Showing posts with label US-Russia relations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US-Russia relations. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

US Dept of Justice-FBI investigation of Russian links to Donald Trump's election campaign inexorably rolls on


On 17 May 2017 the probe into Russian influence on US political processes and collusion between the Russian Government and individuals associated with the election campaign of President Donald J Trump became an investigation which would inevitably lead to charges being laid.

To date both President Trump's former campaign manager and campaign deputy-director have been indicted, along with thirteen Russian nationals and three corporations.

Trump's former security adviser, along with a former member of his foreign policy advisory team and an individual who unlawfully supplied US bank accounts to Russians associated with the alleged political interference, have plead guilty to charges.

Current State of Play according to US Dept. of Justice

U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al (1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia)
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

U.S. v. Richard Pinedo, et al (1:18-cr-24, District of Columbia)
Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, Calif., pleaded guilty on Feb. 12, 2018, to identity fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028.

U.S. v. Michael T. Flynn (1:17-cr-232, District of Columbia)
Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.), of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., and Richard W. Gates III, of Richmond, Va., have been indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 27, 2017, in the District of Columbia. The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017, after the defendants were permitted to surrender themselves to the custody of the FBI.

U.S. v. George Papadopoulos (1:17-cr-182, District of Columbia)
George Papadopoulos, of Chicago, Illinois, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017.

UPDATE

U.S. v. Alex van der Zwaan (1:18-cr-31, District of Columbia)
Alex van der Zwaan, of London, pleaded guilty on Feb. 20, 2018, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.
Statement of the Offense

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:18-cr-83, Eastern District of Virginia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., and Richard W. Gates III, of Richmond, Va., were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 22, 2018, in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment contains 32 counts: 16 counts related to false individual income tax returns, seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy, and four counts of bank fraud.
Indictment

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment on Feb. 23, 2018, against Paul J. Manafort, Jr., 68, of Alexandria, Va. The superseding indictment contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

U.S. v. Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Richard W. Gates III, 45, of Richmond, Va., pleaded guilty on Feb. 23, 2018, to a superseding criminal information that includes: count one of the indictment, which charges conspiracy against the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 (which includes conspiracy to violate 26 U.S.C. 7206(1), 31 U.S.C. 5312 and 5322(b), and 22 U.S.C. 612, 618(a)(1), and 618(a)(2)), and a charge of making false statements to the Special Counsel’s Office and FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. A status report with regard to sentencing was scheduled for May 14, 2018.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Quotes of the Week


"The Cozy Bear [Russian] hackers are in a space in a university building near the Red Square. The group's composition varies, usually about ten people are active. The entrance is in a curved hallway. A security camera records who enters and who exits the room. The AIVD hackers manage to gain access to that camera. Not only can the intelligence service now see what the Russians are doing, they can also see who's doing it. Pictures are taken of every visitor. In Zoetermeer, these pictures are analyzed and compared to known Russian spies. Again, they've acquired information that will later prove to be vital."  [De Volkskrant, on the subject of Russian interference in 2016 presidential election, 25 January 2018]

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"The separation of powers doctrine dictates that the judiciary should not be the subject of improper influence by the other branches of government – being the executive and legislature. Comments by Dutton and other Coalition ministers to the effect that members of the judiciary should be selected on the basis of their ideological leanings and ability to deliver "tough" sentences – rather than independently look at all factors and apply the law – seek to undermine this doctrine and unduly influence both the selection process and practices of the judiciary. Dutton's populist political grandstanding may have some members of the public "egging him on", but the reality is that such rhetoric seeks to undermine one of the central pillars of our democracy." 
[Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 23 January 2018]


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No president in history has burned more public money to sustain his personal lifestyle than Donald Trump”  [former George W. Bush staffer David Frum in his book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic]


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“The events I’ve described in these pages are based on conversations that took place over a period of eighteen months with the president, with most members of his senior staff—some of whom talked to me dozens of times—and with many people who they in turn spoke to. The first interview occurred well before I could have imagined a Trump White House, much less a book about it, in late May 2016 at Trump’s home in Beverly Hills—the then candidate polishing off a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla as he happily and idly opined about a range of topics while his aides, Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski, and Jared Kushner, went in and out of the room.
Conversations with members of the campaign’s team continued through the Republican Convention in Cleveland, when it was still hardly possible to conceive of Trumps election. They moved on to Trump Tower with a voluble Steve Bannon—before the election, when he still seemed like an entertaining oddity, and later, after the election, when he seemed like a miracle worker.
Shortly after January 20, I took up something like a semipermanent seat on a couch in the West Wing. Since then I have conducted more than two hundred interviews.” [Author Michael Wolff from his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” published 5 January 2018]


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Sunday, 21 January 2018

U.S. Political Retrospective: those first investigations into presidential candidate Donald J Trump


Sometime in September or October 2015 Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS began a broad investigation of then Republican presidential candidate nominee Donald J Trump under contact for an unspecified client and later commenced another investigation of Trump as official Republican presidential candidate for a different client in the first half of 2016.

Simpson later confirmed the clients to be in the first instance The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor and in the second instance the Democratic National Committee and Clinton presidential campaign.

Excerpts from Christopher Steele’s 35-page ‘dossier’ created under contract for research company Fusion GPS:


U.S. SENATE, WASHINGTON, D.C., SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, excerpts from a partial transcipt of INTERVIEW OF: GLENN SIMPSON, 22 August 2017 (released 9 January 2018 in response to his request) , in which he explains how and where he looked for initial information about Donald Trump:

“In the early -- the very first weekend that I
started boning up on Donald Trump, you know, I
found various references to him having connections
to Italian organized crime and later to a Russian
organized crime figure named Felix Sater,
S-A-T-E-R. It wasn't hard to find, it wasn't any
great achievement, it was in the New York Times,
but as someone who has done a lot of Russian
organized crime investigations as a journalist
originally that caught my attention and became
something that, you know, I focused on while other
people looked at other things.
So from the very beginning of this organized
crime was -- Russian organized crime was a focus of
interest. I guess I should just repeat, you know,
this is a subject that I covered extensively at the
Wall Street Journal. I wrote a series of front-
page articles about various corrupt politicians
from Russia, oligarchs, and one of the things that
I wrote about was the connections between western
politicians and Russian business figures. So, you
know, I was sort of an amateur student of the
subject and I had written about some of these same
Russian crime figures, you know, years earlier in
the U.S. and various frauds and things they were
involved in……

You know, we also conducted a much broader
sort of look at his entire career and his overseas
investments in places like Europe and Latin
America. You know, it wasn't really a Russia
focused investigation for the first half of it.
That was just one component of a broader look at
his business career, his finances. We spent a lot
of time trying to figure out whether he's really as
rich as he says he is because that was the subject
of a libel case that he filed against a journalist
named Tim O'Brien for which there was quite a lot
of discovery and litigation filings detailing
O'Brien's allegation that he was worth, you know,
maybe a fifth to a third of what he claims and
Trump's angry retort that he was worth far more
than that.
So we did things like we looked at the golf
courses and whether they actually ever made any
money and how much debt they had. We looked at the
bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many
bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion
dollars in personal assets. So those are the kinds
of things. We looked at a lot of things like his
tax bills. Tax bills are useful because you can
figure out how much money someone is making or how
much they're worth or how much their properties are
worth based on how much they have to pay in taxes.
One of the things we found out was that, you
know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump
claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump
organization. So they would make filings with
various state and local authorities saying that
their buildings weren't worth much……

For instance, in the early stage of an
investigation, you know, particularly of Donald
Trump you want to get every lawsuit the guy's ever
been in. So, you know, we collected lawsuits from
around the country and the world. And I do
remember one of the earlier things we did was we
collected a lot of documents from Scotland because
he'd been in a big controversy there about land
use. There had been another one in Ireland. There
was a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests
and that sort of thing.
So in the early phases of something you're
collecting lots of paper on every subject
imaginable. So in the course of reading that
litigation we would follow up on things that were
interesting, such as a libel case against a
journalist that he settled, which, in other words,
he didn't prevail in his attempts to prove that he
was a billionaire.”……

It was, broadly speaking, a kind of
holistic examination of Donald Trump's business
record and his associations, his bankruptcies, his
suppliers, you know, offshore or third-world
suppliers of products that he was selling. You
know, it evolved somewhat quickly into issues of
his relationships to organized crime figures but,
you know, really the gamut of Donald Trump.
What we generally do at the beginning of a
case if it's possible is to order all the books
about the subject from Amazon so we're not
reinventing the wheel and we know what's been
written and said before. So this was typical. We
ordered every Donald Trump book and, to my
surprise, that's a lot of books. I was never very
interested in Donald Trump. He was not a serious
political figure that I'd ever had any exposure to.
He's a New York figure really.
So anyway, we read everything we could read
about Donald Trump. Those books cover his
divorces, his casinos, his early years dealings
with labor unions and mafia figures. I'm trying to
think what else. His taxes certainly have always
been a big issue. Again, it was sort of an
unlimited look at his -- you know, his business and
finances and that sort of thing……

That calls for a somewhat long answer. We
had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump
generally at this point in the project and we began
to drill down on specific areas. He [Christopher Steele] was not the
only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of
the world required other people. For example, we
were interested in the fact that the Trump family
was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in
the United States that was made in sweat shops in
Asia and South America -- or Latin America. So we
needed someone else for that. So there were other
things. We were not totally focused on Russia at
that time, but we were at a point where we were --
you know, we'd done a lot of reading and research
and we were drilling down on specific areas.
Scotland was another one
So that's the answer. What happens when you
get to this point in an investigation when you've
gathered all of the public record information and
you've begun to exhaust your open source, you know,
resources is that you tend to find specialists who
can take you further into a subject and I had known
Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was
the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the
government and an extremely well-regarded
investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we're
friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy
and organized crime issues. I would say that's
broadly why I asked him to see what he could find
out about Donald Trump's business activities in
Russia……

I mean, one of the key lines here in the
second paragraph says "However, he and his inner
circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence
from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and
other political rivals."
So the issue with the Trump Tower meeting, as
I understand it, is that the Trump people were
eager to accept intelligence from a foreign
government about their political rivals and that
is, you know, I would say, a form of interference.
If you're getting help from a foreign government
and your help is intelligence, then the foreign
government's interfering. I mean, you know, I
think that also -- of course, in retrospect we now
know this was pretty right on target in terms on
what it says. So anyway --
I mean, it clearly refers to, you know,
them being interested in and willing to -- it
depicts them as accepting information. What we
have seen to date with the disclosures this year is
they were at a minimum super interested in getting
Information……

We've seen hacking in politics before, but this
kind of, you know, mass theft of e-mail and then to
dump it all into, you know, the public sphere was
extraordinary and it was criminal.
So the question by now of whether this was
Russia and whether this might have something to do
with the other information that we'd received was,
you know, the immediate question, and I think this
is also -- by the time this memo was written Chris
had already met with the FBI about the first memo.
So he's -- if I can interpret a little bit here.
In his mind this is already a criminal matter,
there's already a potential national security
matter here.
I mean, this is basically about a month later
and there's a lot of events that occurred in
between. You know, after the first memo, you know,
Chris said he was very concerned about whether this
represented a national security threat and said he
wanted to -- he said he thought we were obligated
to tell someone in government, in our government
about this information. He thought from his
perspective there was an issue -- a security issue
about whether a presidential candidate was being
blackmailed. From my perspective there was a law
enforcement issue about whether there was an
illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws,
and then somewhere in this time the whole issue of
hacking has also surfaced.
So he proposed to -- he said we should tell
the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't
originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and
said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it
again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence
of these events, but my recollection is that I
questioned how we would do that because I don't
know anyone there that I could report something
like this to and be believed and I didn't really
think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do
that. In any event, he said don't worry about
that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact
there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am,
I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I
agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So,
you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate
way, I said it was okay for him to do that……

A second and complete interview transcript is available:
Trump's wild and inappropriate response to the release of Glenn Simpson interview transcript:

Friday, 19 January 2018

Will Steve Bannon's predictions come true?


On 17 May 2017 Robert S. Mueller III was appointed by acting Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to serve as Special Counsel investigating any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,  any matters that arose or may arise directlyfrom the investigation and, any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a).

Thus far Mueller has indicted four individuals - Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) (plead guilty), Paul J. Manafort, Jr., Richard W. Gates III and George Papadopoulos (plead guilty).

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon's predictions concerning this DOJ/FBI investigation and Donald J. Trump's future had remained semi-private until the release on 5 January 2018 of Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House".

Here are two examples.....





Sunday, 12 November 2017

Here is the man Trump and his supporters have been calling a low-ranking volunteer, a coffee boy - since Papadopoulos' plea deal was revealed




Salon, 1 November 2017:

The credibility of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been called into serious question after the Justice Department unsealed a plea deal taken by a former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The documents revealed that former adviser George Papadopoulos attended a "national security meeting in Washington D.C.," on March 31, 2016, along with Trump, Sessions and others. In that meeting, Papadopoulos "introduced himself," and explicitly stated "in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and [Russian] President Putin."

Trump tweeted a picture of the meeting the day it occurred, and he, as well as Sessions, sat at opposite heads of the table. Papadopoulos is pictured to the left of Sessions in the middle of the table.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Donald Trump continues to deny Trump presidential election campaign-Russia link as FBI indictments begin




US President Donald J. Trump continues to deny Trump presidential election campaign-Russia links as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indictments begin.

CNN, 30 October 2017:
Washington (CNN) Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates surrendered Monday to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gates, 45, is a longtime business associate of Manafort, 68, having worked together since the mid-2000s, and served as his deputy on the campaign. The two were indicted under seal on Friday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The indictment against the two men contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Manafort arrived at the FBI's Washington field office Monday morning. The two are being processed separately, according to a law enforcement official. They will later be transported to federal district court in Washington later Monday morning.

The two are scheduled to make their initial court appearances before US District Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson at 1:30 p.m. ET Monday…..

Manafort entered the Trump campaign orbit in early 2016, when he reached out to Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner and offered to work for free, according to The New York Times.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 to help with delegate counting ahead of the Republican National Convention, as some Republicans hoped to use arcane delegate procedures to wrest the nomination from Trump at the convention in Cleveland.

He soon was promoted to campaign chairman, and he became the top official on the campaign after then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June 2016.

His tenure didn't last long.

The Times reported in August 2016 that Ukrainian investigators found Manafort's name in an off-the-books, handwritten ledger detailing secret payments — including $12.7 million to Manafort from Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Manafort denied he had received any such payment and claims the ledger was forged. But just days later, he resigned from the campaign as the accusations swirling around him became a major distraction for Trump.

Copy of FBI indictment dated 27 October 2017 here.

Grand Jury Investigation, Memorandum Opinion here.

Manafort and Gates now under house arrest.

@realDonaldTrump, 30 October 2017:

Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????....

....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!

On 3 October 2017 the FBI issued an indictment in United States of American v George Papadopoulos on one count of making false statements concerning his interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with Russian government officials. Papadopoulos appears to have joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

He was part of Trump's six-man foreign policy team led by then Alabama senator and now US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

Copy of Papadopoulos Statement of Offence can be read here. Copy of Papadopoulos plea agreement here.

Los Angeles Times, 30 October 2017:

A former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians who claimed to have “thousands of emails” on Hillary Clinton, in the latest charges filed in the investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. 

George Papadopoulos, 30, of Chicago, has agreed to cooperate with the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to a plea agreement unsealed on Monday.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to disguise his contacts with Russians whom he thought had “dirt” on Clinton, according to court papers. He was arrested in July as he got off a plane at Dulles International Airport.

After he was contacted by an unnamed Russian professor in March, Papadopoulos exchanged emails with an official in the Russian foreign ministry, court papers say. Among the topics he discussed was a possible visit by Trump to Russia.

“As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” one Russian emailed him.

In April, after he had become an advisor to the campaign, Papadopoulos met with the Russian professor at a London hotel. The professor said he had just returned from a trip to Moscow, where he was told “the Russians had emails of Clinton.”

Papadopolous told other leaders in the Trump campaign that he was in contact with Russians, and said there were some “interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip.”

An unnamed campaign official, described as a campaign “supervisor,” encouraged him to make the trip, a document reads.

BACKGROUND


ABC News, 20 July 2017:

Mr Trump Jr has been the focus of a string of revelations about a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in 2016, billed as a part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican's White House campaign.

Explosive emails, which Mr Trump Jr published on his own Twitter account, show that:

Donald Trump Jr (and others) knowingly had a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer on June 9, 2016
The intermediary who arranged the meeting offered "information that would incriminate" Hillary Clinton and "her dealings with Russia" that would be "very useful" to the campaign
The intermediary described the information as "very high level and sensitive"
Most importantly, it was described as "part of Russia and its Government's support for Mr Trump"

The story has continued to evolve, with a former Soviet officer recently confirming he was as the meeting.

Mr Manafort and Mr Kushner were also reported to be at the meeting in question.

The Washington Post, 27 October 2017:

On Friday, Trump declared the investigations into any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government all-but-over….

“It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!”.....

After his inauguration, the first time Trump mentioned collusion on Twitter was May 8.

“Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr., “there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.”

“The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax,” he added, “when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

At the moment Trump tweeted about how there wasn’t any collusion — the first and second times of 14 tweets in total — the investigations into collusion were limited to an FBI counterintelligence investigation and House and Senate committees digging into the matter. The next day, though, Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, triggering the chain of events that led to the appointment of Mueller and his investigation.

When Trump was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt shortly after the Comey firing, he was adamant.

“I think that looking into me and, the campaign … look, I have nothing to do [with it],” he said. “This was set up by the Democrats. There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote.” He also told Holt that “when I decided to just [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ ”

Quartz, 29 October 2017:

However, Russia’s efforts to influence the US election have been repeatedly, unequivocally confirmed on the record by all top US intelligence officials, including those appointed by Trump.

report (pdf) issued by US intelligence officials on Jan. 6 stated Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind a campaign to influence the 2016 election, “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” and stated that Putin had “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

During a public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing (pdf) this May, Virginia’s Mark Warner asked top intelligence officials if they agreed with the conclusions of this report that “Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation to influence our elections?”

Every intelligence official answered yes. Intelligence officials at the hearing included representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, as well as Trump-appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo and Trump’s chosen director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. (See 42:30 mark on the video below, or at the 1:04 mark on the video on the Senate website).