Russian ambassador spoked to Sessions about campaign

The Russian doesn’t like going away for Donald Trump and his administration.

Reuters: Russian envoy overheard saying he discussed campaign with Sessions

Russia’s ambassador to Washington was overheard by U.S. spy agencies telling his bosses that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions, then a U.S. senator and key foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump, were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was nothing automatically inappropriate about Sessions, then a U.S. senator as well as a Trump supporter, discussing policy matters or even Trump’s thinking about them with a foreign diplomat.

“The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” said a second official familiar with the intercepts, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His memory is another matter.”

Sessions at first failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

As Attorney General, he recused himself in March from matters connected to an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any connections to the Trump campaign following his admission that he had talked to the Russian envoy.

Sessions has denied discussing campaign issues with Russian officials and has said that he only met Kislyak in his role of U.S. senator.

The Post cited one U.S. official as saying that Sessions provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

The newspaper reported that a former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

A day or two ago:  Trump says he should not have picked Sessions as attorney general

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, according to a New York Times interview.

“Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.

Not surprisingly this comment was strongly criticised. It is criticval the Attorney General be independent of the president, especially when investigating things related to the president. And when the Attorney General was also linked to aspects of any investigation they had no choice to recuse.

Lobbiest/spy also in meeting with Trump Jr

More details are emerging about the meeting that Donald trump Jnr, Jared Kushner, Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort and up to five other people.

AP/Fox:  Russian-American Lobbyist Says He Was in Trump Son’s Meeting with Lawyer

A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.

Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday. Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but was never formally trained as a spy.

The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the election, which is the focus of federal and congressional investigations. In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist who arranged the meeting said a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton and stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised.
In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney said that she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the DNC and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter who participated in the meeting. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

During the meeting, Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the Trump campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had all the evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

Also from Fox:

Another person plus an as yet unnamed person were now believed to be in the meeting.

More.

Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eight person in the meeting.

Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F86, saying who he’d met with and what he’d done, very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up intentionally, he went back and added one hundred names and places.  None of these people made it.

 

From The Hill: Kushner updated disclosure to add more than 100 foreign contacts

White House adviser Jared Kushner reportedly updated his federal disclosure form several times to include more than 100 names on a list of foreign contacts.

Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, updated the list of foreign contacts on his disclosure form — which he needed to submit to get security clearance — three times, The New York Times reported.

He added more than 100 names to it, people close to Kushner told The Times.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday said in a “normal political world,” Kushner would no longer have his job.

“If this were a normal political world, Jared Kushner wouldn’t have a job by the end of today,” he said during a Wednesday interview, “and at the very least, he should absolutely have his security clearance revoked.”

Kushner may have to update again with another name or two as his memory gets jogged.

UPDATE:

Trump versus Putin on Russian hacking

There seems to be a stark difference between Vladimir Putin’s account of his discussion with Donald Trump over Russian interference in the US election, and what Trump staff are saying, but Trump himself is remaining vague.

After his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg Trump said:  I ‘strongly pressed’ Putin on election meddling

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” the president tweeted.

“…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he added.

Putin earlier in the day said at a press conference that he believes Trump is convinced by his denial that his state interfered.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said at a press conference that Trump accepted the denial.

Trump staff responded:  Priebus: Trump ‘absolutely did not believe’ Putin

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus pushed back Sunday against the Russian account of the meeting President Donald Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Priebus said Trump did not believe Putin’s claim Friday that Russia had not attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

“The President absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,” Priebus said. “What the President did is he immediately came into the meeting, talked about Russian meddling in the US election, went after that issue at least two separate times.”

Priebus said an “extensive portion” of the first meeting between the two leaders was dedicated to the issue and offered what he said was Trump’s position.

“He’s said they probably meddled in the election. They did meddle in the election,” Priebus said. “The one thing that he also says — which drives the media crazy, but it’s an absolute fact — is that others have as well. And that’s true. China has, North Korea has, and they have consistently over many, many years.”

Priebus said Trump’s tweets did not mean Russia was “off the hook.”

UN Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley…

said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump was forceful in the meeting, and Russia was “trying to save face” in denying any election interference.

The meeting on Friday was between Trump, Putin, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After the meeting was over, Tillerson and Lavrov offered different descriptions of the meeting on the election meddling issue. Tillerson said when Trump pressed Putin and he denied involvement, Trump moved on to other topics, while Lavrov suggested Trump had accepted Putin’s denial.

Putin said as much Saturday.

“I repeat, he asked a lot of questions on this matter,” Putin said of Trump. “I answered as many as I could answer. I think he took it into consideration and agreed with it. But you should ask him what his opinion is on that.”

It appears that trump doesn’t want to give his opinion on it. He appears to be avoiding challenging Putin publicly.

Trump changes hacking position again

Donald Trump has expressed changing views about Russian hacking interference in last year’s US elections.

  • Prior to his presidential run, Donald Trump made statements to Fox News in 2014 in which he agreed with an assessment by FBI director James Comey about hacking against the U.S. by Russia and China.
  • In September 2016, during the first presidential debate, Trump said he doubted whether anyone knew who hacked the DNC, and disputed Russian interference.
  • During the second debate, Trump said there might not have been hacking at all, and questioned why accountability was placed on Russia.
  • After the election, Trump rejected the CIA analysis and asserted that the reports were politically motivated to deflect from the Democrats’ electoral defeat. Responding to The Washington Post, Trump dismissed reports of Russia’s interference, calling them “ridiculous”; he placed blame on Democrats upset over election results for publicizing these reports.
  • On January 6, 2017, after meeting with members of U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump released a statement saying: cyberwarfare had no impact on the election and did not harm voting machines.
  • Two days later, Reince Priebus reported that Trump had begun to acknowledge that “entities in Russia” were involved in the DNC leaks.
  • On January 11, 2017, Trump conceded that Russia was probably the source of the leaks, although he also said it could have been another country.

Trump’s changing views may have been due to changing information that he was aware of, but US intelligence agencies had made it clear they though Russian hackers had tried to interfere with the election

The CIA assessment, and Trump’s dismissal of it, created an unprecedented rupture between the president-elect and the intelligence community. On December 11, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials responded to Trump’s denunciation of its findings in a written statement, and expressed dismay Trump disputed their conclusions as politically motivated or inaccurate

Last month Trump seemed to accept that Russian hacking had occurred when he blasted Barack Obama for not doing anything about it.

The Independent: Donald Trump says Barack Obama ‘colluded’ by not pursuing Russia’s election hacking

In a morning tweetstorm, Mr Trump asserted that “The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win…and did not want to ‘rock the boat.’ He didn’t ‘choke,’ he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good.”

It is unclear who Mr Trump is claiming Mr Obama colluded with or what he obstructed.

Last week in Poland Trump’s story had changed. The Hill:

President Trump in Poland last week said that he thinks Russia and “people in other countries” likely attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential race, but “nobody really knows.”

Except apparently the FBI and the CIA and the NSA and those who take any notice of them.

“I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people in other countries,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “It could have been a lot of people interfered.”

Then Trump met Putin in Hamburg:  I ‘strongly pressed’ Putin on election meddling

President Trump early Sunday said he “strongly pressed” Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit on Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..” the president tweeted.

“…We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he added.

Trump did not say whether he accepted Putin’s denial, however.

Putin earlier in the day said at a press conference that he believes Trump is convinced by his denial that his state interfered.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said at a press conference that Trump accepted the denial.

Trump has expressed different opinions on the hacking over time, and now appears to have different stories for different audiences.

Is “working constructively with Russia” more important than dealing with interference in the US democratic process?

 

UK & Europe

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


BBC: Russian arrested in Spain ‘over US election hacking’

Spanish police have arrested a Russian programmer for alleged involvement in “hacking” the US election, Spanish press reports have said.

Pyotr Levashov, arrested on 7 April in Barcelona, has now been remanded in custody.

A “legal source” also told the AFP news agency that Mr Levashov was the subject of an extradition request by the US.

El Confidencial, a Spanish news website, has said that Mr Levashov’s arrest warrant was issued by US authorities over suspected “hacking” that helped Donald Trump’s campaign.

Mr Levashov’s wife Maria also told Russian broadcaster RT that the arrest was made in connection with such allegations.

Several cybersecurity experts, including Brian Krebs, have also linked Mr Levashov to a Russian spam kingpin, who uses the alias Peter Severa.

 

US mess gets murkier

Claims have surfaced that Donald Trump has potentially been compromised by Russians. These are unverified, and not surprisingly Trump  tweeted “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

CNN broke this story: Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.

The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm.

His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. Officials who spoke to CNN declined to do so on the record given the classified nature of the material.

Some of the allegations were first reported publicly in Mother Jones one week before the election.

New York Times: Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him

The memos suggest that for many years, the Russian government of Mr. Putin has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump, who has traveled repeatedly to Moscow to investigate real estate deals or to oversee the Miss Universe competition, which he owned for several years. Mr. Trump never completed any major deals in Russia, though he discussed them for years.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over Mr. Trump.

The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.

This is all unverified.

The former British intelligence officer who gathered the material about Mr. Trump is considered a competent and reliable operative with extensive experience in Russia, American officials said. But he passed on what he heard from Russian informants and others, and what they told him has not yet been vetted by American intelligence.

Whatever the Russians have done deliberately or inadvertently, they appear to have played a significant role in the election, and what is emerging is highly embarrassing to the United States.

It has become a murky mess, and it’s quite likely to get worse.

Winston Peters lost in РУССКИЙ translation

Winston Peters is lost in translation nit picking again. Or worse – providing a misleading translation and using it to seek attention to try and get a voter reaction against flag chance perhaps?

‘Worrying incompetence’ in flag pamphlets – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said today the Russian text in a pamphlet accompanying voting papers “twists the meaning to again promote a flag change”.

“The Russian translates as ‘Put a tick next to the flag that in your opinion should become the New Zealand flag’,” Mr Peters said.

“It’s subtle but suggests a flag change; it should read ‘should be the New Zealand flag’.”

Mr Peters said: “The level of incompetence is worrying.”

It’s this level of trying to interfere with the referendum that should worry people. At least  Peters isn’t calling for the votes of Russian speakers to be nullified. He took a swipe at Hindi speakers earlier in the week.

But who did the translation for Peters? Here it is in Russian:

1. Отметьте   галочкой тот флаг, который, по вашему мнению, должен стать флагом Новой Зеландии.

Google translation:

1. Tick the flag that, in your opinion, should be the flag of New Zealand.

That sounds fine to me. A Russian speaker may – or may not – translate it differently, but I have no idea why they might .

Who would think a referendum was suggesting which choice to tick?

Even the wording of the translation provided by Peters looks like extreme nitpicking. Have any Russian speaking voters complained about being confused by the simplest sort of referendum you could get – tick the flag you prefer?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Peters’ plan was to try and provoke a voter reaction against Hindus and Russians.

Turkey peace rally bombed, Turkey shoots down Russian jet

Two disturbing news reports from Turkey.

NZ Herald: ‘Turkey’s 9/11’: 86 killed at peace rally

Two bomb blasts ripped through crowds at a rally of peace activists in the Turkish capital on Saturday, killing scores, in a reminder of the growing conflicts Turkey faces both at home and across the border in war-torn Syria.

The explosions in Ankara, which occurred just minutes and yards apart, killed 86 people and injured 186 more as they gathered to call for an end to the violence that has flared between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in recent months.

And after Russia had already admitted to flying over Turkish airspace earlier this week:

Russia says Turkish airspace violation ‘a mistake,’ Turkish media report

(October 5)

Turkey said it intercepted a Russian jet that violated its airspace over the weekend.

The country called in the Russian ambassador and lodged a strong condemnation of the violation, Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement Monday.

“The Russian aircraft exited Turkish airspace into Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish air force, which were conducting patrols in the region.”

A spokesman for Russia’s defense ministry dismissed any idea that the incident was anything nefarious, stating flight patterns that change “under certain weather conditions” might help explain what happened.

“This current incident is a result of bad weather conditions in this region,” spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters. “You shouldn’t look for conspiracy theories.”

Today there are reports that Turkey has shot down a Russian jet.

Russian Jet ‘Shot Down By Turkish Forces After Plane Violated Country’s Airspace’

Turkish forces are said to have shot down a Russian jet after it reportedly flew into the country’s airspace.

It has been reported by eyewitnesses that there was a large explosion in the town of Huraytan, northern Syria.

The Russians – who have announced plans to increase the number of strikes against ISIS targets – have also clashed with Turkey, after one of their bombers violated Turkish airspace.

But neither side has yet said whether rumours of another of Russia’s planes was shot down in a separate confrontation.

This adds to the tensions surrounding Syria and the Middle East.