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What We Learned in the Trump-Russia Investigation: Week of May 20 – 26, 2018

Mueller Investigation

Mueller is investigating Psy-group, an Isreali firm that specializes in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

  • Mueller’s team has obtained a nine-slide presentation prepared by Psy-group that outlines ways in which Trump’s 2016 election was helped by fake news and fake social-media accounts.
    • “The presentation outlines the ways in which social media “bots” and fake online content were used to help energize voters supportive of Mr. Trump… [one] slide says the firm identified 140 pro-Trump websites linked to a man in Macedonia… Another slide outlines a Facebook strategy where fake online profiles or “avatars” engage real people online and encourage them to share content,” resulting in a “multiplier effect with mass people spreading lies.” It is unclear who received the presentation.
  • Psy-group is owned by Joel Zamel, who has been questioned by Mueller’s team. After the 2016 election, Psy-group “ formed a strategic partnership” with Cambridge Analytica in a joint bid to win business from the U.S. government and other clients.
  • Zamel first appeared in the news when the NYT identified him as a participant in a second Trump Tower meeting. Don Jr., Zamel, George Nader, and Erik Prince met three months before the 2016 election to strategize ways to help Trump Sr. win. Nader, acting as an emissary of Saudi Arabia and UAE, expressed the Crown Princes’ desire to assist Trump in his win. Zamel “extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.” Don Jr. reportedly responded “approvingly.”

Giuliani made up a supposed September 1st deadline for the Mueller probe, according to a source familiar with Mueller’s investigation.

  • A source familiar with the probe called the Sept. 1 deadline “entirely made-up” and “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work…He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock…”

In an interview with HuffPost, Giuliani argued that if Trump colluded with Russia or any foreign entity, it wouldn’t be a crime. His exact words: “OK, and if it is [collusion], it isn’t illegal… It was sort of like a gift,” he said. “And you’re not involved in the illegality of getting it.”

The AP reviewed leaked emails between Elliott Broidy, former RNC Finance Chairman and top fundraiser for Trump, and George Nader, who is now cooperating with Mueller. The two men pitched themselves to the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and tthe UAE as a backchannel to the White House in a scheme to enrich themselves.

  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE were “seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish” their archrival Qatar. After a year of lobbying Washington and making large donations to various politicians, Nader and Broidy expected to receive massive consulting contracts from the two Gulf nations.
  • “Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.”
  • It appears from the AP’s reporting that the two men would have gotten their big payout had Mueller not intervened and detained Nader at the airport in mid-January 2018.

Elliott Broidy is now suing various people/entities, including a Qatari official, that he claims hacked his emails and leaked them to the media.

  • Interestingly, this Qatari official, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, is the same man caught on video meeting with Michael Cohen in Trump Tower AND the same man who claims Michael Cohen asked him for $1 million in exchange for helping a Qatari investment fund with American projects.
  • Broidy further asserts that the actual hacks were coordinated by a U.S. company linked to a former CIA spy. His lawsuit lays out that “a U.S.-based security firm, Global Risk Advisors, introduced Qatar to “cyber mercenaries” who executed that hack. Those alleged hackers include Omniscope Ltd., a U.K.-based security and intelligence firm.”

Spanish police have given the FBI wiretaps of conversations involving Putin ally Alexander Torshin, who met with Don Jr. during an NRA convention in May 2016. The lead Spanish investigator has said: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.” Torshin had multiple contacts with conservative activists in the United States during the election, seeking to set up a summit between the Russian president and then candidate Trump.

The Putin ally and Russian hedge fund manager who met with Erik Prince in the Seychelles, Kirill Dmitriev, has contradicted Prince’s account of the meeting as a chance encounter “over a beer” – suggesting he had wanted to meet with Prince in order to improve relations between the U.S and Russia. Dmitriev would not state that the meeting wasn’t planned in advance.

Roger Stone’s emails reveal he privately sought information he considered damaging to Clinton from Wikileaks’ Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, raising questions about Stone’s testimony to Congress.

  • In Sepember 2016, Stone sent an email to Randy Credico, an acquantance of both Stone and Assange, stating: “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011.”
  • Rep. Adam Schiff says the emails were not provided to congressional investigators. “If there is such a document, then it would mean that his testimony was either deliberately incomplete or deliberately false,” said Schiff.
  • Also in the emails are threats from Stone as Credico became more vocal about discrepancies in Stone’s account of their interactions. In early April, in one of those emails, Stone accused Credico of serving as an informant. “Everyone says u are wearing a wire for Mueller,” the April 7 email said. Two days later, Stone wrote: “Run your mouth = get sued.” Credico denies being an informant, and has sent Mother Jones screenshots of threats from Stone, including a message saying “prepare to die.”
  • Stone appeared on Meet the Press, saying that he is “prepared” for the possibility that he will be indicted for “some extraneous crime pertaining to my business” that Mueller’s team “may seek to conjure up.”
  • Credico has reportedly told Democratic Committee staffers that Assange is willing to meet with Rep. Schiff. Schiff’s response? “Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

The FBI has seized control of a key server in the Kremlin’s global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers, linked to Fancy Bear – the Russian hacking group that hit the DNC in 2016.

  • The malware has turned up in 54 countries, including the US. The best way to ensure you are not affected is to reboot your router.

Trump tweeted that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated “Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign.” This was an intentional misquote of what Clapper actually said on The View. The full exchange is transcribed by the NYT, but can be paraphrased as: Clapper stated the FBI was not spying on the Trump campaign, they were spying on what the Russians “were doing.” He explicitly states he dislikes the term ‘spying’. A better description would seem to be ‘intelligence gathering’.

  • Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani went on TV Sunday and admitted that Trump’s “Spygate” claims are actually an attempt to sway public opinion against Mueller’s investigation. Further, Giuliani stated that the decision to impeach Trump is going to come up, and he hopes that Trump’s attacks on Mueller will limit the risk of impeachment.

Michael Cohen

Cohen’s long-time business partner, Evgeny Freidman, has reached a deal to cooperate with federal and state prosecutors.

  • Freidman is called “Taxi King” because, at his peak in 2015, he owned 1,100 taxi medallions, which put his net worth in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. However, as Business Insider explains, the rise of ride-sharing companies like Uber tanked the value of taxi medallions. Freidman defaulted on a $34 million loan and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for 22 of his companies. In June 2017 he was arrested and charged with four counts of tax fraud and one count of grand larceny.
  • Cohen’s connection to Freidman: Freidman managed cabs for Cohen (for the past 16 years, according to Freidman), even after New York City regulators barred Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. As of August of 2017, Cohen reportedly owed more than $40,000 in back taxes related to the medallions.
  • As confirmation of Freidman’s cooperation became public, Cohen insisted they were not business partners. He tweeted: “I am one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate my medallions according to the rules of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Gene Freidman and I are not partners and have never been partners in this business or any other. #MediaWrongAgain”
  • However, public records reveal that “Cohen used his Trump email on multiple occasions to conduct business for his NY Funky Taxi Corp. medallion, which Freidman managed since at least 2012.” This makes it much harder for Cohen to argue that he was practicing law, as he was using a business email.

Last year, Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400 thousand from Ukraine to arrange a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

  • Poroshenko reportedly desired a meeting with Trump because he had backed Clinton during the election, likely authorizing a leak from Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency showing Manafort received millions of dollars from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. However, Ukraine’s registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC was unable to secure more than a brief photo-op with Trump. Cohen was contacted as a back channel to Trump.
  • The meeting, which Poroshenko called a “substantial visit,” occurred in June 2017. Shortly after Poroshenko returned Ukraine, the country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Manafort.
  • According to the BBC: “One source in Kiev said Mr Poroshenko had given Trump ‘a gift’ – making sure that Ukraine would find no more evidence to give the US inquiry into whether the Trump campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia.”

Video footage in Trump Tower reveals that Cohen met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg 11 days before the presidential inauguration to allegedly discuss improving U.S. – Russia relations under Trump. Also present was Andrew Intrater, owner of the private equity firm Columbus Nova that awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract. Vekelsberg was stopped by Mueller’s team and questioned earlier this year. Intrater has been interviewed by Mueller’s team twice, focusing partly on his dealings with Cohen.

  • Michael Avenatti: “There’s a reason why Columbus Nova’s story keeps changing by the day and there’s a reason why they are covering-up. The truth is not pretty…but it is necessary. Mr. Trump will not serve out his term.”

On April 5th, Cohen attended a meeting with Franklin Haney, the owner of an Alabama nuclear power plant, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce and deputy chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority.

  • A source familiar with the discussion states Cohen and Thani “met with Haney to discuss possible Qatari investment in his nuclear power plant.” Sources also told Mother Jones that Cohen could have expected to receive a finder’s fee if a deal were struck.
  • This isn’t the only time Cohen met with Al Thani – that same week in April, Cohen met with him in Florida on the sidelines of the Qatar-US Economic Forum. In December 2016, Cohen met with a different Qatari official to pitch him access to the Trump White House in exchange for $1 million.
  • Haney “has aggressively courted the Trump administration,” giving $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and at least $125,000 to the Republican National Committee this year. Haney is also a member of Mar-a-Lago and has “bragged to associates that he has dined with Trump at least a dozen times since the election.”


The DOJ held two highly classified briefings for congressional leaders on Thursday, May 24th, about the investigation into Trump’s campaign and the FBI’s use of an informant.

  • The first meeting was originally intended to be only for Republican leaders, namely Nunes and Gowdy. However, after outrage and pushing by the public and the Democrats, one of their leaders was allowed to attend. Thus the first meeting included Rep. Trey Gowdy, Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Devin Nunes, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Rod Rosenstein, and Chris Wray. The second meeting was attended by the “Gang of Eight,” the leaders of both parties from both chambers, and the heads of the intelligence committees.
  • Causing great controversy, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House lawyer Emmet Flood showed up unexpectedly at both briefings. At least two participants in the briefings told Kelly and Flood their appearance was inappropriate. The two men left both meetings after making introductory remarks, “to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.”
  • Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was much more frank about the purpose of Kelly and Flood’s appearances, stating: “We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it,” referring to how he’s deciding whether or not Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller. “If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.”
  • Upon leaving the briefing, Schiff read a statement of behalf of himself, Pelosi, and Schumer: “Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intel agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign.”
  • Mitch McConnell echoed this sentiment, telling Fox News he had learned “nothing particularly surprising.”


Jared Kushner & Ivanka Trump have both received full security clearances. The same NYT article also revealed Jared Kushner has sat for two interviews with Mueller’s team, lasting many hours. The most recent occurred in April, according to Kushner’s lawyer.

It seems Trump’s trade war has turned out to be beneficial afterall – for the Trump’s! In addition to Trump Sr. receiving a $500 million investment from China in an Indonesian development deal, Ivanka Trump now has five *more* trademarks approved in China.

Some are suggesting that it’s very likely Elliot Broidy is covering for Trump’s affair with a Playboy Playmate (and her subsequent abortion).

To note…

Resistance news: I’m including this because one of the most frustrating experiences is watching people – rational people – fall for con men/women on twitter. First, it was Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor. Then Scott Dworkin. Now Ed and Brian Krassenstein – who the Feds say illegally hawked investment scams. “Law enforcement officials last year seized nearly half a million dollars from the brothers, money that prosecutors say was derived from wire fraud.” Please apply the same rational, logical, and healthy skepticism of people who claim to be on the left as to those who are on the right.