March 27, 2017

The Russian connection

The FBI cannot tell us what we need to know about Trump’s contacts with Russia because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Putin — and to Trump. But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. WhoWhatWhy provides the details of a two-month investigation

Washington Times - President Donald Trump's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, met with the CEO of Russia's state-owned Vnesheconombank in December 2016, The New York Times reported. The meeting — which had not previously been disclosed and came on the heels of Kushner's meeting with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, at Trump Tower — recently caught the eye of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether any members of Trump's campaign were complicit.

Kislyak reportedly orchestrated the meeting between Kushner and Vnesheconombank CEO Sergey N. Gorkov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank's management team, Bloomberg reported last year. Gorkov, who graduated from the Federal Security Service (FSB) Academy of Russia in 1994, was the vice-president of Russia's state-controlled Sberbank before joining Vnesheconombank.

Putin first revamped Vnesheconombank, known as Russia's bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, in 2007. The Russian leader turned it into "a pillar of his Kremlin-driven economy at the height of the oil boom" and took "personal control over key lending decisions," according to Bloomberg, which characterized it as "the bank that financed Vladimir Putin’s grandest ambitions."

Between 2012 and 2014, Vnesheconombank was used as cover for Russian spy Evgeny Buryakov as he attempted to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources for Moscow, according to the Department of Justice.

Daily Kos - While Donald Trump was begging the Russians to dig into Hillary Clinton’s email, and members of Trump’s staff were possibly in collusion with the Russian government to feed Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, the RNC was taking its own extraordinary approach to finding dirt—and amazingly, it also had a Russian connection. As the general election was taking shape last summer, the Republican National Committee initiated a series of payments to a low-profile firm started by retired Central Intelligence Agency officers that worked closely with an ex-Russian spy. The payments attracted attention in political and intelligence circles, largely because the Virginia-based firm, Hamilton Trading Group, had particular expertise in Russia, which was emerging as a major campaign issue at the time.

Huffington Post - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) met a source on White House grounds last week, one day before he alleged that President Donald Trump and his team were subjected to surveillance during the final months of the Obama administration. Nunes met the source on White House grounds in order to view sensitive information in a “secure location,” Jack Langer, Nunes’ communications director, said Monday in a statement, CNN first reported... The revelation about Nunes adds to speculation that he coordinated with Trump’s team before making allegations about the previous administration’s information-gathering. 

The Trump administration was silent for hours after Russia arrested hundreds of protesters. Thousands of Russians took to the streets to protest corruption under President Vladimir Putin, and the police cracked down. The Trump administration had no comment for 12 hours.

Time - Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. "Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials. Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman [Richard] Burr's Committee, but has not yet received confirmation," a White House official told TIME.

Kushner, one of Trump's top advisers, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, along with Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his discussions with Kislyak. Kushner also met with Sergey Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state-owned development bank, the New York Times reported.

Daily Beast - The Senate Intelligence Committee will have its time in the spotlight this week as it holds its first open hearings on prior Russian “active measures” and influence operations in the world. The panel has been essentially quiet on the progress of its investigation since it was announced in January.

The investigation has remained bipartisan, with members of both parties continuing to support the ongoing probe, and without any of the bickering that has characterized the House’s efforts.

“This is the most important thing that I’ve ever done in my public life,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. “We know that the Russians massively interfered in our elections… And we have the series of people that are very closely affiliated with the president who’ve had extensive ties with Russia.”

Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee investigation continues to reel after its independence and credibility were badly undercut last week.

A divisive hearing with the FBI director led to the revelation that the bureau was undertaking an ongoing investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia. Committee Chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, held a shocking press conference in which he announced that Trump transition officials were “incidentally” surveiled, and then briefed the White House before his own committee.


Anonymous said...

In the logic of guilt by association, Putin is a world leader but is guilty for knowing someone like Trump, serial violator of the emoluments clause. Trump is a president but is guilty for knowing a foreign leader whose politics are equally taboo as Chinese communism. The possibility of an exit from the cold war system should be put to a national referendum or at least opinion polling. Arguably there was a mandate in 2016 for Hamiltonian isolationism and a return to the American System wherein Russia and China are once again our partners and fascists like ISIS are the enemy.

Anonymous said...

The new McCarthyism - brought to you by yet another faction that suffers most from peace with Russia - instead of war!