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The Russian Connection: Getting Close To Home

President Donald Trump has put son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of several very important initiatives, including bringing peace to the Middle East, ending the opioid crisis, and completely reorganizing the entire executive branch of the federal government. Jared of all trades, so to speak but he is no under the microscope of the FBI for his connections to Russian diplomats, oligarchs and bankers. The investigation is starting to get close to home.

Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say
by Ken Dilanian, Peter Alexander and Courtney Kube, NBC News

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.

The FBI’s scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau’s sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but the Trump family circle. The Washington Post first reported last week that a senior White House official close to Trump was a “person of interest,” but did not name the person. The term “person of interest” has no legal meaning.

The officials said Kushner is in a different category from former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who are formally considered subjects of the investigation. According to the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, “A ‘subject’ of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” […]

It is not known whether Kushner has received any records requests from federal investigators.

Also unclear is what precisely about Kushner’s activities has drawn the FBI’s interest as it investigates whether Trump associates coordinated with the Russian campaign to interfere in the election. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is now leading the probe as a special counsel.

Kushner met at least once in December with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and he also met last year with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov. [..]

Gorkov is chairman of VneshEconomBank, a Russian government-owned institution that has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014. Gorkov studied at the training school for the FSB, one of Russia’s intelligence services.

Matt Zapotosky, who covers the Justice Department for the Washington Post, talks with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about the new revelation that Jared Kushner is a person of interest in the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.

There is now a direct connection between a Russian hacker tampering with the election and a GOP consultant. Initially reported in the Wall Street Journal but because the article is behind a pay wall, this is the report on it from Talking Points Memo.

Florida GOPer Helped Russian Hacker Disseminate Dems’ Voter Turnout Data
By Alice Ollstein, Talking Points Memo

A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents, according to a report Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.

In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign consultant took advantage of the information. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.

The Wall Street Journal’s report presents the clearest allegations to date of collusion between people connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Cybersecurity experts were sounding the alarm as early as last July that Guccifer 2.0, which had tapped into both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic National Campaign Committee, was connected to the Russian military intelligence apparatus. However, in September, Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins wrote to Guccifer 2.0 to tell the hacker to “feel free to send any Florida based information,” according to the Journal.

Guccifer 2.0 ended up passing Nevins 2.5 gigabytes of stolen documents, including information about Democrats’ get-out-the-vote strategy in Florida and other swing states, the Journal reported. Nevins then posted the documents on his blog, HelloFLA.com, under a pseudonym.

The stolen documents Nevins published on his blog and then passed along to Florida journalists included detailed analyses commissioned by the DCCC of specific Florida districts—reports that revealed how many dependable Democratic voters, likely Democratic voters, and frequent-but-not-committed voters resided in each area.

Stone told the Journal that while he did receive a link to Nevins’ blog from Guccifer 2.0, he didn’t share the stolen data published on the blog with anyone.

The Journal originally reported that one Florida Republican campaign consultant said he used the stolen information. The newspaper initially said a campaign consultant for U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), Anthony Bustamante, ramped up his TV ad buys and dialed back a mailer effort. The Journal subsequently updated its story to reflect that a Mast spokesman said Bustamante stopped working for the campaign in June 2016, months before the stolen documents were published, and noted that it could no longer reach Bustamante.

It has also been discovered the former campaign manager Paul Manafort has had continued contact with the Trump crew, advising them on handling the Russian scandal even after he was under FBI investigation.

Manafort advised Trump team on Russia scandal Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico

Months after the FBI began examining Paul Manafort as part of a probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and Russia, Manafort called Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to push back against the mounting controversy, according to four people familiar with the call.

It was about a week before Trump’s inauguration, and Manafort wanted to brief Trump’s team on alleged inaccuracies in a recently released dossier of memos written by a former British spy for Trump’s opponents that alleged compromising ties among Russia, Trump and Trump’s associates, including Manafort.

“On the day that the dossier came out in the press, Paul called Reince, as a responsible ally of the president would do, and said this story about me is garbage, and a bunch of the other stuff in there seems implausible,” said a person close to Manafort. [..]

While the people say the conversations were mostly of a political or, in some cases, personal nature, the conversation with Priebus, described by the four people familiar with it, was related to the scandal now consuming Manafort and the Trump presidency.

It suggests that Manafort recognized months ago the potentially serious problems posed by the investigation, even as Trump himself continues to publicly dismiss it as a politically motivated witch hunt while predicting it won’t find anything compromising.

The discussion also could provide fodder for an expanding line of inquiry for both the FBI and congressional investigators. They’ve increasingly focused on the Trump team’s handling of the investigations, including evolving explanations from the White House, and the president’s unsuccessful efforts to get the FBI to drop part of the investigation, followed by his firing of FBI Director James Comey. All that has led to claims that the president and his team may have opened themselves to obstruction of justice charges.

The centipede has not run out of shoes.