Posts Tagged ‘Clinton campaign’

Rudy Giuliani: DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr should be investigated for felony

August 31, 2018

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested the Department of Justice should investigate its own employee, Bruce Ohr, over payments his wife received from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the Steele dossier.

Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010.
Bruce Ohr in Washington, D.C. on June 3, 2010. PHOTO: C-SPAN

Writing on Twitter, Giuliani questioned whether the Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether Ohr had a written waiver for his wife’s work for Fusion GPS.

“What are the odds the DOJ or Mueller have begun an investigation of Bruce Ohr for violating 18 USC sec. 208? That’s a federal felony unless he disclosed all facts to the DOJ and has a written waiver. How many of you know what that is?” Giuliani wrote.

Rudy Giuliani


What are the odds the DOJ or Mueller have begun an investigation of Bruce Ohr for violating 18 USC sec. 208? That’s a federal felony unless he disclosed all facts to the DOJ and has a written waiver. How many of you know what that is?

Rudy Giuliani


Ohr’s wife was financially benefitted by Ohr, a DOJ official, advancing the Steele phony dossier. Her firm got some part of the $1.02 million paid by Hillary and DNC. A crime unless he has a written waiver from Obama’s politicized DOJ which is possible.

Ohr’s wife, a Russia expert named Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS as part of its Democrat-funded investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

The law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid Fusion GPS just over $1 million to investigate Trump. Fusion, which was founded by three former Wall Street Journal reporters, paid Steele $178,000 for his work. Nellie Ohr was paid $44,000, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who took part in Ohr’s hearing Tuesday.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that Ohr did not obtain a conflict of interest waiver from the Justice Department for his wife’s work. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Bruce Ohr Hid Wife’s Fusion GPS Payments From DOJ)

According to Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, Ohr’s wife receiving money on the dossier project would constitute “a crime unless he has a written waiver from Obama’s politicized DOJ which is possible.”

Asked for comment, a Justice Department spokeswoman referred the matter to the DOJ’s office of the inspector general.

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So Long, Russia. And Thanks! — Presuming the truth of an unsubstantiated claim

August 29, 2018

Democrats have always known that Trump’s business was his real vulnerability.

President Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 24.
President Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 24. PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two of his closest associates have been convicted of federal felonies. Surely impeachment is on the agenda next. But not if the subject is Andrew Cuomo, Democratic governor of New York.

Last month, the architect of Mr. Cuomo’s billion-dollar upstate development plan was convicted of bid rigging. In March, another former aide, a longtime confidant whom Mr. Cuomo’s father once referred to as a third son, was found guilty on bribery charges. Somehow we feel sure the New York Times nonetheless will be endorsing Mr. Cuomo for re-election in the fall.

You didn’t need to get five words into the latest calls for Donald Trump’s impeachment to discover it’s over the same objectionable qualities that we’ve heard about for three years. Michael Cohen’s payments to Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal are a pretext.

Michael Cohen leaves Federal court in New York, Aug. 21.
Michael Cohen leaves Federal court in New York, Aug. 21. PHOTO: MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

At least it isn’t Russia. This turning of the page is sad for Craig Unger, author of a just-released book about Mr. Trump’s business history, full of sentences like “we do not know exactly when the KGB first opened a file on Donald Trump.” Or how about his description of Oleg Kalugin, the 83-year-old ex-KGB agent living in the U.S. who knows nothing about Mr. Trump, as “a master of the tradecraft that was used to ensnare Trump.”

Such sentences are exercises in the fallacy of begging the question—presuming the truth of an unsubstantiated claim. Unfortunately for Mr. Unger, Mr. Trump’s enemies are throwing aside their Russia crutches. Mr. Trump’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, has received immunity from a federal prosecutor in New York. No, this does not mean every Trump tax return, loan application, conservation easement or cash transfer now will be scrutinized. But it could. And smart Democrats have known all along that Mr. Trump’s businesses are his real vulnerability.

The sad face that Mr. Trump made on election night after winning, it’s easy to believe, was born of a realization. Nobody has an incentive to invest unreasonable sums of time and money to create legal jeopardy for a loser. A president is different. And Mr. Trump is a fat target. Bill Clinton involved himself in one real-estate deal in his life. Imagine a Whitewater a week for 40 years.

To this columnist, it was inevitable that Mr. Trump’s past would come into collision with our vast regulatory state, which can find something on anybody if it looks hard enough, even somebody more scrupulously honest than Mr. Trump.

Harvard law professor and Bloomberg contributor Noah Feldman positively chortles that the Cohen plea now invites the U.S. attorney in Manhattan to seek more crimes and eventually to “indict the Trump Organization itself and seize assets derived from criminal activity.”

I wonder how this might play in the possibly more nuanced mind of Manafort juror Paula Duncan, who was capable of both appreciating that Paul Manafort was guilty and realizing that the government prosecuted him only because of his connection to President Trump.

Donald Trump, by a Manhattan mile, was better known than any presidential candidate in history—his personal life, his business life, his tics, his mannerisms. A bit dull are those pundits who have spent the past three years flogging and reflogging his demerits as if they discovered them. To anybody with historical imagination, the telling fact was that the American people elected him anyway. They put him in office with a clear democratic will to see how this unusual experiment runs.

While it would be problematic to assume voters gave Mr. Trump a pass for prior crimes, it’s equally problematic to launch a hunt for crimes that didn’t seem worthwhile to the myrmidons of the state before he was elected president.

It also behooves us to take a fresh look at how different Mr. Trump really is—or perhaps better said, in what way he is different and what way he is not. Friday’s headline in the Washington Post, “Trump undermining legal system, critics fear,” has that born-yesterday quality to anybody who’s been paying attention the past few decades. Half of America surely will recall hearing an FBI chief say that Hillary Clinton violated the law in relation to her official duties and it wasn’t worth prosecuting.

The risk of going down this road, thankfully, will be limited as long as Republicans remain a sizeable power in the Senate. A vote to convict after impeachment would be unlikely unless GOP voters themselves decide Mr. Trump has betrayed their cause.

What we’re also going to learn is that even if the federal government is paralyzed for the next two years, even if our politics is more deeply embittered, Mr. Trump can flourish in such an environment.

In the meantime, goodbye to Russia. You served your purpose. Vladimir Putin’s effect on the 2016 election, we can now admit, was trivial—his real influence has come almost entirely through the willingness of U.S. combatants to exploit Russia in pursuit of their own power ambitions and vendettas.

Appeared in the August 29, 2018, print edition.


A Dossier Debunking

August 28, 2018

His lawyer says the Steele claims about Michael Cohen are false.

Michael Cohen leaves Federal court in New York, Aug. 21.
Michael Cohen leaves Federal court in New York, Aug. 21. PHOTO: MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS



Michael Cohen’s accusations have replaced Russian collusion as Washington’s reason-du-jour to impeach Donald Trump, which may explain why few are reporting that Mr. Cohen has cast further doubt on what was supposedly a key piece of collusion evidence.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, confirmed last week that Cohen has never been to Prague in the Czech Republic. This is one of the main claims in the Steele dossier that was commissioned by oppo-research firm Fusion GPS, paid for by the Clinton campaign and used by the FBI in its Trump investigation.

The dossier claims Mr. Cohen traveled to Prague in August or September of 2016 to discuss with Kremlin officials how to make “cash payments” to hackers of the Clinton campaign. Mr. Davis now says that the Prague trip and all other allegations about Mr. Cohen in the dossier are “false.”

Mr. Cohen has long denied the Prague accusation and offered his passport as proof. He certainly has no reason to lie now in light of his plea deal, and Mr. Davis would not make such a definitive statement if special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence to the contrary.

Yet as recently as April the McClatchy news service reported that “two sources” said Mr. Mueller had evidence that Mr. Cohen had gone to Prague by traveling “through Germany.” That story was widely echoed in the media, yet few have reported Mr. Davis’s denials of last week.

The FBI has tried to diminish the dossier’s importance to its investigation, though documents show it relied on the dossier in significant part to obtain a surveillance warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. Perhaps the question to ask is whether the FBI bothered to corroborate anything in the dossier that started the entire Russia-collusion media frenzy.

President Trump could help to answer this and other questions by declassifying and ordering the public release of the relevant classified documents. That would include those that detail the FBI’s work to verify the dossier’s provenance and accusations. If Mr. Trump won’t declassify those documents, he should stop griping about his Justice Department.

Appeared in the August 28, 2018, print edition.


Robert Mueller investigation and a disparity of justice

August 24, 2018

Robert Mueller is determined to sniff out any wrongdoing he can find—on one side.

When Justice Is Partial

Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2013.
Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill, June 13, 2013. PHOTO: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS

U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami took a few moments in his Tuesday statement about Michael Cohen’s plea deal to sing neutrality’s praise: “His day of reckoning serves as a reminder that we are a nation of laws, with one set of rules that applies equally to everyone.”

Noble words, and they used to mean something. But a disparity of justice is at the heart of our current crisis of faith in institutions. Americans aren’t outraged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation felt obliged to investigate allegations leveled at campaigns, or that a special counsel is looking at Russian electoral interference. They are instead furious that Lady Justice seems to have it in for only one side.

The country has watched the FBI treat one presidential campaign with kid gloves, the other with informants, warrants and eavesdropping. They’ve seen the Justice Department resist all efforts at accountability, even as it fails to hold its own accountable. And don’t get them started on the one-sided media.

And they are now witnessing unequal treatment in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Yes, the former FBI director deserves credit for smoking out the Russian trolls who interfered in 2016. And one can argue he is obliged to pursue any evidence of criminal acts, even those unrelated to Russia. But what cannot be justified is the one-sided nature of his probe.

Consider Mr. Cohen, the former Trump lawyer who this week pleaded guilty to eight felony charges. Six related to his personal business dealings; the other two involved campaign-finance violations arising from payments to women claiming affairs with Donald Trump. The criminal prosecution of campaign-finance offenses is exceptionally rare (most charges are civil), but let’s take Mr. Khuzami’s word for it when he says Mr. Cohen’s crimes are “particularly significant” because he’s a lawyer who should know better, and also because the payments were for the purpose of “influencing an election” and undermining its “integrity.”

If there is only “one set of rules,” where is Mr. Mueller’s referral of a case against Hillary for America? Federal law requires campaigns to disclose the recipient and purpose of any payments. The Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS to compile a dossier against Mr. Trump, a document that became the basis of the Russia narrative Mr. Mueller now investigates. But the campaign funneled the money to law firm Perkins Coie, which in turn paid Fusion. The campaign falsely described the money as payment for “legal services.” The Democratic National Committee did the same. A Perkins Coie spokesperson has claimed that neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC was aware that Fusion GPS had been hired to conduct the research, and maybe so. But a lot of lawyers here seemed to have been ignoring a clear statute, presumably with the intent of influencing an election.

“Liberty and Justice for All”

Prosecutions under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) are also exceptionally rare, though Mr. Mueller is getting media kudos for hammering the likes of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates for failing to register as lobbyists for foreign entities. The law is the law.

But under this standard, where are the charges against the principals of Fusion GPS, who Sen. Chuck Grassley has said look to have been lobbying on behalf of powerful Russians against a U.S. sanctions law, with its payment again funneled through a law firm? This was a sideline to its dossier work, but Mr. Mueller usually has no issue with sideline charges.

Or what about an evenhanded look at dossier author Christopher Steele ? FARA also requires foreigners to register if they act on behalf of a foreign principal. Recently disclosed emails from senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr show the British Mr. Steele pleading the case to the Justice Department on behalf of a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.

Of the seven U.S. citizens Mr. Mueller has charged, five have been accused of (among other things) making false statements to federal officials. But there have been no charges against the partisans who made repeated abjectly false claims to the FBI and Justice Department about actions of their political opponents. There have been no charges against those who leaked classified information, including the unprecedented release of an unmasked conversation between former national security adviser Mike Flynn and a Russian ambassador. Nothing.

Some of these charges might not stand up in court, but that’s beside the point. Plenty of lawyers would poke holes in the campaign-finance charges against Cohen, or the “lying” charges against Mr. Flynn. Special counsels wield immense power; the mere threat of a charge provokes plea deals. It’s the focus that matters.

Prosecutors can claim all they want that they are applying the law equally, but if they only apply it to half the suspects, justice is not served. Mr. Mueller seems blind to the national need for—the basic expectation of—a thorough look into all parties. That omission is fundamentally undermining any legitimacy in his findings. Lady Justice does not wear a blindfold over only one eye.

Write to

Appeared in the August 24, 2018, print edition.

Dianne Feinstein was an easy mark for China’s spy

August 9, 2018

It’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

As vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been investigating allegations of President Trump’s “collusion” with Russia.

But now we learn Feinstein may be the one compromised by a foreign power.

Turns out that Communist China had a spy in her office. A 20-year employee of Feinstein’s, the agent had been reporting back to China’s Ministry of State Security for well over a decade before he was caught in 2013, according to the FBI.

By Paul Sperry

A Chinese-American who doubled as both an office staffer and Feinstein’s personal driver, the agent reportedly was handled by officials based out of the People’s Republic of China’s consulate in San Francisco, which Feinstein helped set up when she was mayor of that city. He even attended consulate functions for the senator.

Feinstein says she took the staffer off her payroll “immediately” after the FBI informed her five years ago that her office had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence, and agents had identified the mole in a briefing. In a statement, the Democratic senator insisted he had “no access to sensitive information” and that he was never charged with espionage.

In June 1996 — after the staffer had begun working for Feinstein — the FBI detected that the Chinese government was attempting to seek favor with the senator, who at the time sat on the East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees US-China relations. Investigators warned her in a classified briefing that Beijing might try to influence her through illegal campaign contributions laundered through front corporations and other cutouts.

The warning proved prescient.

One Chinese bagman, Nanping-born John Huang, showed up at Feinstein’s San Francisco home for a fundraising dinner with a Beijing official tied to the People’s Bank of China and the Communist Party Committee. As a foreign national, the official wasn’t legally qualified to make the $50,000-a-plate donation to dine at the banquet.

After a Justice Department task force investigated widespread illegal fundraising during the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign, Feinstein returned more than $12,000 in contributions from donors associated with Huang, who was later convicted of campaign-finance fraud along with other Beijing bagmen. The DNC and the Clinton campaign had to return millions in ill-gotten cash.

Still, Beijing got its favored trade status extended — thanks in part to Feinstein. In speeches on the Senate floor and newspaper op-eds, she shamelessly spun China’s human-rights violations, as when in 1997 she compared Beijing’s 1989 massacre of hundreds of young demonstrators to the 1970 Kent State shootings, calling for the presidents of China and America to appoint a human-rights commission “charting the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 to 30 years,” that “would point out the successes and failures — both Tiananmen Square and Kent State — and make recommendations for goals for the future.”

Feinstein also led efforts to bring China into the World Trade Organization in 1999, which gave Beijing permanent normal trade relations status and removed the annual congressional review of its human-rights and weapons-proliferation records.

Feinstein, still among the Senate’s most influential China doves, travels to China each year. Joining her on those trips is her mega-millionaire investor husband, Richard C. Blum, who has seemingly benefited greatly from the relationship.

Starting in 1996, as China was aggressively currying favor with his wife, Blum was able to take large stakes in Chinese state-run steel and food companies, and has brokered over $100 million in deals in China since then — with the help of partners who sit on the boards of Chinese military front companies like COSCO and CITIC.

China investments have helped make Feinstein, who lives in a $17 million mansion in San Francisco and keeps a $5 million vacation home in Hawaii, one of the richest members in Congress.

Feinstein has insinuated that Trump is compromised by a foreign power. But it’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

Paul Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow.

Why didn’t the FBI warn Donald Trump about carter Page and the investigation into his campaign?

Dianne Feinstein, the Chinese Spy, Donald Trump and the FBI

August 7, 2018

The point Trump should have made about Sen. Feinstein and the FBI.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.PHOTO: JOSE LUIS MAGANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Donald Trump couldn’t resist commenting on the news that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was the target of Chinese spying, but he missed the main point.

“I like Dianne Feinstein, I have to tell you, but I don’t like the fact she had a Chinese spy driving her, and she didn’t know it,” Mr. Trump averred at a Saturday rally in Ohio, adding: “Then she says to me: ‘Well, what did you know about this and that [Russia collusion]?’ I mean, give me a break, c’mon folks.”

But the issue here isn’t what Mrs. Feinstein says about Mr. Trump; it’s what the FBI told Mrs. Feinstein but didn’t tell Mr. Trump.

Foreign countries are always trying to steal U.S. secrets, and they sometimes succeed. In this case Mrs. Feinstein tweeted over the weekend that the FBI approached her five years ago with concerns about an “administrative” staffer in her San Francisco office with “no access to sensitive information.” She said she “learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately.”

This is what the FBI should do, and the question Mr. Trump should ask is why the bureau didn’t treat him as a potential President with the same customary courtesy. The FBI claims it had concerns beginning in spring 2016 that low-level Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with Russians. Yet rather than give the Trump campaign the usual defensive briefing, the FBI launched an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign, running informants against it and obtaining surveillance warrants. The country is still enduring the polarizing fallout from that decision through special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

This disparate treatment is evidence that the FBI abused its authority in 2016, whether or not it acted with political bias. The bureau routinely warns politicians, campaigns and others about espionage threats. In Mrs. Feinstein’s case, the bureau had located an actual spy—and then went directly and discreetly to the Senator.

In Mr. Trump’s case, the FBI by its own admission was operating on nothing more than suspicions (many from the Clinton campaign-financed Steele dossier), and to this day the bureau has never presented definitive evidence of the campaign’s collusion with Russia. Yet it launched a full investigation that it didn’t disclose to Congress.

Mrs. Feinstein is also doing nobody a favor by downplaying this breach. She claims the driver never had access to “sensitive” information, but the infiltration of the staff of a Senator who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee is no small matter. Who knows what the spying staffer was able to hear and report to China over the years?

The Russia probe has become such a partisan Beltway fixation that it obscures larger issues of governance that will outlast Donald Trump and Dianne Feinstein.

Appeared in the August 7, 2018, print edition.

Putin Claims U.S. Intelligence Agents Funneled $400 Million To Clinton Campaign

July 17, 2018

Vladimir Putin made a bombshell claim during Monday’s joint press conference with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, when the Russian President said some $400 million in illegally earned profits was funneled to the Clinton campaign by associates of American-born British financier Bill Browder – at one time the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia. The scheme involved members of the U.S. intelligence community, said Putin, who he said “accompanied and guided these transactions.”

Browder made billions in Russia during the 90’s. In December, a Moscow court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison for tax fraud, while he was also found guilty of tax evasion in a separate 2013 case. Putin accused Browder’s associates of illegally earning over than $1.5 billion without paying Russian taxes, before sending $400 million to Clinton.

Image may contain: 1 person

After offering to allow special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to come to Russia for their investigation – as long as there was a reciprocal arrangement for Russian intelligence to investigate in the U.S., Putin said this:

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder, in this particular case.  Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia and never paid any taxes neither in Russia or the United States and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent [a] huge amount of money, $400,000,000, as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Well that’s their personal case.

It might have been legal, the contribution itself but the way the money was earned was illegal.  So we have solid reason to believe that some [US] intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest in questioning them.

The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸@ColumbiaBugle

President Putin accuses Hillary Clinton of accepting $400 million in illegal Russian campaign contributions.

We would expect Putin to show some receipts for such bombshell allegations, while President Trump did not challenge the claims.

Who is Bill Browder?

Max Blumenthal


Clueless American media in Helsinki might want to watch Andrey Nekrasov’s “Magnitsky Act: Behind The Scenes” on how fraudster and US defector Bill Browder played Congress with his personal fortune and helped ignite a new Cold War. Browder got screening cancelled in EU parliament.

Torstein Grude@TorsteinGrude
Replying to @Kasparov63

A personalised screener of the film that Kasparov and Bill Browder do not want you to see can be gotten from me. I’m the film’s producer. Please send an email to

From a report we noted in February by Philip Giraldi of The Strategic Culture Foundation:

Israel Shamir, a keen observer of the American-Russian relationship, and celebrated American journalist Robert Parry both think that one man deserves much of the credit for the new Cold War and that man is William Browder, a hedge fund operator who made his fortune in the corrupt 1990s world of Russian commodities trading.

Browder is also symptomatic of why the United States government is so poorly informed about international developments as he is the source of much of the Congressional “expert testimony” contributing to the current impasse. He has somehow emerged as a trusted source in spite of the fact that he has self-interest in cultivating a certain outcome. Also ignored is his renunciation of American citizenship in 1998, reportedly to avoid taxes. He is now a British citizen.

Browder is notoriously the man behind the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which exploited Congressional willingness to demonize Russia and has done so much to poison relations between Washington and Moscow. The Act sanctioned individual Russian officials, which Moscow has rightly seen as unwarranted interference in the operation of its judicial system.

Browder, a media favorite who self-promotes as “Putin’s enemy #1,” portrays himself as a selfless human rights advocate, but is he? He has used his fortune to threaten lawsuits for anyone who challenges his version of events, effectively silencing many critics. He claims that his accountant Sergei Magnitsky was a crusading “lawyer” who discovered a $230 million tax-fraud scheme that involved the Browder business interest Hermitage Capital but was, in fact, engineered by corrupt Russian police officers who arrested Magnitsky and enabled his death in a Russian jail.

Many have been skeptical of the Browder narrative, suspecting that the fraud was in fact concocted by Browder and his accountant Magnitsky. A Russian court recently supported that alternative narrative, ruling in late December that Browder had deliberately bankrupted his company and engaged in tax evasion. He was sentenced to nine years prison in absentia.

William Browder is again in the news recently in connection with testimony related to Russiagate. On December 16th Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee released the transcript of the testimony provided by Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS. According to James Carden, Browder was mentioned 50 times, but the repeated citations apparently did not merit inclusion in media coverage of the story by the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.

Fusion GPS, which was involved in the research producing the Steele Dossier used to discredit Donald Trump, was also retained to provide investigative services relating to a lawsuit in New York City involving a Russian company called Prevezon. As information provided by Browder was the basis of the lawsuit, his company and business practices while in Russia became part of the investigation. Simmons maintained that Browder proved to be somewhat evasive and his accounts of his activities were inconsistent. He claimed never to visit the United States and not own property or do business there, all of which were untrue, to include his ownership through a shell company of a $10 million house in Aspen Colorado. He repeatedly ran away, literally, from attempts to subpoena him so he would have to testify under oath.

Per Simmons, in Russia, Browder used shell companies locally and also worldwide to avoid taxes and conceal ownership, suggesting that he was likely one of many corrupt businessmen operating in what was a wild west business environment.

My question is, “Why was such a man granted credibility and allowed a free run to poison the vitally important US-Russia relationship?” The answer might be follow the money. Israel Shamir reports that Browder was a major contributor to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who was the major force behind the Magnitsky Act.

FBI Official Overseeing Election-Meddling Task Force Has Left

July 14, 2018

Departure of Jeffrey Tricoli for private-sector job comes just months before Nov. 6 midterm elections

Jeffrey Tricoli, who was coleading a government task force against foreign meddling in U.S. elections, has left for the private sector just months before the midterm elections,
Jeffrey Tricoli, who was coleading a government task force against foreign meddling in U.S. elections, has left for the private sector just months before the midterm elections, PHOTO: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

A senior FBI official overseeing a government task force that addresses Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections has left the government for a job in the private sector, a departure that comes just months ahead of the 2018 midterm contests.

Jeffrey Tricoli had been coleading the FBI foreign influence task force until June, when he left government work for a senior vice president job at Charles Schwab Corp. , the company confirmed.

Mr. Tricoli, an 18-year veteran of the FBI who became a section chief of the bureau’s cyber division in December 2016, didn’t respond to requests for comment sent to his personal email and LinkedIn account. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Tricoli’s status, saying the Bureau doesn’t discuss personnel matters.

The reason for Mr. Tricoli’s departure wasn’t clear. But it adds to questions among some tech companies and lawmakers about how much the administration, and the task force in particular, are doing to protect future elections from Russian meddling.

This comes as the potential threat from foreign interference was underscored by a new indictment Friday from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, charging 12 Russians with a widespread conspiracy to steal thousands of emails from Democratic Party organizations and then ensure they became public in ways that would embarrass the Clinton campaign.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and author of a book about information wars on social media, said the Trump administration has shown little interest in addressing Russian meddling, leaving the FBI’s efforts to tackle foreign influence “reactive” instead of anticipatory.

The FBI, in a statement, said the task force has been forging ahead since it was created last year by Director Christopher Wray, though the Bureau declined to provide details.

“The FBI takes any effort to interfere with our democratic institutions extremely seriously,” it said. “For that reason, last year, Director Wray announced the Foreign Influence Task Force. Since its creation, the FITF has been an active, forward-looking task force.”

By bringing in representatives of FBI units and coordinating with state, federal and private organizations, the task force allows the Bureau “to share information and protect our democratic institutions from foreign influence,” the FBI said.

It wasn’t clear if a replacement for Mr. Tricoli has been selected. In January, Mr. Tricoli said publicly he was leading the task force alongside an unnamed counterpart in the FBI’s counterintelligence division.

Some technology companies and congressional investigators say privately that the task force has produced little in the way of concrete recommendations or initiatives since being formed last year, and that it lacks a clear agenda.

“So far there has not been a lot of substance yet from the task force,” said a congressional intelligence panel staffer who has been briefed on its activities. The official said it wasn’t unusual for new government task forces to progress slowly, however, comparing the foreign influence unit to the initially sluggish efforts by the Obama administration to address online terrorist propaganda.

Mr. Wray set up the task force last year to work in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to tackle the threat posed by Russia and other hostile foreign nations seeking to use social media or other means to influence U.S. domestic politics or amplify societal divisions.

The task force is designed to involve relevant FBI personnel from a variety of departments, including counterintelligence, cybercrime and public corruption. It is separate from the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign being run by Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Tricoli’s departure comes months ahead of Nov. 6, when voters will cast ballots in the heated midterm elections as Republicans fight to hold their majorities in the House and Senate.

Government efforts to fend off election-related cyberattacks have been bifurcated into two categories: Preventing cyberattacks on election systems, such as voting machines and voter registration files, and limiting the amount of disinformation peddled by trolls on social media.

Safeguarding physical and digital election equipment, such as voting machines and voter registration files, has fallen under the purview of the cyber wing of DHS, which has worked closely with state election officials to make those systems more resilient and open to audits.

The FBI has been the de facto lead on dealing with the less-tangible problem of foreign influence operations that target U.S. elections. Russian trolls, often posing as Americans, leveraged thousands of accounts on Facebook and Twitter to expose hundreds of millions of users to disinformation in the run-up to the 2016 election, the companies have said.

The foreign-influence task force’s work has been largely secret since its inception, and Mr. Tricoli seldom spoke publicly about it. At an FBI conference in New York in January, he described it as an attempt to share more information with the technology companies and other stakeholders, while being wary that such outreach could clash with concerns about monitoring political speech.

“We’re not here to be the thought police,” Mr. Tricoli said at the conference.

Along with representatives from DHS, the FBI unit met in late May with several major internet companies at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., to discuss protecting the midterm elections from foreign propaganda, according to people familiar with the summit. That meeting, previously reported by the New York Times, left some tech companies in attendance believing that the government wasn’t seriously committed to collaborating to deter foreign-sponsored election-interference campaigns.

Government agencies and some lawmakers on the congressional intelligence panels have countered that Silicon Valley needs to accept primary responsibility for detecting and purging propaganda campaigns on their networks.

Write to Dustin Volz at

12 Russians accused of hacking Democrats in 2016 US election

July 13, 2018

Twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted on charges they hacked into Democratic email accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and released stolen information in the months before Americans headed to the polls, the Justice Department said Friday.

The indictment — which comes days before President Donald Trump holds a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — was the clearest allegation yet of Russian efforts to meddle in American politics. U.S. intelligence agencies have said the interference was aimed at helping the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump and harming the election bid of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller

The indictment lays out a sweeping and coordinated effort to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The charges come as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election. The indictment does not allege that Trump campaign associates were involved in the hacking efforts or that any American was knowingly in contact with Russian intelligence officers.

The indictment also does not allege that any vote tallies were altered by hacking.

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Still, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the internet “allows foreign adversaries to attack Americans in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us.”

Before Friday, 20 people and three companies had been charged in the Mueller investigation. That includes four former Trump campaign and White House aides, three of whom have pleaded guilty to different crimes and agreed to cooperate, as well as 13 Russians accused of participating in a hidden but powerful social media campaign to sway American public opinion in the 2016 election.

Hours before the Justice Department announcement, Trump complained anew that the special counsel’s investigation is complicating his efforts to forge a better working relationship with Russia. Trump and Putin are to hold talks Monday in Finland, a meeting largely sought by Trump.

Trump said at a news conference Friday near London with British Prime Minister Theresa May that he wasn’t going into the meeting with Putin with “high expectations.”

“We do have a — a political problem where — you know in the United States we have this stupidity going on. Pure stupidity,” he said, referring to Mueller’s probe. “But it makes it very hard to do something with Russia. Anything you do, it’s always going to be, ‘Oh, Russia, he loves Russia.'”

“I love the United States,” Trump continued. “But I love getting along with Russia and China and other countries.”

The Associated Press


Mueller Probe Indicts 12 Russians in Hacking of DNC and Clinton Campaign

July 13, 2018

Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking, including by spear-phishing employees

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking before a House panel on in Washington on Dec. 13, 2017.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking before a House panel on in Washington on Dec. 13, 2017. PHOTO: ANDREW HARNIK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A dozen Russian intelligence officials were charged Friday with hacking into the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and distributing stolen emails, according to an indictment obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

The officers spear-phished volunteers and employees of the Clinton campaign, obtained log-in credentials, and used them to secretly monitor the computer activity of “dozens of employees,” the Justice Department said. Spear-phishing means sending emails purporting to be from a known or trusted sender.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges at a press conference Friday, saying “the internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways.”

Mr. Mueller’s office has filed cases against 20 people and three companies to date and obtained five guilty pleas, including from President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.


Write to Aruna Viswanatha at and Sadie Gurman at


Bloomberg News

Mueller Wins Indictment of 12 Russian Officials for 2016 Hacking

 Updated on 
  • Charges of hacking into Clinton campaign, Democratic emails
  • Indictments came three days before a Trump-Putin summit

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offenses related to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

[Read the indictment here]

The 12, who are members of the GRU, a Russian intelligence agency, are accused of stealing usernames and passwords of volunteers in Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including its chairman John Podesta. They also hacked into the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an operation starting around March 2016.

The charges include conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S., aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money. They are accused of releasing the stolen emails on the web.

The announcement came only three days before President Donald Trump is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters Friday that “I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week. The president is fully aware of the department’s actions.”

Rosenstein said two separate Russian units of the GRU intelligence agency stole emails and information from Democrats and then disseminated it via online personas, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. He also said there’s no allegation in the indictment that any American was involved in the operation.

“The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the indictment said.

The Russians masked their activities by using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to buy servers, register Internet domains and make other payments in the hacking operation, according to the indictment. It said the Russians also funded the operation in part by “mining” Bitcoin.

With the charges, Mueller’s prosecutors have marked out another Internet pathway they say Russia used to influence the U.S. election. On Feb. 16, his prosecutors charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities they said were part of a broader effort to sow discord among U.S. voters through social media — which they used to impersonate Americans, coordinate with unwitting U.S. activists and even plan rallies.

Trump told reporters in London Friday that he will “absolutely firmly” ask Putin about the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that he authorized the campaign of interference. But he added, “I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me” confession.

Read More: Trump Says Not to Expect ‘Perry Mason’ Moment With Putin

Trump has frequently dismissed the Russia probe as a “witch hunt” and expressed his anger that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation. That put Rosenstein in charge, and he promptly appointed former FBI Director Mueller as special counsel.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin personally ordered a campaign to undermine “public faith in the U.S. democratic process” with the goal of hurting Clinton’s candidacy and ultimately helping to elect Trump.

Because Mueller has maintained public silence on his investigation, Rosenstein has made the few public pronouncements on the probe outside of legal documents and courtroom proceedings.

— With assistance by David Joachim