WTF Community

Day 543

Updated 7/16/2018 11:49 AM PDT

1/ Trump doesn't "see any reason why" Russia would have interfered in the 2016 election because Putin "was extremely strong and powerful" in denying it during their summit in Helsinki. Trump's refusal to condemn Moscow clash with the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies, and comes days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in an attempt to help Trump. Putin confirmed the he wanted Trump to win the election. Prior to the summit, Trump blamed "U.S. foolishness and stupidity" for poor Russian relations. The Russian foreign ministry responded to Trump's tweet with: "We agree." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Politico)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Outrageous display of fawning, deflection, both siding by the Prez…and here’s the proof.

Jonathan Lemire - of AP, asked the most potent questions at the very end of this press conference. He asked whether T could put any blame on Russia for this hacking. T’s response was a myriad of deflections, obsfucation, pinning it on Obama, DOJ’s roles, and of course ending with Hillary emails. T never blamed Putin…



Alongside Putin, Trump blames “both countries” for election meddling and, of Mueller investigation, says “I think the probe is a disaster for our country”


Standing next to Vladimir Putin, after a meeting Putin had requested, President Trump was asked by a reporter if he believed the findings of his own intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. He began by floating unfounded accusations that the FBI had ignored his opponent’s misdeeds. Then he proceeded to express his doubts. “All I can do is ask the question,” said Trump. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I’ll say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”


Trump also deflected direct questions about Russia’s role in the 2016 elections, and declined to denounce Russia for interference when asked. Instead, he seemed to praise Putin. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial,” Trump said.

Trump also boasted about the margin of his election victory over Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee whom polls favored to win; reiterating his claim that the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s actions and possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia was a “witch hunt” directed at him; and asking why the FBI “never took the [hacked] server” belonging to the Democratic National Committee.


It just doesn’t end.


Nice find, @jamditis.

Maria Butina, who was involved with a Russian gun group that the National Rifle Association was supportive of, was arrested on Sunday and appeared in court in Washington, DC to Monday, according to the Justice Department.


Twitter suspended two accounts Saturday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has linked to a Russian intelligence operation to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The suspensions come after a dozen Russian intelligence officials were indicted by the U.S. Justice Department on Friday on charges that they hacked Democrats’ computers and used fake online personas to distribute the stolen material. The indictments further highlight how social media platforms played an integral part in the Russian disinformation campaign and how tech companies are grappling with how to prevent misuse on their massive networks.

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Putting the noose around the NRA and Russian lobbyist…cutting off a money source.

A Washington-based pro-gun activist affiliated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been charged with spying in the US for Russia.

Maria Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian federation within the US without prior notification to the attorney general.
Butina, 29, was arrested on Sunday and appeared before a magistrate in Washington on Monday, according to the US justice department.

She is known as a protege of Alexander Torshin, a Russian former state banker, who met Donald Trump Jr for dinner at the NRA’s 2016 convention. Torshin was placed under sanction by the US in April this year.



This unsealed indictment her position was sanctioned by…under Munchin’s helm.

This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.


Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence has been speaking loudly this week end over the Russian meddling, calling our status similar to 9-11, and "‘Warning Lights Are Blinking Red,’"

The Director of National Intelligence issued a forceful response on the subject of Russian election interference after President Donald Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump sympathized with Putin on the subject of election meddling.

During a joint press conference with Putin, Trump said he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would interfere in US elections.
“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election,” DNI Dan Coats said in response.

The Director of National Intelligence on Monday issued a forceful response to President Donald Trump’s remarks during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Trump cast doubt on US intelligence agencies’ conclusions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers,” said Dan Coats, the top US intelligence official. "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

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@matt already noted this one in recap…and I just noticed that. We’re all on the same mission here…!

Washington (CNN)Former US intelligence chiefs expressed astonishment and condemnation Monday in response to President Donald Trump’s comments at Monday’s news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with former CIA Director John Brennan calling the US President’s performance “nothing short of treasonous.”
Following his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump declined to endorse the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election over Putin’s denial, saying the Russian President was “extremely strong and powerful” in his denial.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous,” Brennan, a frequent critic of Trump who served as CIA chief from 2013 through January 2017, tweeted during the event.

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
8:52 AM - Jul 16, 2018


This has been commented on extensively above, but I thought I would add the NYT article so I could add a couple observations:

  • As of now there is not one peep about this on Breitbart. They’re probably scrambling to figure out how to spin it. It would be easy to simply report the facts as all the major reputable news outlets have already done, but Breitbart won’t say thing before they can concoct some way to link this to “the deep state,” etc.

  • These charges were not filed by Mueller, but by the national security division of the Justice Department – a clear sign that the Trump-Russia investigation is expanding.

The charges were filed by Justice Department national security prosecutors, not the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whom Mr. Trump has accused of carrying out a witch hunt.


During the Nato meeting, there were some behind-the-scene interactions with Trump and Erdogan greeting him with a fist-bump, calling the European Union a ‘foe’ and acting defiantly against China, but creating high tariffs despite the fact that China may be our bigger foe.

Interview with Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and a CBS News senior global affairs contributor this morning.

In addition to calling the European Union a “foe” of the U.S. and criticizing British Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of Brexit, Mr. Trump slammed fellow NATO countries for not contributing more towards defense spending.

On “CBS This Morning” Monday, Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and a CBS News senior global affairs contributor, said that backstage at the NATO meeting there were elements that were even more eyebrow-raising than reports have suggested.

“One is that emergency session where they asked the Georgian and Ukrainian presidents to leave in the middle of their presentation. Apparently Trump said, ‘OK, we’re done with you now,’” Bremmer said.

"Trump was very frustrated; he wasn’t getting commitments from other leaders to spend more. Many of them said, ‘Well, we have to ask our parliaments. We have a process; we can’t just tell you we’re going to spend more, we have a legal process.’ Trump turns around to the Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, and says, ‘Except for Erdogan over here. He does things the right way,’ and then actually fist-bumps the Turkish president."

Bremmer replied, "There are many people that do believe that, long term, the United States and Russia should have a good relationship, [and that] China is the problem. China is the emerging superpower. China is actually the true competitor undermining America, but also undermining the Russians long term. I think that was Steve Bannon’s view when he was chief strategist for the White House.

“I think it’s interesting that Trump’s clearly turning against Beijing. The $200 billion announced in tariffs that may be coming down, the unhelpfulness more recently on North Korea (from his perspective), I think he’d love talking to Putin on that.”

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Interesting bits of information uncovered by Axios on why the (DNC) servers were not given over to the FBI…because they will use third parties, and in this instance, DNC used Crowdstrike.

And just wondering aloud, isn’t the NY FBI office in particular, the one that Guiliani super buddies with known to be notoriously Anti-Clinton?

“Where is the server?” President Trump has repeatedly asked this question — including with Russian president Vladimir Putin today — when discussing the indictment of 12 Russians for hacking the Democratic National Committee and other targets in 2016.

Why it matters: The complaint that the DNC denied the FBI access to its hacked servers is a hallmark of the right’s response to the DNC hacking scandal. But people familiar with these kinds of investigations say withholding the server was nothing out of the ordinary.

The backstory: Rather than turn its server over to the FBI, the DNC hired a private security firm, Crowdstrike, to investigate the hacking.

Independent investigations are common: According to the law firm BakerHostetler, well over half of the organizations it advises seek out private investigators to investigate hacks. It’s increasingly common for those investigators to handle the low-level forensic work in place of the FBI.

Leo Taddeo, former special agent in charge of the cyber division of the FBI’s New York office, told The Hill: "In nine out of 10 cases, we don’t need access, we don’t ask for access, we don’t get access. That’s the normal [procedure].


t’s extraordinarily rare for the FBI to get access to the victim’s infrastructure because we could mess it up," he added. "We usually ask for the logs and images, and 99 out of a hundred times, that’s sufficient.”

Beyond the potential for damage, seizing a server can revictimize an organization after a hack. Losing a server can disrupt or even shut down a business or organization.

Law enforcement is often happy to let private investigators take on the initial phase of investigative work because it saves time and money.

Another problem with handing over a server: If the FBI mishandles data or, say, leaks it to the press or a political partisan, the organization places itself in jeopardy.

The server is now just a small part of the evidence: One thing clear from the most recent indictment is that the FBI has now amassed significant additional evidence beyond what Crowdstrike could have obtained in its own investigation.

Any information dealing with activities or data on other servers — including Russian-affiliated servers in the United States and social media accounts, all of the names and individual actions from specific actors — was obtained separately from the DNC server.
Even if you read dark meaning into the DNC’s use of Crowdstrike rather than the FBI, at this point, it doesn’t matter: Friday’s indictments show that the FBI has now pieced together a factual account that renders the whole argument moot.

Will Giuliani make an appearance?

Mr. Horowitz has said he is investigating whether officials improperly disclosed information about the Clinton case to journalists. But one of the most intriguing questions involves the potential leak of information to one of Mr. Trump’s key campaign surrogates, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani appeared on Fox News in October 2016 and hinted that big news was about to break:

“I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises,” he said in one interview. In another, he referenced Mrs. Clinton and said he expected the surprises to surface in the coming days.

Two days later, Mr. Comey broke the news that the F.B.I. was once again investigating Mrs. Clinton and her emails. Mr. Comey has said he ordered an investigation into that disclosure but it is not clear what came of it.

Mr. Giuliani is now a lawyer for Mr. Trump, who has railed against inappropriate disclosures to reporters.

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Will anything be an effective pushback on T’s close alliance with Putin? We’re in uncharted waters.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer questioned Monday whether Russian President Vladimir Putin holds damaging information over President Trump, and outlined four ways the GOP-held Congress should respond to Russia’s election meddling and today’s bizarre Trump-Putin press conference.

Between the lines: Republicans are calling all of the shots when it comes to introducing legislation or subpoenaing information from the administration.

Schumer’s ask of the GOP:

1-Increase sanctions against Russia.

2-Demand that the president’s national security team that accompanied him to the Russia summit testify before Congress about what happened.

3- End all attacks on the Justice Department, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Schumer said it’s also time for Trump to sit down for an interview with Mueller.

4-Demand that Trump insists the 12 Russians named in last week’s indictment be sent to the U.S. to stand trial.

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This may be shaping up as a major breakthrough in the Trump-Russia investigation. It is validating reporting from about six months ago that focused on connections between the NRA and Alexander Torshin, deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia who has been linked to the Russian mafia and money laundering operations. Maria Butina, the subject of today’s charges, is Torshin’s assistant. It’s just IMHO, but I suspect that prosecutors will be leaning on Butina in hopes she will flip on her boss and help them follow the money trail from the Central Bank of Russia to the NRA.

For those who are interested in digging into Torshin’s and Butina’s relationship with the NRA, here are some excellent investigative reports. I’ve extracted a few highlights.

This article by Michael Isikoff goes way back to April, 2017. Isikoff was one of the first to draw attention to the Torshin-NRA links – he took some flak for it at the time, but, in light of today’s charges, it turns out he was on to something (more power to investigative journalism!).

The White House abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting in February between President Trump and a high-level Russian central banker after a national security aide discovered the official had been named by Spanish police as a suspected “godfather” of an organized crime and money-laundering ring, according to an administration official and four other sources familiar with the event.

The event had been planned as a meet and greet with President Trump and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in a waiting room at the Washington Hilton before the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2.

The charges do not refer specifically to the brokering of this meeting, but I imagine it’s one that prosecutors are looking at. Here is Butina’s comment to Isikoff about the canceled meeting:

“Late the night before, we were told that all meet and greets were off,” said Maria Butina, a special assistant to Torshin, in an email to Yahoo News, confirming that Torshin had expected to meet Trump at the event. “There were no specific questions or statements that Mr. Torshin had in mind during what we assumed to be a five-second handshake. We all hope for better relations between our two countries. I’m sure there will be other opportunities to express this hope.”

The next article, published by McClatchy in January of this year, took a closer look at the Russia-NRA connections:

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

More attempts at brokering meetings with Trump and his inner-circle are described:

Torshin was a senior member of the Russian Senate and in recent years helped set up a Moscow gun rights group called Right to Bear Arms. He not only spoke with Trump Jr. at the NRA convention, but he also tried unsuccessfully to broker a meeting between Putin and the presidential candidate in 2016, according to the Times. He further sought to meet privately with the candidate himself near the 2016 NRA convention.

As Torshin’s assistant, Butina most likely worked on setting up these meetings and this is probably the reason the Senate Judiciary Committee sought more information about her in November of last year:

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters in November to two senior Trump foreign policy aides, J.D. Gordon and Sam Clovis, seeking copies of any communications they had with or related to Torshin; the NRA; veteran conservative operative Paul Erickson; Maria Butina, a Torshin protege who ran the Russian pro-gun group he helped launch, and others linked to Torshin.

Erickson has raised funds for the NRA and is a friend of Butina’s. Shortly before the NRA’s May 2016 convention, he emailed Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn about the possibility of setting up a meeting between Putin and Trump during the campaign, according to the Times.

Erickson’s email to Dearborn bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, Erickson solicited advice from Dearborn and his boss, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a top foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, about the best way to connect Putin and Trump.

If I were Gordon, Clovis, Erickson, or Dearborn I’d be sweating it right now. Today’s charges against Butina show that federal prosecutors are hot on their tail. Erickson may have particular cause for concern, since he set up an LLC with Butina:

Bridges LLC, a company that Erickson and Butina established in February 2016 in Erickson’s home state of South Dakota, also is expected to draw scrutiny. Public records don’t reveal any financial transactions involving Bridges. In a phone interview last year, Erickson said the firm was established in case Butina needed any monetary assistance for her graduate studies — an unusual way to use an LLC.

An LLC to fund a student’s graduate school studies? Now that’s original.

Although this article from ProPublica does not mention Butina, it makes a fascinating read as it delves deep into Torshin’s ties with money laundering and the Russian mob known as the Taganskaya.

As the Spanish police investigated the presence of a notorious Russian organized crime group on the resort island of Mallorca in 2012, they realized that a key figure described by some of the suspects as their “godfather” was a powerful Moscow politician: Alexander Torshin. . . .

As Torshin began building his political profile in the U.S., he also became the focus of a Spanish law enforcement crackdown on a wave of Russian mobsters who came to Spain in the 1990s and 2000s to escape violence at home, launder money in real estate and tourism enterprises, and extend their reach in international business.


I have to hand it to Tim Mak of the Daily Beast. Back in February of 2017, he must have had a sixth sense about Maria Butina. He published this excellent feature article about her.

Butina has something in common with Trump – she just can’t help bragging and thus incriminating herself.

On Nov. 12, 2016, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, Butina held a birthday party at Cafe Deluxe near American University, where she attends graduate school classes.

The event was a costume party attended by Trump campaign aides and Erickson, who told guests that he was on the Trump presidential transition team. She dressed as Russian Empress Alexandra while Erickson was dressed as Rasputin.

As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.


This is a huge indictment…because as you have wondefully researched and given explanations on, there are direct ties to Trump campaign (DJTjr) and by extension T.
The NRA as we well know supports an endless number of R congressional members too.
I look on Twitter a bunch…and always look for @BenjaminWittes for his BOOM (picture of a bomb taking off) and it’s usually incredibly important. This story got one too.

And there are few of us on WTFJHT who follow Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin on FB, and Twitter, she links to @leahMcElrath (who calls herself an activist, but someone who keeps up)

And determines there is a direct link to DJTjr.


At this time, it’s impossible to know the reason for this delay. However, since one of the reasons could be that Manafort is working out a plea deal, that makes the new scheduled date of the hearing (next Monday) a day to circle on the calendar. It may turn out to be just a routine hearing that was delayed for a routine reason or it may turn out to be a really big deal. Time will tell!