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Tag: Russia

FBI Investigating Whether Suspected Russian Mobster Funneled Money to NRA to Help Trump During Election

Russian banker Alexander Torshin, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin, mobsters and money laundering illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

Two sources familiar with the investigation told McClatchy that FBI counterintelligence investigators are scrutinizing the activities of Aleksander Torshin, who has been described as a godfather of a major Russian criminal organization.

Torshin, a leading figure in President Vladimir Putin’s party, is a lifetime member of the NRA. Authorities said Torshin met with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., at an NRA event in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an early endorsement from the gun-rights group.

The investigation comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues a far-reaching probe into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 election. 

A Defiant Bannon Snubs a Subpoena to Answer Questions about Trump-Russia Probe

Former top aide to President Trump, Steve Bannon.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Taking cues from the White House, President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon repeatedly defied a subpoena Tuesday ordering him to respond to a congressional committee’s questions about possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Bannon refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee about the presidential transition team or his time in the administration. The decision was advised by his attorney, who conferred during the day with the White House, which strongly discouraged cooperation with lawmakers. 

The defiance and apparent collaboration with the Trump team shocked and enraged many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, harshly criticized what he called a “gag order by the White House” designed to disrupt the investigation.

“This was the first time that we saw a witness refuse to answer questions on the instruction of the White House or on the claim that the White House might later invoke privilege in which [the majority was] not only unwilling to accept that answer but willing to act with great alacrity to subpoena that witness in real time and insist that he come back,” Schiff said.

Bannon also was issued a subpoena to testify before a grand jury as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the chances of his rival Hillary Clinton.

The special counsel investigation has so far netted indictments against four former members of Trump’s inner circle during the 2016 presidential election.

Bannon Issued Subpoena to Testify Before Grand Jury in Trump-Russia Probe

Steve Bannon

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief adviser to President Trump, has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates.

The issuance of a subpoena, which compels testimony from Bannon, was a rare move by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been interviewing dozens of former and current Trump officials in more informal settings that don’t require a subpoena, the New York Times reports

A notable exception was Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafot, who was subpoenaed and later indicted on various federal charges, including money laundering.

Why Mueller opted to subpoena Bannon, who joined the Trump campaign team in August 2016, is open to speculation.

On Tuesday, Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Bannon was subpoenaed last week, just days after the release of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” an explosive book in which Bannon raised serious legal questions about a June 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower between the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who reportedly offered to release compromising information about presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Bannon, who was in the campaign’s inner circle when most of the alleged collusion with Russia took place, also predicted the special counsel probe is far from over and will focus on money laundering. 

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Steve Bannon, Lewandowski to Meet with House Panel on Russia This Week

Former top aide to President Trump, Steve Bannon.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Two of Donald Trump’s most high-ranking campaign officials during the presidential campaign are expected to soon appear before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon plans to meet behind closed doors with the committee on Tuesday, just two weeks after the release of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” In the book, Bannon raises serious questions about the legality of a June 2016 meeting between the president’s  Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, calling the gathering “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Corey Lewandowski

On Wednesday or Thursday, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski plans to meet with the committee.

“The House Intelligence Committee sent me a letter asking me to voluntarily come in and have a conversation about what I know, and what I’ve responded to them is, ‘I’ll be happy to come in and sit down,'” the former Trump campaign manager told host Rita Cosby on WABC Radio

“I have nothing to hide. I didn’t collude or cooperate or coordinate with any Russian, Russian agency, Russian government or anybody else, to try and impact this election. So they asked me to come in, I said I would,” Lewandowski continued, adding that he would be able to “set the record straight.”

Steve Bannon Hires Lawyer Ahead of Interview with Trump-Russia Investigators

Steve Bannon, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon has lawyered up as he prepares to answer questions from officials investigating allegations of collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Bannon, who suggested in an explosive new book that some of Trump’s top campaign aides may have violated serious laws, has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel, The Daily Beast reports

Burck’s task is to help Bannon prepare for questions from the House intelligence committee as early as next week.

Burck also is representing former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Don McGahn as part of the Trump-Russia probe.

Bannon plans to fully cooperate with the investigation, sources told the Daily Beast.

In an interview with Michael Wolff, the author of the tell-all book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Bannon described some of Trump’s top campaign aides as naive, unethical and clumsy, seemingly unaware of the repercussions of meeting with a Russian attorney who pledged to provide documents that would “incriminate” Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Bannon said he was dumbfounded.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon even suggested Trump was aware of the Trump Tower meeting.

“The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

Bannon, who previously criticized the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, said he doesn’t expect a conclusion to the special counsel investigation anytime soon. He added that the probe into alleged collision with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering, saying, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Since Robert Mueller was appointed in May to lead the Russia-Trump investigation, four members of Trump’s inner circle have been indicted – and two have already pleaded guilty and plan to cooperate with the special counsel’s team.

Other Stories of Interest

Trump’s Attorneys Hope to Prevent Mueller from Interviewing the President

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s attorneys are seeking potential alternatives to avoid a sit-down interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russian election meddling. 

Among the alternatives under consideration are written responses to questions and “an affidavit signed by the president affirming he was innocent of any wrongdoing and denying any collusion,” NBC News reports.

Trump’s attorneys also are trying determine whether Mueller wants a direct interview, the legal standards for interviewing a president, the location of a possible interview, the duration and the topics.

Since the special counsel investigation began with the appointment of Mueller in May, four people formerly in Trump’s inner circle have been indicted, and two have pleaded guilty in exchange for cooperating with authorities.

But veterans of the Justice Department are skeptical Mueller would forgo the chance to interview the president directly.

“Prosecutors want to see and hear folks in person,” said Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and chief of staff to FBI Director Comey. “They want to probe and follow up. Body language and tone are important,” said Rosenberg, now an NBC News analyst. “And they want answers directly from witnesses, not from their lawyers. The odds of prosecutors agreeing to written responses are somewhere between infinitesimally small and zero.”

Trump Lobbied AG Sessions Not to Recuse Himself from Russia Probe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before Congress about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump instructed his White House attorney to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe into alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, is aware of the president’s instructions to White House lawyer Donald F. McGahn, the New York Times and Associated Press report

The pair had a discussion just before Sessions announced he was stepping aside because of conflict-of-interest concerns, leaving the issue to his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

About two months later, in May, Trump fired his FBI director James Comey, who claimed the president pressured him to drop the investigation. That prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to lead the probe, following mounting allegations that Trump was trying to obstruct justice.

News that the president tried to prevent his attorney general from recusing himself raises more questions about whether Trump was trying to influence the election.

Manafort Sues DOJ, Claims Special Counsel Probe Exceeded Authority

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, filed suit against the Justice Department, arguing the special counsel investigation has exceeded its authority by indicated him on charges unrelated to the presidential campaign. 

Manafort, who also sued Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, said his indictment on conspiracy and money laundering charges are unrelated to whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to undermine the presidential election.

Therefore, Manafort alleges in the suit. Mueller does not authorize the special counsel “carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote.” 

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May to investigate allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

Manafort and his former campaign aide Rick Gates were charged in October and originally placed on house arrest.

Rosenstein’s lawsuit seeks to stop Mueller from investigating issues that are unrelated to Russian and alleged collusion.

“Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Mr. Manafort has extended far beyond links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” the lawsuit states. “The investigation has focused on Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings that date back to as early as 2005—about a decade before the Trump presidential campaign launched—and have been known to the United States government for many years.”

The Justice Department dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous.”

“But the defendant is entitled to file whatever he wants,” the Justice statement said, USA Today reports