Russia

New Russian Payments Are a Focus of Investigation

“Officials investigating the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election are scrutinizing newly uncovered financial transactions between the Russian government and people or businesses inside the United States.”

“Records exclusively reviewed by BuzzFeed News also show years of Russian financial activity within the U.S. that bankers and federal law enforcement officials deemed suspicious, raising concerns about how the Kremlin’s diplomats operated here long before the 2016 election.”

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, charged with investigating Russian election interference and possible collusion by the Trump campaign, is examining these transactions and others by Russian diplomatic personnel.”

Russian Women Flock to the U.S. to Give Birth

“A growing number of pregnant Russian women have been traveling to Miami to give birth, with the wealthier ones buying birth tourism packages and those of more modest means putting together DIY packages. Giving birth in the U.S., and Miami in particular, is a status symbol in Moscow, NBC News reports, and the big draw is birthright citizenship. All children born in the U.S. are U.S. citizens.”

“The child gets a lifelong right to live and work and collect benefits in the U.S. And when they turn 21 they can sponsor their parents’ application for an American green card.”

Bannon Lawyers Up

“Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus. The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.”

“Burck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe.”

Report Finds Russia’s Election Meddling Fits Pattern

New York Times: “Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election fits into a nearly two-decade pattern of meddling with governments around the world, and the United States’ response to its brazen attack is being hindered by President Trump, a new report prepared by Senate Democrats concludes.”

“The report, which is to be released on Wednesday, is one of the most extensive to date on foreign interference by Russia and President Vladimir Putin. It tracks Russian efforts in 19 countries, chronicling misinformation campaigns, the funding of far-right political causes and the manipulation of energy supplies long before 2016 in an attempt to glean lessons for American officials considering how to counteract similar efforts here.”

Official Floated Withdrawing U.S. Forces to Please Putin

“A senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump administration,” the Daily Beast reports.

“While the proposal was ultimately not adopted, it is the first known case of senior aides to Donald Trump seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin—something that smelled, to a colleague, like a return on Russia’s election-time investment in President Trump.”

How the Russia Inquiry Began

New York Times: “During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

“About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.”

“Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts.”

Putin Sidelines an Opponent

“Aleksei Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption activist, would have no real chance of defeating President Vladimir V. Putin in an election. The authorities have cast him as an utterly irrelevant showboat,” the New York Times reports.

“But on Monday the Kremlin barred him from running for president in March. Then on Tuesday, threatening legal action, it warned him against organizing a boycott of the election.”

“In one surreal turn after another, the Russian authorities have dismissed Mr. Navalny, a charismatic and canny street politician, as a nonentity — and then have done everything in their power to make sure that is the case.”

How Trump Refuses to Acknowledge the Putin Threat

“In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.” the Washington Post reports.

“But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.”

“Told that members of his incoming Cabinet had already publicly backed the intelligence report on Russia, Trump shot back, ‘So what?’ Admitting that the Kremlin had hacked Democratic Party emails, he said, was a ‘trap.'”

Trump Held Secret Talks on Election Meddling

“The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“Putin dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Washington for a July 17 meeting with Under Secretary Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department. … [T]hree U.S. administration officials, including one inside the meeting, said Ryabkov handed over a document containing a bold proposal: A sweeping noninterference agreement between Moscow and Washington that would prohibit both governments from meddling in the other’s domestic politics.”

FBI Didn’t Warn Targets of Russian Hacking

“The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs,” the AP reports.

“Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.”

Flynn Is the Key to the Russia Investigation

Paul Waldman: “We should be clear that this news is not definitive proof that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller. It may mean only that he is in the process of negotiating a deal to avoid prosecution, and that deal might or might not involve giving information on other figures in the investigation. But if Flynn is indeed cooperating, Trump is in big trouble.”

“That’s because if Flynn is cooperating, it can only be because he has information to offer Mueller on someone more important than himself. That’s how it works. And who is more important than Flynn? Only a very small number of people. Among those implicated in this whole affair, that group may consist of Jared Kushner and Trump, and that’s about it.”

“Which means we may be getting closer to answering a question I’ve been asking for a long time: Why was President Trump so intensely focused on protecting Michael Flynn?”

Preet Bhahara: “If you’re dead to rights, flipping on others and cooperating with the prosecution is the only sane and rational move. Also, prosecutors accept cooperation only if you can provide ‘substantial assistance.’ Higher up in the food chain.”

‘A Spectacular Accumulation of Lies’

Michael Gerson: “I spent part of my convalescence from a recent illness reading some of the comprehensive timelines of the Russia investigation… In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.”

“What are the implications? President Trump and others in his administration are about to be hit by a legal tidal wave. We look at the Russia scandal and see lies. A skilled prosecutor sees leverage. People caught in criminal violations make more cooperative witnesses. Robert S. Mueller III and his A-team of investigators have plenty of stupidity and venality to work with. They are investigating an administration riven by internal hatreds — also the prosecutor’s friend. And Trump has already alienated many potential allies in a public contest between himself and Mueller. A number of elected Republicans, particularly in the Senate, would watch this showdown with popcorn.”

“But the implications of all this are not only legal and political. We are witnessing what happens when right-wing politics becomes untethered from morality and religion.”

Mueller Issued Subpoena for Trump Campaign

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in mid-October issued a subpoena to President Trump’s campaign requesting Russia-related documents from more than a dozen top officials,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The subpoena, which requested documents and emails from the listed campaign officials that reference a set of Russia-related keywords, marked Mr. Mueller’s first official order for information from the campaign…The subpoena didn’t compel any officials to testify before Mr. Mueller’s grand jury.”

“The subpoena caught the campaign by surprise, the person said. The campaign had previously been voluntarily complying with the special counsel’s requests for information, and had been sharing with Mr. Mueller’s team the documents it provided to congressional committees as part of their probes of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.”