Thursday Reads: Trump-Russia Connections Just Keep Piling Up.Posted: April 13, 2017
Last Minute Update:
This is a developing story.
Also: Today is JJ’s birthday. Happy Birthday to our favorite cartoon maven.
Now to the news that was breaking when I started this post.
In my Saturday post, I tried to connect some dots to demonstrate that Trump’s almost benign missile strike on Syria was likely orchestrated in coordination with Russia. Today that seems even more likely, as the new of Trump-Russia connection pile up almost daily.
The missile strike was on Friday night. Since then, we’ve learned damning information about former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The distraction caused by Trump’s military action hasn’t lasted long.
Remember that secret handwritten ledger found in Ukraine that listed payments of $12.6 million to Manafort? That NYT story led to Manafort being sidelined by the campaign.
Associated Press: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout.
Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.
Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.
Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.
The two payments came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, but for the first time bolster the credibility of the ledger. They also put the ledger in a new light, as federal prosecutors in the U.S. have been investigating Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe as part of a larger anti-corruption probe.
Last night the New York Times reported that right after he resigned from the Trump campaign, he took out millions in loans from Trump-connected companies.
Aug. 19 was an eventful day for Paul Manafort.
That morning, he stepped down from guiding Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, after a brief tenure during which Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats’ emails were hacked and the campaign’s contacts with Russia came under scrutiny. Dogged by revelations about past financial dealings in Ukraine, Mr. Manafort retreated from public view.
But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Mr. Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort and his wife.
The purpose of the loans is unstated in public records, although at least some of them appear to be part of an effort by Mr. Manafort to stave off a personal financial crisis stemming from failed investments with his son-in-law.
The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Mr. Manafort’s decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free.
That is on top of accusations of money laundering by Manafort and evidence that he made a deal with a Russian oligarch to provide services that would “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according the AP.
Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Manafort is negotiating to retroactively register as a foreign agent.
Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair for Donald Trump, has signaled that he plans to register as a foreign agent for his past work on behalf of political figures in Ukraine.
If he files, Manafort would become the second former senior Trump adviser in recent weeks to retroactively acknowledge the need to disclose foreign work. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, filed a disclosure last month saying he had done work on behalf of Turkish interests.
A spokesman for Manafort said Wednesday that the longtime political consultant considered a new filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) after receiving “formal guidance recently from the authorities” regarding work he and a colleague had performed on behalf of Ukrainian political interests.
And then there’s Carter Page.
The Washington Post on Tuesday: FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page.
The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.
This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.
Yesterday Page gave a bizarre interview to CNN.
Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on President Donald Trump’s campaign, declined repeatedly Wednesday to confirm or deny the FBI had interviewed him yet.
“I have nothing to say about any ongoing investigations,” Page said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
Page’s CNN interview came a day after the Washington Post reported the FBI had received a warrant to surveil him in summer 2016 as part of the federal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the presidential race….
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions, and until there’s full evidence and a full investigation has been done, we just don’t know,” Page said.
Pressed on FBI questioning, he wouldn’t say if he had been interviewed by the FBI, but said that he looked forward to supporting congressional investigations into the matter.
In interviews as recently as February, Page had said the FBI had not questioned him, but in his CNN interview he declined to answer.
This morning Page spoke to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos: Carter Page: ‘Something may have come up in a conversation’ with Russians about US sanctions.
Page said he briefly said “hello” to one of the school’s board members.
When Stephanopoulos asked whether in any of his conversations Page suggested that Trump would be open to easing sanctions on Russia, Page initially said, “I never offered that” but then said, “I don’t recall every single word.”
Stephanopoulos pressed, “It sounds like from what you’re saying it’s possible you may have discussed the easing of sanctions.”
“Something may have come up in a conversation,” Page replied. “I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.”
“Someone may have brought it up,” he continued. “And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for.”
“We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript,” he said.
Well, that’s interesting. Page is hedging his bets in case the wiretaps picked up something damning. That guy is a real weirdo. Earlier he told ABC News that he believes “Obama targeted him as a ‘dissident’.”
My guess is that Page, Manafort, and Flynn are already talking to the FBI or soon will be. Notice we haven’t heard anything from Flynn since the last dust-up.
As always, since Trump became POTUS, there is way too much news! A few more stories to check out, links only:
Letter to Editor, Chicago Tribune: I was on United flight 3411. Here’s what I saw.
Charlotte Observer: NC lawmaker calls Abraham Lincoln a ‘tyrant’ like Hitler.
Rich Lowry at Politico: When Jared Wins.
Gene Lyons at The National Memo: Does Trump Expect To Fool America With A Pro Wrestling Feud?
The Washington Post: Inside Bannon’s struggle: From ‘shadow president’ to Trump’s marked man.
Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday despite the insanity.