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Patience is virtue

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The rule of law and mother justice keeps grinding on.

From the back and forth from the different elements of House Democrats to the brave and bold intellectual honesty of Representative Justin Amash, rumblings of whether Democrats in Congress have become too timid to proceed with what is being referred to as the “i” word: the formal opening and beginning of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump have boiled over to the surface. Just the other day, Judge Amit Mehta ruled from the bench in a clear and concise ruling that Congress can “investigate the president without beginning formal impeachment proceedings.”

Exclusive Interview with Dr. Bandy X. Lee

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Bandy X. Lee is a world-renowned psychiatrist with Yale University and has been recognized for her specialization and expertise in violence and violence prevention programs in prisons and in wider communities. Dr. Bandy Lee has organized and put together conferences and seminars on the mental health of Donald Trump. She is also well known and recognized for being the editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” which is a book of essays put together by Dr. Lee of some of America’s prominent psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health experts. You can follow the organization that she helped put together at dangerouscase.org.

Dr. Lee, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. It truly is an honor and a unique opportunity to converse with someone as you with such a distinguished career in psychiatry and mental health. When did you start to take seriously the notion that the Goldwater rule (https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/goldwater-rule) should not hinder psychiatrists and mental health professionals like yourself and your colleagues from warning the general public about the unique and pervasive threats that someone like Donald Trump poses to our country and to the world at large?

The Goldwater rule is grossly misunderstood, and the American Psychiatric Association’s refusal to engage in any discussion, or even to respond to our suggestions for a revision of the rule, makes me believe its actions are deliberate.  Psychiatrists were never supposed to be beholden to a public figure—our primary responsibilities are to patients and to society.  The actual Goldwater rule says this: work to improve the community and public health, and when asked about a public figure, to educate the public—just don’t diagnose.  Instead, it ballooned the “don’t diagnose” part out of proportion to keep the entire profession silent.  Its timing and aggressive public relations campaign make clear its intentions: to protect Donald Trump.  It is much like what Attorney General William Barr did: he distorted the law in order to protect power, when he is supposed to defend the law.  The American Psychiatric Association similarly distorted professional ethics in order to protect power, when it is supposed to represent ethics (I should clarify that it was the leadership that did this, not its members, who rose up in protest but were ignored).  The consequences were chilling, depriving the public of the most critical information at a critical time.  It will remain a tragic chapter in the history of the Association, when it acted to become an agent of the state, much like Soviet or Nazi psychiatry. In sum, we have kept with the Goldwater rule; the American Psychiatric Association has not.

It is much like what Attorney General William Barr did: he distorted the law in order to protect power, when he is supposed to defend the law

As the apparent walls start to close in on Donald Trump with the myriad of investigations facing him and his family, what risks do we face as a people and a country face when a malignant narcissist like Donald Trump sees that his options at avoiding justice and accountability for the first time in his life may not bear fruition or success for someone like Donald?

I would not narrow down on a description of Mr. Trump to being a malignant narcissist—as compelling as it is—and my reason is because it underestimates the scope of his impairments.  In other words, I believe there is more wrong with him than just malignant narcissism.  It is also irresponsible, since it gives the public what it wants (a “diagnosis”) without having all the information.  I have tried to make clear our separation from these “professionals” who have used their credentials for political expediency or have chosen outright to become political operatives—which is a clear violation of professional ethics—because I believe that keeping with ethics will eventually get us further, even if most people equate us with them at first.  That said, the patterns are very clear, and we can be sure that Mr. Trump will not stop short of anything to save his grandiose self-image, whether it is stonewalling Congress and defying the Constitution, inciting violent insurrection in his followers, or starting World War III.  His unfettered access to nuclear weapons is still a concern, since he has on numerous occasions expressed a fixation to them, has changed policies to make them more usable, and has no concept of or concern for the consequences.  Just as with his spectacular business failures during the years he flaunted himself as one of the most successful businessmen ever, when he lost more than any other American taxpayer, he will increasingly be “found out” with time, and when it comes to the point where he can no longer hide, world annihilation will be preferable to him than humiliation.

What can you tell us of the new edition of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” that was just released in March 2019?

The second edition of the book is to demonstrate how Mr. Trump’s psychological dangerousness in the office of the presidency has led to social, cultural, and geopolitical dangerousness with time.  It has added ten more of the nation’s top mental health experts to the original 27.  The expansion of the dangers is why we considered it important to intervene early, and we perhaps had a critical window to act.  Thanks to the American Psychiatric Association’s aggressive campaign, his mental health problems went from being the number one topic of national discussion to becoming a taboo subject. Apart from its distortion of the Goldwater rule (https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2017/03/apa-remains-committed-to-supporting-goldwater-rule), its aggressive interventions to shut us down every time we spoke up can be found here (https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/apa-goldwater-rule-remains-a-guiding-principle-for-physician-members) and here (https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/apa-calls-for-end-to-armchair-psychiatry), and the public has been left to fend for itself in an impossible, no-win situation. Outraged at the Association’s failure in leadership, many of its members and officers who resigned, as well as thousands of mental health professionals from around the world, gathered to form the World Mental Health Coalition (https://dangerouscase.org/) and appointed me president.  At the second edition’s release, we held a major, interdisciplinary conference (https://www.c-span.org/video/?458919-1/the-dangerous-case-donald-trump) with top experts from around the country in the fields of law, political science, history, social psychology, nuclear science, and climate science, among others, and the chorus was unison: “We need to hear from mental health professionals!”  We are also working to form an independent, nongovernmental expert panel, based on medical criteria only, that can consult with governmental bodies to perform fitness-for-duty exams as well as advise on signs of presidential incapacity.  It is another way through which we hope to be of public service, in addition to education.

The second edition of the book is to demonstrate how Mr. Trump’s psychological dangerousness in the office of the presidency has led to social, cultural, and geopolitical dangerousness with time

What should we be most worried about over the next year-and-a-half until the 2020 elections; and are there are any predictions that you have about the potential unraveling of Donald Trump that may be facing us as a nation and as a people in the foreseeable future?

At the beginning of the year, I told a reporter that we could expect to see “an acceleration of the chaos” (https://hillreporter.com/expect-an-acceleration-of-the-chaos-with-trump-in-2019-an-interview-with-forensic-psychiatrist-dr-bandy-x-lee-20995), and he was skeptical.  Now no one will doubt that those predictions were correct.  In fact, many are now astonished at how precise we were in terms of the accuracy and even precision in our timeline since the publication of the first book two years ago.  We predicted:

  1. That he was more dangerous than the public suspected: he would not “pivot” to become more presidential (or normal) as many expected, but the impulsivity, recklessness, lack of empathy, verbal abuse, and cognitive impairment that we were already seeing was only the tip of the iceberg.
  2. That he would grow more dangerous with time, as his grandiosity swells with the presidency: indeed, he is creating thousands of young orphans and bereaved families, implementing torture with impunity; he is emboldening despots around the world as they commit human rights abuses and murder of journalists; and he has encouraged a widespread culture of hate crimes, white supremacist terrorism, and warmongering in multiple regions around the world.
  3. That he would become increasingly uncontainable: the more moderate voices that checked his abuses of power have been stripped away, as his personnel growingly reflects his psychology of paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and lawlessness; special interests such as the military-industrial complex exploit his psychological weaknesses and advance extreme agendas; and meanwhile, he exploits the vulnerability of his “base” so that they become less amenable to facts and rationality, and less able to protect themselves.

     

I stand by these predictions, which were made on clinical and research-based probabilities, and anticipate that the situation will only worsen—until enough of an immune response is activated.  Otherwise, we will fall into demise with the disease.  There is no reason to believe that we are incapable of bringing about our own downfall as many other countries have, but much depends on awareness.  That is why we consider it our mission to bring the truth to the public.  The power lies in the public, if only it could realize it.

Thank you, Dr. Lee. It was a pleasure being able to share your learned expertise, knowledge and experience in dealing with someone like Donald Trump.

Thank you for your interest and for the good work you do.

Bandy X. Lee, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump"
Purchase “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”

Read my review of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”

Donald Trump is still a traitor

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And history and our grandchildren will judge all of us accordingly.

We are truly living in a unique time in the history of our nation. I believe very strongly to my core that it is the responsibility of every patriotic American to read the Mueller report, regardless of your politics. If the truth is what we are most concerned about, then this is the action every patriotic and intellectually honest American must take.

Since the release of the Mueller report, Donald Trump has shown no contrition or admitted to any wrong. As is typical of himself and his lack of self-awareness, he has taken the findings of the Mueller report to dismiss the Senate subpoena of Donald Trump Jr. and rant against the other myriad of investigations currently facing Donald Trump and his family. As we have come to learn in the last two years, there appears to truly be no bottom for Donald Trump. Mr. Trump even had the temerity in his now dissolved scheme of sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to try to pressure another foreign government to meddle into our electoral process.

Mueller states in his report in Vol. 2, pg. 1, “While the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible.” And he continues, “The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.” Therefore, in considering whether Donald Trump committed crimes and his culpability of prosecution, one must consider the fact that Mueller was working on a unique report in which he was not able to determine a “traditional prosecutorial judgment”. As the Mueller report notes in Vol. 2, pg. 182, “because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct.” Robert Mueller has presented to us the facts and it is now the responsibility of us as a people and Congress as a body to take up public hearings so that more Americans can have a more thorough and complete understanding of the Mueller report; and what Mueller meant to convey to the American public. The testimony of Robert Mueller himself is expected to occur in the upcoming weeks.

As the majority of the American people have come to learn, Donald Trump is not a mentally balanced individual. Donald Trump exhibits the excessive signs of malignant narcissism; and many world-renowned mental health experts such as Yale’s Bandy X. Lee has broken ranks in speaking out against Donald Trump and discarding the so-called “Goldwater rule”. The “Goldwater rule” was implemented after the Presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater; which has long kept mental health experts from assessing on the mental health of an individual without having assessed them personally. In having become a student of Donald Trump’s life both pre-presidency and now during his administration, it has become more than clear that objectively speaking Donald Trump is a man who has no time in his life exhibited any signs of a moral compass or of first principles. The only first principle that Donald Trump abides by is the first principle of Donald Trump. Therefore, while the Mueller report shows that the “Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by Wikileaks”, Donald Trump was denying that the Russians were responsible for the hacked emails that Donald Trump was in fact looking for. Just imagine this scene: Donald Trump as the Republican nominee was in a chauffeured vehicle with Secret Service protection while sitting next to Rick Gates in the back seat. The candidate gets on the phone and speaks with an individual that informs him of future Russian hacked information via Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Candidate Trump used this information that he gained to gloat and coordinate with Rick Gates who was by then the campaign’s deputy chairman. The foreknowledge and lack of scruples means only one thing, that Donald Trump would betray America again in a heartbeat.

We have seen Donald Trump from the beginning of his presidency denigrate groups of people who he has felt threatened by either having the visceral political need to appease his base or seen even more clearly through the various smears of the Special Counsel and the Department of Justice itself when Mr. Trump feels legally threatened. In essence, the rule of law has been under attack. Lady Justice is doing her best to hold on, but it is our responsibility as Americans to ensure that Donald Trump is out of office by 2020. Due to the OLC memo that a sitting President not being indictable, a defeat of Donald Trump at the ballot box not only reaffirms our values as Americans but also allows Donald Trump to be eligible for being served and delivered justice for the myriad of crimes that he may have very well committed and is currently under investigation for. Remember, Donald Trump’s personal “fixer” and longtime attorney Michael Cohen is now doing prison time for crimes directed by who is known as Individual-1 in court documents out of the Southern District of New York. Individual-1 may have continued to become more blatant in his demagoguery in potentially riling up violence among his supporters if he was placed in an even more legally dubious position as sitting President, but now the excuse of legal action while as a sitting President will no longer be at play. It is our responsibility as Americans to share the facts and evidence about the Mueller report to the public; and then be sure that Donald Trump is voted out by the next election so that justice can finally be administered towards those evildoers who have done our country so much harm.


Sassan K. Darian is the founder of Facebook.com/StandWithMueller and standwithmueller.us. He is a passionate citizen who believes in putting country before party and reason over ignorance. You may contact him by following him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Trump’s Russia Cover-Up By the Numbers – 251 contacts with Russia-linked operatives

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    Download the entire PDF of the final April 30th, 2019 version of the following compilation here..:
    FINAL MoscowProjectContacts 4.2019

    Last Updated April 30, 2019

    On April 18, 2019, a redacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” (Mueller Report) was released to the public. The Mueller report builds on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that there were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump— one run by Trump and one run by the Russian government. The Mueller report clearly identified collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite repeated denials from Trump and many of his senior advisers and close associates that there were any connections between the two campaigns.

    A total of 251 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives have been identified, including at least 37 meetings. And we know that at least 33 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition, including Trump himself. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.

    Beyond the many lies the Trump team told to the American people, Mueller himself repeatedly remarked on how far the Trump team was willing to go to hide their Russian contacts, stating, “the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”

    Below is a comprehensive chronological list of the contacts that have been discovered to date and some of the many lies Trump’s campaign, transition team, and White House told to hide them.

    Extensive reporting, subsequent admissions, and special counsel Mueller’s indictments and report have revealed at least 251 contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives, despite repeated denials. Among these contacts were 37 meetings (which include Skype calls), which are highlighted below.

    1. July 22, 2015: British publicist Rob Goldstone emailed Trump’s executive assistant Rhona Graff, stating that Russian pop star Emin Agalrov wanted to invite Trump to a birthday celebration in Moscow for his father, Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. Goldstone also stated that Emin wanted Trump to “write a small message of congratulations to his father.” Graff was Trump’s executive assistant at the Trump Organization, and the Mueller report and press reporting made it clear that Graff handled Trump’s communications while he was a candidate.
    2. July 24, 2015: Graff emailed Goldstone, stating that she would let Trump know about the invitation but that it was “highly unlikely” that he would be able to visit Moscow. Graff also stated that Trump would like to send a “congratulatory note.”
    3. July 24, 2015: Goldstone emailed Graff, saying “I totally understand re Moscow—unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up.”
    4. September 2015: Sometime during or after September 2015, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen “[reached] out to gauge Russia’s interest” in a meeting between Trump and Putin. The sentencing memo for Cohen does not specify the means by which Cohen reached out or specifically to whom he reached out.
    5. September 2015: Felix Sater, a Russian-born Trump business partner, contacted Cohen “on behalf of I.C. Expert Investment Company (I.C. Expert), a Russian real-estate development corporation controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov.”
    6. September 22, 2015: Cohen forwarded materials related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal to Georgian business executive Giorgi Rtskhiladze. The Mueller report indicates that Cohen “communicated” with Rtskhiladze during the fall of 2015 about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. This report only contains contacts between Cohen and Rtskhiladze that are explicitly listed in the Mueller report. The two men may have had more communications, and the contacts listed in this report represent a conservative estimate. Rtskhiladze has since disputed Mueller’s characterization of him, claiming the report has “glaring inaccuracies.”
    7. September 24, 2015: Rtskhiladze emailed Cohen about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. The email included a draft of a letter from the Trump Organization to the Mayor of Moscow, and Rtskhiladze explained “[w]e need to send this letter to the Mayor of Moscow (second guy in Russia) he is aware of the potential project and will pledge his support.”
    8. September 24, 2015: Rtskhiladze emailed Cohen again, providing a translation of the letter which stated that the Trump Tower Moscow deal would represent a stronger relationship between the U.S. and Russia.
    9. September 27, 2015: Rtskhiladze emailed Cohen again, suggesting that the Trump Organization work with a company controlled by a Russian architect on the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
    10. October 12, 2015: Sater emailed Cohen, telling him that “VTB Bank President and Chairman Andrey Kostin was on board to fund the project.”
    11. October 13, 2015: An individual by the name of Dmitry Chizhikov emailed Sater a copy of the Trump Tower Moscow letter of intent that had been signed by Rozov, asking him to have Trump sign it. Sater then passed the signed letter to Cohen.
    12. October 28, 2015: Trump signed the letter of intent, addressed to Rozov and I.C. Expert, for the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Cohen emailed the letter back to Rozov on November 2, 2015.
    13. November 4, 2015: Sometime around this date, Sater emailed Cohen that an unnamed individual would be joining him and Rozov on their vacation in the Bahamas, and that this individual was linked to the powerful Russian oligarchs Arkady and Boris Rotenberg.
    14. November 16, 2015: Lana Erchova, who was married at the time to Russian businessman Dmitry Klokov, emailed Ivanka Trump on behalf of her husband “to offer Klokov’s assistance to the Trump Campaign.”
    15. November 18-19, 2015: Klokov and Cohen “had at least one telephone call and exchanged several emails.”
    16. November 18, 2015: Klokov emailed Cohen, recommending that he visit Russia.
    17. November 18, 2015: Cohen emailed Klokov, indicating he was willing to meet.
    18. November 18, 2015: Klokov emailed Cohen, agreeing that if Trump were going to visit Russia, it would be an informal visit.
    19. November 18, 2015: Klokov emailed Cohen, suggesting that he separate the business negotiations from the potential plan for Trump to meet a “person of interest” in Moscow. This “person of interest” was identified by Klokov’s wife as Putin.
    20. November 19, 2015: Klokov emailed Cohen, emphasizing that this “person of interest” was critical.
    21. November 19, 2015: Cohen emailed Klokov, rejecting his suggestions.
    22. December 1, 2015: Sater emailed Cohen, “asking him to send [Sater] photographs of his passport to facilitate a trip to Moscow.”
    23. December 13, 2015: Evgeny Shmykov, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) general working with Sater on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, requested passport information from Cohen in order to arrange a visa for a potential trip to Moscow. Shmykov made this request by calling Sater, who emailed Cohen saying “that he had Mr. Shmykov on the phone.”
    24. December 19, 2015: Sater informed Cohen that the Russian state-owned sanctioned VTB Bank was arranging visas and an invitation to Russia.
    25. December 19, 2015: Cohen sent Sater his passport details for the Russian visa, and Sater passed these details along to his GRU contact.
    26. December 19, 2015: Sater asked for Trump’s passport details. Cohen replied that he would give them to Sater after Cohen returned from Moscow.
    27. December 19, 2015: Sater asked for clarification, and Cohen replied “it’s premature for his and I am the one going.”
    28. December 21, 2015: Mira Duma, described as “a contact of Ivanka Trump’s from the fashion industry,” invited Ivanka Trump and her father to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on behalf of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.
    29. December 31, 2015: Sater sent Cohen an invitation to Moscow from the sanctioned Russian bank GenBank.
    30. January 11, 2016: Cohen attempted to email Russian president Vladimir Putin’s top spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. The email reportedly did not go through because of an incorrect email address.
    31. January 14, 2016: Cohen emailed Peskov—the equivalent of the White House press secretary—at the Kremlin asking for assistance the Trump Tower Moscow deal. The Kremlin originally confirmed that it received the email but stated that it did not reply.
    32. January 14, 2016: Graff emailed Duma, declining the invitation to the economic forum.
    33. January 15, 2016: Duma emailed Graff saying that a formal note to the Deputy Prime Minister declining the invitation would be “great.”
    34. January 16, 2016: Cohen emailed Peskov’s office again, saying that “he was trying to reach another high-level Russian official, and asked for someone who spoke English to contact him.”
    35. January 19, 2016: Goldstone emailed Donald Trump Jr., copying Graff, stating that he was “just in Moscow and met with a good friend who runs the marketing for [Russian social media site] VK.” Goldstone relayed the offer from VK to create a “campaign page on VK for Mr. Trump and market it to the almost 3 million influential Russian American voters living in the USA.”
    36. January 19, 2016: Graff emailed Goldstone saying she had copied Dan Scavino, who would “be in touch.” Scavino headed the Trump campaign’s social media efforts.
    37. January 19, 2016: Goldstone emailed Scavino and Graff, saying “Emin will be in NYC in January and I am sure would love to stop by.”
    38. January 19, 2016: Scavino emailed Goldstone, copying Graff, saying “please feel free to send me whatever you have on this system” and stating that he would “share it with the team.”
    39. January 20, 2016: Cohen received an email from Peskov’s assistant, “stating that she had been trying to reach [Cohen] and requesting that he call her using a Moscow-based phone number she provided.”
    40. January 20, 2016: Sometime shortly on or after January 20, 2016, Cohen called Peskov’s assistant and spoke with her for around 20 minutes, describing his position at the Trump Organization and the proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal. He reportedly “requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction.”
    41. January 21, 2016: While working on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, Cohen received a letter from Russian mortgage tycoon Andrey Ryabinskiy, inviting him to Moscow “for a working visit.”
    42. January 22, 2016: Sater asked Cohen to take a call with his former GRU contact.
    43. January 22, 2016: Cohen replied that he could take the call.
    44. January 22, 2016: Cohen took a call with a former GRU officer about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
    45. January 22, 2016: Sater then emailed Cohen saying “it’s all set.”
    46. February 2016: Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko allegedly spoke with Cohen and Sater about a Ukrainian peace plan “at the time of the primaries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nominated.” This peace plan, which was ultimately delivered to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, involved lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia. The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States noted that the plan could have been “pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”
    47. February 29, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. and Graff stating that Aras Agalarov asked Goldstone to “pass on his congratulations” to Trump and that Agalarov wanted to offer “his support and that of many of his important Russian friends and colleagues.” Emin Agalarov was copied on the email. The email contained a letter addressed to Trump from Aras Agalarov stating “all of us at Crocus Group follow with great interest your bright electoral campaign. On the eve of Super Tuesday we would like to wish you success in winning this major ballot.”
    48. March 2016: Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Manafort had reportedly made multiple visits to Assange since 2013. The exact date of this visit is unclear, and while Manafort did not officially join the Trump campaign until March 28, 2016, he had been actively seeking to join the campaign for a number of weeks. As early as February 29, 2016, Manafort “reached out to Mr. Trump with a slick, carefully calibrated offer that appealed to the candidate’s need for professional guidance, thirst for political payback — and parsimony.”
    49. March 14, 2016: George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, met with Joseph Mifsud in Italy. Mifsud is alleged to have high-level contacts within the Kremlin, although he has denied these allegations.
    50. March 17, 2016: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Prikhodko emailed Graff “inviting Trump to participate in the 2016 Forum in St. Petersburg.”
    51. March 24, 2016: Papadopoulos met with Mifsud and a “female Russian national” who he incorrectly believed was a relative of Putin’s. This individual was later revealed to be a woman by the name of Olga Polonskaya.
    52. March 30, 2016: Trump’s former Deputy Campaign Chairman and aide Rick Gates emailed Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political operative and former member of Russian intelligence, materials related to Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign “for translation and dissemination.”
    53. March 31, 2016: New York banker Robert Foresman “began reaching out to Graff to secure an in-person meeting with candidate Trump. According to Foresman, he had been asked by Anton Kobyakov, a Russian presidential aide involved with the Roscongress Foundation, to see if Trump could speak at the Forum.” Foresman was introduced to Graff over the phone through Trump business associate Mark Burnett.
    54. Late March 2016: After their phone introduction, Foresman emailed Graff as part of his attempt to pass along an overture from a Russian presidential aide.
    55. April 10, 2016: Papadopoulos emailed Polonskaya, saying that he was a Trump adviser.
    56. April 11, 2016: Manafort corresponded with Kilimnik, asking if Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska had seen news coverage of Manafort joining the Trump campaign.
    57. April 11, 2016: Kilimnik replied to Manafort’s email, saying “absolutely.”
    58. April 11, 2016: Manafort emailed him again, asking “How do we use to get whole?”
    59. April 11, 2016: Polonskaya emailed Papadopoulos back, stating that she “would be very pleased to support [his] initiatives between [their] two countries.”
    60. April 11, 2016: Papadopoulos emailed Polonskaya (cc’ing Mifsud) about the possibility of arranging a foreign policy trip to Russia.
    61. April 11, 2016: Mifsud replied to Papadopoulos, saying, “this is already been agreed [sic].”
    62. April 11, 2016: Polonskaya replied to Papadopoulos, saying, “we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”
    63. April 11, 2016: Papadopoulos emailed Mifsud, thanking him.
    64. April 12, 2016: Mifsud emailed Papadopoulos, forwarding him a Libya-related document.
    65. April 12, 2016: Mifsud emailed Papadopoulos again.
    66. April 12, 2016: Mifsud and Papadopoulos exchanged at least one text message.
    67. April 12, 2016: Papadopoulos and Mifsud met.
    68. April 18, 2016: Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos (over email) to an individual claiming to have connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ivan Timofeev.
    69. April 18-April 22, 2016: At some point within this date range, Papadopoulos and Timofeev held a Skype call.
    70. April 22, 2016: Timofeev emailed Papadopoulos.
    71. April 22-May 4, 2016: After the April 22 email exchange, at some point within this date range, Papadopoulos and Timofeev had “additional email communications […] including setting up conversations over Skype.” The contact above may be the “email communications” to which this refers, and this contact and the following one refer to the “conversations over Skype.”
    72. April 22-May 4, 2016: As noted above, Papadopoulos and Timofeev set up “conversations over Skype,” indicating at least two Skype conversations during this time period.
    73. April 25, 2016: Timofeev emailed Papadopoulos.
    74. April 26, 2016: Foresman sent a reminder to Graff about setting up a meeting with Trump or another senior campaign official.
    75. April 26, 2016: Mifsud told Papadopoulos that Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton during a meeting in London.
    76. April 27, 2016: Trump was introduced to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak by Simes at a reception before Trump’s foreign policy speech.
    77. April 27, 2016: Senior Trump campaign advisers Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner met with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., before Trump’s first foreign policy speech.
    78. April 29, 2016: Papadopoulos emailed Polonskaya about a potential trip to Russia.
    79. April 30, 2016: Papadopoulos contacted Mifsud to thank him “for his ‘critical help’ in arranging a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government.”
    80. April 30, 2016: Foresman sent a reminder to Graff.
    81. Late April 2016: Graff sent an apology to Foresman and forwarded his April 26, 2016 email (as well as his initial March 2016 email) to Corey Lewandowski.
    82. May 2016-August 2016: During this time period, Gates “periodically sent Kilimnik polling data via WhatsApp.” Gates “sent Kilimnik polling data less frequently” after Manafort left the campaign in August.
    83. May 2016-August 2016: This contact represents the second time Gates send Kilimnik polling data. The wording of the Mueller report suggests that Gates sent Kilimnik polling data at least five separate instances during this time period. The Mueller report makes it clear that Gates had been sending Kilimnik polling data frequently, and after August 2016, he began sending it less frequently. This implies Gates sent Kilimnik data multiple times after August 2016, which we will conservatively consider two contacts. That in turn implies that Gates must have sent Kilimnik polling data more times prior to August than he did after August—that is, at least three times. As such, we conservatively interpret the report to include at least five contacts between Gates and Kilimnik regarding polling data. Gates may have had many more contacts with Kilimnik during this time period. It is also unclear if Kilimnik replied to Gates’ messages, which would also entail additional contacts.
    84. May 2016-August 2016: As indicated above, this contact represents the third time Gates sent Kilimnik polling data.
    85. May 2016: Russian central banker Alexander Torshin passed a proposal through conservative activist Rick Clay to Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn. Torshin was advocating for a meeting between Trump and Putin. Torshin and alleged Russian ageny Maria Butina reportedly made the request to Clay “through a longtime friend.” Dearborn forwarded Clay’s email to Manafort, Gates, and Kushner. Kushner reportedly told Dearborn to decline the invitation.
    86. May 2016: Dearborn emailed Clay to reject the proposed meeting.
    87. May 4, 2016: Timofeev emailed Papadopoulos claiming to have talked to his colleagues in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who were “open for cooperation.”
    88. May 5, 2016: Cohen received an invitation from Peskov to visit Russia, delivered through Sater. Sater wrote to Cohen that Peskov “would like to invite you as his guest to the St. Petersburg Forum which is Russia’s Davos it’s June 16–19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either [the President of Russia] or [the Prime Minister of Russia], as they are not sure if 1 or both will be there. . . . He said anything you want to discuss including dates and subjects are on the table to discuss.”
    89. May 6, 2016: Gates arranged for Kilimnik to travel to New York to meeting Manafort the following day.
    90. May 7, 2016: Manafort met with Kilimnik.
    91. May 8, 2016: Timofeev emailed Papadopoulos about putting him in touch with the “MFA head of the U.S. desk.”
    92. May 10, 2016: Republican operative Paul Erickson emailed Dearborn, saying “Russia is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. that isn’t forthcoming under the current administration” and that “the Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true re-set in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House.” Erickson at the time was an NRA member and, according to the House Intelligence Committee, maintained “close ties with Torshin and Butina.” The email stated that Russia wanted to make “first contact” with the Trump campaign at the annual NRA convention that that Putin wanted to invite Trump to Moscow before the election.
    93. Mid May, 2016: In the subsequent weeks after May 4, 2016, Timofeev reportedly “set up Skype calls with [Papadopoulos] and discussed, among other things, the fact that Foreign Contact 2 reported ‘a good reaction from the U.S. desk at the MFA.’”
    94. May 13, 2016: Mifsud emailed Papadopoulos, stating, “we will continue to liaise through you with the Russian counterparts in terms of what is needed for a high level meeting of Mr. Trump with the Russian federation.”
    95. May 21, 2016: Trump Jr. dined with Torshin at the NRA national convention.
    96. Late May 2016: Trump campaign official Michael Caputo spoke with Russian national Henry Greenberg over the phone (Greenberg also goes by the name of Henry Oknyansky). Greenberg claimed to have helpful information for the Trump campaign, and after this conversation, Caputo put Greenberg in touch with longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone.
    97. Late May 2016: Stone met with Greenberg in Sunny Isles, Florida. Stone claimed Greenberg promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Greenberg allegedly wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the information, and Stone claimed he rejects this offer. A Ukrainian individual by the name of Alexei Rasin also attended the meeting. The Mueller report indicates that Rasin was “involved in Florida real estate” and “offered to sell Stone derogatory information in Clinton.” Stone refused the offer. Although Greenberg claimed that Caputo attended this meeting, it is unclear if he did so.
    98. Summer 2016: Gates “remained in email contact with Kilimnik through the summer and fall of 2016.”
    99. June 3, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr., informing him that “the crown prosecutor” of Russia met with Aras Agalarov and “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Goldstone stated that this information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
    100. June 3, 2016: Trump Jr. replied to Goldstone’s email, saying “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
    101. June 6, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. asking when he would be free to talk with Emin over the phone “about this Hillary info.”
    102. June 6, 2016: Trump Jr. emailed Goldstone, asking if they could speak.
    103. June 6, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr., saying he would “track” Emin down.
    104. June 6, 2016: Trump Jr. provided a cellphone number to Goldstone.
    105. June 6, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. that he was “sure” Emin could call.
    106. June 6, 2016: Trump Jr. emailed Goldstone, thanking him “for the help.”
    107. June 6-June 7, 2016: As Trump Jr. later stated, “my phone records show three very short phone calls between Emin and me between June 6th and June 7th. I do not recall speaking to Emin Agalarov. It is possible that we left each other voice mail messages. I simply do not remember.” An attorney for Emin Agalarov also stated that his client did not recall speaking with Trump Jr.
    108. June 6-June 7, 2016: As stated above, Trump Jr. and Agalarov allegedly spoke for a second time within this date range.
    109. June 6-June 7, 2016: As stated above, Trump Jr. and Agalarov allegedly spoke for a third time within this date range.
    110. June 7, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. to schedule the meeting.
    111. June 7, 2016: Trump Jr. emailed Goldstone to set a time for the meeting.
    112. June 7, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr., saying “perfect.”
    113. June 7, 2016: Trump Jr. emailed Goldstone stating that Manafort and Kushner would also likely attend the meeting.
    114. June 8, 2016: Goldstone asked Trump Jr. to change the meeting time.
    115. June 8, 2016: Trump Jr. emailed Goldstone confirming the changed time.
    116. June 9, 2016: Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. again regarding the time change.
    117. June 9, 2016: Trump Jr., Manafort, Kushner, and Goldstone met in Trump Towerwith Russian attorney and lobbyistNatalia Veselnitskaya, former State Department contractor Anatoli Samochornov, Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin, and Georgian real estate and finance executive Irakly Kaveladze.
    118. June 10, 2016: Agalarov “delivered to candidate Trump an expensive painting for the candidate’s birthday.”
    119. June 17, 2016: Trump reportedly sent Agalarov a thank you note for the birthday gift, saying “I can only say how much I appreciate your friendship and to thank you for this fantastic gift.”
    120. June 19, 2016: Papadopoulos had “several email and Skype exchanges” with Timofeev. During one of these exchanges, Timofeev reportedly suggested that a Trump campaign official come to Russia for a meeting.
    121. June 19, 2016: As stated above, Papadopoulos continued to have “several email and Skype exchanges” with Timofeev, indicating at least two contacts.
    1. June 29, 2016: Goldstone emailed Scavino, copying Trump Jr. and Graff. Goldstone stated that VK wanted “to create a VOTE Trump 2016 promotion” aimed at Russian American voters living in the U.S. The email copied the head of Partner Relations for VK, Konstantin Sidorkov. Goldstone stated that Sidorkov was a “good friend of [his] and Emin’s.”
    1. July 2016: Stone allegedly spoke with Assange over the phone, and Assange reportedly told Stone that “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” Stone appears to have denied Cohen’s statement disclosing this contact.
    2. July 7, 2016: Manafort emailed Kilimnik about offering private briefings on the campaign to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed at least $19 million.
    3. July 7-8, 2016: Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, traveled to Moscow to give a speech. While there, he met with Andrey Baranov, head of investor relations at Rosneft.
    4. July 7-8, 2016: While Page was in Moscow, he spoke to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
    5. July 8, 2016: Kilimnik replied to Manafort, indicating that he thought the rift between Manafort and Deripaska would be mended and they would “get back to the original relationship with” Deripaska.
    6. July 14, 2016: Papadopoulos emailed Timofeev, trying to set a meeting between Trump team officials and Russian officials.
    7. July 15, 2016: Sergei Millian, a businessman who was born in Belarus, messaged Papadopoulos on LinkedIn, introducing himself and claiming to have “insider knowledge and direct access to the top hierarchy in Russian politics.”
    8. July 16, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian exchanged at least one text message.
    9. July 18, 2016: Sessions keynoteda luncheon in Cleveland, co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. He met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak following his remarks
    10. July 20, 2016: Page and J.D. Gordon, the Trump campaign’s director of national security,also metwith Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Gordon and Kislyak shook hands and Gordon “reiterated that he had meant what he said in the speech about improving U.S.-Russia relations.”
    11. July 20, 2016: Gordon and Kislyak “ran into” each other at an evening reception as part of the conference. They ate at the same table and talked for approximately five minutes.
    12. July 22, 2016: Papadopoulos messaged Timofeev on Facebook, asking if he knew Millian.
    13. July 23, 2016: Timofeev messaged Papadopoulos on Facebook, saying he did not know Millian.
    14. July 25, 2016: Stone emailed right-wing activist Jerome Corsi directing him to “get to” Assange. Corsi forwarded Stone’s email to an individual believed to be conservative author Ted Malloch. For the purposes of this report, we count directions from a member of the Trump team to an intermediary to contact a Russia-linked operative.
    15. July 26, 2016: Papadopoulos messaged Timofeev on Facebook.
    16. July 26, 2016: Timofeev messaged Papadopoulos on Facebook.
    17. July 29, 2016: Kilimnik emailed Manafort, and they agreed to meet again.
    18. July 29, 2016: Manafort emailed Kilimnik.
    19. July 30, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian exchanged two text messages.
    20. July 30, 2016: As noted above, Papadopoulos and Millian exchanged two text messages.
    21. July 30, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian met in New York City.
    22. July 31, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian exchanged two text messages.
    23. July 31, 2016: As noted above, Papadopoulos and Millian exchanged two text messages.
    24. July 31, 2016: Manafort emailed Kilimnik.
    25. July 31, 2016: Stone emailed Corsi directing him to call Stone and saying that Malloch “should see” Assange.
    26. August 2016-November 2016: As indicated earlier in this report, Gates sent Kilimnik polling data during this time period “less frequently.” This contact represents the fourth time Gates sent Kilimnik polling data.
    27. August 2016-November 2016: As indicated earlier in this report, Gates sent Kilimnik polling data during this time period less frequently. This contact represents the fifth time Gates sent Kilimnik polling data.
    28. August 2016: A Russian embassy representative contacted Sessions about arranging a meeting with Kislyak.
    29. August 1, 2016: Millian texted Papadopoulos.
    30. August 1, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian met in New York City.
    31. August 2, 2016: Millian and Papadopoulos exchanged two text messages about the possibility of Papadopoulos attending or speaking at two international energy conferences, one of which was in Moscow.
    32. August 2, 2016: Millian and Papadopoulos exchanged two text messages about the energy conferences.
    33. August 2, 2016: Manafort met with Kilimnik.
    34. August 3, 2016: A Russian embassy official wrote to Gordon to invite him for breakfast with Kislyak.
    35. August 3, 2016: Millian and Papadopoulos exchanged two Facebook messages about the energy conferences.
    36. August 3, 2016: As noted above, Millian and Papadopoulos exchanged two Facebook messages about the energy conferences.
    37. August 8, 2016: Gordon declined the invitation for breakfast with Kislyak.
    38. August 14, 2016: Stone sent a direct message over Twitter to Guccifer 2.0, saying “delighted you are reinstated.” Guccifer 2.0, a persona created by Russian GRU officers, worked with WikiLeaks “to release the stolen materials in the US election.”
    39. August 15, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 replied to Stone, thanking him for writing.
    40. August 15, 2016: Stone replied to Guccifer 2.0, asking Guccifer 2.0 to retweet a link.
    41. August 17, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sent Stone numerous direct messages over Twitter, praising him and offering assistance.
    42. August 23, 2016: Millian messaged Papadopoulos over Facebook claiming he would “share with [Papadopoulos] a disruptive technology that might be instrumental in [his] political work for the campaign.”
    43. September 2016: Gates was in contact with an unnamed individual who the FBI assessed had ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.
    44. September 8, 2016: Sessions met againwith Kislyak in his D.C. Senate office; the meeting went undisclosed until March 2, 2017. Sessions reportedlysaid that at the meeting, he “listened to the ambassador and what his concerns might be.” Sessions noted that they discussed travel to Russia, terrorism, and Ukraine, although Sessions could not recall “any specific political discussions.”
    45. September 9, 2016: Guccifer 2.0 sent a direct message to Stone containing a link to hacked voter turnout data from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Guccifer 2.0 provided this hacked information to a Republican political operative, who published it on his blog.
    46. September 9, 2016: Stone replied to Guccifer 2.0, saying that the information was “pretty standard.”
    47. September 18, 2016: Stone texted radio host Randy Credico, saying “I am e-mailing u a request to pass on to [Assange.]” Credico replied to Stone to confirm that he was passing the request along to Assange.
    48. September 19, 2016: Stone texted Credico asking him to pass a message to Assange. Credico replied “I did,” apparently indicating that he had sent at least one message to Assange on Stone’s behalf.
    49. September 20, 2016: Credico forwarded Stone’s request “to a friend who was an attorney with the ability to contact [Assange,]” bcc’ing Stone on the email.
    50. September 20, 2016: WikiLeaks contacted Trump Jr. via Twitter, giving him the login credentials for what WikiLeaks described as “a PAC run anti-Trump site.”
    51. September 21, 2016: Trump Jr. replied, thanking WikiLeaks.
    52. September 29, 2016: Butina and Gordon met “at a party at the Swiss ambassador’s residence.”
    53. September 29, 2016: Erickson emailed Gordon and Butina after a party at the Swiss ambassador’s residence. Erickson noted to Butina that Gordon was “playing a crucial role in the Trump transition effort,” and noted to Gordon that Butina had links to Torshin.
    54. September 2016–October 2016: Gordon emailed Butina and Erickson with “a clip of a recent appearance he had made on RT, the Russian state-run English language television network.”
    55. September 2016–October 2016: Butina responded to Gordon’s email, inviting him to a dinner hosted by conservative writer and Rockefeller heir George O’Neill Jr. As The Washington Post noted, “Prosecutors cited the dinners organized by O’Neill, described in court documents as ‘person 2,’ as part of Butina’s efforts to influence thought leaders.”
    56. September 2016–October 2016: Gordon responded to Butina’s email, declining the dinner invitation but inviting her for drinks and to a concert. In his correspondence with Butina, he reportedly “included a link to a September 2016 Politico story reporting that he was a part of Trump’s growing transition effort.”
    57. October 2016: Gates had another contact with the unnamed individual who had ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.
    58. October 3, 2016: WikiLeaks contacted Trump Jr. over Twitter, asking him to “comment on/push” a story about Hillary Clinton.
    59. October 3, 2016: Trump Jr. replied to the message, stating that he “already did.” He then asked WikiLeaks about a leak that had been foreshadowed by a tweet from Stone.
    60. October 12, 2016: WikiLeaks contacted Trump Jr., urging him to ask his father to tweet WikiLeaks links (which he did). WikiLeaks contacted Trump Jr. several other times, although he stopped replying to the messages. WikiLeaks suggested to Trump Jr. that if Trump were to lose the election, Trump should not concede and instead should “[challenge] the media and other types of rigging that occurred.” These reciprocated contacts between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks continued through the election and into summer 2017.
    61. October 13, 2016: After WikiLeaks released a statement claiming they had not communicated with Stone, Stone sent WikiLeaks a direct message “about his defense of Assange and the organization.”
    62. October 13, 2016: WikiLeaks replied to Stone’s earlier message, telling him not to claim an association with WikiLeaks.
    63. October 15, 2016: Stone sent a direct message to WikiLeaks, saying they should “figure out who [their] friends are.”
    64. Late October 2016: Gordon reportedly invited Butina to his birthday party. According to The Washington Post, “the two had no additional contact after the birthday party in October 2016.”
    65. November 9, 2016: WikiLeaks sent a direct message to Stone after the election, saying that they were “more free to communicate.”
    66. November 9, 2016: Papadopoulos “arranged to meet Millian in Chicago to discuss business opportunities.”
    67. November 9, 2016: At approximately 3 a.m., campaign press secretary Hope Hicks received a call “from a person who sounded foreign” and Hicks “could make out the words ‘Putin call.’” Hicks asked the caller to email her. The Mueller report strongly implies that this phone call was made by or on behalf of a Russian embassy official who emailed Hicks a few hours later.
    68. November 9, 2016: Hicks received an email from Sergey Kuznetsov, a Russian embassy official. Kuznetsov emailed from his Gmail account and the subject line of the email was “Message from Putin.” The Mueller report stated, “Attached to the email was a message from Putin, in both English and Russian, which Kuznetsov asked Hicks to convey to the President-Elect. In the message, Putin offered his congratulations to Trump for his electoral victory, stating he ‘look[ed] forward to working with [Trump] on leading Russian-American relations out of crisis.’” The Mueller report strongly implies that this email was related to the phone call Hicks received earlier that morning.
    69. November 10, 2016: Millian messaged Papadopoulos over Facebook, presumably to arrange their upcoming meeting.
    70. November 10, 2016: Emin Agalarov texted Trump Jr., congratulating him and his father on the win and saying, “always at your disposal here in Russia. [ ] Emin and Aras Agalarov@.”
    71. November 14, 2016: Millian messaged Papadopoulos over Facebook, presumably to arrange their upcoming meeting.
    72. November 14, 2016: Papadopoulos and Millian met in Chicago.
    73. November 16, 2016: Kushner’s assistant received a request for a meeting with Kislyak.
    74. November 26, 2016: Kirill Dmitriev, head of the sanctioned Russian Direct Investment Fund, texted Gerson.
    75. November 28, 2016: Goldstone emailed Graff to say that Aras Agalarov asked Goldstone to pass on a document related to the Magnitsky Act.
    76. November 29, 2016: Papadopoulos exchanged multiple Facebook messages with Millian.
    77. November 29, 2016: As noted above, Papadopoulos exchanged multiple Facebook messages with Millian.
    78. Late November 2016: Dmitriev was introduced to Rick Gerson, described in the Mueller report as “a hedge fund manager and friend of Jared Kushner.” UAE advisor George Nader facilitated this introduction. The Mueller report indicates that Dmitriev and Gerson met, but does not provide details about whether this meeting was separate from their introduction. This report contains one contact for their introduction and meeting as a conservative estimate, although it is possible that these were two separate contacts, and this contact is not included in the meetings count.
    79. December 2016-January 2017: Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a “proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin.” This work presumably included at least two contacts, although this is a conservative estimate.
    80. December 2016-January 2017: As noted above, Dmitriev and Gerson worked on a joint proposal.
    81. December 2016: Kushner met with Kislyak at a meeting in Trump Tower, during which the two men “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.” Michael Flynn, who had been named as Trump’s national security adviser, also attended. During the meeting, it was reportedly suggested that the Trump team use Russian diplomatic facilities in order to facilitate this backdoor channel. Kislyak subsequently arranged for Kushner to meet with Sergey Gorkov, the president of the Russian state-run bank VEB.
    82. December 2016: Avrahm Berkowitz, a longtime Kushner associate and White House aide who worked on the transition, met with Kislyak on Kushner’s behalf.
    83. December 2016: Kushner met with Gorkov. Kushner described the meeting as an official meeting in which he represented the Trump transition team, and CNN reported that a source characterized the meeting as an effort “to establish a back channel to Putin.” The Russian bank claimed that Kushner met with Gorkov in his capacity as “the head of his family’s real estate company.”
    84. December 2, 2016: Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged multiple text messages.
    85. December 2, 2016: Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged multiple text messages. This report includes two contacts here, a conservative estimate.
    86. December 2, 2016: The Mueller report indicates an individual by the name of Tolokonnikov emailed Gerson, and the footnote mentioning this email links to a sentence referring to Dmitriev and Gerson’s meeting and “potential joint ventures between Gerson’s hedge fund and RDIF.” While the report does not describe Tolokonnikov, RDIF’s Deputy CEO for Investment Projects and Funds is Dmitry Tolokonnikov, and this individual is likely the same person who emailed Gerson.
    87. December 6, 2016: The Mueller report notes, “the Russian Embassy reached out to Kushner’s assistant to set up a second meeting between Kislyak and Kushner.”
    88. December 6, 2016: Sometime on or after this date, Kushner “declined several proposed meeting dates, but Kushner’s assistant indicated that Kislyak was very insistent about securing a second meeting.”
    89. December 7, 2016: Russian embassy official Sergey Kuznetsov wrote to Berkowitz.
    90. December 7, 2016: Millian messaged Papadopoulos over Facebook.
    91. December 8, 2016: Kilimnik emailed Manafort about “the Yanukovych peace plan.”
    92. December 9, 2016: Page visited Moscow again and ate dinner with Dvorkovich. While this visit likely involved more contacts between Page and Russia-linked operatives, this contact is the only one listed in the Mueller report. Although Page was not on the Trump transition team at the time, the Mueller report indicates that Kilimnik told Manafort that Page was “sending messages he is authorized to talk to Russia on behalf of DT on a range of mutual interest, including Ukraine.”
    93. December 13, 2016: Emin Agalarov texted Trump Jr., reportedly “posing a ‘quick question.’”
    94. December 14, 2016: Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged multiple text messages. This report includes two contacts here, although this is a conservative estimate.
    95. December 14, 2016: As noted above, Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged multiple text messages.
    96. Mid-December, 2016: “A few days after” December 12, 2016, Kushner’s assistant received a text from Gorkov’s assistant.
    97. December 2016-January 2017: After the mid-December text from Gorkov’s assistant to Kushner’s assistant, “the two assistants exchanged a handful of additional cordial texts” over the following weeks. This report lists two separate contacts for this exchange, although this is a conservative estimate and there were likely more texts between the two assistants.
    98. December 2016-January 2017: As stated above, Gorkov’s assistant exchanged “a handful of additional cordial texts” with Kushner’s assistant.
    99. December 20, 2016: The day after Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated, Flynn reportedly called Kislyak “to say he was sorry and to reinforce that terrorism was [their] common problem.”
    100. December 22, 2016: Flynn contacted Kislyak about a pending vote on a UN resolution on the issue of Israeli settlements, asking that Russia “vote against or delay the resolution.”
    101. December 23, 2016: Flynn spoke with Kislyak again, and Kislyak informed Flynn that Russia would not vote against the UN resolution.
    102. December 25, 2016: Flynn texted Kislyak, reportedly “to wish him a merry Christmas and to express condolences for a plane crash.”
    103. December 28, 2016: Kislyak reportedly texted Flynn, asking, “Can you call me?”
    104. December 29, 2016: A Russian embassy representative called Flynn but the two individuals did not speak.
    105. December 29, 2016: Due to poor cellphone reception, Flynn reportedly did not see the previous text “until approximately 24 hours later.” Flynn then allegedly “responded that he would call in 15–20 minutes.”
    106. December 29, 2016: Flynn called Kislyak.
    107. December 29, 2016: Flynn called Kislyak a second time.
    108. December 29, 2016: Flynn called Kislyak a third time.
    109. December 29, 2016: Flynn called Kislyak a fourth time.
    110. December 29, 2016: Flynn called Kislyak a fifth time. According to three sources, the “calls occurred between the time the Russian embassy was told about U.S. sanctions and the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had decided against reprisals.”
    111. December 31, 2016: Kislyak called Flynn to inform him that Russia did not retaliate against the most recent round of U.S. sanctions “at the Trump team’s request.”
    112. January 2017: Manafort met with a former Russian embassy official and current senior executive at one of Deripaska’s companies, Georgiy Oganov, in Madrid. Although Manafort did not officially serve on the transition team, reporting indicated that he was in continual contact with the Trump team during the transition period.
    113. January 2017: Kilimnik and Manafort exchanged text messages about the meeting with Oganov.
    114. January 2017: Kilimnik and Manafort exchanged text messages about the meeting with Oganov.
    115. January 2017: Kilimnik and Manafort exchanged text messages about the meeting with Oganov.
    116. January 3, 2017: Gerson texted Dmitriev.
    117. January 3, 2017: After Dmitriev had repeatedly and explicitly made it clear that he wanted to be put in touch with members of the Trump team, Nader discussed Dmitriev with Blackwater founder Erik Prince (brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) Prince and “Nader informed Prince that the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump Administration.” Nader suggested that Prince and Dmitriev meet.
    118. January 4, 2017: Nader told Dmitriev that he had dined with Prince and spoken with him about Dmitriev, and that “the people he met had asked for Dmitriev’s bio.” Dmitriev later sent Nader his bio, which Nader forwarded to Prince.
    119. January 7-January 8, 2017: During this time period, Prince booked a ticket to the Seychelles and Nader informed Dmitriev that he had arrange for him to meet Prince. Nader “asked Dmitriev if he could come to the Seychelles for the meeting.”
    120. January 9, 2017: Dmitriev sent his biography to Gerson and asked him to share it with senior Trump team members.
    121. January 9, 2017: Cohen reportedly met with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselbergin Trump Tower, and the two men reportedly discussed “a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump.”
    122. January 11, 2017: Prince (brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) met with Dmitriev in the Seychelles. Prince “presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump” to high-ranking officials from the United Arab Emirates who brokered the meeting. Prince initially claimed the meeting was unplanned and that he was not acting as “an official or unofficial emissary of the Trump transition team.” Nader later revealed that the purpose of the meeting involved an attempt “to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.”
    123. January 11, 2017: Prince called Nader and asked him to set up a second meeting with Dmitriev. Nader then contacted Dmitriev and arranged a second meeting.
    124. January 11, 2017: Prince had a second meeting with Dmitriev to tell him “that the United States could not accept any Russian involvement in Libya because it would make the situation there much worse.”
    125. January 16, 2017: Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged at least two text messages about a proposal Dmitriev put together with “ideas for U.S.-Russia reconciliation” that he had been discussing with Gerson.
    126. January 16, 2017: As noted above, Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged at least two text messages.
    127. January 17-20, 2017: Anthony Scaramucci met with Dmitriev at the 2017 Davos World Economic Forum; after the meeting, he criticized U.S. sanctions on Russia in an interview with a Russian news agency. Scaramucci “served on the executive committee for Trump’s transition team” and later briefly served as White House communications director for ten days.
    128. January 18, 2017: Gerson texted Dmitriev, letting him know that he had given the proposal to Kushner.
    129. January 18, 2017: Dmitriev and Gerson exchanged at least one more text message on this date.

    At least 33 high-level campaign officials and Trump advisers had or were aware of contacts between the Trump team and Russia, including Trump and the three successive people who ran his campaign.

    Yet none of them ever revealed to federal law enforcement that the Russians were seeking to interfere with the election by aiding the campaign.

    Trump, by signing a Letter of Intent for the Trump Tower Moscow deal that was addressed to a Russian developer, had contact with Russians during the campaign. Other members of the Trump team who had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition include:

    • Michael Cohen
    • Donald Trump Jr.
    • Paul Manafort
    • Jared Kushner
    • Michael Flynn
    • George Papadopoulos
    • Roger Stone
    • Jeff Sessions
    • Hope Hicks
    • Rhona Graff
    • J.D. Gordon
    • Carter Page
    • Erik Prince
    • Anthony Scaramucci
    • Rick Gates
    • Michael Caputo
    • Ivanka Trump
    • Avrahm Berkowitz

    A number of other campaign officials were reportedly aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives, including:

    • Corey Lewandowski
    • Hope Hicks
    • Sam Clovis
    • Stephen Miller
    • K.T. McFarland
    • Tom Bossert
    • Kellyanne Conway
    • Reince Priebus
    • Stephen Bannon
    • Sean Spicer  
    • John Mashburn
    • David Bossie
    • Brad Parscale
    • Walid Phares

    36 of these contacts, including 3 meetings, were with individuals alleged to have links to Russian intelligence.

    88 of these contacts, including 13 meetings, were held after Trump received his first intelligence briefing as a presidential candidate on August 17, 2016, when he was specifically warned about Russian attempts to infiltrate his campaign.

    Despite the overwhelming number of contacts and widespread knowledge within the Trump team about them, the Trump campaign issued numerous blanket denials of contacts with Russia. Here are 15 examples:

    1. July 24, 2016: Trump’s Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and George Stephanopoulos asked him, “Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?” To which Manafort responded, “No, there are not. That’s absurd. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
    2. July 24, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. appeared on CNN and told Jake Tapper that the Clinton campaign’s suggestion that Russia was helping Trump was “disgusting” and “phony,” noting, “Well, it just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie.”
    3. July 27, 2016:Trump appeared on a CBS Miami news station and, in response to allegations that Russia was trying to help him win the election, told Jim DeFed, “I can tell you I think if I came up with that they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a conspiracy theory, it’s ridiculous’ … I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”
    4. October 24, 2016:At a rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump stated he has “nothing to do with Russia, folks. I’ll give you a written statement.”
    5. November 11, 2016:Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks gave the Associated Press a blanket denial of Trump campaign contacts with Russia, stating, “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
    6. December 18, 2016:Kellyanne Conway went on “Face the Nation,” and John Dickerson asked her, “Did anyone involved … in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?” Conway responded, “Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous.”
    7. January 10, 2017:At a hearing for Jeff Sessions’ nomination for the position of attorney general, Senator Al Franken asked him what he would do if there was evidence “that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.” Sessions replied, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
    8. January 15, 2017: Vice President-elect Mike Pence went on “Fox News Sunday,” and Chris Wallace asked him, “So, I’m asking a direct question: was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin or cutouts they had?” Pence replied, “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?
    9. January 15, 2017: That same day, Pence also went on “Face the Nation,” where Dickerson asked him, “Just to button up one question, did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence replied, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
    10. February 16, 2017:Trump held a press conference and told reporters, “Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask a question. It’s so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I’m sure you probably get it because it was classified. So I’m sure everybody in this room perhaps has it. But we had a very, very good talk. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”
    11. February 19, 2017: White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus went on “Fox News Sunday,” and when Wallace asked whether the Trump team had any connections to Russia, Preibus said “No.” Preibus later went on to add, “Let me give you an example. First of all, The New York Timesput out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, some treasonous type of accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you and I have been approved to say this—that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it.”
    12. February 20, 2017: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, stating, “This is a nonstory because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
    13. February 24, 2017: At a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer was asked whether “the President has an improper relationship with Russia” and responded, “He has no interests in Russia. He has no—there’s only so many times he can deny something that doesn’t exist.”
    14. May 11, 2017:In an interview with NBC, Trump told Lester Holt, “I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant—which I owned for quite a while—I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that I have nothing to do with Russia.” Later in the interview, when discussing the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Trump stated, “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself—I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should’ve won.”
    15. May 18, 2017: At a press conference in May 2017, Trump repeatedly denied any collusion occurred between his campaign and Russia, at one point stating, “[T]he entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself and the Russians—zero.”

    Appendix:

    Numerous other contacts have surfaced throughout the Russia investigation that this report does not count in the overall tally.

    The Mueller report states that in January 2017, “around the time of the Presidential Inauguration,” Manafort met with Kilimnik and Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin. The exact date of this meeting is unclear, although a footnote in the Mueller report states “1/19/17 & 1/22/17 Kilimnik CBP Records.” Since this date period covers Trump’s inauguration, it is unclear whether this contact took place during the transition or post-inauguration, and this report does not count this meeting as a contact.

    The Mueller report makes it clear that Putin directed numerous Russian businessmen to establish contact with the Trump transition team. Russian oligarch Petr Aven, the head of Alfa Bank, provided the Special Counsel’s office with an interview on this topic. Aven stated that there are approximately 50 oligarchs who regularly meet with Putin and noted that he “understood that any suggestions or critiques that Putin made during these meetings were implicit directives, and that there would be consequences for Aven if he did not follow through.” In a one-on-one meeting with Putin after the 2016 election, Putin suggested to Aven that he needed to protect himself and Alfa Bank from U.S. sanctions. In response, Aven told Putin he would try to establish communication with the incoming administration. Aven got in touch with former U.S. diplomat Richard Burt and asked him to establish communication with the Trump team. Burt approached Simes, who was at the time “lobbying the Trump Transition Team, on Burt’s behalf, to appoint Burt U.S. ambassador to Russia.” Burt asked Simes to arrange a meeting with Kushner, but Simes informed the Special Counsel that he declined this offer. Burt then emailed Aven, informing him that he had been unsuccessful, and Aven relayed that message to Putin in an early 2017 meeting. Aven was also subpoenaed by the FBI, and he informed Putin’s chief of staff “that he had been asked by the FBI about whether he had worked to create a back channel between the Russian government and the Trump Administration.” Aven’s attempts at contacting the Trump team are not listed above because they did not move past individuals who are considered to be Russian intermediaries; his attempt appears to have gotten as far as Simes, who is considered to be an intermediary for the Russian government, but was not passed on to the Trump team. The Mueller report’s discussion of Aven’s outreach does indicate that other Russian oligarchs may have had similar meetings with Putin and may have been given similar directives, and it is unknown if any other oligarchs were successful in their outreach.

    According to the Mueller report, Peter Smith was a Republican operative who attempted to find deleted Clinton emails during the campaign. After being directed by Trump to find the emails, Flynn contacted Smith “in an effort to obtain the emails,” and Smith subsequently claimed that a company he had set up had organized meetings with parties with “ties and affiliations to Russia,” although the report notes that “the investigation did not identify evidence that any such meetings occurred.” The report also states, “associates and security experts who worked with Smith on the initiative did not believe that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers and were aware of no such connection,” and the investigation “did not establish that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers.” It is unclear when Smith’s alleged contact with Russian hackers occurred, and the identities of the individuals he believed to be Russian hackers are unknown. This report does not count these contacts, as Smith’s associates, subject matter experts, and the Special Counsel all had unanswered questions about whether the contact occurred.

    Dmitri Simes is the President and CEO of the Center for the National Interest (CNI). Simes was born in the Soviet Union and later immigrated to the U.S. The Mueller report notes that “Simes personally has many contacts with current and former Russian government officials,” and CNI boasted that it had “unparalleled access to Russian officials.” Kushner repeatedly sought Simes’ advice on Russia-related issues, once even asking his assistant to confirm with Simes whether then-Russian ambassador Kislyak was “the right guy.” While there were a number of contacts between Simes and the campaign, as noted below, the Mueller report states “the investigation did not identify evidence that the Campaign passed or received any messages to or from the Russian government through CNI or Simes.” Given that the report does not establish that CNI or Simes passed information to or from the Russian government, the following contacts noted in the Mueller report have not been included for purposes of this report:

    1. March 14, 2016: Kushner and Simes attended a CNI luncheon together. According to the Mueller report, Kushner “decided to seek Simes’s assistance” at the event because “the Trump Campaign was having trouble securing support from experienced foreign policy professionals.”
    2. March 24, 2016: Kushner and Simes spoke over the phone.
    3. March 31, 2016: Kushner and Simes held a one-on-one meeting.
    4. Mid-April 2016: Kushner put Simes in touch with senior Trump policy advisor Stephen Miller “and forwarded to Simes an outline of the foreign-policy speech that Miller had prepared.”
    5. Mid-April 2016: Simes “sent back to the Campaign bullet points” for a foreign policy speech.
    6. Mid-April 2016: Simes received subsequent drafts of the speech from Miller.
    7. Mid-April 2016: Simes spoke with Miller over the phone.
    8. June 17, 2016: Simes emailed J.D. Gordon a memo for Sessions.
    9. August 9, 2016: Simes emailed Kushner “a ‘Russia Policy Memo’ laying out ‘what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.”
    10. Early August 2016: Simes and Kushner had a phone call to set up a meeting.
    11. August 17, 2016: Kushner and Simes met in Kushner’s New York office at Simes’ request.
    12. April 2016-November 2016: According to the Mueller report, between April 2016 and the November 2016 election, “Kushner had periodic contacts with Simes. Those contacts consisted of both in-person meetings and phone conversations.” This indicates Kushner and Simes had at least two phone conversations and two meetings during this time period. This contact represents the second phone conversation.
    13. April 2016-November 2016: According to the Mueller report, between April 2016 and the November 2016 election, “Jared Kushner had periodic contacts with Simes. Those contacts consisted of both in-person meetings and phone conversations.” This indicates Kushner and Simes had at least two phone conversations and two meetings during this time period. This contact represents the second meeting.
    14. November 9, 2016: Kushner emailed Simes because he was “unable to recall the Russian Ambassador’s name.”
    15. November 9, 2016: Simes responded to Kushner.
    16. November 17, 2016: Kushner confirmed with Simes that Kislyak “is the right guy.” He did this through two intermediaries: he asked his assistant to “confirm with Dmitri Simes,” and his assistant reached out to “a colleague of Simes at CNI.”

    The Mueller report states that beginning in June 2016, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) contacted “U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign,” claiming to be U.S. political activists. The IRA requested “signs and other materials to use at rallies,” and “certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support.” As the Mueller report makes it clear that the campaign was unaware these contacts were coming from Russia, these contacts are not included in the list above.

    Biographical Notes:

    Felix Sater is a Russian-American real-estate developer and a longtime Trump business partner. Throughout the Trump campaign, Sater worked on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, acting as a broker between the Trump Organization and Michael Cohen and various Russian individuals who were involved in the project. This report includes contacts where Sater operated as an intermediary and conveyed information between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives.

    George Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman with extensive contacts in the Middle East. Nader helped broker meetings between Erik Prince and RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev, and these contacts are included in the report above.

    Rob Goldstone is a British publicist who worked on behalf of Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov and his father, Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. The Mueller report states that Goldstone represented Emin Agalarov from 2012 to 2016 and “facilitated the ongoing contact between the Trumps and the Agalarovs.” Goldstone was instrumental in setting up the infamous June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which he did explicitly on behalf of Emin Agalarov. The Mueller report notes that Goldstone “facilitated the ongoing contact between the Trumps and the Agalarvos,” and this report considers him to be an intermediary working on behalf of Russia-linked operatives.

    Dmitry Klokov is a Russian energy executive and, according to the Mueller report, a “former aide to Russia’s minister of energy.” In November 2015, Klokov’s wife at the time, Lana Erchova, emailed Ivanka Trump and stated “if you ask anyone who knows Russian to google my husband Dmitry Klokov, you’ll see who he is close to and that he has done Putin’s political campaigns.” Cohen initially mistakenly believed that Klokov was a Russian athlete. In subsequent emails with Cohen, Klokov proposed arranging a meeting between Trump and an individual who Klokov initially described as “our person of interest.” According to the Mueller report, Klokov’s wife later identified this “person of interest” as Putin.

    Giorgi Rtskhiladze is a Russian business executive who had previously worked with the Trump Organization on a failed project in Georgia. The Mueller report states that Cohen was in touch with him about the Trump Tower Moscow deal “in part because Rtskhiladze had pursued business ventures in Moscow, including a licensing deal with the Agalarov-owned Crocus Group.” Rtskhiladze forwarded an email about the project to an associate and suggested that they “organize the meeting in New York at the highest level of the Russian Government.” In a later email to Cohen, Rtskhiladze suggested that they send a letter to the Mayor of Moscow. According to the Mueller report, Rtskhiladze repeatedly represented himself as a link between the Russian government and the Trump team, and this report considers him to be an intermediary working on behalf of Russia-linked operatives.

    Robert Foresman is an investment banker who, according to the Mueller report, was tasked by a Russian presidential aide with inviting Trump to an economic forum in St. Petersburg. After receiving this request, he began reaching out to Graff to try to secure a meeting with Trump. Foresman boasted about his “long-standing personal and professional expertise in Russia and Ukraine, his work setting up an early ‘private channel between Vladimir Putin and former U.S. President George W. Bush, and an approach’ he had received from ‘senior Kremlin officials’ about the candidate.” Shortly before Gorkov met with Kushner in December 2016, Foresman also met with Gorkov and one of his deputies in Moscow. Although Foresman denied any plans to establish a backchannel to Trump and claimed that the Russian official had also extended invitations through him to other candidates, the Mueller report states that he did pass along an explicit invitation from a Russian government official to the Trump team, and this report considers him to be an intermediary working on behalf of Russia-linked operatives.

    Sergei Millian is an American citizen who was born in Belarus and, according to the Mueller report, claimed to have “insider knowledge and direct access to the top hierarchy in Russian politics.” The Special Counsel’s office investigated Millian’s contacts with Papadopoulos but was “not fully able to explore the contact because [Millian] remained out of the country since the inception of [the] investigation and declined to meet with members of the Office.” After meeting in person with Millian, Papadopoulos emailed a campaign official saying that he had been contacted “by some leaders of Russian-American voters here in the US about their interest in voting for Mr. Trump.” Due to Millian’s claim to have access “to the top hierarchy in Russian politics,” this report considers him to be an intermediary working on behalf of Russia-linked operatives.

    Rick Gerson is a hedge fund manager and a friend of Jared Kushner. According to the Mueller report, during the campaign, he worked with Dmitriev on a proposal regarding U.S. Russia relations “which Dmitriev implied he cleared through Putin.” Gerson passed the proposal to Kushner and immediately told Dmitriev he had passed it along. Gerson noted that he did not have a formal role in the campaign or transition “other than occasional casual discussions about the Campaign with Kushner,” although he did arrange several high-profile meetings for transition officials. He also told Dmitriev that he would arrange introductions between Dmitriev and the incoming administration. Due to his work communicating with the Trump team on Dmitriev’s behalf, this report considers him to be an intermediary working on behalf of Russia-linked operatives.

    Methodological notes:

    In determining the number of contacts, in some cases it is unclear exactly how many contacts occurred. For example, the Papadopoulos indictment says at one point that he had “several email and Skype exchanges.” In these situations, the authors used the conservative estimate of two contacts.

    In this document, the authors consider Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, to be Russia-linked operatives. The authors base this determination, in part, on the words of Trump’s own former CIA Director Mike Pompeo who called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” and referred to Assange as an individual who poses “very real threats to our country.” Furthermore, the January 2017 intelligence community report stated, “We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets.” The report also stated that the GRU “relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks,” and noted that “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”

    The Mueller report states, “During the campaign period, Papadopoulos connected over LinkedIn with several MFA-affiliated individuals in addition to Timofeev. On April 25, 2016, he connected with Dmitry Andreyko, publicly identified as a First Secretary at the Russian Embassy in Ireland. In July 2016, he connected with Yuriy Melnik, the spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Washington and with Alexey Krasilnikov, publicly identified as a counselor with the MFA. And on September 16, 2016, he connected with Sergei Nalobin, also identified as an MFA official.” This report does not consider the act of connecting with an individual over LinkedIn to be a contact unless there is an indication that the two parties exchanged an actual message. Papadopoulos did message Millian over LinkedIn several times, and those are counted in the list above. If further reporting indicates that Papadopoulos sent any of the aforementioned individuals personalized messages when connecting with them (or after connecting), those will be counted as separate contacts.

    My Review of Andrew McCabe’s, “The Threat”

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    The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and TrumpThe Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew G. McCabe
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    “The Threat” by Andrew McCabe was a wonderfully written account of this senior FBI agent’s life and career and how it juxtaposed with the Russian mafia and in essence ended with the Russian mafia. Early in his career working as an attorney, Mr. McCabe decided that joining the FBI was something that was so innate to who he wanted to be as a person that he took a massive pay cut in order to join the bureau. He started off as a street agent in the New York Field office in 1996 investigating crimes liked to the Russian mafia and associated organizations. At the very end he was responsible in helping to navigate the Trump/Russia investigation which was the biggest mission of his life. This took a drastic turn when former FBI director James Comey was fired and he was then given the responsibility as the deputy acting director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As Mr. McCabe explains in his book, “my first major case as a newly sworn-in special agent concerned organized crime from Russia. And the ultimate Russian criminal organization – the Russian government itself – created the last significant issue I faced as acting director: interference in U.S. elections, the mechanism of our democracy, which resulted in the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this assault on this country’s core values.”

    In the era of Donald Trump, so many of us within the general population have seemingly become so numb to the types of Presidential norms that this President violates and breaks on a seemingly daily basis. In doing so, this has arguably weakened the office of the Presidency of the United States both domestically and internationally in terms of the prestige and democratic norms which have long governed conduct. Arguably much worse than even this is the very real possibility that we currently have a President in the White House who is whether wittingly or unwittingly an asset of the Russian federation. The actions that Donald Trump takes when it comes to Vladimir Putin is not one that puts our national security interests and the dedication of the men and women of the IC ahead of Vladimir Putin and the objectives of the Russian federation. Mr. McCabe was put in a unique position to ensure that the flow of information was able to flow without it being able to be hidden from the American IC and the American people due to the paper trail that he created. In addition to notifying the “Gang of Eight” about the Trump/Russia investigation, Mr. McCabe nudged the investigation enough for Rod Rosenstein who oversaw the Russia investigation to appoint a special counsel. That Special Counsel that is tasked with the most important mission of his life is Robert Swan Mueller, III.

    “The Threat” by Andrew McCabe is more than just a Donald Trump thriller but is a story of a mission of one man who through the choices he made along with happenstance played a pivotal role in our nation’s history. Additionally, Mr. McCabe takes us on vivid scenes reenacted in his book from the bizarre meeting with Donald Trump in which he asked him who he voted for and Donald Trump questioning what he thought of his wife being a “loser”. The book paints the scenes of a malignant narcissist who is insecure, petty and anti-intellectual. As Mr. McCabe notes, “Fear is why the president still has a map of his electoral college victory handing outside the door to the Oval Office” so that every time a person enters his office, they are forced to reaffirm his “amazing” victory. The most vivid parts of the book for me personally were the times in which he related to and shared his experiences with then FBI director Robert Mueller. He paints Mueller as a meticulous, disciplined, thorough and painstakingly intricate individual will undoubtedly get to the truth and the whole truth of the extent of Donald Trump’s treachery to our country and to our people.

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    My Review of Garrett Graff’s, “The Threat Matrix”

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    The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global TerrorThe Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror by Garrett M. Graff
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Author Garrett Graff in The Threat Matrix takes us on a journey of the history of the FBI to the present day circa 2013 near the end of Robert Mueller’s extraordinary 12-year term as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In it, he takes us through this journey starting with the foundation of the bureau and the historically controversial tenure of J. Edgar Hoover to the decades following through to the various threats our country has faced and the responsibilities and actions that the bureau took or failed to take. In doing so, Mr. Graff assists the reader in having a more full and thorough understanding of the bureau through its ups and downs, its successes and failures, and the consequential tenure of Robert S. Mueller III.

    The Threat Matrix is given its title by the actual threat matrix that accompanied the PDB or the President’s Daily Brief in the years after the terrorist attacks that shook our nation on that fateful September Tuesday morning in 2001. At first it was chaotic filled with streams of raw intelligence that contained very little actionable intelligence. Robert Mueller himself had become director of the FBI just a week before 9/11 and the changes that Mueller would have to implement at the bureau were drastic and significant. No longer would the FBI serve as simply an investigative agency that solved crimes but rather and most importantly became a counterintelligence domestic organization that sought to prevent terrorist attacks before they happened. As Mueller has said in the past, this shook his foundations as he had become accustomed to dealing with criminal matters as a prosecutor. Nevertheless, Mueller the lifelong Marine that he is hunkered down and implemented drastic changes within the bureau that shook some feathers among the bureau rank and file but when he finally left in 2013, the bureau had become much more efficient and better because of it.

    In one of the most important missions of his life, Robert Mueller supervised the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103. For Robert Mueller, walking through Lockerbie where this terrorist attack took place was the equivalent for him of what walking through the rubble of 9/11 would be. As Graff notes, “it was the moment when he rededicated himself to the pursuit of justice” in a very personal way (Graff, 152). In fact, he walked not only the mostly barren landscape but a small wooden warehouse where the items of the victims of this terrorist attack were stored impacted him greatly. He would carry this same zeal and determination for truth and justice for the decades to follow. He had this same drive and determination after 9/11 and there is no doubt that he has this same drive and determination now as Special Counsel in his quest to revealing to the American public the possible treachery of those Americans who may have sold our country out to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    I highly recommend this book for various reasons. The first is the most obvious that it helps the reader learn and understand the historic nature of the development of the bureau from the very beginning of the bureau’s existence traveling to the bureau that Robert Mueller left in 2013. There were failures and successes but the determination of those in the bureau to help protect and persevere against our nation’s enemies have never been in question. Additionally, the reader is able to better understand the trajectory of the bureau with the various crime elements involved whether it has been the Italian mafia, domestic terrorists, international terrorism, the Russian mafia or a whole host of other nefarious actors. And most importantly it helps the reader learn and come to understand the tidbits that reveal the true character and nature of the lifelong Marine, public servant and patriot that is Robert Swan Mueller, III. Garrett Graff in “The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror” through his interviews with Robert Mueller and those that were close to him helps one understand the meticulous, thorough nature of Mueller in his pursuit for truth and justice. As I have always said, history and our grandchildren will judge all of us accordingly.

    Garrett Graff's "The Threat Matrix"
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    My Review of Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters”

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    The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It MattersThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Tom Nichols
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    We live in a time in which there is more information available at our fingertips than ever before in the course of human history. Consequently, it seems as if our attention spans are shortening and the overflow of information available at our disposal has in a way made us less intelligent in terms of basic critical thinking skills which include reasoning and logical skills. For a myriad of reasons this has led to the death of expertise as the author Tom Nichols phrases the cultural phenomenon that has taken root within our society and culture. Lest people believe that this is harmless without any real-world implications, one must not only look at the flow of misinformation and disinformation that flowed within our electoral process. This made it difficult for laypersons to be able to spot and distinguish accurate information from disinformation. This lack of trust in what we can term as a lack of trust of experts within our society has led to the disintegration and widespread distrust of our institutions writ large. Such a breakdown has enabled outside nefarious actors to take advantage of this vulnerability within our society at large and cause further disintegration as we have seen take place since the so-called election of Donald Trump. In order for us to better address this issue with both its causes and solutions, we must better understand the phenomenon that is occurring. In doing so, the author and intellectual Tom Nichols makes a most convincing case of the deterioration of the trust between laypeople and experts and what that means in terms of societal and real-world implications.

    The real-world implications of the death of expertise or the campaign against established knowledge do not result simply in the disruption of our political process by outside nefarious actors, but it can result in much more severe and grave circumstances as the author Tom Nichols notes with the “AIDS denialists” phenomenon that took root in the early 1990s (Nichols, 1). There was a small group of these denialists who pushed this phenomenon outside of the United States as it caught root in South Africa when the President at the time Thabo Mbeki took notice of the denialists and what were the spurious claims that were being put out from the other side of the world. Mbeki came to believe that AIDS was not caused by HIV but rather from other factors such as malnourishment (Nichols, 2). As a result, Mbeki and his government refused outside help of drugs and other forms of assistance to help treat the disease which would have helped prevent HIV among newborns which the drugs could assist with (Nichols, 2). As a result of this ignorance and a lack of trust of the expertise of the vast majority of scientists and medical professionals, it is estimated that three hundred thousand lives and the births of thirty-five thousand HIV-positive children could have been avoided if Mbeki had followed the advice of scientists and medical professionals that were urging him to accept outside relief and assistance. Imagine the situation in which the deaths of over 300,000 lives including tens of thousands of children could have been avoided if it wasn’t for this distrust in medical professionals and outside expertise which could have helped alleviate and lessen this problem in which hundreds of thousands of less people would have perished from the face of this Earth. This is the sad consequence and just one example in which a distrust of experts and established knowledge caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people which could have otherwise been prevented. A monstrosity indeed.

    Principled, reasoned, informed arguments in which we are open minded to the facts and evidence to changing or altering our preexisting viewpoints are the hallmarks of intellectual and moral honesty. Instead of being skeptical but critical readers of information, so many within society at large have come to not only be skeptics but to actually disdain experts and the concept of expertise. What are the causes of such maladies? There are various reasons and theories that can help explain these phenomena within the various contexts and circumstances in which they occur but I believe based on the evidence and reasoning provided by Mr. Nichols that one significant contributor are the vast amounts of information available at our fingertips. Coupled with a lack of critical thinking skills being taught within our educational system, it has made it more difficult for everyday consumers and laypersons to be able to differentiate between valid sources and information from the vast amounts of junk, disinformation, misinformation and other quackery available freely via the information superhighway. Additionally, what has contributed to this phenomenon has been the advent and widespread use of smartphones in which we are able to stay connected to our devices and our computers twenty-four hours a day. As Mr. Nichols points out, “not only do increasing numbers of laypeople lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument” (Nichols, 3). Nichols argues and makes a rational and convincing case that “the death of expertise is not just a rejection of existing knowledge” but that “it is fundamentally a rejection of science and dispassionate rationality, which are the foundations of modern civilization” (Nichols, 5). Indeed.

    If you were asked a simple question on foreign aid, would you be able to answer it? Before reading further, please take a guess at the following question. How much foreign aid as a percentage of the national budget do, we give to other nations for development and other aid? If you guessed 10% you were quite off. If you guessed 5% you were still off. The amount of the federal budget that constitutes foreign aid is less than three quarters of one percent of our annual budget. Seemingly shocking, the average American when asked this question believes that over 25% of our annual budget goes to foreign aid (Nichols, 27). Without a baseline of facts that we can all agree with, then argumentation and disputation become nearly impossible. This is one of the primary reasons that I believe that the death of expertise and the campaign against established knowledge is so harmful and detrimental. If we are unable to agree to a baseline of facts such as 1+1=2, then how can we progress as a society and as a civilization at large? These are very pressing questions and concerns facing it now as we approach 20 years into the new millennium.

    Tom Nichols is a brilliant writer and a brilliant intellectual who has provided his expertise to laypersons like you and me. I highly recommend “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.” It most definitely does matter.

    Tom Nichols' The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters
    Purchase Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters”

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    Exclusive Interview with Glenn Kirschner

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    Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor who in the past worked personally with Robert Mueller. Mr. Kirschner was a 30-year federal prosecutor with the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and the D.C. Chief of Homicide. He started his career as an Army JAG also known as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army. You can follow him on his Facebook page and on Twitter @glennkirschner2.

    Mr. Kirschner, thank you for your time. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be able to ask you a few questions. As seen with your exhaustive and illustrated career, you have had a lengthy and experienced tenure working as a federal prosecutor. What made you decide to take such a painstaking but conscientious and rewarding career path?

    I wish I had an interesting answer to the question, “why did you decide to become a prosecutor.” But the reality is it was sort of a slow evolution. Before becoming a high school football coach, my father had served in the Army for three years. Even as a teenager, I felt like I wanted to find a way to serve my country. In college, I decided to compete for an Army ROTC scholarship in an effort to cover the cost of my tuition at Washington and Lee University, which would mean I’d be required to serve four years in the Army once I graduated. As my senior year approached, I decided to take an educational delay in my Army service to attend law school at New England School of Law in Boston. In law school, found that I loved the study of criminal law, the Constitution and trial practice. I put myself through law school and then entered active duty with the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

    As a JAG, I lucked out and landed an assignment as “Trial Counsel,” which is what the Army calls its prosecutors. I prosecuted court-martial cases beginning in 1988 while assigned to Ft. Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska. After three years I was transferred to the Army’s Government Appellate Division (GAD) in Falls Church Virginia. At GAD, I briefed and argued criminal cases on appeal for the government. I briefed and argued on some extremely interesting cases, including espionage and death penalty cases. Upon completing a three-year tour at GAD, I decided to leave the Army and join the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA). I served in DC as a federal prosecutor for 24 years until retiring from federal service.

    I found that there were three things that motivated me to spend 30 years as a prosecutor: working with and seeking justice for crime victims, trying cases in court and doing what I could to keep the criminal justice system fair, honest and collegial.

    THREE THINGS THAT MOTIVATED ME TO SPEND 30 YEARS AS A PROSECUTOR: WORKING WITH AND SEEKING JUSTICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS, TRYING CASES IN COURT AND DOING WHAT I COULD TO KEEP THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM FAIR, HONEST AND COLLEGIAL

    As we see with our institutions and the Department of Justice under constant attack from the current occupant in the White House, do you think that the damage that has been done and is continuing to be done will have a lasting impact on our country and how do you think we will be able to eventually overcome it?

     I think it’s beyond rational dispute that our institutions have been and are being damaged every day. The president has worked long and hard to undermine the country’s faith in the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community, not to mention the rule of law and objective truth. Having recently retired from the Department of Justice (think of AUSAs as the DOJ’s field prosecutors) I am troubled and saddened by the president’s incessant, unwarranted attacks of the DOJ and its officials. There are more than 100,000 DOJ employees working tirelessly to protect our country, enforce our federal laws and hold criminals accountable. When the president attacks the DOJ and the FBI, he undermines the public’s confidence in our law enforcement agencies and, I believe, runs the risk inspiring lawlessness. People may very well hear the president say the FBI and DOJ are corrupt and conclude that they should therefore not be required to obey our laws. In my opinion, our country is in very deep hole that has been dug by the president and his cronies. It will be a long, slow climb out of that hole, but I believe our country is strong enough to make that climb.

    As indicated in the opening of this interview, you have in the past worked with the current Special Counsel of the Trump/Russia investigation. Can you tell our followers a personal characteristic or anecdote about Robert Mueller than can ensure us that justice will be delivered and that his investigation will be able to reach a full and final conclusion?

    Bob Mueller was my Chief of Homicide at the US Attorney’s Office in the late 1990s. I learned a great deal from him, not only about how to prosecute murder cases but also how to run the Homicide Section (I served as Chief of Homicide from 2004 – 2010). Bob is probably the single best supervisor I ever worked for. He is an honest, ethical, straight-forward man who is extremely supportive of the people he supervises. However, if you do wrong he will call you on it, counsel you on it, and tell you how you can do better next time. He is both extremely supportive and extremely demanding.

    When I joined the Homicide Section in early 1997, I inherited a case for trial that Bob had investigated and indicted. At that point, I had been prosecuting cases for nearly a decade and felt like I knew my way around a criminal investigation. But, when I saw the incredibly thorough investigation Bob had conducted in the case, I realized that I still had a lot to learn. Thereafter, I aspired to investigate cases as thoroughly as Bob did, but I’m not sure I ever fully hit that mark.

    You also worked as the D.C. Chief of Homicide. It is public knowledge that Robert Mueller left a plushy job at a white shoe law firm, and instead got a job at D.C. homicide. Was this when you also worked with him? What can you share with us about Bob Mueller’s integrity and pursuit for justice that he would take such a distinctive and morally dignified path by giving up a hefty salary to work homicide?

    BOB IS GOVERNED EXCLUSIVELY BY THE EVIDENCE, THE RULE OF LAW AND THE ETHICS OF OUR PRACTICE

    Bob made it clear that he did not enjoy private practice. After about one year at a law firm, he chose to come to the DC USAO and be a line guy in Homicide, investigating and trying murder cases. He is a government guy at heart who enjoys holding criminals accountable and protecting our communities. In my experience, Bob is governed exclusively by the evidence, the rule of law and the ethics of our practice. Politics do not enter the equation. I find it laughable when the president keeps complaining about how ‘Mueller is conflicted’ and he is heading up a team of ‘angry democrats.’ When Bob was assembling his team, I am certain that he did not ask the applicants about their politics. That’s just not done. There is no political litmus test to work on a criminal case. If there was, the results of ALL criminal investigations would be unreliable.

    Do you personally believe that Robert Mueller will ultimately be allowed to finish his investigation and share the complete truth to the public? You had mentioned that the question of whether a sitting President can or cannot be indicted is an unanswered question and indeed even has legal precedent for the former. Do you think Bob Mueller would consider pursuing such a path?

    Glenn's final message before retiring
    Glenn’s final message before leaving homicide and entering retirement from the force

     I believe to my core that Bob Mueller is an innocent man’s best friend and a guilty man’s worst nightmare. As Special Counsel, he will hold all wrong-doers accountable. In my opinion, he will need to answer three questions for himself in deciding how to proceed against the president: 1. Is there sufficient evidence of criminal conduct to support criminal charges, 2. Is there a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president and 3. Is there any legal prohibition against indicting a sitting president. Needless to say, we are all waiting to see what the evidence is regarding Russian-Trump campaign collusion/conspiracy, cover-up/obstruction of justice, etc. But given what we have seen reported, there seems to be ample evidence of collusion/conspiracy as well as obstruction of justice. Indeed, in my time as a prosecutor, I investigated, indicted and successfully tried conspiracy and obstruction cases with less evidencing then I have seen just in the public reporting. I also believe there is a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president. Although there is a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) policy memo saying that the DOJ will not indict a sitting president, there is an exception that Mueller can ask for under the Code of Federal Regulations (the rules governing Special Counsel) to depart from the general policy. Without getting down in the procedural weeds, there is a procedural pathway to indicting a sitting president. Finally, there is nothing in the Constitution or in Supreme Court case law that prohibits the indictment of a sitting president. Assuming he can answer those three questions to his satisfaction, I think there is a strong likelihood that Mueller will ask the grand jury to indict Trump. I just don’t think he will leave it up to the vagaries of Congress to impeach the president if Bob concludes that the president has committed criminal offenses, particularly if those criminal offenses undermined our free and fair elections.

    I BELIEVE TO MY CORE THAT BOB MUELLER IS AN INNOCENT MAN’S BEST FRIEND AND A GUILTY MAN’S WORST NIGHTMARE. AS SPECIAL COUNSEL, HE WILL HOLD ALL WRONG-DOERS ACCOUNTABLE

    Any last comments or personal insight about yourself or the rule of law that you would like to share with us?

    I THINK THERE IS A STRONG LIKELIHOOD THAT MUELLER WILL ASK THE GRAND JURY TO INDICT TRUMP. I JUST DON’T THINK HE WILL LEAVE IT UP TO THE VAGARIES OF CONGRESS TO IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT IF BOB CONCLUDES THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS COMMITTED CRIMINAL OFFENSES

    Without confidence in our public institutions we are in serious trouble as a country. I look forward to a time when wrongdoers are held accountable and we can begin the long, hard uphill climb back to a place of decency, civility, and integrity.

    The Trump Corruption Story Is Also a Russia Story

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    President Donald Trump’s Russia connections began with money. The allegations in yesterday’s explosive investigation by The New York Times into the origins of Trump’s wealth not only expose staggering financial malfeasance and alleged tax evasion but also suggest a critical explanation for why Trump needed to turn to Russian money in the first place: His father was no longer there to bail him out.

    The New York Times’ groundbreaking report shows that Trump’s persona as a “successful” businessman was a total myth.

    Over and over again, Fred Trump bailed out his son, all while creatively dodging taxes.

    • Donald Trump, designated the heir to his father Fred Trump’s business empire, experienced numerous failures early on which threatened the family wealth. In the early 1990s, Trump’s businesses began to go under; as The New York Times describes it, “Trump Shuttle was failing to make loan payments within 15 months. The Plaza, drowning in debt, was bankrupt in four years. His Atlantic City casinos, also drowning in debt, tumbled one by one into bankruptcy.”
    • In the face of these financial problems, Fred Trump lent his son “at least $60.7 million,” far more than the $1 million Trump claims to have received.
    • In one notable example, Trump’s Castle casino didn’t have the funds to make a bond payment. Fred Trump sent his bookkeeper to the casino with a check for $3.35 million. The bookkeeper “bought $3.35 million worth of casino chips and left without placing a bet.” This “illegal $3.5 million loan” was critical for Trump, who “narrowly avoided defaulting on his bonds.”
    • If his father had forgiven Trump’s loans, he would have had to pay massive taxes. Instead, the two men found a workaround “that [appeared] to constitute both an unreported multimillion-dollar gift and an illegal tax write-off.” Through this scheme, Trump’s father “dodged roughly $8 million in gift taxes and $5 million in income taxes.”

    In 1997, Fred Trump shifted his empire to his children, removing a pillar that had been stabilizing Donald Trump’s shaky endeavors; Wall Street took note.

    • Trump and his siblings took over their ailing father’s empire in 1997, eventually selling it off entirely in 2004. Trump received a $177.3 million cut from this sale ($236.2 million today).
    • But by the mid-1990s, banks had taken note of Trump’s numerous business failures and begun refusing to lend to Trump, citing “the Donald Risk.” Despite successfully profiting from the sale of his father’s empire, Trump’s financial problems continued to snowball.

    Without support from his father or loans from US banks, Trump turned to alternative financing, much of it sourced from Russia and other former Soviet states.

    • Enter Michael Cohen and Felix Sater. Seeking new financing channels and new business partners, Trump turned to two questionable men, both with links to the former Soviet Union: Felix Sater and Michael Cohen.
      • Sater is a Russian-American real estate developer with links to the Russian mafia. His organization, the Bayrock Group, helped the Trump Organization secure financing from multiple Russia-linked sources in the early 2000s.
      • Cohen joined the Trump Organization in 2006. He quickly became Trump’s “fixer,” facilitating everything from shady business deals to hush money for Trump’s mistresses.
    • Trump goes global. Beginning in the mid-2000s, Trump pursued projects in notoriously corrupt locales like Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Panama, where investigators and journalists have uncovered evidence of potential money laundering and other violations of international corruption laws.
    • Deutsche Bank was one of the only financial institutions willing to lend to him. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Since 1998, the bank has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion.” Deutsche Bank was also implicated in a “ten-billion-dollar Russian money laundering scheme.” Struggling to repay a $640 million loan after the 2008 financial crash, Trump sued a group of lenders led by the bank for $3 billion their roles in causing the crisis, only for Deutsche Bank to countersue for an unspecified amount. Yet the cases were ultimately settled—and Deutsche Bank reopened its line of credit with Trump, who still owes the bank hundreds of millions of dollars, through its private-wealth-management side.
    • After the financial crisis, Trump was somehow able to spend hundreds of millions in cash on properties after the financial crisis, despite suffering a “string of commercial bankruptcies.” The Washington Post reported in May that “In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties—including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks—during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described ‘King of Debt.’”
    • For example, a recent examination of Trump’s Scottish golf courses raised more questions than answers. Quartz assessed that the investments in his Scottish golf courses “appear to make little business sense. The Trump Organization has already shelled out hundreds of millions on two golf courses in the country in the last 12 years, and both have performed terribly.” Where was this money coming from? According to a 2013 Boston radio interview with golf journalist James Dodson, Eric Trump told Dodson that Trump golf courses heavily relied on funding from Russia. (Eric Trump has denied the reporter’s claim).

    Corrupt business activities left Trump vulnerable. The pattern of corrupt behavior, which began in Trump’s youth, likely provided ample opportunities for a country like Russia to compromise Trump before he even entered office.

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin is an expert at weaponizing the corruption of others to achieve his foreign policy goals. As Adam Davidson of The New Yorker has written, the Kremlin may not be holding the kind of kompromat on Trump the Steele Dossier alleges; they may simply be evidence of his decades of criminal behavior that could bring his most prized possession—his international brand—crashing to the ground.

    The New York Times investigation makes it clear that Trump’s seemingly boundless corruption extends back decades. That corruption formed the basis for one of the largest political scandals in history: the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. 

    The Origins of Russia’s Broad Political Assault on the United States

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    The Kremlin and the Saint Basil the Blessed cathedral on the Red Square by night. (Photo by michel Setboun/Corbis via Getty Images)

    Introduction and summary

    On January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified assessment to the public confirming what most had already suspected: Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.1 Since the intelligence community released its assessment, the public has learned a great deal about this assault from the special counsel investigation, press reporting, and declassified intelligence. Based on analysis of available material, it has become increasingly clear when, how, and why Russia launched the campaign against American democracy. It is evident that there was a surge of activity intended to influence the American electorate and political institutions that originated in 2014 as a counterresponse to the U.S.-led international isolation of Russia following its intervention in Ukraine.

    To be clear, Russia’s use of political weaponry against the United States extends further back than just 2014. In fact, a 1981 U.S. State Department Special Report defined Soviet active measures as “operations intended to affect other nations’ policies, as distinct from espionage and counterintelligence,” but not including the legitimate tools of public diplomacy.2 The 1981 report highlights many of the same instruments that Russia uses today, including disinformation, controlling foreign media, deploying front groups, using blackmail, and engaging in political-influence operations.3

    Despite Russia’s history of interference, however, it is apparent that in 2014, Russia launched a distinct and multifaceted campaign to undermine and influence the American democratic process. The goals of this campaign are clear:

    • To sow political and social discord in the United States;
    • To undermine and challenge the American and Western democratic system as a model to emulate for transitioning democracies; and
    • To foster ties and support among powerful voices within the party that Russian hawks have traditionally dominated, with the aim to soften that party’s stance.

    This campaign, which is still ongoing, consists of five mutually reinforcing lines of effort (LOE):

    LOE 1: The deployment of information warfare;

    LOE 2: The use of cyberoperations;

    LOE 3: The courting of influential voices within the American conservative movement;

    LOE 4: The support for extreme and destabilizing political movements; and

    LOE 5: The direct targeting of voters.

    When examining these separate lines of influence, a clear pattern emerges: All five LOEs either commenced or accelerated in 2014 and early 2015. That all of these LOEs began at about the same time suggests that there was a moment following the Ukraine crisis when a specific decision was made to deploy a far-reaching campaign across multiple fronts. Taken as a whole, this reveals a much broader—and more coordinated—effort than has previously been understood.

    Background and context: The importance of 2014

    When President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, U.S.-Russia relations had reached what was then considered their post-Cold War nadir. After a series of disagreements—over issues including NATO expansion, the Bush administration’s missile defense program, support for democratic colour revolutions in former Soviet states, and the Iraq War—the relationship reached a new low when Russia invaded its neighbor, Georgia.4 This prompted a strong U.S.-led international condemnation. Much like his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, President Obama originally saw Russia as an important partner on key global issues and pursued a policy of detente known as the Russia reset.5 This coincided with Putin stepping down from the presidency for one term to serve as prime minister, obliging, only in a very technical sense, to constitutional term limits.6 There were significant achievements gained under the reset, including the New START treaty, international sanctions against Iran, the opening of the Northern Distribution Network supply line into Afghanistan, and cooperation on counterterrorism and law enforcement. In 2011, however, U.S.-Russia relations began to sour.

    That fall, then-Prime Minister Putin announced that he would seek a return to the presidency, standing as a candidate in the March 2012 presidential election. While he had remained the center of power in Moscow as prime minster, Putin’s announcement that he would return as president angered many young, urban, middle-class voters, who felt that this deprived them of a real choice at the ballot box.7 Then, in December 2011, Russia held parliamentary elections where Putin’s United Russia party performed poorly but still won. Election observers soon brought to light widespread irregularities, which spread quickly due to the recent proliferation of social media and smartphones. This quickly led to popular protests across Russia. The demonstrations grew, reaching hundreds of thousands of people and making them the largest protests of their kind since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union.8

    These demonstrations coincided with the Arab Spring, when popular protests throughout the Middle East toppled one dictator after another. The unrest frightened Putin, who was shocked by how quickly political and military elites abandoned leaders such as Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, and particularly shaken by the death of former Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi at the hands of his own people.9 Putin viewed the protests throughout Russia as a rehearsal for a similar uprising at home, and he was convinced that America was behind the unrest.10 Putin labeled the Russian protesters as agents of American influence, seeking to discredit them and building off his long-held belief that the United States was behind the colour revolutions in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine during the previous decade. Now, he believed, it was happening in Russia.11 Specifically, he blamed then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had criticized the parliamentary vote and who Putin believed was personally behind the protests, claiming they were a State Department-backed effort and that Secretary Clinton’s critical remarks were a signal to the protesters for their “active work” to begin.12

    As relations with Russia broke down upon Putin’s return to the presidency and the ensuing crackdown on opposition after the 2011 protests, the U.S. government—both the Obama administration and Congress—began to pressure Russia on its human-rights abuses and aggressive foreign policy. In 2012, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on individuals involved in the detention, abuse, and death of Russian lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky as well as others whom the United States considers “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other human rights violations committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the government of the Russian Federation.”13 At its core, the Magnitsky Act targets powerful Russian officials by freezing their assets and restricting their entry into the United States.

    The Russian elite was furious about this move. Many of Russia’s rich and powerful have their families and fortunes parked in Western cities to take advantage of the lifestyle as well as to protect their fortunes.14 These new measures put in place the first major roadblock for the Russian elite to travel to the West and gain access to the American financial infrastructure. The Magnitsky Act exposed a vulnerability and, after its passage, these powerful and wealthy Russians, on whose support Putin depends, became worried about Western authorities freezing their funds.15

    Putin’s response was asymmetric, nonsensical, and unusually cruel.16 A proportional economic response was out of the question because retaliatory sanctions from Russia would do little to impact U.S. interests and would much more likely harm Russia’s economy. So instead, Putin responded by suspending American adoptions of Russian orphans, many of whom were sick or disabled.17 In doing so, Putin tapped into post-reset anti-American sentiment by holding up a handful of cases in which Russian adoptees died after being taken in by American families and insisting that Russia needed no help when it came to taking care of its own.18 Russia also increasingly harassed American diplomats serving in Moscow, most notably then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.19

    The key final trigger, however, was the Euromaidan Revolution that gripped Ukraine in the winter of 2013-14. Beginning in late November 2013, demonstrators took to Independence Square, also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, after the government of pro-Russia President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych decided to suspend the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, opting for closer ties to Russia instead. However, the people of Ukraine wanted a future associated with Europe and the liberal democratic values that accompany that opportunity. Because the protests concerned whether Ukraine’s future lay with the West or with Russia, it quickly became a geopolitical tug of war that Putin conspiratorially believed the United States was instigating.20

    Putin views the European Union as a strategic threat because of its ability to drive liberal reforms in associated countries, pulling them away from Russia. Putin instead sought to build a Eurasian Union that would serve as an alternative shared market, and Ukraine was central to its success.21 When the revolution succeeded, causing President Yanukovych to flee to Russia in February 2014, Moscow saw it as a genuine danger.

    Russia’s response shocked the world. Moscow illegally annexed Crimea and invaded the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, where it supported pro-Russian separatists. This series of events alarmed the Euro-Atlantic community and marked the most blatant land grab in Europe since World War II.22 In response, the United States, in conjunction with its European allies, implemented a new round of sanctions modeled after the Magnitsky Act.23

    Through a series of executive orders, President Obama targeted individuals and entities responsible for the Russian annexation of Crimea; undermining Ukraine’s stability and misappropriating its assets; using armed force in Ukraine; or conducting business in Russian-occupied Crimea. The United States also issued a series of sanctions targeting the Russian energy and defense sectors.24

    Between 2014 and 2017, the United States imposed sanctions on at least 595 individuals and entities including Russian officials, Ukrainian officials, de facto Crimean officials, Donbas secessionists, and Crimea-based companies.25 Designated entities had their assets under U.S. jurisdiction frozen and were denied entry into the United States, and Americans were prohibited from doing business with these individuals. The European Union’s sanctions were closely coordinated with the United States.26

    Russia was further isolated diplomatically as the G-8 canceled a planned summit in Sochi and expelled Russia as a member.27 Russia’s accession to the G-8 in 1998 was a major diplomatic achievement for the Yeltsin administration, bringing the country into the fold of the exclusive club of global leaders. Now Russia was on the outside.

    However, Putin’s response to the isolation was uncharacteristically muted, consisting primarily of banning a handful of American officials from traveling to Russia and implementing a ban on Western food products. He did not immediately respond with further escalation, and the retaliatory tit for tat appeared over by 2015.28 However, it is now clear that the full nature of Russia’s response was nowhere near over. Russia was conducting a full-fledged campaign to influence and undermine the American political system beginning in 2014—and targeting the 2016 presidential election.

    LOE 1: Information warfare

    Perhaps the best-documented and understood LOE in the 2016 election was Russian bots and troll farms’ use of disinformation and divisive propaganda, as outlined in remarkably detailed indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. When Mueller issued this round of indictments, there were two surprising discoveries: 1) the level of detail and information that Mueller was able to collect and verify about how the events unfolded; and 2) that the project appeared to have launched as far back as 2014.

    As the special counsel indictment states, “Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”29 The organization named in the indictment is the now infamous Internet Research Agency (IRA), which also went by a series of other names designed to conceal its activity. Specifically, in 2014, the IRA:

    Started receiving funding: The group began receiving its funding from Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin who set up and financed the operation.30 Prigozhin is known to be Putin’s go-to oligarch for special, often unsavory, projects, such as recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria.31

    Put together a team: Almost all of the organization’s senior staff was hired in 2014, and its top five officials were all put in place over a very short period between March and April 2014.32 This came just one month after President Obama signed the first executive order implementing Ukraine-related sanctions.33

    Built a structure to obscure its work: The organization set up the structure it used through the 2016 U.S. presidential election and beyond, establishing a series of front companies and cutouts designed to obscure its activities.34

    Obtained a physical office space: The group set up an office at 55 Savushkina St. in St. Petersburg, Russia, that became an operational hub for its activities to interfere in the U.S. political system.35

    Began researching U.S. politics: The group started tracking and studying groups on American social media sites dedicated to political and social issues. Two defendants listed in the indictment even traveled to the United States in June 2014, gathering intelligence in nine different states. Another defendant traveled to Atlanta in November 2014.36

    Developed a strategy: According to the special counsel indictment, by May 2014, the organization had developed a strategy to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”37

    Opened fake social media accounts: In addition to Mueller’s indictment, subsequent analysis by NPR and the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy found that fake accounts posing as local news organizations were created in May 2014.38

    This incredible series of events that occurred in a short period of time suggest that the organization was created with intent and a clear mission in mind resulting from a specific decision from the highest level of the Russian government.

    LOE 2: Cyberintrusion

    The most recent round of indictments from the special counsel’s office released in July detailed a complex and extensive conspiracy by elite units in the GRU—Russia’s military intelligence directorate—to hack the computers of Americans involved in the 2016 presidential elections, steal documents, and stage the release of those documents.39 The use of offensive cyberweapons is not a new strategy for Russia. The Russian government has mounted cyberattacks on foreign countries for at least a decade, targeting former Soviet bloc countries such as Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Ukraine as far back as 2007.40 However, 2014 marked a dramatic uptick in increasingly bold activity aimed at U.S. targets.

    Significant developments in Russian cyberoperations in 2014 include:

    The U.S. State Department hack: Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. State Department system in what was considered at the time to be the “worst ever” cyberintrusion against a federal agency.41

    The White House hack: Russian hackers breached the unclassified White House computer networks. As with the hack of then-Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails in 2016, Russian hackers’ intrusion on White House networks is believed to have begun with a phishing email launched from a State Department email account that the Russian hackers had taken over.42

    Thanks in part to a Dutch intelligence agency that had infiltrated the hacking group, we now know that Cozy Bear, the Russian military intelligence unit that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Podesta, also perpetrated these attacks.43 These hackers were not just ordinary Russians; they were an elite unit associated with the GRU.

    Targeting infrastructure: Beginning in 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started warning utility companies about threats that Russian hackers pose to critical infrastructure.44

    While Russia’s cybercapabilities hardly began in 2014, it does appear that the cybertools and cyberweapons that would become central to the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election were being refined and sharpened then.

    LOE 3: Courting of conservative institutions

    Around the same time that the IRA was ramping up its efforts in the United States and Russian hackers were growing increasingly bold against American targets, there was what appears to have been a very deliberate and concerted outreach on behalf of the Kremlin to court and foster relationships with influential conservative political groups.

    This strategy of building ties with Republican thought leaders and influencers may strike some as counterintuitive. However, it comports with Russian objectives and resources in three important ways. First, in seeking to temper the Republican Party’s stance on Russia, accumulating goodwill and support from some of the Party’s most influential voices would go a long way. Second, the Russian intelligence services are well-practiced in this tactic. For decades, the same intelligence services in the Soviet Union sought to influence groups on the left in NATO countries, so these methods would be familiar ground.45 Third, this played perfectly into Putin’s domestic goals as well as his foreign policy strategy. Domestically, Putin had begun to actively champion traditional values.46 He had elevated the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, seeking to position Russia as a stable counter to the West’s increasingly progressive ideals. Famously, he passed a draconian anti-LGBT law in June 2013 that international organizations and human rights groups have criticized as discriminatory.47 Thus, courting conservative American groups served a double purpose: It increased Russian influence in America while perpetuating Putin’s new image as a defender of conservative ideals.

    Activity that accelerated in the 2014-2015 time frame includes:

    Deepening ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA): The most thoroughly explored of these relationships is that between the Kremlin and the NRA. In a preliminary report on their investigation between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote that they had “obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign.”48 The FBI is also reportedly investigating whether Russia used the NRA to illegally funnel money into the United States to help then-candidate Trump win the election.49 Furthermore, a Justice Department criminal complaint against Russian agent Maria Butina issued in July 2018 outlines her extensive effort to use or work with the NRA to expand her influence in American politics. Funded by a Kremlin-aligned oligarch, Butina reported back to a high-level government official and close associate of Putin. According to the affidavit, Butina specifically sought to “penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus.”50 Butina revealed her strategy in a March 2015 email, writing that the Republican Party is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia. However, now with the right to negotiate seems best to build konstruktivnyh [sic] relations.”51 The fact that she was already in the United States, collecting intelligence, and developing a strategy suggests that the operation began earlier than 2015.

    Russia’s outreach to the evangelical community: In this period, Putin began building and strengthening existing ties with leaders from another group that is highly influential in American conservative politics: the evangelical movement.52

    The most notable example is a 45-minute meeting that took place in December 2015 between Putin and evangelical leader Franklin Graham, during which Graham reportedly secured Putin’s support for a conference on the persecution of Christians.53 According to The Washington Post, Putin went beyond what Graham was seeking and offered to organize the conference himself. Graham later called on his followers to support a 2017 meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin, accusing “the media and enemies of President Trump” of trying to “drive a wedge between Russia and the United States,” and adding that “our country needs Russia as an ally.”54

    Other conservative Christian leaders and organizations expanded both direct and ideological ties to Russia during this period. According to The Washington Post, for example, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage and a leading opponent of same-sex marriage, visited Moscow four times in four years between 2013 and 2017, where he met with lawmakers and testified before the Duma, the Russian Parliament.55

    This is not to say that Graham or any other evangelical leaders necessarily did anything illicit in these meetings. It does, however, suggest that Russia was actively courting leading voices of this movement. Similar activity predates 2014, but it is evident that the cadence and level of engagement on the part of the Kremlin accelerated around 2014.

    LOE 4: Fostering destabilizing political movements

    A cornerstone of the Kremlin’s strategy to undermine democratic processes in its near abroad has been to support destabilizing or fringe parties, movements, and causes—particularly those that weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance and the liberal world order more broadly.56 This support has often relied on the tactics described earlier in this report. For example, Russian bots on social media supported the “leave” campaign during the Brexit referendum, and an investigation in the United Kingdom is looking into potential links to the Russia government; a Kremlin-backed bank provided financial support for the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant National Front Party in France; and the Catalan independence movement received significant support from Russian trolls, bots, and state television.57

    Russia has also supported fringe political movements in the United States. For example, Russia’s online support for secessionist movements and the alt-right within the United States is well-documented.58 However, both these movements have even deeper ties to Russia, and, again, 2014 was a key moment in their development.

    Russia and Yes California: In 2014, Yes California—the secessionist organization behind the so-called Calexit vote in 2016—was founded in San Diego. It is unusual that Yes California President and Co-Founder Louis J. Marinelli—a New York native—does not have not have deep roots in California. Marinelli does, however, have considerable ties to Russia. The 32-year-old lived in Russia for several stretches following college until he moved to California and started the California secessionist organization in 2014.59 In fact, the organization has been run out of Russia, specifically the city of Yekaterinburg on the edges of Siberia, where Marinelli lives with his wife.60

    Marinelli has denied any connections to Russian officials and said that the group receives no foreign funding.61 However, the group has reportedly opened an embassy in Moscow—the only one of its kind—with the aid of a Kremlin-financed group.62 Beyond the embassy, however, we know that Russian bots, trolls, and state television helped promote the movement that Marinelli founded. We know that Marinelli has deep ties to Russia. We know that the Kremlin has supported similar secessionist efforts throughout Europe and the Middle East. It is therefore entirely plausible that the group received additional support, encouragement, or manipulation from Russian sources—even if Marinelli and the rest of the organization were unaware of the origin of the support. And, once again, the start date for this alleged activity was 2014.

    Russia and the alt-right: While California’s secession may seem like a peripheral movement with a marginal impact on American political life, few movements have had a more toxic effect on American political discourse than the recent rise of the white nationalists of the alt-right. Again, the movement has deep ties with Russia and the 2014-2015 time frame is key.

    Putin has promoted an image of himself as the leader of a global white ethnonationalist movement since at least 2012. This coincides with his campaign for his third term as president, when he wanted to project an image of Russia not only as a military power, but also a civilizational model and defender of traditional values that was deserving of international respect.63

    According to a profile in The Atlantic of Andrew Anglin—the founder of The Daily Stormer who espouses views sympathetic to the Kremlin—spent 2014 and 2015 in Europe and Russia.64 The details of what he was doing in Russia are not clear, but it was during this time period that Anglin connected with The Daily Stormer’s future Chief Technology Officer Andrew Auernheimer.65 As The Atlantic’s Luke O’Brien describes their meeting:

    In 2014, Anglin was living in Europe when he found a partner in Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. “weev,” a neo-Nazi hacker and troll. Auernheimer grew up in the Ozarks and went to federal prison in 2013 on identity-theft and hacking charges. After his conviction was vacated on appeal a year later, he moved abroad. He now lives in Transnistria, a small, Russia-backed breakaway region on Moldova’s eastern border.66

    It was after these two teamed up—the tech-savvy hacker and the prolific online troll—that The Daily Stormer took off. Anglin keeps his whereabouts secret. However, official records show that he was in  Russia in 2016, casting his absentee ballot in the election from Krasnodar, a Russian city on the Black Sea, according to the records in Franklin County, Ohio.67 Anglin has denied taking any support or direction from the Russian government. Whether he is aware of it or not, however, the content from his website has been promoted by bots and individuals operating under false identities that shut down between midnight and 6:00 a.m. local time in Moscow and St. Petersburg.68

    The unusual ties between America’s far-right and Russia, especially during the 2014-2015 time period, go deeper than just The Daily Stormer. In 2014, the prominent alt-right activist Matthew Heimbach, who has described Russia as the “leader of the free world right now” and a “model for civilization,” was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church.69 And in 2015, St. Petersburg hosted the International Russian Conservative Forum, where American white nationalists joined 30 representatives from groups including Greece’s Golden Dawn, the National Democratic Party of Germany, Italy’s Forza Nuova, the Russian Imperial Movement, as well as the former head of the British National Party, Nick Griffin.70

    It is unclear what—if any—direct connection the Russian government and intelligence services may have to these organizations. There is no publicly available record of financial support, though The Daily Stormer’s primary source of funding comes from anonymous bitcoin donations, which makes it difficult to know the ultimate source.71 As with Yes California, however, there are a series of mysterious connections that lead back to Russia. Whether or not the Americans involved were aware, it is very likely they could have been receiving support or encouragement from Russian intelligence services as part of an effort to promote discord, sow divide, and poison the political conversation in the United States.72 In fact, it would be almost unthinkable that leaders of American separatist movements and neo-Nazi organizations would be operating out of Russia without, at a minimum, the government of Russia’s knowledge and consent.

    LOE 5: Voter targeting

    Perhaps the least-understood LOE is Russia’s attempt to directly sway voters for an electoral impact. However, revelations, especially from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, have provided some new insight into how Russia may have engaged directly in efforts to influence voters.73 Yet again, a series of suspicious events took place in 2014 that appear to mark the beginning of a concerted effort.

    Lukoil executives meet with Cambridge Analytica: In 2014 and early 2015, Cambridge Analytica met at least three times with Kremlin-connected executives from the Russian oil giant Lukoil, which the United States sanctioned in 2014 in response to Russian acts of aggression in Ukraine.74 The Lukoil executives reportedly “showed interest” not in Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group’s consumer-focused work, but in its use of data to target messages to American voters. Adding to the suspicion, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix later lied to the U.K. parliament’s investigative committee, saying he had no contacts with Russian entities.75

    To understand why a Russian petroleum and natural gas giant would be interested in American voter behavior, it is helpful to look more closely at Lukoil’s history of interfering in other countries’ politics to the benefit of the Kremlin. For example, Czech President Milos Zeman has been subject to accusations that Lukoil helped finance his presidential campaign.76 While the exact details of that financial relationship have not come to light, there are well-documented ties between Lukoil and Prague Castle.77 The former head of a Lukoil subsidiary is one of Zeman’s top advisers and Party vice chairman and has been a driving force behind the country’s pro-Russian tilt. The company even paid a $1.4 million fine he faced, allowing him to keep his influential job and his office next to the president’s.78 This demonstrates the extent to which Lukoil was willing to intervene in the legal and political machinations of countries to serve the Kremlin’s foreign policy objectives. This context helps explain why Lukoil might have been interested in Cambridge Analytica’s information on American voters, though we ultimately do not yet know the exact purpose behind the meeting.

    Cambridge Analytica obtains Facebook data: In June 2014, Cambridge Analytica first enlisted the Russian-American academic Aleksandr Kogan to mine private Facebook user data. Kogan received grants from the Russian government to research “stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks.”79

    Steve Bannon begins message testing Russia as an issue: In 2014, Steve Bannon, then a vice president at Cambridge Analytica, had the firm testing messages around Putin and Russian expansion, according to Wylie. This past April, Wylie told members of the U.S. House Judiciary and Oversight committees that, under Bannon’s instruction, the firm discussed Putin with focus groups, tested images of the Russian president, and asked questions about Russian expansion in Eastern Europe. Wylie added that “it was the only foreign issue, or foreign leader, I should say, being tested at the time I was there.”80

    In other words, within a short period of time, Kremlin-linked businessmen approached a data analytics firm about targeting American voters. That same firm, which would later go on to serve as the digital arm of the Trump campaign, then acquired data on American voters through a Russian contact. The firm’s vice president, who would later become the CEO of the Trump campaign and chief strategist in the White House, began exploring how pro-Russian messages would appeal to an American public. The depth of the ties and the details of the relationship between Russia and Cambridge Analytica remain unknown to the public, but it does appear that 2014 marked a significant starting point in that relationship.

    Policy implications

    It is clear that the full-fledged, coordinated attack against the United States’ political system began in 2014 and in response to a series of events that culminated in the international reaction to the Ukraine crisis. Considering this analysis, the U.S. government should pursue a two-pronged strategy consisting of an offense that places more pressure on the Kremlin to discontinue its malign behavior and a defense that better protects from asymmetric responses coming out of Moscow.

    Offense: Pressure the Kremlin through additional sanctions

    Perhaps the most important policy lesson from this analysis is that the package of diplomatic and economic measures put into place following the invasion of Crimea that intended to isolate Putin by targeting his base of support was ultimately so forceful that that Putin was willing to undertake this extraordinarily ambitious and risky campaign to strike back.

    The 2014 sanctions were designed to send a message to Russia that there is a cost for violating another country’s sovereignty and to push Russia toward a resolution that would respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity under international law. They were also designed to minimize the negative economic blowback on the still-recovering economies in Europe and the United States. The series of events outlined above suggests that U.S. policy did in fact influence Putin’s behavior, just not as intended. Ultimately, sanctions against Russia had minimal impact on the United States and Europe, but they had a hugely significant impact on the Russian economy and the Kremlin elite—so much so that Putin felt the need to find a way to hit back. The United States and Europe, however, misread how Russia would respond.

    The lesson from this is that the United States and Europe have huge potential leverage over Russia through sanctions, but that the United States and Europe must also expect a response and should be intensely focused on countering asymmetric Russian measures.

    Therefore, the strategic approach for the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is sound. The legislation targets the oligarchs and security officials surrounding Putin to send a clear message that echoes the Magnitsky Act: Putin cannot protect you, or your money.81 The Trump administration, however, has repeatedly delayed and bungled CAATSA’s implementation.82 Most recently, an executive order mandating a review by the director of national intelligence following the election appears to have been an effort to undermine pending legislation in Congress rather than seriously address the problem.83

    Congress and the Trump administration should immediately take the following steps:

    Pass and sign the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018

    A bipartisan group led by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced new legislation to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Russia in response to its continued interference in U.S. elections as well as other activities, including aggression in Crimea and influence in Syria.84 This legislation is a necessary follow-up to CAATSA. In addition to reconfirming America’s support for NATO, the legislation expands sanctions on new Russian sovereign debt; against investment in state-owned energy projects; and on targeted political figures, oligarchs, and family members who facilitate illicit and corrupt activities on behalf of Putin. Because this bill is meant to respond to Russia’s continued interference ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Congress should immediately move forward with the legislation.

    Reinstate the U.S. State Department’s office of sanctions coordination

    The office, which was created under the Obama administration to coordinate an increasingly complicated network of financial and geoeconomic tools, was shuttered in 2017 by the Trump administration. The responsibilities of the office, which were previously handled by a senior career ambassador and a staff of at least five, were transferred to a single mid-level staffer in the office of policy planning. Given the expansion of sanctions, their increasing complexity, and the Trump administration’s failure to adequately implement CAATSA, the sanctions coordination office at the State Department should immediately be reinstated and empowered to coordinate these mechanisms across the government.85

    Defense: Increase protections against asymmetric attacks

    The Kremlin has demonstrated that it will seek to hit back in response to sanctions. Therefore, the United States and Europe need to work energetically to better defend themselves and to limit potential avenues of attack.

    The Kremlin’s most effective response has been to attack U.S. and European democracies by exploiting the openness of liberal societies. It is clear from Putin’s assault on the United States that what he fears most is the success of democratic systems and the strength of the Euro-Atlantic institutions.86 It was his fear that Ukraine would seek a free, open, and democratic future tied to the European Union that eventually was the last straw for him, triggering the 2016 assault. As such, America needs to prioritize protecting democracy and the rule of law as the primary weapon in this  fight. With this in mind, Congress and the Trump administration should take the following steps:

    Enhance government coordination to counter foreign interference

    As outlined above, foreign interference in our democracy is an issue that cuts across issue verticals and agency responsibilities. To improve its coordination among the multiple agencies responding to and preventing foreign influence, the U.S. government should either stand up a high-level dedicated interagency task force or create a new center to coordinate government efforts that is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).87 This group should bring together law enforcement, intelligence, and subject-matter experts to conduct threat analysis, facilitate information sharing, and conduct strategic operation planning across the government.

    Expand transparency in the U.S. political and economic system

    The Russian political assault on the United States has affected nearly every major sector of influence in America: social media; nonprofit organizations; lobbying firms; television and radio; religious leaders; grassroots activists; and major corporations. This reach reveals just how opaque the American political and economic systems are. Current money laundering regulations are clearly inadequate and underenforced, as are regulations meant to provide transparency for foreign political influence, such as the Foreign Agent’s Registration Act (FARA), which was originally written to curb the influence of Nazi propaganda in the 1930s.88 The proliferation of cryptocurrency only makes secret donations more difficult to trace. Current regulations need to be updated to address modern threats.

    Expand U.S. counterintelligence efforts against Russia and protect the Mueller investigation

    While U.S. intelligence agencies turned their focus from Russia to countering terrorism—especially after 9/11—Russia maintained its intelligence focus on the United States. Given Russia’s hostile intentions, the United States must redouble its efforts to counter Russian espionage efforts.

    Special counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attack on the United States and its American co-conspirators is critical to this effort. The investigation is working at a breakneck speed and has already made considerable progress in uncovering the details behind the attack. The special counsel has produced indictments against 35 entities, including 29 Russian entities; six guilty pleas; and a conviction against former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.89

    Yet, President Trump and his supporters in Congress have launched an unprecedented campaign of harassment and obstruction toward the special counsel.90 The president reportedly even tried to fire Mueller on multiple occasions until he was stopped by his staff.91 This investigation must be allowed to continue without interference or obstruction. There is currently legislation before the Senate that would grant Mueller, or any future special counsel, a judicial review if he were fired.92 It would also require the attorney general to provide a report to Congress if a special counsel is appointed or removed as well as detailed information if the scope of an investigation is changed. The bill essentially creates a route, in the event that a special counsel is fired, for the decision to be immediately challenged in court. The bill has passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support but has stalled due to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) refusal to bring it to the floor on the grounds that it is unnecessary.93 Protecting the Mueller investigation and bringing those responsible for the attack on the U.S. election to justice would be a victory for the rule of law and would send an important message to the world that, unlike Putin’s system of cronyism and kleptocracy, all are equal in the eyes of the law in the United States.

    Ensure social media companies provide greater transparency and data protection

    American social media companies have built incredibly innovative tools that help drive our economy. However, these tools are also being used as a weapon against American democracy; Russian bots and trolls are actively exploiting their access to U.S. social media to advance disinformation operations against the American public. Congress should require social media companies to ensure their platforms are transparent by immediately moving to pass the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertising on social media to have a similar level of transparency as ads broadcast by television and radio stations.94 Tech companies must also do more to protect users’ data and information. That data can be incredibly sensitive and used to manipulate audiences, influence events, shape public opinion, and potentially blackmail and recruit potential foreign agents.95 Congress should work with these industries to establish regulations and guidelines that ensure consumer privacy and protection.

    Improve the readiness of front-line NATO and European forces

    While it is unlikely that Putin will undertake a direct military response in reaction to additional sanctions, he is known to seize tactical opportunities—often through the use of military force. The NATO alliance as well as non-NATO European states should be on-guard and seek to improve readiness to harden soft points in their defenses and, therefore, close off any significant military openings for the Kremlin.96

    Conclusion

    The unprecedented Russian assault on the United States has captured America’s and the world’s attention, and the public continues to learn new details about what happened each and every day. It is now clear that this attack on our democracy was more robust and coordinated than had been previously understood, consisting of five concurrent LOEs that were launched together in 2014 as an answer to the U.S.-led international response to the Ukraine crisis. These LOEs were sophisticated and mutually reinforcing, combining disinformation, cyberintrusion, support for destabilizing groups, political influence, and direct targeting of voters. And they had the combined goal of sowing chaos, undermining the reputation of democracy, and even shifting American policy toward Russia.

    No matter how sophisticated and effective this attack may have been, it was done from a position of weakness on Russia’s part; the attack was asymmetric because Russia lacks the means to respond to the United States as a peer. This is a difficult but not insurmountable problem. The Trump administration, however, has failed to either demonstrate that there is a cost to interfering in America’s democracy or protect the country from further Russian aggression. Congress needs to step up with a dual-pronged approach that both applies pressure on Russia via additional sanctions and improves the United States’ defensive capabilities against further Russian interference.

    About the author

    James Lamond is a senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, where he focuses on issues related to Russian interference, European security, and foreign influence.

    Endnotes

    1. National Intelligence Council, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections, (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2017), p.2, available at https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf.
    2. Bureau of Public Affairs, Soviet “Active Measures”: Forgery, Disinformation, Political Operations, Special Report No. 88 (U.S. Department of State, 1981), available at https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001303150031-0.pdf.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Cory Welt, “Russia: Background and U.S. Policy” (Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2017), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44775.pdf.
    5. Peter Baker, “Obama Resets Ties to Russia, but Work Remains,” The New York Times, July 7, 2009, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/world/europe/08prexy.html.
    6. Luke Harding, “Putin Ever Present as Medvedev Becomes President,” The Guardian, May 8, 2018, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/08/russia.
    7. Michael McFaul, From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) p. 242.
    8. Ibid, 243.
    9. Ibid, 243–244.
    10. Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa, “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War,” The New Yorker, March 6, 2017, available at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war
    11. McFaul, Cold War to Hot Peace, p. 244.
    12. Miriam Elder, “Vladimir Putin accuses Hillary Clinton of encouraging Russian protests,” The Guardian, December 8, 2011, available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/08/vladimir-putin-hillary-clinton-russia.
    13. Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, H.R. 6156, 112 Cong. 208 sess. (Government Printing Office, 2012).
    14. Julia Ioffe, “Why Does the Kremlin Care So Much About the Magnitsky Act?”, The Atlantic, July 27, 2017, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/magnitsky-act-kremlin/535044/.
    15. Ibid.
    16. Ibid.
    17. Fiona Hill, “In Response to Sanctions, Russia Aims to Bar U.S. Adoptions of Russian Children,” PBS NewsHour, December 27, 2012, available at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/russia-aims-to-bar-u-s-adoptions-of-russian-children.
    18. David J. Kramer and Arch Puddington, “Russia’s adoption ban says much about Putin,” The Washington Post, January 1, 2013, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/russias-adoption-ban-says-much-about-putin/2013/01/01/d84455e8-5453-11e2-bf3e-76c0a789346f_story.html?utm_term=.1c3570046ba2.
    19. McFaul, From Cold War to Hot Peace.  
    20. Andrew Higgins and Peter Baker, “Russia Claims U.S. Is Meddling Over Ukraine,” February 6, 2014, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/07/world/europe/ukraine.html.
    21. Steven Pifer and Fiona Hill, “Putin’s Russia Goes Rogue.” In Ted Piccone, Steven Pifer, and Thomas Wright, ed., Big Bets & Black Swans (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2014), available at https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BigBets_BlackSwans_2014-21.pdf.
    22. Steven Pifer, “Ukraine, Russia and the U.S. Policy Response,” Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Developments in Ukraine,” June 5, 2014, available at https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/ukraine-russia-and-the-u-s-policy-response/.
    23. Mark Landler, Annie Lowrey, and Steven Lee Myers, “Obama Steps Up Russia Sanctions in Ukraine Crisis,” The New York Times, March 20, 2014, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/us/politics/us-expanding-sanctions-against-russia-over-ukraine.html.
    24. Welt, “Russia.”
    25. Ibid.
    26. Ibid. 
    27. Jim Acosta, “U.S., other powers kick Russia out of G8,” CNN, March 24, 2014, available at https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/24/politics/obama-europe-trip/index.html.
    28. Welt, “Russia.”
    29. Office of Special Counsel, United States of America v. Internet Research Agency et al., (U.S. Department of Justice, 2018), p. 3, available at https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download.
    30. Ibid, p.2.
    31. Neil MacFarquhar, “Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Oligarch Indicted by U.S., Is Known as ‘Putin’s Cook’,” The New York Times, February 16, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/world/europe/prigozhin-russia-indictment-mueller.html.
    32. Office of the Special Counsel, United States of America v. Internet Research Agency et al., p. 8–11.
    33. Executive Order no. 13660, Code of Federal Regulations, vol. 70, no. 46 (2014).
    34. Office of Special Counsel, United States of America v. Internet Research Agency et al., p.5.
    35. Ibid, p.5.
    36. Ibid, p.13.
    37. Ibid, p.6.
    38. Tim Mak, “Russian Influence Campaign Sought To Exploit Americans’ Trust In Local News,” NPR, July 12, 2018, available at https://www.npr.org/2018/07/12/628085238/russian-influence-campaign-sought-to-exploit-americans-trust-in-local-news.
    39. Office of Special Counsel, United States of America v. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho et al., (U.S. Department of Justice, 2018), p. 1–3, available at https://www.justice.gov/file/1080281/download
    40. Robert Windrem, “Timeline: Ten Years of Russian Cyber Attacks on Other Nations,” NBC News, December 18, 2016, available at https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/hacking-in-america/timeline-ten-years-russian-cyber-attacks-other-nations-n697111.
    41. Even Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, “Sources: State Dept. hack the ‘worst ever’,” CNN, March 10, 2015, available at https://www.cnn.com/2015/03/10/politics/state-department-hack-worst-ever/index.html.
    42. Ellen Nakashima, “Hackers breach some White House computers,” The Washington Post, October 28, 2014, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/hackers-breach-some-white-house-computers/2014/10/28/2ddf2fa0-5ef7-11e4-91f7-5d89b5e8c251_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.97ef3a379074.
    43. Huib Modderkolk, “Dutch agencies provide crucial intel about Russia’s interference in US-elections,” de Volksrant, January 25, 2018, available at https://www.volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/dutch-agencies-provide-crucial-intel-about-russia-s-interference-in-us-elections~b4f8111b/.
    44. Rebecca Smith, “Russian Hackers Reach U.S. Utility Control Rooms, Homeland Security Officials Say,” The Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2018, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-hackers-reach-u-s-utility-control-rooms-homeland-security-officials-say-1532388110?redirect=amp#click=https://t.co/DwXwBCzvy0.
    45. Bureau of Public Affairs, Soviet “Active Measures”: Forgery, Disinformation, Political Operations.
    46. Brian Whitmore, “Vladimir Putin, Conservative Icon,” The Atlantic, December 20, 2013, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/12/vladimir-putin-conservative-icon/282572/.
    47. Amnesty International, “Russia: New laws an affront to basic human rights,” July 1, 2013, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/07/russia-new-laws-affront-basic-human-rights/; Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, “UN Panel Calls For Annulment Of Russian Gay ‘Propaganda’ Law,” February 5, 2014, available at https://www.rferl.org/a/un-panel-russia-gay-propaganda-law/25254169.html
    48. Office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “Preliminary Findings About Trump Campaign’s Effort to Obtain Incriminating Information on Secretary Clinton from Russia at Trump Tower Meeting,” available at https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/b/3/b3e29bc4-8afd-4145-85d9-618dcad4a133/D069EF11DC3784A6D073B097E720572E.2018.05.15-transcript-release-findings-9-am.pdf (last accessed September 2018).
    49. Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, “FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump,” McClatchy, January 18, 2018, available at https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html.
    50. National Security Division, United States of America v. Mariia Butina, (U.S. Department of Justice, 2018), p.3, available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1080766/download.
    51. Ibid, p.6.
    52. Daniel Cox and Robert P. Jones, “America’s Changing Religious Identity” (Washington: Public Religion Research Institute, 2017), available at https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/.
    53. Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, “Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia,” The Washington Post, April 30, 2017, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-the-republican-right-found-allies-in-russia/2017/04/30/e2d83ff6-29d3-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?utm_term=.2e49f489aafc.
    54. Franklin Graham, “July 6 2017,” Facebook, available at https://www.facebook.com/FranklinGraham/posts/1564100123646163.
    55. Helderman and Hamburger, “Guns and religion.”
    56. Ken Gude, “Russia’s 5th Column” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2017), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/03/15/428074/russias-5th-column/.
    57. Gabriel Gatehouse, “Marine Le Pen: Who’s funding France’s far right?”, BBC, April 3, 2017, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39478066; Mark Scott and Diego Torres, “Catalan referendum stokes fears of Russian influence,” Politico, September 29, 2017, available at https://www.politico.eu/article/russia-catalonia-referendum-fake-news-misinformation/; Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security, S. Prt. 115–21, 115 Cong. (Government Publishing Office, 2018).
    58. Isaac Arnsdorf, “Pro-Russian Bots Take Up the Right-Wing Cause After Charlottesville,” ProPublica, August 23, 2017, available at https://www.propublica.org/article/pro-russian-bots-take-up-the-right-wing-cause-after-charlottesville.
    59. John Sepulvado, “From His Home in Russia, #Calexit Leader Plots California Secession,” KQED, December 13, 2016, available at https://www.kqed.org/news/11217187/from-his-home-in-russia-calexit-leader-plots-california-secession; Andrew E. Kramer, “California Secession Advocate Faces Scrutiny Over Where He’s Based: Russia,” The New York Times, February 21, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/yes-california-calexit-marinelli-russia.html.
    60. Leonid Ragozin, “How to Make California Great: Secede, With a Little Help From Putin,” Bloomberg Businessweek, December 7, 2016, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-12-07/how-to-make-california-great-secede-with-a-little-help-from-putin.
    61. Ibid.
    62. Kramer, “California Secession Advocate Faces Scrutiny Over Where He’s Based: Russia.”
    63. Neil MacFarquhar, “Right-Wing Groups Find a Haven, for a Day, in Russia,” The New York Times, March 22, 2015, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/world/europe/right-wing-groups-find-a-haven-for-a-day-in-russia.html?_r=1.
    64. Luke O’Brien, “The Making of An American Nazi,” The Atlantic, December 2017, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/12/the-making-of-an-american-nazi/544119/.
    65. Ibid.
    66. Ibid.
    67. Ibid.
    68. O’Brien, “The Making of An American Nazi”; Steven Inskeep, “’The Atlantic’: The Making Of An American Nazi,” NPR, November 14, 2017, available at https://www.npr.org/2017/11/14/564006409/how-andrew-anglin-transformed-from-small-town-boy-to-neo-nazi-standout.
    69. Natasha Bertrand, “’A model for civilization’: Putin’s Russia has emerged as ‘a beacon for nationalists’ and the American alt-right,” Business Insider, December 10, 2016, available at https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-connections-to-the-alt-right-2016-11.
    70. Keegan Hankes, “Americans Abroad: Dickson, Taylor Attend Russian White Nationalist Conference” (Montgomery, AL: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2015), available at https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/03/24/americans-abroad-dickson-taylor-attend-russian-white-nationalist-conference.
    71. O’Brien, “The Making of An American Nazi.”
    72. Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe.
    73. Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, “Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university” The Guardian, March 17, 2018, available at https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-academic-trawling-facebook-had-links-to-russian-university.
    74. Danny Hakim and Matthew Rosenberg, “Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign Talked Business With Russians,” The New York Times, March 17, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-russia.html.
    75. Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison, “Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university,” The Guardian, March 17, 2018, available at https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-academic-trawling-facebook-had-links-to-russian-university.
    76. Neil MacFarquhar, “How Russians Pay to Play in Other Countries,” The New York Times, December 30, 2016, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/europe/czech-republic-russia-milos-zeman.html.
    77. Jakub Janda, “How Czech President Miloš Zeman Became Putin’s Man,” The Observer, January 26, 2018, available at http://observer.com/2018/01/how-czech-president-milos-zeman-became-vladimir-putins-man/.
    78. MacFarquhar, “How Russians Pay to Play in Other Countries.”
    79. Cadwalladr and Graham-Harrison, “Cambridge Analytica: links to Moscow oil firm and St Petersburg university”; Justin Carissimo, “Who is Aleksandr Kogan?”, CBS News, April 21, 2018, available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aleksandr-kogan-who-is-university-of-cambridge-lecturer-facebook-cambridge-analytica-scandal-2018-04-21/.
    80. Ashley Gold, “Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: Bannon ordered Putin messaging tests,” Politico, April 28, 2018, available at https://www.politico.eu/article/christopher-wylie-to-us-lawmakers-steve-bannon-ordered-vladimir-putin-messaging-tests-russia-cambridge-analytica/.
    81. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, H.R. 3364, 115 Cong. 44 sess. (Government Printing Office, 2017).
    82. Max Bergmann and James Lamond, “Trump’s Attitude Toward Russia Sanctions Makes a Mockery of the United States,” Foreign Policy, March 1, 2018, available at https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/01/trumps-attitude-toward-russia-sanctions-makes-a-mockery-of-the-united-states/.
    83. Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos, “Lawmakers Dismiss White House Push to Fight Election Interference as Too Weak,” The New York Times, September 12, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/trump-executive-order-election-interference-senate.html.
    84. Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018, S. 3336, 115 Cong. Sess 2. (Government Printing Office, 2018).
    85. Robbie Gramer and Dan De Luce, “State Department Scraps Sanctions Office,” Foreign Policy, October 26, 2017, available at https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/26/state-department-scraps-sanctions-office/.
    86. Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe.
    87. Richard A. Best Jr., “The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)—Responsibilities and Potential Congressional Concerns” (Washington: Congressional Research Services, 2011), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/R41022.pdf; Welt, “Russia.”
    88. Diana Pilipenko, “Cracking the Shell: Trump and the Corrupting Potential of Furtive Russian Money” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2018/02/13/446576/cracking-the-shell/.
    89. Andrew Prokop, “All of Robert Mueller’s indictments and plea deals in the Russia investigation so far,” VOX, September 14, 2018, available at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/20/17031772/mueller-indictments-grand-jury.
    90. The Moscow Project, “All the President’s Accomplices: Republicans in Congress” (Washington: Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2017), available at https://cdn.themoscowproject.org/content/uploads/2017/12/14154516/121417_Republican-Accomplices_FACTSHEET.pdf.
    91. Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit,” The New York Times, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/us/politics/trump-mueller-special-counsel-russia.html.
    92. Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, S.2644, 115 Cong. Sess. 2. (Government Printing Office, 2018).
    93. Mike DeBonis, “Senate panel advances bill to protect Mueller from firing, but it’s unlikely to become law,” The Washington Post, April 26, 2018, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/with-gop-divided-senate-panel-takes-up-legislation-to-protect-mueller/2018/04/26/83518316-4954-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html?utm_term=.e1d5ca1b17a6.
    94. Max Bergmann and Carolyn Kenney, “Acts of an Adversary: Russia’s Ongoing Hostilities Toward the United States and Its Allies” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2017), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/12/05/443574/acts-of-an-adversary/.  
    95. Max Bergmann and Carolyn Kenney, “War by Other Means Russian Active Measures and the Weaponization of Information” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2017), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/06/06/433345/war-by-other-means/.  
    96. Max Bergmann, “An Alliance in Crisis: Europe Needs to Act Quickly to Defend Itself” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2017), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/06/01/433466/alliance-crisis-europe-needs-act-quickly-defend/.

    Bailed Out By Russia, 1987-2014

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      President Donald Trump has attempted to distance himself from allegations of collusion by asserting that he has no business interests in Russia. That’s not for lack of trying; Trump’s efforts to establish a hotel in Moscow go back at least to 1987, when, according to his book The Art of the Deal, he discussed the possibility with the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. But the questions regarding the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government go beyond whether Trump has business in Russia. It is just as, if not more, important to understand the many ways that Russia has business in Donald Trump.

      That Kremlin-linked entities invested significantly in Trump’s properties over the years is not inherently nefarious; since the fall of the Soviet Union, wealthy Russians have invested heavily in real estate in the West. However, in the context of a president under several investigations for his connections to the Kremlin, Russia’s outsize role in Trump’s reemergence from financial tribulations that nearly destroyed his real-estate empire merit additional attention. What emerges is the story of a man indebted to Russia through the oligarchs that Putin helped create and now controls.

      The Early Years: Trump Business in Trouble

      Many of Trump’s businesses spent the 1990s on the verge of collapse. Abraham Wallach, who became the Trump Organization’s executive vice president for acquisitions in 1990, compared joining the company to “getting on the Titanic just before the women and children were moved to the lifeboats.” In 1990, the Trump Organization was reportedly $3.4 billion in debt, with Trump himself liable for over $800 million; the next year, as several of Trump’s hotels and casinos reportedly accumulated millions in debt, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission concluded, “Mr. Trump cannot be considered financially stable.” In 1992, Trump defaulted on the debt of his airline, Trump Shuttle, turning it over to U.S. Airways.

      In Trump’s own telling, his fortunes turned around in 1995, when Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, the company through which he owned and operated many of his properties in Atlantic City and elsewhere, held an initial public offering. In truth, Trump’s financial struggles continued. Contrary to Trump’s own lofty predictions—he mused to Vanity Fair’s Edward Klein that the IPO might raise $4 billion—he only managed to raise $140 million; meanwhile, according to his tax returns from that year (which remain the only of Trump’s tax returns available to the public), Trump declared a loss of nearly $916 million. His businesses continued to struggle, with his casinos posting $66 million in losses by the end of 1996 and another $42 million in 1997. The problems lasted well into the 2000s: Trump’s flagship companies declared bankruptcy in both 2004 and 2009, with Trump resigning from his position as head of the board of Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.

      Compounding Trump’s financial problems was the Wall Street stigma his business failures attracted. The Guardian has reported that, in the 1990s, “Wall Street banks, which had previously extended him credit, turned off the tap;” according to The New York Times, bankers went so far as to coin the phrase “Donald risk” to describe the widespread aversion to lending to Trump. In 2013, one banker told The Atlantic, “If a major institution in New York—whether it was a Chase or a Goldman or a law firm or something—wanted to have a building built … I can give you almost 100 percent assurance that Donald would not be on the list.”

      The Russian-Fueled Comeback

      So how then did 15 Trump-branded projects break ground between 1998 and 2012?

      Given that Trump has defied decades of political tradition by assiduously refusing to release his tax returns, it’s impossible to truly get to the bottom of Trump’s finances. But the public record is more than enough to demonstrate that the answer, in part, lies with Russia.

      With the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998, Russian oligarchs who had made their fortunes buying up formerly state-held assets sought to stash their money in international real estate. The Trump Organization offered an appealing haven for several reasons, ranging from its ostentatious gold-plated aesthetic to a reputation for lax reporting standards (the company has, after all, paid multiple record-breaking fines for insufficient adherence to anti-money-laundering protocol). As a result, several Trump-branded projects from 1998 onward received significant financing from sources with ties to Russia, most notably the Bayrock Group and Deutsche Bank, which is one of the few major financial institutions to still lend to Trump—and which paid $630 million in penalties for involvement in a $10-billion Russian money-laundering scheme in 2017. In the process, the Trump Organization developed relationships with not only the Russian government but also the kind of Eastern European oligarchs known for carrying out the Russian government’s wishes.

      Russia also provided many of the buyers for Trump-branded real estate. According to a Bloomberg investigation into Trump World Tower, which broke ground in 1998, “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.” Reuters, meanwhile, has reported that  “at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.”

      And the Trump Organization reportedly welcomed the clientele. For example, a 2013 article in The Nation about the influx of Russian money in Miami real estate noted that Elena Baronoff, a Russian-American socialite once described on the cover of a Russian magazine as “The Russian Hand of Donald Trump,” operated a real-estate company catering to Eastern European buyers out of the lobby of the city’s Trump International Beach Resort. The New Republic has also extensively documented how the Trump Organization actively sought Russian buyers, so much so that the area around Trump Sunny Isles in Florida became known as “Little Moscow.” Some of the individual deals have attracted attention, most notably the Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev’s 2008 purchase of one of Trump’s mansions in Palm Beach for $53 million more than Trump had paid for it four years earlier.

      Trump SoHo, which broke ground in 2007, typifies how the Trump Organization benefited from financing coming out of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Much of the project’s financing came from the Bayrock Group, a real-estate company headquartered in Trump Tower and founded by the Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official Tevfik Arif. Several funders of the project, including Arif, Tamir Sapir, and Alexander Mashkevich, hail from the former Soviet Union and have reported ties to the current Kremlin; many have also faced allegations of corrupt and criminal behavior, ranging from money laundering to smuggling to involvement in a prostitution ring. The same can be said for some of the property’s clientele; for example, Viktor Khrapunov, who formerly served as mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and as that country’s energy minister, allegedly purchased condominiums in the building using money stolen from state coffers and laundered through a network of offshore shell companies.

      The Russian Connections

      Perhaps the most notable connection emerging out of Trump SoHo is the Russian-American real-estate developer Felix Sater, who formerly served as the managing director of the Bayrock Group. Sater, who served a year in jail in the 1990s for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass, became an FBI informant in Moscow after pleading guilty to involvement in a $40-million stock-fraud scheme orchestrated by the Russian Mafia (the records for the conviction have since been sealed). Sater joined the Bayrock Group in 2001 and helped secure financing for the Trump SoHo, leaning heavily on sources linked to Russia. After leaving Bayrock in 2009, he retained an office in Trump Tower and received Trump-branded business cards identifying him as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump;” Sater has said he had a “friendly” relationship with Trump and met with him “numerous times,” although the Trump Organization has disputed his account.

      Sater has been involved in at least two attempts to develop a Trump Tower Moscow. According to The Washington Post, the Trump Organization contracted with Bayrock to develop a high-rise in the Russian capital, which was reportedly far enough along to choose a site before falling through. More notably, Sater was involved in an effort to establish Trump Tower Moscow during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, eliciting a signed letter of intent from the Trump Organization in October 2015. In November 2015, Sater reportedly emailed Michael Cohen, his longtime friend and the Trump Organization’s lawyer, about the project, writing, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected … our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.” The deal ultimately fell through in January 2016.

      Sater also provides an example of a business connection attempting to transition into the political realm. Along with the email to Cohen, which seems to suggest that Sater sees developing Trump Tower Moscow as part of a broader strategy to ensure Trump’s election, Sater was involved in an attempt during the transition to influence the administration’s policy on Russia. In January 2017, Sater and Cohen reportedly worked with the Ukrainian politician Andriy Artemenko to deliver a policy proposal rolling back sanctions against Russia to the incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Under the plan, Russia would withdraw its troops from Eastern Ukraine, while Ukraine would hold a referendum on whether to “lease” Crimea to Russia; in return, the U.S. would lift the sanctions it placed on Russia after the 2014 invasion of Crimea. Sater has repeatedly declined to comment on the matter, and there is no indication that the administration considered or acted upon the proposal.

      Trump SoHo is far from the only Trump Organization project to derive funding from questionable Russia-linked sources. Another example is the Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto, which in June 2017 dropped its affiliation with the brand, and is now simply the Adelaide Hotel Toronto. The project, which broke ground in 2007, was so financially embattled that, as the Toronto Star described in October 2017, “every investor lost money on Trump Tower Toronto” except Trump himself. In 2010, facing mounting costs and a dearth of investment, the building’s developer Alexander Shnaider received a sudden windfall when a then-unknown investor purchased an $850-million stake in Shnaider’s steel company Zaporizhstal. In May 2017, The Wall Street Journal revealed the source of those funds: the Russian state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB. The Trump Organization has distanced itself from the project, claiming that, despite reports in 2012 that Trump had a minor ownership stake, the company “was not the owner developer or seller” of the property, was not involved in the financing, and “did not hold” equity. Shnaider, meanwhile, has offered conflicting accounts as to how much of the money from VEB ended up in the project: His lawyer at first told The Wall Street Journal that $15 million from the sale went into the property, but Shnaider has since said he is “not able to confirm that any funds went into the Toronto project.”

      The Trump Organization has also pursued multiple projects in former Soviet states. The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson has written extensively on developments in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Batumi, Georgia, where the Trump Organization has dealt with companies and oligarchs with extensive histories of corruption and ties to not only Russian entities but also, in Azerbaijan, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. These projects, Davidson argues, are worrisome not only because of the specific actors involved but also because they leave the president open to accusations of abetting corruption abroad and demonstrate the Trump Organization’s tendency to skimp on due diligence, which could expose Trump to prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.

      For all of Trump’s protestations, then, there is ample evidence that the Trump Organization has repeatedly done business with Russian investors and clients. Indeed, it’s worth noting that Trump not only did not deny this fact until he began running for president but actually spoke about it frequently, boasting of the amount of Russian money that flowed through his projects in numerous interviews. So, too, did his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric: In 2008, Donald Jr. told investors in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” while Eric reportedly told a golf reporter in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

      Why It Matters

      As mentioned above, Trump is not the only real-estate developer to have dealings with Russian individuals and entities. Aside from the questions about the FCPA and Trump’s repeated lies about his involvement with Russia since he began running for President, those deals wouldn’t necessarily even be especially suspicious.

      But most real-estate developers with extensive financial ties, and possibly debts, to a hostile foreign power do not then run for president, and most presidents do not evince such unprecedented obeisance to a hostile foreign power that a Special Counsel is appointed to investigate whether the president’s campaign colluded with that nation’s government. As a result, Trump’s long history of accepting money from Russian investors and clients takes on additional significance as the beginning of his relationship with Russia and the potential underpinnings for their collusion in the 2016 election.

      My Review of Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House”

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      Fear: Trump in the White HouseFear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
      My rating: 4 of 5 stars

      Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” is the legendary Woodward’s latest insider account of a sitting U.S. President. In this authoritative account honed through hours and hours of meticulous investigative reporting and interviews, Bob Woodward adds his own historical account to the unprecedented chaos and madness that is the current occupant of the White House.

      Many in the past have wanted to discount other similar books of insider accounts from authors such as Michael Wolff or from former White House insider Omarosa Manigault Newman. What Mr. Woodward adds that these individuals were not able to provide in their books is the authoritative voice and record of accomplishment that Bob Woodward provides and represents. As for those who simply discount any of the insider accounts written, Mr. Woodward has said that the notes and audio recordings will be provided in the future for the purposes of the posterity of history.

      “Fear” is a most accessible read for the average reader with simple to read English provided in a straightforward manner. What this book provides is an outlet for the average American to have a better understanding and narrative of the mindset and mentality of the person occupying the highest office in the land. The level of specific quotes is astounding. “Fear” is truly an insider account that helps the average layperson to have a better understanding of the lack of cognitive intellect, and cognitive decision making that overruns the current inhabitant of the White House. As Woodward states, “The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader.” Moreover, he continues, “Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world (Woodward, 13). Woodward even provides a primary source document in a draft trade document that was pulled from the desk of Donald Trump by Gary Cohn and Rob Porter. Cohn and Porter who were in high-level positions of the White House as chief economic adviser and White House staff secretary respectively. A document in which Donald Trump was about to compromise and put into jeopardy the U.S. relationship with South Korea with a so-called dispute over trade. In doing so, Donald Trump might very well have jeopardized the THAAD missile system in South Korea. Additionally, the U.S. had an early warning system agreement in which the U.S. would be alerted within seven seconds of a nuclear test by North Korea versus the fifteen minutes it would take if the system were based in Alaska. The sheer level of incompetence and lack of cognitive faculties of the current occupant of the White House poses great threats to the stability of our country to an even greater degree moving forward.

      In closing, nearly all those who work for Donald Trump understand him to be an incompetent nincompoop. Bob Woodward provides a narrative in which so many of the top level officials in the White House and those associated with the White House are simply working for this President to “hold the ship” for the country until this Presidency ends. Additionally, the further Donald Trump is stressed, the more he holds on to attempted acts of self-preservation through impulsive actions without any consideration for foresight or long term consequences. As Robert Mueller continues to close in on this President, there is no telling what kind of rash actions this President may take in an attempt to hold on to power and to avoid paying the consequences for his crimes. History and our grandchildren will judge us all and Bob Woodward equips the skeptical layperson in better understanding the chaos and happenings from a temperamentally unfit and ninny of a President.

      Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House
      Purchase Bob Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House”

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      Exclusive Interview with Seth Hettena

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      Seth Hettena is an acclaimed award winning investigative journalist who has taken time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his most recent book, “Trump/Russia: A Definitive History”. You can follow him on Twitter, @seth_hettena.

      Thank you Mr. Hettena for taking the time out of your schedule to answer a few questions. Your latest book, “Trump/Russia: A Definitive History” was most definitely a very analytical and meticulously well researched book which helps the reader better understand the various characters and individuals that have crossed Donald Trump’s life from past to present. I think most people do not understand how deep and how far back these ties and connections go. What made you decide to undergo this project and to spend the countless hours doing interviews and research in order to write this one of a kind book?

       Well, it’s a privilege to write a book like this and to make a contribution to one of the most important issues of this presidency — and perhaps of any presidency in recent memory. The book started as a blog. Russia was a theme running through the 2016 election, of course, and after Trump’s victory, I just started writing my thoughts down to try and understand how a man like Donald Trump could be connected to Russia. I like writing and publishing on the Web because having an audience helps keep me intellectually honest, but I was just writing for myself and didn’t know if anybody would be interested. People were interested and sometime last summer, a book agent contacted me and suggested I do a book.

      IT’S a privilege to write a book like this and to make a contribution to one of the most important issues of this presidency – and perhaps of any presidency in recent memory

      What about your life background growing up and your early career in journalism do you think might have compelled you to take such a passionate interest in both investigative journalism and specifically in your book on the long-lasting relationships and connections between Donald Trump and other individuals associated with first the Soviet Union and then modern day Russia?

       I’ve always loved investigative journalism. It’s why I got into journalism in the first place. It’s a vocation that is part exploration and discovery. At its best, it can change the way we know and understand our world. In a sense, all journalism should be investigative and should produce stories that matter. Otherwise, what’s the point? This is my second book and I’ve learned the hard way that if you’re going to write a book, make sure it’s a project that will interest you for a long time. I’ve always gravitated toward espionage. The Trump-Russia story and its twin elements of organized crime and espionage was an incredible set of worlds to explore and an amazing story to uncover.

      In your book, you quote individuals whom have had a long-lasting relationship with either Donald Trump or to those close to him. These individuals range from those with ties to the Russian Mafiya (your spelling) to individuals associated with U.S. law enforcement and U.S. intelligence. Was it relatively easy or difficult for you to get access to the individuals in your book whom helped provide you with unique access in terms of both factual and contextual information?

      i used the freedom of information act and interviews with retired fbi agents

       There’s a remarkable amount of information available in the public record about Trump’s connections to Russian organized crime. His connections with Felix Sater, for example, were explored in depth years ago. There were hints of other connections such as his links to Vyacheslav Ivankov, the Russian vor who hung out in Trump Tower and at the Taj Mahal in 1990s. I used the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with retired FBI agents to flesh out that story. In the case of Michael Cohen and his ties to organized crime and other criminals like David Bogatin, who bought a block of Trump Tower apartments with laundered money, I got lucky. I tapped into a network of former federal investigators and ex-cops who had investigated Russian organized crime in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s one of those moments you hope for as a journalist. They had a story they wanted to tell. They had come across Trump in their investigations and they were just waiting for the phone to ring.

       I found your background quite interesting and intriguing. Many people may not know, but your family roots originated from Baghdad as Baghdadi Jews. It is obvious that you love researching things meticulously into fine weaves of grain and detail. Where do you think that this motivation and drive originated and sired?

       I love research and documents. Putting stories together is, for me, a giant puzzle that I am trying to solve. My exploration of my family history was a way of getting to know myself and uncovering new things to which I had a personal connection.

      Felix Sater is quite an interesting character in terms of both his life story from a one-time con man to an intelligence asset that purportedly saved lives and provided countless of invaluable information to our country. Based on your knowledge and background of your research, do you think that he is a source of valuable information and/or Intel to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

       Felix Sater certainly is an amazing person. He’s managed to live several lives in the space of one. He did perform a valuable service for this country when he risked his life as an undercover intelligence asset. But he’s not black-and-white. He is an operator and while he helped the U.S. government, he enriched himself and his friends. And I’m still learning more and more about him. (Stay tuned!) He certainly could have provided information about Donald Trump and his Russian organized crime ties. Whether he did or not, I don’t know. Robert Mueller runs the tightest of ships.

       Thank you for the time that you have spent in answering some of my questions. I would like to finish by asking you as to what readers should know as to why your book is unique as a book on Donald Trump compared to other Donald Trump related books?

       I wrote my book to explain why Russia was such a theme in Trump’s life and his presidency. If you want to understand what’s happening today in Washington, you have to go back and understand how these relationships began. Most Trump books focus on the campaign. But the story of Trump and Russia is much older and deeper and that’s what my book is about.

      Seth Hettena's Trump/Russia
      Purchase Seth Hettena’s “Trump/Russia: A Definitive History”

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      Your quick guide to the important figures in Robert Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort

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      Here’s a guide to some of the key players involved in the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort.

      Please feel free to message me directly on Facebook should you have any questions.

      Putin’s Payout: 10 Ways Trump Has Supported Putin’s Foreign Policy Agenda

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      Putin’s Payout: 12 Ways Trump has Supported Putin’s Foreign Policy Agenda

      Download the entire PDF of the following compilation here..:
      Putins-Payoff-07.09.2018-FINAL-SQC6

      OVERVIEW

      The general details of the Russian government’s support for US President Donald Trump in the 2016 election are clear. Russia conducted a massive disinformation campaign targeting American voters; hacked Trump’s opponents’ email and strategically released the information; and used American fronts to funnel money into the American political system to support Trump’s campaign.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin took a risk by launching this campaign. By 2016, the global community had diplomatically sidelined him for his actions in Crimea and Donbass; Russia’s economy had stalled amid declining oil prices; and Putin himself faced pressure from his inner circle, themselves facing pressure from US sanctions. Russia and Putin were both vulnerable to an escalation of outside pressure. Given this position, provoking potential retaliatory measures from America and the international community could have put Putin in an increasingly perilous position – but Putin’s risk-taking succeeded beyond any expectation.

      Since the beginning of Trump’s administration, the White House has demonstrated a clear and consistent pattern of behavior toward Russia by not only calling for better relations with the Kremlin but also actively advancing Russia’s foreign policy objectives.

      There is no clear geopolitical or policy rationale for Trump’s behavior, which often comes at the cost of longstanding American foreign policy interests. As political scientist Ian Bremmer recently assessed, “No serious foreign policy analyst I know (nor any ex-Trump- Admin official) has a good explanation for why Trump is so singularly enamored with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

      Nor is there a political rationale. Amid Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and charges of collusion, it would almost certainly benefit Trump to distance himself from Putin and dispel rumors that he is beholden to his Russian counterpart. Instead, at every opportunity, Trump has embraced Putin and adopted positions that only raise additional suspicion about Trump’s motives and rationale.

      Putin’s return on investment from Trump’s presidency has been significant.

      Here are ten ways that Putin has received his payout:

      • Putin’s Goal: Weaken and divide the transatlantic alliance.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump undermines US relationships with European allies and calls the US’s commitment to NATO into question.
      • Putin’s Goal: Degrade the European Union and foster pro-Russian political movements.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump attacks the EU and actively supports anti-EU, Kremlin-backed parties.
      • Putin’s Goal: Disrupt American leadership of the global economic order.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump is eagerly pushing for an all-out trade war with Europe.
      • Putin’s Goal: Build global resentment and distrust towards the US and stoke anti-American sentiment.
        • Putin’s Payout: America’s closest allies are explicitly suspicious and distrusting of the US because of Trump’s rhetoric and actions.
      • Putin’s Goal: Relieve economic and domestic political pressure from US sanctions on Russia.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump tries to roll back, impede, and blunt the impact of sanctions at every step.
      • Putin’s Goal: Legitimize his regime in the eyes of the world.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump repeatedly praises and defends Putin, lending the weight of the US presidency providing validation towards Putin’s cause.
      • Putin’s Goal: Revive Russia’s status as a great power and gain international recognition for its illegal seizure of Crimea.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump publicly says that Crimea is part of Russia and calls for Russia to be welcomed back into the international community with no concessions.
      • Putin’s Goal: Continue to sow discord in Western democracies and avoid repercussions for interfering in US and European elections.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump dismisses Russian interference and has done nothing to prevent future meddling, putting him at odds with his own intelligence community.
      • Putin’s Goal: Soften America’s adversarial stance toward Russia.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump is shifting the Republican Party’s generations-long hawkish views on Russia.
      • Putin’s Goal: Destabilize the US from within.
        • Putin’s Payout: Trump attacks US institutions while driving divisive politics and eroding democratic norms.

      The pattern is clear: Putin has received—and continues to receive—a good payout on his investment. 

      1) Putin’s Goal: Weaken and divide the transatlantic alliance. Putin views NATO and the broader transatlantic relationship as Russia’s main strategic adversaries. In 2017, the Trump administration released a National Security Strategy outlining this goal, asserting, “Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners. Russia views the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) as threats.”

      Putin’s PayoutTrump undermines US relationships with European allies and calls the US’s commitment to NATO into question.

      • Trump refused to recommit to NATO’s Article 5 at the opening of the organization’s new headquarters. During his first summit with other NATO leaders, Trump refused to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty, which holds that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all and serves as the foundation of the transatlantic security alliance. Article 5, which has only been invoked once (in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks), is widely considered one of the treaty’s most important tenets. It was subsequently reported that Trump’s national security team had written language explicitly reaffirming Article 5, only for Trump to later reportedly remove the section without informing his national security staff. Trump later walked back his position, eventually committing to Article 5.
      • The Trump White House considered moving US forces away from Russia’s borders. Upon coming into office, a senior Trump appointee to the National Security Council, Kevin Harrington, proposed withdrawing US military forces from Eastern Europe. He reportedly framed the proposal specifically as an overture to Vladimir Putin as part of a strategy to “refram[e] our interests within the context of a new relationship with Russia.”
      • Trump often presents NATO as a protection racket. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump laid out his belief that the US should only defend NATO allies who have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” As the former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has explained, this framing misses the entire point of the alliance: “This framing of alliance relationships as protection-racket contracts misses the strategic value of allies to the United States. We want allies to keep the peace, fight alongside us in times of war and defend our common values—long-term strategic objectives that stretch well beyond any debate about national military budgets.”

      2) Putin’s Goal: Degrade the European Union and foster pro-Russian political movements. A stable and unified Europe, one that values human rights and liberal democracy, greatly constrains and undermines Russia. The success of a vibrant liberal and democratic EU provides a direct contrast to Putin’s corrupt regime. More tangibly, EU sanctions strangle Russia economically, and European unity hinders Russia’s efforts to bully its neighbors and build alliances with EU members. A divided Europe, on the other hand, would enable Russia to threaten and pressure former Soviet satellite states and expand its influence in Europe.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump attacks the EU and actively supports anti-EU, Kremlin-backed parties. 

      • Trump continually disparages the EU. Trump has repeatedly spoken negatively about the EU, recently falsely claiming that “the European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States.”
      • Trump openly supported the Brexit campaign. Trump called Brexit “smart” and promised to move quickly on a trade deal with the UK after the referendum. Russia also interfered in the historic British referendum, initiating a complex operation in support of the anti-EU Leave campaign.
      • Trump supported National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the 2017 French presidential election. During the election, Trump offered support for Le Pen, stating in an interview that Le Pen is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” Le Pen and her far-right National Front party ran on a platform promising to remove France from the EU. She has a strong pro-Putin stance and has received active support from the Kremlin in the form of both money and a Russian cyber-campaign targeting Le Pen’s opponent.
      • Trump has heaped praise on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Trump has said nothing but glowing things about Orban, who leads an illiberal, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic movement in Hungary. Orban also endorsed Trump in the 2016 election.
      • Trump began his first European trip by going to Poland, which is currently rolling back democratic institutions and pulling away from the rest of the EU. On his initial visit to Europe for the NATO summit as president, Trump first visited Poland. Many interpreted this as a snub to the EU, whose relationship with the conservative and increasingly autocratic Polish government has become more strained. While in Warsaw, Trump also gave a right-wing nationalist speech during which he attacked American leaders, undermined his own intelligence services, and remained silent on controversial actions by the right-wing Polish government.
      • Trump’s new Ambassador in Berlin announced he is explicitly supporting right-wing movements. In a breach of protocol, Trump-appointed ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell gave an interview to Breitbart news where he said “I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe,” including right-wing pro-Russian Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
      • Trump bluntly asked France to leave the EU. In April 2018, Trump reportedly asked French President Emmanuel Macron, “Why don’t you leave the EU?” and suggested that the US could offer France a better trade deal. This directly contradicts the US’s stated policy.

      CASE STUDY: GERMANY

      Putin’s Goal: Degrade German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s influence as the leading voice in the EU. As the head of the largest economy and most powerful country in the EU, Merkel is the foremost custodian of the liberal west. Furthermore, Merkel and Putin have long had a contentious relationship rooted in personal distrust and opposing world views.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump is destroying America’s relationship with Germany, and personally attacking Chancellor Merkel.

      • Trump has repeatedly been rude to Merkel in public, high-profile situations. In March 2017, Trump refused to shake hands with Merkel during her visit to the White House. As CNN described the encounter, “The tense moment between the American and German leaders comes after Trump repeatedly bashed Merkel on the campaign trail and accused her of ‘ruining Germany,’ citing the nation’s policies allowing refugees into the nation.”
      • Trump demeaned Merkel during the G7 Summit. In front of other world leaders, Trump also reportedly threw Starburst on the table in front of Merkel during the 2018 G7 summit and said “Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything.”
      • Trump has attacked Germany on trade. Trump has publicly complained about the number of German cars on the American market. He also accused Merkel of being “so protectionist” about German trade policies, and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has announced plans to “launch an investigation into whether automobile imports are hurting US national security.”
      • Trump has criticized Germany on issues related to migration and crime. Trump tweeted on June 18, 2018, “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”
      • The Pentagon is now exploring moving troops from Germany. The Washington Post recently reported that the Department of Defense is currently analyzing the cost and impact of withdrawing or transferring American troops stationed in Germany.

      3) Putin’s Goal: Disrupt American leadership and dominance of the global economic order. Putin resents the structure of the global economic order and America’s central role in international finance. In addition to the obvious economic and geopolitical benefits to the US, America is also able use its unique position to leverage access to its capital markets, which makes tools such as economic sanctions so impactful. Putin seeks to disrupt this system and weaken America’s hand.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump is eagerly pushing for an all-out trade war with Europe.

      • Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. In what can only be interpreted as an effort to disrupt the economic strength of a united Europe, the tariffs began a rapidly escalating trade war with US allies after months of economic threats against Western Europe.
      • Trump has publicly threatened to impose tariffs on European cars. The EU has responded with targeted sanctions on American goods, including Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles, bourbon, and around 200 additional categories, including corn, cigarettes, cosmetics, and steel.
      • Trump ended negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This was a trade partnership focused on decreasing barriers to trade between the US and EU countries. After he was elected, Trump froze the talks and lashed out at the EU for their “very unfair” trade policies.
      • Trump threatened the EU with sanctions after pulling out of the Iran deal. Not only has the Trump administration created a divide with European leaders by violating the nuclear agreement with Iran, considered one of the EU’s greatest foreign policy accomplishments, the Trump administration also threatened to impose sanctions on European companies that do business in Iran under the conditions of the agreement.
      • Trump wants to leave the World Trade Organization. Trump has “repeatedly told top White House officials he wants to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization,” which he believes was “designed by the rest of the world to screw the United States.”

      4) Putin’s Goal: Build global resentment and distrust towards the US and stoke anti-Americanism. Putin sees the US as Russia’s geopolitical foe. Therefore, undermining the US’s reputation abroad advances Russia’s interests. As the US and its allies have become increasingly critical of each other, longstanding partnerships based on shared values have been strained. This leaves Russia poised to create new, more transactional alliances with other Western nations.

      Putin’s Payout: America’s closest allies are explicitly suspicious and distrusting of the US because of Trump’s rhetoric and actions.

      • Both Germany and Canada have implied that American global leadership is over. The day after the May 2017 NATO summit in Brussels, Merkel told a crowd in Germany that it could no longer rely on the transatlantic relationship, saying, “The times in which we could rely fully on others—they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum prompted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to label it  “a turning point in the Canada-US relationship.” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland also gave a speech where she thanked the United States for its long stewardship of the international system during the post-war era, implicitly suggesting that this leadership is now over.
      • Germany is developing an “America strategy” to cope with changes in its relationship with the US. Last year, the German Foreign Office reportedly began working on the first-ever America strategy, with the goal of producing a strategic document along the lines what Germany traditionally develops with respect to its adversaries like Russia.
      • Trump refused to endorse the joint statement issued at the end of the 2018 G7 summit in Canada. After Trudeau publicly stated that Canada would have no choice but to retaliate against US tariffs, Trump tweeted, “Based on Justin [Trudeau]’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”
      • Tensions with France have risen. After Trump refused to sign the G7 communiqué, President Macron’s office said in an official statement that “international cooperation cannot depend on fits of anger or little words,” pledging to stand behind the final G7 communiqué.
      • Anti-Americanism is increasing. Trump’s presidency has impacted America’s influence in Western Europe, as international confidence in the president fell from 64% during former US President Barack Obama’s final years to 22% at the beginning of Trump’s term. Out of more than 35 countries polled, only Russia and Israel showed higher confidence in the presidency under Trump. Current polling numbers on international opinions of the US resemble those during 2008, when opposition to the Iraq War strained transatlantic relationships.
      • European leaders are reaching out to Russia. Meanwhile, European leaders have pivoted their focus to Russia, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker calling to “re-establish” contact with Russia. French President Macron also met with Putin in May 2018.

      5) Putin’s Goal: Relieve economic and domestic political pressure from US sanctions on Russia. American and European sanctions against Russia have seriously damaged the Russian economy and have personally impacted the Russian officials on whom Putin’s support depends. Putin’s 2015 national security strategy explicitly stated the goal of creating a “favourable external environment that would allow Russia’s economy to grow steadily and become more competitive;” sanctions repeal would be a necessary step towards achieving this goal.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump tries to roll back, impede, and blunt the impact of sanctions at every step.

      • Trump immediately tried to repeal Obama-era sanctions. Upon entering the White House, Trump officials tasked the State Department with developing a plan to lift existing sanctions against Russia, return diplomatic compounds from which the Obama administration had expelled Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election, and implement additional steps to placate Moscow.
        • These efforts alarmed State Department officials, who immediately began lobbying congressional leaders to pass legislation to block the move.
        • State Department Sanctions Coordinator Ambassador Dan Fried reportedly grew so concerned that he contacted allies on Capitol Hill to urge them to quickly pass legislation that would “codify” Obama-era sanctions, making it difficult for Trump to lift them.
      • Trump vigorously opposed Congressional sanctions legislation. Congress did not share Trump’s eagerness to lift sanctions, and soon put forward the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), bipartisan legislation that enacted additional sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. The Trump administration forcefully lobbied againstthe bill.
        • After CAATSA passed in both houses with overwhelming majorities, Trump issued a signing statement opposing the bill, calling it “seriously flawed” and suggesting that sections of the legislation are unconstitutional.
        • Trump has continued to resist the new sanctions on Russia. In April 2018, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated that the administration would shortly announce sanctions against Russia in response to Russian actions in Syria. The White House immediately walked these comments back, statingthat Trump had not signed off on any new Russia sanctions, and would not without any new triggering event.
      • Trump failed to properly implement sanctions legislation. The Trump administration delayed sanctions implementation and missed a key implementation deadline, which it ultimately only met after intervention by congressional leaders. The Trump administration also made a mockery of an important report on Russian oligarchs required by CAATSA, originally intended to map out a network of Russian oligarchs and regime insiders.
        • Those placed on this list could face significant sanctions, including having their visas banned and US-based assets frozen. Despite serious work by career officials to develop the required list, the administration instead released a list that was simply copied from the Forbes ranking of the wealthiest Russians and Russian government websites. The lack of methodology combined with the broad scope of inclusion essentially made the list pointless: a list where everyone is included means no one is included.
        • CAATSA also required the Treasury Department to write a report outlining the impact of additional sanctions on Russian sovereign debt and derivatives. The goal was to preempt future attempts to meddle in the 2016 election by outlining a “nuclear option” that would severely damage the Russian economy. Instead, the administration released a report concluding that imposing such sanctions would be too dangerous, thereby reassuring rather than deterring Russia.
      • The sanctions that were eventually announced were extremely limited. The administration sanctioned five entities and nineteen individuals in March 2018 for their interference in the 2016 election, but because most of these individuals and entities were already under sanctions and/or had been previously been indicted by the Special Counsel, this round of sanctions was meaningless. Early in April 2018, the Treasury Department finally issued new sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs and twelve companies they own or control, as well as seventeen Russian government officials. While the sanctions against these individuals were forceful, this round of sanctions was clearly incomplete. Although the administration hintedthat more were to come, they have thus far failed to implement more sanctions directly targeting those responsible for the 2016 election interference or directly impacting Russia’s energy or defense sector.
      • Trump has continued to advocate for Putin’s views on US sanctions. Following a meeting with Putin in Vietnam on the sidelines of the 2017 APEC conference, Trump said, “People don’t realize Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned. They were sanctioned at a very high level, and that took place very recently. It’s now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken. Those are very important things. And I feel that having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world and an asset to our country, not a liability.” This occurred while Trump was facing criticism at home for not implementing the sanctions legislation.

      6) Putin’s Goal: Legitimize his regime in the eyes of the world. Russia’s reputation on the world stage has plummeted in recent years. From the state-sponsored doping scandalduring the Sochi Olympics, to the illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the resulting conflict, to Russia’s horrific human rights record, the rest of the world, and especially Western countries, have come to view Russia in a harsh light. Putin is now seeking to legitimize himself and his regime, in order to preserve his sphere of influenceboth domestically and internationally.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump repeatedly praises and defends Putin, lending the weight of the US presidency providing validation towards Putin’s cause.

      • Trump praises Putin incessantly. Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, sayingPutin is “a leader” and talking about how he gets along well with Putin. Trump’s efforts to legitimize Putin extend beyond superficial compliments to substantive support, often contradicting the interests of the US and the advice of Trump’s own national security staff.
      • Trump has defended and validated Russia’s malign activity, equating it with American behavior. When conservative Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly questioned Trump about his respect for Putin in February 2017, noting that Putin is a “killer,” Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?” When questioned about criticism over Putin’s often brutal methods of dealing with his opposition in 2015, Trump mirrored Putin’s own accusation against the US, asserting that America “does plenty of killing also.”
      • Trump validated Putin’s fraudulent election by congratulating him. In March 2018, Putin was reelected to his fourth term as president of Russia (his fifth term as the leader of Russia, including one term as Prime Minister). Like most elections under Putin’s rule, the 2018 election was not conducted in accordance with international standards. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was formally barred from competing in the election and there were widespread allegations of voter fraud and election violations.
        • Two days after the election, Trump spoke with Putin. In his briefing materials for the call, Trump’s national security staff explicitly warned him not to congratulate Putin on his victory because of its fraudulent and corrupt nature, even going as far as to reportedly write “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in capital letters in his briefing material. Trump ignored the warning and offered Putin his congratulations, following it up with discussions of a future meeting between the two leaders. Trump then announced to the world via Twitter that he had congratulated Putin.
      • Trump prioritizes Russia over US allies. In May 2017, prior to the NATO summit, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. Trump reportedly told Lavrov and Kislyak that he had fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who he calleda “nut job,” and told his guests that he “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” During the meeting, Trump also reportedly leaked highly classified information from Israel to his guests.
        • Israel had not authorized the US to share the intelligence, which pertained to a Syrian bomb-making effort and was obtained, in part, through a cyber operation. As one unnamed US official put it, Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” As a result of this, Israel changed its intelligence sharing protocols with America.
        • No US press were allowed to attend the meeting. The only news outlet present was TASS, a Russian state-owned agency. This was an inexplicable breach of protocol that allowed Russia to control the public’s access to the images and content of the meeting.

      7) Putin’s Goal:  Revive Russia’s status as a great power and gain international recognition for its illegal seizure of Crimea. Western leaders denounced Putin’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea, implementing sanctions that crippled Russia’s economy and expelling Russia from the G8. Putin has great incentive to push for international recognition of Crimea as Russian territory. This would serve to further legitimize his regime and his claim that he seeks to reunite territory that he and his supporters argue belong to Russia. Russia’s 2015 national security strategy explicitly stated that one of the country’s goals is to “[consolidate] the Russian Federation’s position as a centre of influence in today’s world.” Russia has always been obsessed with geopolitics as they have struggled to become a world power; their “perennial quest for a strong state” is ever-present as Putin continually seeks to expand Russian influence west by maintaining and regaining control over former Warsaw Pact countries.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump publicly says that Crimea is part of Russia and calls for Russia to be welcomed back into the international community with no concessions.

      • Trump called Crimea part of Russia. Trump’s rhetoric on Crimea has been shockingly similar to Putin’s. At the June 2018 G7 summit in Canada, Trump reportedly told other G7 leaders that “Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian.” In a public press conference, Trump, rather than blaming the Russian government for invading Crimea, blamed Obama for his perceived inability to prevent the Russian invasion. He made similar comments during the 2016 campaign.
      • Trump suggested that Russia be readmitted to the G7. At the 2018 summit of international powers, Trump argued for Russia’s reinstatement, saying, “we should have Russia at the negotiating table.” Trump claimed that allowing Russia to rejoin the organization would profit not just Russia but also the US, all G7 countries, and the world at large, eliciting heavy resistance from both US allies and lawmakers.
      • Trump attended a meeting with Putin with a list of concessions, and no other American was in the room. Ahead of the 2017 G20 summit, Trump instructed his team to come up with possible concessions to offerat his first bilateral meeting with Putin. The plan to have a formal meeting with Putin, let alone to offer concessions, was met with strong resistance by State Department and NSC officials who feared it would signal acceptance of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the annexation of Crimea. Trump and Putin also held a second meeting during the G20, which was initially not disclosed, and neither his National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster nor the Senior Director for Europe and Eurasia Fiona Hill, who has been a Putin critic, were present. Only the Kremlin’s interpreter was present for the meeting, which means that no other US official has a record of what occurred.

      8) Putin’s Goal: Continue to sow discord in Western democracies and avoid repercussions for interfering in American and European elections. In January 2017, the US intelligence community released an assessment concluding that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” Despite this unprecedented attack by a foreign adversary, the Trump administration has actively undercut the tools that America would use to respond to the attacks and defend against future ones.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump dismisses Russian interference and has done nothing to prevent future meddling, putting him at odds with his own intelligence community.

      • Trump believes Putin over his own intelligence community. Trump has repeatedly called into question the conclusion of US intelligence community, even explicitly saying he believes Putin when he says no election interference occurred.
      • Trump hinders America’s ability to combat Russian disinformation. Despite the fact that the 2017 US national security strategy explicitly warned about Russian use of media “to undermine the legitimacy of democracies,” the Trump administration has consistently undermined the US government’s main tool for combatting Russian disinformation, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) .
        • GEC was specifically “tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign.” However, as of March 2018, none of the analysts spoke Russian, and a hiring freeze prevented GEC from hiring additional computer experts necessary to combat Russian disinformation campaigns. Although the State Department recently announced plans to hire Russian experts for GEC and to exempt it from the hiring freeze, there is still no permanent head of the center.
      • Trump has diminished America’s cyber defenses and even proposed cyber cooperation with Russia. While Russia deployed multiple cyber weapons against the US in the 2016 election, the Trump administration has limited the government’s ability coordinate a coherent policy.
        • The State Department tried to shutter the office of the Office of Cybersecurity Coordinator until Congress intervened.
        • Former National Security Agency head Admiral Mike Rogers stated he had not been granted the authority by the White House to counter Russian cyber operations “where they originate.”
        • Trump even discussed forming a “Cyber Security unit” with Putin when they met at the Hamburg G20 summit in July 2017.
      • Trump gutted the sanctions-coordination team. The American government’s primary tool to respond to Russian meddling has been applying sanctions, yet Trump has gutted the team responsible for implementing that policy.
        • In October 2017, the administration shuttered the State Department’s sanctions office, eliminating the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy. The office was previously led by Ambassador Daniel Fried, one of the most senior and well-respected career foreign-service officers at the State Department and a former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia.
        • Now the responsibilities of this office once led by a veteran diplomat with a five-person team have been moved to a single mid-level staff member who works on the topic part time.

      9) Putin’s Goal: Soften America’s adversarial stance on Russia. For the past 70 years, the Republican Party was the party of Russia hawks, advocating a hard line against the Soviet Union and Russia on issues ranging from nuclear posture, human rights, missile defense, and NATO enlargement. These positions were not just vestiges of the Cold War era. In 2012, Mitt Romney, then the Republican Party’s nominee for president, famously asserted that Russia was “without question our number one geopolitical foe.”

      Putin’s Payout: Trump is shifting the Republican Party’s generations-long hawkish views on Russia.

      • Trump shifted the 2016 RNC platform to Russia’s benefit. After Republican leaders spent years denouncing Obama’s stance against America’s “number one geopolitical foe,” the Trump campaign edited the party’s platform to be more conciliatory toward the Kremlin. Initially, a draft of the RNC platform called for“providing lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine to combat Russian incursions. Trump adviser J.D. Gordon intervened on behalf of the Trump campaign to soften the final language and call for “providing appropriate assistance” to Ukraine.
        • Beginning in 2014, Republican lawmakers vocally criticized the Obama administration’s refusal to provide lethal arms to Ukraine.
        • Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham stated that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “[demanded] more than additional empty rhetoric and threats of lowest-common-denominator sanctions.”
        • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Obama’s “passive” foreign policy for creating an environment in which Putin knew he would not face any consequences for his acts of aggression.
        • Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said at the time, “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles.”
        • With a three-word change, Trump successfully rolled back a crucial GOP criticism of Obama, radically shifting the RNC’s platform from an aggressive stance towards Russia to a curiously weaker one.
      • Congressional Republicans embrace stronger ties between the US and Russia. On July 3 and 4, 2018, a delegation of eight Republicans lawmakers traveled to Moscow to meet with representatives of the Russian government, including Kislyak and multiple individuals under US sanction. From Moscow, members of the congressional delegation advocated for better relations between the two countries.
      • Trump’s constant campaigning on behalf of Russia appears to have had a lasting effect on the Republican electorate.
        • According to a 2017 Gallup poll, Republicans’ views on Putin jumped by a dramatic twenty points from 2015 to 2017, from a 12% favorable rating to 32%.
        • Polling from YouGov shows that Republicans who viewed Putin unfavorably “shrank from 51 percent in July 2014 to just 14 percent in December 2016.”
        • According to Politico, fewer Republicans than Democrats consider Russia “a major national security risk.”
        • A May 2017 poll showed that 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally, despite clear evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

      10) Putin’s Goal: Destabilize the US from within. Russia seeks to sow political, cultural, and social divisions inside America, which the Kremlin views as a way to distract and weaken its adversaries. This is not a new strategy; Russia has historically sought to undermine rivals by stoking preexisting internal divisions.

      Putin’s Payout: Trump attacks US institutions while driving divisive politics and eroding democratic norms.

      • Trump has decried the press as the “enemy of the people.” Since taking office, Trump has taken an incredibly hostile stance toward the press, denouncing journalists as “the enemy of the American people” and popularizing the term “fake news” to demean credible institutions like The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and CNN. This is the same type of language that is used by dictators around the world.
      • Trump has publicly defended neo-Nazis and repeatedly used racially-charged rhetoric. Following the August 2017 white nationalists’ march in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of one counter-protester, Trump said the white nationalists included some “very fine people,” compared the removal of Confederate monuments those of Founding Fathers, and said that the counter-protesters deserve an equal amount of blame for the violence. He has repeatedly decried African-American athletes who protest against police brutality during the performance of the National Anthem, disinviting members of the champion Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia Eagles over the subject. In November 2017, Trump retweeted three propaganda videos from a British hate group which falsely claimed to depict Muslim migrants attacking white citizens. When asked to defend the retweets, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that the veracity of the videos didn’t matter so long as the videos promoted Trump’s agenda.
      • Trump has actively instituted discriminatory policies. The administration’s first major policy initiative was to deliver on the campaign promise of a “Muslim ban,” blocking entry into the US from several Muslim-majority countries. Trump has also advocated creating a database of Muslim citizens in the US. Finally, the Trump administration has implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy toward migrants from Central and South America, which resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the southern border.
      • Trump has advanced conspiracy theories that undermine the democratic process. Trump has repeatedly asserted, with no evidence, that he only appeared to lose the popular vote in the 2016 election because millions of people voted illegally. He empaneled a commission to “investigate” his baseless allegations, only to disband the group in January 2018 when it proved unable to find significant evidence of voter fraud.
      • Trump has rejected and violated democratic norms and principles. Trump’s political life has largely been defined as a deviation from the established norms and rules of democracy. After entering politics by repeatedly advancing the racist “birther” conspiracy alleging that Obama was not an American citizen, Trump spent his campaign repeatedly advocating for the investigation and imprisonment of his political opponent Hillary Clinton, which he has continued to do since becoming president. He has also claimed that he can pardon himself and anyone for any reason, thus declaring his power to be above the law; that the job of the Attorney General is to protect the president; and that he can make immigration decisions with “no judges or court cases.”
      • Trump has lobbed political attacks against the Justice Department, intelligence agencies, and law-enforcement officers. From advancing conspiracy theories about a deep state out to undermine his presidency, to rejecting the findings of the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference, to his attacking the FBI for its investigation into his associates, Trump has been feeding a narrative of distrust in American institutions.

      EVEN THE ADMINISTRATION’S “STRONG” ACTIONS ON RUSSIA DO NOT HOLD UP

      Trump’s defenders often point to two data points to argue that Trump has taken a strong stance against Russia: the decision to provide lethal aid to Ukraine and the White House’s condemnation of Russia for the lethal nerve agent attack against Sergei Skripal by expelling 60 Russian diplomats and closing the Russian consulate in Seattle. However, upon closer scrutiny, it’s clear that these actions amount to little more than posturing by the Trump administration. The few tangible consequences that did affect Russia appear to be the result of national security officials pushing through decisions.

      Lethal Aid to Ukraine

      The Trump administration did eventually approve providing lethal aid to Ukraine. However, the context of the decision is important to keep in mind. The debate over lethal assistance during the Obama administration was largely over how Russia would interpret such assistance. When President Obama decided against providing lethal assistance, he did so out of concern that Russia would interpret such a move as a hostile, escalatory act, which could provoke Russia to intensify its military activities. Under Trump, however, Putin had every reason to interpret the White House’s decision as neither hostile nor escalatory, given Trump’s overall pro-Russian stance.

      Furthermore, providing lethal assistance lost much of its military significance by the time the Trump administration made the decision. In 2014-2015, when the front lines of the conflict were constantly changing and there were fears that Russia would expand its invasion to other parts of Ukraine, a weapon like the anti-tank Javelin missile could have done significant damage to the Russian tanks that spearheaded Russia’s counter-offensive against Ukrainian forces. By late 2017, the defensive lines had been established. While fighting is still fierce and ongoing, the conflict is considerably more stable and may be settling into another “frozen conflict” on Russia’s periphery. The current low-intensity combat is not defined by battles involving heavy weaponry like tanks. The structure of the arms deal was also not as beneficial as it could have been. The weapons reportedly were not delivered on the line of conflict. Instead, they were to be stored in training centers in western Ukraine away from the combat and would be monitored by American soldiers, thus reducing access and effectiveness. Finally, reporting in The New York Times suggeststhat the Ukrainian government ceased cooperating with Mueller’s investigative team shortly after the Trump administration approved the sale of lethal weapons, raising the possibility that the decision was part of a quid-pro-quo arrangement to reduce the legal pressure on the president.

      Response to the Skripal Poisoning

      In March 2018, Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom. British authorities later determined that the chemical nerve agent used in the poisoning originated in Russia. This attack was described by British Prime Minister Theresa May as an “unlawful use of force” on British soil. Although then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quick to follow in May’s footsteps in denouncing Russia’s involvement in the poisoning, the Trump White House initially stayed quiet, avoiding naming Russia as the likely perpetrator of the attack. When Trump finally spoke on the matter, he initiallywavered on Russia’s involvement, saying “it sounds to me like they believe it was Russia,” and adding, “if we agree with them [the UK], we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” Trump’s rhetoric here undermined the transatlantic alliance by calling Britain’s assertion into doubt and refusing to immediately back them up in condemning Russian actions. Eventually, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did release a statement naming Russia as the perpetrator.

      By then, however, the global reaction had grown from statements to action: More than 20 countries expelled over 100 Russian diplomats as a result of the poisoning. As part of this international response, the Trump administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. These actions were overseen by the then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster the same week the president announced McMaster would be leaving (the administration also announced the most significant election-tampering sanctions to date on McMaster’s last week in office). This decision appeared to contradict Trump’s reported demand that the US “match [the] numbers [of expelled diplomats]” of its European allies. “We’re not taking the lead,” Trump insisted, “We’re matching.” When the US did finally announce its expulsion of 60 officials, Trump was reportedly furious that France and Germany were each only expelling four Russian diplomats and that the US appeared to be more forward-leaning in its response than its European partners.

      CONCLUSION

      Since the very beginning, the Trump White House has demonstrated a clear and consistent pattern of behavior towards Russia, helping to fulfill many of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most important foreign policy objectives.

      Trump’s decisions have repeatedly benefited Russian foreign policy goals often at the cost of his own country’s priorities or the priorities of traditional US allies. This is despite the fact that Russia conducted an unprecedented political assault on America, an assault that is ongoing and continues to target American elections.

      This raises the question: Whose interests is Trump serving?

       

      The Tangled Web That We Weave

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      Key Players Involved

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      Some of the key players involved thus far (that we know about)

      *Not included on this list, Don Jr. (among many others)

      Pew Global Indicators Database – Confidence in the U.S. President

      Global Indicators Database

      Robert Mueller’s Options

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      Donald Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Kremlin officials

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      Donald Trump held a secret (not so secret) meeting with Kremlin officials Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov inside the Oval Office along with Russian state propaganda media without any American officials or media invited. This was the day after he fired James Comey.

      “I just fired the head of the f.b.i. he was crazy, a real nut job. i faced great pressure because of russia. that’s taken off. i’m not under investigation.”

      Is this what innocent people do? Have high level officials of the Kremlin invited inside the Oval Office with Russian media while not allowing American media or officials? And most importantly, you disparage the former head of the F.B.I. that you fired a day before and let it be known it was to end the Russia investigation? And this is not obstruction of justice?

      And even more shocking is what he did next.

      https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/11/trump-intel-slip

      Yes, Donald Trump leaked the contents of a classified Israeli operation in Syria and jeopardized Israeli assets and sources on the ground. Particularly one that had infiltrated ISIS and was working for Israeli intelligence services.

      And people have the gall to say that he is not compromised?

      Check out the pictures below. Have you ever seen Donald Trump this happy?

      Roger Stone

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      Roger Jason Stone, Jr., 66, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was arrested in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 25, 2019, following an indictment by a federal grand jury on Jan. 24, 2019, in the District of Columbia. The indictment, which was unsealed upon arrest, contains seven counts: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering.



      U.S. v. Roger Jason Stone, Jr. (1:19-cr-18, District of Columbia)

      Michael Cohen

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      NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for President-elect Donald Trump, gets into an elevator at Trump Tower, December 12, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

      Michael Cohen of New York, New York, pleaded guilty on Nov. 29, 2018, to making false statements to the U.S. Congress in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 (a)(2). Cohen was sentenced on December 12, 2018, to serve two months in prison and pay a $50,000 fine.


      Michael Cohen’s was Donald Trump’s long time “fixer” and personal attorney. He is currently serving time in prison for a crime directed and in the benefit of Individual-1. Individual-1 is Donald J. Trump.

      Plea Agreement

      Criminal Information

      Application for Search Warrants (released on March 19, 2019)

      Konstantin Kilimnik

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      A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a third superseding indictment on June 8, 2018, against Konstantin Kilimnik, of Moscow, Russia. Kilimnik is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.


      The FBI and our intelligence community has assessed Mr. Kilimnik to be a Russian intelligence operative. He is discussed in great detail in the Mueller report.

      Third Superseding Indictment

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-manaforts-2016-meeting-with-a-russian-employee-at-new-york-cigar-club-goes-to-the-heart-of-muellers-probe/2019/02/12/655f84dc-2d67-11e9-8ad3-9a5b113ecd3c_story.html

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