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  1. #5116

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry
    The subpoena, sent to Deutsche Bank, suggests that the inquiry into President Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.
    By David Enrich, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser
    Aug. 5, 2020
    Updated 8:01 p.m. ET

    The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.

    The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued the subpoena last year to Deutsche Bank, which has been Mr. Trump’s primary lender since the late 1990s, seeking financial records that he and his company provided to the bank, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

    The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

    But in a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

    Because of its longstanding and multifaceted relationship with Mr. Trump, Deutsche Bank has been a frequent target of regulators and lawmakers digging into the president’s opaque finances. But the subpoena from the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., appears to be the first instance of a criminal inquiry involving Mr. Trump and his dealings with the German bank, which lent him and his company more than $2 billion over the past two decades.

    Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena. Over a period of months last year, it provided Mr. Vance’s office with detailed records, including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump had provided to the bank as he sought loans, according to two of the people familiar with the inquiry.

    The bank’s response to the subpoena reinforces the seriousness of the legal threat the district attorney’s investigation poses for Mr. Trump, his family and his company, which in recent years have faced — and for the most part fended off — an onslaught of regulatory, congressional and criminal inquiries.

    But while the subpoena of Deutsche Bank indicates the breadth of Mr. Vance’s investigation, his inquiry is still at an early stage, a person briefed on the matter said.

    The district attorney’s office has spent the past year trying to obtain Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, and the Supreme Court last month upheld prosecutors’ rights to seek the documents. But legal wrangling continues, and Mr. Vance’s office has said that its investigation will be hamstrung unless prosecutors get the tax returns.

    Mr. Trump and his company have denied wrongdoing and have sought to dismiss the inquiry by Mr. Vance, a Democrat, as a politically motivated fishing expedition. Mr. Trump’s representatives have accused his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, of lying when he told Congress that Mr. Trump exaggerated the value of his real estate assets as he sought loans and in dealings with his insurance company.

    The subpoena to Deutsche Bank sought documents on various topics related to Mr. Trump and his company, including any materials that might point to possible fraud, according to two people briefed on the subpoena’s contents.

    The bank’s cooperation with Mr. Vance’s office is significant because other investigations that have sought Mr. Trump’s financial records have been stymied by legal challenges from the president and his family.

    Last month, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to congressional investigations into the president’s finances when it ordered lower courts to reconsider whether Deutsche Bank and Mazars USA, Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, had to comply with congressional subpoenas seeking his records. The ruling meant that the subpoenas would not be enforced until after the presidential election in November, if at all.

    Mr. Vance’s office declined to comment.

    Whatever records the Manhattan prosecutors obtain are subject to grand jury secrecy rules and might never become public unless the district attorney’s office brings charges and introduces the documents as evidence at a trial.

    Even if investigators uncover what they think is evidence of fraud, criminal charges could be hard to prove. Valuing real estate assets involves subjective estimates and other assumptions, making it difficult to prove that someone intended to commit fraud. The New York Times reported previously that some Deutsche Bank officials viewed Mr. Trump’s financial statements as based on wildly optimistic assumptions and, in some cases, reduced his estimates of his assets’ values by up to 70 percent.

    Some of the insurance and bank issues that have drawn scrutiny from reporters are also too old to be the focus of a criminal case.

    Tax returns can be crucial evidence for proving that a defendant misstated the value of assets, said Daniel R. Alonso, who was Mr. Vance’s top deputy from 2010 to 2014 and is now in private practice. “Tax returns are an obvious place to look because of the precision required by tax authorities,” he said.

    The district attorney’s investigation has been proceeding in fits and starts since it began in the summer of 2018. Almost immediately, Mr. Vance paused the inquiry at the request of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which had prosecuted Mr. Cohen and was investigating whether others at the Trump Organization had committed crimes in the course of arranging the hush-money payments.

    In early 2019, Mr. Cohen testified on Capitol Hill that Mr. Trump had inflated the value of his assets in order at times to obtain financing from Deutsche Bank, including in 2014 when he bid unsuccessfully for the Buffalo Bills football team. Mr. Cohen also told federal prosecutors in Manhattan about insurance claims the Trump Organization had filed that he believed had been inflated.

    Last summer, after federal prosecutors concluded their investigation of the hush-money payments without bringing additional charges, Mr. Vance’s office resumed its inquiry. In August 2019, the office served a subpoena on Mazars, seeking the president’s tax returns and other financial records going back to 2011.

    Mr. Trump filed a lawsuit last September seeking to block Mazars from complying. The case is still being litigated nearly a year later, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling last month affirming Mr. Vance’s right to criminally investigate the president. The justices said that Mr. Trump could go back to the lower court, where he first sued, and raise other objections to the subpoena.

    Shortly after Mr. Trump filed his suit last year, Mr. Vance’s office provided the judge who has been overseeing the case, Victor Marrero, a two-page summary of its secret grand jury investigation, which was not made available to the public or to Mr. Trump. Days later, at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, Judge Marrero said the inquiry “clearly is very complex” and “involves a lot of parties, extends over many, many years.”

    While Deutsche Bank has been cooperating with prosecutors, Mr. Vance’s office made it clear to Judge Marrero last month that its inquiry had been stalled without the tax returns.

    “It’s been nearly a year since we served our subpoena,” Carey R. Dunne, a senior official under Mr. Vance, told the judge, “and this lawsuit’s been very successful since then in delaying our ability to gather the central evidence.”

    That delay, Mr. Dunne added, made it “ever more likely that the grand jury will be prevented from evaluating the evidence before the statutes of limitation expire.”
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  2. #5117

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Robert J. DeNault @robertjdenault

    JUST IN: New York Attorney General Letitia James will make a “major national announcement” tomorrow morning at 11:30 am EST.

    Robert J. DeNault @robertjdenault
    Replying to @robertjdenault
    Unclear what this is about, but strange it comes within 1 hour of NYT dropping a major story that Manhattan DA subpoenaed/obtained Trump’s Deutsche Bank records, and weeks after New York DFS fined the same division of Deutsche for work with Epstein. Is this related? Stay tuned.

    Should reiterate—we have no clue if this is Trump-related. AG James could be announcing a number of things tomorrow that might qualify as national and urgent (elections, census, etc).

    Still, to announce this within 1 hour of this NYT story and have it be unrelated would be odd.

    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  3. #5118

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    We've discussed ad nauseam the fact that Trump's loyalists would be able to overlook anything and still support him.

    But on the list of things they've been able to ignore: It is simply not possible that his tax returns and bank records do anything less than show major felonious activity. He and his lawyers have gone to such lengths to keep anyone from seeing them, that of course this is the case. I hope like everything that the days of him avoiding charges of financial wrongdoing are over.

    By the way, I also saw the interview on Rachel's show about the attempts to use his weight to get the British Open (golf) moved to his course in Scotland. There is NO question that what he did is totally, totally illegal. A similar action by a Democratic president would have been met by yet another round of calls for impeachment. (there would have been daily such calls if a Democrat did even 1/10 of the evil things Trump has done).


  4. #5119
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    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Just to close the loop, the NY Attorney General announcement is unrelated to Deutsche Bank and is that NY State is suing to dissolve the National Rifle Association due to misappropriation of funds and corruption.

  5. #5120

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by mmmm8 View Post
    Just to close the loop, the NY Attorney General announcement is unrelated to Deutsche Bank and is that NY State is suing to dissolve the National Rifle Association due to misappropriation of funds and corruption.
    Both Jeff and I posted her announcement in different threads.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  6. #5121

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by mmmm8 View Post
    Just to close the loop, the NY Attorney General announcement is unrelated to Deutsche Bank and is that NY State is suing to dissolve the National Rifle Association due to misappropriation of funds and corruption.
    Oh my God, where is Captain Renault?!
    Last edited by ponchi101; 08-07-2020 at 12:31 PM.
    Face it. It's the apocalypse.

  7. #5122

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Justice Department accuses Ukrainian oligarch of stealing billions from bank he once owned and laundering it in the U.S.

    Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman
    August 6, 2020 at 3:41 p.m. EDT

    The Justice Department on Thursday accused a Ukrainian oligarch who has been considered an ally of that country’s president of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned, then using a vast array of companies to launder that money in the United States and all over the world.

    In a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to seize commercial properties from the men in Kentucky and Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Igor Kolomoisky and his business partner, Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole so much from PrivatBank that the country’s national bank had to give the institution a $5.5 billion bailout “to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”

    Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, has ties to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and he played a role in the events that led to President Trump’s impeachment last year. He made a fortune in the rough and tumble capitalism that swept Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse, amassing assets from airlines to financial institutions, and created a larger-than-life image for himself, going by the nickname “Benya,” and keeping a shark aquarium in his office.

    Kolomoisky and Boholiubov were the two major owners of PrivatBank before it was nationalized in response to the fraud, the Justice Department said, and the men basically used it as a personal account to build a business empire in the United States. They requested money from PrivatBank — which they always received because they were owners — then moved the money through a vast network of companies to “thoroughly disguise their nature, source, ownership, and control,” the Justice Department alleged.

    Among their purchases in the U.S. were more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio, steel plants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan, a cellphone manufacturing plant in Illinois, and commercial real estate in Texas, the Justice Department alleged. The forfeiture complaints sought to seize a roughly 19.5-acre office park in Dallas and the PNC Plaza building in Louisville.

    Kolomoisky has previously rejected allegations that he stole from PrivatBank, which he helped found. The allegations by the Justice Department — which are not criminal charges — are similar to those in a civil lawsuit filed by the bank in a Delaware court. A lawyer representing Kolomoisky in civil matters declined to comment Thursday. A lawyer for Boholiubov did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

    Kolomoisky also has long been facing a criminal probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland for possible money laundering. As a part of that case, the FBI raided the office of Optima Management Group in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday, as well as another Optima office in the Southeast Financial Center building in Miami.

    In court documents Thursday, the Justice Department alleged that two Miami-based business associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov — Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber — helped acquire and manage the oligarchs’ holdings in the United States, which often bear some version of the name “Optima.” Optima companies have ownership stakes in several buildings in downtown Cleveland, which the Justice Department alleged in the forfeiture complaints were purchased with stolen funds.

    Last year, Marc Kasowitz, a New York lawyer who also represents Trump, signed on to represent the two men in the Delaware case. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

    Under Ukraine’s last president, Petro Poroshenko, the government nationalized Privatbank, alleging that Kolomoisky and one of his business partners had defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. Kolomoisky denied those charges but decamped from Kyiv to Israel, where he also holds citizenship. He retained political power in Ukraine through his business holdings, which include a major Ukrainian television station.

    Kolomoisky is seen as an ally of Zelensky, who was an actor before his election, starring in a comedy show that aired on Kolomoisky’s network. Some in the United States were suspicious of Zelensky’s ties to the mogul, thinking the connection ran counter to Zelensky’s promises to pursue an anti-corruption, reform agenda.

    In spring 2019, when Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani embarked on a mission to press Zelensky to assist Trump by opening politically charged investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Giuliani’s associates met with Kolomoisky to request that Giuliani get a sit-down for the former New York mayor with the rising Ukrainian politician.

    Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Kolomoisky in April 2019 in Tel Aviv and, by all accounts, it did not go well.

    After the meeting, the two Florida-based business executives accused Kolomoisky of physically threatening them and filed a lawsuit against him in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman, who assisted Giuliani in his Ukraine project, were charged with campaign finance violations last year. They have denied all wrongdoing.

    Giuliani has said he provided legal advice to Parnas and Fruman in their fight against Kolomoisky. He also tweeted repeatedly about his displeasure with Kolomoisky in May 2019 just as he was pressuring Zelensky to assist Trump with the Biden investigation. At one point, he complained that Zelensky was being advised by “Kolomoisky’s representatives and enemies of President Trump.”

    Meanwhile, a lawyer for Kolomoisky has told The Washington Post that during the meeting, Parnas and Fruman claimed that they could get top U.S. officials, including Vice President Pence and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to travel to Ukraine around the time of Zelensky’s May 2019 inauguration — if Kolomoisky paid them several hundred thousand dollars. Kolomoisky did not pay the money, instead throwing the two men out of his office, his lawyer has said.

    The attorney, Bruce Marks, told The Post that Kolomoisky had predicted to friends at the time: “This is going to end up in a bad scandal.”

    Paul Sonne and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  8. #5123

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
    (ATTENTION MEDIA) Why does Trump say TikTok has to be American-owned, but he's extorting Ukraine into selling a Ukrainian engine-manufacturing company—one he admits has tech implicating U.S. national security—to a Chinese-owned company run by Erik Prince?

    PS/ Ukraine alleges Trump is holding up military supplies Ukraine already paid for to extort it into selling Motor Sich to Prince's company. But this is happening as Trump is publicly saying China can't own any company that implicates U.S. national security. Maybe look into that? (Paywall)
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  9. #5124

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump attempts to wrest tax and spending powers from Congress with new executive actions
    The actions aim to temporarily extend unemployment aid and eviction protections

    Jeff Stein and Erica Werner
    August 8, 2020 at 6:13 p.m. EDT

    President Trump on Saturday attempted to bypass Congress and make dramatic changes to tax and spending policy, signing executive actions that challenge the scope of powers between the White House and Capitol Hill.

    At a press event in Bedminster, N.J., Trump said the actions would provide economic relief to millions of Americans by deferring taxes and providing temporary unemployment benefits. The measures would also, however, attempt to wrestle away some of Congress’s most fundamental, constitutionally mandated powers - tax and spending policy. Trump acknowledged some of the actions could be challenged in court but he predicted he would persevere.

    He also bemoaned how Democrats had refused to accept his demands during the recent negotiations, but attempted to brush it aside, saying four measures he signed Saturday “will take care of pretty much this entire situation.”

    He mischaracterized the legal stature of the measures, referring to them as “bills.” Congress writes and passes bills, not the White House. The documents Trump signed on Saturday were a combination of memorandums and an executive order.

    One of them aims to provide $400 in weekly unemployment aid for millions of Americans whose $600 in weekly benefits expired last month. Trump said 25 percent of this money would be paid by states, many of which are already dealing with major budget shortfalls and have pleaded with Congress for more aid. The federal contribution would be redirected from money at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    Another of the documents attempts to defer payroll tax payments from September through December for people who earn less than $100,000. The impact of this measure could depend on whether companies decide to comply, as they could be responsible for withdrawing large amounts of money from their employees’ paychecks in a few months when the taxes are due.

    The president said if he wins reelection he would seek to extend the deferral and somehow “terminate” the amount of taxes that are owed. The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare benefits, and it’s unclear what will happen to those programs without the money.

    Two of the other executive actions are related to eviction protections and student loan relief.


    Trump had tried to insist that Congress include a payroll tax cut as part of the talks, but Democrats and Republicans rejected the idea. Trump has sought repeatedly to cut payroll taxes, even before the pandemic hit, and on Saturday he took his first unilateral action related to the tax, attempting to defer collection of these taxes.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who mostly stayed out of the recently negotiations between the White House and Democrats, praised Trump’s move.

    “Struggling Americans need action now,” he said in a statement. “Since Democrats have sabotaged backroom talks with absurd demands that would not help working people, I support President Trump exploring his options to get unemployed benefits and other relief to the people who need them the most.”

    Democrats, however, attacked Trump’s actions.

    “This scheme is a classic Trump con: play-acting at leadership while robbing families of the support they need,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote on Twitter. “This ‘plan’ fails to reinstate supercharged unemployment, and would throw already overburdened state programs into chaos, making it harder to get benefits out the door.”

    Democrats on Friday signaled they were still holding out hopes that talks with the White House could be revived.

    Some experts have said the president has no legal basis to unilaterally extend unemployment benefits. The president on Saturday told reporters, “We have a lot of money that was unspent," referring to the Cares Act.

    House Democrats in May passed a $3.4 trillion bill that they wanted to serve as the next economic relief measure, but it was rejected by the White House and Senate Republicans as too costly. Congressional Democrats in recent days had tried to seek a compromise, saying they were willing to cut $1 trillion off their stimulus package but that the White House’s negotiators rebuffed their overtures.

    As the president acknowledged at his press conference, the executive orders leave unaddressed multiple critical needs. Bipartisan support had grown on Capitol Hill to provide hundreds of billions in additional funds to help schools safely reopen; for a second round of $1,200 stimulus payments; and a replenishing of funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, among other issues. Trump accused Democrats of blocking these programs from being funded, but he may face political blowback for failing to secure those initiatives in an election year.

    Trump signed the orders two weeks after key parts of the $2 trillion Cares Act expired. The law passed in March with bipartisan support but the White House and Democrats were unable to reach agreement on legislation to deal with expiring provisions.

    The Cares Act provided enhanced weekly unemployment benefits of $600 through July, as well as temporary eviction protections, which also expired in July.

    Some experts have expressed confusion over the legality of a plan to unilaterally extend federal unemployment benefits. White House officials have studied using leftover money approved by Congress for use by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But it is unclear if the administration can repurpose those funds for unemployment benefits without violating the Antideficiency Act, a federal budgeting law.

    "States cannot pay unemployment insurance benefits in a way that has not been authorized by Congress through enactment of legislation," said Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert at the National Employment Law Project. "By definition, states' administration of unemployment insurance must conform to federal law -- and there is no federal law on the books allowing for an additional sum,"

    The executive orders also amount to at least a partial about face from Trump’s promises as a presidential candidate., when he panned executive orders. “We don’t want to continue to watch people signing executive orders because that was not what the Constitution and the brilliant designers of this incredible document had in mind,” Trump said in March 2016. “We need people that can make deals.”

    The “Heroes” Act passed by House Democrats in May would have extended the enhanced $600 unemployment benefit through January, but the White House and Senate Republicans sought to change the formula for these benefits so that - in many cases - the weekly payment came to around $200 a week.Republicans eventually changed their offer and told Democrats they would agree to around $400 a week in benefits. But those talks collapsed in part because of a broader disagreement about aid to struggling states.

    The unemployment rate in February was 3.5 percent, near historic lows, but it jumped to more than 14 percent in April when large parts of the country shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rate in July was 10.2 percent, but more than 30 million Americans are still collecting jobless aid and many parts of the economy remain dislocated.

    The White House and Congress approved roughly $3 trillion in emergency spending and tax cuts earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but many Republicans have signaled in recent weeks that they are not comfortable with more spending.

    The White House and Senate Republicans didn’t act for several months after the House Democrats passed their bill. Then, a few weeks ago, the White House and some Senate Republicans finally made their counteroffer - a $1 trillion measure that would offer another round of stimulus checks, more money for small businesses, schools, and a lower level of enhanced unemployment aid, among other things.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week Democrats had offered to lower their offer by $1 trillion, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a $2 trillion package was still too large.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  10. #5125

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    It can't be said enough that getting rid of the payroll tax will defund Medicare and Social Security.

    Aaron Rupar@atrupar
    Trump gets frustrated when @PaulaReidCBS won't stop trying to ask him a question about why he keeps lying about Veterans Choice, then abruptly ends the news conference as "YMCA" plays
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  11. #5126

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    So I think the payroll tax executive order is getting the most attention. I assume the Democrats will sue about the unemployment benefits one as well because it'd be dangerous for a president to be able to do that. But do they leave the student loan deferment and eviction moratorium ones alone?
    Go Pack Go!

  12. #5127

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    We may know tomorrow or as soon as they set a date on when this distraction over begins.
    2017 & 2018 Australian Open Champions

  13. #5128

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Steve Schmidt
    Trump’s Executive Orders are Unconstitutional. He has no legal basis, whatsoever, to unilaterally re-write Tax Law.
    @ProjectLincoln. That isn’t how it works in America. There are three separate and CO -EQUAL branches of government

    That are each given specific powers and jurisdictions under the Constitution of the United States. The Pendumum of Executive Power has swung too far, moving towards this moment which was ripe for abuse by a President with an Autocratic disposition, a maliced heart and a

    Staggering disinterest in the American idea and ideal. Assertions of Executive Privilege, power, authority and jurisdiction have grown increasingly bold over the five preceding administrations. This has created Constitutional disequilibrium. Congress must begin the work

    Of restabilizing the system by aggressively asserting its’ Constitutional prerogatives and restraining an Executive Branch that functions outside the framers intentions with Acting-Secretaries running Federal Agencies and Departments without Senate approval. Checks and Balances

    Must be restored.
    The Senate has ceded its role to the Executive. the first step to restoring checks and balances would be for the Dems to retake the majority.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  14. #5129

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Daniel Dale
    ...Trump said of Bill Belichick: "If I ever had a military battle I'd call up Belichick and say, 'What do you think, what do you think? Give me a couple of ideas.' He'd be as good as any general out there."

    Stephen Miller Had My Persian Cat Deported
    Belichick has a degree in Economics and spent most of his childhood in Annapolis. A little overqualified for the Trump Team, really.
    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

  15. #5130

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump’s 2016 campaign chair was a ‘grave counterintelligence threat,’ had repeated contact with Russian intelligence, Senate panel finds

    Karoun Demirjian and
    Ellen Nakashima
    August 18, 2020 at 12:40 p.m. EDT

    President Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman posed a “grave counterintelligence threat” due to his interaction with people close to the Kremlin, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday that found extensive contacts between key campaign advisers and officials affiliated with Moscow’s government and intelligence services.

    The Senate Intelligence Committee report states that then-campaign chair Paul Manafort worked with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” including the idea that purported Ukrainian election interference was of greater concern.

    It found that a Russian attorney who met with Manafort, along with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in 2016, had “significant connections” to the Kremlin. The information she offered them was also “part of a broader influence operation targeting the United States that was coordinated, at least in part with elements of the Russian government,” the report stated.

    But the panel also concluded that the FBI’s handling of Russian threats to the election was “flawed” and that the bureau gave “unjustified credence” to allegations about Trump’s Russia ties made in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, “based on an incomplete understanding of Steele’s past reporting record.”

    The Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-and-a-half year investigation stands as Congress’s only bipartisan examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The panel, significantly, agreed that the FBI overestimated Steel’s reliability and that Manafort and other aides exposed the campaign to undue Russian influence. But its leaders were noticeably divided along party lines in how they interpreted the report’s significance, and several committee members — including its acting chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — endorsed dissenting conclusions about Trump’s own culpability.


    Five Democrat senators *— including Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the party’s 2020 vice-presidential nominee — asserted the report “unambiguously shows that members of the Trump Campaign cooperated with Russian efforts to get Trump elected.” Referring specifically to their findings on Manafort, the Democrats wrote, “This is what collusion looks like.”

    The intelligence committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who did not sign onto the Democrats’ dissenting views, noted “a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections,” and he encouraged “all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions.”

    The committee’s past chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who oversaw the bulk of the investigation and also steered clear of the GOP’s dissent, struck a position in the middle.

    “One of the Committee’s most important — and overlooked — findings is that much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself,” he said in a statement. “Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust. Their efforts are not limited to elections. The threat is ongoing.”

    Though the committee’s probe covers much of the same turf as Mueller’s investigation, it was different in nature. Mueller was running a criminal probe; the Senate committee was conducting an intelligence investigation — a distinction that helps to explain some of nuanced differences between their conclusions.

    The Senate panel’s probe, which was mostly driven by the committee’s bipartisan staff, included more than 200 witnesses and considered evidence relating to Russian disinformation, Trump’s personal, business and campaign contacts with Russians and the transition period following the 2016 election.

    At one point, the document all but concludes that Trump aides were duped and manipulated by Russian interests they were too callow to understand.

    “Russian officials, intelligence services, and others” acting in concert with the Kremlin “were capable of exploiting the transition team’s shortcomings,” the report concluded. “Based on the available information, it is possible — and even likely — that they did so.”

    The report also presents a damning portrait of the Trump campaign’s hasty move in March 2016 to assemble a foreign policy team, asserting that it had recruited inexperienced people without thoroughly vetting them and thus potentially exposed itself to Russian influence.

    “Ultimately,” the committee wrote, “the foreign policy team exposed the Trump Campaign to significant counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”

    The committee pointed to Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who attempted to secure a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin through “highly suspicious” contacts with people close to the Russian government. Ultimately, investigators concluded, Papadopoulos “was not a witting co-optee of the Russian the Russian intelligence services. The panel also found that while Russia seemed to show an interest in campaign adviser Carter Page, investigators “found no indication that Page had useful Campaign information for the Russian intelligence services to extract, nor meaningful influence for them to exploit.”

    “No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.” – Lily Tomlin.

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