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  1. #3226

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Natasha Bertrand
    ‏Verified account

    New: The chairs of 7 House committees have written a letter to Steve Mnuchin demanding more info about why sanctions on Oleg Deripaska's businesses were lifted, and requesting a delay in the sanctions termination until members are fully briefed.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  2. #3227

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case

    By Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky January 8 at 3:29 PM

    A Russian lawyer whose role in a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower has come under scrutiny from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was charged Tuesday with obstructing justice in a separate money-laundering investigation.

    Natalia Veselnitskaya became a central figure in Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election when it was revealed that, in June of that year, she met with Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign advisers after an intermediary indicated she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

    The indictment unsealed Tuesday relates to a different legal fight involving the Russian and U.S. governments and charges that Veselnitskaya made a “misleading declaration” to the court in 2015, as part of a civil case arising from an investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan into suspected Russian money laundering and tax fraud.

    Her work on that case attracted little attention at the time, but her role in the Trump Tower meeting made her the subject of intense investigative interest in the United States, as Mueller’s team has sought to determine whether that meeting was part of any broader conspiracy by Trump associates to seek the Kremlin’s help in defeating Clinton.

    While Veselnitskaya has long proclaimed she is innocent and not a representative of the Russian government, the indictment argues she has worked closely with senior Russian officials for years.

    Veselnitskaya did not respond to a request for comment. She is not in custody and is unlikely to be brought to a U.S. courtroom to face the charge, because Russia does not extradite its citizens to foreign countries.

    The charges against her were filed under seal last year. They stem from a long-running feud between the Russian government and Bill Browder, an American-born businessman who ran Hermitage Capital Management and was once one of Russia’s biggest foreign investors until he had a falling-out with the country’s leaders in 2005.

    According to U.S. authorities, lawyers whom Browder hired discovered a criminal scheme in which sham lawsuits were filed against Hermitage-affiliated companies. In the lawsuits, members of a criminal organization posed as both plaintiffs and defendants, admitting wrongdoing so they could win lucrative judgments that could then be declared as losses in order to collect large Russian tax refunds, U.S. authorities concluded.

    The lawyers Browder hired included Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian who played a key role in uncovering the alleged fraud and finding evidence that Russian government officials were complicit, U.S. prosecutors say.

    Magnitsky was arrested in Russia and died in custody in 2009. On the day he died, U.S. prosecutors said, he was beaten by guards with a rubber baton, and an ambulance crew called to treat him was deliberately kept outside his cell until he was dead.

    The incident sparked the United States to pass the Magnitsky Act, which allowed the U.S. government to penalize Russian officials found to have committed human rights violations there. The Russian government has spent years trying to end those sanctions and have Browder arrested.

    On Tuesday, Browder called Veselnitskaya’s indictment “the definition of karma,” adding: “When all is said and done, all the truth will come out.”

    In 2014, U.S. authorities were investigating whether Prevezon Holdings, a Cyprus-based real estate corporation, orchestrated the lawsuit and tax scheme that targeted Browder’s companies.

    Veselnitskaya represented Prevezon Holdings in that civil case, which led the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to seek millions of dollars in forfeiture from the company and others connected to the tax-refund scheme.

    As U.S. officials in New York pursued the financial investigation, they asked Russian prosecutors for assistance. In response, Russian prosecutors provided what they called “the results of the investigation carried out in its territory” and accused Browder of fraud, according to the new indictment. But they refused to provide the requested records.

    In November 2015, Veselnitskaya submitted a declaration to the judge overseeing the Prevezon case, asserting that she had gone to great lengths to acquire the Russian government’s response to the U.S. records request. In 2017, the U.S. attorney’s office settled its civil case against Prevezon for more than $5.8 million.

    According to the indictment, Veselnitskaya’s 2015 filing to the court in the Prevezon case amounted to obstruction of justice because she “made to the court a false and misleading declaration implying that she had not participated in the drafting” of the Russian government’s response to the U.S. request for records.

    The indictment charges that, contrary to those claims, U.S. investigators obtained emails between Veselnitskaya and a Russian prosecutor in which, together, they worked on the language of the Russian government’s response.

    The thrust of the charge is that Veselnitskaya stymied prosecutors’ investigation by working with the Russian government to prevent the United States from acquiring documents that could have aided their investigation, while claiming to the court that she was not acting in concert with Russian prosecutors.

    A lawyer at BakerHostetler, which represented Prevezon at the time of the November 2015 filing, declined to comment.

    Veselnitskaya, who has deep experience in Russian political and legal matters, had been brought on by Prevezon to fight the lawsuit, though she also lobbied more broadly against the political outgrowths of the allegations against the company. When she met with Trump Jr. and others, she talked about her opposition to the Magnitsky Act.

    Veselnitskaya has in the past sought to dispute her characterization as a “government attorney,” noting that she worked only in the prosecutor’s office of the province that surrounds but does not include Moscow. “A regional prosecutor is not the Kremlin,” she said previously.

    The indictment unsealed Tuesday also underscores how some of the key characters in the Russian government’s fight with Browder reappeared in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Lawyers for Prevezon hired a research firm, Fusion GPS, to collect information about Browder. Separately, Fusion GPS was also hired by a Republican donor and then a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign to explore any ties between Donald Trump and Russia. That work produced a dossier of unverified allegations against the president that played a key role in the early days of the FBI’s investigation of Trump.

    Joshua A. Levy, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, said the allegations in the indictment were not known to the firm. “No one at Fusion GPS has any knowledge that Natalya Veselnitskaya played any role in the drafting of the Russian . . . response discussed in the indictment,” Levy said.

    Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

    The Indictment
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  3. #3228

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Martina Navratilova
    ‏Verified account

    I can tell you all this for sure- whatever ridiculous propaganda we were fed in then Czechoslovakia, which was mandated by Soviet Union- pales next to the lies being told and repeated by trump and his ilk. I am not kidding…
    trump truly trumps the communists. And that’s not easy
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  4. #3229
    Director of Nothing
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    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    I had no idea Vesselnitskaya was connected to the Hermitage Capital case. I'm pretty happy about this indictment especially as Trump's probably going to continue rolling back sanctions resulting from the Magnitsky Act. If you're unfamiliar with what happened to Sergey Magnitsky and Bill Browder, these are good resources:

    Although I think in general Putin's pretty pragmatic, it's become quite obvious personal vendettas are a big motivator for him. Browder is a really big irritator to him.

  5. #3230

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Thanks for posting those 2 articles. I learned a lot! GH

  6. #3231
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    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by GlennHarman View Post
    Thanks for posting those 2 articles. I learned a lot! GH
    I think the New Yorker article is particularly fair. Because Browder's work has focused on advancing the Magnitsky Act, many journalists show his fight for regulations against Russia as a fight for justice and buy the story about revenging Magnitsky's death as his driver. While I'm sure he mourns Magnitsky, who was basically killed in jail, no one that got rich in Russia in the 1990s is clean, so his self-driven portrayal as a valiant crusader for justice against evil is bit dishonest.

  7. #3232

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    I strongly agree with your last note, mmmm8, especially the last sentence. He is by no means going to be able to convince me that his history is as pure as the driven snow.


  8. #3233
    Director of Nothing
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    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    By the way, ironically, it was mainly Republicans in Congress that drove the Magnitsky Act through. Ben Cardin and John McCain co-authored a bi-partisan bill, but its most ardent supporters were also Republicans like Marco Rubio.

  9. #3234

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    A beefed-up White House legal team prepares aggressive defense of Trump’s executive privilege as investigations loom large

    By Carol D. Leonnig January 9 at 6:44 PM

    A beefed-up White House legal team is gearing up to prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s long-awaited report, setting the stage for a potential clash between the branches of government.

    The strategy to strongly assert the president’s executive privilege on both fronts is being developed under newly arrived White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks to help in the effort.

    He is coordinating with White House lawyer Emmet Flood, who is leading the response to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on his now-20-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Flood is based in White House Counsel’s Office but reports directly to Trump.

    Trump aides say White House lawyers are focused on preserving a legal protection routinely invoked by presidents of both parties.

    But any effort to fight investigators is likely to further inflame Trump’s relationship with Democratic leaders and could lock the administration and Congress in protracted legal standoffs that may ultimately go to the Supreme Court.

    Of particular concern to Democrats: whether the White House will seek to use executive privilege to keep private any portions of Mueller’s report that addresses alleged obstruction of justice by the president.

    There is a growing sense that the special counsel’s closely held investigation could come to culmination soon. Some Trump advisers think Mueller could deliver the confidential report explaining his findings to senior Justice Department officials next month. Under the rules authorizing the special counsel, the attorney general can then decide whether to share the report or parts of it with Congress and the public.

    Some House leaders have vowed to immediately seek to obtain a copy of Mueller’s findings. But the White House would resist the release of details describing confidential and sensitive communications between the president and his senior aides, Trump advisers say.

    It is unclear whether the special counsel’s report will refer to material that the White House views as privileged communications obtained from interviews with senior White House officials. Some Trump advisers anticipate that Mueller may simply write a concise memo laying out his conclusions about the president’s actions.


    In preparation for the looming legal battles, Cipollone has been beefing up the White House Counsel’s Office, which was down to fewer than 20 lawyers late last year, compared with 40 to 50 in past administrations. Four of the five deputies under previous White House counsel Donald McGahn had left the office, The Washington Post reported last year.

    Since his arrival in December, Cipollone has increased the staff to roughly 35 lawyer and aims to bolster the ranks to 40 in the coming weeks, administration officials said. He also hired three deputies, all with extensive experience in past Republican White Houses and the Justice Department.

    Cipollone, a longtime litigator who worked briefly in the 1990s for then-Attorney General Barr, declined to comment. But Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, said the new White House counsel has quickly assembled a stable of top-notch lawyers.

    “It’s almost as if he’s building a law firm within a government entity,” Sekulow said. “You have very senior lawyers coalescing into a great team.”

    Under Cippollone’s guidance, White House lawyers are preparing a strategy to fend off a blizzard of requests expected from congressional Democrats, who are planning to launch investigations into an array of topics such as Trump’s finances and controversial administration policies.

    Cipollone’s goal, Trump aides said, is to try to find common ground with the congressional Democrats in responding to their subpoenas when he can, but draw a clear line that would protect the confidentiality of the office of the presidency.

    People who know Cipollone describe him as a self-effacing listener who will work to build relationships on Capitol Hill.

    “Pat will be enormously effective, because if you meet him, you are not going to immediately put up your walls,” said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who attended the University of Chicago Law School with Cipollone and now helps run American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group.

    “Sure, you would expect him to take aggressive stands on executive privilege,” she said. “But if there is a court order, he won’t bring on a constitutional crisis by resisting it.”

    Cipollone first met Trump when Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, a close friend, recommended him to help prepare the then-candidate for the 2016 presidential debates. He began informally advising Trump’s team of personal lawyers in 2018.

    In his new role, Cipollone is expected to consult and coordinate with Flood, a veteran of the Clinton impeachment battle, as Flood leads the response to the Mueller report.

    Trump advisers are concerned that the special counsel — whose team has interviewed numerous White House aides — could include in his report accounts of private communications between Trump and senior advisers such as McGahn and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

    “Conversations you had with your White House counsel. Conversations you had with senior advisers. Why should that be subject to disclosure?” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It would be catastrophic for the presidency. “

    White House lawyers are prepared to make a robust argument that such communications must be kept confidential under executive privilege. They credit former White House lawyer Ty Cobb, Flood’s predecessor, along with Trump’s previous personal attorney John Dowd, with crafting the legal strategy to shield those conversations.

    Cobb agreed to turn over extensive internal White House documents and make staffers available for voluntary interviews with the special counsel, relying on a 2008 Justice Department legal opinion that said the department should not provide Congress with privileged information the White House turned over as part of an investigation.

    It is unclear whether Mueller or other Justice Department officials would feel limited by that opinion. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.

    Trump’s lawyers have noted that the Obama White House also zealously defended executive privilege, including when it resisted sharing the president’s correspondence with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of a House investigation.

    At the time, one of Cipollone’s new deputies expressed support for that stance.

    “Executive privilege is not a partisan issue,” wrote Mike Purpura, at the time a lawyer in private practice. “It’s important to protect the principle of allowing the president to receive candid, full, frank advice from his top advisers without fear that those deliberations and communications will become public.”

    Purpura, who also served in the White House Counsel’s Office under President George W. Bush, previously worked as a top Justice Department official and a federal prosecutor in Manhattan and Hawaii.

    Another new White House counsel deputy, Patrick Philbin, who worked with Cipollone at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, played a role in a famous legal showdown in the Bush administration over secret surveillance of Americans. As a senior staffer for then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, Philbin joined Comey in rushing to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bedside in 2004 as part of an effort to block a surveillance program they considered legally dubious.

    A third new deputy White House counsel, Kate Comerford Todd, was a senior attorney at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s litigation center and previously worked as an associate White House counsel in the George W. Bush administration.

    They join John Eisenberg, a national security expert who has served as a deputy in the counsel’s office since Trump took office.

    Alice Crites contributed to this report.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  10. #3235

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump Sold $35 Million Of Real Estate In 2018

    Dan Alexander
    Forbes Staff

    Donald Trump sold an estimated $35 million worth of real estate while serving in the White House last year, according to a Forbes analysis of local property records and federal filings. Although the president delegated day-to-day management of his assets to his sons Eric and Don Jr. upon taking office, he maintained ownership of his business, which continued to liquidate properties.

    More than half of that $35 million came from a single deal, in which Trump and business partners offloaded a federally subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn for about $900 million. The president held a 4% stake in the property, according to his personal financial disclosure report. After subtracting roughly $370 million in debt, Forbes estimates Trump walked away with $20 million or so before taxes. The deal required approval from officials inside the Department of Housing & Urban Development, which rolls up to Donald Trump.

    In Las Vegas, the president sold 36 units for $11 million inside his 64-story tower, which he owns in a 50-50 partnership with casino tycoon Phil Ruffin, according to an analysis of the latest public records. Trump’s cut of those deals amounted to an estimated $5.5 million before taxes. One-third of the Las Vegas condo customers purchased their units through limited liability companies, a move that allows buyers to shield their true identities.

    In other words, people were pumping cash into the president’s coffers without disclosing who they were. According to a 2017 investigation by the USA Today, only 4% of purchasers in Trump buildings used LLCs in the two years before Trump secured the presidential nomination.

    The president’s transactions come with other ethical concerns. Just before Trump took office, one of his lawyers promised, “No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump’s presidency.” But on October 2, a man named Yu Zhang purchased a unit in the Las Vegas tower for $255,000, listing his address as Taiyuan City, China. Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization responded to requests for comment. USA Today reported that the president’s company previously decided a 2017 sale to a German couple did not qualify as a “foreign deal.”

    Trump also sold three empty lots near his golf course outside Los Angeles for a combined $5.6 million, according to property records. In Chicago, the president unloaded three parking spaces at his Trump International Hotel and Tower for a total of $170,000. And in South Carolina, he sold a warehouse for $4.1 million.

    One place he did not sell anything? His longtime home of Manhattan, though apparently not for lack of trying. The president owns an estimated $215 million worth of residential real estate there. A Trump Organization website advertises one of his Park Avenue penthouses, in the same building where Ivanka Trump used to live, for $28.5 million. The website also lists a $3 million unit for sale on the south end of Central Park.

    Donald Trump still owns an estimated $437 million worth of residential real estate, opening up the possibility that anyone could theoretically buy a property and funnel money to the president of the United States. For those not interested in condos or mansions, there are other ways to line Trump’s pocket, through his hotels and his commercial real estate portfolio. And it’s even easier to disguise who is paying the president that way. Unlike buying real estate, staying in a Trump hotel or renting space in one of his office buildings typically creates no public paper trail.

    I write about Donald Trump, the people around him, and how they affect business. Before he won the presidency, I covered billionaires, industrial America and sports. My favorite stories focus on the hands-dirty businesses between the coasts that make up the bulk of the U.S.... MORE

    Jimmy Carter had to give up his peanut farm...
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  11. #3236

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Nate Silver
    ‏Verified account

    I’m not trying to be a jerk but the Times still owes its readers an explanation about what the f*** was going on with this vector of its reporting in 2016.

    F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia
    By Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos
    Jan. 11, 2019

    WASHINGTON — In the days after Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

    The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

    The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

    Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

    The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

    The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

    If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

    “Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

    A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.

    The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counterintelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counterintelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.

    Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

    Other factors fueled the F.B.I.’s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.

    In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump’s associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia’s campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

    “In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.

    “That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,” she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.

    And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the president’s national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.

    But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counterintelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election.

    After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

    The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation.

    Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

    He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump.
    The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

    The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

    “I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

    Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. “He’s the wrong man for that position.”

    As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russia’s interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

    “With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.

    F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

    “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

    A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 12, 2019 of the New York edition with the headline: F.B.I. INVESTIGATED IF TRUMP WORKED FOR THE RUSSIANS.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  12. #3237

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Dana Houle

    This country has not started answering questions like:

    Are laws signed by an asset of a foreign adversary legitimate? Do we abrogate those laws?

    What do we do about judges & other officials, appointed to long or even lifetime positions, by an asset of a foreign adversary?

    Why did a Repub-only contingent of US Senators travel to Russia last year?

    Why did Paul Ryan tell Kevin McCarthy to not talk about Trump being paid by Russia?

    What do other countries’ intel agencies know RE Trump that congress doesn’t?

    Has Trump revealed codes/specs to Putin?

    Why was one of Trump’s first acts upon entering the WH to fire the WH cyber security staff?

    Who else in our gov’t and national leadership is compromised by Russians or allied foreign powers?

    Has Trump been given info to compromise other political actors?

    Have any of Trump’s attacks on corporations come from goading or directives by the Russians?

    Who has been placed in the administration bc of the Russians?

    I could keep going...

    s anyone in the US press compromised by Russians?

    Does Trump’s legal team include co-conspirators?

    What does the military know about Trump & Russia?

    How intertwined is Russian influence/control over Trump w Russian use of DC/Wall St law firms/financial orgs/lobbying firms?
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  13. #3238

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Just in case you think this is new behavior by Tiny...

    Kurt Eichenwald

    1. Just a reminder whenever Trump says “fake news!”

    In the early 1980s, a magazine called 7 Days reported on the sales prices of condos in Trump Tower. They cited the prices from the official sales filings with the city.

    Trump raged “lies!” and threatened to sue. Then, when...
    2...he discovered that 7 Days was owned by a billionaire who wasn’t intimidated by Trump, “John Barron” callled the New York Post to declare that the other billionaires wife was begging Trump to have sex with her. After he, posing as his spokesman, did that, Trump then....

    3...confirmed it with a sly, “can’t deny that” comment. The woman was then interviewed and she said Trump was an infantile pig.

    Or...when he sued because he said a book misrepresented his net worth. He proclaimed “i lost business from that!” When asked under oath what... he lost, he said something along the lines of “how would I know? I lost it!” He also said he determined his net worth by “how I feel that day.” The case was thrown out. What’s amazing: at that time, records from Deutschebank show, Trump was worth about $700 mill...

    5...and he was suing even though the boom did not go that low in its statement of his worth.

    Trump lives in a fantasy land. Many of us who covered him used to debate in the 90s - is it an act or is he mentally ill? He’s mentally ill.

    So, know this. “Fake news” type claims....

    6....have been part of Trump his whole career. Anything that doesn’t praise him is fake. He is unbalanced. In other words, if trump screams “fake news” it’s probably a fake denial from a madman.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  14. #3239

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

    By Greg Miller January 12 at 6:15 PM

    Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi*mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

    Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

    The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

    As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

    Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is thought to be in the final stages of an investigation that has focused largely on whether Trump or his associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The new details about Trump’s continued secrecy underscore the extent to which little is known about his communications with Putin since becoming president.

    Former U.S. officials said that Trump’s behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.

    Trump’s secrecy surrounding Putin “is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous,” said Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state now at the Brookings Institution, who participated in more than a dozen meetings between President Bill Clinton and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. “It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president] — and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”

    A White House spokesman disputed that characterization and said that the Trump administration has sought to “improve the relationship with Russia” after the Obama administration “pursued a flawed ‘reset’ policy that sought engagement for the sake of engagement.”

    The Trump administration “has imposed significant new sanctions in response to Russian malign activities,” said the spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and noted that Tillerson in 2017 “gave a fulsome readout of the meeting immediately afterward to other U.S. officials in a private setting, as well as a readout to the press.”

    Trump allies said the president thinks the presence of subordinates impairs his ability to establish a rapport with Putin, and that his desire for secrecy may also be driven by embarrassing leaks that occurred early in his presidency.

    The meeting in Hamburg happened several months after The Washington Post and other news organizations revealed details about what Trump had told senior Russian officials during a meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Trump disclosed classified information about a terror plot, called former FBI director James B. Comey a “nut job,” and said that firing Comey had removed “great pressure” on his relationship with Russia.

    The White House launched internal leak hunts after that and other episodes, and sharply curtailed the distribution within the National Security Council of memos on the president’s interactions with foreign leaders.

    “Over time it got harder and harder, I think, because of a sense from Trump himself that the leaks of the call transcripts were harmful to him,” said a former administration official.

    Senior Democratic lawmakers describe the cloak of secrecy surrounding Trump’s meetings with Putin as unprecedented and disturbing.

    Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview that his panel will form an investigative subcommittee whose targets will include seeking State Department records of Trump’s encounters with Putin, including a closed-door meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki last summer.

    “It’s been several months since Helsinki and we still don’t know what went on in that meeting,” Engel said. “It’s appalling. It just makes you want to scratch your head.”

    The concerns have been compounded by actions and positions Trump has taken as president that are seen as favorable to the Kremlin. He has dismissed Russia’s election interference as a “hoax,” suggested that Russia was entitled to annex Crimea, repeatedly attacked NATO allies, resisted efforts to impose sanctions on Moscow, and begun to pull U.S. forces out of Syria — a move that critics see as effectively ceding ground to Russia.

    At the same time, Trump’s decision to fire Comey and other attempts to contain the ongoing Russia investigation led the bureau in May 2017 to launch a counterintelligence investigation into whether he was seeking to help Russia and if so, why, a step first reported by the New York Times.

    It is not clear whether Trump has taken notes from interpreters on other occasions, but several officials said they were never able to get a reliable readout of the president’s two-hour meeting in Helsinki. Unlike in Hamburg, Trump allowed no Cabinet officials or any aides to be in the room for that conversation.

    Trump also had other private conversations with Putin at meetings of global leaders outside the presence of aides. He spoke at length with Putin at a banquet at the same 2017 global conference in Hamburg, where only Putin’s interpreter was present. Trump also had a brief conversation with Putin at a Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires last month.

    Trump generally has allowed aides to listen to his phone conversations with Putin, although Russia has often been first to disclose those calls when they occur and release statements characterizing them in broad terms favorable to the Kremlin.

    In an email, Tillerson said that he “was present for the entirety of the two presidents’ official bilateral meeting in Hamburg,” but declined to discuss the meeting and did not respond to questions about whether Trump had instructed the interpreter to remain silent or had taken the interpreter’s notes.

    In a news conference afterward, Tillerson said that the Trump-Putin meeting lasted more than two hours, covered the war in Syria and other subjects, and that Trump had “pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement” in election interference. “President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past,” Tillerson said.

    Tillerson refused to say during the news conference whether Trump had rejected Putin’s claim or indicated that he believed the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered.

    Tillerson’s account is at odds with the only detail that other administration officials were able to get from the interpreter, officials said. Though the interpreter refused to discuss the meeting, officials said, he conceded that Putin had denied any Russian involvement in the U.S. election and that Trump responded by saying, “I believe you.”

    Senior Trump administration officials said that White House officials including then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster were never able to obtain a comprehensive account of the meeting, even from Tillerson.

    “We were frustrated because we didn’t get a readout,” a former senior administration official said. “The State Department and [National Security Council] were never comfortable” with Trump’s interactions with Putin, the official said. “God only knows what they were going to talk about or agree to.”

    Because of the absence of any reliable record of Trump’s conversations with Putin, officials at times have had to rely on reports by U.S. intelligence agencies tracking the reaction in the Kremlin.

    Previous presidents and senior advisers have often studied such reports to assess whether they had accomplished their objectives in meetings as well as to gain insights for future conversations.

    U.S. intelligence agencies have been reluctant to call attention to such reports during Trump’s presidency because they have at times included comments by foreign officials disparaging the president or his advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a former senior administration official said.

    There are conflicting accounts of the purpose of the conversation with the interpreter, with some officials saying that Hill was among those briefed by Tillerson and that she was merely seeking more nuanced information from the interpreter.

    Others said the aim was to get a more meaningful readout than the scant information furnished by Tillerson. “I recall Fiona reporting that to me,” one former official said. A second former official present in Hamburg said that Tillerson “didn’t offer a briefing or call the ambassador or anybody together. He didn’t brief senior staff,” although he “gave a readout to the press.”

    A similar issue arose in Helsinki, the setting for the first formal U.S.-Russia summit since Trump became president. Hill, national security adviser John Bolton and other U.S. officials took part in a preliminary meeting that included Trump, Putin and other senior Russian officials.

    But Trump and Putin then met for two hours in private, accompanied only by their interpreters. Trump’s interpreter, Marina Gross, could be seen emerging from the meeting with pages of notes.

    Alarmed by the secrecy of Trump’s meeting with Putin, several lawmakers subsequently sought to compel Gross to testify before Congress about what she witnessed. Others argued that forcing her to do so would violate the impartial role that interpreters play in diplomacy. Gross was not forced to testify. She was identified when members of Congress sought to speak with her. The interpreter in Hamburg has not been identified.

    “There was more of a reticence in the intelligence community going after those kinds of communications and reporting them,” said a former administration official who worked in the White House. “The feedback tended not to be positive.”

    The interpreter at Hamburg revealed the restrictions that Trump had imposed when he was approached by administration officials at the hotel where the U.S. delegation was staying, officials said.

    Among the officials who asked for details from the meeting were Fiona Hill, the senior Russia adviser at the NSC, and John Heffern, who was then serving at State as the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.

    The State Department did not respond to a request for comment from the interpreter. Heffern, who retired from State in 2017, declined to comment.

    Through a spokesman, Hill declined a request for an interview.

    During a joint news conference with Putin afterward, Trump acknowledged discussing Syria policy and other subjects but also lashed out at the media and federal investigators, and seemed to reject the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies by saying that he was persuaded by Putin’s “powerful” denial of election interference.

    Previous presidents have required senior aides to attend meetings with adversaries including the Russian president largely to ensure that there are not misunderstandings and that others in the administration are able to follow up on any agreements or plans. Detailed notes that Talbot took of Clinton’s meetings with Yeltsin are among hundreds of documents declassified and released last year.

    John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Julie Tate contributed to this report.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  15. #3240

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Sarah Kendzior
    ‏Verified account
    More Sarah Kendzior Retweeted POLITICO
    Lindsey Graham is *very* strongly against having the translator at the Trump-Putin meeting ever reveal what was said

    ‏Verified account
    19 Jul 2018
    "Absolutely not," Lindsey Graham said when asked if he'd support having Marina Gross, the American translator in Trump's meeting with Putin, testify before Congress.

    He said that precedent could prevent foreign leaders from wanting to meet with future U.S. presidents privately
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

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