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Tag: Russia

Bannon Slams Trump, Campaign for Relationship with Russia

Former top aide to President Trump, Steve Bannon.

By Steve Neavling

Donald Trump’s long-time ally and former White House chief adviser Steve Bannon slammed the president, his family and top campaign aides over their relationship with Russia and said the special counsel investigation may reveal some serious, sloppy crimes.

The snarky, candid and explosive remarks were revealed in excerpts of the forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a scathing account based on more than 200 interviews with the president and his administration.

Donald Trump Jr. and his dad, President Trump, via Twitter

Bannon, who also served as chief executive of Trump’s presidential election, said it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to meet with a Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower during the 2016 election. 

Just hours after the Guardian posted the story about Bannon’s comments Wednesday, Trump blasted his former confidant, saying he “lost his mind” and had “very little to do with our historic victory.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in a combative statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Trump’s dismissive comments and suggestions that Bannon is lying contradict fawning statements the president made about his former top adviser when he was forced out of the White House after seven months and returned to the right-wing Breitbart News.

In an interview with the book’s author, Michael Wolff, 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.

Bannon’s surprising candor undermines claims by Trump and his conservative allies that the investigation is a “witch hunt” perpetuated by a biased FBI bent on destroying the president. 

Bannon used a hurricane metaphor to describe the mood in the White House: “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five.”

Australian Officials Annoyed That Trump Campaign Whistleblower Was Identified

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling

Australian officials expressed “annoyance and frustration” that one of their top diplomats was identified as the source of information that triggered the Trump-Russia investigation, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

In a bombshell report on Saturday, the New York Times revealed that the wide-ranging federal investigation was prompted by revelations shared by a Trump campaign aide at an upscale London bar in May 2016. According to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, he was told by a tipsy, boastful Trump aide, George Papadopolous, that Russia had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

Downer revealed the conversation about two months later, when droves of Clinton emails began surfacing online.

The tip was enough to prompt the FBI to launch an investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Papadopolous has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Young, Tipsy Trump Adviser Was Improbable Trigger for Russia Investigation

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, via LinkedIn.

By Steve Neavling

A young, tipsy and boastful adviser to the Trump campaign was the improbable spark that ignited the widening federal probe of allegations that the president and his campaign team may have conspired with Russia to steal the November 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. 

It began in an upscale London bar in May 2016, when George Papadopoulos, a 28-year-old political newcomer and foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, bragged to a top Australian diplomat that Russia had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to a new bombshell New York Times story.

The report reveals that Russia’s campaign to undermine the presidential election was far more aggressive than previously known – and that some high-ranking members of Trump’s campaign were complicit in a foreign adversary’s brazen attack on American democracy.

The bold, reckless disclosure by Papadopoulos came two months before the public found out about about embarrassing, politically damaging emails that had been illegally hacked from the Democratic National Committee.

So when Wikileaks dumped nearly 20,000 emails online in July, Australian officials tipped off their American counterparts about the meeting with Papadopoulos, an energy consultant whose only political experience was a two-month stint working on the presidential campaign of Ben Carson.

The prospect that Russia was hacking the campaign of a presidential candidate and the discovery that a member of Trump’s campaign appeared to have inside information and secret channels with the Kremlin prompted the FBI to launch a closely guarded investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

Despite repeated claims by Trump and his conservative allies, the federal investigation was not set off by the salacious, disputed dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Instead, the probe was triggered by valuable information shared by one of American’s closest intelligence agencies. 

Now Papadopoulos is cooperating with the special counsel team after pleading guilty in October to lying to the FBI about the secret meeting with Mifsud.

Trump and his allies have sought to diminish Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, suggesting he was a low-level campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy.”

Interviews and documents obtained by the New York Times reveal that Papadopoulos, in fact, was an influential member of the campaign who  “played a critical role in this drama” and helped “reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known.”

The first indication that the Trump administration was aware of Clinton’s emails came in April 2016, when Papadopoulos met at a London bar with Joseph Mifsurd, a Maltese professor with powerful Moscow contacts who include the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the meeting, Mifsud informed Papadopoulos that the Kremlin had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails. 

What’s unclear is how many people in the Trump campaign knew about the “dirt.”

About two months after the Mifsud meeting, Trump urged Russia to hack Clinton’s emails during a news conference in Florida. Just weeks later, just after Trump won the Republican nomination in July 2016, top FBI officials warned both presidential candidates that Russia likely would try to infiltrate their campaigns. Top FBI officials requested that both candidates  notify the bureau of any suspected hacking, but Trump’s campaign never came forward with information.

In May 2016, then-CIA Director John Brennan alerted Congress that intelligence officials were increasingly worried about connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In the meantime, the FBI was quietly debating how to approach the allegations without tipping off Trump officials or creating the appearance that President Obama’s administration was meddling in the election.

That Papadopoulos, a 20-something political newcomer with virtually no knowledge of Russian issues, could become the impetus of an investigation involving the sitting president and a former Cold War adversary is nothing short of astonishing. Then again, nothing about Trump’s campaign has been conventional or without drama.

In early 2016, Trump’s roller-roaster campaign, desperate to build a foreign policy team, sought out Papadopoulos, who was ambitious and quickly took a leading role in trying to improve relations with Russia and arrange a meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin. At one point, Trump turned to the head of his campaign’s foreign policy team, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, for advice on a Putin meeting.

Sessions, who is now Trump’s attorney general, failed to disclose the discussion during a Congressional committee hearing earlier this year, saying he had forgotten about it. But Sessions eventually said he advised against a Trump-Putin meeting, at least partly because he believed Papadopoulos was in over his head and could hurt the campaign.

Whatever the case, Papadopoulos continued to create ties with Russia, setting up meetings with Moscow officials and keeping top campaign officials in the loop.

After the Times story was posted, Trump tweeted:

Trump Contradicts GOP Lawmakers Who Claim Mueller Is Biased, Unfair

President Trump, via White House.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump contradicted some Republican lawmakers and other conservatives who have tried to discredit the special counsel investigation over the past month, saying he believes Robert Mueller will treat him “fairly.”

Still, Trump told the New York Times that the investigation has galvanized his base and prompted some “great congressmen” to begin “pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is.” 

The president said he doesn’t plan to fire Mueller, whom Trump expects will conclude he did nothing wrong.

“There is no collusion,” Trump said. “And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.”

Even Republicans Criticize Conservatives’ Hyperbolic Attacks of Trump-Russia Probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

The increasingly vicious attacks against the FBI amid the Trump-Russia investigation have gotten so hyperbolic and over the top that even Republicans are calling on members of their party to tone down the rhetoric.

Saying it would be a mistake to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said “The best thing that can happen for everyone, the president included, is that Mueller be allowed to complete his work.”

Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer who served under George W. Bush, continued to blast Republican Congressman Francis Rooney for suggesting a “purge” at the FBI to end political bias.

In a CNN interview Wednesday, Painter said of Rooney, “Tell that congressman and all the rest of them who are shooting their mouths off without any knowledge of the facts that they are just flat-out wrong.”

Painter added: “That doesn’t appeal to my type of Republican. That doesn’t appeal to patriotic Americans, to see the FBI attacked that way.”

Painter bluntly said of those attacking the FBI, “They’re actin like dictators.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., added to the chorus of criticism of the FBI, calling the investigation a “witch hunt,” the same phrase used by President Trump.

“Mueller has demonstrated he is incapable of leading a focused, unbiased review of his initial assignment,” Biggs wrote in the USA Today. “His witch hunt must end.”

Special Counsel Probe Explores Possible Link Between Trump, RNC, Russia

By Steve Neavling

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is scrutinizing the Republican National Committee’s joint data operation with Donald Trump’s campaign to determine whether it shared connections with the Russian effort to undermine Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Two sources told Yahoo News that Mueller’s team began questioning RNC staffers about the joint operation to target voters in critical swing states.

Mueller’s team is investigating whether the operation, which was managed by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, “was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate.”

The widening investigation is exploring whether the Trump campaign received voter information stolen by Russian hackers from election databases in several states. Investigators also are trying to determine whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia’s propaganda campaign targeting specific demographics and voting precincts.

Russian Hackers May Have Access to FBI’s Fingerprint-Analysis Software

Fingerprint analysis, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

A Russian firm with close ties to the Kremlin created the code used by the FBI’s fingerprint-analysis software, raising concerns that foreign hackers may be able to obtain sensitive biometric information on millions of Americans, according to documents and two whistleblowers.

Authorities also are worried that Russians could compromise national security by infiltrating the FBI’s computer systems, BuzzFeed reports

The software also is used by roughly 18,000 of other law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

The Russian code was inserted into the fingerprint system by a French company, a former subsidiary of the Paris-based conglomerate Safran, which concealed Russia’s involvement from U.S. officials.

Trump’s Ex-Campaign Manager Manafort May Face Another Indictment

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling

Former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates may face another indictment in the Trump-Russia probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The Daily Beast reports that Washington D.C. lawyers anticipate Mueller will file a superseding indictment of Manafort and Gates to replace the current indictment. 

“I would expect a superseding indictment to come down relatively soon,” said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law school professor.

“There was much in the narrative of the indictment that referenced crimes not charged,” he added. “Prosecutors will often issue a superseding indictment as the grand jury continues its work. There’s also a tactical reason for this, that superseding indictments tend to grind defendants a bit more over time.”

Both men pleaded not guilty to an Oct. 30 indictment that alleges conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, false and misleading statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and false statements.

Manafort’s foreign financial transactions may draw potential new tax charges, the indictment hinted.

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