have been collected and shared amongst intelligence agencies.”
The White House clearly indicated to me that it knew Nunes would highlight this issue. “It’s backdoor surveillance where it’s not just incidental, it’s systematic,” the White House official said. “Watch Nunes today.”
– In his opening statement at the hearing, Nunes asks, “Were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign subject to any kind of improper surveillance?” The day’s biggest news, however, comes from FBI Director James Comey who testifies the hearing that the bureau has since July been “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Both Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers dismiss Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him during the election.
– In response to questions from Mother Jones‘ David Corn, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House intelligence committee, tells reporters he has never heard of key figures connected to the Trump-Russia scandal, including Carter Page and Roger Stone.
– Spicer tells reporters that Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign from April 2016 to August 2016, “played a limited role” on the campaign “for a very limited amount of time.”
March 22: The Associated Press reports that, starting in the mid-2000s, Manafort worked on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.” The news service quotes a 2005 strategy memo authored by Manafort, who writes, “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.” Manafort denies working on behalf of Russian interests.
– Mother Jones reports that Manafort tried to help Deripaska secure a visa to the United States. The aluminum magnate had been denied entry to the United States at various points because of suspected ties to the Russian mafia.
– Rep. Devin Nunes, without briefing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), his Democratic counterpart on the intelligence committee, or other members of the panel, calls a surprise press conference, announcingthat he has seen evidence that the intelligence community “incidentally” picked up communications by Trump transition officials in the course of lawful surveillance on foreign parties. He claims that the names of Trump officials were “unmasked” and that “none of this surveillance was related to Russia.”
– In a remarkable departure from intelligence committee norms, Nunes visits the White House to brief Trump on his findings. The president later says he feels “somewhat” vindicated by the information Nunes shared.
– Schiff releases a statement expressing “grave concerns” about Nunes’ actions and casting doubt about whether a “credible investigation” can be conducted under these circumstances.
– Schiff tells MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that there is “more than circumstantial evidence now” of potential collusion between Trump officials and Russian operatives.
– CNN, citing “US officials,” reports that the “FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
March 23: The Associated Press reports that US Treasury Department agents have obtained records of “offshore financial transactions” by Paul Manafort, in conjunction into an ongoing anti-corruption investigation into his work in Eastern Europe. According to the new service, “As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars’ worth of wire transfers to Manafort. In one case, the AP found that a Manafort-linked company received a $1 million payment in October 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 million payment left the account the same day—split in two, roughly $500,000 disbursements to accounts with no obvious owner.”
– Trump tweets:
– Rep. Nunes apologizes to Democratic members of the intelligence committee for failing to brief them on the new information he obtained and instead taking it straight to the White House, but he won’t explain why he took this unusual action.
March 24: Rep. Devin Nunes holds a press conference, where he announces that Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify before the House intelligence committee. He also announces that the committee will be delaying its next open hearing, which had been planned for March 28.
March 27: The New York Times reports that in early December 2016, Jared Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the chief of Russia’s state-owned development bank at the request of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The paper also reports that the Senate intelligence committee has informed the White House that it will seek to question Kushner about this meeting and his interactions with the Kislyak.
– The New York Times reports that on the evening of March 21, Rep. Nunes met with a source on the grounds of the White House grounds. The source reportedly showed Nunes “dozens” of classified intelligence reports. The next day, Nunes announced he had viewed evidence that showed that US intelligence agencies had “incidentally” collected communications among Trump transition team members while surveilling other parties.
– House Democrats, including minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, call on Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the House intelligence committee investigation into Russia’s election interference.
– Trump tweets:
March 28: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration has tried to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before the House intelligence committee. Yates—who was fired by Trump in January after she instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the administration’s executive order temporarily blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries—was scheduled to testify before the committee in a public hearing that was canceled by Nunes. The White House denied that it had tried to block Yates from testifying, calling the Post‘s story “entirely false.”
– NBC reports:
A bank in Cyprus investigated accounts associated with President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for possible money-laundering, two banking sources with direct knowledge of his businesses here told NBC News.
Manafort — whose ties to a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin are under scrutiny—was associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies on Cyprus, dating back to 2007, the sources said. At least one of those companies was used to receive millions of dollars from a billionaire Putin ally, according to court documents.
Banking sources said some transactions on Manafort-associated accounts raised sufficient concern to trigger an internal investigation at a Cypriot bank into potential money laundering activities. After questions were raised, Manafort closed the accounts, the banking sources said.
According to a Manafort spokesman, “All were legitimate entities and established for lawful ends.”
March 29: Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), respectively the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, hold a press conference. They vow a tough, bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. “This investigation’s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads,” Burr says. According to Burr, seven committee staffers have been assigned to the probe and the committee has begun to schedule the first of 20 interviews.
March 30: The Senate intelligence committee convenes its first hearing into Russian interference in the presidential election.
– The New York Times reports that two White House officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, “played a role in providing” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) access to intelligence reports showing that “President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.” Cohen-Watnick was brought on to the National Security Council by Michael Flynn, for whom he had worked at the National Security Council. After Flynn’s ouster, his replacement, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, attempted to “sideline” Cohen-Watkins, according to Politico. Jared Kushner and White House strategist Stephen Bannon intervened on the NSC staffer’s behalf, taking the matter all the way to Trump. Ellis worked for Nunes before taking a job in the White House as a lawyer working on national security matters.
-The Wall Street Journal reports that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has told the FBI and the congressional committees investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that he will agree to be interviewed in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Flynn’s attorney says in a subsequent statement that the retired general “certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”
March 31: NBC reports that the Senate intelligence committee has denied Flynn’s request for immunity, telling Flynn’s lawyer the request was “wildly preliminary” and currently “not on the table.”
March (date unknown): Weeks after its former CEO, Rex Tillerson, becomes Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil files an application with the Treasury department for a waiver from US sanctions on Russia. Exxon seeks the waiver in order to resume an exploration and drilling project with Russian-state oil giant Rosneft. Tillerson has said that he will recuse himself from State Department decisions that could benefit Exxon for one year.
April 4: The Pentagon launches an investigation into Michael Flynn for accepting payments from a foreign government without prior approval, in potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
April 6: The House ethics committee announces that it is investigating Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House intelligence committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, due to allegations that he made “unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” In a statement, Nunes says that he will temporarily remove himself from the House intelligence committee’s Russia investigation into Russian interference while the House ethics committee investigates, “despite the baselessness of the charges” against him.
April 11: In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Eric Trump says that the Trump administration’s decision to launch missiles at a Syrian military target shows that there is no connection between President Trump and the Russian government, which backs the Assad regime.
-The Washington Post reports that in the summer of 2016, the FBI and DOJ obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to monitor the communications of Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. “This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents,” notes the Post.
April 12: The Associated Press confirms that at least $1.2 million in payments listed next to Paul Manafort’s name on a “black accounts” ledger in Ukraine that was uncovered in August 2016 were in fact received by Manafort’s consulting firm. Manafort had initially denied receiving illicit payments, and told the AP that “any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting work that was provided. I invoiced my clients and they paid via wire transfer, which I received through a U.S. bank.”
–CNN reports that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have reviewed documents related to allegations that Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice had improperly requested the “unmasking” of Trump transition team members in intelligence reports. The lawmakers who reviewed these reports “have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal,” CNN reported, though Trump had previously called the allegations a “massive story.”
-In an interview on the Fox Business Network, Trump says that it is “not too late” to fire FBI director James Comey, but also says that he still has confidence in him.
April 13: House Democrats send a letter to FBI Director James Comey and the head of the National Background Investigations Bureau, calling for the suspension of Jared Kushner’s security clearance. Kushner, they write “failed to disclose key meetings with foreign government officials during his application process,” including Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Sergei Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned development bank. “Knowingly falsifying or concealing information on a SF-86 questionnaire is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison,” the lawmakers write.
April 14: Legistorm reports that Andrii Artemenko, the pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker that in January met with two Trump associates to discuss a possible peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, is paying $30,000 a month to a pro-Trump preacher in Pennsylvania who has ties to Russia and Ukraine. According to Legistorm, the funds were for “strategic counseling and representation to advance US-Ukraine relations, including engagement with public officials, legislators and government agencies” and a filing from Armstrong’s LLC notes the payments were not financed by a foreign government. The preacher, Dale Armstrong, helps run two groups focused on bringing biblical values to Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
April 19: Reuters reports that Russian government think tank RISS, described by officials as the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank and staffed by Putin-appointees, had developed plans to interfere with the US election. Seven current or former US officials describe documents produced and circulated by RISS in June and October 2016, first calling on the Kremlin to mount a propaganda campaign to help elect a pro-Russia president and later to stoke concerns about Hillary Clinton and voter fraud.
-The Justice Department confirms that Mary McCord, the acting assistant attorney general in the department’s national security division, will leave the department in May 2017. McCord heads the department’s investigation into Russia interference in the presidential election.
April 21: CNN reports that in the summer of 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, US and European intelligence found that Russian intelligence operatives were attempting to infiltrate the Trump campaign through Trump advisers, including Carter Page. Citing US officials, the network reports that Page and several other Trump advisers were repeatedly in contact with Russian officials and other Russians on the radar of intelligence agencies.
April 23: The Daily Beast reports that the committee’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia is floundering. More than three months after the probe was launched, none of the seven staffers assigned to the investigation are working on it full-time, none have investigative or legal experience, and most have no Russia expertise.
April 25: Leaders of the House Oversight Committee tell reporters that Michael Flynn may have broken the law by failing to disclose a $34,000 payment from RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet, on his 2016 application to renew his security clearance. Flynn received the fee for speaking at 2015 gala hosted by RT, where he was seated beside Vladimir Putin.
“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate. And there are repercussions for the violation of law.”
The revelation comes after Chaffetz, the committee’s chairman, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), its ranking member, asked the White House and other federal agencies to provide documents related to Flynn’s foreign communications and payments, including his security clearance application. The Defense Intelligence Agency provided documents to the committee, according to Chaffetz and Cummings, but the White House has declined to comply with the document request.
-Flynn’s attorney issues a statement implying that Flynn obtained all necessary permissions related to his appearance at the RT event: “General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of the Department of Defense, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings.”
April 27: The Department of Defense confirms that Michael Flynn has been under investigation by the Pentagon since April 4, for accepting payments from a foreign government, allegedly without informing the appropriate Defense officials.
-Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, releases documents showing that in October 2014, Flynn was warned by the Defense Intelligence Agency about accepting payments from foreign governments. The documents released by Cummings show that the DIA counsel’s office responded to an inquiry from Flynn with a letter explaining that he could not receive foreign government payments without prior approval, due to the constitution’s emoluments clause.
-The DIA documents released by House oversight also state that, contrary to the implication of Flynn’s attorney on April 25, the DIA has no record of Flynn seeking permission to receive payments from a foreign source.
May 1: During an Oval Office interview with CBS’ John Dickerson, Trump says “I don’t stand by anything” when asked about his claims that President Obama tapped his phones during the 2016 election. Trump then proceeds to double down on the wiretapping accusation: “I think our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it and frankly, it should be discussed.” Trump cuts the interview short when Dickerson presses him on his claims.
May 2: During a Q&A, Hillary Clinton blames her election defeat on Russian hacking and FBI director James Comey’s October 28 letter to Congress stating that the bureau was examining newly discovered emails possibly related to its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server. “I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off—and the evidence for that intervening event is, I think, compelling [and] persuasive,” she said.
– Donald Trump tweets:
May 3: FBI director James Comey testifies before the Senate judiciary committee, saying, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”
In an interview with Boston radio station WBUR, golf journalist James Dodson says Eric Trump told him that funding for Trump golf courses came from Russia.
“So when I got in the cart with Eric,” Dodson says, “as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks—because of the recession, the Great Recession—have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’ Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.”
Eric Trump later denies saying this.
May 8: Donald Trump issues a pair of tweets ahead of a hearing where former acting attorney general Sally Yates is expected to testify that she warned the Trump administration that Michael Flynn had lied about his interactions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before Trump ultimately fired his national security adviser.
– Hours after Trump took to Twitter to imply that his hiring of Flynn was Obama’s fault, NBC Newsreported that Obama had warned Trump against hiring Flynn during their meeting in the Oval Office on November 10—two days after Trump was elected and months before Trump appointed Flynn as his national security adviser.
May 9: Donald Trump fires FBI director James Comey, following recommendations to do so from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein’s memo recommending Comey’s firing explains that his recommendation is the result of Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign. Read Trump’s letter firing Comey, along with Sessions and Rosenstein’s memos recommending Comey’s termination, below:
-Following Comey’s firing, CNN reports that the US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia has issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn’s, marking an escalation of the FBI’s investigation into Russia.
-Within hours of Comey’s firing, more than 100 lawmakers, including several Republicans, have called for an independent investigator or special prosecutor to be assigned to the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, particularly now that the new FBI head will be chosen by Trump himself. “It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy,” said Republican congressman from Florida Rep. Curbelo.
May 10: Early in the morning, Trump takes to Twitter to defend his firing of James Comey. “Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!” he writes.
-CNN reports that a source claims that Roger Stone urged Trump to fire Comey. Within minutes, Trump responds to the report on Twitter, calling out CNN and saying the report is “fake news.”
Stone says on Twitter that he “never made such a claim” but supports Trump’s decision “100%.”
-As controversy swirls surrounding Trump’s firing of Comey, the White House announces the Press Secretary Sean Spicer will be gone for the rest of the week fulfilling his US navy reserve duty and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy press secretary, will cover for him, including running the first press briefing since Trump’s firing of the FBI director.
-Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrives in Washington for meetings with top officials, including Trump himself. At a press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcoming the Russian Foreign Minister, a reporter asked a question about the Comey firing. Lavrov responded, ironically “Was he fired? You are kidding, you are kidding!” before walking away. On May 15, the Washington Post will report that while meeting with Lavrov at the White House, Trump shares highly classified information with him and the Russian ambassador.
-In remarks on the Senate floor, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell rejects calls for a special prosecutor to take over the Russia probe. “Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done,” he said.
May 11: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies in a Senate hearing that the White House has misled the public about the FBI’s Russia investigation and regard for Comey at the agency. He says the Russia probe is “highly significant” and that “Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
-The New York Times and CNN each report via sources close to James Comey that part of President Trump’s motivation for firing Comey was the FBI director’s refusal to swear political loyalty to the president. The Times details a conversation between Trump and Comey during a one-on-one dinner that took place at the White House on January 27—just one day after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump White House that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by the Kremlin. Three days before the dinner, on Jan. 24, Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. In the conversation with Yates the day before the Comey dinner, White House Counsel Don McGahn asked Yates how Flynn did in the FBI interview, and Yates declined to answer.
-Trump says in an NBC interview that he asked Comey three times whether he is personally under investigation by the FBI for possible Russia ties—twice on the phone, and once at the January 27 dinner. Trump claims that Comey reassured him that he is not under investigation. (Sources close to Comey say this never happened.)
May 15: The Washington Post reports that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak in their White House meeting on May 10. A US official tells the Post that the information had one of the highest available classification levels. “This is code-word information,” the official tells the Post, adding that Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
-White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster reads a statement to the press denying the Washington Post’s report, while mischaracterizing the substance of it. He says: “The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time—at no time—were intelligence sources or methods discussed.” The Post didn’t report that sources and methods were disclosed; the paper reported that the information discussed could be used to discern intelligence sources or methods. After reading his statement, McMaster refuses to take questions.
May 16: Donald Trump defends himself on Twitter, without denying that he shared highly classified material with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador.
– A senior European intelligence official tells the Associated Press that his country may stop sharing intelligence with the United States if it is confirmed that Trump shared classified information with Russian officials.
-In a press briefing, H.R. McMaster clarifies that in calling the Washington Post‘s reporting “false,” he was disputing the “premise” of the article: that Trump had done “anything inappropriate” or that had compromised national security by revealing information to Russian officials. In response to multiple questions, McMaster refuses to confirm whether or not the information the president revealed was classified. McMaster also refuses to clarify why White House officials called the NSA and CIA after Trump’s conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak. McMaster says it was “wholly appropriate” for Trump to discuss the material.
-The New York Times reports that during an Oval Office meeting in February, Donald Trump asked then FBI director James Comey to drop the agency’s investigation into Michael Flynn, who had resigned the day before amid controversy over his discussions of US sanctions with the Russian ambassador. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said to Comey, according to a two-page memo Comey drafted after the meeting. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” The Washington Post and Politico subsequently confirmed the Times’ account. According to the paper, Comey kept detailed records of all of his conversations with the president.
-The Washington Post reports that Comey shared his memos with a small number of people at the Justice Department. (It’s unclear whether those officials include Rod Rosenstein or Jeff Sessions, who were involved in Comey’s firing.)
– At the International Republican Institute’s Freedom Awards, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) likens Trump’s mounting Russia scandal to Watergate: “I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale, and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen. It’s a centipede that the shoe continues to drop.”
– ABC reports that “Federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter.”
May 17: House Democratic leaders hold a press conference in which they announce that they are circulating a discharge petition among their congressional colleagues to try to force a vote on legislation that would create a 12-person independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference in the US election.
– Eleven Democratic senators send a letter to the Justice Department Inspector General asking him to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions violated his pledge to recuse himself from any investigations connected to the 2016 election when he took part in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
– During a press conference in Sochi, Russia, Putin calls the allegations that Trump had revealed classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak “political schizophrenia.” He also offers to provide the US with a transcript of Lavrov’s oval office meeting with Trump.
– Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
– The Washington Post reports that during a private June 2016 meeting with Republican leaders, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he believed Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll. “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,’ McCarthy said, referring to Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), a steadfast defender of Putin and Russia. When his colleagues laughed, McCarthy added, “Swear to god.” (McCarthy says he was joking.)
– The New York Times reports that Michael Flynn told the Trump transition team’s chief lawyer in early January—before the inauguration—that Flynn was under investigation for failing to disclose more than $500,000 of work as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.
– McClatchy reports that 10 days before Trump’s inauguration, Flynn asked to delay an Obama administration plan to fight ISIS that Turkey opposed.
May 18: Reuters reports that Michael Flynn and other members of Trump’s campaign had at least 18 previously undisclosed calls and emails with Russian officials in the last seven months of the 2016 presidential campaign.
– During a White House news conference with the Colombian president Trump denies any collusion with Russia and again calls the investigation a “witch hunt.” “I respect the move,” Trump said of the DOJ’s appointment of special prosecutor Robert Mueller III to oversee the Russia investigation, “But the entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign—but I can always speak for myself—and the Russians. Zero.”
-Two sources close to Michael Flynn tell Yahoo News that at a dinner on April 25, more than two months after leaving his post as national security adviser, Flynn told a group of close friends that he was still in regular communication with the president. “I just got a message from the president to stay strong,” he reportedly told the group, on the heels of a day when two congressmen announced that Flynn may have broken the law by failing to disclose a $34,000 payment from RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet, on his 2016 application to renew his security clearance.
May 19: The Washington Post reports that people familiar with the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties have identified a senior White House adviser as a “significant person of interest.”
– The New York Times reports that in Trump’s May 10 Oval Office meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Trump called former FBI director Comey a “nut job” and expressed relief at his ouster. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting, which an American official read to The New York Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
– McClatchy reports that the investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election has been expanded to include the possibility of a cover-up by the White House, according to members of Congress who were briefed on Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.
– CNN reports that White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures, despite public assurances by many Republicans and Democrats that impeachment is still a distant option.
– Citing “multiple government officials,” CNN reports that during the presidential campaign Russian officials bragged about their strong ties to Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Trump.
May 22: The Associated Press reports that Michael Flynn will refuse to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee that is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, invoking the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Below is the letter sent to the committee by Flynn’s lawyer and obtained by AP:
– Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Donald Trump denies mentioning “Israel” in his May 10 conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office. In making this statement, Trump tacitly implies that he did in fact discuss classified information with these Russian officials and also appears to confirm that the classified information originated with Israel—a statement that no US official has made publicly.
– NBC reports that Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have turned over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
May 23: Testifying before the House intelligence committee former CIA director John Brennan says he grew alarmed during the election that the Russian government was trying to influence members of the Trump campaign to act on its behalf: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.” He notes, “I saw interaction that in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion,” but says that at the time he left his post in January it was unclear “whether such collusion existed.”
-During his House Intelligence Committee testimony, Brennan also describes calling Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, on August 4, 2016, to caution him against further interference in the election. According to Brennan, Bortnikov denied any meddling by Russia.
May 24: The Justice Department tells CNN that Jeff Sessions did not disclose his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other foreign dignitaries when applying for security clearance.
– House Democrats send a letter to Deutsche Bank’s CEO requesting information on “whether loans Deutsche Bank made to President Trump were guaranteed by the Russian Government, or were in any way connected to Russia.”
May 25: The New York Times reports that conversations intercepted by American intelligence in the summer of 2016 showed that senior Russian officials discussed how to influence Trump’s presidential campaign, zeroing in on Michael Flynn and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
-The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner has been identified as a focus of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials, according to people familiar with the investigation. This makes him the first White House official revealed to be central in the FBI’s probe.
May 26: The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador discussed setting up a secure and secret back-channel between the Trump team and Russian officials during the transition. According to intercepted communications reviewed by US officials, Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that during a December meeting at Trump Tower, Kushner proposed the back-channel idea and suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the US to avoid detection. Trump’s incoming National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, was also at the meeting. (Sources close to Kushner tell the New York Times that the purpose of the secret channel was to facilitate discussions on Syria strategy and other security issues between Russian military officials and Flynn.)
-The New York Times reports that Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminum magnate with ties to Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the election in exchange for full immunity. The committees reportedly turned down Deripaska’s offer.
May 27: Reuters reports that, according to seven US officials, Jared Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed discussions with the Russian ambassador during and after the 2016 campaign, including two phone calls in April and November 2016.
May 28: The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, says in an appearance on ABC News that Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be reviewed in light of revelations that he discussed setting up a secret back channel of communication with Russian officials. “There’s another question about his security clearance and whether he was forthcoming about his contacts on that,” Schiff says. “If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn’t reveal that, that would be a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of security clearance.”
May 29: The New York Times reports that the federal and congressional investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia are looking into Jared Kushner’s December 2016 meeting with Sergei Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state-owned development bank currently under US sanctions due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Former and current US officials tell the Times that the meeting has piqued investigative interest because it may have been part of Kushner’s efforts to create a secret communication backchannel with Russian officials.
May 30: CNN reports that conversations intercepted by the US during the 2016 election picked up Russian officials saying that they have “derogatory” information about Donald Trump and some of his top aides. One source told CNN that these discussions suggested that the Russian officials believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.”
– ABC News reports that the congressional investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has been expanded to include Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal attorney. The committees asked Cohen for his voluntary cooperation in providing testimony about contacts he’d had with Russian officials, but Cohen declined.
May 31: CNN reports that congressional investigators are looking into whether Jeff Sessions may have had another private meeting with the Russian ambassador on April 27, 2016—when both attended Donald Trump’s first foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.
– As part of its probe into Russian interference in the US election, the House Intelligence Committee issues its first seven subpoenas, asking for testimony and documents from Michael Flynn and Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Three of the subpoenas were sent to the NSA, FBI, and CIA requesting information about requests made by Obama administration officials to “unmask” the names of Trump staffers in intelligence reports which were later leaked to the press. Committee aides claimed that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued the subpoenas unilaterally, without consulting Democrats on the committee, in spite of the fact that he recused himself in April from leading the Russia investigation following outrage at a secret visit to the White House and the start of an ethics investigation into whether he mishandled classified documents.
June 1: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is considering returning two diplomatic compounds—one in New York and one in Maryland—to Russia. In December 2016, the Obama administration—which said the compounds were being used by Russia for intelligence activities—required Russian officials to vacate the premises as part of sanctions for their interference in the election.
– The Guardian reports that British politician and Brexit movement leader Nigel Farage is a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation of possible ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
– Speaking to reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia, Putin shifts away from the Kremlin’s many blanket denials of Russian meddling in the US election, saying instead that it’s possible that “patriotically minded” individuals may have instigated hacking related to the US election. “Hackers are free people, just like artists, who wake up in the morning in a good mood and start painting,” Putin said.
Putin also calls Trump a “direct and genuine person” with “a fresh view of things.”
June 2: Stories from the Associated Press and Reuters report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia to include additional allegations about Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort; Mueller will assume control of a federal grand jury investigation in Virginia looking into Flynn’s work as a paid lobbyist for Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Mueller is also reportedly taking over a separate criminal probe, initiated by the Justice Department in July 2016, into Manafort and his possible ties to corrupt dealings by the pro-Putin president of Ukraine. Separately, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tells the AP that Mueller may also expand his investigation to include the roles of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein in the firing of FBI director James Comey.
– At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, NBC News reporter Keir Simmons repeatedly asks Sergey Gorkov, the chief of US-sanctioned Vnesheconombank, about his December meeting with Jared Kushner. Gorkov refuses to answer the question.
June 5: The Intercept publishes a classified National Security Agency document reporting that Russia’s military intelligence service “executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.” (Russia’s attempts to hack into voter registration systems have previously been reported, but the NSA intelligence report provides details of how one such operation occurred.) Shortly after the story goes live, an NSA contractor named Reality Winner is charged with leaking classified information.
– The White House says that Donald Trump will not assert executive privilege to block former FBI director James Comey from testifying before the Senate intelligence committee later that week.
June 6: Mother Jones reports that Roger Stone says he brokered a meeting between British politician Nigel Farage—who the Guardian reported is a “person of interest” in the FBI’s Russia investigation—and Donald Trump sometime after the 2016 Republican National Convention.
– Yahoo! News reports that lawyers with at least four top law firms declined to represent Trump in connection with the various ongoing Russia investigations.
– The Washington Post reports that on March 22, Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and CIA director Mike Pompeo whether he could ask then-FBI director James Comey for the bureau “to back off its focus” on Michael Flynn. Coats reportedly discussed the meeting with some of his associates, deciding that this sort of intervention would not be appropriate. “The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election,” the Post reports. “The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.”
– The New York Times reports that the day after a February Oval Office meeting in which Trump asked James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation of Michael Flynn, Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ensure that Comey was never left alone with the president. According to several law enforcement officials, Comey did not reveal what was said during his meeting with the Trump but told Sessions it was inappropriate for the FBI director to speak privately with the president.
– ABC reports that the relationship between Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump has grown so tense that the attorney general recently suggested to Trump that he could resign. The conflict between them stems, the network notes, from Sessions’ decision in March to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, after it came to light that he had undisclosed conversations with the Russian ambassador. According to ABC, “two sources close to the president say he has lashed out repeatedly at the attorney general in private meetings, blaming the recusal for the expansion of the Russia investigation.”
June 7: Four military officials tell the Daily Beast that, before his firing as national security adviser, Michael Flynn pushed to expand the “deconfliction channel” between Russia and the US in Syria—a move that, had it happened, would have likely run afoul of the law. The channel, established in 2015, has the narrow purpose of helping the US and Russia—which are backing different sides in Syria’s civil war—coordinate their planes in Syria’s crowded airspace, avoiding collisions. Flynn repeatedly suggested that the Pentagon expand the channel, using it to discuss the possibility of teaming up with Russia to fight ISIS. “If put into effect, such a proposal would clearly violate the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] prohibition on cooperation with Russia,” the Daily Beast reported. Ultimately, the proposal never took affect due to Pentagon opposition and Flynn’s ouster.
– During an event at Australia’s National Press Club, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the Trump-Russia scandal “pales” in comparison to Watergate. “I lived through Watergate, I was on active duty then in the Air Force, I was a young officer, it was a scary time,” Clapper said. “I have to say though, I think if you compare the two, Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now.”
– Testifying before the Senate intelligence committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers refuse to answer questions about whether Donald Trump had asked them to intervene in the FBI’s Russia investigation.
– The Senate Intelligence Committee releases the opening statement James Comey will deliver on June 8 at a hearing before the committee. The statement confirms that Trump asked then FBI-director Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn that has become a focus of the FBI’s Russia probe.
June 8: James Comey testifies before the Senate intelligence committee. He notes that he started keeping detailed memos of all of his interactions with Trump because during their first conversation “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.” Comey also said the president lied about his reasons for firing him. “The administration then chose to defame me—and, more importantly, the FBI—by saying the organization was in disarray and that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
June 9: During a Rose Garden press conference, Trump is asked whether he would be wiling to testify under oath about conversations he had with former FBI director James Comey in advance of his firing. Trump answers: “100 percent.”
June 10: In an interview with Fox News, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, appears to confirm James Comey’s version of his conversation with Trump in which Trump said “I hope you can let this go,” in reference to the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn. In his June 8 testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, said he perceived this statement to be a directive to drop the Flynn investigation. Trump’s lawyer released a statement saying that Trump “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.” In his Fox News interview, Donald Trump Jr. appeared to confirm Comey’s account: “When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends: Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey. And for this guy, as a politician, to then go back and write a memo: ‘Oh, I felt threatened.’ He felt so threatened — but he didn’t do anything.”
June 11: Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, tells ABC Newsthat before being fired by Trump in March, he received a series of phone calls from the president that made him uncomfortable because it appeared that Trump was trying to “cultivate some kind of relationship.” Bharara reported one of these calls to the Department of Justice. Bharara says that listening to Comey’s June 8 testimony about his own conversations with Trump, in which he perceived efforts by Trump to influence the Russia investigation, “felt a little bit like déjà vu.”
-Trump attorney Jay Sekulow says on ABC that he would not rule out the possibility that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel who took over the Russia investigations following James Comey’s firing.
June 12: The New York Times reports details of the intelligence that Trump allegedly revealed to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during their May Oval Office meeting. Trump allegedly told the Russians that Israel had penetrated ISIS’ computer network, uncovering an elaborate plot to detonate bombs on planes, using explosives in laptops made to fool airport security. “His disclosure infuriated Israeli officials,” the Times reported.
– During a White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer appears to deny that Trump offered to testify under oath about his conversations with James Comey before the FBI director’s firing. Spicer says that in his Rose Garden comments, Trump was actually expressing his willingness to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller. When asked whether Trump would be willing to give sworn testimony before Congress, Spicer responds: “I don’t know, I have not had a further discussion with that.”
– A close friend of Trump’s, Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, tells PBS that he believes Trump is considering firing Robert Mueller. The White House releases a statement saying that Ruddy “never spoke to the President regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the President or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”
June 13: Three people familiar with the investigation into Russia’s cyber intrusions into US voting systems tell Bloomberg News that these incursions were much broader than had previously been reported. According to one of these sources, Russia gained access to voter databases and software systems in 39 states. The activity concerned the Obama administration so much, sources tell Bloomberg, that the White House contacted the Kremlin “to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.”
– Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate intelligence committee, where he repeatedly refuses to discuss his conversations with President Trump and calls the notion that he colluded with the Russians as they interfered in the 2016 election “an appalling and detestable lie.” Throughout his testimony, the attorney general frequently answers with “I don’t remember” or “I don’t recall.”
June 14: Special counsel Robert Mueller meets with members of the Senate intelligence committee.
– The Washington Post reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.
June 15: In a tweetstorm, Trump decries the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt”:
– The Washington Post and other outlets report that Vice President Mike Pence has retained a personal attorney to represent him in connection with the various Russia probes.
June 16: Trump appears to confirm that he is under investigation for obstruction of justice and seems to lash out at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
– NBC reports that Trump’s private attorney, Michael Cohen, has retained his own legal counsel.
June 18: ABC News reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein privately told his colleague, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s new third-in-command, that he may have to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, since it is possible he will have to serve as a witness, given his role in Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey. Such a recusal would prompt Brand to take over the investigation. (While Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation, he is still in charge of allocating resources to it and ultimately deciding if prosecutions will be necessary.)
June 21: During testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, Samuel Liles, says that hackers connected to the Russian government attempted to penetrate election-related computer systems in 21 states before the November 2016 election. Liles says that they successfully got into a “small number” of networks.
June 22: Trump tweets that he doesn’t know if there are recordings of his conversations with former FBI director James Comey, contradicting earlier tweets in which he implied such “tapes” existed.
– CNN reports that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Director of National Security Agency Adm. Mike Rogers each separately told Senate investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Trump suggested that they publicly deny that there was any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials. Both intelligence officials said they were surprised by the suggestion and found it uncomfortable, but did not perceive these statements as orders from the president.
June 23: The New York Times reports that the FBI is investigating a series of real estate deals and other financial transactions involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law Jeffery Yohai. The Times says it is not clear if the FBI’s interest is tied to Manafort’s role in the Trump-Russia investigation.
June 25: The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner’s real estate company received a $285-million loan from Deutsche Bank one month before the November 2016 election.That October, Kushner was advising his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, and Deutsche Bank was facing several legal actions in New York, including charges from state regulators that the bank had aided an alleged Russian money-laundering scheme.
June 27: Paul Manafort’s consulting firm retroactively files foreign lobbying disclosures showing that the firm received $17.1 million from a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine between 2012 and 2014. The payments were for work aimed at influencing US policy on Ukraine. Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, tells the Washington Post that Manafort began preparing his filing in September “before the outcome of the election and well before any formal investigation of election interference began.”
July 8: The New York Times reports that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-tied Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016, shortly after his father clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Also attending the meeting were Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Trump Jr. tells the Times: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.” And he noted: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
July 9: The New York Times reports that, prior to meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr. had been promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. offers the paper a different account of the meeting from his statement the previous day: “After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
July 10: Donald Trump tweets:
-Donald Trump Jr. responds to the New York Times‘ reporting:
-The New York Times reports that prior to meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the damaging information about Hillary Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy. That email came from Rob Goldstone, the publicist for Russian popstar Emin Agalarov, who asked Goldstone to set up this meeting between Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr.
July 11: Donald Trump Jr. corroborates the New York Times‘ story in a statement posted on Twitter. In tweets, he also publishes his email exchange with Goldstone in full. The emails show that Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr. in June 2016, stating that Russia’s crown prosecutor had told Aras Agalarov—the father of Goldstone’s client, Emin—and that he possessed “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” that could be shared with the Trump campaign. Goldstone also added that the information “is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responded by asking to speak to Emin about the material described in Goldstone’s email, and added: “If it’s what you say I love it.”
– Donald Trump Jr. appears on Sean Hannity’s Fox show, where he says of his meeting with a Kremlin-tied lawyer, “In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.” He also says “I wanted to hear them out and play it out.”
– ProPublica reports that Mark Kasowitz, the lawyer representing Donald Trump in the Russia inquiries, does not possess a security clearance and does not plan to seek one, a curious decision in a case involving some of the government’s most closely guarded secrets. The news outlet notes his decision might stem from the lawyer’s alleged struggles with alcohol, which could make it difficult to obtain a clearance. (A spokesman for Kasowitz subsequently released a statement saying, “Marc Kasowitz has not struggled with alcoholism.”)
– In an interview with NBC, Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya describes her June 9, 2016 meeting with Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort at Trump tower. She says that she never had any damaging information on Hillary Clinton and, contrary to emails sent by Goldstone to Trump Jr., never promised such information in order to procure the meeting.
July 12: McClatchy reports that “investigators 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.”
– Donald Trump defends his eldest son in a tweet, saying he’s “innocent”
-The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a confirmation hearing for Christopher Wray, Donald Trump’s pick for FBI director. During the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham asks Wray about whether he’s heard about “the email problems we’ve had with Donald Trump Jr. the last few days.” When Wray says he isn’t caught up on the controversy because he’s been in meetings with senators, Graham reads part of the email chain aloud and then asks Wray if Trump Jr. should have taken the meeting or alerted the FBI. Wray first avoids directly answering the question, but, after a heated exchange with Graham, concludes that “any threat or effort to interfere with our elections, from any nation-state, or any non-state actor, is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.” Here’s the full exchange:
– The Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee write to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting information about the Justice Department’s decision to settle United States v. Prevezon Holdings, a money laundering case targeting a Cyprus-based entity owned by a Russian businessman. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and other members of the elder Trump’s inner circle, represented Prevezon, remarking after the settlement that the penalty was so small it seemed like “almost an apology from the government.”
July 18: The Washington Post reports that the 8th person at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, a Georgia-born businessman who is a Vice President of Crocus Group International, a division of Crocus Group, the construction and development company owned by Aras Agalarov. Kaveladze, who says he has worked for Crocus Group since the late 1980s, was once at the center of a US government investigation into Russian money laundering.
– Mother Jones reports that Sen. Chuck Grassley, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee’s probe of Trump’s firing of Comey and possible collusion between the Trump camp and Russia, is “conducting a series of alternative investigations into tangential subjects,” in a way that seems to be designed “to minimize the culpability of Trump and his aides and to deflect attention from the core issues of the controversy.”
July 19: The White House confirms that Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin had a second, previously undisclosed, meeting at the G-20 Summit on July 7, and it lasted “nearly an hour.”
-The New York Times reports that Paul Manafort was in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before joining Donald Trump’s campaign as chairman in March 2016. This is reflected in financial records filed in Cyprus, which show that Manafort may owe up to $9.9 million to a Cyprus shell company connected to Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions, and $7.8 million to a company in the British Virgin Islands connected to Russian aluminum magnate and Putin ally Oleg Deripaska. A spokesman for Manafort told the Times that the Cyprus records are “stale and do not purport to reflect any current financial arrangements,” and did not address whether the debts shown in the records may have existed previously.
-The New York Times reports that Trump quietly ended a secret American program to provide arms to Syrian rebels fighting Assad’s government in Syria’s Civil War. The move aligns with Russian interests; Russia has backed Assad’s government and attacked the rebel forces.
-The New York Times reports that banking regulators are reviewing Donald Trump’s massive loan portfolio with Deutsche bank to see if Trump’s debt “might expose the bank to heightened risks.” The paper notes that Deutsche bank has already been in contact with federal investigators about Trump’s accounts. The Guardian separately reports that executives at the bank are expecting to soon receive subpoenas or other requests for information from special counsel Robert Mueller.
-Trump sits down for an Oval Office interview with three New York Times reporters. In their conversation, Trump says that if he had known Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he would not have nominated him to be Attorney General. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump says. Trump also says that if Special Counsel Robert Mueller were to start delving into his finances or his family’s, that would be a “violation,” but refuses to answer whether or not he would fire Mueller over it.
– Twenty-two Democratic members of Congress send a letter to the FBI expressing concerns over possible discrepancies in Ivanka Trump’s application for a security clearance. As part of the application, Trump had to disclose foreign contacts. Her husband Jared Kushner has updated his own clearance multiple times with more than 100 meetings and phone calls—a number of them with Russian officials—that he failed to disclose initially. “We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception,” reads the letter.
July 20: Bloomberg reports that Robert Mueller has expanded the Trump-Russia probe to include a range of transactions with Trump businesses; these include apartment purchases by Russians in Trump buildings, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s 2008 sale of a Florida mansion to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.
-The Treasury Department fines ExxonMobil $2 million for violating Russian sanctions by signing contracts with Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft, while Rex Tillerson, now the Secretary of State, was Exxon’s CEO.
–CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has sent a notice to the White House requiring them to preserve all documents related to Donald Trump Jr.’s June 9, 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
July 24: Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner spends two hours behind closed-doors with the Senate intelligence committee answering questions related to the Trump-Russia investigation. In a statement to the committee and at a press conference following the closed-door session, he denies any collusion with Russia. “Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” he says.
July 25: Mother Jones reports that Carl Levin, a onetime chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations who left Congress in 2015, sent a letter the previous day to special counsel Robert Mueller and the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee highlighting a 2000 investigation of possible money-laundering by the company run by Ike Kaveladze—the 8th person in the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
During that probe, an official at Citibank, where Kaveladze established dozens of bank accounts on behalf of Delaware-Based shell companies, noted that Kaveladze’s main client at the time was Crocus International, a company headed by Aras Agalarov, who in 2013 partnered with Donald Trump to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow.
– The Senate judiciary committee issues a subpoena compelling former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort to appear at a open hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee the following day. Hours later, the committee withdraws its subpoena, reportedly because Manafort has begun to produce documents and voluntarily agreed to negotiate an interview time.
– By a margin of 419-3, the House passes a bill levying new sanctions against Russia and inhibiting the president’s ability to weaken them.
– Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, provides Senate investigators with notes he took during the June 2016 meeting that Donald Trump Jr. arranged with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The notes, which could confirm or refute Trump Jr.‘s claim that he did not receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton, have not been released to the public.
July 26: FBI agents raid Paul Manafort’s Virginia home and seize documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after obtaining a search warrant from a federal judge. The raid signals a new, aggressive, approach by Mueller.
July 27: Bill Browder, founder of the hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management, testifies before the Senate judiciary committee. Browder is a longtime investor in Russia who spearheaded the passage of the Magnitsky Act, the package of Russia sanctions allegedly discussed by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, during her June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. During the hearing, Browder discusses how Veselnitskaya and several other political operatives lobbied to repeal the Magnitsky Act without registering as foreign agents, a possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Browder says “there’s no doubt” Veselnitskaya was acting on behalf of the Russian government when she met with members of Trump’s inner circle.
– By at vote of 98-2, the Senate approves the House’s sanctions bill, sending it to the president’s desk.
July 28: The White House says that Trump will sign the sanctions legislation.
– Russia retaliates against the new sanctions by seizing two properties used by American diplomats and ordering the reduction of US embassy staff by September.
July 30: Vladimir Putin says Russia will expel 755 US diplomats and support staff in retaliation for the new sanctions.
July 31: Buzzfeed reports that the Republican National Committee has instructed its employees to preserve all documents covering the 2016 presidential campaign. Citing RNC lawyers, Buzzfeedreports this a “precautionary” measure “as investigations continue into Russia’s meddling in the election.”
– The Washington Post reports that while flying back from the G20 summit in Germany in early July, Donald Trump dictated his son Donald Trump Jr.’s response to revelations that he’d met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. The statement, given to the New York Times as they prepared a story about the meeting for publication, said that Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,” and that the meeting was not about “a campaign issue.” Over the next few days, it became clear this statement was misleading, as Trump Jr. acknowledged that he met with the lawyer after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The revelation that Trump crafted the misleading statement, the Post notes, could lead to additional scrutiny from investigators and eventually place Trump and his inner circle in “legal jeopardy.”
August 1: A lawsuit (first reported by NPR) is filed alleging that Fox News and a Texas Republican donor who backs Donald Trump worked with the White House to gin up a conspiratorial story concerning the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, in an effort to deflect attention from the Russia scandal. The lawsuit is brought by former Washington, DC detective (and longtime Fox contributor) Rod Wheeler, who has been investigating Rich’s murder on behalf of Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Dallas investor and frequent Fox commentator. Wheeler claims a Fox reporter fabricated quotations appearing in a retracted May 2017 article reporting that Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks prior to his death, implying that he—not Russian hackers—had provided the site with DNC documents and emails. The complaint includes a text message from Butowsky in which the investor says that Trump had read the story prior to its publication and wanted it to come out “immediately.”
August 2: Donald Trump signs into law new sanctions against Russia but issues a statement calling the measure “seriously flawed.” He notes: “By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President.”
August 3: Two bipartisan Senate bills are introduced by members of the judiciary committee that would restrict President Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Bob Mueller. One, by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Md.), would allow Mueller to challenge his dismissal before a panel of three federal judges. The others, by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), would require this judicial panel to review the Justice Department’s reasoning for his dismissal before Mueller could be fired.
– The Wall Street Journal reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election.
– Michael Flynn files an amended version of his federal disclosure form that includes new details about his contracts and income. The updated disclosure shows that that Flynn was hired as an adviser to SCL Group, which at the time was the parent company of the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, that worked on behalf of Trump’s campaign. One of Cambridge Analytica’s biggest financial backers is hedge fund mogul and Trump backer Robert Mercer, and White House strategist Stephen Bannon was a Cambridge Analytica vice president before joining the Trump campaign. The disclosure of Flynn’s ties to the SCL Group are significant because Trump’s campaign data operation has come under scrutiny as one source of possible collusion with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election.
August 4: NBC reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has tapped multiple grand juries in Washington, DC and Virginia as part of the Trump-Russia investigation, a sign that the investigation is gearing up.
-The New York Times reports that Robert Mueller’s investigative team has asked the White House for records related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This is the first known instance of Mueller’s team asking the White House for documents as part of their investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
–Politico reports that two Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee traveled to London earlier this summer to track down Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who compiled the Trump-Russia memo published by BuzzFeed in January. The previously unreported trip increases tensions with the House Intelligence Committee’s Democratic staff, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. The staffers didn’t end up talking with Steele during the trip.
August 6: In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein says that Robert Mueller can investigate any crimes uncovered as part of the Trump-Russia probe.
August 10: Bloomberg reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has sent subpoenas to global banks requesting transaction records and account information tied to Paul Manafort and several of his companies. A source tells Bloomberg that Mueller has reached out to Manafort’s son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, hoping to convince Manafort to be more cooperative.
-Taking a break from a vacation at his New Jersey golf club, Trump holds a brief press conference. The president tells reporters that he is grateful that Putin has expelled hundreds of US diplomats from Russia in response to US sanctions. “I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump says. Following outrage over Trump’s comments, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells the New York Times that the president’s remarks were meant to be funny and “sarcastic.”August 11: Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian lobbyist who attended the Trump tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016, testifies before a grand jury impaneled by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a report from the Financial Times.
August 14: The Washington Post reports on a set of Trump campaign emails showing persistent efforts by campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to coordinate a meeting about US-Russia ties between Trump and Russian leaders “including Putin” according to one email subject line. The exchanges—which were read to or confirmed to the Post by three sources with access to the emails—were sent between March and September 2016, as the presidential race heated up. The emails were included in more than 20,000 pages of documents the Trump campaign turned over to congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
August 16: The New York Times reports that a Ukrainian hacker known as Profexer—who American intelligence agencies have identified as the creator of a program used in Russian hacks targeting the US election—has turned himself over to the Ukrainian police and has become a witness for the FBI. “It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the election hacking and the heated debate it has stirred,” notes the Times.
-The Daily Caller reports that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. According to Rohrabacher, who openly admires Putin, Assange can prove that hacked Democratic party emails did not come from Russia.
August 18: BuzzFeed reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Donald Trump Jr. A source tells BuzzFeed that prosecutors are particularly interested in discovering what information Trump Jr. received at the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.
–Bloomberg reports on the friendship between Ivanka Trump and Dasha Zhukova, the wife of Russian billionaire and Putin ally Roman Abramovich. Bloomberg notes that Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner has met three or four times with Abramovich, and that Trump and Kushner disclosed their ongoing social relationship with the couple—which included a four day trip to Russia in 2014 at Zhukova’s initiation—on their security clearance forms.
August 21: The New York Times reports that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant who attended the July 2016 Trump Tower meeting, has much deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-supported oligarchs than was previously known. The Times also reports that Akhmetshin, who is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, has worked for Russian oligarchs whose opponents faced sophisticated hacks. Akhmetshin’s sister, father and godfather joined Russian intelligence services, but Akhmetshin has denied allegations that he is a Russian spy.
August 22: Glenn Simpson, the founder of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to compile the Trump-Russia dossier, meets with the Senate Judiciary Committee in a nearly 10-hour closed door session to answer questions about the financing and sourcing for the dossier. ABC News reports that Steele has already met with FBI investigators and provided them with the names of his sources for the dossier’s allegations.
August 27: Citing emails that will soon be turned over to congressional investigators, the Washington Post reports that President Trump’s company was pursuing a plan in late 2015 and early 2016 to build a “massive” Trump Tower in Moscow, well after he announced his presidential run in June 2015. Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer, told Trump he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to the emails, which the Post reports suggest additional connections between Trump’s associates and Russia-connected individuals.
August 28: The Washington Post reports that Michael Cohen, a top Trump organization executive and lawyer for the President, emailed Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman during the presidential campaign to push for the Trump Tower deal in Moscow. According to the Post, Trump cut a letter of intent with I.C. Expert Investment Co., a Moscow-based developer, in October 2015, and began to solicit designs and discuss funding.
– NBC News reports that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is “keenly focused” on what President Trump himself may have known about the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Russian operatives and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort—and whether the president may have tried to help conceal that meeting’s purpose once it was uncovered by the media.
August 29: CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Paul Manafort’s former lawyer and current spokesman.
August 30: Politico reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as part of his investigation into former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s financial transactions. Unlike possible federal crimes resulting from Mueller’s investigation, the president does not have the power to pardon state crimes.
August 31: NBC News reports on notes that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, took during a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Manafort’s contemporaneous notes included the word “donations” in possible relation to the Republican National Committee. According to NBC News, congressional investigators are trying to determine if participants discussed the possibility of Russian sources making illegal campaign contributions.
September 1: CNN reports that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of court, a jailable offense, if they don’t provide documents related to Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier. According to CNN, Nunes has continued to look into Trump-Russia matters, despite recusing himself from the committee’s investigation in April 2017.
September 8: The Washington Post reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has told the White House that he will seek to interview six high-ranking current and former advisers to President Trump including communications aide Hope Hicks, former press secretary Sean Spicer, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
–CNN reports on additional details from the letter of intent that Donald Trump signed to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the presidential campaign. According to CNN, the deal would have provided his company a $4 million upfront fee, a percentage of sales, and a spa named after his daughter Ivanka.
September 13: NBC News reports that Michael Flynn Jr., the son of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. According to three former and current government officials interviewed by NBC News, federal investigators are focused in part on the work he did for Flynn Intel Group, his father’s lobbying firm.
-The Wall Street Journal reports that Michael Flynn, while he was working as Trump’s national security advisor, promoted an idea to build nuclear power plants across the Middle East—a deal that would have benefited both Flynn’s former private sector employer and Russian companies. The project, valued at hundreds of billions of dollars, had previously proposed that Russian companies could provide fuel and manage the plants’ waste. According to former National Security Council staffers who spoke with the Journal, Flynn continued to meet with a group of military officers tasked with promoting the power plan on behalf of US firms even after NSC ethics advisers asked Flynn to cease communications—actions that the former staffers called “highly abnormal.”
The House Oversight Committee also released documents confirming that Flynn had traveled to the Middle East in June 2015 to promote this nuclear power plan to foreign officials. Flynn omitted this trip from the list of foreign contacts he submitted when applying for his Trump administration security clearance.
September 15: The Wall Street Journal reports that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) proposed a deal to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that would involve pardoning WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in exchange for evidence that Rohrabacher said would show Russia was not the source of hacked Democratic party emails.
September 17: The New York Times reports that White House counsel Don McGahn is clashing sharply with Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to help coordinate the White House’s response to the Russia investigation, over how much the White House should cooperate with Robert Mueller’s team. The Times was tipped off to the conflict after overhearing Cobb badmouthing McGahn at a Washington, DC steakhouse, claiming that the attorney is withholding certain documents.
September 18: The New York Times reports that when federal agents searched Manafort’s home in July 2017 as part of the Trump-Russia probe, they told him that he should expect to be indicted.
– CNN reports that, according to multiple sources, investigators wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, both before and after the election. The wiretap reportedly continued early this year, after Trump took office and during a period when he was known to have had communications with Manafort.
September 19: Reuters reports that President Donald Trump is using donations to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his legal defense against special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
– CNN reports that the Republican National Committee spent over $230,000 in August to cover some of Trump’s legal fees in the Russia investigation.
September 20: The Daily Beast reports that the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the group “Being Patriotic,” a suspected Russian propaganda front, helped organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016. The rallies “brought dozens of supporters together in real life,” notes the Daily Beast. “They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.”
– The Washington Post reports that, less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Paul Manafort offered to provide campaign briefings to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin. The email making the offer is among tens of thousands of documents turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators.
September 25: Roger Stone is grilled by the House Intelligence Committee for three hours behind closed doors. He refuses to disclose the identity of the claimed go-between that facilitated his communication with Wikileaks. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, threatened to subpoena Stone over the omission, saying that Stone refused to address a “seminal area of importance to the committee.”
September 26: Sen. Richard Blumenthal says that he is “99 percent sure” that there will be criminal charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
–CNN reports that the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service has begun sharing information with Robert Mueller’s investigative team.
September 28: CNN reports that, according to two sources familiar with the matter, a social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” that is linked to the Russian government used Facebook and Twitter to stoke racial tensions in the US during the 2016 election.
Additional updates by Daniel Schulman and Noah Lanard
Sputnik International–Oct 12, 2017
The Guardian–Oct 6, 2017
New York Daily News–Oct 9, 2017
New York Post–Oct 9, 2017
Bloomberg–Oct 9, 2017
Newsweek–Oct 10, 2017
Highly Cited–Washington Post–Oct 9, 2017
Highly Cited–Axios–Oct 12, 2017
Featured–The Atlantic–Oct 12, 2017
CNBC–Oct 4, 2017
In-Depth–Daily Beast–Oct 4, 2017
In-Depth–Sacramento Bee–Oct 5, 2017
U.S. News & World Report–Oct 12, 2017
The Hill–Oct 12, 2017
Common Dreams–Oct 12, 2017
Sputnik International–Oct 12, 2017
Highly Cited–Politico–Oct 12, 2017
As a result, critics say, the agency has been slow to cover major breaking news and even slower to respond to propaganda from other countries, particularly Russia. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Russian propaganda and the American government’s difficulty in responding effectively.
Some public policy experts and Voice of America officials say the overarching problem is that Congress and the White House have not clearly defined the role of the agency in America’s public diplomacy.
“U.S. international broadcasting is not taken into account at any level of the government when strategy dealing with the national interest and foreign policy is being put together,” said S. Enders Wimbush, a former member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
“They give lip service to international broadcasting, but it’s an afterthought.”
A report Mr. Wimbush helped write, based on interviews with more than 30 public diplomacy experts, said government international broadcasting should be “rebuilt from the ground up” so that it is fully aligned with foreign policy objectives. The report was financed by the Smith Richardson Foundation, a Connecticut-based group that provides grants to conservative causes but also to centrist and liberal organizations like the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.
Founded in 1942 as a part of the Office of War Information, the Voice of America started with a goal of countering Nazi and Japanese propaganda. It was widely credited with helping to end the Cold War by providing unfiltered news to dissidents and countering communist propaganda in the Soviet Union and Soviet-backed countries.
But the agency has been in decline since that time, pulled between providing credible news and supporting American policy. In 2013, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, said that the Broadcasting Board of Governors was “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.”
And in the Facebook and Twitter era, some have even asked if the Voice of America, whose budget is about $200 million a year, is still relevant.
Mr. Ensor pointed to a string of successes during his time at the agency. It has expanded its reach through social media and mobile and has created new television programming in Russian, Ukrainian, Persian, Mandarin, Burmese and Creole, among other languages. According to survey data prepared for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Voice of America’s international radio, television and online audience has reached 172 million people a week, an increase of 49 million during his tenure.
“The V.O.A. is keeping itself renewed and refreshed to face the challenges of today’s fast-changing media environment,” said Mr. Ensor, who added that his resignation was not related to uncertainties on the board.
Obama administration officials said the Voice of America and its sister agencies were vital to the nation’s diplomatic efforts.
“Given the challenges we have on a number of different fronts, from ISIS to Boko Haram, broadcasters like the V.O.A. are an important piece of what we are trying to do across the government,” said Richard A. Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, who represents Secretary of State John Kerry on the board of governors. “We need to have as much as we can out there trying to blunt the messages of these groups.”
Despite the criticism and resignations, board officials said they were forging ahead with plans to move the Voice of America more aggressively into digital media and to step up its efforts to counter propaganda.
“There is a narrative out there that this agency is broken,” said Robert Bole, the director of global strategy for the board of governors. “I can assure you that it is not.”
Still, many lawmakers remain unconvinced. The House Budget Committee recommended reducing funding to the board and its networks until “significant reforms” were made.
And House lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would revise the Voice of America’s charter to state explicitly that the agency has a role in supporting American “public diplomacy” and countering propaganda from other countries. The bill, which is opposed by journalists within the agency, passed the House last year, but the Senate did not take it up.
“Let’s fix the agency and create opportunities with the existing budget to get more resources to the field,” said Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has legislative oversight of the Voice of America.
“We don’t need to keep throwing more money at a bloated, ineffective bureaucracy.”
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Current Time, run by Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with help from Washington-based Voice of America, is targeting Russian speakers across the globe with round-the-clock programming intended to offer the type of fact-based news that its leaders say is sorely missing in the Russian market. The network formally launched this week after quietly starting operations last year.
“In a complicated world, it can be difficult to tell what’s real. But Current Time tells it like it is,” a narrator says in a flashy promotional video for the network. “Current Time serves as a reality check, with no ‘fake news’ or spin.”
The network, beamed into Europe via cable, satellite and online, reflects an American attempt to diminish the dominance of what the U.S. government has long warned is a growing Russian propaganda machine, epitomized by state-run outlets like Sputnik and RT, formerly known as Russia Today. The U.S. and others have raised concerns that such outlets distort Russians’ perceptions about their government while drowning out the limited sources of independent news available to Russian audiences.
The U.S. intelligence report on Russian hacking called RT part of “a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the U.S. Government and fuel political protest.”
Speaking to CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer last month, RT Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan dismissed the intelligence report and doubled down on her criticism of America.
“In your own words: ‘The U.S. lacks democracy and has no right to teach the world.’ What was that all about?” Palmer asked her.
“The U.S. has made a lot of mistakes all over the world. Look at Iraq,” Simonyan said. “The country that makes such mistakes do not have the moral right to teach the world.”
Alexey Kovalev used to work for Russia’s state news service, but is now with the independent paper the Moscow Times. He told Palmer the Kremlin’s goal is clear:
“To bring down the West to same level as Russia, and to show that your institutions are as sham as ours and your press isn’t free,” Kovalev said. “Your politicians are all liars and crooks like ours are.”
If the propaganda works, said Palmer, Russians, especially young Russians, will lose their faith in democracy and stop agitating for political change, and young Americans will lose faith in their country and its institutions media, too.
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the launch of Current Time.
Current Time’s executives say that despite the network origins within a wing of the U.S. government, offering balanced, accurate information is a far different mission than what Kremlin-run news outlets seek to do.
“This is not designed as propaganda or counter-propaganda,” said Tom Kent, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “We do not intend to be involved in reacting to an agenda set by anyone, in Russia or elsewhere.”
Still, the undertaking unavoidably plays into the roiling debate in the U.S. about President Donald Trump’s flirtations with a more conciliatory approach to Russia. Trump has emphasized the advantages of a more cooperative U.S.-Russia relationship while leaving open the possibility the U.S. could roll back penalties imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
Current Time, on the other hand, broadcasts a weekly show called “Crimea Realities” and another called “Donbass Realities.” The Obama administration’s sanctions were enacted after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine remains at the heart of the conflict between Kiev and Russia-backed rebels.
Those two shows join an eclectic mix of documentaries, human interest programming and traditional news shows that fill the network’s 24-hour schedule. There’s also a fact-check show, “See Both Sides,” that occasionally challenges Kremlin-fueled messaging more directly.
Roughly six hours per day are live news broadcasts, including an hour-long show broadcast from Washington and another from Prague. The network’s leaders said showing news events such as the U.S. inauguration live, rather than on tape delay, had proven a particularly effective way to assure audiences that what they are watching is truthful and undistorted.
The two outlets behind Current Time, RFE/RL and VOA, are U.S.-funded broadcasters whose mission is to support free speech and democracy around the world. They broadcast in dozens of languages but have their roots in Cold War efforts by the U.S. to present alternative viewpoints to audiences in the Soviet Union and its satellite states.
Both RFE/RL and VOA have long had Russian-language programming targeting viewers in specific countries, but Current Time marks a new attempt to market broadly to Russian speakers wherever they live.
In much of Europe – including former Soviet states with large Russian-speaking populations – Current Time has negotiated contracts with local cable providers that allow viewers to tune in from their home TVs. In Russia, distribution is more difficult, forcing perspective viewers to watch via satellite, web-TV apps or a live-feed on the network’s website.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead an investigation into Russian interference and related matters that could result in criminal prosecutions.
March 29, 2016 – Paul Manafort, a veteran GOP consultant, joins the Trump campaign as a strategist to help prepare for the Republican National Convention.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
a music publicist whose clients include Azerbaijani-Russian singer Emin Agalarov. Goldstone tells Trump Jr. that a Russian lawyer, working on behalf of the Kremlin, wants to pass along incriminating information about Clinton. He explains that Russia and its government want to support Trump by providing opposition research on Clinton. Trump Jr. indicates he is interested in seeing the information and suggests arranging a call.
June 7-8, 2016 – Goldstone sends Trump Jr. another email about setting up an in-person meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who will be flying from Moscow to New York on June 9, to talk to representatives from the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in New York. Trump loops in campaign manager, Paul Manafort and campaign adviser, Jared Kushner.
During an interview on British television,
says that the website has obtained and will publish a batch of Clinton emails.
that $12.7 million in illegal cash payments to Manafort were listed in a secret ledger linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who resigned amid street protests. Manafort had worked as an adviser to Yanukovych and his associates dating back at least a decade.
October 6, 2016 – DCLeaks, a self-described collective of “hacktivists” seeking to expose the influence of special interests on elected officials, publishes a batch of documents stolen from Clinton ally Capricia Marshall. DCLeaks is later identified as a front for Russian military intelligence.
Kushner later describes the encounter as a quick introduction, pushing back on a Washington Post report that the three talked about establishing backchannel communication with the Russians.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a
on Russian meddling.
hackers did not breach voting machines or computers that tallied election results but Russians meddled in other ways. Putin ordered a multifaceted influence campaign that included spreading pro-Trump propaganda online and hacking the DNC and Podesta. Bracing for a possible Clinton win, Russian bloggers were prepared to promote a hashtag #DemocracyRIP on election night. Paid social media users, aka “trolls,” shared stories about Clinton controversies to create a cloud of scandal around her campaign.
Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, describing his interactions with Trump dating back to a security briefing with Trump on January 6, 2017.
he says Trump asked him to affirm his loyalty during a private dinner. Comey also describes a private conversation with Trump during which the president told him “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.
The meeting first came to light when Kushner filed a revised version of his security clearance application in June 2017. He omitted the meeting on previous versions of the form. When news of the meeting first breaks, Trump Jr. issues a statement explaining that the primary topic of discussion was resuming an adoption program for Russian children. Trump Jr. also says that he did not know the name of the individual he was slated to meet. Further New York Times reporting reveals, however, a chain of emails in which Trump Jr. is promised damaging information about Clinton from Russian government sources, a revelation that contradicts his initial statement. Minutes before the New York Times publishes its story about the misleading statement,
The tweets are coupled with a statement in which Trump Jr. says the meeting was short and uneventful, as Veselnitskaya failed to deliver opposition research as promised.
The surveillance started during an FBI investigation into Manafort’s work in Ukraine and was discontinued for lack of evidence at some point in 2016. After the FBI began looking into election interference, investigators resumed collecting Manafort’s communications and continued through the early days of the Trump administration. Both rounds of surveillance receive approval from the secret court that oversees FISA warrants. After taking office, the president spoke to Manafort repeatedly until lawyers for both men told them to stop, according to CNN.
that Mueller’s team is seeking White House documents divided into 13 categories covering such areas of interest as Comey’s firing, an Oval Office meeting between Trump and Russian officials, and the crafting of Trump Jr.’s initial statement pertaining to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.
The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have said they are looking into Manafort’s financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.
According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus.
Deripaska’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, declined to give specific answers about the loans, but released a statement to NBC News saying, in part, “Mr. Manafort is not indebted to former clients today, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign.”
He later revised the statement, removing that sentence entirely. It now reads: “Recent news reports indicate Mr. Manafort was under surveillance before he joined the campaign and after he left the campaign. He has called for the U.S. Government to release any intercepts involving him and non-Americans in hopes of finally putting an end to these wild conspiracy theories. Mr. Manafort did not collude with the Russian government.”
Manafort and Maloni have received subpoenas from Mueller to supply documents and testimony in the case.
Deripaska was described in a 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”
NBC News reported in June that the business relationship between Deripaska and Manafort began in 2007. According to The Wall Street Journal, they worked together to further Russian interests in Georgia.
Manafort then went on to spend nearly a decade working as a consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
The NBC News investigation shows that $26 million was transferred from Oguster Management Ltd. — which is wholly owned by Deripaska, according to a disclosure filed at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — to Yiakora Ventures Ltd. Yiakora, according to Cyprus financial documents, is a “related party” to Manafort’s many interests on the island, a financial term meaning that Manafort’s interests have significant influence over Yiakora.
The investigation also confirms a smaller loan of just $7 million from Oguster to another Manafort-linked company, LOAV Advisers Ltd., a figure first reported by The New York Times. Company documents reviewed by NBC News reveal the entire amount was unsecured, not backed by any collateral.
The $7 million loan to LOAV had no specified repayment date, while the $26 million loan to Yiakora was repayable on demand. It’s not known if either sum has ever been repaid.
Lawyers specializing in money laundering said the loans appeared unusual and merited further investigation.
“Money launderers frequently will disguise payments as loans,” said Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor. “You can call it a loan, you can call it Mary Jane. If there’s no intent to repay it, then it’s not really a loan. It’s just a payment.”
The documents go on to reveal loans of more than $27 million from the two Cyprus entities to a third company connected to Manafort, a limited-liability corporation registered in Delaware.
This company, Jesand LLC, bears a strong resemblance to the names of Manafort’s daughters, Jessica and Andrea.
Jesand was used to buy a $2.5 million condo in New York in 2007, according to a New York City public document. In August 2017, according to another document, Jesand then obtained a loan of more than $1 million dollars against that property.
Using LLCs to purchase real estate is not necessarily illegal but is considered by money-laundering experts to be a potential red flag.
The $33 million uncovered by NBC News wasn’t the only set of transactions between the two men to pass through Cyprus. According to a related court case, Deripaska invested another $26 million in a private equity fund earmarked for a Ukrainian telecommunications company.
The legal filing states Deripaska transferred the money through yet another Cypriot company, and claims that Manafort wanted the investments structured as loans “so as to avoid the unnecessary occasioning of Cyprus taxation.”
Highly placed government sources in Cyprus said that the island’s police — following an official request by U.S. authorities this past summer — are still gathering evidence in this case and have yet to hand it over to American investigators.
Carl Prine, an investigative reporter at the paper, writes that in two campaigns between 2011 and 2016, US agencies spent nearly $60,000 on ads intended for Russian-language speakers, according to government spending records. The bulk of that amount was promotion for Voice of America (VOA), the country’s government-run news outlet whose primary audience is overseas. The rest went toward publicizing the American consulate in the city of Yekaterinburg—both very different efforts than the Russian ads that were reportedly designed to stoke tensions in election swing states.
In the last eight years, the US government, including the State Department and aid agency USAID, bought more Facebook ads in Russia than in only four other countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
VOA, launched during World War II as a response to Nazi propaganda, has struggled over its identityas a news outlet in recent years. When the Trump administration took the reins, staffers voiced concern over becoming a mouthpiece for the president’s agenda.
Earlier this year, VOA, along with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty launched Current News, a 24/7 news network in Russian, as America’s answer to the widely-consumed Russian government-run network RT and online platform Sputnik. Comparatively, the American efforts have a much smaller reach. VOA, long criticized for being ineffectual at countering Russian propaganda, can’t place its content in Russian news outlets, so it operates on a “digital first strategy,” according to its website. Current News is not carried by Russian cable providers, and is only available by satellite, The Economist reported when the channel first launched.
It’s unclear how well Facebook ads can drive traffic to VOA’s content. Facebook is dominated in Russia by its domestic copy-cat VKontakte, which according to some counts has twice the number of users, and is controlled by Russia’s richest man and Kremlin ally. What’s more, the Russian media regulator threatened recently it would shut down Facebook if it didn’t start storing Russian user data on domestic servers.
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Yet this was not the stuff of an old-school John Le Carré spy novel, with shady figures in trenchcoats exchanging documents at a dark rendezvous spot in the woods. North Korea’s data theft was done entirely through computer systems.
According to a South Korean politician, last fall North Korean hackers gained access to South Korea’s Defense Integrated Data Center and stole 235 gigabytes of classified military plans. Two plans in particular stand out: One was a plan for how to respond to an attack on South Korea by North Korean commandos. The other was the plan for what’s called a “decapitation strike,” or an operation that would specifically target Kim and other key government officials loyal to the regime. But the full depth of what was stolen is still unknown.
The fact that we’re only just now learning of the extent of the burglary, more than a year after it happened, is a testament to North Korea’s immense cyber capabilities.
But wait a second — how did an impoverished country like North Korea end up with such impressive hacking abilities? And are they really that impressive? Or is our information just really easy to steal?
It turns out that while we’ve been (understandably) focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the country has been quietly developing another powerful tool — a selection of malware and malicious code, a veritable cyberweapon cache.
How did North Korea pull it off?
North Korea is one of seven nations generally regarded as “cyberpowers” — countries with the ability to mess around in the information systems of other countries. (Besides North Korea, the major cyberpowers are the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Iran, and France.)
In 2014, North Korean hackers conducted a major operation against Sony in the United States in retaliation for the Sony Pictures film The Interview, a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy depicting a fictional assassination of Kim Jong Un — a cyberattack that some political commentators labeled an act of war.
This latest hack of the military documents worked through human error. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the North Korean hackers first gained access to a South Korean company that makes the antivirus software used by the South Korean military. That compromised antivirus software provided a path for North Korean hackers into South Korean military computers.
Normally, the military database they hacked, working on a secured intranet, would be safe from compromise — but a contractor working at the data center left a cable in place that connected the military intranet to the internet, allowing the North Korean hackers to access the database of sensitive documents.
That connection remained in place for more than a year, and wasn’t detected until September 2016. North Korean state media has denied involvement in the attack, claiming instead that South Korea made up the whole thing.
How did a country like North Korea develop such impressive cyber capabilities?
Computer scientists are the key to creating and maintaining new cyberweapons, but there’s also a great deal of reverse-engineering that goes on. For instance, in 2012, Iran used cyber tools to wipe and render useless 35,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s biggest oil companies. The tools Iran used in the Saudi Aramco attack were largely modifications of tools that had attacked Iran, now redesigned for different targets.
“[For] everybody, once your code gets out on the internet, it’s possible that someone else can intercept copy and modify for their own use,” says Bob Gourley, co-founder of the security consultancy firm Cognitio and veteran of the intelligence community.
“North Koreans might be borrowing code they saw in a Russian attack,” Gourley says, but that “doesn’t mean Russians and North Koreans are collaborating. [It] just means they saw that code and modified it or they may be modifying code of some hacker or some criminal groups.”
“Everyone starts to build upon other people’s exploits,” he adds.
But North Korea has the smallest economy of all the cyberpowers, with a GDP estimated at somewhere between that of Vermont and Wyoming. How, then, can it so effectively fund the kinds of computer scientists needed to maintain such a potent cyber capability?
Part of the answer has to do with the nature of the North Korean economy itself. The North has what’s known as a “command economy,” which means that the central government basically controls every single aspect of the economy, including the production and distribution of goods and services.
As a result, the regime is able to direct as many resources as it wants to military programs within the country, like its nuclear project and its cyber program, even in the face of strict foreign sanctions.
The other reason is that North Korea’s cyber division actually makes a lot of money on its own, thanks to the country’s willingness to have its military programmers engage in straight-up crime.
“There are remarkable similarities between North Korea and an organized crime group,” says William Carter, deputy director of the Technology Policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Security, a Washington think tank.
For instance, Carter says, North Korea’s cyber division “used a pretty sophisticated scheme to send false payment orders through the Swiss [banking] network and got hundreds of millions of dollars transferred out of the banks of Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, Ecuador, and others and into accounts controlled by North Korean government.”
When your hackers are bringing in that kind of cash, paying their salaries becomes a whole lot easier.
Why would North Korea launch cyberattacks?
While North Korean attacks and intrusions make headlines, it’s safe to assume that all countries with the capability to do so are actively watching and tracking and spying on the cyber capabilities of other countries. So it’s not the use of cyber itself that sets North Korea apart from other nations.
“The challenge is that North Korea’s objectives are a lot about being able to lash out,” says Michael Sulmeyer, director of the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, “and they’re also limited in other ways they could insert themselves, cut off from so much of the global economy.”
With an army focused on the South, a navy that is limited in reach, and an air force oriented towards defense, North Korea’s main ways to threaten countries beyond its immediate borders are with missiles or with cyber intrusions.
Having a robust hacking capability means that Pyongyang can attack those who make both fictional depictions of Kim Jong Un’s assassination and actual military plans for such an event. Kim inherited not just his father’s nuclear program but his grandfather’s intense paranoia, and the whole orientation of the regime is built around ensuring his survival.
Kelsey Atherton is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He can be found on Twitter at @athertonkd.
Donald Trump is a self-help apostle. He always has tried to create his own reality by saying what he wants to be true. Where many see failure, Trump sees only success, and expresses it out loud, again and again.
“We have the votes” to pass a new health care bill, he said last month even though he and Republicans didn’t then and still don’t.
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“We get an A-plus,” he said last week of his and his administration’s response to the devastating recent hurricanes as others doled out withering reviews.
“I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served,” he said this week in an interview with Forbes, contradicting objective metrics and repeating his frequent and dubious assertion of unprecedented success throughout the first year of his first term as president.
The reality is that Trump is in a rut. His legislative agenda is floundering. His approval ratings are historically low. He’s raging privately while engaging in noisy, internecine squabbles. He’s increasingly isolated. And yet his fact-flouting declarations of positivity continue unabated. For Trump, though, these statements are not issues of right or wrong or true or false. They are something much more elemental. They are a direct result of the closest thing the stubborn, ideologically malleable celebrity businessman turned most powerful person on the planet has ever had to a devout religious faith. This is not his mother’s flinty Scottish Presbyterianism but Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking,” the utterly American belief in self above all else and the conviction that thoughts can be causative, that basic assertion can lead to actual achievement.
Trump and his father were Peale acolytes—the minister married Trump at the first of his three weddings—and Peale’s overarching philosophy has been a lodestar for Trump over the course of his decades of triumphs as well as the crises and chaos. “Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.” It was a mindset perfectly tailored for an ambitious builder determined to change the skyline of one of the globe’s great cities. Trump, who used this self-confidence to blow right past a series of seemingly fatal gaffes and controversies to win an election last fall that polls said he couldn’t and wouldn’t, in this respect has been a prize Peale pupil—arguably the most successful Peale disciple ever.
“I don’t even think it’s an argument,” his biographer Gwenda Blair told me recently. “It’s a fact.” The power of positive thinking? “He weaponized it.”
But now, in the political realm, where the space between spin and truth is parsed constantly—and with consequences—it is Trump’s very success that has opened him up to questions that simply didn’t matter as much when he was a television star, or opening golf courses, or licensing his last name to steaks, bottled water or far-flung condominium projects. Is Trump’s relentlessly optimistic insistence of his own version of reality an asset, a sign of admirable grit for a politician desperate to score some legislative victories? Or is it a sort of self-delusion that risks embarrassment, or worse, in the highest-stakes geopolitical arena?
Science, it turns out, has something to say about this.
Self-help is a multibillion-dollar business. Airport shelves groan under the weight of how-to and pick-me-up books churned out by writers who all are essentially Peale progeny. The industry is prevalent in American culture to the point that it has spawned its own sub-group of critics who dismiss it as silly at best and dangerous at worst. “If you are simple enough to buy a self-help book, you may be congenitally programmed to fail,” Tom Tiede wrote in 2001 in his own book, Self-Help Nation: The Long Overdue, Entirely Justified, Delightfully Hostile Guide to the Snake-Oil Peddlers Who Are Sapping Our Nation’s Soul. “Positive thinking” has garnered such social currency that it also has become a subject of academic inquiry. And though it certainly was not conceived with this in mind, the science of self-help—of happiness and well-being, of specific phenomena called “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions”—is now in some respects the study of the way Trump thinks and what it could mean for the country and beyond.
How can Trump say the things that he does?
Read the research.
In 1988, in a seminal paper within the subject area, psychologists from UCLA and Southern Methodist University wrote that “considerable research evidence suggests that overly positive self-evaluations, exaggerated perceptions of control or mastery, and unrealistic optimism are characteristic of normal human thought.” They added that “positive illusions may be especially useful when an individual receives negative feedback or is otherwise threatened.” They warned, though, of inherent risks and limitations: “For example, a falsely positive sense of accomplishment may lead people to pursue careers and interests for which they are ill-suited.”
Two years ago, English researchers published an update. People with “unrealistic optimism,” they wrote, “believe that they are more virtuous, more talented and more compassionate than others, and less prone to error.” They “believe that they can control events that are not under their control.” They “believe that they are less likely to experience future negative outcomes.” They “have overly flattering conceptions of themselves that are also resistant to negative feedback.” Sometimes, they said, all of that can help people like this perform well. “In conditions of uncertainty and risk,” the researchers explained, “some instances of optimism lead people to make better decisions by helping avoid more costly mistakes and contribute to survival and flourishing.” Even so, it’s true only to a point. “Excessive optimism,” they concluded, “can become problematic and lead to poor strategic planning, disillusionment and disappointment, and risky behaviors.”
Where precisely the benefits of “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions” end and the drawbacks and dangers begin is nearly impossible to identify, researchers told me. There are just too many variables. A person’s web of characteristics. That person’s wider environment. The complexity of a situation. There’s almost no way to know for sure when a line is crossed between helpful self-assurance and disastrous self-delusion.
“If there is, I don’t know it,” said retired professor Neil Weinstein, who wrote a paper in 1982 when he was at Rutgers University titled “Egocentrism as a Source of Unrealistic Optimism.”
“The world isn’t that predictable,” he said.
Donald Trump, after all, is the president.
He was born into a house that Norman Vincent Peale helped build.
Peale’s cheery, simple tips allowed Trump’s father to alleviate his anxieties and mitigate the effects of his innately awkward, dour disposition. Emboldened Fred Trump banked hundreds of millions of dollars building single-family houses and then immense apartment buildings in New York’s outer boroughs. Peale appealed to the elder Trump, too, because both men embraced conservative, right-wing, us-versus-them politics—an important but often forgotten portion of Peale’s M.O.
A generation down, Peale appealed to Donald Trump because Trump idolized his father, and because what Fred Trump drilled into his most eager, most ambitious, most like-minded son—be a killer; be a king; be a winner, not a loser—is what made that son so receptive to the teachings of Peale. Born in 1946, Donald Trump’s childhood was spent in a house with white columns and nine bathrooms and a live-in maid and chauffeur in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Sometimes, when it rained or snowed, he did his paper route from the back of his father’s limousine.
Peale, known as “God’s salesman,” reached the peak of his influence in the heart of Trump’s childhood, preaching in the 1950s to millions of people on Sundays at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as well as through a syndicated newspaper column, radio and television shows, his Guideposts magazine and a spate of books that were self-help trailblazers—first and foremost, of course, The Power of Positive Thinking, his defining work and wild bestseller that came out in 1952. It offered chapters such as “Believe in Yourself,” “Expect the Best and Get It” and “I Don’t Believe in Defeat.” “Whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought,” he wrote. “Actually,” Peale once said, “it is an affront to God when you have a low opinion of yourself.”
Peale was far from universally popular. One psychiatrist dubbed The Power of Positive Thinking“saccharine terrorism.” And during the 1952 presidential campaign, the Democratic nominee made his feelings plain. “Speaking as a Christian,” the brainy Adlai Stevenson said at a Baptist convention in Texas, “I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.” But Peale permanently altered the way many Americans worship. His was a precursor to the prosperity gospel espoused today by, say, the toothy Joel Osteen. “By repeatedly equating business acumen with piety, uncertainty with religious doubt, and personal and cultural failure with godlessness, Peale and his admirers helped to redefine religious Americans as socially superior winners,” Northwestern University English professor Christopher Lane wrote in his 2016 book, Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.
What Peale peddled was “a certain positive, feel-good religiosity that demands nothing of you and rewards you with worldly riches and success,” said Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. “It’s a self-help gospel … the name-it-and-claim-it gospel.”
And for Donald Trump, the attraction to Peale did not diminish with time. Even as more traditional theologians derided Peale as more huckster than holy man and intellectuals mocked him as a lightweight, Trump in his 30s remained a staunch Peale adherent.
Peale, then nearly 80 years old, officiated Trump’s wedding in 1977. In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” he told the New York Times. “I never think of the negative.” The feeling was mutual. In the Times, Peale called Trump “kindly and courteous” and commented on “a profound streak of honesty and humility” he thought Trump possessed. Trump at the time was newly ascendant, and the influence of Peale coursed through his aspirations and interactions. “If you’re going to be thinking anyway,” he wrote in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “you might as well think big.”
That year, Jack O’Donnell saw it firsthand. He started work for Trump as a marketing executive at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.
“This is the best place in the world to work, and I’m the best guy in the world to work for,” Trump toldO’Donnell in their first meeting, according to O’Donnell’s 1991 book, Trumped! The onslaught of Peale-preached superlatives kept coming. “I’m America’s most successful businessman,” Trump said. “I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner.”
O’Donnell, though, soon was worried about the pitfalls of such optimism. By 1988, a manic, temperamental Trump was overwhelmed, in O’Donnell’s estimation, by the world that he had created for himself. He had piled up accomplishments, acquisitions and debts. It was too much. “He was at the point where image superseded reality,” O’Donnell would write in his book. “In the same way that he believed a man could retain his hair by willing not to go bald, he thought he could redress the operational shortcoming of a multimillion-dollar company and make it successful by stating and restating that it was.”
It caught up with him.
The early 1990s were a low point in Trump’s life. As his casinos careened toward corporate bankruptcy and he suffocated under billions of dollars of debt—not to mention the hyper-public break-up of his marriage to the mother of his first three children—Trump’s credibility and viability as a businessman were in jeopardy. Drawing on Peale, Trump was unswayed, leaning extra-heavy on the principal tenet of the power of positive thinking—think it, say it, and say it and say it and say it, in an all-out effort to make it so. “It’s all going to work out,” he said to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Trump, all but dead? “Hotter than ever,” he told New York magazine.
“I would have been looking for the nearest building to jump off of, and he just remained upbeat all of the time,” Steve Bollenbach, the lender-mandated financial-fixer who helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy and lasting business humiliation, once told biographer Tim O’Brien. “I never suspected that he lost a moment’s sleep.”
Trump tapped into Peale, he would say. “I refused to give in to the negative circumstances,” he said in a 2009 interview with Psychology Today that is littered with the particular language of Peale. “I never lost faith in myself. … Being tenacious is part of my personality. … Defeat is not in my vocabulary.” He mentioned Peale and his most famous book. He was, Trump said, “a firm believer in the power of being positive.”
“Someone asked me if I thought I was a genius,” he wrote in 2009 in Think Like a Champion. “I decided to say yes. Why not? Try it out. Tell yourself that you are a genius.” He practiced this tactic even as the scorecard of his business dealings recorded something other than genius. After three more corporate bankruptcies for his casinos, as well as a variety of other business failures, from Trump Mortgage to Trump University to name-branded condo projects stalled and killed by the Great Recession, Trump kept proclaiming success. “I’ve done an incredible job,” he said in 2013.
It was time to run for president.
“Norman Vincent Peale, the great Norman Vincent Peale, was my pastor,” Trump told the audience at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, in July of 2015, barely more than a month into his run. “The power of positive thinking,” he said. He said this in between having consultant and pollster Frank Luntz ask him the same question twice: “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” His answer: “I’m not sure I have.” For Trump, thanks to Peale, that’s not primarily what religion was for.
“Affirm it, visualize it, believe it, and it will actualize itself,” Peale had written—and last year around this time, in the roiling wake of the tape of Trump bragging about his ability to grope women with impunity, with pundits saying he would lose and lose badly, and with more and more women accusing him of sexual harassment and members of his own party and even the man who would become his chief of staff suggesting he should drop out, Trump did not do what almost anybody else would have done. Everybody else? There’s literally not another politician in history who was facing what he was facing and didn’t not only stop running the race in question but recede from public life altogether. But that’s not what Trump did. Trump did what he’s always done. He doubled down on Peale 101.
Polls said he was not going to win.
“We’re going to win,” he told Sean Hannity three weeks before the election.
“We’re going to win the great state of Michigan,” he said at a boisterous rally at 1 in the morning in Grand Rapids on Election Day, “and we are going to win back the White House.”
Trump does not often share the spotlight, but it seems likely, based on his decades of testimonials, that he might give Peale at least some credit for the astonishing, highly improbable arc of his life. Trump’s current job is in some ways a confirmation of Peale’s core principles. He visualized. It actualized.
From a scientific perspective, though, Trump is an incomplete experiment. For decades, researchers have attempted to quantify the range of outcomes of positive thinking, looking for objective ways to correlate internal belief and external reality.
“There are really strong benefits in terms of undertaking activities that are difficult and for which the true odds would be daunting if you paid attention to them,” Jonathon Brown told me. He was the SMU psychologist who was one-half of the research team behind the 1988 paper on “illusion” and “well-being.” He’s now at the University of Washington. He gave examples of starting a business or getting married. Other researchers I talked to brought up health outcomes. In situations of, for instance, dire cancer diagnoses, the prospect of survivability can get a boost from optimism that’s statistically unjustified.
“Positive thinking can motivate an individual,” Wellesley College psychology professor Julie Norem said. Also: “Other people at least initially often respond positively to it. If I present myself to you as somebody who’s upbeat and really confident … chances are pretty good that initially you’re going to believe me. You’re going to say, ‘Wow, that person’s really got it together. That person’s really going to go someplace.’ And that’s a huge advantage in life.”
Then there’s the but.
“For most people,” said Norem, who specializes in optimism, pessimism and personality psychology, “there’s a point at which, if that’s all they bring to the table, it breaks down.”
The question is where that point is for Trump. He is so clearly not most people. In the words of Mitch Horowitz: “He is a kind of Frankenstein monster of the philosophy” of positive thought.
“Trump,” said Horowitz, a self-help expert and the author of One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life, “seems to be an example of at least the short-term, destructive gains that you can attain through self-help, through self-assertion, and people’s willingness to believe what they think that they see.”
Short-term. Trump’s version of his own reality, some insist, ultimately will crash against something more real. “In the end, I think reality is like gravity. It exerts its own force,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a consistent conservative critic of Trump. “The power of positive thinking can only carry you so far.”
He offered an example. “I could use the power of positive thinking and convince myself that I’m going to be the starting center for the Golden State Warriors,” Wehner said, “but it’s not going to happen.”
To carry this metaphor a small step forward, though, Trump is actually currently the starting center for the Golden State Warriors. (He’s definitely not Stephen Curry.) Wehner granted that. “And his supporters,” he said, “probably think he’s scoring 25 points and a game and averaging 11 rebounds.”
This, though, is just it: Nobody, ever, has had more success convincing himself, and others, that he is a success even when he is not—and thus turning that stated sentiment into actual, tangible, considerable accomplishment. And if he could do that, it seems fair to ask whether gravity or accepted laws of politics apply to him at all. What, exactly, is “unrealistic” about Trump’s optimism? “It’s gotten him this far,” said Blair, the biographer. “He has a lot of reason to believe that something like the power of gravity doesn’t apply to him.”
The science here hits a ceiling. Researchers do their work in controlled settings to obtain empirical results. America under Trump, meanwhile, is far from a controlled setting. And if it’s difficult to determine the location of that line between self-assurance and self-delusion in the former, it’s impossible in the latter. Scientifically speaking, the Trump presidency is uncharted territory.
“The degree of positive thinking that we talk about in the paper bears no resemblance to what President Trump is exhibiting on a daily basis, which would be an extreme form of what we talked about,” said Brown from the University of Washington. “What we were really looking at was sort of … should you know what you are really like? Is a person best served by knowing what they are really like? And I think the answer to that is no. You’re better served believing you are a little bit better than you are—but not wildly …”
Brown citied the opening salvo of the Trump administration: the fight over the size of the turnout at the inauguration. He somehow saw a crowd that was larger than it factually was, and said so. That, Brown said, isn’t self-confidence or self-assertion. “That’s bizarre. That isn’t within the normal range of human behavior,” he said. “No psychologist would say that’s adaptive.”
“There is a lot to like in the idea of power of positive thinking,” Ed Diener, one of the country’s leading researchers of happiness, told me, “but of course it must be grounded in a degree of realism.”
And where’s that dividing line?
The dividing line, Diener said, “is when the delusions become dysfunctional.”
And where is that?
“Where the distortions become strong enough that they make one act irrationally, impulsively,” he said.
“The biggest problem with the Norman Vincent Peale version of positive thinking,” said Wellesley’s Norem, “is that you can’t know when you’ve crossed the line—because if you’re accepting that as a philosophy, you’re already defining out of the picture any negative thoughts. And one of the ways in which Trump is so extreme is the extent to which he does that for himself. So he’s at the center of this positive world, and anything negative that impinges on it is evil, bad and forbidden.”
He won’t see the line if and when it arrives.
As for the rest of us?
“I mean, if we’re all blown up, in a nuclear war,” Norem said, “then that’s going to be a pretty clear line.”
Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad
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“With 38 percent of the electorate, 80-plus percent of the Republican Party strongly behind him, it is unlikely that we are going to see a lot of Republicans break from him and really challenge him in meaningful ways,” George Washington University …
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You write that “there is no more thrilling moment than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic. And what follows is hard — really, really hard.” What makes the birth of a democracy so thrilling as well as so necessary and inevitable?
The excitement and thrill comes from seeing those moments in the streets when people are trying to express that they, too, want to say what they think and worship as they please and be free from the arbitrary power of the state. Most importantly, the thrill comes from seeing they are determined that those who are going to govern them have to ask for their consent. That’s what is thrilling: the confirmation of these universal values.
What makes the birthing of a democracy so terrifying, and why is the aftermath so hard?
It’s terrifying because you unleash all of these passions that have been pent up for such a long time, and sometimes it can go bad. We saw after the French Revolution that it was so violent, chaotic and out of control that it produces a counter-reaction.
That moment is terrifying because the institutions aren’t there yet to channel those passions. If you read the American Declaration of Independence, you think, “Who were these people?”
It starts with high-minded rhetoric, but pretty quickly deteriorates into name calling of King George and what we will do if he doesn’t give our rights.
When human beings are freed, it isn’t the moment when they are at their most rational necessarily about what lies ahead. The freeing of those passions is terrifying.
You write about institutions like political parties, the courts, parliaments, and the press being so key to stabilizing a democracy. Could you elaborate upon that?
If those passions just remain unleashed without something to channel them, you’re going to get a backlash and the revolution is going to fade. The task is to quickly channel those passions so that people begin to believe they can exercise their rights through these abstractions that we call institutions, such as the Constitution and the rule of law.
People then begin to trust the Constitution or the courts to carry out their desires and rights. If their rights are violated, they no longer rely on their clan, their family, their religious group, or violence in the streets. That’s the moment when democratic institutions start to take hold. People test the process and it works.
I read about an Afghan woman who was raped by a cleric, and she took her case to court. Imagine that in Afghanistan. And she won. He got 20 years in prison. The human rights advocates were saying, oh, only 20 years in prison. But I’m thinking, she took him to court and she won. Afghan women will now say, OK, maybe the courts work; I don’t have to go to my male family members and ask them to engage in an honor killing.
What is your assessment of Russia’s failed, or at least aborted, attempts at glasnost and perestroika? Are those concepts now merely ones that scholars will study in the future?
Russia had four revolutions, and only the third failed. The first one, the [Mikhail] Gorbachev revolution, was kind of a reform of the communist system. At least, that’s how we thought about it. But toward the end, it was starting to create some institutions that might have been the backbone for a democratic transition. But it was too much and was overrun.
The second revolution was when [Boris] Yeltsin comes to power and the democratic institutions get set up. They don’t last because they get set up amidst so much chaos in the economy and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The third revolution is when Yeltsin starts to rule out of decree, creates an extremely strong presidency, and the other institutions are sort of shoved to the side. A strong presidency in the hands of Gorbachev was one thing, a strong presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin is quite another. Step by step, Putin subsequently destroys all of the independent institutions.
So, the Russian story is a longer story than just what happened with Gorbachev or what happened with Yeltsin. It’s important to say that because some of the seeds are possibly still there. In the clearly fraudulent election of 2016, for example, Putin didn’t win Moscow. In local elections, his party lost 11 or 12 seats.
Also, people are different in Russia today than they were in the Soviet Union. They travel more widely and they study abroad. The situation looks pretty bleak right now, but it doesn’t make sense to give up on the Russians. You have to isolate Putinism without isolating Russia.
China is growing a modern economy without true democratic institutions such as a free press and competing parties. What are we to make of this case study?
When you have the low cost of labor, the heavy export policy, their kind of government investment in the economy, all of that accords with a top-down political system. But being top-down doesn’t work so well when you start wanting a more innovative economy and free-market forces.
China is now neither fish nor fowl. Reforms keep getting rolled back because they’re afraid of the political implications of those reforms. I’ll give you one example: A couple of years ago, China had 186,000 riots, as reported by the Chinese. Most of them were because a peasant’s land was expropriated by a party leader and a developer.
What you need is a court that person can go to rather than rioting with his friends. But when you start to get independent courts, you start to get an independent judiciary. Before long, you’ve got one of the institutions that liberalizes a political system.
The jury is still out on where China will end up on this spectrum.
You write about two upheavals occurring simultaneously in the Mideast. What are those and how could they affect democracy taking hold there?
The whole state is under challenge. The map at the beginning of 2000 basically looked like it did when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and states like Iraq, Syria, and even many of the Gulf States were sort of drawn on the back of an envelope.
Those borders are now beginning to shift. Nobody knows whether there’s ever again going to be a single Syria. And the Kurds are pressing for independence from Iraq. The borders and the state system are under a lot of pressure.
There are two ways this could go. One is you continue to have revolutions like they did in Syria, or in Iraq, where we helped to set off a revolution. Or you could have reform.
You’re going to have a clash of cultures, so perhaps reform is still possible for the Middle East. No one is suggesting these places have to look like Jeffersonian democracy. I am suggesting they have to come to terms with basic rights, such as people want to say what they think. The form it takes will look different from place to place.
Democracy is only as good as its ability to deliver, as the saying goes. What does our own democracy need to deliver both for us as citizens and for our own democracy’s strengthening?
First, the good news. The institutions the Founders set up have weathered many storms well. Checks on executive power are still weathering the storm well. For example, courts are responding, and I don’t just mean to President Trump. They responded when they felt like there was an overreach from President Bush on the war on terror. And they responded to President Obama.
Federalism is continuing to work in the United States. States are getting far more done than the federal government could ever get done because states are closer to the people. That was always the design of federalism.
We are starting to have some challenges with the underlying societal strength that comes with the pursuit of happiness. People want to make their lives better and to make the lives of their children better. The failing K-12 education system for the poorest of our kids is right at the heart of that. The mismatch between job skills and available jobs are another big piece of this.
Unless we can find a way that people again believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from, that it matters where you’re going, then we’ll have a lot of unrest. The United States is unique in that we are not bound together by ethnicity, blood, nationality or religion. We are bound together by this aspiration that you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things.
That’s mostly been true in America for a long time, and it’s been truer for group after group after group. If you were black, it wasn’t so true in segregated Birmingham in 1960. But, if you look at where we’ve come, it’s become truer. We’re going to lose that aspiration if large portions of the population are not able to access it.
This Q&A was conducted and condensed by William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst. The full interview appears in the fall edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Condoleezza Rice served as secretary of state and national security adviser under President George W. Bush. She now teaches at Stanford University and is a Hoover Institution senior fellow.
Edwin Fisher will speak at the 1 p.m. event in Chapel Hill along with two colleagues from Asheville, psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot. All three are part of a group of mental-health professionals who believe President Donald Trump is dangerously unstable.
Coming at the issue from different perspectives, they’ve converged on the view that the president’s “judgment and his motives are putting us all at risk of catastrophic events,” Fisher said, alluding to a possible nuclear war with North Korea.
The situation, he added, should inspire Congress to place new limits on Trump’s war-making powers or Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to consider invoking the 25th Amendment’s fitness-for-office provisions to begin the process to remove him.
Saturday’s forum will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, an off-campus forum chosen because UNC-CH’s football team has a home game against the University of Virginia later in the afternoon.
The timing’s not the best for an event in Chapel Hill, but Fisher said it was out of his hands because the Baltimore-based group he’s part of asked him to schedule it to coincide with similar events across the country the same day.
Fisher contributed a chapter to a controversial new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that argues the president is so “mentally compromised” that his presence in high office is a hazard.
The controversy comes because the American Psychiatric Association has twice this year urged practitioners to avoid offering public opinions about the mental health of someone they haven’t personally examined.
Its invocation of the so-called “Goldwater Rule” – named for Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona U.S. senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1964 – has drawn return fire from leaders of the “Duty to Warn” group Fisher’s involved with.
One, Yale University psychiatrist Bandy Lee, argued in the book that the association had issued a “radical expansion” of the doctrine “barely two months into the very presidency that has made it controversial.”
Lee and Harvard-affiliated psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman also argued that the group’s move shows even a prestigious professional organization “is not immune to … politically pressured acquiescence.”
Fisher, a professor in UNC-CH’s Gillings School of Global Public Health since 2005, said the book essentially argues there are signs Trump suffers both from narcissism and sociopathy. He said the the combination’s a volatile one in high-stakes situations, particularly if supporters and aides begin to abandon the president.
Legally, “if the president decides to launch a nuclear war, there’s nobody who can stop him,” Fisher said, adding that he believes what the group is doing is “educating the public about what those behavior patterns can mean.”
Fisher stressed that in speaking up on the issue, he’s speaking for himself, not for UNC-CH.
Fitness for office
Trump’s fundamental fitness for office, regardless of his views on the political issues of the day, has been questioned since he first sought the presidency, and not just by Democrats.
Locally, Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, in the mid-2000s a national security aide to former President George W. Bush, signed a statement last year that labeled Trump “a distinct threat to civil liberty the United States.”
Feaver at the time said that danger came from the possibility of putting “the power of the presidency in the hands of someone so focused on attacking his critics.”
Corker, a Republican, former mayor of Chattanooga and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the New York Times on Oct. 8 that Trump’s threats to other countries may “put the nation on the path to World War III.”
He saw the major check on that as being aides “around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made.”
Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.
Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences.
The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The term “alt-right” was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.
Shortly after Trump’s November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”
The movement promotes what it calls “white identitarianism”, a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.
Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at <a href=”http://AltRight.com” rel=”nofollow”>AltRight.com</a> and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.
Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer’s think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.
READ MORE: What is the alt-right and what does it stand for?
Online organising made the alt-right’s success possible.
The key websites are: AltRight.com; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.
The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.
Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff’s Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa’s Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg.
The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.
Unlike the alt-right’s call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light’s positions are predicated on support for President Trump.
The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump’s top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.
Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.
Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and “free speech” events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.
McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as “Western chauvinist” and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.
READ MORE: How the US anti-Muslim marches were defeated
There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.
Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.
Most militia organisations describe themselves as “patriot” groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.
While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.
Historically, the militias were considered anti-government. They claimed that they were defending the US Constitution from politicians who were seeking to impose unconstitutional and authoritarian rule on the country. However, most of them have been vocal supporters of the Trump administration.
READ MORE: Threats and attacks as white supremacists target campuses
Militia organisations often show up to protests held by groups they view as political opponents – Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists, among others – where they claim to be maintaining order by carrying weapons.
Common among groups such as the Oath Keepers are former and current law enforcement officers and military members.
Although these groups claim to reject racism and white supremacy, they have been present at many rallies and events alongside alt-rightists. On April 15, militia members came to Berkeley, California, where they rallied with alt-right groups and participated in street brawls against Antifa and other counter-protesters.
Conflicts between alt-right and alt-light
The alt-right and the alt-light have always shared several political positions and had common opponents. Both camps oppose the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, undocumented immigrants and their advocates, and others.
Some alt-light leaders used to be open supporters of the alt-right, and others have migrated from the alt-light to the more hardline alt-right.
Recent months have seen increasing tensions between the alt-right and the alt-light, and their divisions have grown more defined.
In Houston, Texas, these divisions spilled over into a physical confrontation.
On June 10, Oath Keepers demanded that William Fears, a 30-year-old construction worker and alt-right activist, leave the rally. Angered by the Fears’ racist posters and refusal to leave, one Oath Keeper member put Fears in a chokehold. The incident was filmed and widely publicised online.
READ MORE: US anti-fascists – ‘We can make racists afraid again’
Later that month, on June 25, the divide played out again when the two groups held competing “free speech” rallies on the same day in Washington, DC.
During this event, the alt-right’s Richard Spencer openly criticised his more moderate counterparts. “They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re freaks,” he told reporters of the alt-light. “The alt-right will be better when we just cut away these people who are going to weigh us down.”
Charlottesville as pivotal moment
On August 12, alt-rightists attended “Unite the Right”, a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E Lee.
During the event, 20-year-old James Alex Fields rammed his car into a counter-protest, killing 32-year-old anti-racist Heather Heyer.
The alt-light joined the chorus of public condemnation as Fields was charged with second-degree murder.
However, critics have noted that Jason Kessler, a former journalist who had recently joined the alt-light Proud Boys group, organised the rally.
The Proud Boys condemned the rally.
Several other alt-light figures denounced the events in Charlottesville, while alt-rightists celebrated them.
Speaking to Vice News, alt-right member Chris Cantwell said that Heyer’s killing was justified. The day after the rally, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer described Heyer as a “fat, childless 32-year-old slut”.
READ MORE: How neo-Nazis ‘burn crosses’ from behind keyboards
On the other hand, Gavin McInnes, then at Rebel Media, denounced James Alex Fields, who was charged with Heyer’s murder, as a “domestic terrorist”.
In response to the Charlottesville violence, alt-light Twitter personality Mike Cernovich decried the alt-right.
“That’s all the alt-right stands for, is white nationalism,” he told The Atlantic at the time. “They are now indistinguishable. Worse than that, they are now associated with domestic terrorism.”
Twitter has deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators probing Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social media platform during the 2016 election, according to current and former government cybersecurity officials.
Federal investigators now believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the officials say, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
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By creating and deploying armies of automated bots, fake users, catchy hashtags and bogus ad campaigns, unidentified operatives launched recurring waves of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton story lines via Twitter that were either false or greatly exaggerated, the officials said. Many U.S. investigators believe that their best hope for identifying who was behind these operations, how they collaborated with each other and their suspected links to the Kremlin lies buried within the mountains of data accumulated in recent years by Twitter.
By analyzing Twitter data over time, investigators could establish what one U.S. government cybersecurity consultant described as “pattern of life behavior,” determining when Russian influence operations began, and how they “were trying to nudge the narrative in a certain direction.”
“So if you have access to all this, you can basically see when botnets appeared and disappeared, and how they shaped narrative around certain events,” said the analyst, who could not speak for attribution given company policy.
But a substantial amount of valuable information held by Twitter is lost for good, according to the cybersecurity analysts and other current and former U.S. officials.
One reason is Twitter’s aggressively pro-consumer privacy policies, which generally dictate that once any user revises or deletes their tweets, paid promotions or entire accounts, the company itself must do so as well. Twitter policy requires similar actions by private companies that pay for access to its real-time global data stream and repository of saved data for use in marketing and other commercial analysis.
The other reason is that Russian cyber tradecraft dictates that operatives immediately erase all of their digital breadcrumbs, according to former FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson and others familiar with Russian influence operations.
Thomas Rid, a Strategic Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University, blamed Twitter for making it easy for Russia and other bad actors to hijack its platform by failing to crack down on suspicious activity, and by then allowing them to cover their tracks simply by hitting the delete key.
“Should bot operators and people who spread hate and abuse have the right to remove content from the public domain? Twitter says yes, and I think it’s a scandal,” said Rid, an expert witness on Russian disinformation campaigns for the Senate intelligence committee’s Russia investigation. “It removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible.”
“Were Twitter a contractor for the FSB,” the Russian intelligence agency involved in the 2016 campaign to meddle in the U.S. election, Rid said, “they could not have built a more effective disinformation platform.”
Twitter declined to comment on how much relevant data was deleted, whether any of it is potentially retrievable and other questions sent by POLITICO. Instead, spokespeople referred to the fine print of the company’s data retention and privacy policies, which say that, “Once an account has been deactivated, there is a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including Tweets.”
“Content deleted by account holders (e.g., Tweets) is generally not available,” the Twitter policy also says.
Several people familiar with Twitter’s ongoing review of Russian activity on its platform said its engineers are trying to ascertain what is available and what is recoverable, in part by trying to find ways of recreating some pockets of particular data that have been permanently deleted.
They also noted that the company has had to walk a tightrope in balancing the interests of privacy activists who are “very concerned about any suggestions that a tech company would hold their data for any period after its deleted,” and law enforcement agencies that want access to potential evidence of wrongdoing. As such, “it’s a little more complicated than giving an X is gone forever by Y date” answer, one Twitter official cautioned.
Cybersecurity analysts, however, said Twitter has aggressively enforced a “permanent deletion” policy across the board, including publicly shaming at least two companies not adhering to it via cease and desist orders.
As a result, “The limitations created by the hostile actors deleting their actions is potentially high impact” for those U.S. investigators on the various Russia investigations, according to a former senior Senate staff official familiar with how Twitter operates. “They may get lucky and Twitter may have some record of it, but in terms of their stated policy, if accounts or tweets were deleted, they’re gone.”
A second person familiar with Twitter policy agreed with that assessment.
Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who closely monitors Russian manipulation of social media, said Twitter was especially vulnerable because, “The truth is they don’t know who is on their platform, or how bad people are doing bad things.”
Compounding that, Watts said, “When the Russians hit on a big story or get a big falsehood going, they collapse their accounts. They are very good at plausible deniability and covering their tracks.”
Twitter has said it is taking a broad look at Russia’s suspected use of its platform, including how many people might have been affected by disinformation, and whether there are any potential connections between Russian accounts and the Trump campaign and the many high-profile “influencers” associated with it.
But company executives have been far less forthcoming than their counterparts at Facebook in disclosing details of what they have found in internal investigations into suspected Russian activity on their platforms.
Twitter’s briefing to the Senate intelligence committee Sept. 28 infuriated its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, who said the company failed to grasp the seriousness of the congressional investigation. Warner also accused Twitter of providing “inadequate” details about what misinformation was spread on its platform by Russian sources during the election.
Warner said Twitter only did the bare minimum of investigation, searching its records for information about accounts with Russian ties that had already been disclosed by Facebook after its own probe.
Based on that information, Twitter said, it shut down 201 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-linked “troll farm” in which multitudes of workers help spin false narratives for social media. It also said the Russian news site RT, which Twitter linked to the Kremlin, spent nearly $275,000 on its platform last year.
The Senate committee, one of at least three investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, has summoned Twitter to appear at a Nov. 1 public hearing, along with Facebook and Google.
Former House intelligence committee staffer Mieke Eoyang said she was skeptical that Twitter can completely delete its data, and that at least some of it exists somewhere in the network while other pockets of it could be recoverable.
Recently, Google said it found evidence of Russian manipulation on its platforms by using data it downloaded from Twitter. It used that information to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that used Google’s own services to buy ads, according to a Washington Post report. The Post said that activity occurred without the explicit cooperation of Twitter.
Twitter also would not answer questions about the reported Google findings, including whether they suggest some of the relevant Twitter data still exists, even if only recent information.
Anderson, who spent 15 years chasing and arresting Russian spies for the FBI, cautioned that if any Russian accounts exist because they were not deleted by the Russians themselves, it is likely because President Vladimir Putin, a former spymaster, left them on purpose to misdirect U.S. investigators.
“The KGB was by far one of the most ruthless counter-intelligence organizations the United States has encountered, and Putin was an officer in it for a long time,” Anderson said. “And now put him in charge of all of these high-speed intelligence, cyber capabilities and operations, as Russia’s President, and you have a very formidable adversary.”
First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in Northeast Asia are vital Russian interests. Russia fought four wars over Korea in the 20th century, including its pilots’ participation in the Korean War, so the issue of peace on the Peninsula is hardly a minor one for Russia. Moreover, any new war might quickly go nuclear and could even involve a clash between Washington and Beijing. Those contingencies – and the proximity of North Korea to Russia – could destroy any hope for Russia to regenerate its Asian provinces or, worse, force it to enter into a war on behalf of China over an issue where it has no control or leverage over the protagonists. That would not be in its best interests – indeed, for any state it would be a nightmare.
Second, Moscow’s other vital interest, and one that flows from the imperative of preserving peace, is that Russia must not be excluded from any political process that takes place regarding Korea. Putin and his team remember all too well that Russia would have been excluded from the Six-Party process if he had not previously forged a working relationship with Kim II-sung and the DPRK. Thus Russia’s activities surrounding North Korea revolve around ensuring that Russia is a full participant in any resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issues. Acquiescing in Russia’s marginalisation over Korea would destroy any hope of realising another vital interest, namely that of becoming acknowledged as a major, independent great power in Northeast and Southeast Asia. To avoid any prospect of marginalisation, solid relations with North Korea are vital; if Moscow did not have such relations it would certainly fall prey to the danger of being dragged into a major crisis or conflagration over which it has no control and no influence, let alone leverage, on key actors.
Third (though this is a minority opinion among experts), this author fully believes that a Sino-Russian alliance where China plays the leading role (especially in East Asia and most particularly regarding North Korea) has taken shape over the last two decades, mainly driven by hostility to US power and values and the identification of these two authoritarian states as antipodes to this power and values. As the present crisis shows, while Russia is angling for increased economic and political influence in Pyongyang, it has clearly associated itself with China’s initiatives for resolving the crisis that centre on freezing the DPRK’s nuclear program in return for stopping US-ROK manoeuvres. It has also joined China’s efforts to provide a lifeline to North Korea through various activities including ferry services, hosting North Korean guest workers who remit money home, and opening up internet services.
These factors explain Moscow’s motives, actions and statements in the present crisis. The desire to preserve peace, to ensure Russia’s full participation in any future political process dealing with North Korea, and to strike at US power and values in Northeast Asia in tandem with China are all driving Moscow’s policies. Readers will note that nonproliferation is not a vital Russian interest and never really has been. Russia judges proliferation threats by the criterion of whether the state in question is hostile to its interests and it does not find North Korea to be such a state though it fully understands the nature of Kim Jong-un’s regime. In Russia’s view, while Kim Jong-un’s behavior merits criticism, the real responsibility for the crisis lies with the US. This was the case under President Obama and, if anything, Donald Trump has willfully aggravated an already tense situation.
Both Moscow and Beijing deplore and oppose North Korea’s nuclearisation, but they see it as a response to unceasing US threats. They want North Korea to denuclearise in order to reduce the threat of war on the Peninsula, to stop giving Japan and South Korea a pretext either for their own defence buildup or potential nuclearisation, and to stop those two states and the US from deploying missile-defence systems in and around South Korea and Japan, which represent a threat to their nuclear weapons and countries. But while North Korea may act in a brazen provocative manner, ultimately it is Washington’s fault because it keeps threatening the DPRK.
Together these four factors – ensuring peace on its frontiers with Korea to obtain time and capital for developing Russian Asia; ensuring that Russia participates completely in any Northeast Asian and Korean peace process as a full partner; anti-Americanism and the alliance with China; and defence against US military threats – constitute the framework that encompasses and shapes Russia’s policy initiatives towards North Korea. The perspective that emerges from this framework has driven the various gambits that Russia, usually in tandem with China, has taken during the current iteration of the Korean crisis and even under Barrack Obama’s earlier administration. Once one has grasped the nature of this framework and its perceptual underpinnings, it becomes much easier to understand Moscow’s actions.
As stated earlier, nonproliferation is not the issue for Russia here. War, peace, and its identity as a great, sovereign, independent and anti-American power in Asia count for more than non-proliferation. Indeed, Russia sees US invocations of non-proliferation as pretexts for threats and intervention against its interests. Given this Russian perception of the crisis, it is clear that the basis for a US-Russia accommodation or coordination on North Korea is quite slender. President Trump’s rhetoric and actions narrow it still further.
Trump has apparently managed to trick himself into believing he’s innocent in a traitorous scandal he masterminded. That’s yet another sign of his declining mental faculties. But it also may prove to be a lucky break, because it’s led Trump to recently conclude that the best way to get the Russia scandal behind him is to give Mueller everything he wants. Not only is Trump turning over the kind of evidence that Mueller has long been trying to get his hands on from the outside, Trump is also now talking about voluntarily testifying for Mueller.
There’s almost no way to quantify how bad of a move this would be for Trump. Yet sure enough, Politico is reporting that it’s precisely what Trump and his attorneys are preparing to do (link). It would be virtually malpractice for Trump’s attorneys to allow him to do this. Yet if they put their foot down, he’ll just find some new attorneys who won’t try to stand in his way.
So unless Donald Trump turns into yet another kind of pumpkin as his mind continues to collapse, and randomly changes his strategy yet again, he’s preparing to pretty much throw his life away by testifying for Robert Mueller. Trump will end up bragging about every crime he and his henchmen have ever committed, because he can’t help himself. He’ll lie under oath, because he has no relationship with the truth. Trump will do Mueller’s job for him during that testimony. Bring it on.
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Should that be the case, Trump, or one of his successors in the Oval Office, may one day face the fateful choice that the deal was supposed to circumvent — whether to use military force to stop the Islamic Republic racing toward the bomb.
The President has fumed against what he has called a “very bad deal” and an “embarrassment” to the country despite all available evidence that Iran is complying with terms which imposed limits on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions that had crippled its economy.
“I think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday.
Trump’s move, which had been previewed to CNN by government sources and foreign diplomats, will give Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted under the terms of the agreement.
While the administration is not expected to push Congress to go that far, since it would likely cause Iran to immediately walk away, proponents of the nuclear deal fear that Trump’s decision will strike a severe blow at the deal’s legitimacy.
A significant stiffened US policy toward Iran designed to tackle what the White House says are Tehran’s destabilizing activities and support for terrorism could return the enemies to the cycle of confrontation and proxy wars of most of the last four decades, that could in itself cause the deal to slowly begin to unravel.
“If the President chooses to not certify, that already will be a negative step — for one thing it will start a process of isolating us from our allies,” Ernest Moniz, Obama’s former energy secretary who helped negotiate the agreement, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“If we went all the way and reimposed sanctions while Iran is in compliance … this would be a slippery slope towards a bad outcome, something very much not in our national security interest,” Moniz said.
Explaining the Iran nuclear deal
What are Trump’s motivations?
The potentially grave consequences of Trump’s decision, and the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, US allies and even the US government have said that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, have focused attention on Trump’s motivations.
Critics say Trump is recklessly risking the deal, and thereby endangering US national security, simply to satisfy his fierce antipathy toward the agreement and to showcase a rare political win to his supporters.
Trump has twice previously been forced certify Iran’s compliance, against his inclination and made clear he doesn’t intend to do so again, even though Tehran is still honoring the pact.
The President is not alone in opposing certification of the deal. Some Republicans in Congress, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and members of the conservative foreign policy establishment believe that his move on Friday will force America’s European allies, China and Russia and eventually Iran back to the table to improve the deal.
The President has also complained that the 2015 deal does not allow UN inspectors access to military sites, an argument one foreign diplomat dismissed while wondering whether Trump understands what is in the pact.
“I’m not sure he’s privy to all the details,” the diplomat said.
Trump’s supporters however argue that the deal puts the Iranians on a North Korea-style glide path to a nuclear weapon when it expires in 2025 — a claim that proponents of the deal dispute. Those who back Obama’s approach also slam the idea that there is a “better deal” to be had, as Trump has often said, as a myth or that other partners will agree to renegotiate.
“I don’t know there is any guarantee that ever happens, there are just so many stakeholders here,” said Brian Fleming, an official in the Obama Justice Department who worked extensively on the Iran deal and is now at the Miller & Chevalier law firm.
Murphy: Renegotiating Iran deal a ‘fantasy’
Punting to Congress
The decertification by the President is only one aspect of the new Iran policy he will roll out on Friday.
Trump is also expected to unveil a toughened approach to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile development, political maneuverings throughout the region and what the administration says is its support for terrorism, including for groups like Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen, officials have said.
By punting a decision on the ultimate destiny of the Iran deal to Congress, Trump can also try to personally avoid blame for the consequences that would follow if he formally killed the deal.
Once Trump has engineered the new policy direction, the deal’s fate will be in limbo. Should Congress go ahead and decide to reimpose sanctions, it is all but certain that Iran would walk away. It could then likely reinstall centrifuges disengaged under deal and could race toward development of a nuclear device, a process that experts believe could take only a year or so.
Diplomats and sources who have spoken to CNN say they don’t believe that even Republican hawks opposed to the deal want to destabilize it, and end up paying the political price for a potential march to war by the US.
Alternatively, lawmakers could decide to do nothing, effectively leaving the deal untouched.
In that case, Iran could decide that it is in its interest to remain in the agreement since it will still be reaping the economic benefits it gained via the lifting of sanctions.
Even so, it is uncertain whether this option would preserve the deal in the long term. Should European firms for instance reconsider investments in Iran under the shadow of potential future US sanctions, they could decide not to invest in Iran, and thereby lower the dividend that Tehran won by supporting the deal.
That could bolster hardline opponents of the deal inside Iran, as could the administration’s desire to sanction individuals and entities in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls vast business interests in the country a state sponsor of terrorism.
“Longer term, this will be very humiliating and embarrassing for the Rouhani government,” said Trita Parsi, author of the book “Losing an Enemy,” Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” “They may be committed to the deal and they may not want to start messing with us, but their political strength will weaken and lead to a scenario in which they may lose power.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behaviour on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated”.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said yesterday (5 October), in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.
Senior US officials, European allies and prominent US lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the US isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unravelling of the agreement.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday (20 September) that there was no need to renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal, insisting it was “delivering” despite US demands to re-open the agreement.
The UN nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy programme mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.
Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.
Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the 24 September election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) reached a deal on migrant policy with her conservative Bavarian allies on Sunday (8 November), removing a major obstacle to pursuing talks on a coalition with other parties.
In an apparent concession, Merkel agreed to put a number on how many people Germany would accept per year on humanitarian …
Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardise the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programmes in other countries.
In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in US domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.
He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”
Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.
“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”
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For most western observers, the problem posed by Russia’s relationship with the far right only became truly pressing when it showed up on their doorstep. But the Kremlin’s turn towards nationalism was nothing new for Russians: it had come storming back into political discourse in 2012, when Vladimir Putin returned to the executive branch of power for a third term.
The journalist Masha Gessen sees the rise of official nationalism as an intensely worrying sign for Russia’s future, raising the question of whether Putin’s regime now ticks the boxes of a “totalitarian” regime. Political violence? Check. Militarisation of the economy and political sphere? Check. Fusion of state and party? Check.
In The Future is History, Gessen argues that nationalism and reactionary ideology arrived through the backdoor of a Soviet system that had never really collapsed. “Maybe this was how it worked when a totalitarian society was reconstituting itself rather than being shaped by a totalitarian regime: the ideology congealed last,” she writes.
Gessen chronicles the political crackdown that began after Putin’s return for a third term as president through the lives of four people who were among the first victims, their lives drastically changed for the worse. One is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, the liberal opposition leader assassinated just steps away from the Kremlin in 2015; another a gay academic who was forced to emigrate. Also profiled are the depression-afflicted grandson of the liberal politician Alexander Yakovlev, and an opposition activist and journalist caught in a legal vice following a protest crackdown.
All children of the 1980s, these are people who grew up not knowing the Soviet system and spent their entire adult lives with Putin as president. Gessen says choosing her subjects in this way allowed her “to tell what it was to grow up in a country that was opening up and to come of age in a society shutting down”, and the book flits vertiginously, almost manically, between their stories. This nevertheless works, the way a Russian novel weaves history through the lives of its characters.
Her cast are not an altogether representative sample of Russians, skewed towards privileged, intelligentsia backgrounds and carriers of liberal views. Even before 2012, they were either members of anti-Putin political movements or profoundly disaffected with Putin, and it is perhaps not too surprising they were the first ones to suffer the consequences of his return to the presidency. But their stories are nonetheless compelling: they are canaries in the coal mine of what Gessen presents as an inexorable march back to totalitarianism.
The use of this word in reference to Putin’s Kremlin — which is Gessen’s central argument — is bound to be controversial. As the author of many a journalistic sentence using the word “authoritarian” to describe today’s regime, I am a little resistant to the idea that Putin can be classed with Mao, Stalin and Hitler. In terms of the scale of the project and the pervasiveness of political control, not to mention the body count, the Russian president seems to belong in the milder “authoritarian” category alongside Marcos, Mubarak, Pinochet and other tin-pot dictators of the postwar world. But Gessen makes a powerful case, arguing that Putin reconstituted the political and terror apparatus of the Soviet state and that ideology was the last block to fall into place.
The new conservative climate was propagated in part by one of Gessen’s supporting actors, Alexander Dugin — a writer and activist who throughout the 1980s and 1990s had mixed conspiracy theories, postmodernism and Russian nationalism into a cocktail eagerly drunk in official circles. His views were seen as lunacy in the 1990s but invaded mainstream politics under Putin.
Given Russia’s 20th century history, it might seem odd that ultranationalism would find adherents in the country — particularly as Putin has often accused opponents of fascism, all the while draping himself in the flag and speaking in vaguely imperial terms of Russia’s destiny. But Gessen argues that the contradiction in official ideology doesn’t matter; and, indeed, that the content of the ideology is unimportant. Whether Dugin, Putin or any Russians actually believe it is secondary: “The ideology served simply as the key to unity, as the collective’s shared language . . . Soviet citizens lived inside the ideology — it was their home, and it felt ordinary.”
Facing a concerted protest movement of urban liberals in 2011 and 2012, Putin sought to paint himself as the scourge of liberal values that were sapping Russia’s native vitality. Laws against “gay propaganda” were among the first blows to land in a crackdown that eventually forced Gessen herself to leave Russia. The persecution of sexual minorities has been largely forgotten as other tragedies have unfolded in Ukraine. But it is worth remembering, and Gessen reminds us, that a witch hunt against “paedophilia”, directed against gay Russians, was part of the resurgence of virulent nationalism that accompanied Putin’s return to the Kremlin. What began as repression of LGBT activists spread and later spilled into Crimea and Donbass.
In Gessen’s view, history is the future — an oxymoron that means both that Russia is doomed to return to its Soviet past and that “history” is subject to manipulation by those in power. Much of the book focuses on the decline of social sciences and the corruption of higher learning amid political projects such as the effort to normalise Stalin or Dugin’s own writings, which see Russia as the seed of a “Eurasian” empire. History is something, in other words, that radiates out of the present.
Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian studies at Harvard University, sees history through the more conventional end of the telescope. His latest book, Lost Kingdom, tells the story of how the history of Russia was being written when that history was being made. What emerges is a singularly fascinating account of Russian nationalism through the ages. Beginning in 1472, Plokhy’s account of “the invention of Russia” encompasses debates among 17th-century Kievan monks about the idea of a common “Slavo-Rossian” nationhood, the fraught salons of Slavophile writers in the 19th century, Soviet debates over ethnography and contemporary scholarly arguments over civic versus ethnic nationalism.
Plokhy focuses on Russia’s western frontier as both a psychological and geographical boundary that has always been a critical determinant of Russian national identity. “The question of where Russia begins and ends, and who constitutes the Russian people”, as Plokhy puts it, is the central theme of the book.
The Kremlin’s present-day covert war in Ukraine is just the latest stage in centuries of conflict along this all-important western boundary line. But Plokhy also shows that the intellectual outcomes of the way nationalism was discussed mattered as much or more than the physical events on the ground. For the Kremlin, the simple fact of Ukrainian independence represents an existential challenge that it is yet to come to terms with. “Ukraine today is at the very centre of the new ‘Russian question’,” writes Plokhy.
Currently, the Kremlin appears to be trying to resolve this vexing question of identity by shifting the physical boundaries of Russia westwards. “It remains to be seen whether the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbass are the final episodes in the disintegration of the USSR or a new and terrible stage in the reshaping of European borders and populations,” he concludes.
Meanwhile, as demonstrated by Putin’s numerous photo-opportunities with the likes of France’s Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini of the Italian Northern League, Russia has not been content to stir up nationalism at home. Its support for the European and American far right is a very deep rabbit hole indeed.
Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ukrainian political scientist currently based at the Austrian Institute for Human Sciences, tackles this subject in his impressive Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. He argues that overtures by Russia to far-right parties, and the eagerness of the latter to be co-opted, has been driven by — of all things — a mutual search for recognition and legitimacy.
The far right in Europe, fervently anticommunist during the cold war, came to regard US domination as the greater of two evils and now seek recognition by Russia as a counterweight to political isolation. Putin’s anti-gay policies, anti-multiculturalist rhetoric and conspiracy theories endear him to continental conservatives.
Meanwhile, Shekhovtsov argues, Russia’s seeking out of support from foreign far-right groups stems not from ideological sympathy or some inherently fascistic or imperial tendencies in Moscow, but rather the desire to buttress the legitimacy of a regime that he describes as an “authoritarian kleptocracy” trapped in a downward spiral of repression and international isolation, which has forced it to cast an ever wider net in search of allies. “Since Putin’s second term, Moscow increasingly positioned itself as a power whose legitimacy derived from alternative, illiberal political ideas, some of which clearly originate from the far right,” he writes.
For Shekhovtsov, this has deep roots. Ignoring ideological contradictions, Soviet intelligence services did have contacts with European fascists before the fall of the USSR. But it was the collapse of communism that created new opportunities for the European right, which eagerly sought contacts in Russia. The opening up of the 1990s begat what the German scholar Andreas Umland playfully calls the era of “uncivil society”, in which intellectual entrepreneurs such as Dugin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergei Glazyev began to import European fascism to Russia and set about creating like-minded movements.
But it was only after the 2003-05 “colour revolutions”, and the 2008 war in Georgia, that the Russian government began to wake up to the power of anti-establishment movements in Europe. The war in Georgia “became a trigger for the launch of the first far-right pro-Russian activities in Austria and France”, Shekhovtsov argues — with several pages devoted to France’s Front National and Austria’s Freedom party.
Shekhovtsov’s command of the detail is stunning, and he paints a troubling picture of a number of political structures in each country acting as fronts and conduits for Russian influence. He cautions against the temptation to see Russia through the lens of the Soviet Union, manipulating politics via a new far-right version of the Comintern; in his telling, the Kremlin is a partner rather than a puppeteer. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: Putin’s flirtation with a new ideology is not confined to Russia any more.
The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen, Granta, RRP£20/Riverhead, RRP$28, 528 pages
Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin, by Serhii Plokhy, Allen Lane, RRP£20/Basic Books, RRP$32, 432 pages
Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, by Anton Shekhovtsov, Routledge, RRP£21.99/$35.99, 294 pages
Charles Clover is a former FT Moscow bureau chief, now based in China. He is author of ‘Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism’ (Yale)
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Photographs: EPA; Getty Images
“A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November,” CNN reported recently. Some of the ads, the network continued, appeared “highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal” to Trump’s victory.
In addition, the report noted, the ads seemed tailor-made for the Trump campaign. “The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said,” CNN reported, suggesting that anti-Muslim content could have been designed to complement candidate Trump’s message.
Put aside whether Michigan and Wisconsin were in fact “crucial” to Trump’s victory. (He would still have won the presidency even if he had lost both.) The theory is that Russians could not have pulled off such “highly sophisticated” targeting by themselves and therefore may have had help from the Trump campaign or its associates.
But is that the whole story? Not according to a government official familiar with the Facebook ads, who offers a strikingly different assessment. What follows is from the official and from public statements by Facebook itself:
1) Of the group of 3,000 ads turned over to Congress by Facebook, a majority of the impressions came after the election, not before. In a news release, Facebook said 56 percent of the ads’ impressions came after the 2016 vote.
2) Twenty-five percent of the ads were never seen by anybody. (Facebook also revealed that in the news release.)
3) Most of the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by 10 million people in the U.S., never mentioned the election or any candidate.
4) A relatively small number of the ads — again, about 25 percent — were geographically targeted. (Facebook also revealed that on Sept. 6.)
5) The ads that were geographically targeted were all over the map.
6) Very few ads specifically targeted Wisconsin or Michigan.
7) By and large, the ads targeting Michigan and Wisconsin did not run in the general election. “Nearly all of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads ran in 2015 and also ran in other states,” the official said.
8) The Michigan and Wisconsin ads were not widely seen. “The majority of these Wisconsin and Michigan ads had less than 1,000 impressions,” the official said.
9) The ads were low-budget. “The buy for the majority of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads (paid in rubles) was equivalent to approximately $10,” the official said.
10) The ads weren’t very good. The language used in some of the ads “clearly shows the ad writer was not a native English speaker,” the official said. In addition, the set of ads turned over by Facebook also contained “clickbait-type ads that had nothing to do with politics.”
None of this proves anything about the Facebook part of the Trump-Russia affair. It doesn’t prove there was no collusion, and it certainly doesn’t prove there was. But it does suggest this particular set of ads might not be a very big deal.
In an Oct. 4 news conference, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, did not play up the Facebook angle. Burr said: “If we used solely the social media that we have seen, there’s no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left. Or vice versa. They were indiscriminate.”
Burr noted he has no objection to Facebook releasing the ads publicly. Certainly doing so would go a long way toward clearing up the public’s understanding of the issue. Like everything else in the Trump-Russia affair, people need to know what happened.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. His syndicated column appears each Friday.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”
Senior U.S. officials, European allies and prominent U.S. lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the U.S. isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unraveling of the agreement.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy program mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.
Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.
Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the Sept. 24 election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.
Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardize the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programs in other countries.
In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in U.S. domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.
He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”
Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.
“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”
- Facebook scrubbed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 campaign by accounts linked to Russia.
- The removals came as a Columbia University researcher was examining their reach.
- Facebook says the posts were removed to fix a glitch.
Facebook removed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 election by accounts linked to Russia after a Columbia University social-media researcher, Jonathan Albright, used the company’s data-analytics tool to examine the reach of the Russian accounts.
Albright, who discovered the content had reached a far broader audience than Facebook had initially acknowledged, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the data had allowed him “to at least reconstruct some of the pieces of the puzzle” of Russia’s election interference.
“Not everything, but it allowed us to make sense of some of this thing,” he said.
Facebook confirmed that the posts had been removed, but said it was because the company had fixed a glitch in the analytics tool — called CrowdTangle — that Albright had used.
“We identified and fixed a bug in CrowdTangle that allowed users to see cached information from inactive Facebook Pages,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.
Facebook’s decision to remove the posts from public view raised questions about whether the company could be held liable for suppressing potential evidence, given its role in the wide-ranging investigation of Russia’s election interference.
Albright told Business Insider that “because this is clearly a legal and imminent justice-related matter, I can’t provide much critical insight at this stage.
“I feel like my 10 rounds with the $500 billion dollar tech juggernaut are over,” he said.
President Donald Trump. Facebook
Legal experts and scholars on the subject say scrubbing the data Albright used for his research is Facebook’s prerogative as long as it isn’t knowingly removing content sought under a court order or by government request.
“If Facebook has no reason to think that it should retain the data (subpoena, court order), then it can make choices about what appears on its platform,” said Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, where she teaches and writes about information privacy.
Citron said Facebook and other private tech companies have in the past argued, successfully, that they have free-speech interests and enjoy immunity from liability for the content posted by their users — immunity that extends to their ability to remove it if it violates their terms of service.
Albert Gidari, the director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said it’s likely that Facebook has kept copies of “anything at issue as part of its preservation obligation” in light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s search warrant and the House and Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas.
Gidari said that because there hasn’t been any allegation against Facebook itself, the company has no obligation, absent a court order, to maintain information “that later may be evidence.”
But the question becomes more complicated when considering the ethical obligations of a company whose tools were exploited by a foreign adversary to try to influence a US election.
Gidari, for his part, said he doesn’t think “any platform has an independent or ethical obligation to run a research playground for third-party data analysts.”
But Tom Rubin, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, said that Facebook’s “credibility as a global social platform and its responsibility as an internet giant require it to fully embrace an independent, urgent and public review of the facts.”
“Facebook’s Russia predicament is of its own doing — it controls the platform, runs the ads, and profits mightily,” said Rubin, who previously served as the assistant US Attorney in New York heading investigations and prosecutions of computer crimes.
“The investigation here is as serious as it gets: illegal and hostile foreign influence on the US presidential election,” Rubin said. “The issue confronting Facebook is the extent to which it should commit to complete transparency, and the answer to that is straightforward.”
“For transparency’s sake and for our broader interest in our democracy, people should know the extent to which they have been played by the Russians and how a hostile state actor has interfered with, manipulated, and generally hacked our political process,” she said.
That is what Albright said was his mission when he downloaded the last 500 posts shared by six accounts that Facebook has confirmed were operating out of Russia. Those accounts — Blacktivists, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, Heart of Texas, LGBT United, and Muslims of America — were among the 470 pages Facebook shut down in September as part of its purge of “inauthentic accounts” linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
The data Albright obtained using CrowdTangle showed that the Russians’ reach far exceeded the number of Facebook users they were able to access with advertisements alone — content including memes, links, and other miscellaneous postings was shared over 340 million times between the six accounts.
The other 464 accounts closed by Facebook have not yet been made public. If they are, an analysis of their combined posts would likely reveal that their content was shared an estimated billions of times during the election.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel told Germany’s RND newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?
Despite countless warnings from global leaders and even from within his own administration, Trump is expected on Friday to unveil a new strategy on confronting Iran, which would include “de-certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear accord. The deal, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and international powers, saw international sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program lifted in exchange for Tehran dismantling its nuclear program.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran has been adhering to the restrictions imposed by the accord. Trump, however, has decried Iran for violating “the spirit” of the deal, first by backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then by test firing its newly-developed non-nuclear ballistic missiles.
“The big drama is that the Iran agreement could turn out to be a pawn in American domestic politics,” Gabriel said. Washington wants the agreement to ensure that Iran ceases to fuel conflicts such as in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. But Gabriel said this could not be a condition for Iran to remain free of nuclear weapons.
Trump has until Sunday to inform Congress whether he believes Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. Should Trump de-certify Tehran’s compliance, Congress will have to decide within 60 days what new sanctions to impose on Iran.
A ‘hot crisis’ region
Several EU and US officials have warned that Trump’s refusal to certify the deal could leave the US diplomatically isolated. Germany has historically close economic and business ties with Russia, although those have soured in recent years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Berlin, and Gabriel in particular, have also been working to boost relations with China.
Read more: Berlin sees opportunity to strengthen trade ties with China
“A denunciation of the Iran agreement would turn the Middle East into a hot crisis region,” Gabriel warned, adding that if Iran were to resume developing nuclear weapons, then “the immediate danger of a new war” would return, with Israel potentially involved.
“It would be a devastating signal for nuclear disarmament,” Gabriel said. “Some states might see the failure of the Iran agreement as a signal to arm themselves with nuclear weapons as soon as possible.”
Gabriel’s potential successor weighs in
Gabriel is expected to stand down from his post in the coming months, after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced that it would go into opposition after finishing second behind Chancellor Angela Merkel Christian Democrats in last month’s federal election.
One of the candidates widely tipped to succeed him as top diplomat, Green party leader Cem Özdemir, also warned on Twitter against a nuclear arms race and said that Saudi Arabia could even become a new nuclear power in the region.
dm/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but which is now believed to be run by Russians, the game was created to inspire online participants.
Users could visit sites where police brutality had been recorded, and were encouraged to give their Pokemon characters names of real-life victims, such as Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island.
The winner of the Pokemon contest would receive an Amazon gift card, the Don’t Shoot Us site said.
CNN said it had no evidence of anyone actually claiming the prize.
“It’s clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission,” Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, said in a statement provided to CNN.
“It is important to note that Pokémon Go, as a platform, was not and cannot be used to share information between users in the app so our platform was in no way being used. This ‘contest’ required people to take screen shots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more.”
Russian hackers ‘used Pokemon Go as part of attempts to meddle in US election’
Russian cyber experts created a Pokemon Go game as part of their attempts to meddle with the US election, according to an investigation by CNN. Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but …
The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.
It was on Rouse’s watch that the worst mass murder in America’s history went down. It is on Ruse’s watch that authorities have found no motive some 10 days later.
Blame Rouse , too for the shooter’s Nevada house having been left open for burglary over the weekend. Blame Rouse because he is the highest ranking FBI agent in charge of Las Vegas.
“The Las Vegas shooter’s Reno home was broken into over the weekend, causing another round of police activity in the normally quiet Del Webb neighborhood, police confirmed Tuesday. (Reno Gazette-Journal, Oct.10, 2017)
“Reno’s Somersett neighborhood has been in the spotlight since Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort onto the crowd of concertgoers below, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds before killing himself. Paddock, 64, purchased the small tan and brown home on Del Webb Parkway in 2013 and lived there with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley.
“Officer Tim Broadway with the Reno Police Department said the suspect or suspects broke into the home through the front door over the weekend, noting he was not sure how exactly the suspects gained entry.”
The Del Webb Parkway home was in the spotlight, yet had no police presence against invaders?
When is the last time a house at the center of a horrific crime, now key evidence, has been left open for intrusion?
They jimmied the lock or kicked in the door, but the prime question should be did the suspect or suspects carry anything away?
Aaron Rouse was named special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division by FBI Director James B. Comey on July 28, 2016:
“FBI Director James B. Comey has named Aaron Rouse as the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division. Mr. Rouse most recently served as section chief in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ).
“Mr. Rouse entered on duty with the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Washington Field Office, where he worked violent crime and was on the Joint Fugitive Task Force.
“Throughout his career, Mr. Rouse has held leadership positions in the Tampa Division, the San Antonio Division, and the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ.
Mr. Rouse will assume this new role in September.”
“In July 2002, Mr. Rouse was chosen to join the expanding National Security Branch at WFO and worked the asymmetric threat posed by a top tier threat country. (SALT Conference)
“In January 2005, Mr. Rouse became a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ and worked as a Program Manager for Counterespionage matters.
“In April 2007, Mr. Rouse was selected as the senior liaison to the newly established Community HUMINT Coordination Center at CIA Headquarters. In this position he de-conflicted HUMINT enabled operations worldwide for not only the FBI, but for all federal agencies regarding Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism and Criminal matters.
“In April 2009, Mr. Rouse was promoted and served as an SSA and Program Coordinator for Counterintelligence in the Tampa Division.
“In January 2013, Mr. Rouse received a promotion and served as the National Security Branch Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the San Antonio Division.
“In October 2014, Mr. Rouse was appointed as the Section Chief for the Clandestine Operations Section in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters.
“Prior to entering the FBI, Mr. Rouse was a state trooper in the New York State Police.”
Comey was fired by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017.
“In firing FBI Director James B. Comey, the Trump administration cited Comey’s public statements about the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. (Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2017)
“In a letter recommending Comey’s removal, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein focused on remarks Comey made at a July 5 news conference.
“Rosenstein wrote that the comments were inappropriate, “derogatory” and unfair to the Democratic presidential candidate— “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” He said Comey should have left it to the Justice Department to decide what to make public about the investigation.
“Here are highlights of what Comey said:
- “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
- Clinton’s emails included seven message chains with information classified as top secret.
- “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system.”
- “The security culture of the State Department …was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”
- Comey acknowledged that the FBI did not normally make public its recommendations to prosecutors as to whether to bring criminal charges. He added: “In this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”
- “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
- “I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation.”
In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’
Like Hillary Clinton, set free rather than being investigated by him, Comey is said to now be devoting his time to book writing.
The fateful words Comey used when he let Clinton skate on the email scandal: “they (Clinton and colleagues) were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” can be reapplied to the brick wall the truth is hitting in Las Vegas where Comey’s handpicked FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse is in charge.
The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.
In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’.
13 CommentsCopyright © Canada Free Press
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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, <a href=”http://Newsmax.com” rel=”nofollow”>Newsmax.com</a>, Drudge Report, <a href=”http://Foxnews.com” rel=”nofollow”>Foxnews.com</a>.
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Even they know it’s coming
9:05 AM 10/12/2017 – Deutschland über alles!!! – that what it means, logically. The results of the joint Russian – Chinese – German – Israeli “Operation Trump”: “an increased responsibility falls to the European Union and its member state Germany to safeguard and strengthen the international order.”
Daily Mail–Apr 24, 2017
2. A president sui generis
It is impossible to ignore that President Trump was able to attract the support of 60 million voters. It is also true that unilateral foreign policy, protectionist moods, and periodic calls for “America First” policies have a long tradition in the United States. Still, Donald Trump is a president sui generis whose ideas about international order do not fit within the modern American politician tradition. These ideas are supported by few in the United States. His disdain for international alliances and institutions is not even shared by many in the government he leads, much less by those outside of government. Donald Trump’s positions on global order are outside the mainstream of the foreign policy expert community in the United States. It is unclear, maybe even unlikely, that his strategy of undermining the international order will ever succeed in the United States and become his country’s policy.
3. Dangerous consequences
Some analysts and political actors in Germany would like to draw far-reaching conclusions from this period of uncertainty about the direction of the United States. They endorse a strategic reorientation for Germany. Some strive to decouple Europe’s foreign and security policy from the United States. Others place their faith in a German-French mini version of Europe. Sometimes, European aspirations only disguise German nationalism as a response to American nationalism. Some recommend that Germany should focus on ad hoc coalitions or maintain equidistance between Russia and the United States. Some even recommend that Germany should go further, and align itself with Russia or China in the future.
All of these propositions are costly or dangerous — or both.
4. The United States remains indispensable
Turning away from the United States would bring insecurity to Germany and ultimately to Europe.
The bond with the United States was born from dependence, but it has long been in Germany’s core national interest. Today, no other actor in the world can offer the same advantages to Germany that it gains from its alliance with the United States. No other power takes on such far-reaching security guarantees and offers such comprehensive political resources.
As a liberal hegemon, the United States made European integration possible. The majority of the political establishment in the United States continues to see the country as a supporter of European integration – also because it suits its own interest. The country needs allies that share its values and interests.
If Germany wants to be an effective actor in Europe, it needs the United States. If the ties to the United States are cut, with them go the reassurance that other European countries need in order to accept a strong Germany in the center of the continent. The more leadership that Germany can and should take on, the closer the coordination must be with the United States.
Decoupling from the United States would fundamentally question one of the most important political and cultural achievements of the past 70 years: Germany’s integration in the West.
In aligning itself with the West Germany also committed itself to the values of freedom and democracy, and to cooperation with all those who stand for these values. Freedom is the precondition for human beings to lead a self-determined and dignified live. Germany has committed itself to this set of ideas in its constitution, the Basic Law. Its anchoring in the West gave Germany the steadfastness to resist the Communist regimes and make possible Germany and European reunification. A departure from this trans-Atlantic orientation will renew the threat of a special path (Sonderweg) of Germany, it will strengthen nationalists on the left and the right, and it will endanger the peaceful European order.
The West, even today, does not exist without the United States, neither as a concept, nor as a political subject America is the anchor of liberal universalism and the open world order. Even if Donald Trump’s presidency carries significant risks for the liberal order, these perils will not diminish if Germany puts its strategic partnership with the United States at stake. A strategic decoupling from the United States would ultimately endanger the liberal international order more than prudent cooperation with a United States whose leadership currently rattles this order. Autocracies such as China and Russia can be important ad hoc partners for single projects; the United States, however, must remain the strategic partner for a democratic and European Germany.
The relationship with the United States is a values-based partnership built on our democratic political systems. Even if the current U.S. president challenges significant elements of the political system, the United States remains a democracy. President Trump is not America, nor is the illiberal movement for which he stands a solely American phenomenon. In Europe too it has made its mark. What we see today is not a divergence between Europe and the United States; it is a conflict within the West unfolding on both sides of the Atlantic.
Finally, the economic, scientific, and cultural linkages with the United States are far stronger than with any other region in the world. The interplay with the United States remains a central element of Europe’s capacity for innovation.
5. Yet, no business as usual
So, how do we engage with the United States in times of Donald Trump?
Even if turning away from the United States is not a responsible option for Germany, business as usual is not an option with the current presidency either. It would be equally unhelpful to stay silent and look the other way, waiting until this presidency is finally over and a successor occupies the White House. Four or even eight years is too long to sit it out, especially since there will not be a return to the supposed good old times.
6. Ideas for a new U.S. Strategy
German policy now requires something that it did not need before: a U.S. strategy.
A responsible policy toward the United States must be long-term and build a bridge into the post-Trump age. This policy must look beyond an exceptional period of U.S. skepticism toward any multilateral commitment. However, Germany must not fall prey to the illusion that there will be a return to the status quo ante following the Trump Presidency. Several political trends in the United States will outlive Trump’s time in office — for example, the demand for more balanced burden-sharing between Europe and the United States within NATO. However, the end of the Trump presidency should be the end of the inner Western conflict about the fundamentals of the world order. Once this fundamental consensus is reestablished policy disagreements can be resolved or bridged more easily and more constructively.
This long-term goal must be the point of reference for Germany’s short-term engagement with the Trump administration.
In the short term, Germany must learn to distinguish between the problems that are solvable, those that are unsolvable, and those in between that require pragmatic management.
It goes without saying that the German government should double down on those policy areas where it finds common ground with the current U.S. administration. But successful relationship management in times of Donald Trump may also require to adjust an increasingly untenable position or — vice versa — to enter into a limited conflict. Finally, we will need to look for partners not only at the highest federal levels, but elsewhere in the administration, in the U.S. Congress, in the states, in civil society, and in business.
It will be more important than ever to manage differences responsibly. In its own long-term interest, Germany should attempt to handle these differences with the Trump administration in such a way that does not escalate them or allow them to spiral out of control.
Germany should not succumb to illusions: large scale joint projects with the Trump government will have little chance for success in policy areas that are central to President Trump’s populist agenda. Trying to do too much in these key policy areas will only cause new disagreements.
In short, Germany’s U.S. strategy must allow for multitasking: to actively pursue key national interests in collaboration with the United States, to moderate conflicts, to avoid unrealistic ambitions, and to thus build a bridge to a better future for trans-Atlantic relations.
This nuanced approach will have different consequences for the different policy areas.
7. Trade policy — aim only for conflict management
Soberingly, the signs are not favorable for larger projects in several policy areas that would actually be vital, such as trade policy. Despite all controversies, the strategic and economic reasons for a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement (TTIP) have not disappeared since November 2016. Some in Berlin and Brussels hope that one can resurrect TTIP in an adapted version. This idea is illusory, maybe even dangerous. A president who castigates all free trade agreements as unfair toward the United States will not easily compromise in international negotiations. A negotiating failure will be more devastating to the project than a long hibernation.
There are signs already that the United States and the European Union might be headed toward trade disputes. The European Union must react to punitive tariffs. But it should do so exclusively in a legal, proportional, and symmetrical manner. Everything else could trigger an unwanted escalation.
8. International refugee policy — no chance for a joint vision
Joint initiatives regarding international refugee policy do not look very promising either. The global system of protection, however, urgently needs to be reformed to cope with modern conditions. The rights of refugees need to be protected while illegal migration needs to be curtailed, organized trafficking should be combated so that the universal refugee regime is not undermined. Equally important will be a push toward new and improved United Nations’ resettlement programs. However, it appears difficult to imagine that the Trump administration will agree to such initiatives. Consequently, Europe must become active itself here — as best as it can.
Therefore, trade and refugee policies fall in the category of currently difficult, hardly resolvable issues. The best we can expect is limited progress, but no large scale initiatives.
9. Security policy — strive for progress, also with President Trump
Security policy is a different matter. Without the United States there will be no security for and in Germany for the foreseeable future. This applies to territorial as well as alliance defense within NATO, but also to nuclear deterrence, to combating cyber crimes and money laundering, and finally to counterterrorism and the cooperation of intelligence agencies. No single European country, not Germany, not any other country, and not the European Union, can provide the necessary resources to guarantee the continent’s security. Therefore, the existing cooperation must be strengthened. Remaining committed to NATO also provides a way to integrate the United States into the structures of multilateral security policy and may dissuade Washington from going it alone.
Alliance defense is the most cost-effective form of defense. Germany should thus take seriously the call for fairer burden-sharing within the alliance. Acting against its own core interest, Germany has not done enough in this respect. Germany still has a long way to go until it’s NATO goals and commitments are met. To be clear: Germany agreed to increase its defense expenditures toward 2 percent of its GDP. Germany should keep its word. To present this commitment as a threat to the military balance in European is to get it backwards. It is precisely our European neighbors and partners that are asking for more German commitment within the NATO framework and within European defense policy.
It would be even better if Germany were to invest an extra percentage point of GDP into development assistance, international police operations, UN missions, conflict prevention, and diplomacy. With this linkage, nonmilitary aspects of security would also be upgraded. This would substantially strengthen European defense capabilities within the trans-Atlantic alliance. Germany would do something that is in its own interest and would stabilize the trans-Atlantic alliance at the same time. It would address concerns of the Trump administration and build good will for the time after Donald Trump. The chances of success for this strategy are high: Despite all of the skeptical rhetoric about NATO, the Trump administration has fulfilled America’s NATO commitments so far.
Security policy cooperation with the Trump government should be central to Germany and should also include security guarantees for the central and eastern European NATO members, support for an independent Ukraine, as well as the stabilization of the North African coast.
In the conflict over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the uncertainties around future Iran policy, a trans-Atlantic schism should be avoided. We should do whatever possible to convince the Trump administration of joint approaches.
10. Energy security policy — giving up Nord Stream 2 is in Germany’s interest
There is one more policy area in which the German government should reconsider its position to open the door for productive cooperation: energy security policy. The United States has identified Nord Stream 2, the planned pipeline running through the Baltic Sea to Russia, as a geostrategic project. They are correct. More important: This pipeline project is not in the joint European interest. Nord Stream 2 contradicts a policy of greater energy independence and undermines the envisaged European Energy Union. We should try to identify a joint approach with our European partners and the United States.
11. Climate, energy, and digital policy — manage conflicts responsibly
After having addressed the solvable issues and set aside the unsolvable issues for now, one will need to turn to those policy areas that require responsible conflict management. It would be useless to try to convince the U.S. administration of the importance of the Paris Climate Agreement, but it is equally wrongheaded to isolate President Trump on international climate and energy policy. Necessary criticism should not turn into dogmatism.
Instead, Germany should seek concrete steps forward in climate protection together with the United States. Germany does not need President Trump in order to engage with partners who are interested in climate policy cooperation. A number of states (not just California) and large cities are already rapidly reducing their CO2 emissions. Political, scientific, and technical cooperation with local partners is possible. There is no shortage of potent allies on climate policy in the United States, in the private sector as well as in civil society. Here, the key is to be proactive, to invest money, and to build networks that will endure and outlast the Trump administration.
Digital policy is another policy area where confrontation is possible — about regulatory questions as well as about market shares. It is important to identify points of contention as soon as possible and to avoid unnecessary escalation. Sealing off Europe’s and the United States’ digital markets from each other will seriously damage the outlook for jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. European consumer and data protection standards might be able to be maintained globally if they have U.S. support, but certainly not without it.
12. Final point — more Europe within the Alliance
Making progress with the Trump administration wherever possible, moderating conflicts and avoiding escalation, expanding the spectrum of trans-Atlantic partners beyond the current U.S. administration — these are all core aims of a U.S. strategy that can preserve the trans-Atlantic partnership with and if necessary against this American President, and function beyond his time in office. The United States has proved its capacity for self-correction repeatedly. America remains the indispensable power for those countries that stand for freedom and democracy and strive for an open world order. But Europe — and thus Germany — must do more to support and preserve these values. More European self-reliance is imperative. It would be an error of historical proportions to play out “more Europe” against the trans-Atlantic alliance. The new German government’s foreign policy will be measured by how clearly it pursues this course.
• Deidre Berger, Ramer Institute, American Jewish Committee, Berlin
• James D. Bindenagel, Center for International Security and Governance, University of Bonn
• Ralf Fücks, Centre for Liberal Modernity, Berlin
• Patrick Keller, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Berlin
• Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin
• Anna Kuchenbecker, Aspen Institute Deutschland, Berlin
• Sergey Lagodinsky, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Berlin
• Rüdiger Lentz, Aspen Institute Deutschland, Berlin
• Daniela Schwarzer, German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin
• Jan Techau, Richard C. Holbrooke Forum, American Academy, Berlin
• Sylke Tempel, German Council on Foreign Relations, “Internationale Politik” Magazine, Berlin
The text solely reflects the personal opinions of the authors.
Continue reading the main story
While we wait for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into money laundering, bank fraud, foreign influence, election rigging, and hotel-mattress wetting, I asked eight TV and screenwriters and astute observers of human behavior to come up with two scenarios of how Trump will leave the Oval Office. I offered these examples:
Trump isn’t happy unless he’s humiliating someone so he’ll claim that his sons are doing a terrible job running the Trump Organization, fire them both, and say he’s stepping down to save the family empire.
The Trump presidency should end like the soap opera it is. The final scene starts with Donald and Jared arguing in Trump Tower. Jared takes off, but Donald pursues. (They both just stand on the escalator then pick up the chase at the bottom.) Jared runs out of the building but before he can get far, Donald pulls out a gun. Just like he bragged, Donald’s gonna shoot someone on Fifth Avenue . . . and it’s gonna be his son-in-law. Donald squeezes the trigger. Suddenly out of the crowd, Ivanka throws herself in front of the bullet intended for her husband. Her father watches in horror as his daughter takes the hit. She crumples to the ground—dead (but still incredibly put together.) Donald falls to his knees and cries in despair. What twist of cruel fate allowed him to kill the one thing he kind of, sort of loved?!
(a la Nixon’s “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” in 1962) America—you blew it, losers.
Here are their answers:
Executive producer, Modern Family, five-time Emmy Award winner. The president of the United States once tweeted at him: “Danny—you’re a total loser.”
I don’t think he’ll leave over collusion, conflicts of interest, or even the release of the pee-pee tape. (Although one can dream.) I think he will ultimately resign because the job is harder than he thought. He’s discovering that he can’t simply put a TRUMP sign on the White House and pretend to be president the way he puts one on a building and pretends to be a builder. He’ll say something like, “Over the last nine months, I took a country where the streets were literally full of sewage and crime and people with accents and turned it into a paradise kingdom that rivals heaven itself. Better than heaven, because we all have guns. So tremendous is my creation that it basically runs itself. No president can rule for more than eight years, and I’ve already squozen a decade’s worth of achievements into my first year—and it’s not even Thanksgiving. So, I’m leaving office to spend more time with my son . . . (Melania whispers in his ear) Barron.”
Fade in: intelligence briefing. We are close on Trump’s bloated, porcine face, the kind of face that would immediately disqualify a person from judging others’ appearances. He yawns, wipes some KFC extra-crispy batter from his most northern chin. Then he gets an idea. A light-bulb moment. Not a bright light bulb—more like the bulb in that emergency flashlight you find buried in your junk drawer. He stands up and exclaims . . .
TRUMP: I quit.
INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Wah wah wah wah wah?
TRUMP: I SAID, I QUIT!
He races out of the briefing room and makes his way outside, where we see a HELMETED FIGURE on a motorcycle.
TRUMP: I did it! I QUIT.
The helmeted figure takes off the helmet and we see SARAH PALIN
SARAH PALIN: Good boy. Hop on.
Trump hops on the back of the hog and the two quitters drive off into the sunset. FADE OUT:
I’m moving outta here like a bitch.
Writer for The Good Place and Silicon Valley
Donald Trump will be impeached after evidence surfaces that he met with Russians clandestinely on multiple occasions specifically to sabotage Hillary’s run for president. This will occur approximately one week before the election in 2020. By then, cities won’t exist, and the average temperature in America will be 130 degrees Trump (the new nomenclature for Fahrenheit).
Donald Trump will resign after a secret Russian sex tape surfaces, one that involves Trump sexually harassing his daughter Ivanka. He will then brag that he was the “fastest president ever,” and that he can resign since he’s brought back “all of the jobs. Literally all of them. Look at them—they’re all back now.” He will spend the rest of his days doing exactly what he did in the presidency, playing golf and pretending to drive fire trucks.
“Ffffffffpllllplplplplplplplppppluuuuuuuuuuugggffffffff.” (This is the sound of Donald Trump publicly shitting himself at a rally, then trying to cover his butt with Mike Pence’s sweater, but the sweater isn’t big enough to cover his big butt, so he slips and falls and can’t get up ’cause he’s covered in his own shit, so he’s pulled off by the Secret Service, never to be seen again.)
Executive producer, The Last Man on Earth
I remember learning that when L. Ron Hubbard died, they announced to the rank-and-file Scientologists that he had merely “discarded his body” so he could continue his work on other planes of existence. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say I believe this is how Trump’s impeachment and resignation will go. I think he’ll call it something else, and Congress will happily play along. An impeachment will be called a “Constitutional Hearing,” or a “Congressional Adjustment,” or an “Unholy Witch Hunt.” A resignation will be called an “Executive Realignment,” or a “Presidential Ascension,” or simply a “Nothingburger.” So my most plausible scenario is that something happens that’s not an impeachment, and he does something that’s not a resignation. And he lives many more years acting like he is still president, and the whole country silently agrees to never talk about that one time we had a constitutional crisis and pretended we didn’t.
A second White House will be built a few blocks from the official White House, and Trump will stay there three days a week. This new White House will be a full replica, but five-times bigger and gold.
This one’s easy. The quote will be “I’m still president.”
I mean, that’s what the NYT headline will be. The full quote will not be so pithy.
“Am I resigning? No. Where did you hear that, by the way? That’s, if you believe that, I’ll sell you a bridge on top of the World Trade Center. Which, terrible deal by the way. Whoever built that, I like buildings that don’t collapse, O.K.? Terrible deal. They got a lot of things (garbled). It’s nuts. And I hear everyone asking “is he resigning, is he impeaching?” I’m not impeaching, O.K.? I’m president. They still call me president, don’t they? Everybody calls me President Trump. You hear it everywhere you go, President Trump this, President Trump that, President Trump, I love you, President Trump, don’t go. So I’m president. It’s silly. It’s dumb (garbled). Mike Pence is a helluva guy. Mike Pence, President Pence if you wanna call him that. Great guy, terrific guy. I also heard there’s gonna be a new vice president, which you can do. A lot of people don’t know that. You can bring the vice president up to president, I just learned this, a lot of people don’t know. And then he can bring up a guy. I don’t know who they’ll choose, but it should be my daughter. Not the ugly one. (Large applause). No, come on. Come on. You’re nasty. So I’m gonna travel and do great things. Dubai. Russia. China. And wherever I go, I’m the president there, too, they love me there and we’re only gonna make it bigger. Maybe I’ll do another TV show, would you like that? I’ll do a TV show, “where’s Hillary?” Has anyone seen her? She’s gone, maybe she’s in jail, I don’t know. They tell me (garbled) and all of this and that. But she’s not in jail and I’m gonna put her in jail. Maybe she’s with ISIS (huge applause). I beat ISIS. ISIS is no longer a threat because of me. But they’re still a threat and I’ll continue to beat them. But as to the question, who’s president? I’m president. They call Obama president and he was never even president. So believe me, I’m still president.”
Creator/executive producer/host of BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede; former head writer and correspondent of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show
At the height of his paranoia, Trump will start accusing everyone in his administration of plotting against him. He will openly start leaking damning audio tapes of his conversations with Bannon, Sessions, Kushner, et al. and fire them one by one until no one is left. He will then declare the government “illegitimate” and return to private business, where he can “truly make a difference.” Oh, and he’ll find a way to blame Obama for it all.
Trump will spearhead the “New Civil Rights Movement” where he positions himself as this era’s Martin Luther King Jr. for rich white men. He will lead protests of “poor” areas and host “sit-ins” on golf carts on the country’s finest courses as his way of demanding more “white rights.” Convinced his mission is accomplished after only two weeks of this campaign, he will rename Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Donald J. Trump Day.”
I NEVER got credit for anything! I had women peeing on me WAY before R. Kelly!
Writer of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black, Now You See Me, and Steven Soderbergh’sMosaic (on HBO)
Trump will have to find a way to package his departure as a “win,” which means deciding the game is over and he’s walking away with the trophy. He’ll declare that the whole “four-year thing” is an arbitrary number—after all, there’s no set time frame for a C.E.O. to turn a company around, is there? And look—he did it quickly: he made America great in 16 months. Now that he’s “won” at politics, it’s time for him to give up his pro-bono work and go back to running his company (a company which, by the way, has tripled in value in the short 16 months he was the best president ever).
Donald’s day is slammed with meetings. Today it’s Jesus, and Rambo, and early-1980’s running-on-the-beach Bo Derek. Oh, and also Jamie Lee Curtis in that moment from Trading Places. Again. Followed by Hillary—coming to beg for a job—which he promises . . . and then rescinds. Again. And later? A rally! This one in the Grand Canyon—which he’s packed beyond capacity (there’s an overflow canyon—with a two-mile-long video screen—300 miles away at Bryce). As he flies there (he has his own wings now), he soars over Obama, who’s giving a sparsely attended speech outside a Fotomat in Tonopah. Barack looks up in envy as Donald waves with giant hands. As he approaches the canyon, he can hear the crowds singing the “Make America Great” song and we:
PULL BACK TO REVEAL:
Donald has never left his desk. His V.R. headset is permanently affixed to his face. He is fed liquid Kentucky Fried Chicken through a Heparin Lock. “What’s next?” he says. We don’t see what he’s seeing, but we DO see a big smile on his face. “I love you, too, dad.” He smiles, a single tear rolling down his cheek. “I love you so, so, so much, too. What’s next?” And now we:
PULL BACK FURTHER:
And realize that the desk is in fact in a giant plexiglass cube floating on a barge somewhere.
PULLING BACK EVEN FURTHER:
The barge is on a river flowing through a grayish, overcast city. Hard to know where we are, exactly, because the only signs are in Cyrillic.
It will be something like: “Fine—if the Fake News won’t let me tell the truth, we’ll have our own REAL News.” And thus begins TNN.
Author of Worst. Person. Ever.
The manner in which Trump leaves is not a big deal in his mind. I suspect he’ll probably just get bored and stop showing up for work, moving into second-term Reagan, phone-it-in mode before the 2018 races.
All White House staff members show up one morning wearing the exact same Claire Underwood pencil skirt but nobody’s sure why. An expression of solidarity? Ambition? Overly effective Nair lobbyists? Following an awkwardly quiet morning briefing comes a bathroom break, at which point staffers are deadlocked in a Tarantino multi-gun standoff: who—who!—will enter which bathroom? In an unexpected turn of events, everyone chooses the wrong bathroom and everyone gets fired. Donald huffs in disgust, saying that Melania is hotter than any of them, and who needs this? If you want me I’ll be in Scotland.
Hey, Mike Pence—you won’t see Melania wearing some spooky sister-wife dress.
Head writer of Late Night with David Letterman, winner of four Emmy Awards
When figuring out what he will say, you have to put yourself in the mind-set of a humiliated and rage-filled narcissist who has to retreat with his dignity intact but leave a wound. The real scenario, should it happen, will be, “I’m a billionaire. I didn’t need this job. The only reason I took it was a mandate from my fans to Make America Great Again. The fake-news media, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats who are all determined to ruin this country refused to let me. #Sad.”
Donald Trump is forced by a mysterious angel to look at what life in the United States would have been like if he’d never been born or been elected. Hillary would be in the White House; there is Medicare for everyone, and the economy is booming as the U.S. leads the fight against climate change. None of his horrible sons would have been born, so wild animals in Africa would be safe. Ivanka would be sitting in a tower in another dimension, sewing shoes by hand as she stares longingly at the moon and waits to be born to someone who had a profitable tech start-up. Kellyanne Conway would be hanging around the greenrooms of morning-talk shows, waiting for someone to drop out at the last minute so she could give horoscope predictions. Melania would be preparing for her wedding to Sumner Redstone. Donald is so moved that he begins to sob and calls a press conference. “My fellow Americans,” he says, “I want to resign. I have been such a fool.” Then he and his family go to work to preserve the environment and save endangered species. In the last frame, they’d all be standing in line to volunteer for the Peace Corps.
Look, all I can say at this point is, and I’m leaving in a few minutes—but check my Twitter, and there will still be rallies. I can still hold my rallies, because as far as I know, we still have the First Amendment—they will be incredible rallies. My uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at M.I.T.; good genes, very good genes, very smart. Wharton School of Finance. And if I was a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican oh, do they do a number—but when you look at what’s going on with the Persians who are great negotiators, the Iranians who are great negotiators, and the North Koreans who have tremendous rallies, they hold those placards up, we will have rallies and we will do placards. Our rallies will be better attended than Kim Jong Un, even when it’s a birthday or an anniversary or whatever they do there. Wait and see.
Composer and lyricist for The Band’s Visit
Some version of “I have decided to resign because you’re all losers, and I quit.”
Trump announces that he can no longer serve as president of the United States of America because the pee tape that the Failing New York Times has finally uncovered and released is “obviously doctored” to give him a “much, much smaller penis than the really, actually big, some say very big, strong penis that I actually have.”
I’m suing all of you. You, your families, your fucking pets . . .
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“O.K., you, in the third row… Yes, you… I’m calling on you… Yes, that’s why I’m pointing… I’m pointing with my finger… My FINGER. This one… Why would you think I’m holding up a cocktail frank?”
Photo: By Justin Lane/EPA/Corbis.
In Iowa last January, Trump regales voters with a humanizing personal anecdote about how he once bit his right index finger after mistaking it for a half-eaten French fry.
Photo: By Jerry Mennenga/ZUMA Press/Corbis.
A wax figure of “Duke” Wayne looks on in disgust as Trump strains to reach his fingers all the way around daughter Aissa Wayne’s frankly rather petite shoulder. (Fun fact: you could load the barrel of Wayne’s pistol with 14 of Trump’s pinkies.)
Photo: By Tannen Maury/EPA/Corbis.
As Trump talks straight through a lunch-hour town hall in February, hungry New Hampshire voters appear mesmerized by the five chicken-tender-like appendages radiating from his sausage-patty-size palm.
Photo: From The Washington Post/Getty Images.
At this 2005 gala, Trump, thinking quickly, uses both hands to keep wife Melania from getting a good look at the size of a single Puff Daddy hand.
Photo: By Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images.
Trump’s delicate right hand is nearly crushed by his nine-year-old daughter Ivanka’s huge, burly mitt at a 1991 event.
Photo: From The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
Presented without comment.
Photo: By Scott Olson/Getty Images.
Money to a mystery man
By the end of October 2000, the Yemeni authorities had arrested a man named Fahd al-Quso, writes Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower. Quso had admitted that he and one of the suicide bombers had delivered money to “Khallad”
Bin Laden’s errand boy
Ali Soufan, a Lebanese-American FBI agent was in charge of the USS Cole bombing probe. His source from Afghanistan had described a fighter named Khallad with a metal leg who was in charge of a guesthouse in Kandahar. He called Khallad, Osama bin Laden’s “errand boy”. “That was the first real link between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda,” Wright adds in his Pulitzer-winning book. Khallad was the mastermind behind the Cole bombing and was also part of the failed attempt to blow up USS The Sullivans in the Aden harbour
Connection to 9/11
Quso had also told Soufan he was supposed to meet Khallad in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. So the FBI agent sent an official request to the CIA asking if they had any information about Khallad or any al-Qaeda meeting in the region. But the agency did not respond
There was in fact a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January that year and the CIA knew about it. The four men who had originally been selected for the 9/11 operation went to the city and among them were two Yemenis who adopted the name Khallad. “The meeting was not wiretapped, so the opportunity to discover the plots that culminated in the bombing of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attack was lost”
Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s oldest son, came under fire earlier this year when it was found that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after it was promised that she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
But that lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Fox News that she would have met with Clinton, too, if she had believed that the former secretary of state could have helped her with her anti-sanctions push.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating Russia’s influence in the election, impaneled a grand jury in August – widely seen as an indicator that his investigation is entering a new phase.
Mueller is also seeking to speak with White House staffers – but has not requested to speak to the president as of yet – sources told Fox News.
From the firing of the nation’s F.B.I. director to Trump’s oldest son’s meeting with a controversial Russian lawyer, here’s what you need to know about the Russian investigation so far.
Before Trump ever took office, tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other officials connected to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were leaked.
Those emails – released in July 2016 ahead of the Democratic National Convention – purportedly showed the party favoring Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and led to the resignation of party chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But more than just ousting Wasserman Schultz, intelligence officials concluded that those responsible for leaking the emails were connected to the Russian government. In its assessment of the hack, the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump secure the presidency.
MUELLER’S RUSSIA PROBE: WHAT TO KNOW
Before he handed over the White House to Trump, former President Barack Obama sanctioned Russiafor its alleged involvement in the election – a move that would eventually come back to dismantle one of Trump’s senior aides.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also got the administration into hot water for his own actions during the campaign.
Trump Jr. confirmed in July 2017 that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign as she was supposed to have damaging information about Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an email about the meeting said in part.
Trump Jr. maintained that the Veselnitskaya, did not have any information to share and instead wanted to discuss other matters.
TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXEC EMAILED PUTIN’S PRESS SECRETARY FOR HELP ON MOSCOW PROJECT
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, were at the meeting as well. The two are also being investigated.
Michael Flynn’s tenure as Trump’s national security adviser was short but rife with controversy that still bedevils the administration. But Flynn didn’t come without a warning.
Only a few days after the November election, Obama met with Trump to share his concerns about Flynn, a retired lieutenant general. Flynn had served under Obama as head of military intelligence until he was fired in 2014 following reports of insubordination and questionable management style.
Still, Trump ignored Obama’s apparent apprehensions and selected Flynn as his national security advisor. Not a month later, Trump accepted Flynn’s resignation.
HOW IS JARED KUSHNER LINKED TO RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION?
As Obama issued the sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the election, Flynn reportedly called the Russian ambassador to discuss the move. Flynn initially denied speaking to the ambassador, but when intelligence officials revealed proof, he said he just didn’t remember speaking on that topic.
Flynn resigned under harsh scrutiny for misleading the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his ties to and conversations with Russian officials.
He remains under multiple investigations by congressional committees and the Pentagon’s inspector general. Mueller has included Flynn in his probe, and his investigators are reportedly trying to determine if he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the campaign, the New York Times reported in August.
Flynn registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department in March 2017.
Firing the FBI director
Trump sacked F.B.I. Director James Comey on May 9 – less than two months after Comey publicly proclaimed that the agency was investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
The White House maintained that Comey was relieved from his duties due to his handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure of secretary of state. But days later, Trump alluded that he had considered the Russian investigation when he fired Comey.
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SERGEI KISLYAK, AT CENTER OF ELECTION CONTROVERSY, CONCLUDES ASSIGNMENT
Comey told a Senate intelligence committee in June that he was concerned about the “shifting explanations” that came from the White House regarding his firing.
He also claimed that Trump had asked for the F.B.I. to drop its investigation into Flynn during a February meeting. The White House has denied that Trump was attempting to influence the F.B.I. director.
Before the committee, Comey confirmed that he had reassured Trump repeatedly that he was not under investigation by the F.B.I.
Russians in the Oval
In the wake of Comey’s dismissal, the Trump administration was rocked with reports of the president’s own controversial dealings with Russian officials in the Oval Office.
The Washington Post reported on May 15 that Trump shared classified information regarding ISIS threats with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time. The information was reportedly given to the U.S. from Israel and not meant to be shared.
Later that week, the New York Times reported that Trump told those officials the day after firing Comey – who he allegedly called a “nut job” – that the personnel change took “great pressure” off of him.
Special counsel called
The Department of Justice announced the appointment of former F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s alleged influence on the election on May 17.
The appointment followed a growing Democratic outcry for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the probe.
TRUMP SAYS SESSIONS ‘SHOULD NEVER HAVE RECUSED HIMSELF’ FROM RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Mueller was given wide berth to carry out his investigation, and he expanded the probe to look into whether Trump obstructed justice with Comey’s firing.
Trump has criticized Mueller’s friendship with Comey as “very bothersome.” The two were former colleagues at the Justice Department.
Mueller has reportedly impaneled a grand jury to continue the investigation. A grand jury gives prosecutors the ability to subpoena documents and gather on-the-record witness testimonies. It doesn’t necessarily mean criminal charges will be sought.
Trump faces Putin
Trump finally met with Putin for the first time face-to-face at the G-20 summit in June.
He immediately pressed his Russian counterpart on the allegations of election meddling – which Putin denied, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
KELLYANNE CONWAY ON COLLUSION: ‘WHAT’S THE CONCLUSION?’
Lavrov told reporters after the meeting that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Moscow was innocent of interfering in the election.
Trump Tower Moscow
While Trump was actively running for president, his business attempted to secure a new real estate development in Moscow, according to records reviewed by the Washington Post.
The Trump Organization pursued building a Trump Tower in Moscow from late 2015 to early 2016, according to the paper. And Russian-born real estate developer Felix Sater was hoping to bring Trump himself to the country.
Sater reportedly urged Trump to come to Moscow to promote the business venture and promised that he could get Putin to say “great things” about the Manhattan business mogul, sources told the Washington Post.
A top executive with Trump’s real estate company also emailed Putin’s press secretary in 2016 for help to expedite the project, according to an email obtained by Fox News.
“Over the past few months, I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City,” Michael Cohen, the company’s executive vice president and Trump’s special counsel at the time, said in a Jan. 14, 2016 email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance.”
Cohen later told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the project was “similar” to other business ideas “contemplated years before any campaign.”
“The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign,” Cohen said.
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance.”
Trump never went to Russia, and the project was abandoned in January 2016.
Anyone else under investigation?
Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016 amid questions regarding his business dealings in Ukraine.
The special counsel has taken over a criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings, which began even before the 2016 election, according to The Associated Press. F.B.I. agents raided Manafort’s Virginia home in July, taking with them documents related to the Russia investigation.
DONALD TRUMP JR. AGREES TO PRIVATE MEETING WITH SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Manafort has been the subject of multiple investigations into his financial dealings and lobbying work. He has denied any colluding with Russia.
In June 2017, Manafort officially registered as a foreign agent for work he did with a Ukrainian political party from 2012 to 2014.
Kushner, too, has been under F.B.I. scrutiny.
Kushner, married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, may possess substantial information relevant to the Russian investigation, officials told NBC in May.
He also held private meetings with lawmakers regarding the controversial meeting Trump Jr. set up with the Russian lawyer. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is leading the House intelligence committee’s probe into Russia’s involvement in the election, said Kushner was “straightforward, forthcoming [and] wanted to answer every question we had.”
Kushner has denied colluding with Russia or knowing anyone who did so.
Social media, too, is the subject of congressional investigations as Facebook, Twitter and Google executives have said advertisements linked to Russian operatives were bought during the election.
Facebook said about $100,000 in ad purchases connected to “inauthentic accounts” that violated its policies were uncovered as well as another $50,000 on “potentially politically related ad spending” that were in Russian. Twitter said a group with “strong links to the Russian government” spent $274,000 in ads, and the social media site suspended almost two dozen accounts that were possibly linked to Russian officials.
As for Google, Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Google Search products and Gmail regarding the election, Fox Business reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Records show the committee has made eight such requests, including subpoenas, in that time period.
Congressional investigators have met “a lot of resistance,” committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Fox News.
But the GOP lawmaker seemed to indicate public scrutiny and congressional pressure may spur movement on the issue. “These are crucial questions related to Congress’ oversight responsibilities. … We hope we’ll soon be on the path to getting the information we need,” he said.
Asked for comment, the Justice Department’s principal deputy director of public affairs, Ian D. Prior, said: “The materials requested involve extremely sensitive law enforcement information. We have been working with the committee and have had a productive dialogue with an aim towards ensuring it gets what it needs while addressing our concerns.”
The FBI and Justice Department are led by Trump appointees Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, respectively. But officials at the departments have refused to provide information about the dossier’s sources, who paid for it and whether the FBI used the unverified dossier to obtain surveillance warrants. The document, along with its salacious allegations, emerged earlier this year in the press and was roundly rejected by President Trump and his allies. Investigators on Capitol Hill have been trying to unlock the document’s origins ever since.
Sources close to the matter say that Gregory Brower, a former U.S. attorney, is now the gatekeeper to such information as head of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs. Brower is said to be close to former director James Comey, who named him to the job in March, two months before Comey was fired and during a tense period in Comey’s relationship with Trump. Sources told Fox News that Brower has turned down requests, citing the special counsel investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
While Nunes has stepped aside from the broader investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign, he remains chairman of the intelligence committee and has pressed for information on the dossier as well as the “unmasking” of Trump associates by the Obama administration.
The powerful Senate Intelligence Committee leadership told reporters last week that their investigators also had run into roadblocks on the dossier, which was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele at the direction of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm based in Washington, D.C.
“As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately the committee has hit a wall,” Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., explained. “We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele, to include personally the vice chairman and myself as two individuals making that connection. Those offers have gone unaccepted. The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it? Who are your sources and sub-sources?”
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, wrote to the FBI last week stating there are “material inconsistencies” in the bureau’s responses about the dossier and how it was used. Grassley highlighted that the dossier was shared by Steele with the U.K. government, according to court records in a defamation suit.
“Mr. Steele’s dossier allegations might appear to be ‘confirmed’ by foreign intelligence, rather than just an echo of the same ‘research’ that Fusion bought from Steele and that the FBI reportedly also attempted to buy from Steele,” Grassley wrote.
To date, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson has not revealed sources and payments for the dossier to congressional investigators, even refusing to answer questions from Senate Judiciary Committee staff during a closed-door session.
Fusion GPS Lawyer Joshua Levy did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The opposition research firm that produced the explosive dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia has claimed in new court filings that it did not provide the dossier to BuzzFeed, which published the document in full in January.
The filings were part of Fusion GPS’s efforts to quash a subpoena issued in late August by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive whom the dossier accused of targeting Democratic Party leadership with malware and “botnets.” Gubarev is now suing both BuzzFeed and the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele.
Steele, a former British spy who spent decades on MI6’s Moscow desk, was hired by Fusion to research Trump’s purported ties to Russia.
In their initial attempt to quash Gubarev’s subpoena, Fusion said it would be willing to provide any “pre-publication communications” it had with BuzzFeed about the dossier prior to its publication.
Court documents filed on Tuesday, however, included a September 12 email from a lawyer with the firm representing Fusion informing Gubarev’s attorney that “we have found no pre-publication communications” between the firm and BuzzFeed.
From the filings:
Fusion’s attorneys wrote in the court filings that Gubarev’s attempts to “open the door to wide-ranging discovery” of the firm were “unpersuasive” because Fusion “did not create or author the December memo, and did not give it to BuzzFeed.”
Evan Fray-Witzer, an attorney for Gubarev, said during a discovery hearing on September 28 that “the one thing that [Fusion] have told us is BuzzFeed didn’t get the dossier from them. BuzzFeed went to them and tried to get the dossier from them and they refused to give it to BuzzFeed.”
A spokesperson for Fusion GPS repeated that claim on Wednesday.
“While there may have been a request by BuzzFeed, no documents were shared,” the spokesperson told Business Insider.
BuzzFeed issued the following statement: “As we’ve stated time and again, the dossier was circulating at the highest levels of government, among numerous media outlets, and is the subject of multiple federal investigations. The only group that had yet to see the dossier when we published it was the public.”
Indeed, the dossier had been making its way around Washington, DC, for months leading up to its publication. Numerous reporters revealed after it was published that they had been approached to write about the dossier and its allegations.
Mother Jones’ David Corn reported on some of the dossier’s allegations in October after speaking with Steele and “his associates at the American firm” that hired him. Neither Steele nor Fusion GPS were named in Corn’s story. Their identities were only revealed later, well after BuzzFeed published the dossier in full.
Corn reported, however, that Steele had approached the FBI “without the permission of the US company that hired him” in July after spending a month collecting information about Trump’s alleged Russia ties. Steele forwarded the FBI additional memos in August, at which point they began communicating regularly, Corn reported.
Fusion GPS was therefore not the only entity with access to the dossier. The document was reportedly obtained by former State Department official David Kramer, who then passed it along to Republican Sen. John McCain. McCain then provided it to former FBI Director James Comey.
The FBI had reportedly already used the dossier’s allegations to bolster its case for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against early Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Fusion over the summer but dropped the request when the firm’s cofounder, Glenn Simpson, agreed to a closed-door interview.