Interesting (Long) Read: “Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation”

Back on January 2nd, from Glenn R. Simpson & Peter Fritsch, “The Republicans’ Fake Investigations”:

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators…

The NYTimes still has sources to protect, because this appeared online last night:

From the start, he was a central casting misfire — the dark artist slicing through the capital by electric scooter, a cloak-and-dagger digger better known to former colleagues for scratching his bare belly in plain office view.

In a past career, Glenn R. Simpson had been a reporter’s reporter, tenacious through two decades in journalism, often driving the Washington story of the day — congressional corruption, fund-raising shenanigans, sundry misbehavior — but never becoming it himself. “It’s not news when things go right,” he told a group of students in 1991, describing his craft. “When things go right, it’s boring.”

Mr. Simpson’s life has not been boring for some time now. It has, perhaps inevitably, become news.

As investigators circle President Trump’s administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency…
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Russiagate Open Thread: Mueller v Trump (Theme from Jaws)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has told President Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Mueller raised the issue of interviewing Trump during a late-December meeting with the president’s lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended…

Trump is comfortable participating in an interview and believes it would put to rest questions about whether his campaign coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election, the person added.

However, the president’s attorneys are reluctant to let him sit for open-ended, face-to-face questioning without clear parameters, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Since the December meeting, they have discussed whether the president could provide written answers to some of the questions from Mueller’s investigators, as President Ronald Reagan did during the Iran-contra investigation. They have also discussed the obligation of Mueller’s team to demonstrate that it could not obtain the information it seeks without interviewing the president…

By the time those Iran-Contra investigations were under way, it was an open less-than-secret that President Ronnie was sinking into Alzheimers. Are Trump’s lawyers gonna admit that their client’s short-term memory has declined to the point where he can’t recognize old friends, much less what he may or may not have explicity “authorized” back in 2016?

NBC had the scoop first:

Anticipating that special counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview President Donald Trump, the president’s legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to three people familiar with the matter.
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Excellent Read: “Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation”


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No matter how many tantrums Lord Smallgloves throws, or how anxious the rest of us, it doesn’t seem like Mr. Mueller is gonna be finished by the end of 2017:

With his stealth morning arrival Thursday, White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II became the latest in a string of high-level witnesses to enter the secretive nerve center of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Twenty hours later, Mueller and his team emerged into public view to rattle Washington with the dramatic announcement that former national security adviser Michael Flynn would plead guilty to lying to the FBI.

The ensnaring of Flynn, the second former aide to President Trump to cooperate with the inquiry, serves as the latest indication that Mueller’s operation is rapidly pursuing an expansive mission, drilling deeper into Trump’s inner circle.

In the past two months, Mueller and his deputies have received private debriefs from two dozen current and former Trump advisers, each of whom has made the trek to the special counsel’s secure office suite…

The special counsel has continued to make ongoing requests for records from associates of the Trump campaign, according to two people familiar with the requests. The campaign associates aren’t expected to finish producing these documents by the end of the year. Mueller’s team is also newly scrutinizing an Alexandria-based office and advisers who worked there on foreign policy for the campaign.

In the past several weeks, Mueller’s operation has reached out to new witnesses in Trump’s circle, telling them they may be asked to come in for an interview. One person who was recently contacted said it is hard to find a lawyer available for advice on how to interact with the special counsel because so many Trump aides have already hired attorneys…

People familiar with the Mueller team said they convey a sense of calm that is unsettling.

“These guys are confident, impressive, pretty friendly — joking a little, even,” one lawyer said. When prosecutors strike that kind of tone, he said, defense lawyers tend to think: “Uh oh, my guy is in a heap of trouble.”



Dogs That Don’t Bark

Not only have Republicans been silent on any number of Donald Trump’s actions that would have caused them to erupt in impeachment fever had Barack Obama done them, they succeeded in suppressing actions that might have thwarted Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Historically, the Republicans have been the firmly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet party. One still occasionally sees anti-Communist rants from Republican commentators, but the fall of the Soviet Union diluted the value of such things.

It’s been 25 years now. People of electoral age grew up in the post Cold War world and may not realize the antagonism and fear that existed. Paul Ryan is 47, so he was 21 in 1991 and fantasizing about Ayn Rand. Mitch McConnell is 75 and doesn’t have that excuse.

Toward the end of last summer, the intelligence community was convinced that Russia was intervening in the election on the side of Donald Trump. They told President Barack Obama and other members of the administration. As the election approached, the situation became increasingly fraught. The best way to counter Russian meddling would be to expose it. However, if the Democratic President announced such a thing, he could be attacked as trying to influence the election.

The solution to that would be for the patriotic leaders of the opposition to join with the President and the intelligence community to warn the public of the foreign interference. Obama and other Democratic officials suggested that to the Republican leadership. McConnell and the Trump campaign doubted the intelligence. John Brennan, then director of the CIA, assured them that it was not a partisan matter. Read more



12 Counts

Mr. Manafort and Gates are each facing a twelve count indictment.

The indictment against both of these individuals makes the following charges:

Count 1 Conspiracy against the United States
Count 2 Conspiracy to Launder Money
Counts 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 — Failure to report foreign accounts
Count 10 — Unregistered agent of a foreign principal (FARA)
Count 11 — False or Misleading FARA statements
Count 12 — False statements

The interesting to me, as I am not a lawyer, is the last couple of pages of the indictment. Paragraph 52 is a notice of intent to seize assets. If there is a conviction on Count 2 (Money laundering) or count 10/11 (FARA violations) the Feds intend to get all of the ill-gotten gains. That to me is an invitation of Mr. Gates to think about his children and his wife. Does he really want to impoverish his family or does he really want to flip and start talking…



Russiagate Open Thread: The Facebook Conundrum(s)


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Until Adam or Cheryl can post more expert information, I’m just gonna toss out some links that seem like they might be important. Per CNN:

Facebook did not give copies of the ads to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees when it met with them last week on the grounds that doing so would violate their privacy policy, sources with knowledge of the briefings said. Facebook’s policy states that, in accordance with the federal Stored Communications Act, it can only turn over the stored contents of an account in response to a search warrant.

“We continue to work with the appropriate investigative authorities,” Facebook said in a statement to CNN.

Facebook informed Congress last week that it had identified 3,000 ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 that were linked to fake accounts. Those accounts, in turn, were linked to the pro-Kremlin troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency.

In those briefings, Facebook spoke only in generalities about the ad buys, leaving some committee members feeling frustrated with Facebook’s level of cooperation.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN last week that Facebook had not turned over the ads to Congress. Warner has also called Facebook’s review “the tip of the iceberg,” and suggested that more work needs to be done in order to ascertain the full scope of Russia’s use of social media…

Are those “contents” significant? This guy — “Former federal prosecutor. Legal expert for TV and print”thinks so:


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Russiagate Open Thread: Larry, Moe, and Rage Furby!

Someone needs to tell Mr. Rohrabacher that Spy vs Spy was never, nor was it intended to be, a documentary. Even as the elected representative of the deep-red rump of California at its nutsackiest, this seems to be… beyond satire:

A Republican congressman perceived as sympathetic to the Russian government tried to strike what he described as a “deal” with the White House to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of legal trouble with the United States government, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

In exchange, Assange would produce alleged evidence that Russia did not provide the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, the newspaper said. The release of those emails appeared intended to damage the Democratic Party in an election that the Republican Trump won.

In a phone call with White House chief of staff John Kelly on Wednesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Ca., described a possible agreement to pardon Assange or “something like that,” the Journal reported. The U.S. government is looking into WikiLeaks’ release of secret government documents in 2010, though it has not formally accused Assange of wrongdoing…

Rohrabacher is seen as sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In May, a report said fellow GOP lawmaker Kevin McCarthy once joked that “there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” …

“Joked”?

And then things went seriously askew…