This Week In Russiagate, Bastille Day Edition

Air Force One was wheels up on Wednesday evening, July 12, 2017, en-route to Paris, France.  The President, who just returned form a European vacation for his first ever meeting last week with Vladimir Putin at the G-20, was once again Europe bound looking forward to the pomp and circumstance of Bastille Day celebrations as the guest of French President, Emmanuel Macron. While 45th*may have some explaining to do as to his repeated disparaging comments during the campaign about France and the City of Lights, we begin with the fact that no matter where this President goes, he cannot escape the evidence that continues to pile up in This Week In Russiagate, Bastille Day Edition.

This Time, A Real Smoking Gun

We now have concrete, written confirmation coming from a highly placed representative of 45th*’s campaign, confirming an intent to attend a meeting with a Russian national carrying with her what was hoped to be information damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign. That information was represented to have been obtained directly from the Russian government itself. The  New York Times,  on July 8, 2017, revealed that Donald, Jr., Jared Kushner, and then campaign Director Paul Manafort, met with a Russian lawyer, on June 9, 2016, in the family’s Manhattan tower. The meeting arranged by Bob Goldstone, was set up at the request of a 45th* business partner with links to the Kremlin.

In an attempt to get out in front of the New York Times publication, Donald, Jr, tweeted out the actual email exchange he had with United Kingdom citizen and Russian pop star agent, Rob Goldstone, concerning the now infamous scheduled then rescheduled meeting between the campaign and what we now know were at least two Russian nationals. According to the younger Donald, the exchange began on June 3, 2016, with an email from Goldstone offering the following:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.”

Aras and Emin is a reference to the father and son, the Agaralovs. Aras Agalarov is the Azerbaijani-Russian real estate developer who was involved with the President and his family in a project to build a hotel bearing the family name in Moscow. Emin Agalarov is the Russian pop star represented by Rob Goldstone, who was also promoted by 45th* through his now defunct TV reality show,The Apprentice.

Goldstone emailed young Donald on June 7, 2016, saying that his client, Emin Agalarov,

“Asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.”

We now know that the lawyer identified by Goldstone to represent the interests of the Agalarovs was Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The connection between the New President and the Agalarovs cannot be denied. Video has surfaced showing 45th* having dinner in Las Vegas with Emin Agalarov and his father, real estate developer Aras Agalarov. 45th* can also be seen partying with his Russian friends and business associates in Moscow as revealed in a 2013 video tape.

The younger Donald justified taking the meeting, which included bringing with him Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, tweeting on July 10, 2017,

“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen.”

The original meeting, scheduled for 3pm, on June 9, 2016, was pushed back to 4 pm that day.  The reason for the change in time, according to an email from Rob Goldstone, was because attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was busy in court until 3pm on June 9, 2016. Attorney Veselnitskaya was in New York that day to represent the interests of,

“The family of Pyotr Katsyv, the former vice governor of the Moscow region, whose son, Denis, owns the real-estate company Prevezon. The DOJ had been investigating whether Prevezon laundered millions of dollars through New York City real estate, when the case was unexpectedly settled two days before going to trial in May.”

That case, United States vs Prevezon Holdings Ltd., et al., brought by the Department of Justice under Preet Bharara, sought the recovery of some $230,000,000 and was settled for just $6 million under the Jeff Sessions led DOJ. Mr. Bharara was fired after being assured by 45th* that he would stay on.

As the young Donald was hiring attorney Alan Futerfas, of New York, who specializes in criminal defense, so was his father, the President hiring an attorney. The President is going to hire Ty Cobb, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, to manage the White House legal and media responses to the Russia investigation. According to his firm, Mr. Cobb is,

“Widely recognized as one of the premier white collar, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement, and congressional investigations lawyers in the world. Clients managing crises, allegations of corruption, and other critical matters turn to Ty to guide them.”

Donald, Junior changed his story at least four times concerning the substance of the meeting when it was first reported on July 8, 2017 through July 11, 2017. The accounts offered by the White House through official spokespersons, such as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, do not comport with the facts known at this time. As the facts develop, statements such as this from Donald, Junior,

This is everything”,

continue to be proven false.

The Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was well known to the US intelligence community and it is,

“beyond dispute is that she has lobbied for the United States to repeal Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russian officials, that she regularly represents the interests of the Moscow regional government and that her clients include the vice president of state-owned Russian Railways.”

Her connection to the Kremlin probably meant that attorney Veselnitskaya came under routine surveillance by the FBI whenever she entered the United States; therefore, what was said in the meeting with the campaign’s team may have been recorded. This meeting also may have provided the basis for future FISA warrants. Surely any other foreign nationals attending the meeting were also on the radar of the United States intelligence services.

The Laws That Might Have Been Broken

The Prohibition on Contributions, Donations, Expenditures, Independent Expenditures, and Disbursements by Foreign Nationals, 52 U.S.C. 30121, and 36 U.S.C. 510 as well as 11 CFR 110.20, is the applicable law possibly violated by the campaign team. Specifically,

A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.”

According to the FEC,

“It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them.  Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.”

Among the people considered foreign nationals by the FEC are,

Individuals with foreign citizenship.”

This means that anyone with a foreign passport could be considered a a foreign national even if they are not acting in any official capacity for a foreign government.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the ban on foreign national contributions  in the matter of Bluman v Federal Election Commission, handed down on January 9, 2012.

The SF-86 disclosure form required to obtain a national security clearance, which Jared Kushner has amended three times, may constitute a series of violations of 18 U.S. Code § 1001, which provides that

“(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

  1. falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
  2. makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
  3. makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.”

The detailed and specific SF-86 contains the following conspicuous warning for filers,

Penalties for Inaccurate or False Statements

The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines of up to $10,000, and/or 5 years imprisonment, or both.”

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA),  is applicable to Paul Manafort who, in September 2016, retroactively filed as a foreign agent, because of work performed overseas from 2012 through 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/politics/manafort-registers-foreign-agent/index.html Mr. Manafort earned for his political consulting firm,

$17 million working as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.”

The reasons for Manafort’s resignation and subsequent retroactive filing as a foreign agent appear to be the legal predicament that he had found himself in as,

“Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.”

 

Keep in mind that Manafort, who resigned as the second campaign chairman on August 19, 2016, denied collusion with the Russians on July 24, 2016, in an interview with on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. Donald, Junior, was not the only one talking to the cable news platforms to deny the fact of the campaign’s collusion with Russians. On July 24, 2017, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper regarding any suggestion that the Russians hacked the DNC, Donald, Junior said that,

It’s disgusting, it’s so phony.”

The New York Post may have said it best in responding to the revelation about young Donald’s meeting with these Russians, saying,

Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.”

Like father, the Twitterer In Chief, like son, it seems that when their lips are moving or their fingers are typing, they are probably lying.  The facts known to date about the meeting on June 9, 2016, strongly suggest an attempt to collude wth Russians nationals, and if 45th* knew of the meeting and approved or authorized attendance, it could make him a co-conspirator. If the 45th* president of the United States was present at the meeting, that would make him guilty of the underlying crime itself.

There is also the possibility that if and when the young Donald is called to testify, he may very well have waived any Fifth Amendment protection. This is because of his tweeting and talking about it following the New York Times report and its request for comment from him before publication. Once again, like father, like son.

The FBI is also looking closely at the campaign’s digital operations headed by Jared Kushner believed to have,

helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.”

Specifically, the FBI is interesting in learning,

“Whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site, Wikileaks.”

Federal investigators appear to have reason to doubt that foreign directed

Robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently “known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states.”

This parallels the interest the House Intelligence Committee has in speaking to the campaign digital director Brad Parscale. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/16/politics/russia-investigators-trump-digital-director/index.html Adam Schiff, the Democratic Vice Chair of the committee, wants to know if there was any

Russian funding or support”,

or if the Republican candidate’s campaign made use of,

Russian assistance in any way with gathering data.”

The answer to that question appears to be yes, at least according to Michael Carpenter, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, essentially chief of Russian intelligence at the Pentagon through January 20, 2017. Given the facts that tailored messages were sent by overseas bots targeting specific voters, in specific districts, down to the precinct level, and that the Russians would not have had the capacity to do this, there must have been help from within the United States itself.  While the Assistant Secretary has not yet identified any names, given the avalanche of misinformation that came from RT, Sputnik, Breitbart and InfoWars, many signs seems to point to Steve Bannon and Alex Jones or their operatives, as potential culprits.

Also of interest this week was a phone call made by Vice President Mike Pence to the Prime Minister of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev. Macedonian internet trolls and bots are widely believed to have played a role in the misinformation effort coming from overseas to specially targeted United States voters.

The question as to what laws, if any, may have been violated by all of the players on this ever widening field, including the 45th* President himself, will be left to be answered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, working in conjunction with the United States Congress, be it the 115th, or the 116th Congress, sworn into office on January 3, 2019.

The Defense Is Now: It isn’t a Crime Because Everybody Does It

Deny, deny, deny, had been the position taken by the President back when he was a candidate.  That defense was replaced by it wasn’t us, it was Obama. Unfortunately for the new President, he and his administration are now essentially admitting to some of the facts of at least the attempted collusion with Russians to effect the outcome of the 2016 election. The President said he knew nothing about the meeting between Little Donnie, Jared, and Manafort until just a few days ago when the New York Times broke the story.  Despite the claim, 45th*’s lawyers now say that they were informed about the third week in June, 2017.  Did they not discuss this with their client?

Jared Kushner, the Son-In-Law In Chief, a White House employee, and a trusted presidential adviser, is reported to have amended his SF-86 security clearance disclosure form three times, to include the addition of 100 names,

Including Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer whom Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with in June 2016.”

Those 100 retroactive addenda to Kushner’s SF-86 disclosure form could substantiate 100 separate counts each carrying a maximum five year prison sentence.

Is it possible that in addition to not being told about the prospect of the meeting by Donald, Jr. back on June 3, 2016, Donald Jr.; Jared Kushner, the then adviser to the campaign; and Paul Manafort, the then second campaign manager, failed to tell their boss the bad news that they hoped for dirt on candidate Hillary Clinton, which had not been provided? The New York Times disagrees with the timing of the President’s account as to how and when he learned of the meeting with this new Russian, reporting that,

“Mr. Kushner informed the president that he had met with a Russian foreign national, and that while he had to report the name, it would not cause a problem for the administration.”

The 45th* President curiously tried to blame the former Attorney General, Loretta Lynch for the presence of Natalia Veselnitskaya at the meeting with his campaign staff, saying at a press conference in Paris on July 13, 2017, that,

“Somebody said her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that’s wrong – I just heard that a little while ago. But, was a little surprised to hear that, she was here because of Lynch.”

Once again, the 45th* President is wrong. The Department of Homeland Security proved him wrong in a statement indicating that her VISA was issued by the Department of State following all legal procedures that were applicable at the time.

45th* also said during the Paris press conference that his 39 year old son is a wonderful young man and that,

“I think, from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.”

Sorry, but we must disagree. Most people in the positions of authority representing the now President’s campaign would have understood that what they were doing was illegal, contrary to the interests of the people of the Unites States.

Just as the 45th* President went wheels up leaving Paris to return to the United States, the news broke that there was another person of interest in the the room accompanying attorney Veselnitskaya and the translators at the meeting with the campaign team. The person, revealed by NBC News, is believed to be a Russian born American lobbyist, with dual citizenship, and

“A former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.”

The individual has been identified by the Associated Press as Rinat Akhmetshin.

While Trumpcare 3, now being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, appears to be on life support, next week’s CBO score is expected to be the virtual pulling of the plug. The bad news for the Collaborator In Chief continues to mount. This Week In Russiagate, Bastille Day Edition, might very well turn out to be a turning point in the continuing Russiagate saga.

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