President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner did not give congressional investigators access to campaign-era email communications he is known to have had with WikiLeaks about a "Russian backdoor overture," Senate Judiciary Committee leaders said in a letter Thursday. On Friday, citing an unnamed source familiar with congressional probes into Russian meddling with the 2016 election, CNN reported that Kushner also denied any memory of those emails when testifying before Congress in July, contradicting the senators' account.
Kushner's attorney dismissed the story in a statement Friday night, maintaining Kushner was correct to say he did not have "contacts with WikiLeaks, Guccifer, or DC Leaks." "From all I have now seen, his statement was accurate then as it is now," added Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell. "In over six hours of voluntary testimony, Mr. Kushner answered all questions put to him and demonstrated that there had been no collusion between the campaign and Russia." Bonnie Kristian
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has declined to offer any public comment on his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allegations of Trump campaign involvement therein. That silence makes all the more noteworthy Politico's assembly of an organizational chart of his investigation, which the outlet reports Monday was put together using "court filings and interviews with lawyers familiar with the Russia cases."
The chart focuses on the assigned jurisdictions of the 17 federal prosecutors on Mueller's team. For example, the investigation into former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who was indicted last month, is led by "three prosecutors schooled in money laundering, fraud, foreign bribery, and organized crime," Politico reports. Meanwhile, the team focused on ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn includes a lawyer "with a specialty in prosecuting and collecting evidence in international criminal and terrorism cases."
However, Politico notes, the assignments do not seem to be rigid roles, and team members may work on multiple aspects of the investigation at once. "I'd fully expect everyone on this team is mature enough and skilled enough to take contributions as they come," said one attorney familiar with the probe. "It's not a case of, 'I'm in charge. You're second in command.'" Read the rest of the report here. Bonnie Kristian
Lawyers for ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Friday broke their public silence to rebuff recent stories related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling and Flynn's alleged involvement.
While they previously abstained from comment in "respect for the process of the various investigations," Flynn's attorneys said, "today's news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: They are false."
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday that Mueller is investigating Flynn's alleged implication in a plot to earn millions kidnapping a Turkish cleric, while NBC News reported Mueller is probing Flynn's meetings with a congressman who has advocated improving Washington's relations with Moscow. Earlier this week, NBC also reported Mueller already has enough information to bring charges against Flynn should he so choose. Bonnie Kristian
The Russia investigation could be in serious trouble because of Twitter's uncompromising privacy policies
A heap of information about how Russia used Twitter to influence the 2016 presidential election is potentially lost forever due to the social media platform's uncompromising privacy policies, Politico reports. As investigators dive deeper into Kremlin efforts to swing the election in favor of President Trump, Twitter is unable to offer firm evidence due to the fact that the company mimics deletions and revisions to information made by its consumers and keeps no lasting record of data that has been intentionally erased.
Because of such rules, the platform is designed perfectly for malicious agents who want to cover their tracks, frustrated investigators say. Twitter "could not have built a more effective disinformation platform," said Johns Hopkins University strategic studies professor Thomas Rid.
If Twitter saved such information, "you can basically see when botnets appeared and disappeared, and how they shaped narrative around certain event," another analyst told Politico. Instead, Twitter "removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible," Rid said.
The Senate Intelligence Committee updated the American public on Wednesday regarding the ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, with chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) saying the "issue of collusion" remains open, ABC News reports.
Burr admitted, though, that the committee is not making the kind of progress it would like; the investigation has "hit a wall" in regards to the Christopher Steele dossier. The documents, originally leaked by BuzzFeed News, allege that the Russian government had material it could use to blackmail President Trump. Steele, a former British spy, has refused to talk to the Senate. "[Special Counsel Robert] Mueller [is] less likely to hit a wall on compelling witnesses," tweeted MSNBC's Ali Melber.
Additionally, "Burr reiterated that 'no vote totals were affected'" by any sort of meddling, "but stressed that the Russian interference in U.S. elections is ongoing and will continue in subsequent elections," ABC News writes. Jeva Lange
President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had two previously unreported contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 campaign, The Washington Post reports. The first contact, several weeks before the Republican National Convention, involved Cohen exchanging emails about traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would have been attended by politicians including Russian President Vladimir Putin. The second case involved Cohen in conversation about a Moscow residential project in late 2015. Cohen both declined the invitation to the economic conference and rejected the Trump-branded Moscow project.
In August, The Washington Post reported that Cohen reached out to Dmitry Peskov, Putin's personal spokesman, during the presidential campaign to ask for help moving forward a stalled Trump Tower project in Moscow. Cohen said in a statement to congressional investigators that he reached out to Peskov at the recommendation of Felix Sater, the Russian-American businessman working on the Moscow project.
The Trump Organization handed over details of the newly reported interactions to the White House in light of the ongoing investigations by congressional committees as well as Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And while apparently no action stemmed from the conversations, the contact shows that "Trump's inner circle continued receiving requests from Russians deep into the presidential campaign," The Washington Post reports. Additionally, the documents show that "the Trump Organization fielded another inquiry for a Moscow project during the presidential campaign." Read the full story here. Jeva Lange
President Trump's former adviser and longtime friend Roger Stone characterized his conversations with a Russian government-linked hacker as being "limited" and "benign" after appearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reports.
As part of his defense, Stone also released screenshots of his August and September 2016 conversations with the entity Guccifer 2.0, an alias that took credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee. U.S. officials have linked Guccifer 2.0's materials to Russian government hackers. In August 2016, Stone argued for Breitbart News that Guccifer 2.0 acted alone and was not working with the Russian government.
[…] Mr. Stone sent a private Twitter message to the Guccifer 2.0 account, saying he was "delighted" the entity was back on Twitter, according to the material he released. Twitter had briefly suspended the account.
"F--- the state and their MSM lackeys," Mr. Stone added, using a common disparaging term for the mainstream media.
According to Mr. Stone's release, Guccifer 2.0 responded: "thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me!!!" The entity then asked if Mr. Stone found anything interesting in the documents posted — a question to which Mr. Stone’s release suggests he didn’t reply. [The Wall Street Journal ]
The screenshots indicate that Guccifer 2.0 attempted several more times to talk to Stone although Stone offered limited replies.
"[Stone's] significance starts and ends with the question as to whether he worked with Russians while they were interfering in our election," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told Mother Jones on Monday before the hearing. "He demonstrated at least a willingness to work with the Russians. Was this just willingness or was this an active working relationship? That is still unresolved." Jeva Lange
President Trump may have the pockets of the Republican National Committee and his re-election campaign to dip into for legal bills stemming from the Russia probe, but not everyone else is so lucky, Bloomberg reports. Michael Caputo, who only briefly served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, reports that being a person of interest in the Russia investigation has led to more than $30,000 in legal fees, money he's had to pull from his children's college funds. "It's very expensive and nobody's called me and offered to help," he recently told the Washington Examiner.
After all, not everyone gets the same treatment as Donald Trump Jr., who had $50,000 in legal fees paid off by the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reports. Dozens of other more peripheral people may yet be roped into the probe, including staffers like Communications Director Hope Hicks, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and even Jared Kushner's spokesman.
— That Michael Caputo (@MichaelRCaputo) September 19, 2017
The psychological toll is also not insignificant. Caputo told Bloomberg that he has bought a new security system and several guns due to threats. Internally, staffers and aides must also cope with the paranoia that comes from lawyers advising them not to talk to each other about the investigation.
"Everyone is facing this," said Caputo. "I talk to them all. I know they are worried and I think it is awful. We heard about this happening during the Clinton investigations. Those stories loom heavily over us." Read more about the financial and psychological toll of the Russia investigation at Bloomberg. Jeva Lange