January-May 2017, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1 is below this post.)
By Pokey Anderson
Most recent update: September 8, 2017.
Cartoon illustrations drawn by David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions.
All Rights Reserved
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–JANUARY 4, 2017. Michael Flynn informed the Trump transition team’s chief lawyer, Don McGahn that Flynn was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. A second conversation was held two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers. Despite this, Flynn would become National Security Advisor on the day Trump was inaugurated, January 20. [New York Times, May 17, 2017, “Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House”]
–JANUARY 6, 2017. FBI Director James Comey briefed President-elect Trump at Trump Tower on findings concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the US election. Salacious claims about Trump in the Steele dossier, which would be publicly released by BuzzFeed in a few days, were briefed by Comey to Trump privately. Comey felt that he needed to make a written record of the meeting as soon as he got into the car. Asked why, he responds in sworn testimony on June 8: “A combination of things, I think — the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with. … I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document. That combination of things, I’d never experienced before, but it led me to believe I’ve got to write it down, and I’ve got to write it down in a very detailed way. [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”] [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”] [New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–JANUARY 6, 2017. A declassified version of a highly classified DNI (Director of National Intelligence) document includes these key judgments: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
In addition, DNI makes this key judgment: “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”
Yet, six months later, the Daily Beast reports: “Despite assurances from the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hacking only influenced the 2016 U.S. election—and didn’t change vote tallies—there was never actually a formal federal audit of those systems, the Department of Homeland Security said.” “‘I think there’s a presumption amongst both the general public and lawmakers that DHS did some sort of investigation,’ said Susan Greenhalgh, who serves as Elections Specialist at Verified Voting, a nonprofit devoted to U.S. election integrity. ‘It didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that something happened, but it also means it wasn’t investigated.’”[Office of Director of National Intelligence, January 6, 2017, “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution”] [The Daily Beast, June 20, 2017, “DHS Never Ran Audit to See if Votes Were Hacked; The Department of Homeland Security insists that no one hacked actual votes—but admits it never ran an audit to check.”]
Headquarters of the Russian F.S.B., the main successor to the K.G.B., in Moscow. The Americans believe Russian military intelligence operates Advanced Persistent Threat 28, or Fancy Bear.
Photo credit: Pavel Golovkin, AP
–JANUARY 9, 2017. Just days after American intel agencies publicly identified a computer program a hacker wrote as one tool used in Russian hacking in the US, the hacker, with the alias “Profexer,” suddenly went dark on the internet. The malware program is called the P.A.S. web shell, and is a hacking tool “used by cybercriminals throughout the former Soviet Union.” “But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.” Serhiy Demediuk, chief of the Ukrainian Cyber Police, said he made the witness available to the FBI, which has posted a full-time cybersecurity expert in Kiev. The “valuable” witness is said to be cooperating, although he apparently did not know what the code he wrote would be used for.
“It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the election hacking and the heated debate it has stirred.”
“I don’t know what will happen,” Profexer wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”
Ukraine is “a country that Russia has used for years as a laboratory for a range of politicized operations that later cropped up elsewhere, including electoral hacking in the United States.”
Quiet cooperation of Ukrainian officials with American investigators has included sharing with the FBI the information that Ukraine’s central election was targeted by Russian hackers in May 2014. “Traces of the same malicious code, this time a program called Sofacy, were seen in the 2014 attack in Ukraine and later in the D.N.C. intrusion in the United States.” The elusive guise sometimes called Fancy Bear was a likely culprit. [New York Times, August 16, 2017, “In Ukraine, a Malware Expert Who Could Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking”] [Joint Analysis by US Dept. of Homeland Security and FBI, December 29, 2016, “GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber ActivitySummary”] SEE ALSO December 29, 2016.
SIS Building in London, headquarters of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service
Photo credit: Telegraph UK
–JANUARY 10, 2017. BuzzFeed publishes what later comes to be known as the Steele dossier. Compiled by Christopher Steele, a former agent of British intelligence (MI6), the claims were explosive but unverified, and had been circulating among media for weeks. David Corn first referred to the documents in a late October column in Mother Jones. [BuzzFeed, January 10, 2017, “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”] [Mother Jones, by David Corn, October 31, 2017, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump”]
–JANUARY 10, 2017. At a Senate Judiciary hearing on Jeff Sessions’s nomination to serve as attorney general, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asks about a CNN report on Russian ties to the Trump campaign that came out that day. FRANKEN: “…But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” SESSIONS: “Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.” [Washington Post, March 2, 2017, “What Jeff Sessions said about Russia, and when”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–JANUARY 15, 2017. Vice-President-elect Mike Pence declared that the Trump campaign had no interactions with Moscow. On Face the Nation, host John Dickerson asked him, “Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence was unequivocal: “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.” [CBS News, “Face the Nation transcript January 15, 2017: Pence, Manchin, Gingrich”]
–JANUARY 20, 2017. Donald J. Trump is inaugurated.
–JANUARY 22, 2017. At a reception for law enforcement at the White House, President Trump appears to blow James Comey a kiss, and beckons for Comey to come forward from across the room and they shake hands. Trump jokes, “He’s become more famous than me.” [The Hill, January 22, 2017, “Trump greets Comey: ‘He’s become more famous than me'”]
–LATE JANUARY, 2017. “During the Trump administration’s first week, officials said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift the sanctions” barring Americans from providing financing to and possibly limiting borrowing from VEB, Vnesheconombank. “Removing the sanctions would have greatly expanded the bank’s ability to do business in the United States.” (See the LATER IN DECEMBER 2016 entry about Jared Kushner’s secret meeting with the bank’s head.) [New York Times, May 29, 2017, “Investigation Turns to Kushner’s Motives in Meeting With a Putin Ally”]
–JANUARY 23, 2017. Three days after the inauguration, government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) files a federal lawsuit against President Trump for alleged violations of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. Law professor Jonathan Adler writes, “The underlying concern of the foreign emoluments clause is corruption. The authors of the clause were concerned that the receipt of gifts and other things of value could create a conflict of interest and compromise the president’s ability to perform his constitutional obligations.” [Washington Post, April 19, 2017, “Why CREW’s emoluments clause lawsuit against President Trump still has standing problems”]
After the FBI interviews Flynn, Sally Yates urgently meets with the White House Counsel to warn the White House that Flynn is compromised. She anticipates that the White House will take action. They do take action, but not the action Yates anticipated: four days after her first meeting with White House counsel, Yates is the one who is fired. Also, FBI Director James Comey is summoned to the White House by Trump; at dinner Trump asks for Comey to declare loyalty to Trump, which Comey declines to do.
–JANUARY 24, 2017. The FBI interviews Michael Flynn, particularly about his conversations with Kislyak in December, and whether they talked about the Obama administration’s sanctions of Russia. This takes place at the White House. [Washington Post, February 16, 2017, “Flynn in FBI interview denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador”] [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in a comment on All in with Chris Hayes on the same day, says, “There’s a very good chance that Flynn lied to the FBI.”]
Photo credit: PBS News Hour
–JANUARY 25, 2017. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates got a detailed readout from the FBI agents who talked with Flynn. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017]
–JANUARY 26, 2017. Early on the morning of the 26th, without waiting for the official report of the FBI interview with Flynn, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates called White House Counsel Don McGahn and asked to come over to discuss a serious matter that was too sensitive to talk about over the phone. In a secure room (SCIF), she revealed that Vice President Pence and other White House officials were making false statements to the public regarding Flynn’s conversations in December with Sergey Kislyak. Yates explained that “the underlying conduct General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself,” but she said the bigger worry among senior Justice Department officials was that “the Russians also knew what (he) had done.” “And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.” The specific nature of what she called “the underlying conduct” is classified. The White House’s Sean Spicer has said McGahn informed Trump “immediately” about the matter. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017] ] [CNN cited by AJC, May 3, 2017, “Sally Yates to contradict White House statements on Mike Flynn”] [Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2017, “Yates Testimony to Shine Public Light on Russia Probes”][Robert Costas of the Washington Post says on May 8, 2017, that multiple sources told him that McGahn informed Trump after the meeting.] [CNBC, February 14, 2017, “White House: Trump asked Flynn to resign but doesn’t think he broke the law on Russian dealings”]
–JANUARY 27, 2017. Sally Yates is called by White House Counsel Don McGahn, to deal with his four questions following up after their meeting the previous day. They meet again. (1) Why does it matter to the DOJ if one White House official lies to another? (2) Are there applicable criminal statutes that would be pursued? (3) Is there concern that the administration taking action about Flynn would interfere with the FBI investigation of Flynn? (Yates said no, it wouldn’t.) (4) Could they make arrangements so that McGahn could go and see the evidence that was underlying what Yates was telling McGahn. This was a Friday afternoon; Yates tells him they’ll work on that this weekend. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]
–JANUARY 27, 2017. At lunchtime, Trump calls to summon FBI Director James Comey to a one-on-one dinner at the White House. This is 3 days after Flynn was questioned by the FBI, and the day after Sally Yates first warned White House counsel about Flynn. Comey felt “uneasy” about going, not wanting to create an “appearance of compromising the integrity of the FBI,” according to James Clapper. “[Trump] began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to,” Comey wrote for the Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on June 8. At the dinner, Trump twice requested a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey. Comey declined, offering instead a pledge of honesty. Finally, “it got very awkward,” Comey recalled later, and Comey agreed to Trump’s request for “honest loyalty,” deciding it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. Comey: “As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.” Trump gave Lester Holt an entirely different account of the dinner, saying that it was Comey who requested the meeting, that Comey was seeking job security, and told the president he was not under investigation. [NBC News, May 12, 2017, “My Dinner With Comey: Clapper, Others Dispute Trump Account of Meeting With FBI Director”] [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]
–JANUARY 27, 2017. The administration ordered the Office of Legal Counsel to not even tell Acting Attorney General Yates the Muslim travel ban was in the works; she found out about it in the media. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]
–JANUARY 28, 2017. Trump has an hour-long phone call with Putin. Flynn sat in on this call, as well as Pence, Bannon and Priebus. [NBC News, January 28, 2017, “Trump Fields Calls From Several Foreign Leaders, Including Putin and Merkel”]
–JANUARY 30, 2017. Yates calls McGahn that morning, and tells him that yes, she has made arrangements so that he can go and see the classified raw material re Flynn. Later, that evening, Yates is fired. The reason given is that she refused to enforce the Muslim travel ban put forward by the Trump administration. [Sworn testimony of Sally Yates before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, May 8, 2017.]
–LATE JANUARY; ALSO EARLY FEBRUARY, A WEEK BEFORE FLYNN LEAVES OFFICE. “A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia. … [T]he proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remain[ed after Flynn’s departure] along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. “It was late January when the three men associated with the proposed plan converged on the Loews Regency, a luxury hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan where business deals are made in a lobby furnished with leather couches…” [New York Times, February 19, 2017, “A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates”]
–FEBRUARY 8, 2017. Flynn twice flatly denies he spoke to Kislyak in December about the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration. [Washington Post, February 9, 2017, “National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say”]
News media publish reports of Flynn talking with Russian ambassador about sanctions; Flynn finally fired four days later.
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–FEBRUARY 9, 2017. US intel officials shared an account indicating National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the month before President Trump took office. Flynn’s communications with Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.” Following this news, Flynn’s spokesperson backpedaled, saying Flynn indicated that “while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” [Washington Post, February 9, 2017, “National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say”]
–FEBRUARY 10, 2017. Aboard Air Force One, Trump took a few minutes to respond to reporters’ questions. He was asked about a report that Flynn had had conversations with the Russians about sanctions, before the inauguration. He answered, “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that? I haven’t seen it. I’ll look into that.” He also said, responding to a question about the Muslim travel ban (NOT Michael Flynn), “We have very very strong vetting. I call it extreme vetting. And we’re going to have very strong security in our country.” [New York Times, February 10, 2017; C-SPAN has the video clip, https://www.c-span.org/video/?423925-1/president-trump-remarks-air-force-one ]
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock
— FEBRUARY 13, 2017. Flynn was forced to resign as National Security Adviser. This is 18 days after Sally Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was compromised as to the Russians. It’s also three months after President Obama warned Trump not to hire Flynn for the job, and three months after Congressman Elijah Cummings warned Pence that Flynn was being paid by foreign governments to lobby the US government. According to the first Trump White House official story, the reason for the firing was that Flynn lied to Pence about his Russia contacts.
Trump clears the Oval Office to have a one-on-one conversation with Comey, and tells Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
–FEBRUARY 14, 2017. The day after Flynn was forced to resign, FBI Director James Comey was in the Oval Office for a counterterrorism briefing. When the meeting ended, Trump told those present — including Vice President Pence, Comey’s boss Jeff Sessions, and senior adviser Jared Kushner — to leave the room except for Comey. Sessions and Kushner lingered, but Trump again directed them to leave Trump and Comey alone.
Alone in the Oval Office, Trump began the discussion by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” After talking for a few minutes about leaks of classified information, Trump returned to the topic of Flynn, saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” said Trump, according to a memo Comey wrote right after the meeting. The unclassified memo was part of a paper trail Comey created; he also discussed the conversation with FBI senior leadership.
The next day, Comey implored Sessions to prevent any future direct communication between Trump and Comey. Comey would not tell Sessions the part of the conversation about ‘letting Flynn go.’ Comey would say in June 8 testimony, Sessions was at the time “very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” [New York Times, May 16, 2017, “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation”] [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”] [New York Times, June 8, 2017, “Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill”]
–FEBRUARY 15, 2017. Re: Flynn. “I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the ‘fake media,’ in many cases — and I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly,” Trump said at a news conference. “I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked.” [Washington Post, February 15, 2017, “Trump says Flynn was treated unfairly, a day after Spicer said he was fired because of a lack of trust”] At various times, Trump has responded to criticisms of weak vetting of Flynn by blaming the Obama administration.
–FEBRUARY 16, 2017. At a White House news conference, a reporter asked Trump, “Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?”
“No,” Trump said. “Nobody that I know of. Nobody.” [New York Times, November 2, 2017, “Trump and Sessions Denied Knowing About Russian Contacts. Records Suggest Otherwise”.]
–MARCH 2017. Over a series of five meetings in March, FBI agents have questioned Carter Page about his contacts with Russia and his interactions with the Trump campaign. During the questioning, totally about 10 hours, “Page repeatedly denied wrongdoing when asked about allegations that he may have acted as a kind of go-between for Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with Page’s account.” The FBI pressed him on allegations made in the Steele dossier, which claimed that in July 2016 Page met with Igor Sechin, a Putin associate, as well as senior Kremlin official Igor Divyekin. Page has denied the accusations. Page confirmed on June 26 that the interviews occurred, calling them “extensive discussions,” but he declined to say if he has spoken to investigators since the March interviews. [Washington Post, June 26, 2017, “FBI has questioned Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at length in Russia probe”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–MARCH 2, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces he will recuse himself from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. [New York Times, March 2, 2017, “Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Inquiry”]
–MARCH 8, 2017. Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc. retroactively registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before election day, beginning in August 2016. This work was done on behalf of a Dutch-based company, Inovo BV, which may have been working for the Turkish government. The White House says it was not aware that Flynn had been working to further the interests of the Turkish government. The following day, Pence, who had headed up the transition, said he did not know about Flynn’s paid work either. [CBS News, March 10, 2017, “White House says Trump was unaware of Michael Flynn’s foreign agent work”]
Illustration: David Barrett – Smackiepipe Productions
–MARCH 9, 2017. Vice President Pence tells Fox News, when asked about Flynn’s foreign agent/lobbying deal with Turkey, “Let me say, hearing that story today is the first I’ve heard of it.” This despite the letter sent to Pence last November 18 with the information about Flynn’s lobbying deal with a foreign government. [Video clip played on AM-Joy, MSNBC, May 6, 2017]
Photo credit: CNBC/Getty Images
–MARCH 10, 2017. The Trump administration asked US Attorney Preet Bharara and 45 other US attorneys to immediately resign and leave their offices around the country. Bharara had pursued a number of high-profile cases from his Manhattan base over the years, and his office had jurisdiction over any Trump business interests in New York. (He had been asked by Trump to stay on shortly after the election.) Bharara refused to resign, and was fired. Normally, a new presidential administration will hire new US attorneys, but on a rolling basis, filling new positions over time as new appointees are vetted and available to replace current US attorneys. The wholesale housecleaning, without new appointees ready to replace them, was quite unusual. Later, on June 11, after Comey testifies as to Trump contacts with Comey, Bharara will reveal that President-elect Trump had called Bharara twice. “It was a little bit uncomfortable,” Bharara said. “But he was not the President. He was only the President-elect.” The former US attorney said Trump called him one more time — March 9, after Trump had taken office. “I refused to return the call,” Bharara said. “I was in discussions with my own folks, and in reporting the phone call to the chief of staff to the attorney general I said, it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship,” Bharara said. “It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.” A day later, Bharara and the 45 other US attorneys were fired. [New York Times, March 11, 2017, “U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Says He Was Fired After Refusing to Quit”] [CNN, June 12, 2017, Preet Bharara opens up about his interactions with Trump”] [Buzz Feed, June 23, 2017, “Memo Shows Preet Bharara Was Concerned After Phone Call From White House”]
–MARCH 15, 2017. At Sen. Chuck Grassley’s insistence, FBI Director James Comey met with Sen. Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, privately. “This briefing was all on sensitive matters and highly classified,” Feinstein said. “It’s really not anything we can answer any questions about.” She then let reporters know that she wasn’t going to answer any questions on the briefing, apologizing that she couldn’t give them any info. [Mediaite, March 15, 2017, “‘The Briefing Was All On Sensitive Matters’: Sen. Feinstein Tight-Lipped After Comey Meeting”]
–MARCH 20, 2016. Two Senators on the Judiciary Committee sent requests to then-FBI Director James Comey asking him to investigate Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Al Franken expressed their concern that Sessions may have had an additional, third meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Senators followed up with letters on April 28 and (to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe) on May 12. They were concerned about Sessions’ “lack of candor” and the possibility that his testimony to the Senate committee could be construed as perjury. [CNN, June 1, 2017, “Senators asked Comey to investigate AG Jeff Sessions for possible perjury”]
FBI Director Comey acknowledges his agency is investiging possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Shortly after, Trump appeals to the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion. White House officials also sound out top intel officials about intervening directly with Comey to get the FBI to drop its Flynn investigation.
–MARCH 20, 2017. Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged that “his agency is conducting an investigation into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign in a counterintelligence probe that could reach all the way to the White House and may last for months.” [Washington Post, March 20, 2017, “FBI Director Comey confirms probe of possible coordination between Kremlin and Trump Campaign”]
–MARCH 22, 2017. Less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was at a White House briefing. At the end of the briefing, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump complained about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, and asked Coats if he could get Comey to back off of the Flynn probe. [Washington Post, June 6, 2017, “Top intelligence official told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe”] An earlier report had this pegged some time in late March: “Trump made separate appeals to the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate.” Senior intelligence officials also saw the requests as a threat to the independence of U.S. spy agencies, which are supposed to remain insulated from partisan issues. “The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats. “In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Flynn.” [Washington Post, May 22, 2017, “Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence”]
–MARCH 30, 2017. Trump calls Comey at the FBI. According to Comey: “He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ … Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign… I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.”
COMEY: “(I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.) The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.” [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]
–MARCH 31, 2017. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is in talks with the House and Senate intel committees, but wants immunity to give testimony in their investigations of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. His attorney Robert Kelner said, ““General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.” [Boston Herald, March 31, 2017, “Michael Flynn ‘has a story to tell’ – with immunity”]
–APRIL 4, 2017. The Pentagon’s top watchdog, the Inspector General of the Defense Department, begins an investigation into payments Flynn received after his military retirement. (An Oct. 8, 2014 letter from a Defense Department lawyer had warned Flynn upon his retirement from military service that he was forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources without receiving permission from the U.S. government first.) Flynn “misled Pentagon investigators about his income from companies in Russia and contacts with officials there when he applied for a renewal of his top-secret security clearance last year,” according to a letter released in May from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Flynn received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization. He also worked as a foreign agent representing Turkish interests for a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, which paid his company $530,000 in the fall. In addition to RT, Flynn received $11,250 from a Russian cargo airline, Volga-Dnepr Airlines, which had been implicated in a bribery scheme involving Russian officials at the United Nations. In October 2015, he was paid another $11,250 by Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, the American branch of a Russian cybersecurity firm. [Washington Post, April 27, 2017, “Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups”] [New York Times, May 22, 2017, “Michael Flynn Misled Pentagon About Russia Ties, Letter Says”]
–APRIL 11, 2017. Trump calls Comey again, asking what Comey has done to “get out” that Trump personally is not under investigation. Trump said that “the cloud” is interfering in Trump’s ability to do his job. [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, “James B. Comey Statement for the Record”]
–APRIL 21, 2017. After Exxon Mobil Corp. asked the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions, the waiver was refused. It would have allowed Exxon to drill for Russian state oil giant Rosneft in the Black Sea. “United States and European sanctions were first imposed on Russia in March 2014 [while Rex Tillerson was Exxon Mobil CEO] in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Exxon Mobil signed an expansion of its joint venture projects anyway, even after Igor I. Sechin, Rosneft’s chief executive, was personally blacklisted in connection with the sanctions.” [New York Times, April 21, 2017, “U.S. Rejects Exxon Mobil Bid for Waiver on Russia Sanctions”]
Photo credit: Official Photo
–APRIL 25, 2017. The Senate confirms Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. Because of AG Jeff Sessions’ recusal, Rosenstein becomes the top DOJ official supervising the Trump/Russia investigation. [Washington Post, April 25, 2017, “Rod Rosenstein confirmed as deputy attorney general”]
The NSA produces a document that analyzes Russian military hackers’ 2016 cyber attack against US election and voting infrastructure, including a company managing voter registration data in eight states.
–MAY 5, 2017 (a Friday). A top-secret NSA document analyzes intelligence about a months-long Russian military intelligence cyber effort against elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. When the document is later leaked to The Intercept and published on June 5, it is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the 2016 election to date. Russian government hackers “focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions.” At least one observer believes that Trump would have been briefed on the document. [The Intercept, June 5, 2017, “TOP-SECRET NSA REPORT DETAILS RUSSIAN HACKING EFFORT DAYS BEFORE 2016 ELECTION”] [Business Insider, June 5, 2017, “‘This is huge’: National security experts were floored by the leaked NSA document on Russian election hack”] [NY Magazine, June 6, 2017, “Did the Intercept Betray Its NSA Source?”] [NY Magazine, June 6, 2017, “What We Know About Alleged Russia-Hacking-Report Leaker Reality Winner”] [Ars Technica, June 6, 2017, “How a few yellow dots burned the Intercept’s NSA leaker”]
–MAY 5, 2017. Trump tweets: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton” and that Comey “gave her a free pass.” [Bloomberg, May 10, 2017, “The Trump Investigators That Trump Has Fired”]
–MAY 4-8, 2017. During a pivotal weekend, Donald Trump arrived at his Bedminster, N.J. golf club. Rain forced Trump to cancel golf and instead he “stewed indoors, worrying about FBI Director James Comey and the Russia investigation.”
A letter was drafted by Trump and Stephen Miller, a top political aide, that revealed Trump’s unvarnished thinking just before firing Comey. Additional advisers present over that weekend were Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Upon returning to DC on May 8, copies of the letter were given to White House counsel Donald McGahn and VP Pence. McGahn objected to the letter, believing its tone was “angry and meandering.” Although the letter was not used, a copy was given to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein wrote his own letter, blaming Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, and that letter was trotted out as the public rationale for firing Comey. However, Trump added this to it: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” [New York Times, September 1, 2017, “Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter Giving Reasons for Firing Comey”]
–MAY 8, 2017. With former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates scheduled to testify later today, Trump tweets: “General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that” and “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel.” [realDonaldTrump Twitter account.]
Flynn associates get grand jury subpoenas. Various signs indicate that the investigation is heating up. Comey is abruptly fired by Trump. The Trump White House offers a parade of conflicting rationales for the firing.
–MAY 8, 2017 (a Monday). The very next working day after the top-secret NSA document analyzes the Russian military cyber interference in the US election, Trump tells a few close aides, including VP Pence and White House counsel Don McGahn, that Comey has to go. Pence, McGahn, Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner are members of a small group that begins to prepare talking points about Comey’s firing. Trump summons Sessions and Rosenstein to the White House, and instructs them to provide a written justification for removing Comey. [ABC News, May 14, 2017, “‘This Week’ Transcript 5-14-17: The Firing of Director Comey”] [New York Times, May 11, 2017, “Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’”]
–MAY 9, 2017. Associates of Michael Flynn have been given grand jury subpoenas by the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia to obtain records relating to contracts following Flynn’s firing as director of DIA in 2014. CNN reported it learned of the subpoenas today, hours before Trump’s firing of Comey. [CNN, May 10, “CNN exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in FBI’s Russia investigation”]
Photo credit: CNN
–MAY 9-10, 2017. FBI Director James Comey is abruptly dismissed by Trump on May 9. This is the only time an FBI director has ever been fired by a US president while investigating that president’s campaign. However, Trump’s firing of Comey is the third time in fourteen weeks Trump has fired an investigator of him or his associates. Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was fired on January 30, 2017; US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was fired on March 11, 2017.
In the termination letter, Trump wrote that Comey had told him on three separate occasions that Trump was not under investigation. The Trump team first explained the firing as coming from DOJ’s Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. “It was all him [Rosenstein.] … No one from the White House,” says spokesperson Sean Spicer, emerging from between two tall hedges on the White House grounds.
Mike Pence and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echo that the next day: it was Sessions and Rosenstein who were the impetus for the Comey firing; it was NOT an attempt to interfere with the FBI Russian probe.
Rod Rosenstein speaks with White House counsel Don McGahn on May 10. He insists that the White House correct the misimpression that Rosenstein initiated the process leading to Comey’s firing. [Bloomberg, May 10, 2017, “The Trump Investigators That Trump Has Fired”] [Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017, “Rosenstein Pressed White House to Correct the Record on Comey Firing”]
Soon after, Trump said Comey “was not doing a good job” and called Comey a “showboat and grandstander.” Soon after that, Trump stated to Lester Holt, “When I decided [to 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.'” [Washington Post, May 10, 2017, “After Trump fired Comey, White House staff scrambled to explain why”] [Talking Points Memo, May 10, 2017, “Pence Insists Trump Did Not Fire Comey Over Russia Investigation”] [The White House, May 10, 2017, “Daily Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders“] [Washington Post, May 11, “Trump said he was thinking of Russia controversy when he decided to fire Comey”] [New York Times, May 11, 2017, “Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’”]
The week before he was fired, Comey reportedly asked the DOJ’s Rosenstein for more resources for the agency’s investigation into Russian meddling into the US election and ties to the Trump campaign. This has been denied by DOJ spokesperson Sarah Flores, who called it “100 percent false.”. [CNN, May 10, 2017, “Sources: James Comey sought more resources for Russia investigation”] [New York Times, May 10, 2017, “Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry”] [Washington Post, May 12, 2017, “All of the White House’s conflicting explanations for Comey’s firing: A timeline”]
Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak at White House
Photo credit: NPR
–MAY 10, 2017. The day after firing Comey, Donald Trump meets with Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and their aides in the Oval Office. During the meeting, Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians. Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The intel had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said. Russian news agency Tass distributed photographs of the meeting, which was closed to any member of the American press. [Washington Post, May 15, 2017, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador”]
In addition, during the meeting with the Russian officials, Trump discusses the Comey firing. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then he adds, “I’m not under investigation.” This reporting is based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and circulated as the official account of the meeting. [New York Times, May 19, 2017, “Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation”]
A week after the meeting with Russian envoys, Putin offered to provide Congress with transcripts of the meeting. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle scoffed. “Probably the last person [Trump] needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin,” said Adam Schiff on the CBS show “This Morning,” referring to the Russian offer. Sen. Marco Rubio had this to say: “I wouldn’t put much credibility on what Putin’s notes are, and if it comes in an email, I wouldn’t click on the attachment.” [Washington Post, May 17, 2017, “Putin offers to provide Congress with details of Trump disclosures to Russian envoys”]
–MAY 10, 2017. White House lawyers have had to warn Trump repeatedly against reaching out to his fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter tell The Daily Beast. “Trump, angered by press coverage of the Russia investigation and Gen. Flynn, has asked senior staff and the White House counsel’s office multiple times if it was appropriate to reach out to the fired National Security Adviser.” If Trump spoke directly with Flynn amid ongoing investigations, it could be portrayed as witness tampering. “‘He was incensed by anti-Flynn leaks,’ a White House source confirmed to The Daily Beast this week. ‘The president is not trigger-happy to throw [Flynn] under the bus like others have been eager to.’”[Daily Beast, May 10, 2017, “White House Lawyers Warned Trump: Stay Away From Michael Flynn”]
–MAY 12, 2017. On Twitter, Trump warns fired FBI Director James Comey that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” After weeks of speculation, on June 22 Trump tweets that he does not have, and is not aware of any tapes of his conversations with Comey. Meanwhile, a relevant report by BuzzFeed the previous October identified extensive systems of security cameras and phone surveillance inside a Trump home outside Washington, DC, as well as in Trump National Golf Club, and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. License plate cameras and constant off-site monitoring are also identified in the story. [CBS News, May 12, 2017, “Trump says James Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” of conversations”] [CBS News, June 22, 2017, “Trump says he does “not have” tapes of Comey conversations”] [BuzzFeed, October 1, 2016, “Inside Donald Trump’s Surveillance Operations”]
–MAY 12, 2017. FinCEN, the Treasury Dept.’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which combats money-laundering, will share financial records with the Senate Intelligence Committee for its investigation into ties between Russia and Trump and his associates. [Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2017, “Financial-Crimes Monitor to Share Records in Trump-Russia Probe”]
–MAY 12, 2017. Just before going to court, the Justice Department agrees to settle a money-laundering case for a relatively small amount. One of the lawyers involved in the case is Natalia Veselnitskaya; her client is Prevezon Holdings Ltd., which is controlled by a Russian businessman and was accused of a multi-million-dollar tax theft and money laundering scheme. Bill Browder was expected to testify at trial, including providing info about the movement of funds from Russia into the US. One of Browder’s attorneys, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and died in a Russian prison (November 2009). The Magnitsky Act is named for him.
Four years prior, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had filed the claim. Bharara was one of 46 US attorneys abruptly forced to resign by the Trump administration, on March 10, 2017.
Veselnitskaya is the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. on June 9, 2016 to discuss US sanctions against Russia, Russian adoption, the Magnitsky Act and, according to the email from Rob Goldstone setting the meeting up, offering the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” [Bloomberg, July 12, 2017, “Democrats Ask DOJ About Settlement Involving Trump-Linked Lawyer”]
–MAY 16, 2017. In her first interview since her testimony on May 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, Sally Yates filled in some details. She told Anderson Cooper that it was the early part of January when “we first became aware of the underlying conduct of Michael Flynn. We were really concerned about the underlying conduct, even before there were misrepresentations about it,” she said. (She uses the term “underlying conduct” because the details of the conduct are classified.) She said that both the underlying conduct and also the misrepresentations (for example, to the Vice President) were problematic. “I think that this was a serious compromise situation, that the Russians had real leverage,” she said. Asked whether there there was illegality involving Flynn, she said, “Yes, there certainly is a criminal statute that was implicated by Flynn’s conduct.” Yates said, “It was a national security threat. I don’t think anybody in the intel community has any doubt about that.” She denied that her meeting with McGahn was a simple ‘heads-up.’ “We expected the White House to act,” she said. “Quickly?” she was asked. “Yes,” Yates responded. [Anderson Cooper, CNN, May 16, 2017, Interview with Sally Yates, “Breaking Her Silence”] [CNN, May 17, 2017, “Sally Yates: ‘There was nothing casual’ about Mike Flynn warning'”]
Special counsel Robert Mueller is appointed.
Photo credit: Greg Nash
–MAY 17, 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints Special Counsel to oversee the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former director of the FBI Robert Mueller will be Special Counsel. Mueller is tasked with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” and any other matters that fall under the scope of the Justice Department regulation covering special counsel appointments. [Washington Post, May 18, 2017, “Deputy attorney general appoints special counsel to oversee probe of Russian interference in election”]
–“DAYS AFTER MAY 9, 2017.” In a turning point in the investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been widening his Russia probe to investigate whether President Trump has obstructed justice. The broader probe began “days after” Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, but was not reported until an article on June 14 by the Washington Post, citing officials and others. [Washington Post, June 14, 2017, “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”]
–MAY 23, 2017. Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence committee that Russia “brazenly interfered” in US elections, including actively contacting members of the President Donald Trump’s campaign — but he stopped shy of dubbing it “collusion.” “I saw interaction that in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion,” Brennan told Rep. Trey Gowdy, saying that he had been “worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” and he supported the FBI digging further. “It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process,” Brennan said. “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” Brennan said. [CNN, May 23, 2017, “Ex-CIA chief John Brennan: Russians contacted Trump campaign”] [Washington Post, May 23, 2017, “CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates”]
–LATE MAY, 2017. The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Trump’s political organization “to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015.” “The request to Trump’s political operatives represents the first time that Trump’s official campaign structure has been drawn into the Senate committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation.” [Washington Post, May 26, 2017, “Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents”]
–MAY 23, 2017. President Trump has hired outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, to help him navigate the increasingly turbulent waters of the Russia investigation, souces tell the Washington Post. Kasowitz, based in New York, has known Trump for decades, representing him in things like real estate transactions. [Washington Post, May 23, 2017, “Trump retains outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz to help with Russia investigations”]
–MAY 25, 2017. European leaders had high hopes that President Donald Trump would finally endorse Article 5 of NATO — the keystone principle that an attack on one member is an attack against all — during a highly-anticipated speech. But after a speech in Brussels with those allies, those hopes have been dashed. Trump’s silence on the matter was deafening to European leaders. With Russia’s belligerence and expansionism in recent years, its neighbors are on edge. [Vox, May 25, 2017, “Trump didn’t say the one thing about NATO he was supposed to say”]
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn
Photo Credit: Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock
–MAY 25, 2017. Charlie Savage at the New York Times compiles a list of potential legal troubles for former national security adviser Michael Flynn to date. (1) Making false statements. For instance, Flynn’s application to have his security clearance extended in January 2016 neglected to include his Russia trip and compensation. In an interview with investigators in February 2016, Flynn apparently made false statements about the Moscow trip and contact with Putin. On January 24, 2017, Flynn may have lied to the FBI in an interview, about the December conversations with Kislyak. (2) Taking foreign payments without permission. The emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibits people who hold government positions from receiving payments from foreign governments without prior consent from Congress. The rule extends to retired military, who may accept such payments if they have permission from their service secretary and the Secretary of State. (3) Failing to register as a foreign agent. Flynn registered quite belatedly, at least six months after the fact. (4) Failure to comply with subpoenas. For instance, one from the Senate Intelligence Committee asks for all records of Flynn’s meetings and communications with Russian officials, plus his communications with the Trump campaign about Russia in the 18 months before the inauguration. At this point, Flynn is claiming the Fifth Amendment. [New York Times, May 25, 2017, “How Michael Flynn May Have Run Afoul of the Law”]
Photo credit: New York Times
–MAY 26, 2017. Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch once close to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to congressional officials, though, lawmakers are unwilling to accept his conditions. Deripaska, who lives in Moscow, is in Putin’s inner circle. He is an aluminum magnate with an estimated worth of over $5 billion. “Deripaska, whose companies have long had offices in New York, has expanded his American holdings over the past 10 years, buying high-priced Manhattan townhouses and a major stake in a Russian-language newspaper in New York.” [New York Times, May 26, 2017 “Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress”]
–MAY 26, 2017. “The FBI’s criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is increasingly touching on the multiple roles of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team.” Focal points include Kushner’s contacts with the Russians, and Kushner’s relationship with Flynn. Kushner supervised Trump campaign’s data analytics operation, which the federal investigators have been taking a closer look at. Kushner worked with and helped oversee the campaign’s data operation contractors based in San Antonio, Texas. [CNN, May 26, 2017, “FBI Russia investigation looking at Kushner role”]
At the time Kushner met in December with Kislyak and then the head of VEB, a major Russian bank tied to the Kremlin, Kushner had already spent months trying to arrange fresh financing for a troubled building his family owns, 666 Fifth Avenue. Kushner had spent the prior months lobbying Anbang, an insurer and prolific deal-maker close to China’s government, for a $4 billion investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. As Bloomberg writer Timothy L. O’Brien puts it: “The prospect that [Kushner] may have been jockeying for Chinese or Russian financiers to bail out him and his family from a potentially disastrous investment at 666 Fifth Avenue presents complex but obvious conflicts of interest as well as the prospect of injudicious or self-serving White House policymaking.” [Bloomberg, May 25, 2017, “When the Feds Come Knocking on Kushner’s Door …”]
Please see also: Part 1 and Part 3.
Categories: Trump, Russia, timeline, investigation, Comey, Flynn, Pence, Sessions, 2016 Election, Profexer, G.R.U. (Russia’s military intelligence agency), F.S.B. (Russia’s federal security service, successor to the KGB), MI6, Steele dossier, Mueller, Don McGahn, Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, Sergey Kislyak, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Felix Sater, Rod Rosenstein, emoluments, Peter W. Smith, Oleg Deripaska, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump, Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya