Here’s your lump of coal and twist of the knife from the Donald

Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, “You all just got a lot richer,” referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier.  Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club — including to two friends at a table near Trump’s who described the remark to CBS News — as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the “Winter White House.”

Trump has spent many weekends of his presidency so far at the “Winter White House,” where initiation fees cost $200,000, annual dues cost $14,000, and some of the most affluent members of society have the opportunity to interact with the president in a setting while many Americans cannot. This weekend, the president arrived after signing the most consequential legislation, and arguably, the greatest achievement, of his presidency thus far.

For months, the White House and congressional Republicans have looked to tackle tax reform, a feat some critics deemed too challenging after Republicans’ failure to find a compromise on health care. But on Wednesday, the Senate and House, in that order, passed what Trump has deemed the “biggest in history” tax cut and reform bill.

Trump and White House have emphasized repeatedly that the tax legislation is targeted as a tax break for the middle class.

On Saturday when asked for comment, the White House reiterated the benefit of the new law to the middle class.

But critics point out that some aspects of the GOP tax overhaul — such as the doubling of the cap for the estate tax break and lowering of corporate and S-corporation taxes — disproportionately benefit the most affluent Americans. The president has said the tax bill is “not good” for him personally, although that statement is difficult to assess when he has declined to release his tax returns.

Trump himself on Sept. 13 — long before the bill was finalized — said the wealthy would not benefit from the GOP tax overhaul.

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs — jobs being the economy,” Trump said.

Still, the tax overhaul is a legislative victory for the president, as he completes his first year in office and ends out the year at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump spent some of Saturday golfing with friends and pro golfers Jim Herman, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas and his father at Trump International Golf Club.

edited from:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-mar-a-lago-christmas-trip/

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Legal brief explains how the Kremlin used local actors to interfere with US election in 2016

Former high-level officials submit ‘unusual’ Russia brief in lawsuit against Trump and Roger Stone

Among the former officials are John Brennan, a CIA director; James Clapper, a director of national intelligence; and Michael Hayden, a director of the National Security Agency.

The brief explained how the `, including the one targeting the US election in 2016.

John Brennan. Thomson Reuters

Fourteen former national security, intelligence, and foreign policy officials who have served at senior levels in Republican and Democratic administrations recently wrote an amicus brief as part of a lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump’s campaign and Roger Stone, his longtime confidant.

The lawsuit was filed in July by three private citizens — Roy Cockrum, Scott Comer, and Eric Schoenberg — whose personal information was stolen in hacks of the Democratic National Committee and published by WikiLeaks. The plaintiffs have argued that the Trump campaign, Stone, “and those they conspired with arranged for the hacked information to be provided to WikiLeaks.”

The Trump campaign and Stone have filed motions to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiffs responded on December 1, laying out, among other things, a “motive to collaborate” between the campaign and Russia, as well as points of contact.

Among the former officials who filed the amicus brief on December 8 are John Brennan, a CIA director; James Clapper, a director of national intelligence; and Michael Hayden, a director of the National Security Agency; Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser; Michael McFaul, a US ambassador to Russia; and Michael Morell, an acting CIA director.

The former officials emphasized in the neutral brief that they could not disclose classified information. But their message was clear: The Kremlin uses local actors to help amplify the scope and impact of its influence operations, including the one targeting the US election in 2016.

The cutouts can range from “the unwitting accomplice who is manipulated to act in what he believes is his best interest, to the ideological or economic ally who broadly shares Russian interests, to the knowing agent of influence who is recruited or coerced to directly advance Russian operations and objectives,” the former officials wrote.

Cutouts can be anyone, they explained, from journalists and academics to “prominent pro-Russian businessmen.”

These local actors help the Kremlin further its foreign influence operations and “active measures” campaigns, they wrote. Those operations often involve the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories and cyberattacks — all in an attempt to “undermine confidence in democratic leaders and institutions” and “discredit candidates for office perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.”

This type of brief is ‘certainly unusual’

It is “certainly unusual” for a group of such high-profile former officials to write and submit a brief to a district court, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.

But it is a way for the former officials to “draw attention” to an issue they believe is important for the public to understand, Mariotti said, even if the point they make “doesn’t really move us far down the road to establishing a conspiracy.”

Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia who helped write the brief, said the goal was “to inform the court, and by extension the American public, about the subversive character of Russian ‘active measures’ campaigns.”

“One of the key points we make,” Carpenter said on Thursday, “is that active measures campaigns are almost always carried out using local actors who enable Kremlin agents to get closer to their target and gather information on how best to achieve their desired goal (for example, establishing a corrupt relationship that can be later exploited for purposes of blackmail or manipulation).”

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who was a top Trump campaign surrogate, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about the nature of his conversations last December with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time.

A young foreign policy adviser to the campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in October to a similar charge.

Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, and his longtime associate Rick Gates were indicted in October on charges that included money laundering, tax fraud, and failure to register as a foreign agent. Much of their money, the government said in court filings, came from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.

Read Full Brief Here:

http://go.skimresources.com/?id=35871X943606&xs=1&isjs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.scribd.com%2Fdocument%2F367183201%2F36-1-Amicus-Brief-National-Security-Officials%23from_embed&xguid=&xuuid=58971bd6b84a82729d614a47b1768d26&xsessid=&xcreo=0&xed=0&sref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.businessinsider.com%2Funusual-russia-brief-lawsuit-trump-roger-stone-2017-12%3Fnr_email_referer%3D1%26utm_source%3DSailthru%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_content%3Dpop_up_russia%26pt%3D385758%26ct%3DSailthru_BI_Newsletters%26mt%3D8%26utm_campaign%3DNew%2520Campaign%26utm_term%3DMaster%2520Russia%2520Investigation%2520Newsletter&xtz=480

http://www.businessinsider.com/author/natasha-bertrand

http://www.businessinsider.com/unusual-russia-brief-lawsuit-trump-roger-stone-2017-12

It’s not about ideology with the Trumpies it’s always about the power and the money and money

As President Trump delivered his inaugural address on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, his new national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, sent a text to a former business associate telling him that a plan to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East in partnership with Russian interests was “good to go,” according to a witness who spoke with congressional investigators.

Flynn had assured his former associate that U.S. sanctions against Russia would immediately be “ripped up” by the Trump administration, a move that would help facilitate the deal, the associate told the witness.

The witness provided the account to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who detailed the allegations in a letter Wednesday to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Cummings did not identify the witness, whom he described as a whistleblower. But he asked Gowdy to issue a subpoena to the White House for documents related to Flynn, saying that the committee has “credible allegations” that Flynn “sought to manipulate the course of international nuclear policy for the financial gain of his former business partners.”

Gowdy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Robert Kelner, an attorney representing Flynn, declined to comment. White House lawyer Ty Cobb said, “I respectfully decline to comment on anonymous information which impacts the Special Counsel investigation.” He was referring to the ongoing inquiry of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The episode indicates that Trump officials had planned to jettison sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. Congress later passed a bipartisan measure that placed new sanctions on Russia, a bill that Trump reluctantly signed in August.

On Friday, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about conversations he had in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador to the United States about the sanctions, among other topics.

According to Cummings’s letter, the witness said he met Alex Copson, Flynn’s former business associate, at an inaugural event. Copson is the managing director of ACU Strategic Partners, a Washington-based company that Flynn said he advised from April 2015 through June 2016, according to a financial disclosure he filed this August.

The witness told Cummings and committee investigators that Copson shared a text message he had just received from Flynn, who was on stage at the Capitol during Trump’s speech.

As the president spoke, Flynn reportedly texted Copson that the nuclear project was “good to go,” the witness said Copson told him.

“Mike has been putting everything in place for us,” Copson said, according to the witness, adding: “This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”

Copson showed the witness the text on his phone. The witness could not read the text, but he saw that the time stamp was 12:11 p.m., according to Cummings’s letter.

“Mr. Copson explained that General Flynn was making sure that sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ as one of his first orders of business and that this would allow money to start flowing into the project,” Cummings wrote.

The witness told congressional investigators that he was “extremely uncomfortable” with the conversation, Cummings wrote, and took brief notes about the discussion during the inaugural event.

Neither Copson nor an attorney for ACU responded to a request for comment.

Cummings told Gowdy in his letter that he found the witness “authentic, credible and reliable.”

“Although this individual was extremely hesitant to come forward — and still fears retaliation — the whistleblower has decided to do so now because this individual feels duty bound as a citizen to make this disclosure,” he wrote.

The office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was aware of the witness’s account and asked Cummings not to release the information until the special counsel had taken “certain investigative steps,” which are now complete, Cummings wrote.

Flynn was involved in the Middle Eastern nuclear project from spring 2015 to the end of 2016, according to recent financial disclosure filings, a period that overlapped with his role as a prominent adviser to Trump’s campaign and transition.

Flynn had served as an adviser to two Washington-based companies pursuing efforts to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East: Copson’s company, ACU Strategic Partners, which proposed a partnership with Russian interests, and IP3/IronBridge, which later began a separate endeavor that initially proposed working with China to build the infrastructure, according to federal documents and company officials.

In various filings in 2016 and 2017, Flynn did not initially disclose his connection to ACU and foreign contacts he made while advising the firm.

After joining the White House, Flynn forwarded a memo written by a co-founder of IP3 to develop a “Marshall Plan” of investment in the Middle East and told his staff to fashion it into a policy for Trump’s approval, The Post reported last month.

Now we know why Trump has been so extra unhinged in the last week

Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn looks at President-elect Donald Trump as he talks with the media at Mar-a-Lago estate where Trump attends meetings, in Palm Beach, Florida, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Obama warned Trump not to hire Michael Flynn

Sources tell ABC News that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to deliver direct evidence against President Donald Trump and his family in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

ABC News’ Brian Ross reported on Friday morning that Flynn has agreed to “fully cooperate” with Mueller in the probe, and is “prepared to testify… against President Trump, against members of the Trump family and others in the White House.”

Most significantly, Ross’ source says that Flynn will tell Mueller that Trump as a presidential candidate ordered him to make “direct contact” with the Russian government to help his campaign.

Ross also reported that Flynn only decided to cooperate with Mueller within the last 24 hours, as he was facing serious “financial problems” as a result of all the legal bills related to the Russia probe.

Ex-US Attorney: Trump is ‘scared to death’ as Mueller ‘squeezes’ his inner circle like toothpaste

Former United States Attorney Michael Moore went on CNN Friday to break down the plea deal struck between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and special counsel Robert Mueller — and he predicted bad things to come for the White House.

Moore said that the pattern the Mueller is following — that is, starting with lower level Trump campaign officials like George Papadopoulos and working up to bigger fish such as Flynn — is a by-the-book method for conducting these kinds of investigations.

“This is classic federal prosecutor style, and that’s what we would expect from Bob Mueller, and I think that’s what’s got the White House probably scared to death,” he said. “This is not unlike a tube of toothpaste — you squeeze it at the bottom, and the more you squeeze the more evidence comes out at one end. That’s what’s happening here as we continue to see Bob Mueller squeezing people in Trump’s inner circle.”

Moore then went on to connect Flynn’s admission to lying to FBI investigators to Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, and said that Flynn’s guilty plea lends new weight to the investigation over whether Trump obstructed justice.

“That’s not fake anymore, it’s a real investigation,” he said.

from Raw Story   www.rawstory.com

Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI — a milestone in special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging probe

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn’s admission to the charge Friday in federal district court in D.C. is an ominous sign for the White House, indicating he is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. The charge relates to false statements Flynn made to the FBI on January 24 — four days after President Trump was inaugurated — about his conversations with Kislyak during the transition.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/michael-flynn-charged-with-making-false-statement-to-the-fbi/2017/12/01

Trump’s Russian romance started with the old Soviet Union back in the 80’s

In 1987, a young real estate developer traveled to the Soviet Union. The KGB almost certainly made the trip happen

It was 1984 and General Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov had a problem. The general occupied one of the KGB’s most exalted posts. He was head of the First Chief Directorate, the prestigious KGB arm responsible for gathering foreign intelligence.

Kryuchkov had begun his career with five years at the Soviet mission in Budapest under Ambassador Yuri Andropov. In 1967 Andropov became KGB chairman. Kryuchkov went to Moscow, took up a number of sensitive posts, and established a reputation as a devoted and hardworking officer. By 1984, Kryuchkov’s directorate in Moscow was bigger than ever before—12,000 officers, up from about 3,000 in the 1960s. His headquarters at Yasenevo, on the wooded southern outskirts of the city, was expanding: Workmen were busy constructing a 22-story annex and a new 11-story building.

In politics, change was in the air. Soon a new man would arrive in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s policy of detente with the West—a refreshing contrast to the global confrontation of previous general secretaries—meant the directorate’s work abroad was more important than ever.

Kryuchkov faced several challenges. First, a hawkish president, Ronald Reagan, was in power in Washington. The KGB regarded his two predecessors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as weak. By contrast Reagan was seen as a potent adversary. The directorate was increasingly preoccupied with what it believed—wrongly—was an American plot to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the USSR.

It was around this time that Donald Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence. How that happened, and where that relationship began, is an answer hidden somewhere in the KGB’s secret archives. Assuming, that is, that the documents still exist.

Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.

In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.

In addition to shifting politics in Moscow, Kryuchkov’s difficulty had to do with intelligence gathering. The results from KGB officers abroad had been disappointing. Too often they would pretend to have obtained information from secret sources. In reality, they had recycled material from newspapers or picked up gossip over lunch with a journalist. Too many residencies had “paper agents” on their books: targets for recruitment who had nothing to do with real intelligence.

Kryuchkov sent out a series of classified memos to KGB heads of station. Oleg Gordievsky—formerly based in Denmark and then in Great Britain—copied them and passed them to British intelligence. He later co-published them with the historian Christopher Andrew under the title Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975–1985.

In January 1984 Kryuchkov addressed the problem during a biannual review held in Moscow, and at a special conference six months later. The urgent subject: how to improve agent recruitment. The general urged his officers to be more “creative.” Previously they had relied on identifying candidates who showed ideological sympathy toward the USSR: leftists, trade unionists and so on. By the mid-1980s these were not so many. So KGB officers should “make bolder use of material incentives”: money. And use flattery, an important tool.

The Center, as KGB headquarters was known, was especially concerned about its lack of success in recruiting US citizens, according to Andrew and Gordievsky. The PR Line—that is, the Political Intelligence Department stationed in KGB residencies abroad—was given explicit instructions to find “U.S. targets to cultivate or, at the very least, official contacts.” “The main effort must be concentrated on acquiring valuable agents,” Kryuchkov said.

The memo—dated February 1, 1984—was to be destroyed as soon as its contents had been read. It said that despite improvements in “information gathering,” the KGB “has not had great success in operation against the main adversary [America].”

One solution was to make wider use of “the facilities of friendly intelligence services”—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German spy networks.

And: “Further improvement in operational work with agents calls for fuller and wider utilization of confidential and special unofficial contacts. These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science.” These should not only “supply valuable information” but also “actively influence” a country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.”

There were, of course, different stages of recruitment. Typically, a case officer would invite a target to lunch. The target would be classified as an “official contact.” If the target appeared responsive, he (it was rarely she) would be promoted to a “subject of deep study,” an obyekt razrabotki. The officer would build up a file, supplemented by official and covert material. That might include readouts from conversations obtained through bugging by the KGB’s technical team.

The KGB also distributed a secret personality questionnaire, advising case officers what to look for in a successful recruitment operation. In April 1985 this was updated for “prominent figures in the West.” The directorate’s aim was to draw the target “into some form of collaboration with us.” This could be “as an agent, or confidential or special or unofficial contact.”

The form demanded basic details—name, profession, family situation, and material circumstances. There were other questions, too: what was the likelihood that the “subject could come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)”? And an assessment of personality. For example: “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?”

The most revealing section concerned kompromat. The document asked for: “Compromising information about subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself.” Plus “any other information” that would compromise the subject before “the country’s authorities and the general public.” Naturally the KGB could exploit this by threatening “disclosure.”

Finally, “his attitude towards women is also of interest.” The document wanted to know: “Is he in the habit of having affairs with women on the side?”

Image result for Ivanka's mom

Ivana Zelnickova and Ivanka

When did the KGB open a file on Donald Trump? We don’t know, but Eastern Bloc security service records suggest this may have been as early as 1977. That was the year when Trump married Ivana Zelnickova, a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelnickova was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.

During the Cold War, Czech spies were known for their professionalism. Czech and Hungarian officers were typically used in espionage actions abroad, especially in the United States and Latin America. They were less obvious than Soviet operatives sent by Moscow.

Zelnickova was born in Zlin, an aircraft manufacturing town in Moravia. Her first marriage was to an Austrian real estate agent. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelnickova moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Trump.

According to files in Prague, declassified in 2016, Czech spies kept a close eye on the couple in Manhattan. (The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos.) They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos was never an agent or asset. But he had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was periodic surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. And when Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, further spying, or “cover.”

Like with other Eastern Bloc agencies, the Czechs would have shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Trump may have been of interest for several reasons. One, his wife came from Eastern Europe. Two—at a time after 1984 when the Kremlin was experimenting with perestroika, or Communist Party reform—Trump had a prominent profile as a real estate developer and tycoon. According to the Czech files, Ivana mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. Might Trump at some stage consider a political career?

The KGB wouldn’t invite someone to Moscow out of altruism. Dignitaries flown to the USSR on expenses-paid trips were typically left-leaning writers or cultural figures. The state would expend hard currency; the visitor would say some nice things about Soviet life; the press would report these remarks, seeing in them a stamp of approval.

Despite Gorbachev’s policy of engagement, he was still a Soviet leader. The KGB continued to view the West with deep suspicion. It carried on with efforts to subvert Western institutions and acquire secret sources, with NATO its No. 1 strategic intelligence target.

At this point it is unclear how the KGB regarded Trump. To become a full KGB agent, a foreigner had to agree to two things. (An “agent” in a Russian or British context was a secret intelligence source.) One was “conspiratorial collaboration.” The other was willingness to take KGB instruction.

According to Andrew and Gordievsky’s book Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions, targets who failed to meet these criteria were classified as “confidential contacts.” The Russian word was doveritelnaya svyaz. The aspiration was to turn trusted contacts into full-blown agents, an upper rung of the ladder.

As Kryuchkov explained, KGB residents were urged to abandon “stereotyped methods” of recruitment and use more flexible strategies—if necessary getting their wives or other family members to help.

As Trump tells it, the idea for his first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. This was in autumn 1986; the event was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the businessman son of Estée Lauder. Dubinin’s daughter Natalia “had read about Trump Tower and knew all about it,” Trump said in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal.

Trump continued: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”

Trump’s chatty version of events is incomplete. According to Natalia Dubinina, the actual story involved a more determined effort by the Soviet government to seek out Trump. In February 1985 Kryuchkov complained again about “the lack of appreciable results of recruitment against the Americans in most Residencies.” The ambassador arrived in New York in March 1986. His original job was Soviet ambassador to the U.N.; his daughter Dubinina was already living in the city with her family, and she was part of the Soviet U.N. delegation.

Dubinin wouldn’t have answered to the KGB. And his role wasn’t formally an intelligence one. But he would have had close contacts with the power apparatus in Moscow. He enjoyed greater trust than other, lesser ambassadors.

Dubinina said she picked up her father at the airport. It was his first time in New York City. She took him on a tour. The first building they saw was Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, she told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Dubinin was so excited he decided to go inside to meet the building’s owner. They got into the elevator. At the top, Dubinina said, they met Trump.

The ambassador—“fluent in English and a brilliant master of negotiations”—charmed the busy Trump, telling him: “The first thing I saw in the city is your tower!”

Dubinina said: “Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him [Trump] like honey to a bee.”

This encounter happened six months before the Estée Lauder lunch. In Dubinina’s account she admits her father was trying to hook Trump. The man from Moscow wasn’t a wide-eyed rube but a veteran diplomat who served in France and Spain, and translated for Nikita Khrushchev when he met with Charles de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He had seen plenty of impressive buildings. Weeks after his first Trump meeting, Dubinin was named Soviet ambassador to Washington.

Dubinina’s own role is interesting. According to a foreign intelligence archive smuggled to the West, the Soviet mission to the U.N. was a haven for the KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence). Many of the 300 Soviet nationals employed at the U.N. secretariat were Soviet intelligence officers working undercover, including as personal assistants to secretary-generals. The Soviet U.N. delegation had greater success in finding agents and gaining political intelligence than the KGB’s New York residency.

Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, said that her late father—he died in 2013—was on a mission as ambassador. This was, she said, to make contact with America’s business elite. For sure, Gorbachev’s Politburo was interested in understanding capitalism. But Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow looks like a classic cultivation exercise, which would have had the KGB’s full support and approval.

In The Art of the Deal, Trump writes: “In January 1987, I got a letter from Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, that began: ‘It is a pleasure for me to relay some good news from Moscow.’ It went on to say that the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism, Goscomintourist, had expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow.”

There were many ambitious real estate developers in the United States—why had Moscow picked Trump?

According to Viktor Suvorov—a former GRU military spy—and others, the KGB ran Intourist, the agency to which Trump referred. It functioned as a subsidiary KGB branch. Initiated in 1929 by Stalin, Intourist was the Soviet Union’s official state travel agency. Its job was to vet and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union. “In my time it was KGB,” Suvorov said. “They gave permission for people to visit.” The KGB’s first and second directorates routinely received lists of prospective visitors to the country based on their visa applications.

As a GRU operative, Suvorov was personally involved in recruitment, albeit for a rival service to the KGB. Soviet spy agencies were always interested in cultivating “young ambitious people,” he said—an upwardly mobile businessman, a scientist, a “guy with a future.”

Once in Moscow, they would receive lavish hospitality. “Everything is free. There are good parties with nice girls. It could be a sauna and girls and who knows what else.” The hotel rooms or villa were under “24-hour control,” with “security cameras and so on,” Suvorov said. “The interest is only one. To collect some information and keep that information about him for the future.”

These dirty-tricks operations were all about the long term, Suvorov said. The KGB would expend effort on visiting students from the developing world, not least Africa. After 10 or 20 years, some of them would be “nobody.” But others would have risen to positions of influence in their own countries.

Suvorov explained: “It’s at this point you say: ‘Knock, knock! Do you remember the marvelous time in Moscow? It was a wonderful evening. You were so drunk. You don’t remember? We just show you something for your good memory.’”

Over in the communist German Democratic Republic, one of Kryuchkov’s 34-year-old officers—one Vladimir Putin—was busy trying to recruit students from Latin America. Putin arrived in Dresden in August 1985, together with his pregnant wife, Lyudmila, and one-year-old daughter, Maria. They lived in a KGB apartment block.

According to the writer Masha Gessen, one of Putin’s tasks was to try to befriend foreigners studying at the Dresden University of Technology. The hope was that, if recruited, the Latin Americans might work in the United States as undercover agents, reporting back to the Center. Putin set about this together with two KGB colleagues and a retired Dresden policeman

Precisely what Putin did while working for the KGB’s First Directorate in Dresden is unknown. It may have included trying to recruit Westerners visiting Dresden on business and East Germans with relatives in the West. Putin’s efforts, Gessen suggests, were mostly a failure. He did manage to recruit a Colombian student. Overall his operational results were modest.

By January 1987, Trump was closer to the “prominent person” status of Kryuchkov’s note. Dubinin deemed Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. Another thirtysomething U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—helped put it together. On July 4, 1987, Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant.

Moscow was, Trump wrote, “an extraordinary experience.” The Trumps stayed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square. Seventy years earlier, in October 1917, Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, had spent a week in room 107. The hotel was linked to the glass-and-concrete Intourist complex next door and was— in effect—under KGB control. The Lenin suite would have been bugged.

Meanwhile, the mausoleum containing the Bolshevik leader’s embalmed corpse was a short walk away. Other Soviet leaders were interred beneath the Kremlin’s wall in a communist pantheon: Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov—Kryuchkov’s old mentor—and Dzerzhinsky.

According to The Art of the Deal, Trump toured “a half dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.” “I was impressed with the ambition of Soviet officials to make a deal,” he writes. He also visited Leningrad, later St. Petersburg. A photo shows Donald and Ivana standing in Palace Square—he in a suit, she in a red polka dot blouse with a string of pearls. Behind them are the Winter Palace and the state Hermitage museum.

That July the Soviet press wrote enthusiastically about the visit of a foreign celebrity. This was Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize–winning novelist and journalist. Pravda featured a long conversation between the Colombian guest and Gorbachev. García Márquez spoke of how South Americans, himself included, sympathized with socialism and the USSR. Moscow brought García Márquez over for a film festival.

Trump’s visit appears to have attracted less attention. There is no mention of him in Moscow’s Russian State Library newspaper archive. (Either his visit went unreported or any articles featuring it have been quietly removed.) Press clippings do record a visit by a West German official and an Indian cultural festival.

The KGB’s private dossier on Trump, by contrast, would have gotten larger. The agency’s multipage profile would have been enriched with fresh material, including anything gleaned via eavesdropping.

Nothing came of the trip—at least nothing in terms of business opportunities inside Russia. This pattern of failure would be repeated in Trump’s subsequent trips to Moscow. But Trump flew back to New York with a new sense of strategic direction. For the first time he gave serious indications that he was considering a career in politics. Not as mayor or governor or senator.

Trump was thinking about running for president.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/19/trump-first-moscow-trip-215842

Luke Harding is a foreign correspondent at the Guardian. Excerpted from the book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win published by Vintage Books, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2017 by Luke Harding.

Kushner the Russian “backdoor man”?

Belarusian-American businessman named Sergei Millian and his buddy

Jared Kushner has evidently failed to produce documents to lawmakers that they say “are known to exist” about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” and communications with a Belarusian-American businessman named Sergei Millian.

It had not been reported that a “Russian backdoor overture” was discussed in emails that Kushner forwarded, the senators say, or that anyone on the campaign had communicated with Millian.

Reports emerged earlier this year that Millian was “Source E” in the dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, forwarded emails about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” to Trump campaign officials and failed to produce those emails to the Senate Judiciary Committee, two senators on the committee said in a letter to Kushner’s lawyer on Thursday.

Kushner also failed to produce emails he was copied on involving communication with the anti-secrecy agency WikiLeaks and with a Belarusian-American businessman named Sergei Millian, the senators said. Millian most recently headed a group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

“There are several documents that are known to exist but were not included in your production,” Sens. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s chairman, and Dianne Feinstein, its ranking member, wrote to Kushner.

They continued:

“For example, other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official. Such documents should have been produced in response to the third request but were not.

“Likewise, other parties have produced documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner.

“Again, these do not appear in Mr. Kushner’s production despite being responsive to the second request.”

Kushner came under new scrutiny this week after The Atlantic reported that his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. told him in an email in September 2016 that WikiLeaks had sent him a private message on Twitter. The report said Kushner forwarded that information to Hope Hicks, at the time a campaign communications staffer.

The “Russian backdoor overture” could be a reference to Kushner’s meeting in December with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the US, that was also attended by Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser. The senators said on Thursday that Kushner had not provided all the information it requested related to his communications with Flynn.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that at that meeting, Kushner had suggested setting up a back-channel line of communication between the Trump transition team and Moscow using Russian diplomatic facilities in the US.

Kushner has disputed that characterization, telling lawmakers in July that he asked Kislyak whether there was “an existing communications channel at his embassy” that could be used to discuss Syria. It had not been reported, however, that the matter was discussed again in emails that Kushner “also forwarded,” the senators said.

It is unclear what the “dinner invite” was a reference to. The senators also said Kushner had not produced any phone records.

It had also not been reported that anyone on the campaign was in touch with Millian via email, or that Kushner was copied on any of those correspondences. Millian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Millian, a Belarus-born businessman who is now a US citizen, founded the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in 2006. He has described himself as an exclusive broker for the Trump Organization with respect to real-estate dealings in Russia.

He told the Russian news agency RIA that he had been in touch with the Trump Organization as late as April 2016. He told Business Insider earlier this year, however, that the last time he worked on a Trump-brand project was “in Florida around 2008.” He did not respond to a request to clarify the discrepancy.

The Wall Street Journal and ABC reported earlier this year that Millian was “Source E” in the dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia. Millian, who attended several black-tie events at Trump’s inauguration, has denied that charge. He told Business Insider earlier this year that the author of The Journal’s report was “the mastermind behind fake news.”

Millian has also worked with Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian government organization whose “fundamental” goal, it says, is to familiarize “young people from different countries” with Russian culture through exchange trips to Moscow.

The FBI has investigated whether Rossotrudnichestvo is a front for the Russian government to cultivate “young, up-and-coming Americans as Russian intelligence assets,” as described by a 2013 Mother Jones report — a theory Rossotrudnichestvo has strongly denied.

Trump Jr coordinated with Kremlin-linked “known hostile non-state actor” oops!

Donald Trump Jr. seems to think that the direct messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks aren’t particularly incriminating. On Monday night, Trump Jr. tweeted out what he claims were his “entire chain of messages” with WikiLeaks, and he dismissively wrote that his messages consisted of a “whopping 3 responses.”

According to those direct messages, Trump Jr.’s last message to Wikileaks was sent on October 3, 2016 — four days before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security released a joint statement publicly accusing WikiLeaks of being a Kremlin front.

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the statement said. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process… We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

While Trump Jr. could argue he stopped sending messages to WikiLeaks as soon as U.S. intelligence agencies publicly accused it of being a Kremlin front, his willingness to collaborate with WikiLeaks seems to have extended past the statement’s release on October 7.

On October 12, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a message lauding Trump Sr. for “talking about our publications” during campaign rallies, and suggested, “your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.”

Fifteen minutes later, Trump Sr. posted a tweet complaining that there was “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system! 5:46 AM – Oct 12, 2016 · United States

And two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted out the very link WikiLeaks suggested.

Donald Trump Jr. ✔@DonaldJTrumpJr For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here: http://wlsearch.tk/ 5:34 AM – Oct 14, 2016

During the last month of the campaign, Trump Sr. mentioned WikiLeaks 164 times, with many of them occurring after the intelligence agencies released their joint statement. Despite the fact that stolen emails published by WikiLeaks were a central part of his closing message, Trump later insisted that WikiLeaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

On Tuesday morning, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski went on CNN and tried to rewrite history in a manner favorable to the Trumps.

Asked how Trump Jr. could have thought it was a good idea to communicate with Kremlin-linked “known hostile non-state actor,” Lewandowski suggested Trump Jr. might not have known “what WikiLeaks was about” in October of last year.

“I don’t know if we knew back in October that WikiLeaks had that same type of notion behind them,” Lewandowski said. “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that looking back a year ago that we would have known what WikiLeaks was about.”

Lewandowski did not mention the intelligence community statement that was released early that month and received significant media attention.

During another part of the interview, Lewandowski tried to distance the president from his eldest son, saying that “Don Jr. is a private citizen, he can tweet or retweet anything he wants to, and it doesn’t have a material effect on the outcome of the campaign.”

Tuesday night wasn’t the first time Trump Jr. has published incriminating private correspondence under duress. Last July, Trump Jr. tweeted out emails showing that the Trump campaign was eager to collude with individuals connected to the Russian government in an effort to bring down Clinton.

https://thinkprogress.org/the-big-problem-with-donald-trump-jr-s-excuse-for-collaborating-with-wikileaks-f2ee3759c73d/