Russia

Senate Intelligence Requests Trump Campaign Documents

“The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015,” the Washington Post reports.

“Dozens of former staffers are expected to be contacted in the coming days to make sure they are aware of the request.”

Russian Hackers Now Using ‘Tainted Leaks’

Wired: “Over the past year, the Kremlin’s strategy of weaponizing leaks to meddle with democracies around the world has become increasingly clear, first in the US and more recently in France. But a new report by a group of security researchers digs into another layer of those so-called influence operations: how Russian hackers alter documents within those releases of hacked material, planting disinformation alongside legitimate leaks.”

Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration as FBI Director

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, once a leading contender for FBI director, “withdrew himself from consideration for the post in a letter to President Donald Trump, citing the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The former Connecticut senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate works at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Mr. Trump retained earlier this week to serve on a team of private attorneys representing him in the broad special-counsel probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.”

Top Russians Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides

“American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald Trump through his advisers,” the New York Times reports.

“The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump.”

“Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.”

Ex-CIA Chief Was Concerned About Trump Ties to Russia

Former CIA director John Brennan said for first time that he became concerned last year that the Russian government was trying to influence members of the Trump campaign to act — wittingly or unwittingly — on Moscow’s behalf, the New York Times reports.

Said Brennan: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

House Inquiry Turns Focus to Trump Campaign Staffer

“Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by the House committee investigating Russian election meddling to submit to a voluntary interview and to provide any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry,” the New York Times reports.

“The House Intelligence Committee, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, made its request in a letter on May 9. Mr. Caputo, who lives near Buffalo and spent six months on the Trump team, worked in Russia during the 1990s and came to know Kremlin officials. He also did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.”

Russians Saw Flynn as the Way to Influence Trump

“Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team,” sources told CNN.

“The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn, who was tapped to become Trump’s national security adviser.”

Russia’s Social Media War on America

Time: “For many Americans, Russian hacking remains a story about the 2016 election. But there is another story taking shape. Marrying a hundred years of expertise in influence operations to the new world of social media, Russia may have finally have gained the ability it long sought but never fully achieved in the Cold War: to alter the course of events in the U.S. by manipulating public opinion. The vast openness and anonymity of social media has cleared a dangerous new route for anti­democratic forces.… Current and former officials at the FBI, CIA and in Congress now believe the 2016 Russian operation was just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy.”

Trump Campaign Had 18 Undisclosed Contacts with Russia

“Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race,” current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

“The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.”

Special Counsel Named to Oversee Russian Investigation

The U.S. Department of Justice has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of Russia investigation.

Said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: “I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel.”

Washington Post: “The move marks a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel have increased since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last week.”

New York Times: “The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians.”

Putin Offers to Hand Over Records of Meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he “would be willing to provide the U.S. Congress a record of President Trump’s meeting with top Russian envoys, possibly offering new details on the disclosures of reportly highly classified intelligence information,” the Washington Post reports.

“The remarkable offer for the Kremlin to share evidence with U.S. oversight committees came with the caveat that the request for the transcript would have to come from the Trump administration.”

Putin also said that “political schizophrenia” had gripped the United States.

Trump Passed Israeli Intelligence to Russians

The highly classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, the New York Times reports.

“The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to the episode. Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East.”

Trump Revealed Classified Info to Russians

President Trump “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” the Washington Post reports.

“The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government. The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia… After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage.”

Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

Senate Begins to Look at Trump’s Businesses

“A Treasury Department unit that specializes in combating money-laundering will share financial records with an expanding Senate probe into possible ties between Russia and President Trump and his associates,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the intelligence committee, said “that he is particularly interested in information about shell companies, money laundering and the use of property transfers that may be germane to the committee’s Trump investigation.”

New Yorker: “Casinos can make it remarkably easy to allow people, like drug dealers or corrupt oligarchs, to use funds they obtained illegally… Money launderers can avail themselves of other methods, such as buying expensive real estate through shell companies or slipping their ill-gotten money into cash-heavy business, like laundromats or pizza shops, or large banks. But those retail methods work best for relatively small amounts of money, and in the past two decades, government regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere have moved to prevent money laundering through the banking system. So casinos have become increasingly popular for the large-scale money launderer.”