Donald and the Russian Connection Problem

The Trump / Russian connection:
Time to connect the dots!
Summer 2016:
Sources with links to the intelligence community say it is believed that Carter Page went to Moscow in early July carrying with him a pre-recorded tape of Donald Trump offering to change American policy if he were to be elected, to make it more favorable to Putin. In exchange, Page was authorized directly by Trump to request the help of the Russian government in hacking the election. These  associates were all present: Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Boris Epshteyn.

A key aspect of the scandal surrounding Russia and its efforts to elect Donald Trump is the hacking operation, which stole Democratic materials. But as Reuters reported, that wasn’t the only element of the broader espionage operation.

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election.

Carter Page

Paul Manafort

Boris Epshteyn
Boris Epshteyn is a Soviet-born American Republican political strategist, investment banker, and attorney.

The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.

The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians.

These officials made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him. Because of the way Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.

The intelligence suggests Russia tried to infiltrate the inner-workings of the Trump campaign by using backdoor channels to communicate with people in the Trump orbit, US officials say.
Page is one of several Trump advisers US and European intelligence found to be in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Western intelligence during the campaign, according to multiple US officials. The scope and frequency of those contacts raised the interest of US intelligence agencies. The FBI and CIA declined to comment on Page's statement.

In 2013, Page had meetings with a Russian man who turned out to be a spy, according to federal prosecutors. Page denied knowing that the man, Victor Podobnyy, was secretly a Russian operative living in New York.

As CNN first reported, Carter Page's speech critical of US policy against Russia in July 2016 at a prominent Moscow university drew the attention of the FBI and raised concerns he had been compromised by Russian intelligence, according to US officials. They also feared that Russian operatives maintained contact with him both in the United States and Russia, US officials say.

His conversations with suspected Russian operatives are being examined as part of a large intelligence-gathering operation by the FBI and other US agencies that was set up to probe Russia's interference in the election. The officials would not say what the conversations were about.

How Page's name became associated with the campaign is a reflection of how minimal the Trump operation was last year, as establishment national security figures avoided an association with the insurgent operation.

Page wrote to the House Intelligence committee offering to testify, Page describes more interactions with the campaign. The FBI had Page on their radar for at least four years, according to court documents and US officials.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey was an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign. He eventually quit during the transition period, diplomatically suggesting that his role had run its course. But he’s now publicly disclosing something which may have been a factor. Last summer Michael Flynn brought Woolsey along to a meeting with representatives from the Turkish government, where they discussed theoretical plans for abducting Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and shipping him back to Turkey. During the same meeting, Flynn tried to hire Woolsey as a consultant to his firm, in the name of furthering this plot against Gulen.

Congress notified the Trump team during the transition that Michael Flynn was on Turkey’s payroll. Trump and Pence stood by him until his Russia ties leaked publicly in February, at which point he was nudged out; Trump and Pence then went on to lie about not having known. Notably, James Woolsey resigned from the Trump transition team a few weeks after the team learned Flynn was on the take. It’s unclear why Woolsey is choosing to go public now

April 9, 2017: The FBI arrested ten people in New York City with alleged indirect ties to Donald Trump and a Russian mafia figure.

March 30, 2017: FBI agents entered the Saipan casino in a joint action with local authorities. A local politician characterized the action as an “investigation or raid” of the property. The casino is run by Mark Brown, who according to a prior Forbes article is a longtime protege of Donald Trump. In fact Brown is the former CEO of Trump Hotels and Casinos, which went on to file for bankruptcy three times. But Brown isn’t the only direct Trump connection to the property.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who was a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his campaign and part of his transition period, is on the board of directors of that same casino. That means two people with close ties to Trump, one of them financial and one of them political, just saw their casino raided by the Feds.

10 APRIL 2017:
A Russian programmer has been arrested in Spain on suspicion of involvement in attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, local media reported. His wife, Maria Levashova said her husband was accused of writing a virus that helped Donald Trump win the election. Levashov is “suspected of having participated in hacking the election campaign in the United States." Mr. Levashov’s wife earlier said she had been told her husband’s arrest was linked to alleged interference on the US election.  

April 13, 2017:
@SheWhoVotes, a Twitter user who is also a Constitutional lawyer and has a solid track record. She tweeted today that she’s “Hearing from intelligence insiders that [New York State Attorney General Eric] Scheiderman is working closely with intel. They’re going to take out the entire three ring circus”. This was then quickly validated with the words “Fact check: true” by Louise Mensch, a former member of British Parliament who is now a political journalist, and whose inside sources have been consistently correct about the FISA warrants in the Trump-Russia investigation going back to last fall. Mensch then added “First arrests maybe next week”. She also referenced the arrest of ten low level mafia figures in New York two weeks ago, who were not Russian, but whose crime family has alleged ties to both Donald Trump and the Russian mafia through Felix Sater.

The FBI leaked that it’s been surveilling Carter Page since last summer, meaning it has recordings of everyone he conspired with, in what seemed to be a final warning shot to any Trump-Russia conspirators who want to cut a deal before the arrests begin.

April 21, 2017
This may be of some interest to the DOJ official overseeing the FBI’s ongoing counter-intelligence investigation, but as Politico reported, it turns out, she’s leaving her post.
The Justice Department official who is leading the government’s investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government will step down next month.

Mary McCord, who has served as acting assistant attorney general for national security since October, informed DOJ employees this week that she will be leaving in mid-May, a spokesman confirmed to POLITICO.

DOJ’s National Security Division is leading the agency’s inquiry into possible links between Trump campaign aides and Moscow, as well as the Kremlin’s alleged digital meddling campaign during the 2016 presidential race. This does not mean that the investigation is over, but Rachel spoke about this last night with Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesperson, who raised an under-appreciated point.

McCord, who’s now stepping down for reasons that haven’t been publicly disclosed, is a career Justice Department official, not a political appointee, who’s had a hands-on, day-to-day oversight role in the counter-intelligence investigation. Once she steps down, it’s possible, if not likely, that the DOJ will replace her with a political appointee, chosen by Team Trump, at least temporarily.

You see the problem: Team Trump is the subject of the investigation Mary McCord has helped lead. Indeed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s been accused of lying under oath about his own communications with Russian officials, has recused himself from the investigation, but it may soon fall to him to choose McCord’s acting successor.

It’s why Matthew Miller said last night, “I think it would be hugely troubling if [the Trump administration] put a political appointee, who had not been nominated, not been confirmed by the Senate into this job to investigate the president…. Eventually, I think it has to be a special counsel, but short of that, it has to be an acting career person until someone can be confirmed by the Senate.”