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"Seeking liberty and truth above suppression and mendacity!"
"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech," said Benjamin Franklin.
Everyone has an opinion and the right to speak that opinion our forefathers granted us that right it's called the First Amendment. Read it then discuss it in the Forums. Find out about Donald J. Trump’s time in the white house. Donald J. Trump is a crook, a con man and liar who uses alternative facts and projects himself on to other.


Trump-Russia Affair


Donald J. Trump may have been compromised by the Russians, became a traitor to his country and may be a Russian spy or mole. Donald J. Trump put Putin and Russian interests above American interests and may have committed treason. Donald J. Trump, Trump Jr. and an unknown number of people from the Trump campaign may have conspired (colluded) to work with the Russians to help elect Donald J. Trump as the president of the United States of America. When Donald J. Trump called on the Russians to get him Clinton’s emails, the Russians started trying to hack Clinton’s emails the same day. Donald J. Trump returned the favor by changing the party platform to soften its rhetoric on Russia and slow walking sanctions against Russia and siding with Putin and Russia over America and our allies. Donald J. Trump Trump may be compromised or/and a mole for Russia. Which explains multiple efforts to set up a back channel with the Kremlin. Donald J. Trump disclosed classified information to the Russians. Donald J. Trump and his campaign lied about their contacts with Russians. When questioned about their contacts with the Russians they attempted to hide, lie, distract and may have destroyed evidence about contacts and connections to the Russians and what they were up to. Donald J. Trump went so far as to dictate a cover story for his son to hide to true reasons for the meeting with the Russians.  

Donald J. Trump his son and his campaign all claimed they did have not contact with any Russians turns out Trump Jr. and his several of Trump's campaign staff did have contacts with the Russians. When they were caught, Donald J. Trump proceeded to construct a cover story that it was about adoptions. Trouble is that’s not what Trump Jr.'s emails say they went there for. They went to get dirt on Hillary from the Russian government. We know Trump Jr. and other members of the Trump campaign were willing to conspire with the Russians government and others to help Trump get elected. The Russians wanted to help Trump win the 2016 election, the email Trump Jr. received offered incriminating evidence against Clinton from the Russian government. Let that sink in for a moment members of the Trump campaign willingly conspired with the Russian government to help Trump get elected President of the United States of America. Many people are saying this is disgusting and far worse than Watergate.

Donald J. Trump and his Republican allies have attacked the FBI, the justice department and our intelligence agencies in an attempt to destroy their credibly in an effort to protect Trump, his son, his campaign and Putin from prosecution. Destroying the credibly of the FBI, the justice department and our other intelligence agencies is un-American but is something Putin or one of his spy’s or moles would do. The Mueller investigation has exposed illegal schemes across international borders and produced more than 100 criminal charges. Mueller has indicted 32 people (26 are Russian nationals) and three Russian companies so far, it not a witch hunt it’s a mole hunt. If Donald J. Trump is a traitor or a mole then he is the enemy of America and the enemy of the people.

Mueller was unable to prove a criminal case because people obstructed justice, took the 5th, lied and destroy evidence. That does not mean Trump and the Russians did not conspire to help Trump win the 2016 election. People do not obstruct justice, take the 5th, lie, destroy evidence for things that are good they only do them things when they have done something bad, something to hide or to protect themselves from going to jail. Was it just a coincidence that 5 hours after trump asked the Russians to get Clintons emails the Russians started hacking the DNC. Or when the Russians started leaking DNC emails 30 min after the Trump video came out, that should make you wonder what went on with Trump and the Russians? When Trump needed help the Russians where there to help him and trump did try to remove the Russians sanction and slow walked new sanction, which may have payment for help he received from the Russians for help in the 2016 elections. We may not find out what happen or did not happen in our lifetime however history is funny the truth always comes out. Maybe we will find out more as the Trump-Ukraine Affair unfolds. When Trump and his campaign were caught meeting with Russians to get dirt on Clinton they lied and said it was about adaption. This time when they were caught trying to get dirt on Biden they lied and said it was about corruption. The Trump-Ukraine Affair should make you rethink the Trump-Russia Affair. The fact that Donald J. Trump is seeking help from another foreign country and publicly urging China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens should scare the hell out of every American the president of the Untied State is seeking foreign interference in our elections and using your tax dollars to do it. Americans may come to realize that Trump did the same thing during the 2016 election seeking help from a foreign government (the Russians) to win the 2016 election. Russia helped elect Trump to install a Russian friendly government in American the 2016 election may come to know as a Russia coup d'état of America. Quid pro quo from Trump for Putin’s help in the 2016 election may explain why Trump puts Russia and Putin interests ahead of American interests.


Read more about Trump and Russia:

Tracking the Mueller Investigation into how the Russians infiltrated the Trump campaign and the Republican Party to help get Donald J. Trump elected president of the United States of America.

The Mueller report, with some redactions, was released on Thursday.



The Russians have infiltrated the Republican Party, the NRA, white evangelicals and white nationalist in attempt to sow division in America.

The revelation means the Trump campaign — and Donald Trump himself — were aware of WikiLeaks' plans earlier than previously understood.
By DARREN SAMUELSOHN and MATTHEW CHOI

Roger Stone first told one of Donald Trump’s top aides in April 2016 that WikiLeaks had plans to dump information in the heat of the presidential race, kickstarting a scramble inside the campaign to take advantage of the expected releases. And that plotting included at least one summertime call involving Trump himself, according to Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman, who was testifying Tuesday morning at Stone’s trial over lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks.

The revelation means the Trump campaign was aware of WikiLeaks' election-year plans much earlier than previously understood. And it also shows that the president was involved in conversations about the issue, something he has previously denied. Gates said he first heard from Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, about two months before Trump secured the GOP presidential nomination in mid-July. That's when Stone passed along initial, bare bones details about the potential Julian Assange-orchestrated releases that would benefit Trump's White House bid.

“Mr. Stone indicated that WikiLeaks would be submitting or dropping information, but no information on dates or anything of that nature,” Gates said in federal district court, where the trial against Stone entered its second week. Stone is also facing charges charges that he tampered with a witness as Congress investigated Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Federal prosecutors rested their case against Stone before lunch on Tuesday, and Stone's lawyers spent a little more than an hour in the afternoon playing aloud portions of their client’s September 2017 deposition before the House Intelligence Committee, during which prosecutors allege Stone lied. After that, Stone's team also rested its case without inviting any witnesses to the stand. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, with jury deliberations to begin shortly thereafter.

Before the government handed the reins of the trial over to Stone’s defense, it asked Gates detailed questions about his interactions throughout the spring and summer of 2016 with Stone, who is known for his decades-long relationship with Trump and a history dating back to Watergate of orchestrating “dirty tricks.” Full Story

By Mary Ilyushina and David McKenzie, CNN
Sochi, Russia (CNN) - For decades, the most visible link between Russia and the continent of Africa was the Kalashnikov. Rebel groups, national militaries and even police officers carried the Soviet-designed AK-47 rifle. They still do. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the vast majority of Africa's leaders at the Black Sea resort of Sochi this week, it seemed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fresh from signing a deal on the future of Syria, Putin told attendees at the inaugural Russia-Africa summit: "Russia has signed military-technical cooperation agreements with more that 30 countries, where we supply a large array of weaponry and hardware. "Part of these supplies are done on a free-of-charge basis," he added. But analysts believe Russia's renewed interest in the continent is hardly altruistic. Guests arriving in Sochi were treated to an exhibit of Russian-made military hardware: military helicopters, fighter jets, and armored vehicles. The message is clear: the Kremlin is pitching itself to African governments as a reliable supplier of military expertise and modern weaponry -- with few strings attached. On the first day of the event, Russia announced plans to supply $4 billion worth of weaponry by the end of this year alone, and $14 billion more in the coming years. Russia is already the chief supplier of arms to both North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was heavily involved in backing African liberation movements with arms and training in their fight against colonial powers. It is still not uncommon to meet senior African officials who speak Russian from their time at military academies in Moscow or Leningrad. more... - Trump has taken America off the world stage and Putin is filling the vacuum. Is this another Trump concession to Putin for Putin’s help with the 2016 election?

Analysis by Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
Erbil, Iraq (CNN) - The Syrian Democratic Forces. It's a term that encapsulates the mess that awaited the US-led counter ISIS campaign when finally it wound down. The SDF -- as it was always clumsily known -- never really existed. At its inception, the Pentagon needed a force on the ground to fight ISIS. They tried for years to find disciplined, Sunni Arab fighters, but failed repeatedly. The Syrian Kurds, however, were both disciplined and pragmatic. But they could not be harnessed as a purely Kurdish force, plowing into Sunni Arab areas held by ISIS. So a fig leaf was created -- a new name for the Syrian Kurdish fighting units, normally called the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. So the SDF was born, with the exaggerated claim that there were many Arabs in their ranks, and the omission of Turkish Kurds -- the PKK, proscribed by Turkey -- fighting there too. The need for a fudge was a tell that the urgent anti-ISIS campaign would end up with some problems. Fast forward four years, and now the SDF means something entirely different. It's an acronym that spells betrayal. Reflecting how little the Trump administration cared for the details as it rushed to clean up its self-inflicted mess, Vice President Mike Pence mistakenly referred to the SDF as the "Syrian Defence Forces" several times as he announced a ceasefire that further betrayed them. And, earlier, President Donald Trump blurted out the poorly-kept secret that the PKK were in their ranks. America's imperfect pact with the Kurds was always going to fall apart one day. But nobody could have imagined the SDF's 10,000-plus dead sons and daughters would have been betrayed by overwhelming ignorance, fealty to Turkish and Russian interests, and the toxic aversion to details that the Trump administration displayed. The window for Russian dominance in Syria was jammed open by the pitfalls of the US-brokered ceasefire. No deal works on a battlefield if the area covered by it isn't agreed upon. Turkey thought it got all the areas it wanted on the border. The Syrian Kurds thought they had to stop shooting and let Turkey keep the ground it already had -- the latter something it had little say over militarily. It was the perfect scene-setter for Russia to step in. Russian President Vladimir Putin's Sochi deal with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took in the military reality on the ground. Turkey likely didn't want urban warfare in four to five cities on its border for months to come. To that, Putin added the Syrian regime with Russia at its back -- the keepers of an ugly peace. more... - You have to wonder if the reason Trump is doing what Putin wants is that Putin has something on him or for help in the 2016 election or both.

By James Walker
A former CIA official who oversaw the agency's Russia operations has claimed Vladimir Putin benefits the most from Donald Trump's latest foreign policy moves and suggested the Russian president wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks he must be dreaming. Steven L. Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russian operations and CNN national security analyst, told network anchor Anderson Cooper that Putin likely believed Trump's decisions around Syria and Ukraine have been "absolutely fabulous." He also criticised Trump for reportedly consulting with Putin and "two-bit autocrats" like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Ukraine, and described the U.S. president's overall dealings with Ukraine as a "veritable buffet of horribleness." The Washington Post reported that President Trump's view on corruption in Ukraine was influenced by conversations about the country with Orban and Putin, according to unnamed officials. It also revealed that George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, had made similar assertions at a closed-door testimony in front of the House impeachment inquiry. Asked by Cooper whether the decision to seek advice from the two leaders had jeopardized national security, Hall said: "You've got this veritable buffet of horribleness in front of us, and it's difficult for me to say which is the most horrible thing. "That is certainly a terrible, terrible thing when you've got the president of the United States of America reaching out to a foreign leader and asking for that help, regardless of whether there's a quid pro quo." Retired CIA Chief of Russian Operations Steve Hall calls President Trump's recent foreign policy actions a “veritable buffet of horribleness." https://t.co/dOmRQN0Loa pic.twitter.com/hhtBLGWSHF — Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) October 22, 2019. The former CIA official went on to say there had been a "decimation" of Trump administration officials who understood Ukraine and Russia. After criticising Trump for reportedly consulting with Putin and Orban over Ukraine instead of State Department officials, and mockingly describing the leader and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as "brain surgeons," Hall said: "[Trump] says, yeah I believe what Vladimir Putin tells me about this, and so I'll hold the [Ukraine aid money] money they need so badly. "Why? To thwart Russian invasions and for their annexation of Crimea. How is this good for U.S. security? I do not understand." When Anderson Cooper tried to draw the former CIA official's thoughts on whether Trump was a "puppet" of Putin, Hall said "none other than Vladimir Putin" had benefitted from Trump's harsher view on Ukraine and his decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. "Vladimir Putin is now running up and down the Syrian border with his military forces opposite Turkey with Russian flags, going into abandoned U.S. bases there and making a big propaganda deal of it," the retired CIA operative said. more...

By David Brennan
A Democratic senator has hit out at President Donald Trump for his performance at last weekend's G7 summit in Biarritz, France, suggesting that his pattern of defending Russia despite its malign behavior is "horrific." Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley lambasted the president for his campaign to readmit Russia to the G7 group of countries. The nation was booted out of the then G8 group after its invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. Trump has been lobbying for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be allowed back into the fold, despite opposition from most of the other leaders representing the world's most advanced economies, as defined by the International Monetary Fund. Merkley suggested this support is characteristic of Trump's concerning backing for the Kremlin. "The president has consistently refused to take on Russia," he said. "Not over their interference in our elections, not over the annexation of Crimea, not over the occupation of eastern Ukraine, not over the assassination of Russian expatriate—the list goes on and on." "Here we are right now with Russia continuing an active social media campaign in the United States trying to deepen divisions in our nation, probably going to work to interfere in our next election," Merkley continued. Though special counsel Robert Mueller was unable to find evidence of cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, Moscow was found to have conducted a "sweeping and systematic" effort to disrupt the process and undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Lawmakers and intelligence officials have warned that little has been done to improve U.S. defenses against active measures and hacking, and that further meddling campaigns—from Russia or elsewhere—are likely during the 2020 race. "We need a watchdog for America and the president is playing lapdog to President Putin. There is no explanation for it and there is no justification for it. It's pretty horrific," Merkley said. CNN reported that G7 tensions over Russia turned into open dispute at a private dinner during the summit, citing a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the exchange. The opposition was reportedly led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both of whom argued that Russia has grown less democratic since being removed from the G8. But Trump stuck to his guns, continuing to blame predecessor Barack Obama for Russia's ejection. At a press conference on Monday, Trump suggested Obama had been "outsmarted" by Putin in Ukraine. Speaking with reporters, Trump gave a very different account of the weekend discussions of Russia. "A lot of people say that having Russia, which is a power, having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room," the president said. "By the way there were numerous people during the G7 that felt that way. And we didn't take a vote or anything but we did discuss it. My inclination is to say yes, they should be in," he added. But according to CNN, only Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte—currently in limbo following the ruling coalition's collapse—agreed with Trump. The other three European leaders—French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel and Johnson—all rejected the idea. Trump's time in Biarritz was punctuated with inaccurate and misleading statements, forcing the White House to issue a series of clarifying statements to try to save face on the president's behalf. For example, Trump claimed there had been a call between high-level Chinese and U.S. officials seeking a new trade deal. However, the White House later said this was based on a public statement issued by China's foreign ministry rather than any significant behind-the-scenes negotiations. The G7 took place as large swathes of the Amazon rain forest were ablaze in Brazil and Bolivia, exacerbating global concerns about humanity's ability to deal with climate change. However, the president failed to attend a meeting on the threat. - Why does Trump put Putin and Russia before America? What does Putin have on Trump? On the other hand, this may be the quid pro quo from Trump for Putin’s help in the 2016 election.

For Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative among any viable presidential candidates in 2020.
By Julia Davis
President Trump has boasted he’s “getting a lot of praise” for his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds—America’s longstanding allies—to Turkey’s incursion. On the home front, the controversial move has been met with criticism on both sides of the political aisle, but the reaction in Moscow was far from mixed. As Trump uncorked chaos in the Middle East, champagne tops were likely popping at the Kremlin. “Putin won the lottery! Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East,” raved Mikhail Rostovsky in his article for the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Those who were convinced of Trump’s uselessness for Russia ought to think again...What Washington got out of this strange move is completely unclear. To the contrary, what Moscow gained from this is self-evident...Trump’s mistake in Syria is the unexpected ‘lottery win’ that further strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East and undermined America’s prestige as a rational political player and a reliable partner.” Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant, was amazed by the ongoing stream of inexplicable actions by the American president that benefit the Kremlin. “All of this benefits the Russian Federation,” Yusin marveled. “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent? He is laboring so hard to strengthen the international image of Russia in general—and Putin in particular...In this situation, Americans—to their chagrin and our enjoyment—are the only losers in this situation.” “This is such a pleasure,” grinned Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes. “Russian soldiers have taken an American base under our complete control, without a fight!” Skabeeva’s co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Suddenly, we have defeated everyone.” Incredulously, Skabeeva pointed out: “This is an American base—and they just ran away! Trump ran away!” “It’s been a long time since America has been humiliated this way,” gloated political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak, “They ran away in shame! I can’t recall such a scenario since Vietnam.” He added: “For us, this is of great interest, because this is a key region where energy prices are being determined. That is a shining cherry on top.” Political scientist Andrey Nikulin concurred: “This is sad for America. A smaller-scale version of what happened in Vietnam.” Appearing on the nightly television show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, political analyst Evgeny Satanovsky recounted many ways in which Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and abandon the Kurds has hurt the image and standing of the United States: “America betrayed everyone...Trump also strengthened the anti-American mood in Turkey, when he promised to destroy the Turkish economy.” Satanovsky opined that now any economic problems or currency fluctuations in Turkey can be blamed directly on the United States, prompting textile, tobacco, steel and other industries to turn away from America. “Anti-Americanism in Turkey is off the charts,” Satanovsky pointed out, “American politics are tangled in their own shoelaces... America is successfully self-eliminating from the region.” “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent?” — Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the Russian business daily Kommersant, The timing also struck the Russians as incredibly fortuitous and inexplicable. “They lost their only chance to remove [Syrian President] Bashar Assad,” exclaimed Russian lawmaker Oleg Morozov, appearing on 60 Minutes, “They were only half a step away!”

By Holmes Lybrand and Marshall Cohen, CNN
(CNN) - In defending the recent withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, President Donald Trump has continued to cite reasons that are not only factually dubious but which also mirror talking points issued by Turkey and Russia, contradicting US officials and the facts on the ground. On Friday, Trump re-tweeted a post from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, literally echoing his comments about the need to "defeat terrorism," even though Erdogan has previously referred to America's Kurdish allies as terrorists. Here are three more stark examples of Trump repeating talking points from Turkey and Russia: Kurds releasing ISIS prisoners on purpose: On Sunday, Erdogan claimed that reports of ISIS prisoners and their families escaping from Kurdish-controlled camps were "disinformation," designed to "provoke the US and Europe" and more recently stated the Syrian Kurds "deliberately" allowed these escapes. Here are three stark examples: Kurds releasing ISIS prisoners on purpose: On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that reports of ISIS prisoners and their families escaping from Kurdish-controlled camps were "disinformation," designed to "provoke the US and Europe" and more recently stated the Syrian Kurds "deliberately" allowed these escapes. On Monday, Trump parroted this theory, tweeting that the "Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved." On Wednesday, Trump repeated this claim, suggesting that the Kurds were "probably" letting ISIS captives out of prison. "Probably the Kurds let (ISIS prisoners) go to make a little bit stronger political impact," he told reporters. Facts First: Contrary to Trump and Erdogan's allegation, US officials have told CNN there are no indications that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have intentionally released any of the 10,000-plus ISIS prisoners they guard. The Kurdish-led military force SDF, which recently joined with the Syrian government as Turkey continues its military offensive in northern Syria, controls some of the camps and prisons holding ISIS prisoners and those displaced by the war against ISIS. In light of the ceasefire announced Thursday, it's unclear whether Turkey will take control of some of these Kurdish-guarded compounds. In a statement on Friday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he had recently spoken with the Turkish minister of defense to remind him of the full terms of the agreement. "I also reminded him of Turkey's responsibility for maintaining security of the ISIS detainees located in the affected areas," Esper said. A senior US defense official told CNN that Trump "falsely claiming that the SDF Kurds are letting ISIS prisoners out of prison is wrong because they are the people that defeated ISIS, wrong because they are currently risking their lives to defend our forces and wrong because they are fighting a force that intends to eliminate their people because we green lighted their operation." Due to the attack by Turkish forces on the SDF in northern Syria, the Kurdish-led militia has had to remove troops guarding prisons and camps holding ISIS fighters and those displaced by the fight against ISIS. "We already did not have professional jails or professional prisons to keep those prisoners in," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said last week. "The Turkish invasion to our region is going to leave a huge space, because we are forced to pull out some of our troops from the prisons and from the [displaced people] camps to the border to protect our people."

By Daniel Politi
The co-founders of a political research firm who found themselves embroiled in a national scandal and intrigue due to their claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia will be publishing a book next month that promises to be explosive. Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump will be published Nov. 26 co-written by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. Penguin Random House is billing the book as a “An All the President’s Men for the Trump era,” saying it will tell the “inside story of the Steele Dossier and the Trump-Russia investigation.” Simpson and Fritsch, both of whom are former journalists, hired a British former intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump. They were first hired by a rival Republican and then Democrats took over the contract. As part of the investigation, Steele claimed that Kremlin had compromising material on Trump and had even spied on him with prostitutes in a Moscow motel. Steele also said Moscow had launched an effort to get Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Trump vehemently denied the claims outlined in what became known as the Steele dossier but the book will argue that its findings were largely accurate. In the book, the authors chronicle “their high-stakes investigation and their desperate efforts to warn both the American and British governments, the FBI and the media, to little avail,” notes Penguin Random House. “After four years on his trail, the authors’ inescapable conclusion is that Trump is an asset of the Russian government, whether he knows it or not.”

by John Harwood
Just as the furor over Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation subsided over the summer, two new international storms engulfed the White House. On Ukraine, President Donald Trump’s use of diplomatic pressure to damage a 2020 election rival have House Democrats poised to impeach him. On Syria, his green light for Turkey to attack American-aligned Kurdish forces has roiled Republicans, too. The simultaneous spectacles may confuse average Americans who pay scant attention to foreign affairs. In fact, they contain a common thread. In each case, the president has helped Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has helped him for years with money and political support. They represent different chapters of the same story. The Republican president’s alignment with Moscow — unthinkable to an earlier generation’s GOP — is familiar enough to blend into the 2019 background. Yet it represents a rare consistent theme of Trump’s late-life turn to politics. Before Trump sought the presidency, his children publicly identified Russians as key financing sources for the family real estate business. A Russian oligarch paid Trump $95 million for a Florida mansion he’d bought for less than half that price; another Russian linked to organized crime became a partner in the Trump Soho project. As a 2016 candidate, Trump hired a campaign chairman who had advised a Putin-allied Ukrainian leader, and a national security advisor who later lied to federal investigators about conversations with the Kremlin’s ambassador. Both men, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, have plead guilty to felonies. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia, which attacked Ukraine after the leader Manafort advised was ousted from power in 2014, interfered in the 2016 campaign to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. As president, Trump fired the FBI director leading an investigation of Putin’s actions. He embraced the former KGB agent’s denial of election meddling over the findings of his own intelligence experts. After one private meeting with Putin, Trump took his interpreter’s notes. He has taken a series of actions — from imposing tariffs on close allies to criticizing NATO to abandoning international agreements — that advance Putin’s objective of weakening Western democracies to enhance Russian power. The twin storms now swirling around Trump fit this pattern. On Ukraine, Trump’s means and ends both aid Russian interests. Through his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump has sought to absolve Moscow by alleging that 2016 election interference originated with Ukrainian attempts to aid Clinton. Law enforcement officials arrested two Giuliani associates Thursday, charging that they funneled illegal campaign contributions to a Republican congressman who sought the firing of a U.S. diplomat who resisted Giuliani’s effort. According to a charging document, money for the scheme came from a Russian identified only as “Foreign National 1.”

Trump tried to keep his talks with Putin at Helsinki last year secret from his staff and the world, but Russia's president held up the checklist for the cameras. Syria was on it.
By Julia Davis
President Donald J. Trump’s surprise decision to abandon the Kurds and sign off on Turkey’s operation in Syria drew condemnation in the West, but was cheerfully welcomed in Russia, and, for those who follow Russia closely, the contrast revived the ghosts of Helsinki, where Trump’s surrender of American values was on full display. There in Finland last year, the leader of the most powerful country in the world demonstrated cringeworthy servility toward Vladimir Putin—president of a rogue government sanctioned by the West for a great number of malign activities, including Russia’s brazen interference in the U.S. elections. The world’s pariah looked triumphant next to the deflated American president. As Trump stood hunched over, with a blank expression, Putin was practically glowing—and he wanted the world to know just how great the meeting went for Russia. Putin held up a thick stack of his notes with both hands, showing them off for the world to see, in effect giving himself the thumbs-up. Discernible portions of the first page, purposely written in abnormally large script, included references to the election interference, Putin’s request that Russia be allowed to interrogate the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and also the British businessman Bill Browder, pursuant to the 1999 Treaty with Russia on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. There was a reference to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. And at the bottom of the first page, Putin’s notes also mentioned Syria, where Russia has been wreaking havoc and committing mass atrocities in concert with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Iran. For public consumption, the Russian president’s handwriting mentioned “joint humanitarian operations with the goal of creating conditions for the return of refugees.” The reality on the ground tends to create—not dissipate—the flood of refugees, essentially weaponized by Russia and Syria to destabilize Europe. On Wednesday this week, President Trump nonchalantly commented that if the thousands of ISIS prisoners that are currently being held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces escape, "they will be escaping to Europe." Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also threatening Europe with a flood of refugees, publicly proclaiming, “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.” Mystery surrounds the rest of the topics discussed by the President of the United States with the Russian leader in Helsinki, since President Trump confiscated the American interpreter’s notes and remains tight-lipped about his exchanges with Vladimir Putin. But one thing is clear: Trump is moving down Putin’s wish list, fulfilling the Kremlin’s aims at a rapid pace. He is chipping away at U.S. sanctions against Russia, deepening America’s internal divisions on the basis of race, faith, sexual orientation and political affiliation, vocally undermining confidence in our elections, intelligence agencies and institutions, all the while empowering our foreign adversaries and undermining NATO alliances. “Even Russian experts are amazed at the damage Trump is willfully inflicting.” Trump’s claims that Ukraine—not Russia—is somehow responsible for the 2016 election interference fall right in line with conspiracy theories the Kremlin has been propagating for years. The Russians have long been promoting the notions that prompted President Trump’s outrageous demands from the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, ultimately leading to the commencement of the impeachment proceedings. - Once again, Trump is caught doing what Putin wants over the interest of America.

Prominent figures on Russian TV have been openly putting out the same ideas that we now know the American president was privately pursuing.
By Julia Davis - the daily beast
Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia. Several of the reported objectives of President Donald Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would benefit the Kremlin and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured “to play ball” with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting “the evidence” to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016. The unconscionable demand for Ukraine to make “a deal” with an invader— which has annexed and occupied its territory and continues to fuel an armed conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives—would mean a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests for the benefit of the Kremlin. It would also lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Casting doubt on Russia’s involvement in the hack of the DNC server would potentially lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its election-meddling and other malign activities. Attacking the credibility of Biden, frequently described by Kremlin-controlled state television as “Trump’s most dangerous rival,” would also benefit Putin, who openly admitted that he wanted President Trump to be elected in 2016. That preference remains intact, in spite—or perhaps because—of multiple missteps by America’s bumbling commander in chief. Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russia’s most popular Sunday news program, Vesti Nedeli, urged Trump to keep digging in Ukraine for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.” The pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden has been not only from Trump, but also from the Kremlin. One of the expectations, voiced on Russian state-television channel Rossiya 24 by analyst Alexander Kareevsky, was that taking down Biden would inevitably lead to the “revelation”—in fact, an outrageous fantasy—that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was ordered by the Obama administration and carried out by Ukraine, not Russia.In another fantasy, pundits on Russian state television continually assert that Trump’s impeachment is all but “impossible.” In the meantime, the impeachment fallout is beneficial for the Kremlin, creating a spectacle of unprecedented political turmoil in the United States while placing Ukraine in the untenable position of alienating both parties, as well as the country’s European allies, and distracting from Russian election interference and the imposition of any additional sanctions. - Once again, Trump is caught doing what Putin wants over the interest of America.

By CRISTIANO LIMA
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping new bipartisan report detailing Russian efforts to boost Donald Trump's White House bid on social media during the 2016 U.S. elections, dealing an indirect blow to a push by the president and his allies to shift focus toward claims of anti-Trump meddling by Ukraine. The report corroborates past findings by researchers and the intelligence community that the notorious Internet Research Agency troll farm, as the committee wrote, "sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin." The findings mark the second installment of the committee's five-part report outlining the scope of Russian election meddling in 2016, the result of an expansive investigation that has spanned over two years and included interviews with over 200 witnesses. The committee in July unveiled the first chapter, which detailed Russian efforts to attack state elections systems and spread disinformation. The second installment focuses on the Kremlin's documented attempts to sow political discord on social media. The report arrives as Trump and his allies have sought to publicly downplay the role the Kremlin played in the 2016 elections and amp up scrutiny of unsubstantiated theories that Ukraine may have sought to interfere to undermine the president's candidacy. Some Ukrainian officials have been linked to anti-Trump messaging going into the 2016 election, but there's no evidence of collusion between Ukraine and U.S. Democrats, as Trump and some of his associates have proposed. Such claims have played a key role in the House's rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry, which centers on Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. Attorney General William Barr is also embarked on a probe into the origins of the Robert Mueller-led inquiry into Russian meddling, suggesting it may have been politically motivated rather than a sincere attempt to confront an actual threat. The report dispenses with deflections, however, and reiterates the widely held consensus that Russia launched a coordinated attack on the integrity of the 2016 election. It comes with the sign-off of the full Senate Intelligence Committee, including members like Trump-friendly Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), who have taken to the press to explain the president's questioning of Russian meddling and apparent invitations to Ukraine and China to investigate Biden as either jokes or legitimate fields of inquiry. And it stresses that the threat of foreign electioneering is far from over. The GOP-led panel outlined recommendations for how legislators, the federal government and tech companies can combat future online meddling, including calling on the Trump administration "reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election." The committee called on candidates running for office and their campaigns to more carefully probe the information they share on social media to prevent the spread of election-related disinformation — an effort Democratic presidential candidates say has been under siege by Trump and his campaign’s postings on Ukraine and other issues. “It’s time for Trump to stop using Twitter to play into our adversaries’ hands,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sits on Senate Intel, tweeted after the report debuted. “With every deranged tweet, he advances foreign interests by dividing Americans.”

By Andy Sullivan, Mark Hosenball, Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General William Barr has been traveling internationally to help investigate President Donald Trump’s complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the 2016 presidential election. Democrats and some former law-enforcement officials say he is using the Justice Department to chase unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that could benefit Trump politically and undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Mueller’s investigation found that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump, and led to criminal convictions of several former campaign aides. But Mueller concluded that he did not have enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy with Russia. Some potential witnesses say they will not cooperate voluntarily with the Barr probe, which was announced after several congressional committees, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and another U.S. prosecutor launched their own reviews. That could pose problems for John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Barr to lead the effort. WHAT IS BEING INVESTIGATED? Durham is examining whether U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies acted properly when they examined possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which ultimately led to Mueller’s investigation.

The biggest beneficiary of the Ukraine scandal is, sure enough, the Kremlin.
By MOLLY K. MCKEW
A year ago, I was in Kiev when a young Ukrainian soldier was killed. Olesya Baklanova, 19, enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces as soon as she was eligible and fought to be assigned a combat post. Deployed to the front lines of her country’s war against Russia, she was killed during the night while manning an observation post, shot by a sniper stationed among the Russian and proxy forces dug in a few hundred meters way. She was one of four Ukrainian soldiers killed at their post that night — one of the estimated 13,000 soldiers, fighters and civilians killed in eastern Ukraine in the past five years. Her story was a concise reminder of the realities of Ukraine’s forgotten war. Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in early 2014; weeks later, Russia formally annexed the territory. This was an important strategic goal for President Vladimir Putin. To ensure that no one had time to do anything about it — and to further destabilize Ukraine — Russia then launched a war in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region, using nominal separatists with Russian backing. Five years on, it’s still a hot war, with Russia constantly pushing forward the line of occupation. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced. The shifting mass of regular and irregular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine — soldiers and mercenaries; “separatist” proxies and militias; a lot of guys with pseudonyms using advanced Russian weaponry that Russia claims must have been bought at the local corner shop (note: it is supplied from Russia) — constantly test and adapt new capabilities, especially electronic warfare capabilities, on the battlefield. Ukrainian forces, with Western support, have steadily developed new measures to counter whatever is thrown at them. The Ukrainian war effort is defined both by this ingenuity and by sacrifice. The army, left gutted by former President Viktor Yanukovych, was rebuilt entirely in wartime. New units are rotated through areas of heavy fighting to increase their combat experience — a wartime readiness strategy that contributes to spikes in casualties, but which has been enormously successful. The average age of Ukrainian recruits is officially around 36, though anecdotally it’s over 40 at the front, as the generation that remembers life before independence now leads the fight to keep it.

Despite Trump's accusations of corruption, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the former vice president or his son.
By Adam Edelman and Shannon Pettypiece
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged another foreign government to probe Joe Biden and his son Thursday, saying the Chinese government should investigate the former vice president and son Hunter Biden over the latter's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country. "China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine," Trump told reporters outside the White House. While Trump said he hasn't requested Chinese President Xi Jinping investigate the Bidens, the public call mirrors the private behavior on which Democrats are partially basing their impeachment inquiry — using the office of the presidency to press a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. It is "certainly something we can start thinking about, because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being on that kind of scrutiny, where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy," Trump said Thursday of asking China to probe the Bidens. "He got kicked out of the Navy, all of the sudden he’s getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a payoff." The remarks come amid a tense trade war with China. The president, discussing progress on negotiations with Beijing on a possible trade agreement just moments prior to his remarks about the Bidens, told reporters that "if they don't do what we want, we have tremendous power.” Chinese officials will be in Washington next week in another attempt to revive talks, Trump said. Trump, seeking to expand his corruption accusations against the Bidens beyond Ukraine, has in recent days repeatedly accused Hunter Biden of using a 2013 trip on Air Force Two with his father, then the vice president, to procure $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund he had started. Prior to Thursday, Trump had not called for an investigation of the matter. Despite Trump's accusations, there has been no evidence of corruption on the part of the former vice president or his son. In a statement, Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, said the president "is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday defended President Trump over accusations the U.S. leader pressured Kiev to dig up dirt on a rival, saying there was "nothing compromising" in transcripts of the call. - Is Putin defending a Russian asset?

By Nathan Hodge, Olga Pavlova and Mary Ilyushina, CNN
Moscow (CNN) - Russian President Vladimir Putin poked fun at the ongoing political crisis in the US by joking about election meddling Wednesday.
When asked about concerns the Russia might interfere in the 2020 US elections, he replied: "I'll tell you a secret: Yes, we'll definitely do it," Putin said. "Just don't tell anyone," he added, in a stage whisper. Putin was appearing on a panel at Russian Energy Week, along with OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo and others. "You know, we have enough of our own problems," Putin continued. "We are engaged in resolving internal problems and are primarily focused on this." Moscow 'asked US to release details of conversation' Putin also commented on the scandal surrounding US President Donald Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying Moscow asked the White House to release details of his 2018 conversation with Trump in Helsinki. "Look, I haven't been president all my life, but my previous life taught me that any of my conversation can become public," said Putin when asked to about the Trump-Ukraine scandal and ensuing impeachment inquiry. "I always proceed from this."

According to leaked emails from Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russia’s disinformation campaign may have broken U.S. law and exposed details of a witness who later fell from a window.
By Nico Hines
LONDON—The identity of the U.S. government’s star witness in a high-profile trial—who subsequently fell out of a fifth-story Moscow window—was compromised in the course of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign run by Natalia Veselnitskaya, according to leaked emails. The Russian lawyer who took part in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with senior Trump campaign officials was part of a secretive campaign on American soil that—according to the emails—may also have involved contempt of court and the violation of lobbying laws. She already has been indicted by the Southern District of New York on obstruction of justice charges. A cache of emails obtained by the Dossier Center, which is a Russian opposition organization based in London, exposes the depth of foreign asset entanglement in Trump’s America at the precise moment that the president’s dealings with Ukrainian officials threaten to pull the Department of Justice and State Department into an unseemly impeachment fight. The leaked emails offer an unprecedented look into the cynical world of Russia’s remorseless influence campaign within the U.S. Veselnitskaya was representing a company called Prevezon, which was facing an American trial over a $230 million fraud that began in Russia and implicated the Russian authorities. An American law firm that had been working for Prevezon at the direction of Veselnitskaya was barred from the case by an extremely rare writ of mandamus handed down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals because of conflict of interest with a former client. Emails suggest BakerHostetler, a major U.S. law firm that has also worked for The Daily Beast and its parent company, IAC, continued to operate as a kind of shadow counsel in what would have been a clear breach of the court order. Other emails suggest another court order was violated when the testimony given by a Russian witness leaked, endangering his life before he was due to return to New York to give evidence at the trial. It was later reported in the Russian media that the witness—Nikolai Gorokhov—had fallen five floors from an apartment building in Moscow. He survived with a fractured skull. He said his fall was no accident, but could not remember exactly what happened. Cristy Phillips, a former U.S. government prosecutor with the Southern District of New York (SDNY) who worked on the case, said she fears that the emails shared with The Daily Beast indicate deep corruption hidden within the American legal system. “The integrity of our judicial system depends on lawyers upholding their obligations as officers of the court. Most fundamentally, if a court issues an order, lawyers have to follow it and make sure that others on their side follow it. There were numerous senior lawyers on these emails and they all clearly violated a Second Circuit court order. And these were not inexperienced lawyers, several of them are former Department of Justice attorneys,” she told The Daily Beast. “We’re talking about a case where witnesses had died and other witnesses’ lives and safety had been threatened. These were not low-stakes decisions.”

By Jordain Carney
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is urging three foreign governments to cooperate with the Justice Department probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on Wednesday to the governments of Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom defending outreach from Attorney General William Barr as part of the investigation. "That the attorney general is holding meetings with your countries to aid in the Justice Department's investigation of what happened is well within the bounds of his normal activities. He is simply doing his job," Graham wrote in the letter. He added that he was requesting "your country's continued cooperation with Attorney General Barr as the Department of Justice continues to investigate the origins and extent of foreign influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election." Graham noted in his letter that "it appears" the United States used "foreign intelligence as part of their efforts to investigate and monitor the 2016 election." Graham had said earlier this week that he was planning to send the letters in the wake of The New York Times reporting that Trump had reached out to the Australian government to assist Barr as part of the Justice Department's investigation. The Justice Department subsequently confirmed the report.

by Jamie Ross - The Daily Beast
President Trump called Boris Johnson to ask for help in discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, The Times of London reports. Trump is said to have called Johnson on July 26, two days after the prime minister took office, and reportedly asked Johnson for help in gathering evidence to undermine the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia. That call also was one day after Trump spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the phone call that sparked the impeachment proceedings against him. Trump also contacted the Australian prime minister for help with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry. The Times reports Attorney General William Barr arrived in London days after Trump’s call with Johnson to attend a meeting of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. Barr reportedly told British officials that he suspected the information that led to the Mueller investigation came from British agencies.

By Evan Perez and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump pressed Australia's Prime Minister during a recent phone call to help Attorney General William Barr with his review of the origins of the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with the call. The call happened with Barr's knowledge and at his suggestion, says the official. The New York Times first reported this call. The official notes this is seeking assistance with the review, which is being conducted by US Attorney John Durham, and so is seen as appropriate and completely different from the Ukraine matter. Justice Department officials say that it is appropriate for the attorney general and the President to seek help from foreign countries with an investigation of 2016 election interference. Durham is examining what intelligence came from other countries that propelled the investigation that eventually became the Trump-Russia probe. An official briefed on the matter said the attorney general has asked the President to request the help of several countries, including Australia, with the Durham review. Officials believe that requesting foreign help with a retrospective look at 2016 election interference differs vastly from Trump's request made in the Ukraine call transcript released last week. A rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.

By Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump told two top Russian officials that he was unconcerned about the country's interference in the 2016 election during a 2017 Oval Office meeting, a remark that caused White House officials to tightly restrict access to his comments, The Washington Post reported Friday. The Post, citing conversations with three former officials with knowledge of the matter, said Trump made the statement to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the same meeting in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with the foreign officials. The former officials told the paper that a summary of the meeting was kept highly restricted to keep Trump's comment from getting out to the public, the Post reported. According to the paper, Trump told the officials that he was unconcerned about Russia's interference because the US "did the same in other countries." The White House's handling of records of Trump's communications with foreign officials has come under scrutiny in recent days after a whistleblower complaint about a call between Trump and Ukraine's President and the remarkable steps aides took to keep the conversation from becoming public led to a House impeachment inquiry into the President's conduct. The Post said it was unclear whether the summary of the meeting was placed in the same highly secured electronic system that the whistleblower alleges held the phone call with Ukraine's President. According to the three former officials the paper spoke with, White House officials were especially concerned with Trump's election interference remarks because it seemed to them that Trump was forgiving the Russians for interfering in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller determined the Russians had interfered in the election and had worked to elect Trump, though there was no evidence the campaign conspired with the Russians.

Trump’s Russian ties and Russian strategy converged in 2016 as Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to land him in the Oval Office.
It is now apparent that there was no bright line separating the two campaigns to elect Donald Trump. Throughout his presidential campaign, members of Trump’s inner circle had secret conversations and meetings with numerous Kremlin-linked individuals, which they repeatedly lied about or failed to disclose. Though much about these contacts remains unknown, what is known provides strong evidence that the Kremlin and the Trump campaign were in continual communication. A pro-Russia candidate: From the day he entered the race, June 16, 2015, Trump staked out a pro-Russia platform. Trump told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that his experiences with Russians in Moscow led him to believe that “you can get along with those people and get along with them well.” Over the course of the next month, Trump made similar on-air comments to Fox News’s Sean Hannity and in a speech at the City Club of Chicago. On July 11, he made his first direct reference to repealing sanctions when responding to a question from Maria Butina, a graduate student who the U.S. Department of Justice later identified as an alleged Russian agent. Butina also allegedly infiltrated the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups on behalf of the Russian government. (Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges and, as of this writing, is in jail awaiting trial.) In a question-and-answer session with Trump in Las Vegas, Butina asked whether sanctions were part of his “foreign politics.” Trump replied, “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin. . . . I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.” Trump went on to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin dozens of times during the primaries, frequently pairing his praise with suggestions that, if elected, he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia. These remarks stood out because they directly contradicted decades of Republican sentiment. Since the end of World War II, the Republican Party had actively staked out a hawkish position on Russia. The party’s previous presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, famously described Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Trump’s Republican opponents frequently attacked not only Putin but also Obama, whom they saw as having enabled Putin’s increased stature through Obama’s nonconfrontational foreign policy. Trump, on the other hand, repeatedly called for even greater deference to Putin and Russia, saying at a debate in November 2015 that he hoped to work with Russia to “knock the hell out of ISIS.” What also makes Trump’s stance on Russia notable is that it was one of the few issues on which he remained consistent, despite there being no clear political rationale for doing so. During his campaign, Trump was both famously heterodox (for example, he repeatedly attacked free-trade agreements, long a linchpin of Republican economic policy) and famously difficult to pin down on any one position (for example, he promised he would both repeal the Affordable Care Act and protect Medicaid and Medicare, and frequently outright denied his own previous statements and policy positions). Even Trump’s noted affinity for autocratic leaders failed to account for his stance; for example, though he has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his authoritarian ways, Trump has also repeatedly criticized—as well as directly antagonized—China on economic issues. As a result, his continual praise for Putin and Russia drew significant attention, even before reporting after the election revealed the extent of Russian interference and the dozens of contacts and meetings between Trump’s campaign and Kremlin-linked officials.

A meticulous analysis of online activity during the 2016 campaign makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive.
By Jane Mayer
Donald Trump has adopted many contradictory positions since taking office, but he has been unwavering on one point: that Russia played no role in putting him in the Oval Office. Trump dismisses the idea that Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election, calling it a “made-up story,” “ridiculous,” and “a hoax.” He finds the subject so threatening to his legitimacy that—according to “The Perfect Weapon,” a recent book on cyber sabotage by David Sanger, of the Times—aides say he refuses even to discuss it. In public, Trump has characterized all efforts to investigate the foreign attacks on American democracy during the campaign as a “witch hunt”; in March, he insisted that “the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever.” Few people, including Trump’s opponents, have publicly challenged the widespread belief that no obtainable evidence can prove that Russian interference changed any votes. Democrats, for the most part, have avoided attributing Hillary Clinton’s defeat directly to Russian machinations. They have more readily blamed James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, for reversing Clinton’s thin lead in the final days of the campaign by reopening a criminal investigation into her mishandling of classified e-mails. Many have also expressed frustration with Clinton’s weak performance as a candidate, and with her campaign’s tactical errors. Instead of investigating whether Russia tipped the electoral scales on its own, they’ve focussed on the possibility that Trump colluded with Russia, and that this, along with other crimes, might be exposed by the probe being conducted by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. The U.S. intelligence community, for its part, is prohibited from investigating domestic political affairs. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, told me, “We try not to spy on Americans. It’s not in our charter.” He emphasized that, although he and other intelligence officials produced—and shared with Trump—a postelection report confirming an extensive cyberattack by Russia, the assessment did not attempt to gauge how this foreign meddling had affected American voters. Speaking for himself, however, he told me that “it stretches credulity to think the Russians didn’t turn the election.” Ordinarily, Congress would aggressively examine an electoral controversy of this magnitude, but the official investigations in the House and the Senate, led by Republicans, have been too stymied by partisanship to address the ultimate question of whether Trump’s victory was legitimate. Although the Senate hearings are still under way, the Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, a Republican, has already declared, “What we cannot do, however, is calculate the impact that foreign meddling and social media had on this election.”

Analysis: The president has a canned approach for trying to fend off bad news. This time, it's a whistleblower report.
By Shannon Pettypiece
President Donald Trump is turning to what's become a tried-and-true pattern of defending himself against scandal in the latest controversy over a whistleblower's accusation that he made a disturbing promise to a foreign leader. It goes like this: Step one: Deny the reports while arguing that even if true, there is nothing wrong with what was done. Step two: Divert attention to a subplot that implicates political rivals. Step three: Discredit investigators by accusing those involved of a deep state or partisan witch hunt. The playbook has been used by Trump and his surrogates repeatedly against various accusations, including whether his campaign held an improper meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, that he paid hush money to an adult film actress, and that he is profiting off the presidency through his private businesses. The strategy played out in the Oval Office on Friday when Trump was pressed about a whistleblower report by an intelligence officer who raised concerns after learning of an alleged promise Trump made during a phone call to a foreign leader. Ukraine is at the center of the complaint, The Washington Post reported on Thursday evening. Trump denied knowing who the whistleblower is or the date of the conversation in question — but said he never did anything wrong anyway. "It was a totally appropriate conversation, it was actually a beautiful conversation," Trump told reporters. When Trump was asked about speculation he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, the president deflected. He tried to shift to his own accusation that Biden had been involved in a quid pro quo with Ukraine connected to the former vice president son's involvement in a Ukrainian gas company. It was the same pattern of defense Trump used when media reports came out about a meeting arranged between his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer, whom he believed had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Trump initially denied knowing about the meeting and his lawyer denied he knew anything about his son's response to the media reports. When it was later reported, and eventually confirmed by Trump’s lawyers, that Trump helped his son write a misleading statement about the purpose of the meeting, the president and his lawyers shifted their defense to saying that there was nothing wrong with having such a meeting. Throughout the Russia investigation, Trump and his allies sought to discredit any findings saying they were a politically motivated "witch hunt," accusing Robert Mueller's investigators of being "angry Democrats." White House lawyers have since stonewalled subpoenas by House Democrats into the Trump campaign's connections with Russia. And now Trump's used a similar tactic to attempt to discredit the intelligence community whistleblower. "It’s ridiculous, it's a partisan whistleblower," he said. Like with the Russia investigation, where Trump tried to push a counter-narrative about Obama administration spying and rogue Justice Department officials, he is using the controversy to try to further his accusations that Biden was involved in nefarious deals in Ukraine. It was a pattern he also followed when reports came out that Trump paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair days before the election.  

By Sonam Sheth
Current and former spies are floored by President Donald Trump's fervent defense of Russia at this year's G7 summit in Biarritz, France. "It's hard to see the bar anymore since it's been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump's behavior over the weekend was a new low," one FBI agent who works in counterintelligence told Insider. At the summit, Trump aggressively lobbied for Russia to be readmitted into the G7, refused to hold it accountable for violating international law, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia's annexation of Crimea, and expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin. One former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was the FBI director, told Insider Trump's behavior was "directly out of the Putin playbook. We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office." A former CIA operative told Insider the evidence is "overwhelming" that Trump is a Russian agent, but another CIA and NSA veteran said it was more likely Trump was currying favor with Putin for future business deals.Meanwhile, a recently retired FBI special agent told Insider that Trump's freewheeling and often unfounded statements make it more likely that he's a "useful idiot" for the Russians. But "it would not surprise me in the least if the Russians had at least one asset in Trump's inner circle." "It's hard to see the bar anymore since it's been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump's behavior over the weekend was a new low." That was the assessment an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence gave Insider of President Donald Trump's performance at this year's G7 summit in Biarritz, France. The agent requested anonymity because they feared that speaking publicly on the matter would jeopardize their job. Trump's attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia's military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

By Brett Samuels
President Trump reportedly clashed with other leaders during a private dinner on the opening night of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit as he lobbied for Russia's readmission to the organization. The president spent the days prior to the summit suggesting Russia should be allowed to rejoin the group and restated his case throughout the weekend in Biarritz, France. CNN and The Washington Post reported that the president received pushback from other attendees during a dinner on Saturday night. CNN reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were among those most opposed to the idea. The Washington Post reported that other leaders felt it should carry additional weight if member nations are democracies, while Trump disagreed. The White House declined to comment on the reports. French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that the G-7 members had not reached a consensus on readmitting Russia, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russia's continued aggression toward Ukraine made it ineligible to rejoin. Russia was expelled in 2014 from what was then the G-8 over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. - What does Ptiuin have on Trump? - Why does Trump continue to do Putin’s bidding? What does Putin have on Trump?

By Daniel Wolfe
Locally sourced Basque food prepared by Michelin-star chefs may have been on the menu, but that didn’t satisfy Donald Trump during a G7 summit dinner in Biarritz, France on Saturday night (Aug. 24). According to reporting by the Guardian, heated debates began when the US president demanded the group readmit Russia. Russia was removed by the previously named G8 after it annexed Crimea in 2014. During the seaside meal, French president Emmanuel Macron and European Council president Donald Tusk opposed Trump’s demands. A diplomat present told the publication that the evening was tense: “Most of the other leaders insisted on this being a family, a club, a community of liberal democracies and for that reason they said you cannot allow president Putin—who does not represent that—back in.” - Why does Trump continue to do Putin’s bidding? What does Putin have on Trump?

On April 18, 2019, a redacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” (Mueller Report) was released to the public. The Mueller report builds on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that there were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump— one run by Trump and one run by the Russian government. The Mueller report clearly identified collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite repeated denials from Trump and many of his senior advisers and close associates that there were any connections between the two campaigns. A total of 272 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives have been identified, including at least 38 meetings. And we know that at least 33 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition, including Trump himself. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them. Beyond the many lies the Trump team told to the American people, Mueller himself repeatedly remarked on how far the Trump team was willing to go to hide their Russian contacts, stating, “the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”

By Max Bergmann, Jeremy Venook, and the Moscow Project Team
On January 6, 2017, the United States intelligence community released its unclassified, official assessment of Russia’s unprecedented and unprovoked attack on the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the report, all 17 intelligence agencies unanimously assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” with the specific aim of electing Donald Trump. The assessment in effect concluded that there were two campaigns to elect Trump—one operating out of Trump Tower and the other out of the Kremlin. Since then, the Russia investigation has revealed a sprawling scandal: Members of Trump’s campaign, including those in the president’s inner circle, were in constant contact with representatives of the Russian government throughout the election and transition. The two campaigns discussed tactics and policy, including the release of “dirt” on their mutual opponent, Hillary Clinton, and rolling back American sanctions against Russia. And they executed their strategies timed to maximally benefit Trump’s chances of victory. Following the scandal as it unfolds can feel like standing too close to an impressionist painting: It’s easy to see the individual brushstrokes, but much harder to see the whole picture they create. This report, which comprises materials previously published by the Moscow Project along with new research and analysis, takes a step back from the canvas and the day-to-day deluge of stories to provide a clear picture of how Trump’s long history of corruption created one of the biggest political scandals in American history.

By Matthew Rozsa
Here are five irrefutable facts about our president's ties to a foreign adversary
In July 2016, Donald Trump — then still the Republican Party's presidential candidate — openly encouraged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton, then the Democratic Party's nominee for the White House. "I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," Trump told a group of reporters assembled reporters at a news conference. As former special counsel Robert Mueller's report made clear, this was not the beginning of Trump's association with Russia — but it was certainly a flashpoint. As it was then, Trump's coziness with the foreign adversary is far from hidden. Who could forget his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018? After meeting with the dictator for two hours in Helsinki, Trump told reporters this: "I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

The Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (“Mueller Report”) contains substantial evidence that President Trump prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. President Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice must be the subject of an impeachment inquiry because undermining the ability of federal proceedings to determine facts and deliver justice is particularly harmful to the rule of law. As Special Counsel Mueller explained, “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.” That concern is pronounced and constitutionally repugnant when the individual in question is vested with extraordinary power to influence federal proceedings and has a specific constitutional obligation to take care that the law is faithfully executed. Obstruction of justice is also particularly serious when the conduct is targeted at federal proceedings relating to a criminal attack by a foreign power on our election. As detailed in the Mueller Report and court filings, the Russian government perpetrated a two-pronged attack on the United States during the 2016 election. Russia’s attack included a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, including by organizing events in support of then-candidate Trump. The attack also featured a Russian intelligence service-led computer-intrusion operation against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and the release of documents stolen from those individuals and entities to the public via intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Although the Special Counsel “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” it established that the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump and its associates had numerous links to individuals with ties to the Russian government and “showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton.” Volume II of the Mueller Report is the starting point for assessing President Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice. The conduct described in that document is so damning that over a thousand former federal prosecutors signed a statement asserting that President Trump’s conduct “would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” Although Special Counsel Mueller declined to reach a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding the president’s obstruction because of that policy, the Mueller Report pointedly stated, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. - If Trump did nothing wrong in regards to Russia then why did he try to prevent, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday (20 August) gave a foretaste of his convention-wrecking diplomacy at next weekend’s G7 by calling for Russia – expelled from the group of democracies – to be readmitted. Coming four days before he arrives at the summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz, Trump’s support for President Vladimir Putin was likely to be only the first diplomatic hand grenade unleashed on what used to be a cozy club of rich, Western allies. “I could certainly” support that, he told reporters at the White House. “It’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8, because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.” Russia was kicked out of the old G8 format after the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea, in Ukraine. Putin has also been accused of orchestrating murders of opponents in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, as well as attempting to manipulate the 2016 US election that saw Trump win a surprise victory. But Trump, in comments that may irk G7 partners meeting from Saturday on the French Atlantic coast, declared that Russia had been expelled because his predecessor Barack Obama had been “outsmarted” by Putin.

These are the highlights of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

The central question about the Trump-Russia matter remains unanswered.




Trump’s Russian ties and Russian strategy converged in 2016 as Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to land him in the Oval Office.
It is now apparent that there was no bright line separating the two campaigns to elect Donald Trump. Throughout his presidential campaign, members of Trump’s inner circle had secret conversations and meetings with numerous Kremlin-linked individuals, which they repeatedly lied about or failed to disclose. Though much about these contacts remains unknown, what is known provides strong evidence that the Kremlin and the Trump campaign were in continual communication. A pro-Russia candidate: From the day he entered the race, June 16, 2015, Trump staked out a pro-Russia platform. Trump told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly that his experiences with Russians in Moscow led him to believe that “you can get along with those people and get along with them well.” Over the course of the next month, Trump made similar on-air comments to Fox News’s Sean Hannity and in a speech at the City Club of Chicago. On July 11, he made his first direct reference to repealing sanctions when responding to a question from Maria Butina, a graduate student who the U.S. Department of Justice later identified as an alleged Russian agent. Butina also allegedly infiltrated the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups on behalf of the Russian government. (Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges and, as of this writing, is in jail awaiting trial.) In a question-and-answer session with Trump in Las Vegas, Butina asked whether sanctions were part of his “foreign politics.” Trump replied, “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin. . . . I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.” Trump went on to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin dozens of times during the primaries, frequently pairing his praise with suggestions that, if elected, he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia. These remarks stood out because they directly contradicted decades of Republican sentiment. Since the end of World War II, the Republican Party had actively staked out a hawkish position on Russia. The party’s previous presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, famously described Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Trump’s Republican opponents frequently attacked not only Putin but also Obama, whom they saw as having enabled Putin’s increased stature through Obama’s nonconfrontational foreign policy. Trump, on the other hand, repeatedly called for even greater deference to Putin and Russia, saying at a debate in November 2015 that he hoped to work with Russia to “knock the hell out of ISIS.” What also makes Trump’s stance on Russia notable is that it was one of the few issues on which he remained consistent, despite there being no clear political rationale for doing so. During his campaign, Trump was both famously heterodox (for example, he repeatedly attacked free-trade agreements, long a linchpin of Republican economic policy) and famously difficult to pin down on any one position (for example, he promised he would both repeal the Affordable Care Act and protect Medicaid and Medicare, and frequently outright denied his own previous statements and policy positions). Even Trump’s noted affinity for autocratic leaders failed to account for his stance; for example, though he has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his authoritarian ways, Trump has also repeatedly criticized—as well as directly antagonized—China on economic issues. As a result, his continual praise for Putin and Russia drew significant attention, even before reporting after the election revealed the extent of Russian interference and the dozens of contacts and meetings between Trump’s campaign and Kremlin-linked officials.

By Olivia Beavers
The Russian troll farms that carried out a sophisticated disinformation campaign on U.S. social media platforms in 2016 may have influenced President Trump's standing in public opinion polls during the campaign, according to a new study released Monday. Researchers at the University of Tennessee said that for every 25,000 retweets each week by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), Trump's poll numbers would gain an increase of about 1 percent. "We find that changes in opinion poll numbers for one of the candidates were consistently preceded by corresponding changes in IRA re-tweet volume, at an optimum interval of one week before," the researchers wrote, referring to Trump. "As these tweets were part of a larger, multimedia campaign, it is plausible that the IRA was successful in influencing U.S. public opinion in 2016." Researchers said that as the IRA ramped up its activity, there was a measurable change in opinion polling for Trump. "As the popularity of presidential candidates ebbed and flowed during the 2016 campaign, changes in opinion poll numbers for Trump were consistently preceded by corresponding changes in IRA re-tweet volume, at an optimum interval of one week before. Compared to its time-average of about 38 percent, support for Trump increased to around 44 percent when IRA tweets were at their most successful," the researchers wrote, noting that the "number of tweets per week increased during the campaign." - The Russians helped Trump how much and how many ways we may never know.

On April 18, 2019, a redacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” (Mueller Report) was released to the public. The Mueller report builds on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that there were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump— one run by Trump and one run by the Russian government. The Mueller report clearly identified collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite repeated denials from Trump and many of his senior advisers and close associates that there were any connections between the two campaigns. A total of 251 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives have been identified, including at least 37 meetings. And we know that at least 33 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition, including Trump himself. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them. Beyond the many lies the Trump team told to the American people, Mueller himself repeatedly remarked on how far the Trump team was willing to go to hide their Russian contacts, stating, “the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.” Below is a comprehensive chronological list of the contacts that have been discovered to date and some of the many lies Trump’s campaign, transition team, and White House told to hide them.

The special counsel’s most interesting findings about Trump and Russia might be in the counterintelligence portion of his report.
By Natasha Bertrand
On Sunday afternoon, Attorney General Bill Barr presented a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions that contained a few sentences from Mueller’s final report, one of which directly addressed the question of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” In a footnote, Barr explained that Mueller had defined “coordination” as an “agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference.” Mueller’s full report has not been made available to the public yet, so it’s not clear whether it sets forth everything the special counsel’s office learned over the course of its nearly two-year investigation—including findings about conduct that was perhaps objectionable but not criminal—or whether it is more tailored and explains only Mueller’s prosecution and declination decisions. But national-security and intelligence experts tell me that Mueller’s decision not to charge Trump or his campaign team with a conspiracy is far from dispositive, and that the underlying evidence the special counsel amassed over two years could prove as useful as a conspiracy charge to understanding the full scope of Russia’s election interference in 2016. “As described by Barr, at least, Mueller’s report was very focused on criminal-law standards and processes,” said David Kris, a founder of Culper Partners, who served as the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division under former President Barack Obama. “We won’t know for sure if that is the case, and if it is the case, why Mueller confined himself in that way, until we see the full report.” Kris noted, however, that “there is no question that a counterintelligence investigation would have a wider aperture than a strict criminal inquiry as applied here, and would be concerned, for example, with the motivations and any sub-criminal misconduct of the principal actors.” A counterintelligence probe, he added, would ask more than whether the evidence collected is sufficient to obtain a criminal conviction—it could provide necessary information to the public about why the president is making certain policy decisions. “The American people rightly should expect more from their public servants than merely avoiding criminal liability,” Kris said. A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee said in a statement on Monday that in light of Barr’s memo “and our need to understand Special Counsel Mueller’s areas of inquiry and evidence his office uncovered, we are working in parallel with other Committees to bring in senior officials from the DOJ, FBI and SCO to ensure that our Committee is fully and currently informed about the SCO’s investigation, including all counterintelligence information.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" during the 2016 campaign, he wrote in his final report. Attorney General William Barr summarized the report's findings in a letter to lawmakers Sunday. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the report a "total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States." Barr says Mueller described the facts surrounding his investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice but made no determination as to whether President Trump committed a crime, deferring to Barr. The report "does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," Barr quotes Mueller as writing.

View the latest news on the Russia investigation and Trump's ties to Russia.

Latest news about the investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election.

Morning Joe takes a deep dive into the Trump-Russia timeline, starting in September 2015, with discussions about a Trump tower project in Moscow.

Donald Trump Jr emails show Russia communication, Emails show he was offered "sensitive" information on Hillary Clinton and replied "I love it".

By JEFF HORWITZ & CHAD DAY
WASHINGTON (AP) — Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that President Trump had not been aware of Manafort’s work on behalf of Deripaska. “To suggest that the president knew who his clients were from 10 years ago is a bit insane,” Spicer said. He noted the AP’s reporting “has started to catch a lot of buzz” but said Manafort’s work occurred long before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. “I don’t know what he got paid to do,” Spicer said, adding, “There’s no suggestion he did anything improper.” Manafort’s plans were laid out in detailed documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

By Paul Waldman
Though he has used it only a few times so far, President Trump is clearly enamored of his power to pardon those who have committed federal crimes, no doubt because his decision is not subject to any pesky oversight from Congress or the courts. And it appears that many of the criminals with whom Trump has surrounded himself are, or at least were, eager to have him use that power to benefit them. Though he has used it only a few times so far, President Trump is clearly enamored of his power to pardon those who have committed federal crimes, no doubt because his decision is not subject to any pesky oversight from Congress or the courts. And it appears that many of the criminals with whom Trump has surrounded himself are, or at least were, eager to have him use that power to benefit them. Let’s begin with our good friend Michael Cohen: Michael Cohen’s former legal team reached out to President Trump’s lawyers seeking a pardon, Cohen’s current attorney said late Wednesday, largely settling speculation about who initiated conversations about the matter but raising new questions about whether Cohen was honest in his public testimony to Congress last week. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny J. Davis said in an interview that Cohen directed his former attorney, Stephen Ryan, to contact Trump’s representatives after they “dangled” the possibility of pardons “in their public statements.” Davis did not specify which public statements swayed Cohen, saying only that the outreach took place before federal law enforcement raided Cohen’s home and office in April 2018. But that’s not all: President Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Wednesday that lawyers for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department in the investigations into the Trump campaign and presidency had contacted him to see whether the president would pardon their clients. Several people! Well, you might say, that’s not the president’s fault. Anyone can ask for a pardon. It doesn’t mean he’ll say yes, and Giuliani says his response to these supplicants was that they’d have to wait until the investigation was over before Trump would even consider it (though Trump’s other lawyers had discussions with attorneys for Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn about the possibility of pardons). So what could possibly have convinced these people that a man of Trump’s unquestionable integrity would even consider something so unethical as using his pardon power to get free one of his former aides from accountability in an investigation in which he himself is under suspicion? To answer that question, we might start with the extraordinary number of Trump aides and associates who have either been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes, a list that includes his former national security adviser, his former campaign chairman, his former deputy campaign chairman and his former personal attorney, among others. It’s almost as though people with questionable ethics and a propensity toward criminality gravitate toward him, the kind of people who think that if all else fails they can get the boss to make their problems go away. Then we might move on to the fact that Trump has been trying to obstruct the investigation into the Russia scandal from the beginning. He pressured then-FBI Director James B. Comey to back off the probe of Flynn, and reportedly asked the director of national intelligence to intervene with Comey for the same purpose. Then he fired Comey and said on national television that he did it amid anger over the Russia investigation.

By Ben Kamisar
WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election said Sunday that lawmakers have found “enormous evidence” of possible collusion between President Trump’s orbit and Russians during that election. Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., disagreed with the assertion by his Republican counterpart on the committee that congressional investigators have found nothing “that would suggest there was collusion.” But Warner made it clear that he’s seriously concerned about a possible link between the Russians and Trump’s allies and campaign apparatus. "I'm going to reserve judgment until I’m finished, but there's no one who can factually say there isn't plenty of evidence of collaboration or communication between the Trump Organization and Russians,” Warner said. “I have never in my lifetime seen a presidential campaign, from a person of either party, have this much outreach to a foreign country and a foreign country that the intelligence community [says], and our committee has validated, intervened massively in our election and intervened with an attempt to help one candidate, Donald Trump, and hurt another, Hillary Clinton.” Warner pointed to congressional testimony by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, both in public and behind closed doors, as more cause for concern. The Virginia Democrat said there are still at least three matters in the “public domain” that need to be investigated further: How far into the 2016 campaign the Trump Organization pushed to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, whether Trump knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked Democratic emails and whether the president knew about the infamous “Trump Tower” meeting between top campaign hands and Russians that Donald Trump Jr. took in the hopes of getting “dirt” on Clinton. Cohen alleged during his public testimony that Trump had advanced warnings of both the “Trump Tower” meeting and the WikiLeaks release, something that has not been corroborated by public evidence.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe condemned what he called the "relentless attack" that President Trump has waged against the FBI even as it continues scrutinizing whether Americans in Trump's campaign may have conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election. "I don't know that we have ever seen in all of history an example of the number, the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president, his campaign, with our most serious, our existential international enemy: the government of Russia," McCabe told NPR's Morning Edition. "That's just remarkable to me." McCabe left the FBI after 21 years last March, when he was dismissed for an alleged "lack of candor" in a media leak probe unrelated to the special counsel investigation. While he declined to conclude that Trump or his advisers colluded with Russia, McCabe said the evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has made public to date — including new disclosures about an August 2016 meeting between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence — "is incredibly persuasive." Trump goes back and forth about what he accepts about the Russian interference in the 2016 election but he denies that he or anyone on his campaign colluded with it. The president and the White House also have focused their attention on McCabe's firing and what critics call the conflict of interest involved with McCabe's wife's political campaign — she ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia legislature as a Democrat.

(CNN) Paul Manafort's latest legal debacle deepened the core intrigue underlying special counsel Robert Mueller's probe: Why have so many of President Donald Trump's associates been caught lying about contacts with Russians? In a significant new twist in the 2016 election saga, a judge ruled Wednesday that Trump's ex-campaign chairman "intentionally" lied to investigators, breaking a deal he had reached as a cooperating witness. The lies, including about meetings with a suspected Russian intelligence asset, were about issues intimately linked to Mueller's wider inquiry, which includes a look into whether there were any links or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort. How Team Trump has changed its story in the Russia probe. Taken in isolation, the new Manafort bombshell would have rocked any presidency, given his senior role in the Trump campaign. But for a White House as cloaked in suspicion as this one, after two years of stunning revelations about Moscow's election interference, it is yet more bad news that will fuel a feverish atmosphere and further crank up pressure on Trump's inner circle. Like many of the stunning reveals from Mueller, the latest Manafort drama also offered tantalizing glimpses into the special counsel's web of investigation but provided no resolution to the long-running Russia puzzle. Mueller has yet to provide any proof of a conspiracy or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russians, despite obtaining convictions and guilty pleas from a string of the President's former associates.

Repeatedly Trump has praised Putin and put Russian interest above American interest. Trump has been more of a Russian asset than he is an American president.

Trump reportedly keeps finding a way to meet the Russian leader privately. If you’re a US president, it’s probably not a great idea to meet with a foreign leader who meddled in your country’s elections without some way to record what’s being discussed. But that’s just what President Donald Trump apparently did — again. According to the Financial Times, Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin during last November’s G20 summit in Argentina without a US official present to take notes. First lady Melania Trump was by the president’s side during the chat, but no staff joined them. The White House had previously acknowledged that both leaders met for an “informal” talk but didn’t disclose that Trump had no official member of his team present. Putin did have someone, though: his translator, although it’s unclear if that person wrote anything down. This isn’t the first time Trump has done this. During the G20 meeting in Germany in July 2017, he got up from his seat during a dinner in order to sit next to Putin, who did have his translator to help. That meeting, which the White House didn’t initially reveal, came just hours after Trump bought Putin’s denial that Russia didn’t intervene in the 2016 presidential election. Why having no note taker matters: There are two major problems with Trump’s continued and ill-advised conduct. First, the optics. Trump continually finds ways to meet with Putin privately. That’s a really bad look when you consider the fact that US intelligence says the Russian directed a sophisticated campaign to help Trump win the White House, not to mention special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump-Russia ties during the 2016 presidential campaign. But second, and more importantly, we’ll never really know what happened during the Trump-Putin chat since only four people were there — Trump, Putin, the first lady, and the translator — and nothing was recorded (that we know of). In addition to this, the administration apparently has no notes of any of the many Trump-Putin interactions over a two-year span. And at least on one occasion in 2017, Trump told his translator after an official meeting with Putin not to share details of the meeting with staff. Trump actually seized his notes. This isn’t a minor clerical issue. It actively hinders some US officials from doing their job when they don’t receive a detailed briefing about what the president discussed with another head of state. Without knowing what they agreed to, fought about, or even laughed at, it’s nearly impossible for the administration to conduct policy accordingly. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about Trump here: the guy who shared highly classified intelligence in a meeting with top Russian officials in the Oval Office back in May 2017 and who has surrounded himself with a high number of pro-Kremlin confidants.

The House speaker also took aim at the indictment of Roger Stone, calling Trump’s choice of friends “staggering.” Following the arrest of longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivered a damning rebuke of the president’s choice of friends, questioning the legitimacy of his election and his ties to Russia. “The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people,” the congresswoman said in a statement Friday evening. “It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.” Stone, who was charged with seven counts Friday, including lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, has credited himself with Trump’s presidential run and was an informal adviser to his campaign until the summer of 2015. Stone appears to have seen the indictment coming, often saying that he expected this day to come. In her condemnation of the president, Pelosi accused Trump of continuing to attempt to subvert special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election, arguing it raised serious questions, including “what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially,” and Trump’s motivations behind weighing a NATO pullout. Pelosi said a NATO withdrawal would be a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Offering as much insurance as possible that Mueller’s work would be safeguarded, the congresswoman also spoke out against witness intimidation, stating that any effort to “prevent them from appearing before Congress” must be stopped.

The Justice Department added another piece to the puzzle of its Russia investigation on Friday with charges against GOP political consultant Roger Stone — but the full picture still isn't complete. Stone was arrested in Florida following an indictment by a grand jury working with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. He denied breaking the law and said he'll plead not guilty when he's arraigned later in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors say Stone and at least two of his associates served as intermediaries between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and "Organization 1" — as WikiLeaks is referred to in the court document — which fenced material stolen by the Russian government as part of the Kremlin's scheme to wreak havoc in the 2016 White House race. After WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016, "a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone" to ask what else WikiLeaks had planned. Stone then pinged "Person 1" — conservative commentator Jerome Corsi — and instructed him to "get the pending ... emails" from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. That was the start of what appeared to be weeks' worth of indirect communication between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks through Stone and his associates, according to the indictment — and, via WikiLeaks, with Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU. The charges Stone is facing are about the accounts he gave to Congress about these events. Stone vowed Friday that he'll fight the charges and said he expects to be "vindicated" in court. A Trump lawyer highlighted on Friday that the charges in the Stone indictment, however, aren't about collusion — they're about the statements Stone made to Congress and others.

By Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie, and Nathan McDermott, CNN
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump consistently broke from political orthodoxy in his effusive praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His glowing statements on Putin have become central in stoking the suspicion that he and his campaign were somehow connected to Russian interference in the election. A CNN KFile review of Trump’s public statements — from the years immediately before his presidential campaign to present — reveal that Trump has contradicted himself over the years about the nature of his relationship with Putin. Since 2013 — when Trump’s Miss Universe pageant was held in Moscow — Trump has at least nine times claimed to have spoken to, met, or made contact with Putin. But as the 2016 campaign wore on and his statements on Putin began to attract more scrutiny, Trump changed course, denying having ever met the Russian president. “I never met Putin,” Trump said at a July 2016 news conference. “I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I'm a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.” more...


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