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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of March 11 – 17, 2018

Mueller Investigation

For the first time, Mueller has directly demanded that Trump’s business turn over documents, issuing subpoenas to the Trump Organization. There are no details about the contents of the subpoena, but it has been reported that Trump was furious the media found out about it.

  • Mueller has given Trump’s lawyers a list of questions he would like to ask the president. The list is meant as a starting point, and Mueller made it clear he wants to ask follow up questions in person.

Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, only 2 days before he was set to retire. McCabe maintains that his firing was due to him being a witness to the events around James Comey’s firing, and that Trump is trying to discredit him before he becomes a key witness in Mueller’s investigation. His full statement can be read here.

  • After McCabe released his statement, it was reported that he had already been interviewed by Mueller’s team. McCabe is said to have written numerous memos documenting his interactions with Trump, which have been turned over to Mueller.
  • After news broke of McCabe’s memos, Trump tweeted that McCabe never took notes when they were together and suggested calling them “fake memos.” Full tweet.
  • McCabe’s firing kicked off a weekend of Trump disparaging the FBI and Mueller, raising suspicions that he is planning to fire Mueller shortly.

Qatar has decided not to give Mueller evidence they possess that the Trump administration – including Jared Kushner – and associates have turned the UAE against them in revenge for failed business dealings.

  • Specifically, Qatari officials believe that Jared Kushner had the Trump administration endorse a blockage of Qatar in retaliation for officials declining to fund Kushner Company’s failing 5th Avenue flagship property. Mueller is looking into the effects of Kushner’s business dealings on official US policy. Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy are also alleged to have played a role. Nader is now cooperating with Mueller.
  • Making it known that they possess evidence that they’re withholding could be an attempt by Qatar officials to essentially blackmail Kushner and Trump.

Facebook has suspended Trump-affiliated political research firm Cambridge Analytica from accessing user data after they (finally) revealed that Cambridge Analytica fraudulently obtained Facebook user data and used that data to target Trump campaign ads. This took place roughly two years ago, and Facebook is only now reacting.

  • Cambridge Analytica was funded by Trump donor Robert Mercer and Steven Bannon sat on it board.
  • A co-founder of Cambridge Analytica has turned ‘whistleblower’ and is speaking out about the practices of the company, which he likens to a tool of psychological warfare.

George Papadopoulos stated that during a foreign policy meeting on March 31, 2016, Trump personally encouraged him to arrange a meeting with Putin through his British contacts.

There are now three sources who contradict the official version of events at that March 31, 2016 meeting – that Jeff Sessions strongly opposed Papadopoulos’s offer to set up a meeting with Putin and shot it down. They say, instead, that Sessions was courteous and he said something to the effect of “okay, interesting.” These three people have reportedly spoken with Mueller’s team.

Buzzfeed has obtained and verified Felix Sater’s full statement to the House Intelligence Committee, in which Sater reveals his past work as a spy for the U.S. government.

  • In summary: “He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, providing intel on everything from the mob to North Korea’s drive for nuclear weapons. He still operates as a source for the bureau, according to two current FBI agents. He did some of this work to fend off prison time after he admitted guilt in a stock scam — but he had started helping the US government before then, and he continued to report back to the FBI after the agreement ended.”
  • In regards to Trump, Sater sent Trump’s lawyer an email in 2015 boasting that he could line up a realty deal in Moscow, with Putin as a direct investor, and “get Donald elected” in the process. He explains this as simply trying to get the deal done, no matter what lies he had to tell.
  • He first came into contact with Trump when his new real estate group, Bayrock, rented office space in Trump Tower. He claims to have walked up to Trump’s door, knocked, and introduced himself. They worked on many business projects together. This calls into question Trump’s 2013 deposition in which Trump claimed to not know what he looked like.
  • Sater admits to meeting with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen in early 2017 to pass on a plan to lift sanctions on Russia in exchange for peace in Ukraine. Cohen denies passing this along to the White House.
  • Sater told CNN that Trump sent him to Russia to “look after” his [Trump’s] kids while they were pursuing business deals in the country. A lawyer for the Trump Organization has previously denied that Sater accompanied them in Russia.

Trump has reportedly been contemplating a plan to fire Jeff Sessions and replace him with Scott Pruitt, current director of the EPA. There have also been rumors that Trump is likely to fire National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster soon.

Russian Interference

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI announced that Russian hackers have been continuously conducting cyberattacks on American nuclear and power facilities since at least March of 2016. Alarmingly, they have had the “ability to disrupt or completely shut down power plants and other critical infrastructure in the U.S.” Russian operatives have already gone that far in Ukraine, where in early 2016 they caused a blackout that effected hundreds of thousands of people.

Texas Democratic Party officials have discovered 48 cases of possible Russian trolls attempting to register for the Texas Democratic Convention in Travis County. Intelligence officials say that this “could represent the first public example of foreign probing of the 2018 elections.”

  • Critically, the Texas officials have not been given any guidance by the federal government and do not know who to report their findings to.

On the 15th, the Treasury Department announced new Russian sanctions in response to election interference and cyberattacks. There is criticism, however, that the sanctions rest heavily on the indictments Mueller issued against the Internet Research Agency, sanctioning those individuals but no one in the Kremlin.

An associate of Roger Stone has backed-up Sam Nunberg’s claim that Stone was in contact with Julian Assange in 2016 and knew of the DNC hack and emails before the public did. Stone has previously denied any such contact or knowledge.

The FBI has attempted to contact the Belarussian ‘sex coach’ in a Thai jail who claims to have evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Thai officials refused, however, because only legal representatives and family are allowed contact. It should be noted that the State Department could facilitate the meeting.


House Republicans have shut down their Russia probe, declaring that no evidence of collusion between Trump & Russia was found. They additionally stated that while Putin was waging an information campaign against the U.S., the intention was not to help Trump win the election.

  • James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, has made it clear that the intelligence community strongly disagrees with the House Republican’s assessment.
  • Some Republicans have broken with the official line, such as Rep. Toomey. In a televised interview he stated that “there is evidence” showing the Russians attempted to help Trump during the election, and that the Committee’s probe needed to end because it had lost all credibility.

In response to the House GOP, Democrats lead by Adam Schiff released a ‘status report’ that lays out the leads that remain to be followed and witnesses that have not yet been questioned. PDF here.

  • Some of the witnesses that haven’t been questioned: Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller, KT McFarland, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Nunberg, and Natalia Veselnitskaya. There are a number of new names on the list, as well as entities like Cambridge Analytica and NRA.
  • In the list of issues unresolved, it is stated that the committee learned that Trump’s business was “actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank” during the 2016 campaign season.
    • Sater later confirmed this detail, saying that during the election the Trump Organization was was trying to secure financing for a Trump Tower in Moscow from Russia’s VTB Bank, which was sanctioned in 2014-2015.
  • They also list instances where a subpoena is needed to compel testimony and/or documents. People mentioned in this section include Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Erik Prince, Michael Cohen, and Jeff Sessions.


A former Russian spy and his daughter were attacked with a nerve agent that was made only in the Soviet Union, called Novichok. It has been suggested that this method was chosen to specifically send a message to those seen as traitors to Russia, as there could be no other culprit. ABC News has reported that the pair could have been exposed to the substance through their BMW’s ventilation system.

The British government has pledged to review allegations of Russian involvement in 14 suspicious deaths that occurred on U.K. soil.

Trump fired Rex Tillerson from his position as Secretary of State, just one day after Tillerson expressed support for new sanctions against Russia in response to the attack on Skripal. The same day he was fired, it was revealed that Britain had been questioning allies about possibly invoking a NATO response to Russia’s attack.

Just hours after Tillerson was fired, news broke of another death in the U.K. that is possibly attributable to Putin. Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian businessman and close associate of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his home in Britain. He had said he was on Putin’s personal hit list and was given political asylum in 2010 after fleeing Russia. The police are investigating his death as a murder, caused by compression to the neck.

To Note

Donald Trump Jr. secured access to top national security officials for a business partner to pitch a plan that would open up Venezuela for U.S. business. Had it been successful, it would have brought money into Trump Jr.’s business, raising yet more questions of financial entanglements and conflicts of interest. The business partner, Gentry Beach, also helped raise millions of dollars for Trump Sr.’s campaign and has attended private functions with other government officials like Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

It was revealed that a Green Party candidate in Montana’s U.S. Senate race is actually on the state Republican party’s payroll. Essentially, the GOP (in Montana, at least) is running candidates that aren’t meant to win, just meant to take votes away from the Democratic candidate. This is of interest because it’s been suggested that Jill Stein was also meant to siphon votes from Hillary Clinton.