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The plot thickens
September 1, 2018

A lobbyist named W. Samuel Patten on Friday pleaded guilty to working as an unregistered foreign agent and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Patten admitted to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee and spending $50,000 on four tickets to President Trump's inauguration on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch though he knew the inaugural committee cannot accept funds from foreign nationals.

Patten is linked to Konstantin Kilimnik, an aide to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort who is reportedly tied to Russian intelligence and has been indicted by the Mueller probe.

President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, dismissed Patten's plea as inconsequential to his client. "It turned about to be this irrelevant indictment, where I think Mueller has turned out to be a private prosecutor," he said. "What does this have to do with President Trump? Not a single thing. It has nothing to do with collusion, some guy who donated to the inauguration? My goodness, they had 500,000 people donate to the inauguration — every time they get a speeding ticket is Mueller going to do it?"

Also Friday, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, asked for a lenient sentence in a court filing that described Trump approving of a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the spring of 2016. Bonnie Kristian

August 24, 2018

Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has been granted immunity to speak with federal prosecutors, sources told The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Weisselberg was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the investigation into Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer who earlier this week pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and tax fraud. The Journal reports that Weisselberg's cooperation increases pressure on Trump, who gave Weisselberg control of his company's financial assets upon his election. The CFO has worked for the Trump family since the 1970s, reports Bloomberg, and has handled bills, the organization's purchases, and Trump's investments.

Weisselberg reportedly helped Cohen facilitate hush payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump. In a recording Cohen made of his conversation with Trump about the payments, Cohen says he spoke to Weisselberg about how to arrange the deal. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Manhattan district attorney's office is considering criminal charges against the Trump Organization, related to the payment's improper documentation as an effort to aid the Trump campaign. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza

August 4, 2018

Alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina, a gun rights activist who has been charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Kremlin, contacted a former Trump campaign aide named J.D. Gordon shortly before the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported Friday evening.

Gordon left his campaign role of director of national security for a position in Trump's transition team in August 2016. In the following two months, the Post story says, he exchanged emails with Butina, inviting her to events including his birthday party.

Butina's attorney and Gordon both told the Post the relationship was not significant. "From everything I've read since her arrest last month, it seems the [Mariia] Butina saga is basically a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years," he said in a statement to The Washington Times. "I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn't come across?" Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018

President Trump alleged on Twitter Thursday that the FBI "spied" on his campaign with an "embedded informant," citing a National Review story. "If so, this is bigger than Watergate!" he wrote.

In reports published Friday night, The Washington Post and The New York Times partially confirmed his account. Both papers reported an unnamed American academic who is now based in the U.K. met with Trump campaign advisers including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, as well as campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, in 2016.

Described by the Post as a "longtime U.S. intelligence source," the academic was working as a source for the FBI's then-nascent investigation into Russian election meddling. The Times reports there is no evidence "the informant acted improperly" or that the inquiry was "politically motivated," as Trump claims.

The informant's name has been withheld over security concerns for himself and other ongoing investigations. However, speculation as to his identity is already underway, mostly based on the detail that the academic's meetings were framed as foreign policy discussions. Bonnie Kristian

April 29, 2018

The FBI this week questioned a Russian mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter named Fedor Emelianenko, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Emelianenko in 2008 signed with a fight league partially owned by President Trump and managed by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Emelianenko appeared at a press conference with Trump in 2008, and he has been photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended some of his fights.

"The FBI came to the hotel looking to talk to Fedor, and they were very nice, came in to speak with Fedor for a few minutes, spoke to me, very cool guys, and that's all I can really say about it," Emelianenko's manager, Jerry Millen, told the AP. "Again, the FBI did come to the hotel; they found us, knocked on the door." Millen said he was completely surprised by the visit.

The FBI's aim in questioning Emelianenko is unknown, but this comes less than a month after the agency raided Cohen's office in New York City. Cohen is expected to face indictment soon. Bonnie Kristian

April 14, 2018

The Republican National Committee (RNC) deputy finance chair, Elliott Broidy, resigned from his position Friday after news broke that he hired President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to negotiate a settlement with a Playboy model in 2016.

"I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate," Broidy said in a statement. "At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period."

As with the deal Cohen made to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with President Trump, the Broidy settlement uses alliterative pseudonyms for the parties involved. And the women in each case share a lawyer: One Keith M. Davidson represented both Daniels and the Playboy model in the Broidy agreement in their dealings with Cohen.

Broidy, who is married, resigned after his $1.6 million deal came to light. This story comes as Friday court filings revealed Cohen is under criminal investigation. Bonnie Kristian

March 31, 2018

In an internal FBI report obtained by CNN, former FBI Director James Comey reportedly contradicts former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe's public statements about his recent firing.

McCabe has stated he had authority to permit other FBI agents to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for an October 2016 article about the then-ongoing probe into the Clinton Foundation, and that Comey was notified. "It was not a secret," McCabe said. "[I]t took place over several days, and others, including [Comey], were aware of the interaction with the reporter."

Comey reportedly told Justice Department investigators he did not remember McCabe telling him about the authorization. A lack of candor was among the reasons cited by Attorney General Jeff Sessions for McCabe's dismissal.

An unnamed source told CNN the discrepancy is merely a matter of different memories. "They recall it differently," the source reportedly said. "Andy thinks in good faith he told him, and Comey in good faith says he wasn't told." Bonnie Kristian

March 18, 2018

Cambridge Analytica, the data firm suspended by Facebook Friday over violations of the network's privacy policies, was in contact with Lukoil, a Russian oil company, in 2014 and 2015, The New York Times reported Saturday. When questioned last month, the head of the firm's British parent company denied knowledge of any business ties to Russia. A Lukoil executive told the Times the meetings "involved a promotional campaign with local soccer teams," denying any "contracts were signed."

Also Saturday, The Observer of London reported the company harvested 50 million American Facebook profiles for electioneering, a major data breach. "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," said former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie. "That was the basis the entire company was built on." Wylie attended the meeting with Lukoil and said the oil company repeatedly asked about "political targeting in America."

Cambridge Analytica was a Trump campaign contractor in 2016, though Facebook did not mention President Trump in its suspension announcement. Bonnie Kristian

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