May 26

The Russian Connection: Friday Night News Dump

It’s getting really hard to keep up with all the news that keeps pouring out of this investigation into the Trump campaign collusion with Russia. It’s beginning to look like more than just tampering with the election. The evidence is just piling up and there are more questions, hopefully, to be soon followed by some answers and resignations.

First, Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be suspended immediately.

Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin
By Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous and Greg Miller, Washington Post

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The White House disclosed the fact of the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team. [..]

Kushner’s apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than relying on U.S. government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia.

The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.

Leaving this off his security clearance questionnaire, not only could result in the loss of his clearance, and it should, is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. This is not a matter of having forgotten about a meeting. This is an outright falsification and purposeful omission.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested all documents from the Trump campaign emails and phone records going back to the Trump campaign’s launch in June 2015.

Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents
By Robert Costa, Washington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request.

The letter from the Senate arrived at Trump’s campaign committee last week and was addressed to the group’s treasurer. Since then, some former staffers have been notified and asked to cooperate, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly.

Dozens of former staffers are expected to be contacted in the coming days to make sure they are aware of the request, the people added.

The letter was signed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Senate committee’s chairman, and Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. Spokespeople for Burr and Warner declined to comment.

The other news about the Senate Intelligence Committee is the heads have been granted broad subpoena powers without the need of a full committee vote.

Senate Intel heads get broad subpoena power in Russia probe
By Katie Bo Williams, The Hill

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee now have broad authority to issue subpoenas in the Russia investigation without a full committee vote, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday.

The panel voted unanimously to give Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) the blanket authority for the duration of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible collusion with President Trump’s campaign.

The two Senate leaders must be in agreement in order to issue an order.

These are major developments. How much longer before the Republican led congress starts looking at articles of impeachment?