2016 Campaign

Inside the Russian Effort to Bamboozle Florida

“The scathing indictment unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller outlines a multi-state scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself,” Politico reports.

“The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash… During the heat of the 2016 race, Trump campaign officials in Florida said they were surprised by all the grass-roots support for the president — which seemed entirely organic at the time.”

McMaster Says Evidence of Meddling Is ‘Incontrovertible’

White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is “now really incontrovertible,” CNN reports.

McMaster has said previously it had been difficult to say definitively because “technically it was difficult” but “also you didn’t want to divulge your intelligence capabilities.”

He added: “But now that this is in the arena of a law enforcement investigation it’s going to be very apparent to everyone.”

It Just Got Much Harder to Fire Robert Mueller

Jonathan Swan: “It will now be even harder for Trump to fire Mueller. Capitol Hill already would have gone crazy if Trump tried that. But after Mueller has done such substantive work — even earning the lavish praise of Trump lawyer John Dowd — it’s impossible to imagine Trump getting away with firing him.”

“The fact that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a press conference is significant. It was a major vote of confidence in the Mueller probe: This is Rosenstein saying he’s proud of this work, and fully supports it.”

“It’s also a notable show of independence by Rosenstein — a Heisman to the White House.”

Flashback of the Day

From the transcript of the final debate of the 2016 presidential race when the candidates were asked about Russian president Vladimir Putin trying to influence the U.S. election:

CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

TRUMP: You’re the puppet!

CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…

TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.

Mueller Knows Much More Than He’s Shown

Lawfare: “The indictment is yet another reminder of something that’s been made clear over the past several months repeatedly: Mueller and his team know much more than is public, and they are unusual in Washington in being fully capable of keeping secrets.”

“The special counsel’s office not only appears to be decidedly leak-resistant, everything that has emerged of the investigation so far suggests that the special counsel’s office has information well beyond that which it has made public. This is another reason to avoid making predictions about the innocence of the Trump campaign—or its guilt, for that matter—based on the limited scope of the indictment. Nobody knows how much more to come there is, and anyone pretending to, either by way of claiming vindication for those not yet indicted or by way of asserting confidently what the next shoe to drop will be, deserves a healthy measure of skepticism.”

U.S. Man Pleads Guilty to Helping Russians

“A California man pleaded guilty to identity fraud in a second case unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the US presidential election,” CNN reports.

“Richard Pinedo’s guilty plea was unsealed by the federal court in DC on Friday, minutes after the Justice Department announced charges against 13 Russian nationals.”

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think that the campaign colluded in some meaningful way. I don’t think that they were organized enough, or competent enough as a campaign to do that.”

— Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), in an interview with CNBC, doubting that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

Is Donald Trump a Traitor?

James Risen: “One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.”

“His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.”

Top Trump Campaign Adviser Close to Plea Deal

“Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation,” CNN reports.

“Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a ‘Queen for a Day’ interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.”

“Once a plea deal is in place, Gates would become the third known cooperator in Mueller’s sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

Schiff Sees an ‘Abundance’ of Evidence Against Trump

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that the House intelligence committee had seen an “abundance” of evidence of collusion with Russia and obstruction by Donald Trump’s campaign and administration that is not yet public, the Guardian reports.

Said Schiff: “It is a tried and true maxim. As a former prosecutor, you follow the money. We have not been able to adequately follow the money. And I think the allegations on money laundering are credible enough that we ought to, in the exercise of due diligence, see if this was one of the other vectors of the Russian active measures campaign.”

He added: “We know that in other places they use money laundering as a way of entangling people, as a way of compromising people. To me that is far more potentially compromising than any salacious video would be.”

Pence Claims U.S. Intel Says Russia Didn’t Impact Election

Vice President Mike Pence told Axios that U.S. intelligence has determined that Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not affect the outcome.

Said Pence: “Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Jonathan Chait: “This is unequivocally false… If you think about this question, it’s completely obvious that they couldn’t rule in or out the possibility that Russia changed the election outcome. It’s not just impossible for an intelligence agency to determine this. It’s impossible for anybody to determine it.”

Trump Still Doesn’t Think Russia Interfered In Election

President Trump “still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election,” CNN reports.

“Even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President’s thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.”