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

Mueller Investigation

On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein announced that Mueller has filed indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers involved in hacking the DNC. The indictments include two counts of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy to launder money using cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.

  • The indictments note that Russian intelligence created and controlled DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, later blaming American hackers and a Romanian hacker respectively.
  • Additionally, the indictment states the Guccifer 2.0 persona communicated with Americans about releasing the stolen DNC documents, including a person who was “in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.” It is quite possible this American is Roger Stone, who was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 prior to the election.
  • The indictment alleges that Russian intelligence officers transferred the stolen documents to a third-party organization, coordinating the timing of releasing them so “they would have maximum impact during the campaign” (Business Insider’s words). It is possible this third-party organization is Wikileaks.
  • The charging documents allege that a congressional candidate requested stolen documents from the Guccifer 2.0 account on August 15, 2016. The Russians complied and sent the candidate documents related to his/her opponent.
  • The Russian officers used two techniques: spearphishing (emails that trick users into disclosing passwords/sensitive info) and hacking into networks to install malicious spying software. The indictment indicates that the Russian officers had access to the Clinton campaign’s analytics, meaning they could use the information to better target voters to hurt her campaign.
  • To cover their tracks, the Russian officers “used a network of computers around the world that were paid for by cryptocurrency.”

Perhaps one of the most important details contained in the indictments is: On the same day that Trump called on Russia to find 30,000 missing Clinton emails, July 27, 2016, Russian officers worked “after hours” to follow Trump’s directive. They attempted to hack into a third-party provider Clinton’s personal office used to host email addresses. “The indictment says July 27 was the first time they went after email accounts and domains belonging to Clinton’s office,” targeting 76 Clinton campaign email accounts.

  • Trump’s exact quote: “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 later said he was not serious.

Mueller’s team has contacted at least seven people associated with Roger Stone, suggesting they are focusing on “whether any associates of Trump knew that the Russian government had hacked emails from the DNC…and provided them to Wikileaks” during 2016.

When Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last September, he stated that he could not remember calling Russian musician Emin Agalarov, who set up the Trump Tower meeting. In a new interview, Agalarov says he does remember talking to Trump Jr.

  • Agalarov’s statement: “I said, ‘Listen there’s some people that want to meet you,’ ” Agalarov told Vice. “They obviously want something that could potentially help them resolve things that you could be interested in or maybe not. If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’d be grateful. If not, no problem. Obviously Don Jr. obviously being Don Jr. said, ‘Of course. I’ll do it if you’re asking.’”

We already knew Mueller is investigating whether officials from the United Arab Emirates set up contacts between Trump’s team and Russian officials. Last week we learned the Crown Prince of the U.A.E., Mohammed bin Zayed, told an unnamed American that Putin would be interested in striking a deal with Trump, wherein Putin would “resolve” the Syria conflict in return for Trump lifting the sanctions against Russia for their actions in Ukraine.

  • In addition to the U.A.E., Israel and Saudi Arabia have also pressured the Trump administration to make the deal with Putin. It serves their interests because they want Putin’s help in kicking Iranian forces out of Syria.
  • The New Yorker states, “a former U.S. official recalled having a conversation after Trump’s Inauguration with an Israeli Cabinet minister with close ties to Netanyahu in which the minister pitched the American on the idea of ‘trading Ukraine for Syria.’”
  • This is important because Trump has made comments ahead of his meeting with Putin that he is open to making a deal with the Russian leader.

Michael Fynn appeared in court, where Mueller’s team indicated Flynn was still cooperating on not-yet-public cases. The judge put no pressure on Mueller to wrap up the investigation, but stated that once Flynn’s cooperation is complete, sentencing can proceed more quickly than normal.

Manafort argued he should be moved to a jail that is closer to the Alexandria court. After the judge granted his request, Manafort changed his mind and asked to stay at the nice VIP jail he was being held. The judge denied his request to reverse the decision.

  • Manafort’s previous jail allowed him to use a laptop and a phone, unheard of in most US jails. Manafort also admitted to lying in court over the phone, apparently either forgetting or not knowing that all communication on jail phones are monitored. For example, despite arguing in court that he needs more time to prepare for trial, on the phone Manafort said he has access to all his files and has “gone through all the discovery now.”

More Russian connections

The people who benefit the most from a trade agreement Trump oversaw and applauded for generating “thousands of American jobs” actually live and work in Moscow. The $26 billion deal between American Ethane and a large Chinese conglomerate, made in November 2017, was celebrated with a ceremony attended by Wilbur Ross and Rex Tillerson.

  • Putin’s former chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, has an undisclosed stake in American Ethane and is one of the prime beneficiaries of the deal. At one point, oligarch Roman Abramovich was also an investor.
  • The Russians are going through China to protect themselves from “current and potential sanctions [against Russia],” according to a Russian-Israeli businessman.

Money donated by supporters to Jill Stein to fund a recount is actually being used by her campaign to pay her legal bills stemming from the Russia interference investigation.

  • There was almost $1 million leftover after Stein terminated her recount efforts, which contributors were promised a say in how it was spent. Since then, the money has been disappearing with no accounting to donors. While some has gone to lawyers for the Russia investigation, a large amount is going to campaign staff – who aren’t campaigning. Stein’s campaign manager is now making 3x as much as he was making during the 2016 campaign.

Trump’s face is being used by Uralasbest, a Russian asbestos company, to market its products. The seal reportedly reads, “approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.” Trump has expressed skepticism that asbestos is dangerous, even tweeting that the World Trade Center would not have burned down if asbestos has not been cleaned from the towers. Uralasbest posted an image of their product on Facebook stating “Donald is on our side!” It is unclear if Trump personally gave approval for his image to be used.

Facebook allowed a Russian internet company access to collect data on unknowing users, even after changing policy which should have stopped the collection.


FBI Agent Peter Strzok testified in a public hearing before the House. Honestly, too much happened to accurately sum up here. Suffice it to say, it was a shit show. The GOP used the hearing to push a narrative more than ask for Strzok’s story. For a review of the top 7 moments, the WashPo has a great write up here.

The Republican congressmen who went to Moscow for the Fourth of July have returned to the states, but with differing stories. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) “shocked his colleagues” by saying that U.S. sanctions against Russia were not working. Johnson also downplayed Russia’s attacks on our elections.

  • Kremlin media ran with Johnson’s statements, seemingly thrilled that Johnson did their work for them.


Rudy Giuliani is still representing foreign clients, both personally and through his consulting firm, while serving as Trump’s attorney. He has never registered as a foreign lobbyist, a situation experts say could be illegal. Of particular interest, Giuliani’s firm represented a Ukrainian mayor whose party is “at the center” of the prosecution against Manafort.

On Tuesday, a global consulting firm announced that Mike Flynn was joining their company, Stonington Global LLC. Only hours later, Flynn’s attorneys reversed course, announcing Flynn was not in fact joining the firm.

To note…

Deputy AG Rosenstein has asked all 93 U.S. attorney’s offices to each provide up to three federal prosecutors to assist in reviewing documents of SCOTUS pick Judge Brett Kavanaugh. While it is unusual for department attorneys to help in such a task, Kavanaugh has left a voluminous paper trail in his years of public service. To properly review that many documents, Rosenstein needs more attorneys than normal.

We found out more last week about why Kennedy retired and why Kavanaugh was chosen to fill his seat. Last year, Kennedy met with Trump in a private meeting to give him a list of candidates that would be acceptable to replace him should he decide to retire, with Kavanaugh at the top of the list. The White House ‘signaled’ back to Kennedy by adding Kavanaugh to their list; see this article from November 2017 about the addition to the list, which USA Today notes “appeared to come out of the blue; no Supreme Court vacancies are known to be imminent.” Neera Tanden, president of the Centre for American Progress, argues further that “Justice Kennedy has been ruling in favour of the Trump Administration position,” which raises the question of ulterior motivations.