Russia

The Trump-Russia Dossier Grows In Significance

The Guardian: “Nine months after its first appearance, the set of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown darker as time has gone by.”

“The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators has far-reaching implications.”

Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense

“Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab.”

“The theft is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the U.S. The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter.”

Russian Facebook Ads Targeted Michigan and Wisconsin

“A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November,” CNN reports.

“Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal… The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages.”

“As part of their investigations, both special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help from Trump associates in where to target the ads.”

How Russian Operatives Targeted U.S. Voters

Washington Post: “Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election. The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online.”

Documents Reveal New Trump Contacts with Russia

Associates of President Trump “have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign,” the Washington Post reports.

“In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin.”

“In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the Russian Senate… The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign.”

Twitter Finds 201 Accounts Tied to Russian Operatives

“Twitter has shut down 201 accounts that were tied to the same Russian operatives who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook, the company told congressional investigators Thursday and revealed in a blog in the afternoon,” the Washington Post reports.

“The company also found three accounts from the news site RT — which Twitter linked to the Kremlin — that spent $274,100 in ads on Twitter’s platform in 2016.”

Russian Facebook Ads Backed Stein, Sanders and Trump

“Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the beneficiary of at least one Russian-bought ad on Facebook that federal government officials suspect were intended to influence the 2016 election,” Politico reports.

“Other advertisements paid for by shadowy Russian buyers criticized Hillary Clinton and promoted Donald Trump. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, according to a person with knowledge of the ads.”

21 States Were Russian Hacking Targets

The Department of Homeland Security “notified 21 states Friday that Russia attempted to hack their election systems before the 2016 election,” The Hill reports.

“In the majority of the states, the Department of Homeland Security only saw preparations for hacking, like scanning to find potential modes for attack. Voting machines are not connected to the internet and cannot be scanned in this way, but other systems, including those housing voting rolls, can be.”

Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe Funded By Wealthy Few

Presiden Trump’s attorneys in the probe of Russian election interference “are being funded in part through a Republican Party account with a handful of wealthy donors—including a billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The RNC and campaign’s payment arrangement for Mr. Trump’s lawyers is legal. But ethics experts cautioned that Mr. Trump’s decision to rely on party and campaign accounts to pay for his attorney fees can raise thorny political issues.”

More Trump Aides Caught Up In Russia Probe

Bloomberg: “Four months as a communications adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign have turned Michael Caputo’s life upside down. Since congressional investigators decided they wanted to interview Caputo as part of an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he’s drained his children’s college fund to pay more than $30,000 in legal fees, he said. He bought guns for his home and office after receiving death threats. He worries about the stress on his wife and daughters.”

“Outside the spotlight, a large cast of peripheral characters are finding themselves drawn into the probe, incurring legal fees that can run up to $1,000 an hour and infecting the West Wing and Trump’s orbit with a deep paranoia.”

Key Trump Adviser Will Testify to Senate

“Michael Cohen, one of President Trump’s closest business advisers, said on Sunday he would testify on Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election,” Reuters reports.

CNN: “Cohen is not expected to be under oath during the appearance, but all witnesses appearing before congressional committees are required to tell the truth or potentially face criminal charges.”

Facebook Discloses Details of Russia Ads to Mueller

“Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information,” CNN reports.

“Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users.”

“The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.”

Russia Removes Parking Spaces for U.S. Diplomats

“Russia has withdrawn parking privileges for U.S. diplomats, an apparent continuation of a diplomatic tit-for-tat between Washington and Moscow,” the AP reports.

“State-owned television channel Rossiya 24 reported on Wednesday that parking spaces outside the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg had been painted over with a pedestrian crossing, and special parking signs had been removed outside the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, near the Ural Mountains.”

Clinton Says McConnell Suppressed Russian Hacking

New Yorker: “When the C.I.A. first told Obama, in August, that the Russians had been meddling in the Presidential race, the agency shared the information with the Gang of Eight—the congressional leadership and the chairs and the ranking members of the intelligence committees. The Administration asked for a bipartisan statement of warning. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, adamantly refused, muffling for weeks any sense of national alarm.”

Said Clinton: “McConnell, in what I think of as a not only unpatriotic but despicable act of partisan politics, made it clear that if the Obama Administration spoke publicly about what they knew, he would accuse them of partisan politics, of trying to tip the balance toward me… McConnell basically threatened the White House.”