2016 Campaign

Russian Posts Were Seen by 126 Million People

Washington Post: “Facebook plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that 126 million of its users may have seen content produced and circulated by Russian operatives, many times more than what the company previously disclosed about the reach of the disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election.”

“Previously, Facebook had focused its disclosures on Russian ads. The company has said that 470 accounts and pages run by a Russian troll farm had purchased roughly 3,000 ads, which the company said reached an estimated 10 million users. But the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency, also published free content. Researchers estimated that the spread of free content was far greater than that of ads and that Facebook has been under pressure to share more about those posts.”

Mueller Puts Down a Marker

Financial Times: “The allegations in the federal indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates — even considered in isolation — are enough to frighten any friend of America. If they are true, Donald Trump’s campaign manager from March to August 2016 — a period encompassing his nomination by the Republican party — was a criminal. Not a criminal in some abstract or technical sense: Mr Manafort is accused of laundering millions of dollars, evading taxes, and concealing his role as a lobbyist for a foreign government.”

“The latter point is the most alarming. It raises the possibility that a foreign power, without knowledge of the electorate, influenced the policy of the party that ultimately won the presidency.”

Two Takeaways from Mueller’s Indictments

Lawfare: The first big takeaway from this morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The President of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.”

“The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team now admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to ‘arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials’ and to obtain ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some them.”

“And here’s the rub: This is only Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s opening salvo. As opening salvos go, it’s a doozy.”

The Russians Stole the U.S. Presidency

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Politico that no matter how much President Trump rants about the “Russia hoax,” the 2016 hacking was not only real and aimed at electing Trump but constituted a major victory for a dangerous foreign adversary.

Said Clapper: “The Russians have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.”

He added that the investigation of whether Trump’s team colluded with Russia constitutes a “cloud not only over the president, but the office of the presidency, the administration, the government and the country” until it is resolved.

Facebook Stuggles to Contain Russia Narrative

Politico: “Facebook has been happy to keep congressional investigators focused on the Russian-bought online ads that helped sway voters in last year’s election — despite the many other ways that fake messages and bogus accounts spread on the dark side of social media.”

“But that may be about to end: Facebook, Twitter and Google are preparing for hearings this week where lawmakers are expected to grill the companies about the broad reach that foreign actors achieved through fake accounts and deliberate misinformation, a topic that encompasses far more than the 3,000 paid political ads that Facebook disclosed last month.”

Conservative Site First Hired Firm to Create Dossier

“The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor, first hired the research firm that months later produced for Democrats the salacious dossier describing ties between Donald Trump and the Russian government,” the New York Times reports.

“It has long been known that Fusion GPS was first hired by Republicans, but it was not known who was the source of the funding.”

Washington Post: “Opposition research is nothing new in political races, or the corporate world, but it is not a common practice for a news website to hire out such work, which is often expensive. Firms like Fusion GPS can charge tens of thousands of dollars for research on a single subject.”

First Charges Filed In Mueller Investigation

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, CNN reports.

“The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.”

Memo Used at Trump Meeting Was Shared With Kremlin

Natalia Veselnitskaya “arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia ‘hysteria,'” the New York Times reports.

“But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.”

“The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.”

GOP Winds Down Russia Probes

“Republican lawmakers say they’re approaching the end of their investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election even though the most politically explosive issue — whether associates of President Trump colluded with the Kremlin — remains unresolved,” Politico reports.

“That will present Democrats who have spent a year amplifying suspicions about Trump’s own ties to Russia with a wrenching choice: to join Republicans and set aside the most momentous aspect of their probes — or to break from the GOP and end any chance of presenting a united front against a continuing Russian threat.”

No Puppet. No Puppet. You’re the Puppet!

Jonathan Chait: “Having apparently decided that defending the Trump campaign against charges of collusion with Russian cyberattacks is an impossible task, the Republican Party has decided to go on offense. The House Intelligence Committee, putatively assigned to investigate collusion, is instead running a counter-investigation into Trump’s nemeses. Their argument, incredibly enough, is that the FBI and Robert Mueller are the real perpetrators of collusion with Russia. ‘No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet’ has become the new Republican argument against Mueller.”

“Their case, which is being quickly spread by Republican officeholders and conservative media, centers on the role of Christopher Steele, a respected retired British intelligence officer turned private investigator, and Fusion GPS, the firm for which he worked.”

Mueller Announcement Within a Month?

National security expert Juliette Kayyem told Boston Public Radio that news from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation will be announced within the next month.

Said Kayyem: “I think it is safe to say that before Thanksgiving … something’s going to drop with Mueller. The pace is too much right now. Every 12 hours we’re now dealing with a piece of this story at a pace we haven’t seen.”

Kayyem speculated that the pace of stories critical of Hillary Clinton represents “a recognition by the White House team” that Mueller is getting close to something substantive as a result of his investigation.

Trump Data Guru Tried to Team Up with Assange

“Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data analytics firm that worked for President Trump’s campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the Wikileaks founder release Clinton’s missing emails… Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.”

“If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange.”

Clinton, DNC Funded Research that Led to Russia Dossier

The Clinton campaign and DNC “helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin,” the Washington Post reports.

“Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research. Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community.”

“Fusion GPS gave Steele’s reports and other research documents to Elias, the people familiar with the matter said. It is unclear how or how much of that information was shared with the campaign and DNC, and who in those organizations was aware of the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. One person close to the matter said the campaign and the DNC weren’t informed of Fusion GPS’s role by the law firm.”