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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of April 8 – 14, 2018

Mueller Investigation

Mueller referred information he uncovered during his investigations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which then raided Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room on Monday. The warrant was signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general. It detailed an investigation into possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations

  • FBI agents seized a variety of types of records, documents, and emails including: communications between Stormy Daniels’ former lawyer and Cohen, records relating to payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump and information about the publisher of The National Enquirer’s role in silencing one of the women”, communications between Trump and Cohen (particularly regarding the Access Hollywood tape), bank records, and audio recordings made by Cohen himself. Authorities also sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Cohen (who has a taxi medallion business).
  • The DOJ stated that Cohen has been “under criminal investigation” for months in New York because of his business dealings. This means his phones have likely been tapped, his emails read, and his meetings monitored during that time. Cohen’s attorney appeared before a judge at a hearing Friday to attempt to stop federal prosecutors from using some of the records they seized. He is arguing that the records are covered by attorney-client privilege, despite the fact that prosecutors assert Cohen had done “little to no legal work, and…zero emails were exchanged with President Trump.”
  • During the time Cohen was supposed to be present in court, he was actually smoking cigars with his friends outside his hotel. One of his friends appears to be a Russian named Rotem Rosen. He is the CEO of the American branch of Africa Israel, the holding company of Putin oligarch Lev Leviev. Rosen was photographed with Donald Trump and Aras Agalarov at the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow in 2013.
  • In his first comments to the press after learning of the raid, Trump ranted on camera about the unfairness of the situation, repeating claims of a witch hunt, and calling the legally obtained search warrant “an attack on our country.” A reporter asked Trump about the possibility of firing Mueller, to which Trump responded (in part): “I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens. Many people have said ‘you should fire him’.” Later we found out that the reporter who asked that question was Jon Decker with Fox News Radio. He claims that as Trump was leaving, he mouthed “thank you” to the reporter for asking the question.
  • Trump has asked a federal court in New York to block federal agents from reviewing materials seized in the raid until he reviews them first.

Also in the raid, investigators sought all communications between Cohen and the executives of National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. The National Enquirer is under scrutiny for silencing two people – that we know of – with damaging claims against Trump during his campaign.

  • Dino Sajudin, a former doorman at Trump Tower, was paid $30,000 in 2015 by the National Enquirer for a story about Trump having an illegitimate child with a housekeeper in the ‘80s. Ultimately, National Enquirer killed the story, silencing Sajudin in the same fashion as it had former Playmate, Karen McDougal. Sajudin passed a polygraph test at the time. Cohen admits to discussing Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it, but claims to have had no knowledge of the payment.
  • Cohen reportedly killed a 2013 Us Weekly story alleging that Donald Trump Jr. had an affair with a Celebrity Apprentice contestant and Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day. When the magazine called for comment, Cohen threatened legal action. The story was ultimately dropped when US weekly determined they wanted to maintain a “good working relationship” with President Trump on Apprentice-related stories.

Reportedly, both Team Trump and Team Mueller are moving forward without Trump sitting for an interview. Negotiations for the interview broke down after the Cohen raid.

  • “…Mueller’s team may be able to close the obstruction probe more quickly as they will not need to prepare for the interview or follow up on what the president says.”

From the same NBC article, we also found out that Mueller has collected four findings on Donald Trump’s attempt to obstruct justice.

  1. His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey;
  2. His role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians;
  3. Trump’s dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and
  4. Pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
  • The “intent” behind firing Comey matters because impeding or influencing an FBI investigation is a crime only if it is done with “corrupt” intent—in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice. NBC news continues describing the process that is likely to occur: “Mueller would then likely send a confidential report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein could decide whether to make the report public and send its findings to Congress. From there, Congress would then decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president”

Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen really did go to Prague in 2016, confirming part of the Steele dossier and contradicting testimony Cohen gave to Congress.

  • We do not know yet if Cohen met with Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the dossier also claims
  • “The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia… Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed ‘how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign’.”

Mueller is investigating a $150,000 donation made by Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation. In exchange, Trump made a 20-minute appearance through a video link to a conference in Kiev. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, solicited the donation. An expert states that the donation arouses suspicion because “it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence.” He adds that it is “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders asserted that Trump believes, and indeed possesses, the power to directly fire Mueller himself.

  • This directly contradicts legal precedence and the opinion of many experts, who state that Trump would have to order Rosenstein to fire Mueller instead. Rosenstein previously stated he would not follow that order unless he determined the Special Counsel has committed misconduct. When pressed, Sanders argued, “I know a number of individuals in the legal community, and including at the Department of Justice say he has the power to do so.”

On Wednesday, Trump reportedly called an ally (who has not been named) and asked him/her to go on television to call on Trump to fire Mueller.

The New York Times reported that Trump sought to fire Mueller in December, furious after reading news that Mueller subpoenaed information regarding his business dealings with Deutsche Bank. Trump’s advisers contacted the Special Counsel’s office and were told the news report was not true, leading Trump to back down. The subpoenas were actually for “people associated with” Trump.

Several sources report Trump has been considering firing Rosenstein and ordering his replacement to either limit Mueller’s probe or fire Mueller. Trump’s advisers reportedly “believe Rosenstein crossed the line in what he can and cannot pursue. And they consider him conflicted since he is a potential witness in the special counsel’s investigation because he wrote the memo that justified firing former FBI Director James Comey.” The White House has also been preparing talking points designed to undermine Rosenstein’s credibility.

Mueller asked a judge to issue 35 sets of subpoenas to witnesses for a July 10 appearance at Manafort’s trial, where he faces tax and bank fraud charges. In D.C. he faces conspiracy and money laundering charges, with a Sept. 17 trial date.

Buzzfeed news revealed that a former Russian spy worked to help secure funding for the failed Trump Tower Moscow project during Trump’s campaign. The spy, whose name has not been revealed, had contact with both Felix Sater and Michael Cohen. Mueller is aware of the connection and questioned Sater on the subject extensively.

Russian interference

60 Minutes obtained a previously undisclosed Department of Homeland Security internal document that details the scope of the Russian cyberattack prior to the 2016 election.

  • Russian hackers successfully infiltrated a county election database in Arizona, a Tennessee state website, an IT vendor in Florida, and the entire Illinois voter registration system where they stole info on 90,000 voters after having access to the system for three weeks. A total of 20 states were targeted in 2016.

The NRA has now acknowledged more than 20 Russian contributors, whereas previously they insisted there was only one – Alexander Torshin. Furthermore, they state that the sum it received from those people was just over $2,500 and most of that was “routine payments” for membership dues or magazine subscriptions.

  • The group’s acknowledgement came as a result of Senator Wyden’s efforts in a congressional inquiry into Russian money funding Trump’s campaign. An aide for Wyden states: “After three letters, the NRA continually, and specifically, avoided detailing what measures it takes to vet donations, including from shell companies, a known means for Russians to funnel money into the United States.” After admitting the 23 Russian contributors, the NRA announced that it was officially done cooperating with a congressional inquiry.


Jill Stein’s campaign has turned over requested documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible collusion with Russia.

  • Senators Warner and Burr, who lead the committee, have said they’re investigating her campaign because of the suspicion aroused by her presence at Putin and Flynn’s table at a 2015 Russia Today dinner. Warner also said Stein “has been a long-term defender of Mr. [Julian] Assange and WikiLeaks, which clearly was involved in dumping some disparaging information.”

Mark Zuckerberg testified before both the Senate and the House this past week. More questions were found than answers when it came to Cambridge Analytica. Little was also said about Russia:

“Zuckerberg detailed the steps Facebook is taking or preparing to take to address foreign election interference. Those include getting American political advertisers to verify via postcard that they indeed live within the U.S. and tapping artificial intelligence to identify and delete problematic accounts, like the kind created by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency.

“But lawmakers generally left Zuckerberg unchallenged on whether, in the end, the changes Facebook is implementing will be enough to protect the American democratic process.”


Joshua Harris, the billionaire co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, was a candidate in late 2016 for the job of director of Office of Management and Budget. Kushner initiated his consideration. Ultimately, the job fell through due to the complexities of financial disclosure rules, but months later Apollo gave Kushner’s company a $184 million loan. The White House counsel’s office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the loan.

Cambridge Analytica had access to an unknown number of users’ private Facebook messages.

RNC deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy resigned after reports of $1.6 million payment to Playboy Playmate. The payment was arranged by none other than Michael Cohen, who is also an RNC deputy finance chair.

To note…

Kushner received a $1.2 billion loan to pay the full mortgage on his company’s flagship skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue. However, we don’t know who gave it to him. The building is old, with high vacancies and low rents, leading to the question of what Kushner gave in exchange and to whom?

A group of Democratic senators released new information of Kushner’s loans after they received information requested from two companies. Kushner Companies owes Apollo Management more than $250 million and Citibank more than $600 million.

  • The senators state: “Citigroup sought an audience with Mr. Kushner because of his White House ‘leadership role,’ and Mr. Kushner discussed key Trump Administration policy priorities with Michael Corbat, Citigroup’s CEO.”