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Tag: Russia

Ex-Homeland Security Director Says Politics Prevented Disclosure of Russian Meddling

Former Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson testifies before the House Intelligence Committee.

Former Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson testifies before the House Intelligence Committee.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In what has become typical fashion, President Trump blamed the Obama administration for failing to “stop”  Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?” Trump tweeted at 9:22 a.m. Thursday.

Truth is, the FBI and other intelligence agencies were trying to stop Russia and had found evidence in August that Kremlin-backed hackers targeted electoral systems in 21 states, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, former Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson said the Obama administration didn’t immediately reveal Russia’s interference to avoid an appearance of partisanship.

“We were very concerned that we would not be perceived as taking sides in the election, injecting ourselves into a very heated campaign,” Johnson told the committee.

When asked what took the Obama administration so long to disclose the allegations of Russian interference, Johnson cited the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, former Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson said the Obama administration didn’t immediately reveal Russia’s interference to avoid an appearance of partisanship. The public disclosure finally came Oct. 7, when Johnson and James R. Clapper the then-director of national intelligence, said in a joint statement that Russia was involved in cyber “threats and disclosures … intended to interfere with the U.S. Election process.” They also said a Russian company attempted to break in to state voter registration databases, The L.A. Times reported. 

Johnson said the Oct. 7 statement “did not get the attention it deserved” because it was morphed in media coverage later that day by the leak of Trump making crude comments about women on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape.

Trump’s Shadowy Ties to Russian-Connected Firm Accused of Money Laundering

Felix Sater, via Twitter

Felix Sater, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The special investigation into alleged ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia may now include serious criminal allegations about a dormant real-estate development firm accused of running a criminal operation while it was partnering with the future president and the Kremlin.

The Russian-connected Bayrock Group, which operated two floors below Trump’s office in the Trump Tower in New York, is accused in a lawsuit of serving as a front for money laundering while the company was partnering with Trump on a number of real estate projects. 

One of the influential partners was Felix Sater, a Russia-born career criminal with ties to the Kremlin and American organized crime groups, Bloomberg reports. 

The president has repeatedly claimed he barely knows Sater, but former Bayrock employees said Sater met frequently with Trump at his organization’s headquarters in New York and escorted Trump’s children around Moscow.

Sater also teamed up with Trump’s personal attorney to in a failed attempt to lobby National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a Ukrainian peace proposal.

While testifying about Russian interference before the House Intelligence Committee in March, FBI Director James Comey declined to answer a question about Trump’s relationship with Sater, who was born in the Soviet Union in 1966 before emigrating with his parents to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, a heavily Russian enclave.

Sater had worked as a mob informant for the FBI before he fled to Russia to escape criminal charges.

Other Stories of Interest

McCabe: FBI Providing Mueller with ‘a Great Number of Folks’ from Bureau

Acting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

Acting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The acting head of the FBI told Congressional members that the bureau is providing special counsel Robert Mueller with a substantial number of personnel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who replaced James Comey when President Trump fired him under suspicious circumstances on May 9, told the House Appropriations Subcommittee that Mueller will have plenty of resources to conduct the investigation, which includes possible ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Politico reports

“We have a great number of folks that have already been detailed to that team and I have assured Director Mueller that we will do everything necessary to deliver the resources and meet the needs that he has to do that work,” McCabe said.

Last week, Mueller’s office announced that it had added 13 lawyers to the team investigating Russian influence.

McCabe also said he never felt comfortable talking to Trump

3 Senators Believe Michael Flynn Is Cooperating with FBI Investigation

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser for Donald Trump, could help make or break a case against the president during the special counsel’s investigation.

Three Democratic senators said they believe Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller and may be providing testimony that could incriminate the president.

Flynn found himself in the crosshairs of the investigation after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and FBI investigators about a meeting with Russians, which lead to his resignation from the Trump administration.

Trump is accused of obstructing justice by trying to get then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn, who briefly asked for immunity during a congressional investigation.

“If you draw conclusions as a prosecutor about what we can see from the Flynn investigation, all the signals are suggesting that he’s already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time,” Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Later in the evening, Sen. Richard Blumenthal agreed, saying, “The likelihood of his cooperation is very high,” the Connecticut Democrat told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “Whether he will be truthful in cooperating, whether in fact he knows enough to justify some kind of agreement with the prosecutors, I think will be told by time.”

Sen. Mark Warner told CNN on Tuesday that Flynn wants immunity.

“Clearly he’s been looking for immunity for some time. He said he would come in and talk to us at the intel committee but only with immunity,” Warner told CNN. “I would have a lot of questions for General Flynn, not only his unreported trips and unreported finances he received from Turkey, from Russia. I’d like to know what kind of conversations he had with Russian officials while he was directly involved in the campaign.”

AG Sessions Hires Personal Attorney As Russia Investigation Heats Up

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

It was only a matter of time.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who failed to disclose meetings with a top Russian official during his confirmation hearing, has retained a personal attorney.

The Washington Post reports that Sessions’ new attorney is Washington lawyer Charles Cooper, a longtime friend in Washington. 

Also this week, Trump’s personal attorney hired a personal attorney for himself.

When Sessions testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Cooper was sitting behind the attorney general.

“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Copper wrote in an email to the Post.

Cooper, a partner with Cooper & Kirk, declined to say why he was retained by Sessions, whose normally sharp memory gets fuzzy when asked about meeting with top Russian officials.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Cooper is “the attorney general’s longtime friend and counsel.”

Cooper even assisted Sessions during his confirmation hearing in January.

Investigators Now Probing Role of Michael Flynn’s Business Partner

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A federal investigation is targeting ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and one of his former business partners over payments they received by three Russian companies and a Netherlands-based company controlled by a Turkish businessman.

The investigation is designed to determine whether the payments from foreign clients to Flynn’s now-inactive Flynn Intel Group violated the law, sources knowledgeable of the investigation told Reuters.

What’s new is the discovery that Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian, has become a subject of the widening investigation.

Neither of the men’s attorneys returned calls for comment.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is running the investigation, is part of an FBI probe into Flynn’s consulting firm lobbying on behalf of Turkey, for which it was paid $530,000 by Inovo. Flynn’s firm never properly disclosed the money or relationship.

Putin Jokingly Offers Comey Asylum in Russia, Comparing ex-FBI Boss to Snowden

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin joked Thursday that he’s willing to grant asylum to fired FBI Director James Comey, comparing him to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Speaking at a question-and-answer session with Russian voters, Putin asked, “What’s the difference then between the FBI director and Mr. Snowden?”

“In this case, he (Comey) is not the head of a special service but a human rights activist who defends a certain position,” Putin said.

Putin added, “If he is subject to any sort of persecution in connection with this, we will be ready to give him political asylum in Russia. And he should know about this.”

But don’t confuse Putin’s trademark sardonic humor with support for Comey.

During the same session, Putin criticized the former FBI director for suggesting Russia was meddling in the presidential election, saying Comey “gave no evidence” of his allegations.

Putin said Russia was not involved in “any sort of underground, subversive activity.”

Other Stories of Interest

Special Counsel Mueller Adds 13 Attorneys to Team Investigating Russia, Trump

Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Russia investigation and President Trump, has added 13 lawyers as part of a high-powered team to help with the wide-ranging probe.

Among the seasoned attorneys are James Quarles and Jeannie Rhee, both of whom work for Mueller’s old law firm, WilmerHale, CNN reports.  Mueller also brought on Andrew Weissmann, who led the Enron investigation.

“That is a great, great team of complete professionals, so let’s let him do his job,” former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, told ABC News.

Not everyone agrees. Quarles, Rhee and Weissmann are heavy political donors, contributing almost exclusively to Democrats. Records show the trio spent at least $53,000 supporting Democratic candidates since 1998.

Only five of the 13 lawyers have been identified so far.

Mueller’s investigation of possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia has expanded to an inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice after suggesting to then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Friday morning, Trump attacked the allegations in a tweet, saying “nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!”