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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of April 22 – 28, 2018

Mueller investigation

The House Intelligence Committee released a report that included their findings from reviewing a collection of emails. The report reveals that on December 2, 2015 Michael Flynn and his son met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at his Washington, D.C. residence. About a week later, Flynn flew to Moscow to speak at the Kremlin RT news organization’s annual gala, where he sat at the same table as Putin.

The Senate Judiciary Committee backed a bill to protect Special Counsel Mueller from being fired by Trump. Four Republicans sided with the Democrats in a 14-7 vote: Grassley, Graham, Flake, and Tillis. McConnell now states that he will not allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote, but a recent NYT piece states that this is not a Senate rule – that the Majority leader’s ability to block a bill is not a rule, but simply tradition.

Trump’s new personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, met with Mueller to reopen negotiations over a possible interview with Trump.

In court documents filed by Mueller’s team, we learned that Manafort had been interviewed by FBI agents twice before joining Trump’s campaign – once in March 2013 and again in July 2014. At the time, Manafort worked for a Ukrainian political party.

  • Rick Gates was also interviewed in July 2014. With Carter Page, this makes three Trump officials who were on the FBI’s radar before working for Trump’s campaign, raising questions about the vetting process for Trump’s campaign. Alternatively, these men were vetted properly, but Trump and/or Trump aides did not see their involvement with the FBI as a problem.

Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, has admitted to being an informant for the Kremlin in the past. She stated in an interview: “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant … Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

  • As Axios states, “the revelation now raises questions about who she was working for when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner.”

We also learned that the Agalarovs, a Russian family integral to the Moscow Miss Universe pageant, have stayed in touch with the Trumps during Trump’s campaign AND during the transition.

Newly obtained flight records show that Trump did indeed stay overnight in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, contrary to what Trump told Comey (as memorialized in Comey’s memos). The records indicate Trump’s jet landed on a Friday and left pre-dawn Sunday after the pageant.

  • A couple days after this was revealed, Trump denied that he told Comey he did not stay overnight in Moscow. In a rambling call to Fox and Friends, Trump accused Comey of lying about their conversations in his memos.

“He didn’t write those memos accurately. He put a lot of phony stuff. For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so — a day or two — because I own the Miss Universe Pageant, so I went there to watch it.”

“He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed. Well, his memo said I left immediately. I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”

During the same Fox and Friends call, Trump admitting other things his lawyers probably wish he didn’t and contradicted himself numerous times. Highlights, video, and annotated transcript.

  • Trump tried to minimize his relationship to Cohen while also admitting that Cohen represented him in the Stormy Daniels agreement. Trump previously told reporters that he knew nothing about the Stormy Daniels payoff.
  • Trump called the DOJ’s Russia probe a “witch hunt,” and suggested that he’s going to become more involved in the probe in the future – basically implying that he will fire Sessions and/or Rosenstein at some point.
  • Trump then stated that the Democrats invented the idea that his team colluded with the Russians to save face after losing the 2016 election (talking points taken straight off of Fox News, by the way).
  • Finally, Trump went on a very long and even more convoluted rant against Mueller’s team – claiming that they are all Democrats, they “worked on Hillary Clinton’s foundation,” and repeating his accusation that McCabe – who is no longer employed by the FBI – took $700k from a Hillary Clinton supporter, which indicates the DOJ itself is corrupt.

A federal judge has granted a 90 day delay in Daniels’ court case against Trump and Cohen, due to the fact that it “appeared ‘likely’ that Cohen would be indicted” in connection with the criminal investigation he is facing at the hands of the FBI.

  • In the criminal investigation, a “special master” has been appointed that will sift through materials seized from Cohen. Her name is Barbara Johnson, a former judge and prosecutor at SDNY.

Russian interference

After being widely reported that sanctions against Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska cost him over $6 million in market value, the Trump Administration announced they are softening sanctions on Rusal, the aluminium production company owned in large part by Deripaska.

  • Deripaska is very close with Putin and has been involved in the Trump-Russia story in various ways since the beginning. Deripaska used to employee Paul Manafort, who is now in debt millions of dollars to his former employer. During Trump’s campaign, Manafort offered him personal briefings on the 2016 election. Deripaska is also implicated more directly in election interference by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In a web video he showed footage of Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko on Deripaska’s yacht with several prostitutes – one of whom is now in a Thai jail offering to exchange evidence of Russian interference in the election for her freedom.
  • This move comes after intense pressure on the Russian government from their own people to prevent Rusal from losing business or closing down. The Trump administration’s lessening of sanctions on Deripaska ultimately relieve this pressure and help Putin and his oligarchs maintain the status quo.

A Dallas Democrat running for the Texas state Senate had to take down his campaign website after finding evidence that Russian hackers may have targeted it.

  • NBC News reports that “coding in Russian and references to Russian websites were found embedded in the server. Google Analytics also found several visits on the website from internet users in Russia and Ukraine.”
  • Just one month ago we found out that possible Russian trolls had attempted to register for the Texas Democratic convention. A legislative affiars director for the party went through the voter registrations by hand, identifying “48 that were problematic, meaning they seemed unconnected to anybody living in Texas. Twenty-five of those 48 were trying to register with email addresses ending in “” Those last two letters, .ru, are the internet designation for domains in Russia.”


Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie gave a private briefing to House Judiciary and Oversight Democrats. He divulged that Steve Bannon, who helped found the data company and served as its vice president, ordered staff to test messaging around Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in 2014. The same year, Bannon also had the company test the phrases “build the wall” and “drain the swamp.”


Brian Ballard, the lobbyist who is arguably closest to Trump and has raised millions for Trump’s campaign, was revealed to also represent a close ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. After this was reported by the Daily Beast, Ballard’s firm dropped the Syrian client.

A Serbian politician has claimed that Corey Lewandowski is offering phone calls with Trump as an enticement for receiving a lobbying contract with the country’s President Aleksandar Vucic. “Lewandowski had offered to set up a phone call between Vucic and Trump for a price.”

To note…

14 states can’t guarantee accurate election results in 2018.

  • 5 of them – LA, GA, SC, NJ, & DE — have no paper trails of votes. The other 9 only have a paper trail in some counties – PA, TX, KS, FL, TN, AR, IN, KY, and MS.

Trump is reportedly still soliciting campaign donations from foreign politicians. An Australian parliamentarian has told Talking Points Memo that he receives multiple emails campaign emails asking for money every week. It is illegal to solicit campaign contributions from foreign nationals – and it’s pretty clear this email address is an official Australian government address. It would not be difficult for Trump’s campaign to remove foreign official emails from their mailing list.

A former employee has revealed that BP chief executive Bob Dudley had to flee Moscow in 2008 when a blood test revealed he was being slowly poisoned in plot arranged by Russian security services.