2016 Campaign

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.”

Signs Suggest Flynn Cooperating with Mueller

“Lawyers for Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case, an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating such a deal,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved in Russian efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

Spicer Was Looking for TV Jobs Before the Election

A new book out next month — Let Trump Be Trump by Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie — says that Sean Spicer was never a true Trump believer, revealing the now ex-White House press secretary was shopping for TV jobs even before the 2016 election, the Daily Mail reports.

“In the first chapter, they lay out who they consider Trump’s friends and foes, characterizing Spicer and other Trump team members who came from the Republican National Committee, including Reince Priebus and Katie Walsh, as the latter.”

Carter Page Held Meetings with Hungarian Officials

“Travels by Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to meet with senior officials in Hungary during the 2016 presidential election are being closely examined by congressional investigators, given the increasingly close ties between Hungary and Russia and the role of the country as a hub for Russian intelligence activity. The Hungarian prime minister was the first foreign leader to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy,” ABC News reports.

“Though characterized as a low-level volunteer, Page held high-level foreign policy meetings with Hungarian officials before the 2016 presidential election.”

Publicist Who Arranged Trump Tower Meeting Denies Plot

Rob Goldstone, the publicist who helped arrange the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, tells the Times of London that Jared Kushner was “furious” that the focus of the meeting turned to the Magnitsky Act instead of dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Goldstone also denies being part of some Russian plot: “When people said that, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. That doesn’t mean that maybe there wasn’t any Russian interference or Trump campaign collusion in other ways. I don’t know. But I’m sure I wasn’t part of it.”

He notes that Paul Manafort seemed to be paying little attention during the meeting.

Russia’s Meddling Is Another U.S. Intelligence Failure

New Yorker: “Unlike 9/11, the Russian campaign did not occur without warning on a quiet fall day. Rather, it unfolded over at least six months on Americans’ social-media accounts—hardly the stuff of spy novels. Kremlin leaders had signaled their plans years in advance. The Russian playbook wasn’t a secret, either. It had been well documented by European governments, researchers, and journalists after the Kremlin’s information operations to destabilize Estonia, in 2007; Georgia, in 2008; Ukraine, in 2014; and Britain, in the leadup to the 2016 Brexit vote.”

“Facing one of the clearest domestic threats to the U.S. in a decade, neither the F.B.I., which has the responsibility for conducting counterintelligence inside the United States, nor the O.D.N.I. warned Americans that platoons of Russian-backed automated “bots” and human trolls were working online to amplify racial divisions and anti-government conspiracy theories.”

Trump’s Hillary Clinton Obsession

“President Trump just can’t quit Hillary Clinton. Rarely a few days pass without the president tweeting about the woman he beat,” Axios reports.

“Trump has tweeted or retweeted a message about Clinton approximately 837 times since 2012, and 56 times since the election.”

His tweet this morning: “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years!”

Donald Jr. and Wikileaks Talk Dirty

Jack Shafer: “If we’ve learned anything from months of scandal reporting, the Russians set their sights on two types of people wandering the halls of Trump Tower. There were the self-promoters like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort who they knew would cooperate based on direct or potential payouts. But the Russians also shopped a second group of Tower denizens, the over-their-heads strivers often compared to the hapless Fredo Corleone. These Fredos—George Papadopoulos and Carter Page—attracted Russian agents like magnets, and were easily manipulated by direct appeals to their stooped egos.”

“But of all the Fredos occupying Trump world, perhaps Donald Trump Jr. proved to be the easiest mark for the Russians.”

Russian Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting With Trump

“A senior Russian official who claimed to be acting at the behest of President Vladimir Putin of Russia tried in May 2016 to arrange a meeting between Mr. Putin and Donald Trump,” the New York Times reports.

“The news of this reached the Trump campaign in a very circuitous way. An advocate for Christian causes emailed campaign aides saying that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime, had proposed a meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. The subject line of the email, turned over to Senate investigators, read, ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,’ according to one person who has seen the message.”

Kushner Testified He Didn’t Know of Wikileaks Contacts

“White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had,” CNN reports.

“But Kushner did receive and forward an email from Donald Trump Jr. about contact Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

‘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.”