18 Apr 2017

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Another month has passed, so I think it's time to take another snapshot of some of the highlights regarding the Trump-Russia story. The amount of stories is enormous. At times it feels like as if multiple seasons of "House of Cards" are unfolding at the same time.

At the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee in March FBI Director Comey revealed that since July there is an FBI investigation into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Please let that sink in for a moment.

Subsequently, in an act of panic, the Republican chairman of the committee Devin Nunes went on a self-destructive, White House directed mission to divert attention. A former DoJ spokesperson described Nunes' press conference as "He basically poured gasoline all over himself & lit himself on fire." Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.
As further diversion, after slandering Barack Obama, the White House also did the same to Susan Rice.

The WaPo has confirmed the existence of a FISA warrant for Carter Page.

It was revealed - by former CIA director James Woolsey - that last September General Flynn, while getting paid by Turkey, took part in a meeting "to plan a covert operation to whisk away fugitive cleric Fethullah Gulen and hand him over to Turkey's authoritarian government". A few months later that man was made National Security Advisor by Trump. For a few days, then he had to resign.
Flynn's lawyer now has offered that Flynn is willing to cooperate with whoever is interested in exchange for immunity. The official reaction was summed up as "Nah, thanks, we're good."

BBC's Paul Wood, one of the reporters that first reported about the existence of a FISA warrant, wrote in a follow-up: "This is a three-headed operation," said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated "bots", then on Russia's English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US "news" sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls."

Read an article by Clint Watts who testified before the Senate intelligence committee on Russia's interference in U.S. politics. Take the time to watch this four minute clip from the hearing.

Last week the Guardian reported: "GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents". They say Germany, Estonia, Poland and Australia passed along information. Dutch and French services are also said to have contributed. "The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets."
The article ends with: "They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion".

Two more quotes from politicians that I found noteworthy: Republican Sen. John McCain regarding the Russia investigation: "I think there’s a lot of shoes to drop from this centipede". And the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner describes the investigation as "the most important thing I've ever done".

Ivanka Trump is implicated in a hotel deal in Azerbaijan that's connected to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Jared Kushner is on the list of people to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the Russia investigation.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman hired Howard Master, the assistant U.S. Attorney who led public-corruption prosecutions under US attorney Preet Bharara, who was recently fired by Trump. Schneiderman most recently sued Trump for his Trump University scam.

Louise Mensch continues to be the journalist who writes blog posts with the most concrete stories. It's always good not get hope up too high, but so far her track record is very good.
She says that Russians hacked the database of the Democratic National Committee to gain access of a list of democratic voters. Russians also hacked state voter registration databases. That data was sent to the Trump campaign as a basis for detailed voter targeting on Facebook and Twitter in order to send custom-made messages.
She also reports that there is a chance "Carter Page went to Moscow in early July carrying with him a pre-recorded tape of Donald Trump offering to change American policy if he were to be elected".
That's what you would call a "smoking gun". Read all of her articles, preferably in chronological order.

Now we are reaching the rumour section. Over the last few days, a flurry of twitter accounts cited infos from "sources" that a lot of people are under investigation and/or willing to cooperate with the authorities. Take it with a dose of scepticism, though, after following these people for some time, I will not dismiss their information out of hand.

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are an investigation target because of their knowledge about the Russian hacking and campaign financing.
Rudy Giuliani is allegedly cooperating with the authorities. This would be very helpful since he probably knows where a lot of dead bodies are buried in New York.
Given Trump's shady connections in the past, possible lines of attack for NY AG Schneiderman are emoluments, money laundering, tax evasion and RICO charges. The hope is that Comey and Schneiderman will carefully coordinate their campaigns.

There is more, but I think that's enough for now. I have no idea if some or all of those things will ever happen, though I'm increasingly confident that dominoes will start to fall.
It may make sense to get familiar with the United States presidential line of succession. If Trump gets impeached (or, more likely, resigns), next will be VP Mike Pence (doubtful), House Speaker Paul Ryan (doubtful), Senate president Orrin Hatch (in theory, the most likely).

For continued info I suggest following the twitter accounts of TrueFactsStated, GuardianRover (Edit: better discard GuardianRover) and olgaNYC1211. If you read them you can find more accounts from there.
For topical (and also critical) tweet threads I recommend yottapoint. He's also keeping a website where he collects his threads. For further links and people to follow, have a look at previous politics entries.


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