Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump Jr’

Trump Jr. messaged with WikiLeaks during 2016 campaign

November 14, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s oldest son on Monday released a series of private Twitter exchanges between himself and WikiLeaks during and after the 2016 election, including pleas from the website to publicize its leaks.

Donald Trump Jr.’s release of the messages on Twitter came hours after The Atlantic first reported them. In the exchanges — some of them around the time that the website was releasing the stolen emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman — WikiLeaks praises his father’s positive comments about WikiLeaks and asks Trump Jr. to release his father’s tax returns to the site.

The revelations are sure to increase calls in Congress to have Trump Jr. testify publicly as part of several committee probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And they add a new element to the investigations that have been probing for months whether Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with the Russian government.

In an intelligence assessment released last January, the NSA, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided hacked information from the DNC and “senior Democratic officials” to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of emails it released, including those from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The private messages released by Trump Jr. show him responding to the WikiLeaks account three times, at one point agreeing to “ask around” about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and ran through July.

Trump Jr. downplayed the exchanges as he released them.

“Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”

Trump Jr.’s lawyers had released the exchanges to three congressional committees that have been investigating Russian intervention in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to Trump’s campaign.

In a statement, Trump Jr.’s lawyer said thousands of documents had been turned over to the committees.

“Putting aside the question as to why or by whom such documents, provided to Congress under promises of confidentiality, have been selectively leaked, we can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these documents and any questions raised about them have been easily answered in the appropriate forum,” said Alan Futerfas.

Futerfas didn’t say which forum he was referring to, but Trump Jr. was interviewed behind closed doors by Senate Judiciary Committee staff in September. A person familiar with that meeting said the private Twitter messages were discussed. The person declined to be identified because the transcript of that interview hasn’t been made public.

In one message dated Oct. 3, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent Trump Jr. an article that included critical comments Clinton had made about WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and said “it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.”

Trump Jr. replied: “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”

Two minutes later, Trump Jr. sent another message: “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had tweeted the day before that on Wednesday, “Hillary Clinton is done,” referencing WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account never responded, but days later WikiLeaks started rolling out Podesta’s stolen emails. After the emails were released, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a searchable link of the emails. Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later, on Oct. 14, 2016, The Atlantic noted.

The rest of the messages are one-sided, with WikiLeaks sending Trump Jr. messages through July 2017. They include praise for his father for mentioning them on the campaign trail, a plea to release Trump’s taxes to the site and advice on Election Day that Trump should not concede if he lost. One message suggested Trump encourage Australia to appoint Assange as U.S. ambassador.

In July, the Twitter account messaged Trump Jr. to ask him to give the site emails surrounding a meeting he and other Trump associates held with Russians during the campaign. Trump Jr. then released them himself.

Vice President Mike Pence responded quickly to the revelations, issuing a statement through his press secretary that he knew nothing about the situation.

“The vice president was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks,” said spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. “He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”

Assange tweeted after The Atlantic report that he couldn’t confirm the messages but then defended them after Trump Jr. released them.

“WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest,” Assange tweeted.

Democrats swiftly reacted to the report, saying Trump Jr. should provide more information. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, says it “demonstrates once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”

Schiff also pointed to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for Trump’s campaign and reached out to WikiLeaks before the election about obtaining emails related to Clinton, according to the company’s CEO.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that panel should subpoena the documents and force Trump Jr. to publicly testify.

“There seems to be no reasonable explanation for these messages,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had said he would call Trump Jr. to publicly testify after the private interview in September. But negotiations over witnesses broke down last month amid disagreements with Democrats on the panel.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are also expecting to interview Trump Jr., but those interviews are expected to be behind closed doors.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Chad Day and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.


Leak Reveals Ties Between Trump Administration and Russia, Implicating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner

November 6, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, text



The so-called Paradise Papers have revealed secrets of politicians worldwide, including new links between the Trump administration and Russia.

A new trove of more than 13 million leaked documents implicates top officials and associates of President Donald Trump—as well as foreign politicians—in shady business relationships tied to offshore financial accounts.

In at least two cases, the documents highlight top administration officials’ previously undisclosed connections to Russia and Kremlin-linked interests.

The so-called Paradise Papers were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same publication that obtained the “Panama Papers.” Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the new documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which led a global effort of 96 media organizations from 67 countries to pore through the records. The findings were published on Sunday.

The documents show that many of the wealthy individuals Trump brought into his administration have worked to legally store their money in offshore havens where they would be free from taxation in the United States. Trump has promised repeatedly to “drain the swamp,” in condemning the idea that well-connected individuals in Washington, D.C., preserve their own interests at the expense of the rest of the country.

Among the Trump administration officials implicated in the leaks is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who according to the documents concealed his ties to a Russian energy company that is partly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s judo partner Gennady Timchenko and Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov. Through offshore investments, Ross held a stake in Navigator Holdings, which had a close business relationship with the Russian firm. Ross did not disclose that connection during his confirmation process on Capitol Hill.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting

Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross seated next to President Donald Trump. Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI

“In concealing his interest in these shipping companies—and his ongoing financial relationship with Russian oligarchs—Secretary Ross misled me, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the American people,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement on Sunday. He characterized Ross’ financial disclosures as a “Russian nesting doll, with blatant conflicts of interest carefully hidden within seemingly innocuous companies.”

Ross has been linked to Russian interests before; in 2014, he poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bank of Cyprus, an institution regarded by financial watchdogs as a haven for Russian money laundering. Ross’ fellow investors included a pair of Russian oligarchs, including Dmitry Rybolovlev, the man who bought a Trump property in Palm Beach for $95 million, even though it was valued at less than $60 million. Ross became a vice chair of the bank, along with a reported former KGB officer. Former Deutsche Bank executive Josef Ackermann was installed as chairman. Deutsche Bank—one of Trump’s biggest creditors—subsequently paid hundreds of millions to settle disputes that it shipped $10 billion or more to Russia in suspect loans.

Top White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is also implicated. The documents reveal that Russian tech leader Yuri Milner invested $850,000 in a startup called Cadre that Kushner co-founded in 2014.

Milner has long had a reputation in Silicon Valley as a big-league investor; his firm at one point owned major chunks of both Facebook and Twitter. But Milner was never considered particularly Kremlin-connected. These new documents call that reputation into question. The investing arm of Gazprom, the state-backed energy company, financed a share of Facebook worth up to $1 billion; a Kremlin-owned bank invested $191 million into a Milner firm, and some of that money was then injected into Twitter.

Despite Milner’s investment in his startup, Kushner said in July that he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Representatives for Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), the chairman and vice chairman of the committee, did not immediately return requests for comment. Kushner, who still has a stake in Cadre, did not previously disclose the firm’s other business ties.

The top adviser is already ensnared in the Russia investigations as questions continue to swirl about his meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner attended the meeting alongside Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, who was indicted last week by the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, in connection with his lobbying work for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and top economic adviser Gary Cohn are all mentioned in the documents. But some lower-level appointees have more egregious connections to offshore interests—in some cases, directly related to industries they are tasked with regulating.

Randal Quarles, who was confirmed just last month to be vice chairman for supervision at the Federal Reserve, has financial connections to a bank based in Bermuda that is being probed by U.S. officials under suspicion of tax evasion. A Federal Reserve spokesman told The Guardian that Quarles divested from the bank when he assumed his position at the U.S. central bank.

It isn’t just American officials who are implicated in the document dump. A substantial portion of Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate—around 10 million pounds—resides in offshore accounts based in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Some of the money has been invested in companies with allegedly shady business practices.

A significant number of the leaked documents came from a law firm based in Bermuda called Appleby, which helps its clients set up offshore financial accounts with the goal of avoiding taxes on certain assets. Appleby has maintained that “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.”

—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman


See also UPI Report:


Why Clinton Camp’s Funding of the Trump Dossier Matters

October 26, 2017

Yet more evidence that Russia’s original mission was to hobble the winner of the presidential race.


By Leonid Bershidsky


 Photographer: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The news that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for former U.K. spy Christopher Steele’s investigation into Donald Trump showed one thing: Rarely have two political candidates been so worthy of each other in terms of cynicism as Clinton and Donald Trump. No wonder Russian President Vladimir Putin, another world-class cynic, dealt himself in.

Democrats were indignant when it turned out that Donald Trump Jr., the candidate’s son, was willing to accept damaging information about Clinton from a Russian source. No dirt was forthcoming in that case, though: Instead, a suburban Russian lawyer fighting for the interests of her client, sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act in the U.S., came to see Trump campaign officials to lobby against the law, not to share intelligence.

In the Clinton case, Fusion GPS, the firm working on the Trump opposition research, paid Steele, a foreigner, with the campaign’s money. The U.K., of course, is a U.S. ally; Russia is an adversary. But the information Steele produced came mainly from Russian sources. Unlike lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, who once did legal work for the FSB domestic intelligence in a minor property dispute, these sources were really well-connected, if Steele is to be believed. They included, according to the version of his dossier published by Buzzfeed, “a senior Russian Foreign ministry figure,” “a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” “a senior Russian financial official” and “a senior Kremlin official.”

In Moscow’s paranoid political climate, with the Kremlin seeing foreign agents everywhere and the FSB eager to earn its bread, what was the upside for these sources in sharing explosive secrets with a foreigner? The downside is clear: The standard prison sentence for espionage, handed down in recent spying cases, was 12 years — at the lower bound of the Russian criminal code’s range of 12 to 20. As a private operative, Steele couldn’t even offer his informants the thin protection that comes with working for a foreign intelligence agency, which might help a valuable agent if push came to shove.

But if the FSB and the Kremlin knew of Clinton’s interest in putting together a dossier on Trump, all these people had an excellent reason to talk, and especially to provide nonsensical information — such as that Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, and not anyone in Russia’s intelligence community, was the keeper of a top-secret file on Trump. It was always obvious from the Steele reports that his sources were having fun spinning tall tales for him; since he wasn’t required to verify them and vouch for their accuracy — that’s the nature of raw intelligence — Steele faithfully wrote them down on Fusion GPS’s time.

Russia has never hid or denied its propaganda campaign during the U.S. election — except the elements of “active measures” it included: The rallies Kremlin trolls attempted to organize in the U.S. hinterland through Facebook ads, perhaps (but not definitely) the distribution of Democrats’ stolen emails to the media. These fit in nicely with the possible use of a Brit on Clinton’s payroll as a disinformation channel. Now that the nature of Russian activity on social networks has come to light, it’s likelier than ever that the goal of the whole exercise was to sow discord and instability in the U.S. Pushing Russian-generated kompromat on Trump to Clinton would have served that purpose brilliantly.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC reportedly started paying Fusion GPS in April, 2016, which was after the FBI warned about potential Russian hacking and several months before the DNC publicly confirmed that its network was breached by groups tied to Russian intelligence. It’s likely that, even before that announcement, the Democrats had been planning to use the Russian angle against Trump. That should prompt further investigation of Russia-related conclusions by Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC, which was the only organization to examine the servers that had allegedly been hacked. It should also prompt the U.S. intelligence community to release more information about the sources of its conclusion that an arm of the Russian government had hacked the Democrats. Since the Steele Dossier made the same conclusion — adding that Trump’s team helped — an obvious question follows that has not been answered: Did U.S. intelligence rely at least in part on the information Steele had obtained while his employer was being funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC?

Of course, collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin still cannot be ruled out. Putin’s people courted former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort had business ties to Kremlin-friendly billionaire Oleg Deripaska (who, however, is not part of Putin’s close circle). And in any case, the Russian efforts to diligently and creatively amplify the Trump’s divisive messages gave him an advantage.

It’s looking increasingly likely, however, that the Kremlin was playing both sides against each other, giving each something it wanted. That’s a classic destabilization tactic that Russia has long employed in Ukraine, feeding the local establishment’s internal conflicts.

That it got the opportunity to do so is a problem for the U.S. Both of its main parties need candidates that aren’t so easy to ensnare in international intrigue (at best) and collusion (at worst). Until that happens, Russia — and everybody else interested in humiliating the U.S. — will keep coming back to do more harm.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Leonid Bershidsky at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Mike Nizza at

Trump Jr. defends dad’s response to racial protest

October 6, 2017

By Bill Barrow

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. on Thursday stood by his father’s declarations that “both sides” were to blame after August’s racially driven violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist killed a counter-protester.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son said his father was criticized only because of an “atmosphere of hatred” on the left that the younger Trump blamed on liberal university campuses and traditional media.

“He condemned … the white nationalists and the left-wingers,” Trump Jr. said during the annual fundraising gala for Faulkner University, a private Christian university in Alabama. “That should not have been controversial, but it was.”

Trump Jr., who was paid as Faulkner’s keynote speaker, went on to cite examples of violence on the left. He mentioned antifa, far-left-leaning militant groups that call themselves anti-fascist, for outbursts in Berkeley, California. He alluded to the former Bernie Sanders supporter who shot at Republican congressmen gathering for baseball practice, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

“He went out looking for Republicans to kill,” Trump Jr. said, “and we’re supposed to forget that.”

Trump Jr. did not go into detail about the Charlottesville melee, never mentioning the woman who was killed after a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Besides defending his father, Trump Jr. used much of his 35-minute address to mock the culture on most of the nation’s college campuses, which he said teaches young Americans to “hate their country” and “hate their religion” while squelching conservative voices.

He noted instances where conservatives have been denied speaking opportunities or encountered protests upon their appearances.

“Today’s conservative speech is violence. Unprovoked liberal violence is self-defense,” Trump Jr. complained. “Words have lost their meanings.”

He continued: “‘Hate speech’ is that America is a good country … that we need borders … anything that comes out of the mouth of the president … the moral teaching of the Bible.”

He also mocked some universities’ focus on diversity, singling out the concept of “safe spaces” for women, minorities and LGBT students. He went on to praise two Alabama figures who played defining roles in the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and federal jurist Frank Johnson, who enforced many of the Supreme Court’s civil rights decisions.

Neither Trump Jr. nor his hosts at Faulkner mentioned his place at the center of ongoing FBI and congressional inquiries into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump Jr. moved to the fore of the Russia investigation in July amid revelations about a June 2016 meeting he helped arrange with a Russian attorney tied to the Kremlin.

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders from both parties this week declared that the issue of Russian meddling has not been settled, despite the president’s claims of a “hoax” and “fake news.” The committee staff has yet to interview Trump Jr., who has admitted he took the meeting with the Russian attorney expecting to get damaging information about his father’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. made no mention of Alabama’s looming Senate election for the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president endorsed Sessions’ appointed successor, Luther Strange, but GOP voters sided with former Judge Roy Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 general election.

The address was part of Trump Jr.’s periodic paid speaking schedule that began before his father’s election. A Faulkner spokeswoman confirmed the school paid Trump Jr. but declined to disclose his fee.

The North Texas Daily, the student newspaper at the University of North Texas, has reported Trump Jr. will be paid $100,000 to speak at a university fundraising event Oct. 24. An archived web page of Trump Jr.’s agency, All American Speakers, shows his speaking fee as “$50,001 and above.” NBC News has reported the page was removed from the agency’s website after NBC inquiries.


Follow Bill Barrow on Twitter at

Trump Has Confidence in Tillerson, White House Says — Trump said on Sunday that Tillerson was wasting his time trying to talk to North Korea — President Undercut His Own Team (Again)

October 3, 2017

President said Sunday chief diplomat was ‘wasting his time’ in bid to negotiate with North Korea

WASHINGTON—The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a day after Mr. Trump said the chief diplomat was “wasting his time” by trying to negotiate with North Korea.

Mr. Tillerson disclosed over the weekend that the U.S. has had direct contact with Pyongyang and was trying to ascertain whether North Korean officials want to hold talks on their nuclear program. His statements, during a trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, prompted Mr. Trump to tell Mr. Tillerson…

White House: Trump still has confidence in Tillerson


The White House said Monday that President Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even though the president publicly contradicted his top diplomat on North Korea.

“He does, yes,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked if Trump still has confidence in Tillerson.

Sanders said she believed the two men have spoken in the past day.

Trump on Sunday tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done,” the president tweeted.

The comments raised questions about Tillerson’s standing in the administration. The former ExxonMobil chief executive has periodically butted heads with the White House over policy and personnel decisions.

Traveling in China over the weekend, the secretary of State said the U.S. was in direct contact with North Korean representatives in an effort to lower tensions with the country.

Sanders reiterated on Monday that Trump does not believe direct negotiation with Kim will resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“Now is not the time to talk,” she said.


Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

This isn’t the first time President Trump has undercut a member of his own staff

President Donald Trump has publicly called out his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Sunday, referring to his nickname for Kim Jong-un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” Trump added in another tweet.

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

The comments came after Tillerson, who was traveling in China over the weekend, told reporters that the U.S. has open “lines of communication” with North Korea in an effort to “calm things down” following threatening exchanges between Trump and Kim.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in Monday’s press briefing that Trump still has confidence in Tillerson but added that “now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”

This isn’t the first time the president has undercut a member of his own staff. Here’s a list of others who have felt their boss’ frustration in very public ways.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a speech outlining the Department of Justice policy regarding Sanctuary Cities and crime by illegal immigrants at the US Attorney’s Office in Center City Philadelphia, PA, on July 21, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Trump repeatedly called out Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. After publicly announcing his displeasure — including telling The New York Times that Sessions’ move was “extremely unfair … to the president” — Trump took to Twitter in July to attack Sessionsfor taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes” and “intel leakers.”

So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – “quietly working to boost Clinton.” So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

The president also expressed regret over appointing Sessions in the first place, telling the Times, “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”


40 PRS Super Star New Deals!
Find Straight Up PRS 4 Cheap Deals Here!
President Donald Trump and H.R. McMaster are pictured. | Susan Walsh/AP
President Donald Trump said of H.R. McMaster (right). | Susan Walsh/AP

In May, Trump contradicted H.R. McMaster after the national security advisor denied reports that the president had shared classified information with Russian officials.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

Early the following morning, Trump tweeted that he had in fact shared information with Russia, which he said he had “the absolute right to do.”

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer … and Vice President Mike Pence … and the White House itself 

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, the White House issued a statement, attributed to Spicer, that said the president “acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

That night, after hiding among some bushes on the White House grounds, Spicer emerged to give the same explanation. “It was all him,” Spicer said of Rosenstein, according to The Washington Post.

RELATED VIDEOWatch: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Attack

Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s then-deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also insisted at the time that Trump made his decision based on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

But then Trump himself spoke out with an entirely different explanation.

“I was going to fire Comey. My decision. I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump also said he factored into his decision the Comey-led FBI probe into Russian interference in the election.

“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,’ ” Trump said.

Donald Trump Jr. 

Trump contradicted his own son — and his own self — when the president revealed in July that he knew about his eldest son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to give the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. first said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his father didn’t know about the meeting, a claim the president also made in a subsequent interview with Reueters.

“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said at the time.

Just hours later, however, Trump told pool reporters of the meeting, “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point.”

Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea — And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

Ex-Trump campaign chief Manafort’s home raided in Russia probe

August 9, 2017


© GETTY/AFP/File | Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, is under scrutiny in a federal probe into possible collusion between the Republican’s campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 US election
WASHINGTON (AFP) – FBI agents seized documents in a raid on a home of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort last month as the explosive probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election gains pace.

A Manafort spokesman confirmed the raid, which the Washington Post described as a pre-dawn search of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia home just outside of Washington on July 28.

The Post said federal agents took away “documents and other materials” acting on a search warrant from independent special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

“FBI agents executed a search warrant at one of Mr Manafort’s residences. Mr Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well,” said Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort.

The New York Times, citing a person briefed on the matter, said the agents took away tax documents and foreign banking records.

Manafort managed Trump’s campaign until he was forced to resign in August amid reports that he was under investigation over millions of dollars he was allegedly paid by the pro-Russia former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort’s private consulting business on behalf of Moscow-linked billionaire oligarchs have fueled concerns about possible collusion, and also questions about how he handled payments for his services.

He also took part in the June 9, 2016 meeting last year between Trump campaign officials, including son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer on the promise of damaging information about Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton.

While the White House has downplayed the meeting as insignificant and said nothing came of it, critics said it indicated the campaign?s willingness to consider cooperating with Russia.

US intelligence agencies say President Vladimir Putin ordered a covert effort to hurt Clinton’s presidential effort last year and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Democrats fear Russia probe blowback

August 5, 2017

‘We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,’ said one strategist.


08/05/2017 07:34 AM EDT

Gavin Newsom is pictured. | Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
The Russia investigation “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all,” said California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s a loser.” | Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

In a state that is critical to the party’s efforts to retake the House, Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist whose California Target Book handicaps races in California, called Russia a “distraction” and said Democrats “are going to be in deep, deep trouble if they don’t start talking about what voters care about.”

“We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,” Sragow said. “The more we talk about stuff that voters don’t truly care about in their daily lives … it confirms that the Democratic Party’s brain has been eaten by the elites in Washington who have been sitting fat and happy for a lot of years while working Americans have lost their jobs and lost confidence in the future.”

Public polling suggests the electorate is deeply suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia — but also tired of the months-long inquiry into possible collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia. According to a Quinnipiac University Poll released this week, 63 percent of American voters believe Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, and in a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last month, more than half of voters said it was inappropriate for Donald Trump Jr. to meet with an attorney linked to the Russian government.

But a plurality of voters in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll said Congress should not seek to impeach Trump. An earlier Harvard-Harris Poll found nearly two-thirds of American voters say investigations into Trump and Russia are hurting the country.

In that polling, wary Democrats see shades of 1998, when Republicans were widely believed to have overreached on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, losing five House seats in the midterm elections.

“Obviously, you don’t know how everything’s going to come out and what cycles we’re going to go through with the independent counsel and the report,” said Mark Penn, the Harvard-Harris Poll’s co-director and former adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton. “But if you were to ask me as of today, Democrats are doing a lot better on health care than they’re doing on Russia … There’s a risk that they repeat ‘98, that the Republicans create a campaign on issues and [Democrats] get tagged too much with only being about negative arguments.”

The Russia investigation has proved alluring to Democrats for both the seriousness of the allegations and for the angry response it has provoked from Trump. And for Democrats bidding to unseat Republican incumbents — even those who have generally supported the investigation — the various probes have provided a platform on which to yoke Republican House members to Trump.

Brian Flynn, one of several Democrats challenging Rep. John Faso in New York, said, “The effect of Russia isn’t people think John Faso is involved in Russia … What it is doing is showing the betrayal of the people who put them in office, and that is how we’re using it.”

Still, Flynn said, “I don’t talk a lot about it … We’re not going to win on an anti-Trump, anti-corruption approach.”

Hans Keirstead, one of several Democrats challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California, said Russia “is not the story … it’s an opener.” Running against Rohrabacher, a fierce defender of Russia on Capitol Hill, Keirstead said, “Russia just shows he is paying attention to things that are not district-focused.”

Even so, the Russia issue and it’s near-constant stream of developments remain a staple for many Democrats. On Thursday night, critics of Rep. Michael Burgess confronted the Republican lawmaker on Trump’s Russia ties at a town hall in Texas, while in California, Democrat Doug Applegate took to Twitter to mock GOP Rep. Darrell Issa as “Trump’s lapdog.”

Earlier this week at a gymnasium in Rohrabacher’s Orange County district, several hundred activists joined in a game of “Who said it? Dana or Putin?”

In a room off the gym floor, Rep. Ted Lieu said, “I think it depends what happens with this special counsel investigation … No one knows. It could be issue No. 8 in voters’ minds, or it could be No. 1 if they find collusion or people start getting indicted.”

Later, at the podium, Lieu told the crowd, “Here is a fun fact for you: the first article of impeachment for Nixon was obstruction of justice.”

Scott Simpson, a Democratic consultant who works on races throughout the country, doubted focusing attention on the Russia investigation would alienate voters or hurt Democrats in the midterm elections. But he said voters are “not attuned” to Russia and that health care is “just so much more top of mind.”

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

It’s not just the complicated nature of the Russia probes and their distance from many voters’ immediate concerns, that are leading Democrats to question the value of the issue on the campaign trail. Most voters who consider Russia a significant issue will tie the controversy to Trump, not members of Congress, said Colin Rogero, a Washington-based Democratic media consultant.

And unlike on health care, Republican House members believe they have little cause for concern on Russia, with many echoing Trump’s charge that the investigation is “fake news.”

“Democrats have forgotten one of the edicts of one of the wise men of their party, Tip O’Neill, who said ‘all politics is local,’” said Dave Gilliard, a strategist for four of California’s targeted Republicans — Reps. Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, Issa and Ed Royce. “Russia is the furthest thing from those voters’ minds … If you went out on the street right now and asked 100 people what the most important issue right now is, I would be shocked if one said ‘Russia.’”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul last month called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt,” and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has said Washington should “stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet.”

Even Rohrabacher, who would appear to be the most susceptible House member to any anti-Russia sentiment, dismisses any concern. After audio leaked of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying, supposedly in jest, that he suspected the Russian president of paying then-candidate Trump and Rohrabacher, the congressman said he posed for a photograph with McCarthy at a fundraiser last month — both of them holding drinks known as Moscow mules.

“I think that health care and tax reform will determine who controls the House of Representatives and who controls the Senate,” Rohrabacher said. “Republicans made a serious error when they started yakking away about ‘Within 100 days we’re going to do this and that,’ which was totally unrealistic.”

As for Russia, Rohrabacher said, “This is not an issue that voters are concerned about — not in my area, and certainly I don’t think throughout the country.”

Rohrabacher was heading to the beach for a meeting about shark detection technology, which he said has promising implications for swimmers along the coast.

“That’s the type of thing that I think impresses voters more than telling people that the Russians are just as evil and threatening as they were during the Cold War,” Rohrabacher said. “I’m confident about this election, and it’s not going to be about Russia.”

Grand Jury issues subpoenas in connection with Trump Jr., Russian lawyer meeting

August 4, 2017

© AFP/File | Donald Trump Jr is seen in December 2016 as he walks around Trump Tower in New York


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A grand jury has issued subpoenas in connection with a June 2016 meeting that included President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and a Russian lawyer, two sources told Reuters on Thursday, signaling an investigation is gathering pace into suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The sources added that U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened the grand jury investigation in Washington to help examine allegations of Russian interference in the vote. One of the sources said it was assembled in recent weeks.

Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, is leading the probe, which also examines potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Moscow denies any meddling and Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.

At a rally in Huntington, West Virginia, on Thursday night, Trump said: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign. … We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you.”

Mueller’s use of a grand jury could give him expansive tools to pursue evidence, including issuing subpoenas and compelling witnesses to testify. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported a grand jury was impaneled.

A spokesman for Mueller declined comment.

A grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who, working behind closed doors, considers evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing that a prosecutor is investigating and decides whether charges should be brought.

“This is a serious development in the Mueller investigation,” said Paul Callan, a former prosecutor.

“Given that Mueller inherited an investigation that began months ago, it would suggest that he has uncovered information pointing in the direction of criminal charges. But against whom is the real question.”

A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, appeared to downplay the significance of a grand jury, telling Fox News: “This is not an unusual move.”

U.S. stocks and the dollar weakened following the news, while U.S. Treasury securities gained.

It was not immediately clear to whom subpoenas were issued and the sources did not elaborate.

Some lawyers said it would put pressure on potential witnesses to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

“When someone gets a subpoena to testify, that can drive home the seriousness of the investigation,” said David Sklansky, a professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal prosecutor.

In 2005, a grand jury convened by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald returned an indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a top aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

“A special counsel can bring an indictment and it has happened before,” said Renato Mariotti, a partner at the law firm Thompson Coburn and a former federal prosecutor.

Donald Trump Jr. stands onstage with his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after Trump’s debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016.Brian Snyder


News last month of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who he was told had damaging information about his father’s presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, fueled questions about the campaign’s dealings with Moscow.

The Republican president has defended his son’s behavior, saying many people would have taken that meeting.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.

One of the sources said major Russian efforts to interfere in the election on Trump’s behalf began shortly after the June meeting, making it a focus of Mueller’s investigation.

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said he was not aware that Mueller had started using a new grand jury.

“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. … The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

John Dowd, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, said: “With respect to the news of the grand jury, I can tell you President Trump is not under investigation.”

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

Lawyers for Trump Jr. and Kushner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Trump has questioned Mueller’s impartiality and members of Congress from both parties have expressed concern that Trump might dismiss him. Republican and Democratic senators introduced two pieces of legislation on Thursday seeking to block Trump from firing Mueller.

Sekulow denied that was Trump’s plan.

“The president is not thinking of firing Bob Mueller,” Sekulow said.

One source briefed on the matter said Mueller was investigating whether, either at the meeting or afterward, anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign encouraged the Russians to start releasing material they had been collecting on the Clinton campaign since March 2016.

Another source familiar with the inquiry said that while the president himself was not now under investigation, Mueller’s investigation was seeking to determine whether he knew of the June 9 meeting in advance or was briefed on it afterward.

Reuters earlier reported that Mueller’s team was examining money-laundering accusations against Manafort and hoped to push him to cooperate with their probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. It is not known if the grand jury is investigating those potential charges.

Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder, Jan Wolfe, Anthony Lin, Jonathan Stempel, Tom Hals, Julia Ainsley, Joel Schectman, Yara Bayoumy, Patricia Zengerle and Eric Beech; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney

Senate Judiciary Committee withdraws subpoena for Manafort — Removes Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday’s public hearing

July 26, 2017


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman will not be testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as originally scheduled, after the committee rescinded its subpoena.

The committee withdrew its subpoena for Paul Manafort late Tuesday after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with the panel, according to Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman. The committee also removed Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday’s public hearing.

The panel has sought to talk with Manafort about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among other issues including his foreign political work on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

Image result

Paul Manafort

On Tuesday Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, providing his recollection of the Veselnitskaya meeting and agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview. Manafort “answered their questions fully,” said his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was also on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of private meetings, this time for a conversation with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Manafort and Kushner have been cooperating with the committees which, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The two men have faced particular scrutiny about attending the Trump Tower meeting because it was flatly described in emails to Donald Trump Jr. as being part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.

Manafort’s discussion with committee staff was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 meeting, according to two people familiar with the interview. Both demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview occurred behind closed doors. Manafort had previously disclosed the meeting in documents he turned over to the committee. He has now provided the committee with notes he took at the time, one of the people said.

The other person said Manafort has also said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff on other topics if necessary. Those meetings haven’t yet been scheduled.

Kushner spent about three hours behind closed doors Tuesday with the House intelligence panel. Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the committee’s Russia probe, said he found Kushner to be “straightforward, forthcoming, wanted to answer every question we had.” He said Kushner was willing to follow up with the committee if it has additional questions.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the questions touched on “a range of issues the committee had been concerned about.”

“We appreciate his voluntary willingness to come and testify today,” Schiff added.

On Monday, Kushner answered questions from staff on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump’s victorious White House bid and insisting he had “nothing to hide.”

Emails released this month show that Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, accepted a June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya with the understanding that he would receive damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. But, in his statement for the two intelligence committees, Kushner said he hadn’t read those emails until being recently shown them by his lawyers.

Kushner’s statement was the first detailed defense from a campaign insider responding to the controversy that has all but consumed the first six months of Trump’s presidency.

Kushner called the meeting with Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.

“No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign; there was no follow-up to the meeting that I am aware of; I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted,” he said.

Kushner on Monday confirmed earlier media reports that he had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities to set up secure communications between Trump adviser Michael Flynn, who would become national security adviser, and Russian officials. But he disputed that it was an effort to establish a “secret back channel.”

His statement describes a December meeting with Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which Kushner and Kislyak discussed establishing a secure line for the Trump transition team and Moscow to communicate about policy in Syria.


Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak PHOTO: CAROLYN KASTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Special counsel looking into possible money laundering by Manafort

July 21, 2017
The Hill

Special counsel looking into possible money laundering by Manafort: report
© Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into possible money laundering by President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort as part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

It’s not the first time Manafort’s dealings have come under scrutiny. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are also looking into Manafort’s real estate transactions for possible money laundering and fraud.

Mueller’s investigation is focusing on Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, as well as possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The special counsel investigation is also looking into possible financial ties between members of the Trump campaign and Russian interests.

Mueller’s review of Manafort’s financial transactions has been in the works for several weeks, according to the Journal.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are also looking into Manafort’s financial dealings as part of their investigations into Russian election meddling.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Manafort owed as much as $17 million in debt to pro-Russia interests before signing on as President Trump’s campaign manager in March of 2016. Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign for free.

Manafort and Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. have been called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, as part of that panel’s own Russia investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee is threatening to subpoena them if they do not come voluntarily.