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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of Jan 28 – Feb 3, 2018

The Trump administration has declined to enforce sanctions against Russia, despite signing a law to do so passed by congress. Their excuse is that “the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” WaPo explains that there are two problems with this:

  1. the legislation was meant as a punishment, not a deterrent
  2. even if it were a successful deterrent, it doesn’t seem to be deterring the specific behavior that spurred the sanctions. Mere hours before the State Department issued this statement ahead of the deadline for imposing sanctions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that Russia hadn’t really scaled back its election interference efforts.

Additionally, it’s been revealed that the Treasury Department put little effort into creating the required list of key Kremlin individuals in politics and the 2016 election interference. The list of oligarchs was lifted directly from the Russian edition of Forbes’ billionaires list and the Kremlin officials were copied from the Kremlin’s own website. source

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is resigning, reportedly after being forced out. The NYT reported that Wray informed McCabe he was being demoted due to an upcoming Inspector General report on his role in the 2016 elections. Instead of taking the lesser position, McCabe chose to step down. source

Sen. Warner said that late last year congress received “extraordinarily important new documents” in its probe of Trump’s involvement with the Russian hacking of the election, opening up “a lot of new questions.” He stated he was “worried” about the new info. source

Former Trump spokesman, Mark Corallo, will tell Mueller that Hope Hicks said the emails about the Trump Tower meeting “will never get out,” implying she “could be contemplating obstructing justice.” source

Lawyers for Rick Gates are asking to withdraw from representation immediately. However, one high profile lawyer remains – Tom Green, who is known for negotiating deals with the Feds, was seen at Mueller’s office in the previous week. This could possibly signal that a plea deal is imminent. source

The Mehmo:

  • Nunes released an over-hyped memo claiming to show bias in the FBI and DOJ. The memo alleges that the Steele Dossier was unduly relied upon to get a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page in 2016.
  • However, this ignores the fact that the dossier would not have been the only evidence used to argue for a warrant (source). Additionally, the FBI told the judge of Steele’s possible political motivation, so it was taken into consideration. source. Finally, the final paragraph of the memo admits that George Papadopoulos’s drunken confessions to an Australian diplomat was the actual reason that the Trump-Russia probe began. source
  • Carter Page had dealings w/ Russia going back over a decade before the FBI applied for a FISA extension to surveil him. source. Page also bragged that he was an advisor to the Kremlin in a letter from 2013. source
  • Trump admitted that he wanted to use the memo to undermine the Russia probe. source. He also expressed distrust of Rosenstein, believing he was “out to get him from the beginning.” Firing Rosenstein would allow Trump to place someone loyal to him in the position that controls the Mueller probe. source
  • Sean Hannity has been in regular contact with Trump over the phone, pushing him to release the memo. source
  • Russian bots and American alt-right accounts artificially inflated the hashtag “releasethememo” on twitter, “gaming social media to put a flawed intelligence document atop the political agenda.” This is a very thorough and detailed analysis of the accounts behind the push.

Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have written a letter to chairman Gowdy urging him to subpoena DHS to gain information on how Russians targeted & attacked 21 states during the 2016 election. DHS has refused to give specific information so far. source

  • The 21 states are: Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Illinois, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware

The FBI has a second dossier on possible Trump-Russia collusion, written by former journalist Cody Shearer. It independently reports much of the same info as Steele, including the allegation that Trump was compromised in the “pee pee” tape incident. The Shearer memo was provided to the FBI in October 2016 by Steele at their request. source

Trump reportedly exploded in anger on the flight to Davos Jan 25th after learning that a top Justice official said it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the Nunes memo. Kelly took the official to task for the statement. source

Three top Russian intelligence officials traveled to the US the week of Jan 21, two of whom are barred from entering the country under existing sanctions. The official explanation is that they met with CIA Director Mike Pompeo to discuss issues related to counterterrorism. Due to heightened tensions with Russia and the fact that Trump declined to enforce sanctions on Russia less than a week later, there have been many questions surrounding the meeting. source

Pyotr Levashov, a Russian programmer, has been extradited to the U.S. from Spain. His wife claimed that he was arrested for being involved with Trump’s win, but this has not been confirmed by U.S. officials. source

FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was reassigned from Mueller’s team after sending anti-Trump text messages, co-wrote a draft letter that reopened the Clinton email investigation. This obliterates the GOP’s argument that Strzok was sympathetic to Clinton. source

Slightly related section

The Koch brothers are launching new venture capital firm to invest in disruptive technologies. They see this as a way to breakdown government regulations and “take on ‘entrenched industries,’ including health care and aviation.” source

Israeli investigative reporter says Trump shared more information than has been publicly revealed with the Russians. source