I’m Reading The Mueller Report So You Don’t Have To (but you should), part 3

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I will attempt to outline the bullet points from this lengthy list of Russian interactions with the Trump Campaign. I have highlighted a few incidents just because of the sheer stupidity and incompetence displayed by Trump Campaign (T.C.) officials, for your entertainment, as well as actions that are suspect with regards to collusion.

The full Mueller Report can be found here.

Robert Mueller’s Investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities, despite identifying multiple links between T.C. officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign.

Personally, I cannot understand this conclusion because, in my non-lawyer opinion, there were four outstanding examples of direct, coordinated attempts to influence the election:

  1. George Papadopoulus meeting with professor Mifsud who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton that could help the Campaign.
  2. The Trump Tower Meeting where Emin Agalarov, son of a Russian real estate developer contacted Donald Trump Jr. through Robert Goldstone to offer “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as part of “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”
  3. Donald Trump’s infamous public request, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” which was followed hours later by the GRU targeting Clinton’s personal office.
  4. The Washington Post publishing the Access Hollywood tapes of Trump, which was followed within an hour by WikiLeaks releasing the first set of Clinton-Podesta stolen emails. This was during a time whenmultiple T.C. officials were interested in coordinating with WikiLeaks’ releases of stolen information. Much is REDACTED, but Cohen recalls Manafort speaking with Trump and instructing Gates to keep him in touch with REDACTED about future WikiLeaks releases.

Okay. Here we go.

The Russian-government-connected individuals and media entities began showing interest in Trump’s campaign in the months after he announced his candidacy in June of 2015.

TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW

Unknown-1Between 2013 and 2016 (and actually as far back as the 1980’s – me) the Trump Organization (T.O.) pursued a licensing deal in Russia for the construction of a Trump Tower Moscow (TTM). Many meetings and communications occurred between T.O. and Russians or people working on behalf of the Russians.

In 2015, Michael Cohen was contacted by Felix Sater, an advisor on behalf of I.C. Expert Investment Company (I.C. Expert) controlled by Andrei Rozov, to pursue TTM. These names are important, because they come up repeatedly.

At one point, after signing a Letter Of Intent to build TTM, Sater emailed Cohen and said the TTM project could be used to increase candidate Trump’s chances at being elected.

Trump, in conversations with Cohen, said his campaign would be a significant “infomercial” for Trump properties.

Sater began to contact the Russian Presidential Administration through other contacts.

Frustrated with Sater’s inability to set up meetings between Trump and high level Russians, Cohen contacted the office of Dmitry Peskov, the Russian government’s press secretary on his own, to set up the meeting himself, but used the wrong email address.

Not hearing back, Cohen contacted Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s Chief of Staff.

Cohen testified that he did not recall receiving a response and decided to terminate any further work on TTM. He later admitted this was false, and that he did receive a response, and continued working on TTM, updating Trump, through June 2016.

In January 2016, Cohen heard back from Peskov, and Cohen requested assistance to move the project forward.

Multiple attempts followed from Sater to attempt to arrange a visit by Trump to meet with Russian government officials, but were rebuffed.

GEORGE PAPADOPOULUS

Unknown-2George Papadopoulus pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about the timing and the possible significance of his contacts in 2016 relating to U.S.-Russia relations and the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

 

George Papadopoulos desperately wanted to work for the Trump Campaign from early on, but was unable to secure a position, so he worked for Ben Carson. As that campaign floundered, he joined the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP).

Right after taking that position, he contacted the T.C. to try again to get work. His request was passed up the chain to Sam Clovis, the T.C.’s national co-chairman and chief policy advisor.

Clovis Googled Papadopoulos and decided he had credibility on energy issues, they met, and he was hired as a foreign policy advisor.

In his travels, Papadopoulos met with Joseph Mifsud, a professor at the London Academy of Diplomacy who maintained many Russian contacts, and with Olga Polonskaya, who claimed she had connections to Putin, and offered to help P establish contacts in Russia.

In April 2016, P met with Mifsud in England, where Mifsud said he had met with high level Russian government officials, and learned that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.

On May 6, P (supposedly in a drunken night out – me) said to a representative of a foreign government that the T.C. had “received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”

When interviewed, P and the T.C. personnel who interacted with him, told the SCO they could not recall P sharing the info that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton. Clovis stated that he “did not recall anyone, including Papadopoulos, having given him non-public information that a foreign government might be in possession of material damaging to Clinton.”

Additional contact between P and Sergei Millian, a Russian investigated by the SCO, occurred in which Millian offered to “share with you a disruptive technology that might be instrumental in your political work for the Campaign.”

CARTER PAGE

Unknown-3Carter Page worked for the T.C. from January 2016 to September 2016 and was formally announced as a foreign policy advisor in March, and advocated pro-Russia foreign policy positions.

He lived and worked in Russia, and had been approached by two Russian intelligence officers several years prior.

In 2013, one of the intelligence officers formed a relationship with Page and referred to him as some who “was very interested in business opportunities in Russia,” and “It’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money”

This Russian spy and two others were charged in 2015 with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government because of their interactions with Page.

Page gave two speeches in Moscow as a member of the T.C. where he was critical of the U.S. foreign policy, and met with several Russians who expressed strong support for Trump and a desire to work together.

He also met with Ambassador Kislyakat the RNC who conveyed that he was very worried about Clinton’s world views.

After critical press coverage of his trip to Moscow, pro-Russia advocacy, and questions about whether Page had opened private communications with Russian officials to discuss U.S. sanctions under a Trump Administration, Page was ghosted from the Campaign.

After the election, he continued to seek a position with the T.A., including submitting an application to the transition team that grossly inflated his credentials and experiences.

DIMITRI SIMES AND THE CENTER FOR NATIONAL INTEREST

Unknown-4Members of the Trump Campaign interacted several times with the Center for the National Interest (CNI) through its President and CEO Dimitri Simes. CNI is a think tank with expertise in and connections to the Russian government.

The CNI hosted several events which were attended by members of the T.C., including Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner, and by Ambassador Kislyak. Trump delivered his first foreign policy speech at one of these fetes.

A board member from CNI learned from Kushner that the T.C. was having trouble securing support from experienced foreign policy professionals, so they sought Simes’ assistance.

Simes (the CNI President) was consulted frequently for notes on a foreign policy speech that Stephen Miller had prepared for Trump.

At one meeting in August 2016, Simes offered information about highly questionable connections between Bill Clinton and the Russian government, and provided that info.

JUNE 9 2016 MEETING AT TRUMP TOWER

Unknown-5This is the big one. Senior representatives of the T.C. met in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney expecting to receive derogatory information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The meeting was proposed to Donald Trump Jr. in an email from Robert Goldstone at the request of his then client, Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian real estate developer Aras Agalarov.

The “Crown prosecutor of Russia . . . offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. immediately responded that “if it’s what you say I love it,” and arranged the meeting.

Rick Gates stated to the SCO that days before the meeting, Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members, that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation. Present were Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner.

Michael Cohen recalled being present when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse info about Clinton was going forward. He felt, from the tenor of the conversation, that Trump Jr. had previously discussed the meeting with his father, something Trump Jr. denied in an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner participated in the Trump Tower meeting, while Kaveladze, who worked for the Crocus Group, Smachornov, a Russian born translator, Akhmetshin, a Soviet born lobbyist, and Goldstone attended for the Russians with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney who worked for the Russian government.

Veselnitskaya claimed that funds derived from illegal American busines activities in Russia were provided to Clinton and the Democrats, as well as evidence of money laundering in both Russia and the U.S.  Trump Jr. requested evidence, and she could not provide it. She and her associates then turned to a critique of the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 statute that imposed financial and travel sanctions on Russian officials that resulted in a retaliatory ban on Russian adoptions.

At some point, Kushner and Manafort exchanged emails about the meeting being a waste of time, and Kushner left.

EVENTS AT THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

UnknownT.C. officials met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the week of the convention. During platform meetings, J.D. Gordon, a senior Campaign advisor on policy and national security, under the guise of speaking for Trump, diluted a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform expressing support for providing “lethal” assistance to Ukraine in response to Russian aggression, and changed it to state that only “appropriate” assistance be provided to Ukraine.

During the week of the RNC, Jeff Sessions and J.D. Gordon spoke at an event co-sponsored by the State Dept. and the Heritage Foundation. Gordon said that the U.S. should have better relations with Russia. When Sessions took questions, one may have been from Kislyak.  Later, at the reception, Gordon and Sessions sat with Carter Page and Kislyak.

POST CONVENTION CONTACTS WITH KISLYAK

Unknown-7Ambassador Kislyak continued his efforts to interact with Campaign officials, including Sessions and Gordon, in the weeks after the Convention.

Sessions met with Kislyak in his Senate office on September 8, 2016, and believed he was doing the Campaign a service by meeting with him.  Sessions recalled Kislyak saying the Russian government was receptive to the overtures Trump had laid out during his campaign.

PAUL MANAFORT

Unknown-8Paul Manafort was prosecuted in two federal courts for tax and bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and witness tampering. He is currently charged by New York state with sixteen state felonies.

Manafort served on the T.C., including a period as chairman, from March to August 2016.  Manafort had connections to Russia through his prior work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and later through his work for a pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. He stayed in touchg with these contacts during the campaign through Konstantin Kilimnik, who previously ran Manafort’s office in Kiev, and who the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort instructed Rick Gates to provide Kilimnik with updates on the Campaign, including internal polling data, and expected him to share that info with others in Ukraine and with Deripaska. Manafort felt that sharing info would be “good for business” and could lead to a path to be paid for work previously done for Ukraine.

Manafort also met with Kilimnik twice in the U.S., and once was to receive a message from former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych about a peace plan that Manafort as since admitted was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control eastern Ukraine. Later Kilimnik stated in an email that the plan’s success would require U.S. support, and that “all that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ from [Donald Trump]].

Kilimnik also told Manafort that if he were designated as the U.S. representative and started the process, Yanukovych would ensure his reception in Russia “at the very top level.”

Manafort told the SCO that he did not believe that Kilimnik was working as a Russian “spy.” The FBI however, disagreed.

The SCO could not determine how much of this information was passed on to Trump, because the SCO was not able to gain access to all of Manafort’s electronic communications.

The report outlines several of Manafort’s ties to Russia And Ukraine, including working for Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who has a global empire involving aluminum and power companies, and is closely aligned with Putin.  Manafort’s company earned tens of millions of dollars from Deripaska, and was loaned millions by him as well.

Deripaska invested Pericles Emerging market Partners L.P. (Pericles), a fund created by Manafort and a partner. He was the sole investor. When the fund failed, the relationship between Deripaska and Manafort soured, and led to litigation.

Immediately after joining the Campaign, Manafort directed Gates to prepare memos to send to Deripaska, Akhmntov, Serhiy Lyovochkin, and Boris Kolesnikov, the last three being Ukrainian oligarchs. These were to emphasize Manafort’s role with the Campaign, and indicate his willingness to consult on Ukrainian politics in the future.

Gates said that Manafort felt these actions might help ease the litigation problems he had with Deripaska.

Manafort resigned from the T.C. in mid-August 2016, approximately two weeks after a meeting with Kilimnik, amidst negative media reporting about his political consulting work for the pro-Russian Party of Regions in Ukraine.

After the election, Manafort told the SCO that he was not interested in a job with the Administration, but preferred to stay on the outside to try and make money off of his connections to Trump and the Administration.

Manafort continued to meet, and lie about, meetings with Russians after the election, and continued to pursue the “back door” arrangement for Russia to take over eastern Ukraine.

POST-ELECTION AND TRANSITION-PERIOD CONTACTS

Unknown-9On election night, T.C. press secretary Hope Hicks received a phone call on her personal cell phone from a person saying something about a “Putin call.” She told the caller to send her an email.

The next day, Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy to the United States, emailed Hicks from his gmail account with the subject line “Message from Putin.” Attached was a message in English and in Russian from Putin congratulating Trump.

Hicks forwarded the message to Kushner asking “Can you look into this? Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!”  Kushner thought it would be possible to verify the message through the Russian Ambassador, but he couldn’t remember his name.” (!!!)  So he contacted Dimitri Simes of CNI to ask what Kislyak’s name was.

The Russians made several other attempts to reach the Trump Administration, through private sector and banking individuals who were concerned about Russian sanctions, but had difficulty. The Russian government expressed frustration in not getting through, and indicated that they did not know with whom to formally speak, and generally did not know the people around the President-Elect.

KIRILL DMITRIEV’S TRANSITION-ERA OUTREACH TO THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION

Unknown-10Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian national who heads Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and is closely connected to Putin, under took efforts to meet members of the incoming Trump Administration (T.A.). He reached out to George Nader, who worked for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (who was just busted for child porn) and Nader arranged a meeting in the Seychelles between Dmitriev and Erik Prince. In addition, the UAE introduced Dmitriev to a hedge fund manager and friend of Jared Kushner, Rick Gerson.

Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a proposal for reconciliation between the U.S. and Russia, which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin. Gerson provided that proposal to Kushner, then to Bannon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

After the election, Erik Prince, a businessman with connections to Bannon, Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, met frequently at Trump Tower, mostly with Bannon, but also Flynn and others, and frequently sent unsolicited policy papers on foreign policy, trade, and Russian election interference.

There were conflicting versions of what occurred in the Seychelles meeting, including Dmitriev being disappointed in his meeting with Prince, because he thought he was meeting with someone who had more authority in the Administration.  The accounts of Bannon and Prince could not be clarified because neither one was able to produce any of the messages they exchanged in the time period surrounding the Seychelles meeting, though provider records indicate that they exchanged dozens of messages.

On January 16, 2017, Dmitriev consolidated the ideas for U.S.-Russia reconciliation that he and Gerson had been discussing in a document. Gerson gave a copy to Kushner. Kushner had not heard of Dmitriev at that time.

AMBASSADOR KISLYAK’S MEETING WITH JARED KUSHNER AND MICHAEL FLYNN IN TRUMP TOWER FOLLOWING THE ELECTION

Unknown-11Kislyak had requested a meeting, so Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak met at Trump Tower on November 30, 2016. They discussed again improving U.S.-Russia relations. They also discussed U.S. policy toward Syria, and Kislyak floated the idea of having Russian generals brief the Transition Team on the topic using a secure communications line. After Flynn explained that there was no secure line in the Transition Team offices,  Kushner asked Kislyak if they could communicate using secure facilities at the Russian Embassy.  (Surprisingly) Kislyak quickly rejected that idea.

JARED KUSHNER’S MEETING WITH SERGEY GORKOV

Unknown-12On December 13, 2016, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-government owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB).  VEB was (and is) the subject of Department of Treasury economic sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparations for the meeting and that no one on the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.

The accounts differ over the nature of the meeting, but Kushner admitted that Gorkov talked about about his banks and the Russian economy. At the time of the meeting, Kushner Companies had a debt obligation coming due on the building it owned at 666 Fifth Avenue, and there had been reports about problems securing lending and possible conflicts of interest for Kushner arising out of the possibility of him borrowing from foreign lenders.

CARTER PAGE CONTACT WITH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ARKADY DVORKOVICH

More than two months after he was removed from the T.C., Carter Page went to Moscow and dined with Russian contacts. During the dinner, Dvorkovich “stopped by” and asked Page if he could set up meetings between him and the transition team.

CONTACTS WITH AND THROUGH MICHAEL FLYNN

Unknown-14 Flynn contacted Kislyak to ask Russia not to escalate the situation in response to U.S. sanctions imposed on December 29, 2016, and Kislyak later reported that Russia acceded to that request.

Also in December, Egypt submitted a resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling on Israel to cease settlement activities in Palestinian territory.  Flynn contacted Kislyak multiple times, and eventually Russia said they would not vote against it. The resolution later passed 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining.

There were also contacts between Flynn and Kislyak regarding the sanctions imposed on Russia in retaliation for Russian interference in the U.S. election. Flynn’s instructions were to notify Russia that they hoped the situation would not get out of hand. Flynn asked Kislyak to ask Russia not to escalate.

Multiple transition team members knew that Flynn was talking with Kislyak about the sanctions. Trump was briefed, and during the briefing he asked McFarland if the Russians did “it,” meaning the intrusions to influence the elections. McFarland said yes, and Trump expressed doubt that it was the Russians.

The next day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would respond in kind to the sanctions. Putin superseded later and said Russia would not retaliate. Hours later Trump tweeted “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).”

Mueller statement on Russian assistance to the Campaign:  “In sum, the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away. Ultimately the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”

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