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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of May 13 – 19, 2018

Mueller Investigation

Mueller issued a grand jury subpoena to a social media expert who worked for Roger Stone during the 2016 election. His team also subpoenaed Roger Stone’s key assistant, John Kakanis.

Manafort’s former son-in-law & former business partner, Jeffrey Yohai, has cut a deal to cooperate with Mueller and other criminal probes.

The New York Times has revealed a second Trump Tower meeting, this one occurring three months before the 2016 election. Trump Jr. represented the Trump campaign at the meeting with Joel Zamel (an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation), George Nader (an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes), and Erik Prince (who also arranged the gathering). The purpose was to offer to help the Trump team.

  • Since Nader is known to be cooperating with Mueller, this meeting has definitely been on the FBI’s radar for many months now.
  • After Trump was elected, Nader paid Zamel around $2 million for an unknown reason.

The FBI sent an informant to make contact with Trump campaign officials and draw out information related to Russian contacts in early-to-mid-2016.

  • This decision was made only after the FBI received intel that specific campaign advisers had “suspicious contacts” linked to Russia. As the New York Times describes, the FBI used an informant out of an abundance of caution, in order to be the least disruptive. Far from planting a “spy,” as Trump has claimed, the FBI sent an individual to talk to campaign advisers and draw out information on Russian contacts, if any existed. Only after receiving information that Papadopoulos “was told that Moscow has compromising information on Mrs. Clinton” did the FBI open the Russia investigation.
  • As Washington Post reports, the informant met with Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis.

The informant’s identity has since been confirmed by mainstream media as Stefan Halper, an American professor who teaches Foreign Policy at Cambridge in Britain.

  • He worked as a White House official under the Ford, Nixon, and Reagan administrations, and is well-known in Washington D.C. circles.
  • The NYT and WaPo did not name Halper in their articles about the informant, at the FBI’s request. Curiously, it appears that the right-wing outlet the Daily Caller knew of Halper’s role two months ago – they published an article that implied Halper was an FBI informant on March 25, 2018. Coincidentally, this was the same day that Trump announced he would not be hiring lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, her husband.
  • The following is unverified: I wonder if it’s possible that Toensing’s client, Sam Clovis, told Trump that Halper was an FBI informant. Trump, or someone on his team, then could have told the Daily Caller, which published an article identifying Halper.
  • Remember, the Daily Caller was founded by Tucker Carlson, a host on Trump’s favorite network Fox News. Trump’s campaign was very close with the Daily Caller, in fact – it paid the outlet $150,000 for access to their mailing list. Therefore, it is believable that Trump’s Team would leak information to the Daily Caller.
  • Revealing law enforcement source is extremely damaging and risky, potentially undermining not just the Russia investigation, but also the work of agents and informants in numerous cases. NYT and WaPo were not unmasking Halper; right-wing media had already done so months earlier. We need to determine how the Daily Caller knew of Halper’s role.

Russia’s Rosneft oil company saw its net profit rise seven-fold in the first quarter, partly stoked by Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal.

  • Relevant info from last week’s review: Sunday May 13th, Avenatti tweeted photos of the Trump transition team meeting Qatari officials on December 12, 2016 at Trump Tower. One of the men, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, is a “former Qatari diplomat and current head of a division of Qatar’s massive sovereign wealth fund who is accused in a recent lawsuit of scheming to bribe Trump administration officials.” Ahmed Al-Rumaihi is the head of Qatar Investments, a new $100 billion internal division of sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority. The QIA bought a 19.5% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company. This happens to be the amount the Steele dossier says was given to Trump in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The Qatari investor, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, has confirmed his presence at Trump Tower.

  • His spokesman stated: “He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date. He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.”

A Russian plane with ties to the Kremlin flew to the Seychelles the day before a secret meeting occurred between Erik Prince and a top Putin ally, Kirill Dmitriev.

The RNC gave almost half a million dollars to law firm representing people in Russia probes, including Hope Hicks.

Michael Cohen

The suspicious activity report on Cohen’s bank account, released by Avenatti, was in fact leaked by a law enforcement officer. This officer has come forward to speak out against what he fears is a cover-up.

  • The officer says two suspicious-activity reports are missing from a governmental database. Those two reports detail more than $3 million in additional transactions involving Cohen’s bank account—triple the amount in the report released last week.
  • Experts deeply experienced with that database agreed this was extremely unusual, and said the most likely explanation was that the contents of those two reports on Cohen were so sensitive that access had been restricted.

FBI agents are investigating Michael Cohen’s deal with Korea Aerospace. Mark Ko, the man who Cohen paid $150k to serve as a translator, was interview by the FBI weeks ago.

  • Korea Aerospace, partly owned by the South Korean government’s Export-Import bank, paid Cohen $150,000 in November 2017 for what they call “legal consulting concerning accounting standards on production costs.” Coincidentally, Korea Aerospace is competing to win a $16.3 billion U.S. government contract. Reportedly, the company is “well placed” to win the contract.

Trump’s financial disclosure forms for the past year were released on Wednesday. In addition to showing increased income from properties such as his Washington D.C. hotel, the reports include the payment to Stormy Daniels which should have been on the previous year’s filing.

  • The disclosure also shows that Trump still owes lenders including Deutsche Bank as much as $480 million.

Russia Investigation

The DOJ and the FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica. According to the NYT, law enforcement has been focusing on the financial dealings of the company and “how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources.”

A renowned Russian playwright who wrote a play about the death of anti-corruption lawyer Magnitsky has been found dead, just 6 weeks after the death of her husband, who directed the play. It’s been reported Elena Gremina died of a heart attack, at age 62. Her husband, Mikhail Ugarov, also reportedly died of a heart attack at age 62.


Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified before the Senate that the company shared data with companies linked to Russian intelligence.

  • “This means that in addition to Facebook data being accessed in Russia, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that CA may have been an intelligence target of Russian security services…(and) that Russian security services may have been notified of the existence of CA’s Facebook data,” Wylie said in his written testimony.

The Senate Judiciary Committee released thousands of pages of documents related to the investigation into the Trump Tower meeting that occurred in 2016 between Trump campaign representatives and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among others.

  • The documents demonstrate that Trump’s team, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, went into the meeting expecting to get dirt on Clinton from the Russian government. When this damaging information did not materialize, they were “frustrated and angry.” Kushner, in particular, was “infuriated” by the focus on U.S. sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, according to Rob Goldstone (who set up the meeting).
  • Donald Trump Jr. made three phone calls to a blocked number both before and after the Trump Tower meeting. Trump Jr. claims to not remember who that number belonged to. However, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had testified to the House Intelligence Committee that Trump’s “primary residence has a blocked (phone) line.” Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee charge that Trump Jr. evaded their questions and needs to be called back for a follow up interview.
  • Trump Jr. testified he did not remember Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Russian counterintelligence officer, being at the Trump Tower meeting – despite others remembering him in hot pink jeans and hot pink shirt. This is an example of just one of 54 things Trump Jr. couldn’t “recall” or “remember” in his testimony, as counted by the Washington Post.
  • Rinat Akhmetshin testified that Trump Jr. “was definitely in charge” of the meeting.
  • Trump fiercely desired to meet Putin during his 2013 Moscow Miss Universe Pageant. Rob Goldstone, manager of Russian popstar Emin Agalarov, testified to the Committee that Trump repeatedly pushed him and the Agalarovs to get him the meeting, calling it “the gorilla in the room.”

During the transition, Rob Goldstone sent a letter aimed at undermining U.S. sanctions against Russia to Trump’s secretary, Rhona Graff, who forwarded it to Steve Bannon. The letter also suggested U.S.-Russia relations were set to improve under Trump.

The Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that documents indicate the Kremlin used the NRA to help Trump in 2016.

  • Documents suggest the Kremlin used the NRA to offer the campaign a back channel to Moscow—including a potential meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin—and might have secretly funded Trump’s campaign, the committee said. One of the Russians named in the report even bragged she was part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, The Daily Beast reported last year.

In a bipartisan statement, the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed with the U.S. Intelligence community that Russia schemed to help Trump win the election and hurt Hillary Clinton.


Kushner’s family real estate company is close to receiving a bailout of its financially troubled flagship building by a company with ties to the government of Qatar.

To note….

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he was working with China’s president to help the Chinese company ZTE “get back in business” after violating US sanctions against countries like Iran and North Korea.

  • ZTE uses American parts/software to make certain phones, which if sold to countries under sanctions, is selling US tech to sanctioned countries – thus violating sanctions. The U.S. leveled a $1.9 billion fine against ZTE and prohibited American companies from selling parts/software/etc to ZTE. On May 10th, ZTE shut down major operations. Trump is basically offering to intervene to save tens of thousands of Chinese jobs.
  • Three days before sending this tweet, China agreed to invest $500 million in government loans and $500 million from Chinese banks in an Indonesian theme park that Trump is involved with; he will benefit financially from this deal. It’s hard to imagine this not playing a role in his decision to help ZTE get back in business, especially in light of top intelligence officials accusing ZTE of assisting China in spying on American military.
  • Remember, the Steele dossier includes the following passage (page 8): “Commenting on the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the US election campaign in support of TRUMP, Source E said he understood that the Republican candidate and his team were relatively relaxed about this because it deflected media and the Democrats’ attention away from TRUMP’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign.”
  • On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment that keeps the sanctions against ZTE in place.

A mysterious $1 million donation to Trump’s inauguration fund has been traced to conservative legal activists who’ve been influential in the administration’s selection process for federal judges. The firm was likely used as a cipher to hide the real name of the donor.