By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/8/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
SO MUCH NEWS! Even staying within the Trump-Russia corruption guardrails and avoiding the distractions of a porn star suing a sitting president it would be a challenge. But to focus on Trump-Russia corruption it’s necessary to not stray into the Stormy Daniels’ suit showng Trump retaining all intellectual property including a specific provision for “certain still images and/or text messages”. It would be fine if Trump’s cult bails on him because they hear he is sad in the sack and small in the genitals. Not a victory based on facts over Trumputin and associate corruption but we’ll take the win.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports: Mueller Is Casting A Wide Net. We Now Know The Target Is Trump.
We have offered a number of articles over time in an attempt to present the many avenues of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It doesn’t feel like new news to read:
“Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is now directly gunning for President Trump — and not just on one front. It appears that Mueller is investigating whether Trump himself committed misconduct or possible criminality on two fronts, and possibly more.”
The article references a grand jury subpoena issued to former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg. The subpoena asks about Trump’s knowledge of specific events but also any documents that have anything to do with former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates (pleaded guilty last month), former Trump communications director Hope Hicks, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (pleaded not guilty last week), former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, former Trump bodyguard and operations director Keith Schiller and long-time Trump associate Roger Stone.
These comments put this into perspective:
““We have the president apparently involved in drafting a fallacious statement on behalf of Don Jr. about what actually happened in the Trump Tower meeting,” Bauer told me. “We have Bannon speculating — and I think this only stands to reason — that Don Jr. would never have arranged this meeting without his father knowing that it was coming. It is known that the Trump campaign was communicating with the Russians about help for the campaign and that Trump was personally involved in an effort to conceal information about these contacts from the public.””
Nunberg dominated the news for 24 hours with a swaggering declaration that he would ignore Mueller’s subpoena. But he also offered comments like these:
- Ultimately, Nunberg told CNN that Trump “may very well have done something during the election with the Russians.”
- Nunberg said specifically that he believed former “was colluding with the Russians”…
- “You know he knew about it,” Nunberg said. “He was talking about it a week before. … I don’t know why he went around trying to hide it.” (Trump’s knowledge of Trump son Donnie Jr.’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians.)
- He later told CNN of Trump: “Granted, Donald Trump caused this, because he’s an idiot.” He cited Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey and an Oval Office meeting Trump had with Russians.
What does Trump know and when did he know it? Is Trump at the center of the scope of Trump-Russia corruption and Russia’s election influence in his favor? Facing ongoing risk to U.S. elections from Russian interference, what steps is Trump taking to protect the nation?
Well, as reported in The New York Times, Americans are beginning to deal with the reality that: A Russian Threat On Two Fronts Meets An American Strategic Void.
“Just hours after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia boasted last week about producing “invincible” new nuclear arms designed to evade American missile defenses, President Trump’s nominee to command the nation’s military cyberunits was being grilled at a Senate confirmation hearing about another vexing Russian threat.
“Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the nominee to run the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command, acknowledged that plans were in place to strike back at Moscow for its election hacking. Those actions would require Mr. Trump’s approval.
“But General Nakasone said the Russians, as well as America’s other adversaries in cyberspace, seem unimpressed.
““I would say right now they do not think much will happen to them,” he said. “They don’t fear us.””
Tillerson’s Nerf gun
Many viewed Putin’s announcement of new Russian nuclear weapons as a direct threat – that went without any White House response. In a similar vein regarding the lack of official response to Russian threats we learn that the State Department Has Spent None Of The $120 Million Allocated To Fight Russian Interference.
“Despite the massive budget, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has done little to thwart a sweeping influence campaign by the Russian government, and an office tasked with countering such efforts has no employees that even speak Russian due to an ongoing hiring freeze.
“Tillerson himself has continued to doubt the ability of his department to combat Russia, and just last month said that if Moscow wanted to meddle, it was “going to find ways to do that.”
Why spend the money if Russia will find a way to meddle regardless? Good news, a day later Vice News reported the State Department assured us there is a plan, but it’s secret:
“That plan, a State Department official said Monday, is secret. Secretary of State Tillerson “approved a classified strategy to counter state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda,” the official told VICE News on condition of anonymity. The official declined to give more details about the strategy, and it’s unclear if the program has begun.
“But analysts and former State Department officials say Tillerson’s confidential and slow-moving plan is yet another indication that the U.S. is failing to mount a serious response to Russia’s aggressive information-warfare campaign.
““We’re bringing a Nerf gun to a nuclear war,” said Brett Bruen, who served as director of global engagement in former President Barack Obama’s White House.”
Good thing it’s secret and not Top Secret or else Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner wouldn’t have security clearance to read it. Speaking of Kushner, in the last edition of the Russia Monitor we presented Kushner conflict of interest using his White House position to solicit and even threaten retaliation to other nations over personal loans. An addendum to this thread, Kushner was not only dunning countries like China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The New York Times provided more details of the unique approach to business financing: Kushner’s Family Business Received Loans After White House Meetings.
“Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.
“Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.
“The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.
“Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.
“It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.”
The executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) ultimately says, “it’s mostly about Russia”, but he does offer this caution as well:
“The second is that we have a guy who is still supposedly working on all these incredibly important issues, like peace negotiations in the Middle East, who now doesn’t have access to some of the most important intelligence that can help him make the right decisions on those issues.”
Russia might be the rationale for his loss of security clearance, but what about the loans? Here’s another coincidence: One of the largest investors in Apollo is the Qatar Investment Authority, the Qatari government investment fund. Apollo is also the owner of Erik Prince’s former business Blackwater (renamed ACADEMI).
But as will all things in Trumpland, things get even more tangled and sticky…
Remember Erik Prince’s trip to Seychelles soon after Trump took office? As reported in The Intercept: Trump Envoy Erik Prince Met With CEO Of Russian Investment Fund In Seychellles.
The January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles followed two important meetings. First was a December (late November or early December) meeting in New York City with Michael Flynn, Kushner and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Followed by a late December meeting with Flynn, Kushner, Bannon and “the crown prince of Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan”. Zayed then organized the Seychelles meeting.
The Seychelles meeting attended by Prince also included “a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin”, Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 Billion investment fund created by the Russian government. In various discussions with media and congressional testimony Prince has downplayed the significance:
“Although Prince repeatedly stated he couldn’t remember the Russian’s name — “We didn’t exchange cards” — a spokesperson for Frontier Services Group confirmed to The Intercept in September that Prince “crossed paths” with Dmitriev in the Seychelles. (Frontier Services Group is Prince’s latest venture and based in Dubai (UAE; HQ Hong Kong).”
Zayed visited the Trump White House on May 15, 2017, only a few days after the May 10, 2017 Trump White House meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In between the Seychelles meeting and the meetings at the White House Zayed visited Putin in Moscow (March 24, 2016).
Now we know there was one more shady Seychelles attendee – UAE adviser George Nader. And Nader, who has ties to Trump, has met with Mueller. On Wednesday The New York Times set the scene: Adviser to Emirates With Ties To Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel.
“An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter.
“Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, . It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.
“Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.”
So many Trump-Russia corruption coincidences. Apollo Management Group makes a unusual business loan to Kushner following meetings in the White House. A major Apollo investor is the Qatari Investment Authority, the Qatari government. Apollo also now owns Erik Prince’s former company, Blackwater. Prince, acting as a Trump representative, meets in the Seychelles with UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin
“The significance of the meeting in the Seychelles has been a puzzle to American officials ever since intelligence agencies first picked up on it in the final days of the Obama administration, and the purpose of the discussion is in dispute. During , Mr. Prince denied representing the Trump transition team during the meeting and dismissed his encounter with Mr. Dmitriev as nothing more than a friendly conversation over a drink.”
If you remember the FBI meeting with former Trump foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, George Papadopoulos, this will sound familiar:
“Mr. Nader was first served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on Jan. 17, shortly after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, according to two people familiar with the episode. He had intended to travel on to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, to celebrate the president’s first year in office, but the F.B.I. had other plans, questioning him for more than two hours and seizing his electronics.”
If this okay Mr. Putin?
Money from the UAE funneled to the Trump campaign? Add that to a growing list that includes the NRA and various Russian-American individuals, oligarchs and companies.
Is that even the biggest news? The New Yorker credits Russia with nixing George Romney as Trump’s Secretary of State, which ultimately went to ex-Exxon CEO and recipient of Russia’s Order of Friendship, Rex Tillerson: Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier.
The story’s subhead has this enticing invitation: How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.
At the end of a long and informative article is this:
“One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.”
Or if you prefer, you can have late Trump-Russia convert and Young Turks commentator Cenk Uygur explain this: New Steele Dossier: Putin PICKED Trump’s Secretary Of State.
So is Mueller hot on Trump’s tail? Stephen Colbert does the wrap-up for this edition and answers that question: Robert Mueller Is Hot On Trump’s Tail (3-minute video).
“If you have enough red lines you have a Red Square,” Colbert noted.
Trump is in trouble.