By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/25/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
OUR ELECTION WAS UNDER RUSSIAN ATTACK: John Brennan, Former CIA Director: Suspicious Contacts Between Russians and Trump Campaign
John Brennan was the CIA Chief for the final four years of the Obama administration.
“As Russian hackers and propagandists tried to manipulate the American election last year, the noticed a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of ’s campaign, , the former C.I.A. director, said Tuesday.
“In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan described a nerve-fraying few months as American authorities realized that the election was under attack and worried that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight. His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.
“I know what the Russians try to do. They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly,” Mr. Brennan said. When he left office in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”
Brennan confirmed the contacts but did also offer that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. This is part of the conclusion reached by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to help Trump and hurt Clinton. Brennan warned the Russians, Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB, to not meddle. Trump refers to Russian meddling as “fake news”.
BUT REMEMBER – the Trump administration keeps moving the goal posts.
“During his candidacy, Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman declared that “there was no communication” with foreign entities. And Vice President Mike Pence that there had been any contacts with Russians. Journalists have since reported repeated undisclosed meetings with Russians. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign over misstatements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.
“By the time I left office on January 20, I had unresolved questions . . . as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion,” he told the House intelligence committee.”
Just one day before former CIA Chief Brennan testifies – Russians go public and confirm the official US request for information on the “alleged interference”.
“Although the Russian Security Council’s deputy secretary did not go into further detail about the hacking allegations, he reiterated previous comments made on the issue by Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating the leader had already been clear that Russia “did not interfere in the internal affairs of other states.”
I find the timing of this denial to be very interesting and worth highlighting. Putin has been increasingly noisy about his own views of what transpired in the US elections. His comments come against the backdrop of the ‘surprise’ White House meeting between Trump, Lavrov and Kisylak with the only public record coming from Russian state media.
Does Putin deserve a seat at the table during a US review of what’s transpired? Or is it more the case of already parking some of their stuff publicly in the White House as co-occupants?
On May 22 the Washington Post dropped another bombshell. Donald Trump asked two top intelligence officers to push back against the FBI and Comey’s investigation of Russia ties to the Trump campaign. The presidential request was for National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Admiral Michael Rogers to publicly – and inappropriately – deny any evidence of links.
Now He’s Leaking Nuclear Secrets? Trump Tells Duterte Of Two US Nuclear Subs
In addition to praising Philippine President Duterte for his murderous crack down on drug dealers (resulting in the deaths of almost 9,000 people without the benefit of any kind of judicial procedure), Trump has offered this insight about his plans for North Korea.
“We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all,” the newspaper quoted Trump as telling Duterte, based on the transcript.”
The NY Times confirmed the exchange with a senior Trump administration official. This disclosure follows Trump’s discussion of highly classified intelligence with Russians in the Oval Office earlier this month.
Victor Medvedchuk; 18 Undisclosed Trump Campaign Contacts With Russians
There are two parts to this story. A week ago there was a widely reported story of “at least 18 calls and emails” during the campaign. We know of Flynn, we know of contacts with Sergey Kislyak, we know of discussions between them regarding US sanctions against Russia (and relaxation of these should Trump be elected).
I didn’t flag this at the time, I try to focus on what seems most important, but this caught my eye in the last few days:
“One of those contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician, according to one person with detailed knowledge of the exchange and two others familiar with the issue.
“It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation, the sources said. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.”
On to the second part of the story, who is Ukrainian oligarch Victor Medvedchuk? Medvedchuk is seen as one of Putin’s most important ‘fixers’.
Medvedchuk appears to be the only person Putin trusts in Ukraine. In 2013, the respected local newspaper in Kiev, “the undisputed leader of Russia’s fifth column in Ukraine.”
: “Medvedchuk, leader of Ukrainian Choice, is being designated for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and for undermining Ukraine’s democratic institutions and processes.
“He is also being designated because he has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support to Yanukovych and because he is a leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine and actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Treasury’s statement concluded.
BUT HERE’S THE PUNCHLINE: .
Manafort is tied to Yanukovych, Manafort is tied to Trump, Yanukovch is tied to Putin, Medvedchuk is tied to Putin… It’s a small club, with lots of money and influence flowing.
Trump’s Lawyer: Marc Kasowitz – Who Is He?
We reported that Trump was advised to retain outside legal counsel and he has.
President Trump has retained the services of a trusted lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, to help him navigate the multiple investigations into his campaign and suspected Russian interference in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the decision.
Kasowitz, who has known Trump for decades, has represented Trump in numerous cases, including his divorce records, real estate transactions and allegations of fraud at Trump University. He is a partner at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in New York.
All good? NOT all good:
A potential complication for Kasowitz is that former senator Joseph I. Lieberman, among Trump’s leading candidates to head the FBI, is currently a senior counsel at his firm.
Were Lieberman officially chosen to run the FBI, and Kasowitz chosen to help with Trump’s legal advice, both men — the one leading the organization investigating possible Russian collusion and the one offering Trump legal counsel on that very issue — would hail from the same firm, likely presenting – oh, I don’t know – a conflict of interest.
Likely that knocks out Lieberman as the choice to lead the FBI.
BUT THERE’S MORE. I first heard of this through a Rachel Maddow segment – who brings EXCELLENT focus to the never-ending Trump-Russia saga.
Marc E. Kasowitz, who has represented Donald Trump for more than 15 years, was recently named a lead attorney in a federal civil lawsuit against Sberbank, which is majority-owned by the Russian government.
Is there ANYTHING related to Trump that is not also related to RUSSIA? NO.
The answer is simple, if you’ve had business links to Russia for decades of course everything close to you is by definition – linked to Russia. Does this mean Trump is guilty of anything? Not for me to say but there is a RESOUNDING dissonance between the denials and the facts. EVERY DAMN DAY.
Just to ask the question because this also pops up regularly – if the lawsuit against Sberbank was filed in the Southern District of New York would that have been Preet Bharara’s domain? Bharara was highly regarded, had been told by Trump that he’d be kept on only to be fired soon after.
Russian Active Measures
Here’s a handy guide to Russian methods for disrupting democratic governments, their five objectives:
- Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance
- Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures
- Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions
- Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations
- Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction
Credit where credit is due – I think the Russians are doing an outstanding job to their own ends.
House Democrats Ask Deutsche Bank For Information On Trump Russia Loans
I include this as an indication of the various parallel efforts to uncover Trump links to Russia. The contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign has spawned a number of different investigations including Trump business ties to Russia. In this context Deutcshe Bank has often been cited as the bank with a significant relationship with Trump and Russian initiatives. More will come out about so it is something to keep an eye on for now.
If you want to take a few minutes to see how the scope of Trump-Russia broadens on the near horizon, here’s a good succinct review: Trump’s Russia Scandal Is Becoming A Corruption Scandal