Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #930 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 9: Alfa Males, Part 3 (German Ostpolitik, Part 3)

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

NB: This descrip­tion con­tains mate­r­i­al not con­tained in the orig­i­nal broad­cast.

alfa-groupwelcome-to-terrorlandIntro­duc­tion: With the (jus­ti­fi­able) out­rage swirling around FBI direc­tor (and Mitt Rom­ney backer) James Comey’s pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the dis­cov­ery of more of Hillary Clin­ton’s e‑mails hav­ing been dis­cov­ered, anoth­er elec­tion-relat­ed inves­ti­ga­tion has gone large­ly unex­am­ined. Indeed, the impor­tance of the inves­ti­ga­tion has been down­played.

Com­put­er experts dis­cov­ered a link between a serv­er reg­is­tered to the Trump orga­ni­za­tion and two servers reg­is­tered to the Alfa Bank in Moscow, a bank that is part of the Alfa con­glom­er­ate dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 530 and 573.

In the Foer piece, and in attempt­ed dis­cred­it­ing arti­cles of same, it is appar­ent that the inves­ti­ga­tors do not under­stand the nature of the enti­ty they are inves­ti­gat­ing. The jour­nal­is­tic “spin” put on Alfa in the cov­er­age is “Russia/Putin/Kremlin” new Cold War con­text. Alfa is very, very dif­fer­ent.

Excerpt­ed from the descrip­tion for FTR #530: 

Intro­duc­tion: This broad­cast sets forth ele­ments of a net­work that Mr. Emory believes to be a Bormann/Underground Reich net­work. This net­work was part of the appa­ra­tus involved in the exe­cu­tion of the 9/11 attacks.

Begin­ning with review of the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft and its role in bring­ing 9/11 hijack ring­leader Mohamed Atta to Ger­many, the pro­gram traces the evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries run­ning out of that orga­ni­za­tion. In addi­tion to a fel­low­ship oper­at­ed on behalf of the Russ­ian Alfa con­glom­er­ate, the CDG net­work also encom­pass­es the Robert Bosch Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship.

The Alfa firm, in turn, has pro­found links to crim­i­nal syn­di­cates in Asia, Rus­sia and Latin Amer­i­ca, as well as ele­ments that par­tic­i­pat­ed in activ­i­ties over­lap­ping both the Iran-Con­tra and Iraq­gate affairs. One of the cen­tral ele­ments in this net­work is the roy­al fam­i­ly of Liecht­en­stein, a tiny Euro­pean coun­try that is an epi­cen­ter for mon­ey laun­der­ing.

In addi­tion to par­tic­i­pat­ing in a front com­pa­ny that was part of the Al Taqwa con­stel­la­tion that fund­ed Bin Laden, the Liecht­en­stein roy­al fam­i­ly (in 2001) assumed the pow­ers of absolute monar­chy, just in time to inter­dict any legal inves­ti­ga­tions that might have gone in the direc­tion of 9/11. The head of the polit­i­cal par­ty that front­ed for Prince Hans Adam’s assump­tion of absolute pow­er is a pow­er­ful lawyer who works for an Alfa sub­sidiary!

The dove­tail­ing of pow­er­ful Ger­man cap­i­tal inter­ests appar­ent­ly linked to the Bor­mann milieu with Russ­ian oli­garchic and crim­i­nal ele­ments appears to be an out­growth of tra­di­tion­al Ger­man “Ost­poli­tik.” For more about Ost­poli­tik, be sure to access Ger­many Plots with the Krem­lin by T. H. Tetens, avail­able for free down­load­ing at: Spitfirelist.com/Books.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The Ger­man indus­tri­al fig­ures on the board of direc­tors of the CDS; a his­to­ry of the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft and its Amer­i­can sub­sidiary, the CDS; the Alfa Group’s links to Cheney’s Hal­libur­ton Oil com­pa­ny; the Alfa Group’s links to Iraq­gate arms traf­fick­ing; the Alfa Group’s links to the oil-for-food scan­dal in Iraq; Alfa’s links to the Cali cocaine car­tel of Colom­bia; Alfa’s links to hero­in traf­fick­ing; Attor­ney Nor­bert Seeger’s role with Alfa sub­sidiary Crown Resources; Nor­bert Seeger’s role as head of the Pro­gres­sive Cit­i­zens Par­ty in Liecht­en­stein; links between Liecht­en­stein and the milieu of the CDU fund­ing scan­dal; Atta’s father’s friend­ship with the Ger­man cou­ple that spon­sored Atta’s entry into Ger­many under the aus­pices of the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft; review of John P. Schmitz’s links to many of the enti­ties and per­son­al­i­ties dis­cussed in the pro­gram. . . . .

More about this line of inquiry, excerpt­ed from the descrip­tion for FTR #573:

Intro­duc­tion: Con­tin­u­ing analy­sis of what British Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair described as a “glob­al net­work” behind the 9/11 attacks, this pro­gram details evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries between the pow­er­ful, well-con­nect­ed and crim­i­nal Alfa con­sor­tium and peo­ple and insti­tu­tions con­nect­ed to the events of 9/11. A Russ­ian com­pa­ny with what Mr. Emory describes as “more con­nec­tions than a switch­board,” Alfa has links to Vik­tor Kozeny, the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft and to pow­er­ful peo­ple and insti­tu­tions con­nect­ed to the Bush admin­is­tra­tion. Kozeny is alleged to have par­tic­i­pat­ed in an Alfa scheme to defraud numer­ous U.S. investors and com­pa­nies and is also the man who employed Wolf­gang Bohringer, one of 9/11 hijack­er Mohamed Atta’s Ger­man asso­ciates in Flori­da. The Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft spon­sored Mohamed Atta’s entrance into Ger­many and, per­haps, Flori­da. That same Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft also main­tains a fel­low­ship on behalf of Alfa Group. Alfa’s activ­i­ties in the Unit­ed States are aid­ed and abet­ted by the pow­er­ful lob­by­ing firm of Bar­bour, Grif­fith and Rogers, inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush. Hans Bod­mer and Pyotr Aven (two of Kozeny’s asso­ciates in a scheme to gain con­trol of the state oil com­pa­ny of Azer­bai­jan) are also alleged to have worked with Kozeny and Alfa in the defraud­ing of IPOC. The glob­al net­work to which Blair referred and that sup­port­ed the 9/11 hijack­ers embod­ies a fusion of the under­world and the over­world. Engaged in drug traf­fick­ing on sev­er­al con­ti­nents, this net­work also oper­ates in con­junc­tion with pow­er­ful cor­po­rate enti­ties in Europe, the Mid­dle East, Latin Amer­i­ca and the Unit­ed States. FTR#’s 433, 530, 536, 570 sup­ple­ment the infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed here and should be exam­ined in order to gain a firmer under­stand­ing of this com­plex net­work. As Mr. Emory not­ed in the broad­cast, “If this seems con­fus­ing, it is meant to be!”

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Links between the Alfa group and the roy­al fam­i­ly of Liecht­en­stein; links between the roy­al fam­i­ly of Liecht­en­stein and the milieu of 9/11; Haley Bar­bour (of Bar­bour, Grif­fith and Rogers) and his busi­ness con­nec­tions with com­pa­nies belong­ing to the busi­ness empire of for­mer Nazi spy and appar­ent Al Qae­da financier Youssef Nada; the appar­ent­ly ille­gal oper­a­tions per­formed by GOP big­wig Ed Rogers’ Dili­gence Inc. secu­ri­ty firm on behalf of Alfa; the wall of secre­cy sur­round­ing the iden­ti­ty of the Ger­mans spon­sors of Atta’s activ­i­ties under the aus­pices of the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft. . . .”

Listeners/readers are emphat­i­cal­ly encour­aged to exam­ine the descrip­tions and audio files of these linkjed pro­grams to fur­ther flesh out their under­stand­ing of the Alfa group.

Suf­fice it to say, this is NOT “Kremlin/Putin/Russia” new Cold War stuff at all. Rather, the Alfa Fel­low­ship and the many links of this orga­ni­za­tion sug­gest that this is a Bormann/Underground Reich enti­ty.

The orig­i­nal Foer piece sets forth a num­ber of inter­est­ing aspects of the Trump/Alfa Bank serv­er link:

  • The Trump/Alfa link was not a mal­ware attack, as some of the com­put­er sci­en­tists ini­tial­ly thought: ” . . . . The researchers quick­ly dis­missed their ini­tial fear that the logs rep­re­sent­ed a mal­ware attack. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion wasn’t the work of bots. The irreg­u­lar pat­tern of serv­er lookups actu­al­ly resem­bled the pat­tern of human conversation—conversations that began dur­ing office hours in New York and con­tin­ued dur­ing office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sus­tained rela­tion­ship between a serv­er reg­is­tered to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and two servers reg­is­tered to an enti­ty called Alfa Bank. . . .”
  • The set-up was high­ly unusu­al: ” . . . . The researchers had ini­tial­ly stum­bled in their diag­no­sis because of the odd con­fig­u­ra­tion of Trump’s serv­er. ‘I’ve nev­er seen a serv­er set up like that,’ says Christo­pher Davis, who runs the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm HYAS InfoS­ec Inc. and won a FBI Direc­tor Award for Excel­lence for his work track­ing down the authors of one of the world’s nas­ti­est bot­net attacks. ‘It looked weird, and it didn’t pass the sniff test.’ The serv­er was first reg­is­tered to Trump’s busi­ness in 2009 and was set up to run con­sumer mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. It had a his­to­ry of send­ing mass emails on behalf of Trump-brand­ed prop­er­ties and prod­ucts. Researchers were ulti­mate­ly con­vinced that the serv­er indeed belonged to Trump. (Click here to see the server’s reg­is­tra­tion record.) But now this capa­cious serv­er han­dled a strange­ly small load of traf­fic, such a small load that it would be hard for a com­pa­ny to jus­ti­fy the expense and trou­ble it would take to main­tain it. ‘I get more mail in a day than the serv­er han­dled,’ Davis says. . . .”
  • The arti­cle details more unusu­al aspects of the link: ” . . . . That wasn’t the only odd­i­ty. When the researchers pinged the serv­er, they received error mes­sages. They con­clud­ed that the serv­er was set to accept only incom­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion from a very small hand­ful of IP address­es. . . . Eighty-sev­en per­cent of the DNS lookups involved the two Alfa Bank servers. ‘It’s pret­ty clear that it’s not an open mail serv­er,’ Camp told me. ‘These orga­ni­za­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a way designed to block oth­er peo­ple out.’ . . . .”
  • Paul Vixie–one of the pre­mier experts in the field–felt the con­nec­tion was high­ly unusu­al: ” . . . . Ear­li­er this month, the group of com­put­er sci­en­tists passed the logs to Paul Vix­ie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no high­er author­i­ty. Vix­ie wrote cen­tral strands of the DNS code that makes the inter­net work. After study­ing the logs, he con­clud­ed, ‘The par­ties were com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a secre­tive fash­ion. The oper­a­tive word is secre­tive. This is more akin to what crim­i­nal syn­di­cates do if they are putting togeth­er a project.’ Put dif­fer­ent­ly, the logs sug­gest­ed that Trump and Alfa had con­fig­ured some­thing like a dig­i­tal hot­line con­nect­ing the two enti­ties, shut­ting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own exis­tence. . . .”
  • The avail­able evi­dence indi­cates that the hookup indi­cat­ed “human-lev­el com­mu­ni­ca­tion”: ” . . . I put the ques­tion of what kind of activ­i­ty the logs record­ed to the Uni­ver­si­ty of California’s Nicholas Weaver, anoth­er com­put­er sci­en­tist not involved in com­pil­ing the logs. ‘I can’t attest to the logs them­selves,’ he told me, ‘but assum­ing they are legit­i­mate they do indi­cate effec­tive­ly human-lev­el com­mu­ni­ca­tion.’ . . . ”
  • More about the nature of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, from the sci­en­tist using the code-name “Tea Leaves”: ” . . . . Tea Leaves and his col­leagues plot­ted the data from the logs on a time­line. What it illus­trat­ed was sug­ges­tive: The con­ver­sa­tion between the Trump and Alfa servers appeared to fol­low the con­tours of polit­i­cal hap­pen­ings in the Unit­ed States. ‘At elec­tion-relat­ed moments, the traf­fic peaked,’ accord­ing to Camp. There were con­sid­er­ably more DNS lookups, for instance, dur­ing the two con­ven­tions. . . .”
  • The sci­en­tists attempt­ed to get the pub­lic to pay atten­tion to their inves­ti­ga­tion and New York Times writ­ers turned their atten­tion to the case: ” . . . In Sep­tem­ber, the sci­en­tists tried to get the pub­lic to pay atten­tion to their data. One of them post­ed a link to the logs in a Red­dit thread. Around the same time, the New York Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers began chas­ing the sto­ry.* (They are still pur­su­ing it.) Licht­blau met with a Wash­ing­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Alfa Bank on Sept. 21, and the bank denied hav­ing any con­nec­tion to Trump. . . .”
  • Things got “inter­est­ing” after that. Accord­ing to the com­put­er sci­en­tists, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion shut down the serv­er! As the bril­liant Berke­ley researcher Peter Dale Scott not­ed, in a dif­fer­ent con­text, “The cov­er-up obvi­ates the con­spir­a­cy. ” . . . . In Sep­tem­ber, the sci­en­tists tried to get the pub­lic to pay atten­tion to their data. One of them post­ed a link to the logs in a Red­dit thread. Around the same time, the New York Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers began chas­ing the sto­ry.* (They are still pur­su­ing it.) Licht­blau met with a Wash­ing­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Alfa Bank on Sept. 21, and the bank denied hav­ing any con­nec­tion to Trump. . . . The com­put­er sci­en­tists believe there was one log­i­cal con­clu­sion to be drawn: The Trump Orga­ni­za­tion shut down the serv­er after Alfa was told that the Times might expose the con­nec­tion. Weaver told me the Trump domain was ‘very slop­pi­ly removed.’ Or as anoth­er of the researchers put it, it looked like ‘the knee was hit in Moscow, the leg kicked in New York.’. . . . Four days lat­er, on Sept. 27, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion cre­at­ed a new host name, trump1.contact-client.com, which enabled com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the very same serv­er via a dif­fer­ent route. When a new host name is cre­at­ed, the first com­mu­ni­ca­tion with it is nev­er ran­dom. To reach the serv­er after the reset­ting of the host name, the sender of the first inbound mail has to first learn of the name some­how. It’s sim­ply impos­si­ble to ran­dom­ly reach a renamed serv­er. ‘That par­ty had to have some kind of out­bound mes­sage through SMS, phone, or some non­in­ter­net chan­nel they used to com­mu­ni­cate [the new con­fig­u­ra­tion],’ Paul Vix­ie told me. The first attempt to look up the revised host name came from Alfa Bank. ‘If this was a pub­lic serv­er, we would have seen oth­er traces,’ Vix­ie says. ‘The only look-ups came from this par­tic­u­lar source.‘Accord­ing to Vix­ie and oth­ers, the new host name may have rep­re­sent­ed an attempt to estab­lish a new chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But media inquiries into the nature of Trump’s rela­tion­ship with Alfa Bank, which sug­gest­ed that their com­mu­ni­ca­tions were being mon­i­tored, may have deterred the par­ties from using it. Soon after the New York Times began to ask ques­tions, the traf­fic between the servers stopped cold. . . .”

After high­light­ing the Foer sto­ry on the Trump/Alfa con­nec­tion, the pro­gram notes the offi­cial dis­missal of the sto­ry. “. . . . Foer men­tions in his piece that the New York Times was inves­ti­gat­ing the link. On Mon­day, the paper report­ed that the FBI had looked into and dis­missed the idea that the two servers rep­re­sent­ed a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel. Inves­ti­ga­tors “con­clud­ed that there could be an innocu­ous expla­na­tion, like a mar­ket­ing email or spam, for the com­put­er con­tacts,” the Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers report­ed. . . . 

The con­clud­ing por­tion of the pro­gram notes that there are inter­est­ing evi­den­tiary trib­u­taries between Alfa, the busi­ness enti­ties of com­modi­ties deal­er Marc Rich and the inves­ti­ga­tions into Rich and Bill Clin­ton’s par­don of Marc Rich.

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • The unsuc­cess­ful attempt by Alfa sub­sidiary Crown Resources to buy Marc Rich’s com­modi­ties firm: ” . . .  A deal to sell the Swiss-based com­modi­ties oper­a­tion of for­mer U.S. fugi­tive financier Marc Rich to Rus­sia-owned ener­gy trad­ing group Crown Resources is off. . . . Crown is owned by the Alfa Group con­glom­er­ate. . . . .”
  • The sub­se­quent suc­cess­ful attempt by Alfa play­er Mikhail Frid­man to pur­chase the Marc Rich firm: ” . . . Mikhail Frid­man: ‘Defen­dant Mikhail Frid­man cur­rent­ly serves as Chair­man of the Board of Direc­tors of co-con­spir­a­tor Alfa Bank and as Chair­man of the Board of Direc­tors of Defen­dant Con­sor­tium Alfa Group. Frid­man fur­ther served on the Board of Vim­pel­Com, a NYSE com­pa­ny, and has con­trol over Gold­en Tele­com, a NASDAQ com­pa­ny ... pur­chased the Unit­ed States trad­ing firm owned by Amer­i­can, Mark Rich, the one time com­modi­ties baron par­doned by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton with much con­tro­ver­sy. . . .”
  • The FBI’s long-dor­mant Twit­ter account began tweet­ing files about Bill Clin­ton’s par­don of Marc Rich, short­ly after the offi­cial dis­missal of inves­ti­ga­tions into the Alfa/Trump link: ” . . . . Now, a new inter­a­gency mys­tery is rais­ing ques­tions about whether the F.B.I. has become politi­cized, just days before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. On Sun­day, a long-dor­mant F.B.I. Twit­ter account sud­den­ly sprung to life, blast­ing out a series of links to case files that cast the Clin­tons in a decid­ed­ly neg­a­tive light. . . . Then, on Tues­day, the “FBI Records Vault” account—which had not tweet­ed at all between Octo­ber 2015 and Sunday—published a link to records relat­ed to the 15-year-old, long-closed inves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s par­don­ing of one­time com­modi­ties trad­er turned fugi­tive Marc Rich. The post, which was quick­ly retweet­ed thou­sands of times, links to a heav­i­ly redact­ed doc­u­ment that repeat­ed­ly ref­er­ences the agency’s “Pub­lic Cor­rup­tion” unit—less-than-ideal optics for Hillary Clin­ton, who has spent her entire cam­paign fight­ing her image as a cor­rupt politi­cian. . . .”
  • FBI Direc­tor James Comey was in charge of the orig­i­nal Marc Rich inves­ti­ga­tion and the par­don of Rich by Bill Clin­ton. Is there a con­nec­tion between the offi­cial dis­missal of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the Alfa/Trump link by the FBI, the tweet­ing by the FBI of the files on the Clin­ton par­don of Marc Rich and the fact that it was Comey who presided over the Marc Rich inves­ti­ga­tions? ” . . . . In 2002, Comey, then a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor, took over an inves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s 2001 par­don of financier Marc Rich, who had been indict­ed on a laun­dry list of charges before flee­ing the coun­try. The deci­sion set off a polit­i­cal firestorm focused on accu­sa­tions that Rich’s ex-wife Denise made dona­tions to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, the Clin­ton Library and Hillary Clin­ton’s 2000 Sen­ate cam­paign as part of a plan to get Rich off the hook. Comey ulti­mate­ly decid­ed not to pur­sue the case. The kick­er: Comey him­self had over­seen Rich’s pros­e­cu­tion between 1987 and 1993. . . .”

This dis­cus­sion will be con­tin­ued at greater length in the next pro­gram.

1. The orig­i­nal sto­ry about the Trump organization/Alfa Bank servers was bro­ken by Franklin Foer.

“Was a Trump Serv­er Com­mu­ni­cat­ing With Rus­sia?” by Franklin Foer; Slate; 10/31/2016.

This spring, a group of com­put­er sci­en­tists set out to deter­mine whether hack­ers were inter­fer­ing with the Trump cam­paign. They found some­thing they weren’t expect­ing.

The great­est mir­a­cle of the inter­net is that it exists—the sec­ond great­est is that it per­sists. Every so often we’re remind­ed that bad actors wield great skill and have lit­tle con­science about the harm they inflict on the world’s dig­i­tal ner­vous sys­tem. They invent virus­es, bot­nets, and sundry species of mal­ware. There’s good mon­ey to be made deflect­ing these incur­sions. But a small, tight­ly knit com­mu­ni­ty of com­put­er sci­en­tists who pur­sue such work—some at cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firms, some in acad­e­mia, some with close ties to three-let­ter fed­er­al agencies—is also spurred by a sense of shared ide­al­ism and con­sid­ers itself the benev­o­lent posse that chas­es off the rogues and rogue states that try to pur­loin sen­si­tive data and infect the inter­net with their bugs. “We’re the Union of Con­cerned Nerds,” in the wry for­mu­la­tion of the Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty com­put­er sci­en­tist L. Jean Camp.

In late spring, this com­mu­ni­ty of mal­ware hunters placed itself in a high state of alarm. Word arrived that Russ­ian hack­ers had infil­trat­ed the servers of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, an attack per­sua­sive­ly detailed by the respect­ed cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm Crowd­Strike. The com­put­er sci­en­tists posit­ed a log­i­cal hypoth­e­sis, which they set out to rig­or­ous­ly test: If the Rus­sians were worm­ing their way into the DNC, they might very well be attack­ing oth­er enti­ties cen­tral to the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, includ­ing Don­ald Trump’s many servers. “We want­ed to help defend both cam­paigns, because we want­ed to pre­serve the integri­ty of the elec­tion,” says one of the aca­d­e­mics, who works at a uni­ver­si­ty that asked him not to speak with reporters because of the sen­si­tive nature of his work.

Hunt­ing for mal­ware requires high­ly spe­cial­ized knowl­edge of the intri­ca­cies of the domain name system—the pro­to­col that allows us to type email address­es and web­site names to ini­ti­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tion. DNS enables our words to set in motion a chain of con­nec­tions between servers, which in turn deliv­ers the results we desire. Before a mail serv­er can deliv­er a mes­sage to anoth­er mail serv­er, it has to look up its IP address using the DNS. Com­put­er sci­en­tists have built a set of mas­sive DNS data­bas­es, which pro­vide frag­men­tary his­to­ries of com­mu­ni­ca­tions flows, in part to cre­ate an archive of mal­ware: a kind of cat­a­log of the tricks bad actors have tried to pull, which often involve mas­querad­ing as legit­i­mate actors. These data­bas­es can give a use­ful, though far from com­pre­hen­sive, snap­shot of traf­fic across the inter­net. Some of the most trust­ed DNS specialists—an elite group of mal­ware hunters, who work for pri­vate contractors—have access to near­ly com­pre­hen­sive logs of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between servers. They work in close con­cert with inter­net ser­vice providers, the net­works through which most of us con­nect to the inter­net, and the ones that are most vul­ner­a­ble to mas­sive attacks. To extend the traf­fic metaphor, these sci­en­tists have cam­eras post­ed on the internet’s stop­lights and over­pass­es. They are entrust­ed with some­thing close to a com­plete record of all the servers of the world con­nect­ing with one anoth­er.

In late July, one of these scientists—who asked to be referred to as Tea Leaves, a pseu­do­nym that would pro­tect his rela­tion­ship with the net­works and banks that employ him to sift their data—found what looked like mal­ware ema­nat­ing from Rus­sia. The des­ti­na­tion domain had Trump in its name, which of course attract­ed Tea Leaves’ atten­tion. But his dis­cov­ery of the data was pure happenstance—a sur­pris­ing nee­dle in a large haystack of DNS lookups on his screen. “I have an out­lier here that con­nects to Rus­sia in a strange way,” he wrote in his notes. He couldn’t quite fig­ure it out at first. But what he saw was a bank in Moscow that kept irreg­u­lar­ly ping­ing a serv­er reg­is­tered to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion on Fifth Avenue.

More data was need­ed, so he began care­ful­ly keep­ing logs of the Trump server’s DNS activ­i­ty. As he col­lect­ed the logs, he would cir­cu­late them in peri­od­ic batch­es to col­leagues in the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty world. Six of them began scru­ti­niz­ing them for clues.

(I com­mu­ni­cat­ed exten­sive­ly with Tea Leaves and two of his clos­est col­lab­o­ra­tors, who also spoke with me on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, since they work for firms trust­ed by cor­po­ra­tions and law enforce­ment to ana­lyze sen­si­tive data. They per­sua­sive­ly demon­strat­ed some of their ana­lyt­i­cal meth­ods to me—and showed me two white papers, which they had cir­cu­lat­ed so that col­leagues could check their analy­sis. I also spoke with aca­d­e­mics who vouched for Tea Leaves’ integri­ty and his unusu­al access to infor­ma­tion. “This is some­one I know well and is very well-known in the net­work­ing com­mu­ni­ty,” said Camp. “When they say some­thing about DNS, you believe them. This per­son has tech­ni­cal author­i­ty and access to data.”)

The researchers quick­ly dis­missed their ini­tial fear that the logs rep­re­sent­ed a mal­ware attack. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion wasn’t the work of bots. The irreg­u­lar pat­tern of serv­er lookups actu­al­ly resem­bled the pat­tern of human conversation—conversations that began dur­ing office hours in New York and con­tin­ued dur­ing office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sus­tained rela­tion­ship between a serv­er reg­is­tered to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and two servers reg­is­tered to an enti­ty called Alfa Bank.

The researchers had ini­tial­ly stum­bled in their diag­no­sis because of the odd con­fig­u­ra­tion of Trump’s serv­er. “I’ve nev­er seen a serv­er set up like that,” says Christo­pher Davis, who runs the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm HYAS InfoS­ec Inc. and won a FBI Direc­tor Award for Excel­lence for his work track­ing down the authors of one of the world’s nas­ti­est bot­net attacks. “It looked weird, and it didn’t pass the sniff test.” The serv­er was first reg­is­tered to Trump’s busi­ness in 2009 and was set up to run con­sumer mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. It had a his­to­ry of send­ing mass emails on behalf of Trump-brand­ed prop­er­ties and prod­ucts. Researchers were ulti­mate­ly con­vinced that the serv­er indeed belonged to Trump. (Click here to see the server’s reg­is­tra­tion record.) But now this capa­cious serv­er han­dled a strange­ly small load of traf­fic, such a small load that it would be hard for a com­pa­ny to jus­ti­fy the expense and trou­ble it would take to main­tain it. “I get more mail in a day than the serv­er han­dled,” Davis says.

That wasn’t the only odd­i­ty. When the researchers pinged the serv­er, they received error mes­sages. They con­clud­ed that the serv­er was set to accept only incom­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion from a very small hand­ful of IP address­es. A small por­tion of the logs showed com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a serv­er belong­ing to Michi­gan-based Spec­trum Health. (The com­pa­ny said in a state­ment: “Spec­trum Health does not have a rela­tion­ship with Alfa Bank or any of the Trump orga­ni­za­tions. We have con­clud­ed a rig­or­ous inves­ti­ga­tion with both our inter­nal IT secu­ri­ty spe­cial­ists and expert cyber secu­ri­ty firms. Our experts have con­duct­ed a detailed analy­sis of the alleged inter­net traf­fic and did not find any evi­dence that it includ­ed any actu­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions (no emails, chat, text, etc.) between Spec­trum Health and Alfa Bank or any of the Trump orga­ni­za­tions. While we did find a small num­ber of incom­ing spam mar­ket­ing emails, they orig­i­nat­ed from a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, Cen­dyn, adver­tis­ing Trump Hotels.”)

Spec­trum account­ed for a rel­a­tive­ly triv­ial por­tion of the traf­fic. Eighty-sev­en per­cent of the DNS lookups involved the two Alfa Bank servers. “It’s pret­ty clear that it’s not an open mail serv­er,” Camp told me. “These orga­ni­za­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a way designed to block oth­er peo­ple out.”

Ear­li­er this month, the group of com­put­er sci­en­tists passed the logs to Paul Vix­ie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no high­er author­i­ty. Vix­ie wrote cen­tral strands of the DNS code that makes the inter­net work. After study­ing the logs, he con­clud­ed, “The par­ties were com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a secre­tive fash­ion. The oper­a­tive word is secre­tive. This is more akin to what crim­i­nal syn­di­cates do if they are putting togeth­er a project.” Put dif­fer­ent­ly, the logs sug­gest­ed that Trump and Alfa had con­fig­ured some­thing like a dig­i­tal hot­line con­nect­ing the two enti­ties, shut­ting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own exis­tence. Over the sum­mer, the sci­en­tists observed the com­mu­ni­ca­tions trail from a dis­tance.

* * *

While the researchers went about their work, the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom about Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the cam­paign began to shift. There were reports that the Trump cam­paign had ordered the Repub­li­can Par­ty to rewrite its plat­form posi­tion on Ukraine, maneu­ver­ing the GOP toward a pol­i­cy pre­ferred by Rus­sia, though the Trump cam­paign denied hav­ing a hand in the change. Then Trump announced in an inter­view with the New York Times his unwill­ing­ness to spring to the defense of NATO allies in the face of a Russ­ian inva­sion. Trump even invit­ed Russ­ian hack­ers to go hunt­ing for Clinton’s emails, then passed the com­ment off as a joke. (I wrote about Trump’s rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia in ear­ly July.)

In the face of accu­sa­tions that he is some­how backed by Putin or in busi­ness with Russ­ian investors, Trump has issued cat­e­gor­i­cal state­ments. “I mean I have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia,” he told one reporter, a flat denial that he repeat­ed over and over. Of course, it’s pos­si­ble that these state­ments are sin­cere and even cor­rect. The sweep­ing nature of Trump’s claim, how­ev­er, prod­ded the sci­en­tists to dig deep­er. They were increas­ing­ly con­fi­dent that they were observ­ing data that con­tra­dict­ed Trump’s claims.

In the par­lance that has become famil­iar since the Edward Snow­den rev­e­la­tions, the DNS logs reside in the realm of meta­da­ta. We can see a trail of trans­mis­sions, but we can’t see the actu­al sub­stance of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions. And we can’t even say with com­plete cer­ti­tude that the servers exchanged email. One sci­en­tist, who wasn’t involved in the effort to com­pile and ana­lyze the logs, ticked off a list of oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties: an errant piece of spam car­oming between servers, a mis­di­rect­ed email that kept try­ing to reach its des­ti­na­tion, which cre­at­ed the impres­sion of sus­tained com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “I’m see­ing a pre­pon­der­ance of the evi­dence, but not a smok­ing gun,” he said. Richard Clay­ton, a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty researcher at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty who was sent one of the white papers lay­ing out the evi­dence, acknowl­edges those objec­tions and the alter­na­tive the­o­ries but con­sid­ers them improb­a­ble. “I think mail is more like­ly, because it’s going to a machine run­ning a mail serv­er and [the host] is called mail. Dr. Occam says you should rule out mail before pulling out the more exot­ic expla­na­tions.” After Tea Leaves post­ed his analy­sis on Red­dit, a secu­ri­ty blog­ger who goes by Krypt3ia expressed ini­tial doubts—but his analy­sis was tar­nished by sev­er­al incor­rect assump­tions, and as he exam­ined the mat­ter, his skep­ti­cism of Tea Leaves soft­ened some­what.

I put the ques­tion of what kind of activ­i­ty the logs record­ed to the Uni­ver­si­ty of California’s Nicholas Weaver, anoth­er com­put­er sci­en­tist not involved in com­pil­ing the logs. “I can’t attest to the logs them­selves,” he told me, “but assum­ing they are legit­i­mate they do indi­cate effec­tive­ly human-lev­el com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Weaver’s state­ment rais­es anoth­er uncer­tain­ty: Are the logs authen­tic? Com­put­er sci­en­tists are care­ful about vouch­ing for evi­dence that emerges from unknown sources—especially since the logs were past­ed in a text file, where they could con­ceiv­ably have been edit­ed. I asked nine com­put­er scientists—some who agreed to speak on the record, some who asked for anonymity—if the DNS logs that Tea Leaves and his col­lab­o­ra­tors dis­cov­ered could be forged or manip­u­lat­ed. They con­sid­ered it near­ly impos­si­ble. It would be easy enough to fake one or maybe even a dozen records of DNS lookups. But in the aggre­gate, the logs con­tained thou­sands of records, with nuances and pat­terns that not even the most skilled pro­gram­mers would be able to recre­ate on this scale. “The data has got the right kind of fuzz grow­ing on it,” Vix­ie told me. “It’s the inter­pack­et gap, the spac­ing between the con­ver­sa­tions, the total vol­ume. If you look at those time stamps, they are not sim­u­lat­ed. This bears every indi­ca­tion that it was col­lect­ed from a live link.” I asked him if there was a chance that he was wrong about their authen­tic­i­ty. “This pass­es the rea­son­able per­son test,” he told me. “No rea­son­able per­son would come to the con­clu­sion oth­er than the one I’ve come to.” Oth­ers were equal­ly emphat­ic. “It would be real­ly, real­ly hard to fake these,” Davis said. Accord­ing to Camp, “When the tech­ni­cal com­mu­ni­ty exam­ined the data, the con­clu­sion was pret­ty obvi­ous.”

It’s pos­si­ble to impute polit­i­cal motives to the com­put­er sci­en­tists, some of whom have crit­i­cized Trump on social media. But many of the sci­en­tists who talked to me for this sto­ry are Repub­li­cans. And almost all have strong incen­tives for steer­ing clear of con­tro­ver­sy. Some work at pub­lic insti­tu­tions, where they are vul­ner­a­ble to polit­i­cal pres­sure. Oth­ers work for firms that rely on gov­ern­ment contracts—a rela­tion­ship that tends to squash posi­tions that could be mis­in­ter­pret­ed as out­spo­ken.

* * *

Alfa’s oli­garchs occu­pied an unusu­al posi­tion in Putin’s fir­ma­ment. They were insid­ers but not in the clos­est ring of pow­er. “It’s like they were his judo pals,” one for­mer U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cial who knows Frid­man told me. “They were always wor­ried about where they stood in the peck­ing order and always feared expro­pri­a­tion.” Frid­man and Aven, how­ev­er, are adept at stay­ing close to pow­er. As the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia once ruled, in the course of dis­miss­ing a libel suit the bankers filed, “Aven and Frid­man have assumed an unfore­seen lev­el of promi­nence and influ­ence in the eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal affairs of their nation.”

Unlike oth­er Russ­ian firms, Alfa has oper­at­ed smooth­ly and effort­less­ly in the West. It has nev­er been slapped with sanc­tions. Frid­man and Aven have cul­ti­vat­ed a rep­u­ta­tion as benef­i­cent phil­an­thropists. They endowed a pres­ti­gious fel­low­ship. The Woodrow Wil­son Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Schol­ars, the Amer­i­can-gov­ern­ment fund­ed think tank, gave Aven its award for “Cor­po­rate Cit­i­zen­ship” in 2015. To pro­tect its inter­ests in Wash­ing­ton, Alfa hired as its lob­by­ist for­mer Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial Ed Rogers. Richard Burt, who helped Trump write the speech in which he first laid out his for­eign pol­i­cy, serves on Alfa’s senior advi­so­ry board. The brand­ing cam­paign has worked well. Dur­ing the first Oba­ma term, Frid­man and Aven met with offi­cials in the White House on two occa­sions, accord­ing to vis­i­tor logs.

Frid­man and Aven have sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness inter­ests to pro­mote in the West. One of their hold­ing com­pa­nies, Let­terOne, has vowed to invest as much as $3 bil­lion in U.S. health care. This year, it sank $200 mil­lion into Uber. This is, of course, mon­ey that might oth­er­wise be invest­ed in Rus­sia. Accord­ing to a for­mer U.S. offi­cial, Putin tol­er­ates this con­di­tion because Alfa advances Russ­ian inter­ests. It pro­motes itself as an avatar of Russ­ian prowess. “It’s our moral duty to become a glob­al play­er, to prove a Russ­ian can trans­form into an inter­na­tion­al busi­ness­man,” Frid­man told the Finan­cial Times.

* * *

Tea Leaves and his col­leagues plot­ted the data from the logs on a time­line. What it illus­trat­ed was sug­ges­tive: The con­ver­sa­tion between the Trump and Alfa servers appeared to fol­low the con­tours of polit­i­cal hap­pen­ings in the Unit­ed States. “At elec­tion-relat­ed moments, the traf­fic peaked,” accord­ing to Camp. There were con­sid­er­ably more DNS lookups, for instance, dur­ing the two con­ven­tions.

In Sep­tem­ber, the sci­en­tists tried to get the pub­lic to pay atten­tion to their data. One of them post­ed a link to the logs in a Red­dit thread. Around the same time, the New York Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers began chas­ing the sto­ry.* (They are still pur­su­ing it.) Licht­blau met with a Wash­ing­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Alfa Bank on Sept. 21, and the bank denied hav­ing any con­nec­tion to Trump.(Licht­blau told me that Times pol­i­cy pre­vents him from com­ment­ing on his report­ing.)

The Times hadn’t yet been in touch with the Trump campaign—Lichtblau spoke with the cam­paign a week lat­er—but short­ly after it reached out to Alfa, the Trump domain name in ques­tion seemed to sud­den­ly stop work­ing. When the sci­en­tists looked up the host, the DNS serv­er returned a fail mes­sage, evi­dence that it no longer func­tioned. Or as it is tech­ni­cal­ly diag­nosed, it had “SERV­FAILed.” (On the time­line above, this is the moment at the end of the chronol­o­gy when the traf­fic abrupt­ly spikes, as servers fran­ti­cal­ly attempt to resend reject­ed mes­sages.) The com­put­er sci­en­tists believe there was one log­i­cal con­clu­sion to be drawn: The Trump Orga­ni­za­tion shut down the serv­er after Alfa was told that the Times might expose the con­nec­tion. Weaver told me the Trump domain was “very slop­pi­ly removed.” Or as anoth­er of the researchers put it, it looked like “the knee was hit in Moscow, the leg kicked in New York.”

Four days lat­er, on Sept. 27, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion cre­at­ed a new host name, trump1.contact-client.com, which enabled com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the very same serv­er via a dif­fer­ent route. When a new host name is cre­at­ed, the first com­mu­ni­ca­tion with it is nev­er ran­dom. To reach the serv­er after the reset­ting of the host name, the sender of the first inbound mail has to first learn of the name some­how. It’s sim­ply impos­si­ble to ran­dom­ly reach a renamed serv­er. “That par­ty had to have some kind of out­bound mes­sage through SMS, phone, or some non­in­ter­net chan­nel they used to com­mu­ni­cate [the new con­fig­u­ra­tion],” Paul Vix­ie told me. The first attempt to look up the revised host name came from Alfa Bank. “If this was a pub­lic serv­er, we would have seen oth­er traces,” Vix­ie says. “The only look-ups came from this par­tic­u­lar source.”

Accord­ing to Vix­ie and oth­ers, the new host name may have rep­re­sent­ed an attempt to estab­lish a new chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But media inquiries into the nature of Trump’s rela­tion­ship with Alfa Bank, which sug­gest­ed that their com­mu­ni­ca­tions were being mon­i­tored, may have deterred the par­ties from using it. Soon after the New York Times began to ask ques­tions, the traf­fic between the servers stopped cold.

* * *

Last week, I wrote to Alfa Bank ask­ing if it could explain why its servers attempt­ed to con­nect with the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion on such a reg­u­lar basis. Its Wash­ing­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Jef­frey Birn­baum of the pub­lic rela­tions firm BGR, pro­vid­ed me the fol­low­ing response:

Alfa hired Man­di­ant, one of the world’s fore­most cyber secu­ri­ty experts, to inves­ti­gate and it has found noth­ing to the alle­ga­tions. I hope the below answers respond clear­ly to your ques­tions. Nei­ther Alfa Bank nor its prin­ci­pals, includ­ing Mikhail Frid­man and Petr Aven, have or have had any con­tact with Mr. Trump or his orga­ni­za­tions. Frid­man and Aven have nev­er met Mr. Trump nor have they or Alfa Bank had any busi­ness deal­ings with him. Nei­ther Alfa nor its offi­cers have sent Mr. Trump or his orga­ni­za­tions any emails, infor­ma­tion or mon­ey. Alfa Bank does not have and has nev­er had any spe­cial or exclu­sive inter­net con­nec­tion with Mr. Trump or his enti­ties. The asser­tion of a spe­cial or pri­vate link is patent­ly false.

I asked Birn­baum if he would con­nect me with Man­di­ant to elab­o­rate on its find­ings. He told me:

Man­di­ant is still doing its deep dive into the Alfa Bank sys­tems. Its lead­ing the­o­ry is that Alfa Bank’s servers may have been respond­ing with com­mon DNS look ups to spam sent to it by a mar­ket­ing serv­er. But it doesn’t want to speak on the record until it’s fin­ished its inves­ti­ga­tion.

It’s hard to eval­u­ate the find­ings of an inves­ti­ga­tion that hasn’t end­ed. And of course, even the most rep­utable firm in the world isn’t like­ly to loud­ly broad­cast an opin­ion that bites the hand of its client.

I posed the same basic ques­tions to the Trump cam­paign. Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks sent me this in response to my ques­tions by email:

The email serv­er, set up for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es and oper­at­ed by a third-par­ty, has not been used since 2010. The cur­rent traf­fic on the serv­er from Alphabank’s [sic] IP address is reg­u­lar DNS serv­er traffic—not email traf­fic. To be clear, The Trump Orga­ni­za­tion is not send­ing or receiv­ing any com­mu­ni­ca­tions from this email serv­er. The Trump Orga­ni­za­tion has no com­mu­ni­ca­tion or rela­tion­ship with this enti­ty or any Russ­ian enti­ty.

I asked Hicks to explain what caused the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion to rename its host after the New York Times called Alfa. I also asked how the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion arrived at its judg­ment that there was no email traf­fic. (Fur­ther­more, there’s no such thing as “reg­u­lar” DNS serv­er traf­fic, at least not accord­ing to the com­put­er sci­en­tists I con­sult­ed. The very rea­son DNS exists is to enable email and oth­er means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.) She nev­er pro­vid­ed me with a response.

What the sci­en­tists amassed wasn’t a smok­ing gun. It’s a sug­ges­tive body of evi­dence that doesn’t absolute­ly pre­clude alter­na­tive expla­na­tions. But this evi­dence arrives in the broad­er con­text of the cam­paign and every­thing else that has come to light: The efforts of Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ag­erto bring Ukraine into Vladimir Putin’s orbit; the oth­er Trump advis­er whose com­mu­ni­ca­tions with senior Russ­ian offi­cials have wor­ried intel­li­gence offi­cials; the Russ­ian hack­ing of the DNC and John Podesta’s email.

We don’t yet know what this serv­er was for, but it deserves fur­ther expla­na­tion.

“Ear­li­er this month, the group of com­put­er sci­en­tists passed the logs to Paul Vix­ie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no high­er author­i­ty. Vix­ie wrote cen­tral strands of the DNS code that makes the inter­net work. After study­ing the logs, he con­clud­ed, “The par­ties were com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a secre­tive fash­ion. The oper­a­tive word is secre­tive. This is more akin to what crim­i­nal syn­di­cates do if they are putting togeth­er a project.” Put dif­fer­ent­ly, the logs sug­gest­ed that Trump and Alfa had con­fig­ured some­thing like a dig­i­tal hot­line con­nect­ing the two enti­ties, shut­ting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own exis­tence. Over the sum­mer, the sci­en­tists observed the com­mu­ni­ca­tions trail from a dis­tance.”

Well, that is quite a bomb­shell if it pans out. Maybe not exact­ly the bomb­shell that the emerg­ing cov­er­age of the sto­ry will depict, but still quite a bomb­shell

2. Offi­cial­dom, includ­ing the main­stream media, have (accord­ing to the FBI) dis­missed any notion of a Trump/Alfa link:

“. . . . Foer men­tions in his piece that the New York Times was inves­ti­gat­ing the link. On Mon­day, the paper report­ed that the FBI had looked into and dis­missed the idea that the two servers rep­re­sent­ed a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel. Inves­ti­ga­tors “con­clud­ed that there could be an innocu­ous expla­na­tion, like a mar­ket­ing email or spam, for the com­put­er con­tacts,” the Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers report­ed. . . . 

“That Secret Trump-Rus­sia Email Serv­er Link Is Like­ly Nei­ther Secret Nor a Trump-Rus­sia Link” by Philip Bump; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 11/01/2016.

Of all the things that were going to get Don­ald Trump into trou­ble over the course of this elec­tion, I would have put “auto­mat­ed com­put­er serv­er activ­i­ty” pret­ty low on the list. But here we are.

On Mon­day night, Slate pub­lished a lengthy sto­ry writ­ten by Franklin Foer explor­ing an odd con­nec­tion between Trump’s busi­ness­es and a bank in Rus­sia. . . . .

. . . . Foer men­tions in his piece that the New York Times was inves­ti­gat­ing the link. On Mon­day, the paper report­ed that the FBI had looked into and dis­missed the idea that the two servers rep­re­sent­ed a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel. Inves­ti­ga­tors “con­clud­ed that there could be an innocu­ous expla­na­tion, like a mar­ket­ing email or spam, for the com­put­er con­tacts,” the Times’ Eric Licht­blau and Steven Lee Myers report­ed. . . .

3a. Crown Resources and oth­er Crown enti­ties are part of the Alfa Group, one of whose out­growths is the CDS sub­sidiary pro­gram the Alfa Fel­low­ship. Note that Mark Rich’s com­modi­ties oper­a­tion was nego­ti­at­ing with Alfa sub­sidiary Crown resources over a buy­out. That buy­out did­n’t hap­pen, but anoth­er one did.

“Mark Rich Deal to Sell Com­modi­ties Oper­a­tion to Russ­ian Group Fails” [AP]; 6/8/2001.

. . . .  A deal to sell the Swiss-based com­modi­ties oper­a­tion of for­mer U.S. fugi­tive financier Marc Rich to Rus­sia-owned ener­gy trad­ing group Crown Resources is off. . . . Crown is owned by the Alfa Group con­glom­er­ate. . . . .

3b. Alfa play­er Mikhail Frid­man did pur­chase Marc Rich’s firm. (Most out­lets spell Rich’s first name as “Marc.”)

“ ‘Defen­dants’ Ten­ta­cles Reach Into and Injure Numer­ous Amer­i­cans’” [PRNewswire]; Forbes; 6/9/2006.

 . . . . Mikhail Frid­man: ‘Defen­dant Mikhail Frid­man cur­rent­ly serves as Chair­man of the Board of Direc­tors of co-con­spir­a­tor Alfa Bank and as Chair­man of the Board of Direc­tors of Defen­dant Con­sor­tium Alfa Group. Frid­man fur­ther served on the Board of Vim­pel­Com, a NYSE com­pa­ny, and has con­trol over Gold­en Tele­com, a NASDAQ com­pa­ny ... pur­chased the Unit­ed States trad­ing firm owned by Amer­i­can, Mark Rich, the one time com­modi­ties baron par­doned by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton with much con­tro­ver­sy. Frid­man pur­ports to have become a phil­an­thropist in the Unit­ed States’ and is a mem­ber of the Board of the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions based in New York. [pgs. 6–7] Pyotr Aven: ‘Defen­dant Pyotr Aven also has been a major par­tic­i­pant in the scheme and worked direct­ly with Rozhet­skin and Frid­man in the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion and theft of IPOC monies. Aven is a direc­tor of Gold­en Tele­com, a NASDAQ com­pa­ny, which reg­u­lar­ly files with the Unit­ed States Secu­ri­ties Exchange Com­mis­sion. He is a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure: As observed by the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, a Russ­ian ‘cor­rup­tion task force informed [the gov­ern­ment] that Aven was engaged in var­i­ous mis­deeds, includ­ing drug traf­fick­ing. See OAO Alfa Bank v. Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integri­ty, Civ. Action No. 00–2208 (JDB), Mem. Op., Sept. 22, 2005 at 11 n.26.’ [pg. 8] . . . .

4. Right around the same time peo­ple start­ed won­der­ing if the rea­son James Comey threw Hillary’s email serv­er inves­ti­ga­tion right into the mid­dle of the cam­paign, some­one at the FBI decides to throw a whole bunch of oth­er old Clin­ton inves­ti­ga­tions into the cam­paign.

Also note regard­ing the tweet about Marc Rich that James Comey over­saw Rich’s pros­e­cu­tion from 1987–1993 and took over the inves­ti­ga­tion of Bill Clinton’s Marc Rich par­don in 2002. So it sounds like a fac­tion of the FBI agents has decid­ed to join the Team Trump Troll Squad a week before the elec­tion. It rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not these agents are dri­ven more by a case of Clin­ton Derange­ment Syn­drome or are just real­ly intense Trump fans. It’s prob­a­bly a bit of both.

“Is Some­body at the F.B.I. Try­ing to Throw the Elec­tion?” by Emi­ly Jane Fox; Van­i­ty Fair; 11/1/2016.

A series of tweets from a long-dor­mant F.B.I. Twit­ter account sug­gest an ulte­ri­or motive.

The Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion, while under the aegis of the Jus­tice Depart­ment, is nom­i­nal­ly an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion, allow­ing it to remain non­par­ti­san. This explains in part the out­rage on the left (and by some on the right) when F.B.I. direc­tor James Comey sent a let­ter Fri­day noti­fy­ing Con­gress that the agency had renewed its inves­ti­ga­tion into Hillary Clinton’s pri­vate e‑mail serv­er, a case it had closed months ear­li­er. Comey was imme­di­ate­ly derid­ed for his deci­sion to send the let­ter with so few specifics so close to the elec­tion, effec­tive­ly rais­ing all sorts of flags and chang­ing the cam­paign dia­logue with­out expla­na­tion. Sen­a­tor Har­ry Reid wrote a let­ter of his own, argu­ing that Comey’s “par­ti­san actions” may have vio­lat­ed fed­er­al law. He also made the point of ask­ing why the F.B.I. direc­tor didn’t give sim­i­lar treat­ment to what he called “explo­sive infor­ma­tion” link­ing Trump and his cam­paign staff to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. Now, a new inter­a­gency mys­tery is rais­ing ques­tions about whether the F.B.I. has become politi­cized, just days before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. On Sun­day, a long-dor­mant F.B.I. Twit­ter account sud­den­ly sprung to life, blast­ing out a series of links to case files that cast the Clin­tons in a decid­ed­ly neg­a­tive light. One tweet links to pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments relat­ed to the agency’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Hillary Clinton’s pri­vate e‑mail serv­er, fol­lowed imme­di­ate­ly by anoth­er tweet link­ing to the inves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer gen­er­al David Petraeus for com­pro­mis­ing clas­si­fied material—a jar­ring jux­ta­po­si­tion giv­en the alle­ga­tions against Clin­ton. Then, on Tues­day, the “FBI Records Vault” account—which had not tweet­ed at all between Octo­ber 2015 and Sunday—published a link to records relat­ed to the 15-year-old, long-closed inves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s par­don­ing of one­time com­modi­ties trad­er turned fugi­tive Marc Rich. The post, which was quick­ly retweet­ed thou­sands of times, links to a heav­i­ly redact­ed doc­u­ment that repeat­ed­ly ref­er­ences the agency’s “Pub­lic Cor­rup­tion” unit—less-than-ideal optics for Hillary Clin­ton, who has spent her entire cam­paign fight­ing her image as a cor­rupt politi­cian.

5. As it hap­pens, James Comey is a long-time tor­menter of the Clin­tons, going back to the White­wa­ter inves­ti­ga­tion. Comey was also in charge of the inves­ti­ga­tions into Marc Rich and Bill Clin­ton’s par­don of Marc Rich.

Is there a con­nec­tion between the offi­cial dis­missal of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the Alfa/Trump link by the FBI, the tweet­ing by the FBI of the files on the Clin­ton par­don of Marc Rich and the fact that it was Comey who presided over the Marc Rich inves­ti­ga­tions?

” . . . . In 2002, Comey, then a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor, took over an inves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s 2001 par­don of financier Marc Rich, who had been indict­ed on a laun­dry list of charges before flee­ing the coun­try. The deci­sion set off a polit­i­cal firestorm focused on accu­sa­tions that Rich’s ex-wife Denise made dona­tions to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, the Clin­ton Library and Hillary Clin­ton’s 2000 Sen­ate cam­paign as part of a plan to get Rich off the hook. Comey ulti­mate­ly decid­ed not to pur­sue the case. The kick­er: Comey him­self had over­seen Rich’s pros­e­cu­tion between 1987 and 1993. . . .”

“Who Is James Comey? Sev­en Things to Know About the FBI Direc­tor” by Gre­go­ry Krieg; CNN; 1/30/2016.

. . . . . His first run-in came in the mid-1990s, when he joined the Sen­ate White­wa­ter Com­mit­tee as a deputy spe­cial coun­sel. There he dug into alle­ga­tions that the Clin­tons took part in a fraud con­nect­ed to a Arkansas real estate ven­ture gone bust. No charges were ever brought against either Clin­ton, but the scan­dal would even­tu­al­ly lead to inde­pen­dent coun­sel Ken­neth Star­r’s probe that would result in the Lewin­sky scan­dal.

In 2002, Comey, then a fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor, took over an inves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s 2001 par­don of financier Marc Rich, who had been indict­ed on a laun­dry list of charges before flee­ing the coun­try. The deci­sion set off a polit­i­cal firestorm focused on accu­sa­tions that Rich’s ex-wife Denise made dona­tions to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, the Clin­ton Library and Hillary Clin­ton’s 2000 Sen­ate cam­paign as part of a plan to get Rich off the hook. Comey ulti­mate­ly decid­ed not to pur­sue the case.

The kick­er: Comey him­self had over­seen Rich’s pros­e­cu­tion between 1987 and 1993. . . .

 

Discussion

7 comments for “FTR #930 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 9: Alfa Males, Part 3 (German Ostpolitik, Part 3)”

  1. The Dai­ly Beast has a new piece up sum­ma­riz­ing the list of fig­ures in Don­ald Trump’s orbit with ties to Rus­sia and it turns out one of those fig­ures has a pret­ty direct con­nec­tion to Alfa Bank: Richard Burt, a mem­ber of Alfa’s senior advi­so­ry coun­cil. He’s also a lob­by­ist for the Nord Stream II pipeline, which will send nat­ur­al gas from Rus­sia to Ger­many via the Baltic Sea, bypass­ing Ukraine and Belarus. So what’s Burt’s ties to the Trump cam­paign? Craft­ing Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Trump and Rus­sia: All the Mogul’s Men
    Why do so many of Trump’s cam­paign staffers have dodgy ties to Russ­ian ener­gy com­pa­nies or Russ­ian state clients?

    James Miller
    11.07.16 12:00 AM ET

    This is the fourth and last in our series of arti­cles lay­ing out all you ever want­ed to know about Trump and Rus­sia, but were afraid to ask. Read parts one, two and three.

    Between the sum­mer of 2015 and the GOP con­ven­tion a year lat­er, a great many pun­dits were sur­prised by the rise of Don­ald Trump. Although polls con­sis­tent­ly placed him ahead of his Repub­li­can peers, his style was so vul­gar, his pol­i­cy pro­nounce­ments so bizarre, that many pun­dits dis­missed Trump’s chances. And still he kept win­ning.

    Then came the draft­ing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty plat­form by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Committee—a solemn 66-page doc­u­ment stat­ing in a suc­cinct 35,000 words the posi­tions of the Grand Old Par­ty. By all indi­ca­tions, Trump, who doesn’t care much for read­ing, was will­ing to let vir­tu­al­ly all of it pass.

    But there was one point in that mass of ver­biage where the Trump team fought for a change. It want­ed to remove a call for arm­ing Ukraine against Russ­ian-backed mil­i­tants (and covert Russ­ian troops) and soft­en­ing lan­guage on Russia’s aggres­sive actions in East­ern Europe.

    Despite the fact that mul­ti­ple news agen­cies con­firmed the orig­i­nal Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry, Trump’s then-cam­paign man­ag­er Paul Man­afort repeat­ed­ly denied any such thing hap­pened, and wit­ness­es to the change even accused the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship of try­ing to cov­er up the inci­dent.

    That was the tip­ping point on The Rus­sia Con­nec­tion where most of the press and pub­lic were con­cerned.

    Over the next sev­er­al weeks, major out­lets began to ques­tion seri­ous­ly the Trump campaign’s ties to Rus­sia, if not indeed the Krem­lin, and some of the most obvi­ous links were right in the resumés of many senior mem­bers of his cam­paign team, some of whom are now under fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Maybe Trump hasn’t read those CVs. But it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if he had and then dis­missed what many see as a fun­da­men­tal con­flict of for­eign-pol­i­cy inter­ests. After all, Trump has repeat­ed­ly and dogged­ly exon­er­at­ed the Krem­lin from accu­sa­tions of elec­tion-med­dling, war crimes, and even the inva­sion of a Euro­pean coun­try, while dis­miss­ing what his own gov­ern­ment has uncov­ered about all of the above.

    ...

    THE BANKER

    Richard Burt is the chair­man of the advi­so­ry coun­cil for The Nation­al Inter­est, the in-house jour­nal of the Cen­ter for the Nation­al Inter­est, where Trump deliv­ered his maid­en for­eign-pol­i­cy speech last April. He is also a mem­ber of the senior advi­so­ry board of Russia’s Alfa Bank, a major Moscow finan­cial insti­tu­tion which, thus far, has escaped West­ern sanc­tions over the war in Ukraine.

    Burt was recruit­ed by Paul Man­afort to help the Trump cam­paign write a speech that tried to define his for­eign-pol­i­cy vision.. Burt has also repeat­ed­ly defend­ed Trump’s for­eign-pol­i­cy ideas, includ­ing dur­ing peri­ods of time when Trump was under attack for not hav­ing enough sup­port from well-respect­ed for­eign-pol­i­cy experts.enough sup­port from well-respect­ed for­eign-pol­i­cy experts

    On Oct. 31, reporter Franklin Foer broke the sto­ry that a group of cyber­se­cu­ri­ty experts had tracked reg­u­lar inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Don­ald Trump’s orga­ni­za­tion and Alfa Bank.

    Accord­ing to experts inter­viewed by Foer, Trump’s orga­ni­za­tion reg­is­tered a serv­er in 2009 that was most­ly respon­si­ble for send­ing mass emails. Recent­ly, how­ev­er, the server’s traf­fic was reduced to a sus­pi­cious­ly small amount of data—smaller than what a sin­gle per­son would receive via email in a sin­gle day. The serv­er appears to have been designed to allow com­mu­ni­ca­tions only between Trump’s orga­ni­za­tion and two oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, with 87 per­cent of those com­mu­ni­ca­tions tak­ing place with one of two servers belong­ing to Alfa Bank.

    Alarm­ing­ly, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions pat­terns appeared to many experts who spoke with Foer to be human-to-human com­mu­ni­ca­tion, rather than auto­mat­ed mail. But the fre­quen­cy of the mes­sages also seemed to cor­re­spond to the news cycle’s focus on the con­nec­tion between Trump and Rus­sia. Fur­ther­more, after jour­nal­ists con­tact­ed Alfa Bank, Trump’s serv­er was shut down, poten­tial­ly indi­cat­ing that Alfa warned Trump’s office that the serv­er was fac­ing scruti­ny. Four days lat­er, a new serv­er was set up by the Trump orga­ni­za­tion.

    Both Alfa and the Trump cam­paign deny that Trump’s com­put­ers were in con­tact with the Russ­ian bank.

    The FBI report­ed­ly spent weeks inves­ti­gat­ing these alle­ga­tions but con­clud­ed that there could be oth­er expla­na­tions for the com­mu­ni­ca­tions, includ­ing mass mar­ket­ing or spam emails. It remains unclear whether the FBI was able to use the exis­tence of these com­mu­ni­ca­tions to obtain a war­rant. It is pos­si­ble that this is noth­ing more than spam emails sent between two large finan­cial insti­tu­tions.

    Burt, how­ev­er, has oth­er ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment that are con­cern­ing.

    Accord­ing to Politi­co, he was paid $365,000 in the first half of 2016 for work he did to lob­by for the build­ing of a new nat­ur­al-gas pipeline, Nord Stream II, which would sup­ply more gas to Europe while bypass­ing Ukraine and Belarus. The plan is opposed by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment because it would allow Rus­sia to fur­ther inter­fere in the inter­nal domes­tic pol­i­tics of Ukraine with­out fear that Ukraine could cut off Russia’s gas sup­plies or take the gas for itself. At the start of 2016, the Russ­ian state ener­gy giant Gazprom owned 50 per­cent of the com­pa­ny that wants to build the pipeline, but since the Euro­pean part­ners have pulled out, Gazprom now owns 100 per­cent.

    All in all, Burt’s major con­tri­bu­tion to the Trump cam­paign is evi­dent in that first major for­eign-pol­i­cy address, which set the stage for greater eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and Rus­sia.

    ...

    Burt was recruit­ed by Paul Man­afort to help the Trump cam­paign write a speech that tried to define his for­eign-pol­i­cy vision.. Burt has also repeat­ed­ly defend­ed Trump’s for­eign-pol­i­cy ideas, includ­ing dur­ing peri­ods of time when Trump was under attack for not hav­ing enough sup­port from well-respect­ed for­eign-pol­i­cy experts.enough sup­port from well-respect­ed for­eign-pol­i­cy experts

    So one of Alfa’s senior advi­sors is the guy behind Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy vision. Oh, and he just hap­pens to be lob­by­ist for a major Russian/German pipeline. A pipeline that is cur­rent­ly 100 per­cent owned by Gazprom, but was 50 owned by Euro­pean investors until they all pulled out of the project in August after a Pol­ish reg­u­la­to­ry agency raised antitrust ques­tions about the project. That’s an impor­tant point because while Burt’s ties to Rus­sia are what every­one is focus­ing on, Richard Burt’s expe­ri­ence and ties aren’t lim­it­ed to Rus­sia and when he was lob­by­ing for Nord Stream II before the recent pull out of it Euro­pean part­ners he was­n’t just lob­by­ing for Gazprom. He was lob­by­ing for Euro­pean giants like BASF, E.ON, ENGIE, OMV, and Shell too.

    And since the Nord Stream II pipeline has Ger­many as its des­ti­na­tion and major Ger­man ener­gy com­pa­nies as part­ners (at least until they pulled out recent­ly), it’s also with not­ing that Burt was a for­mer US ambas­sador to Ger­many:

    Politi­co

    Lob­by­ist advised Trump cam­paign while pro­mot­ing Russ­ian pipeline

    Richard Burt helped shape the can­di­date’s first for­eign-pol­i­cy speech while lob­by­ing on behalf of a Moscow-con­trolled gas com­pa­ny.

    By Ben Schreckinger and Julia Ioffe

    10/07/16 05:06 AM EDT

    A Repub­li­can lob­by­ist was earn­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to pro­mote one of Vladimir Putin’s top geopo­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties at the same time he was help­ing to shape Don­ald Trump’s first major for­eign pol­i­cy speech.

    In the first two quar­ters of 2016, the firm of for­mer Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial Richard Burt received $365,000 for work he and a col­league did to lob­by for a pro­posed nat­ur­al-gas pipeline owned by a firm con­trolled by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to con­gres­sion­al lob­by­ing dis­clo­sures reviewed by POLITICO. The pipeline, opposed by the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment and the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, would com­ple­ment the orig­i­nal Nord Stream, allow­ing more Russ­ian gas to reach cen­tral and west­ern Euro­pean mar­kets while bypass­ing Ukraine and Belarus, extend­ing Putin’s lever­age over Europe.

    Burt’s lob­by­ing work for New Euro­pean Pipeline AG, the com­pa­ny behind the pipeline known as Nord Stream II, began in Feb­ru­ary. At the time, the Russ­ian state-owned oil giant Gazprom owned a 50 per­cent stake in New Euro­pean Pipeline AG. In August, five Euro­pean part­ners pulled out and Gazprom now owns 100 per­cent.

    This spring, Burt helped shape Trump’s first major for­eign pol­i­cy address, accord­ing to Burt and oth­er sources. Burt rec­om­mend­ed that Trump take a more “real­ist,” less inter­ven­tion­ist approach to world affairs, as first report­ed by Reuters. Trump’s April 27 speech sound­ed those themes and called for greater coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia.

    ...

    All the while, Burt con­tin­ued to be paid for his Nord Stream II lob­by­ing work, which is ongo­ing. Asked about the simul­ta­ne­ous lob­by­ing and advis­ing, both sides down­played the rela­tion­ship.

    “We have no knowl­edge of this,” wrote Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks in an email. “In fact, our team can­not ver­i­fy his self-pro­claimed con­tri­bu­tions to Mr. Trump’s speech and, I don’t believe Mr. Trump or our pol­i­cy staff has ever met Mr. Burt. To our knowl­edge he had no input in the speech and has had no con­tact with our pol­i­cy team.”

    For his part, Burt, a for­mer Rea­gan State Depart­ment offi­cial and U.S. ambas­sador to Ger­many, said he does not con­sid­er him­self an advis­er to the cam­paign and that he would pro­vide Hillary Clin­ton with advice if asked. Burt said that while he has dis­cussed Trump with Russ­ian offi­cials, his work for Nord Stream II has only involved con­tact with the project’s Euro­pean staff in Zug, Switzer­land. He said his firm, McLar­ty Asso­ciates – head­ed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s ex-chief of staff Mack McLar­ty – was referred the Nord Stream II work by a finan­cial PR firm in New York.

    Accord­ing to con­gres­sion­al dis­clo­sures signed by Burt and anoth­er mem­ber of the firm, the lob­by­ing work con­sists of “mon­i­tor­ing and sup­ple­ment­ing Wash­ing­ton dis­cus­sion of EU ener­gy secu­ri­ty.”

    Ini­tial­ly, when asked about his input on the Trump cam­paign, Burt said it was lim­it­ed to input on the April speech.

    ...

    Burt’s con­nec­tions to Rus­sia go back many decades. In 1989, for­mer Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush appoint­ed Burt to nego­ti­ate the Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty with the USSR, which was con­clud­ed in 1991. In recent years, the 69-year-old Burt said he has advised Russia’s Alfa Bank, and he con­tin­ues to work with the bank’s co-founder, Mikhail Frid­man. Burt has also reg­is­tered for recent lob­by­ing work on behalf of the Ukrain­ian con­struc­tion firm TMM, the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment-owned air­line LOT and the Cap­i­tal Bank of Jor­dan.

    Russia’s incur­sions in Ukraine, as well as its stepped-up efforts to under­mine West­ern democ­ra­cies and the Euro­pean Union by fund­ing fringe nation­al­ist par­ties and dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, have stiff­ened resis­tance to Nord Stream II. In Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy cir­cles, Burt’s work on behalf of the pipeline is a source of con­ster­na­tion.

    The pipeline would under­mine Poland’s hopes of devel­op­ing its own shale gas sec­tor, and it would strength­en Europe’s depen­dence on Rus­sia as its main provider of ener­gy. Unlike an exist­ing pipeline, Nord Stream II would bypass Ukraine and Belarus, two for­mer Sovi­et republics, thus dimin­ish­ing their impor­tance to Europe and help­ing to keep them with­in Moscow’s sphere of influ­ence.

    Burt is not alone in his ties to Russia’s state oil giant. Carter Page, whom Trump named as a for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er in March, has said he advised Gazprom on some of its biggest deals from 2004 to 2007, when he lived in Moscow. In Sep­tem­ber, after months of scruti­ny from the press, Con­gress, and Amer­i­can intel­li­gence offi­cials, Page said he had final­ly divest­ed him­self of a stake he held in Gazprom.

    In recent years, the Krem­lin has made influ­enc­ing West­ern think tanks a more promi­nent com­po­nent of its soft pow­er strat­e­gy. And in recent weeks, Burt has gone to work on the think tank cir­cuit, pitch­ing the pipeline in pri­vate ses­sions in Wash­ing­ton and Europe.

    “He’s a tremen­dous­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed oper­a­tor. He comes across as a tremen­dous­ly pol­ished, knowl­edge­able doyen of the for­eign ser­vice,” said a per­son who wit­nessed Burt sell the pipeline at a meet­ing at the Atlantic Coun­cil last month and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because the ses­sion was meant to remain pri­vate. “There are huge holes in what he’s say­ing, but I can imag­ine that to many con­gress­men, sen­a­tors and offi­cials, it’s all very con­vinc­ing.”

    Burt described his work on behalf of Nord Stream II as, “Mak­ing sure the client under­stands what’s going on in the debate here and pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to peo­ple in the admin­is­tra­tion on Nord Stream’s views.”

    “If we want to speak to peo­ple in the Unit­ed States, he helps us set up meet­ings with peo­ple,” said Jens Mueller, a spokesman for the pipeline project, who said the meet­ings were with “the nor­mal stake­hold­ers involved in the debate: think tanks, embassies.” He said only Burt’s firm is work­ing on the pipeline’s behalf in the Unit­ed States.

    ...

    “For his part, Burt, a for­mer Rea­gan State Depart­ment offi­cial and U.S. ambas­sador to Ger­many, said he does not con­sid­er him­self an advis­er to the cam­paign and that he would pro­vide Hillary Clin­ton with advice if asked. Burt said that while he has dis­cussed Trump with Russ­ian offi­cials, his work for Nord Stream II has only involved con­tact with the project’s Euro­pean staff in Zug, Switzer­land. He said his firm, McLar­ty Asso­ciates – head­ed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton’s ex-chief of staff Mack McLar­ty – was referred the Nord Stream II work by a finan­cial PR firm in New York.”

    And note that the above arti­cle described his lob­by­ing work as lob­by­ing Wash­ing­ton DC, pre­sum­ably because of US oppo­si­tion to the pipeline, and that, until the recent pull out of Euro­pean investors, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment had been a staunch defend­er of the pipeline over grow­ing crit­i­cism as ten­sions between the West and Rus­sia grew and sanc­tions were put in place. All in all, it’s not hard to see why he was cho­sen to be a Rus­sia-to-Ger­many nat­ur­al gas pipeline lob­by­ist. Although tech­ni­cal­ly he was actu­al­ly ambas­sador to the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many, since he was Rea­gan’s ambas­sador from 1985 to 1989, dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary stages for Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion

    Cen­ter for Strate­gic & Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies

    Richard R. Burt
    Senior Advis­er (Non-res­i­dent)

    Richard Burt serves as senior advis­er to CSIS. He is chair­man of Inter­na­tion­al Equi­ty Part­ners, a Wash­ing­ton-based invest­ment bank­ing and advi­so­ry ser­vices firm focus­ing on devel­op­ment and con­sult­ing in major emerg­ing mar­kets. Before leav­ing gov­ern­ment, Burt served as ambas­sador and chief nego­tia­tor in the Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Talks (START) with the for­mer Sovi­et Union, and as U.S. ambas­sador to the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many from 1985 to 1989, dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary stages of Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion. Before serv­ing in Ger­many, he was assis­tant sec­re­tary of state for Euro­pean and Cana­di­an affairs from 1983 to 1985. Burt has also worked as the nation­al secu­ri­ty cor­re­spon­dent for the New York Times and at the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies in Lon­don.

    So one of the fig­ures who shaped Don­ald Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy vision is Rea­gan’s for­mer ambas­sador to Ger­many who is cur­rent­ly a senior advi­sor to Alfa and a lob­by­ist for a Rus­sia-to-Ger­many pipeline that, until recent­ly, had major Ger­many ener­gy com­pa­nies as investors and back­ing by the Ger­many gov­ern­ment. That all seems rather notable when assess­ing Don­ald Trump’s for­eign influ­ences.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 7, 2016, 7:47 pm
  2. Posted by Ted Bagg | November 18, 2016, 5:54 pm
  3. With the incom­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion suc­cess­ful­ly hor­ri­fy­ing much of the world one cab­i­net posi­tion at a time, it’s prob­a­bly worth recall­ing that implau­si­bly poor judge­ment in vet­ting is a long-time Trump spe­cial­ty:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Tale of Trump and part­ner in Azer­bai­jan real estate project

    By JEFF HORWITZ
    Jun. 4, 2016 1:17 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months before he entered the pres­i­den­tial race, Don­ald Trump announced a new real estate project in Baku, Azer­bai­jan. His part­ner was the son of a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter sus­pect­ed by U.S. diplo­mats of laun­der­ing mon­ey for Iran’s mil­i­tary and described as “noto­ri­ous­ly cor­rupt.”

    Eigh­teen months lat­er, and only weeks after daugh­ter Ivan­ka Trump released a pub­lic­i­ty video of the near­ly fin­ished project, ref­er­ences to the Baku project have dis­ap­peared from Trump’s web­site. Trump’s gen­er­al coun­sel, Alan Garten, told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press that it was on hold for eco­nom­ic rea­sons.

    Trump often talks of hir­ing the best peo­ple and sur­round­ing him­self with peo­ple he can trust. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, he and his exec­u­tives have at times appeared to over­look details about the back­ground of peo­ple he has cho­sen as busi­ness part­ners, such as whether they had dubi­ous asso­ci­a­tions, had been con­vict­ed of crimes, faced extra­di­tion or inflat­ed their resumes.

    The Trump cam­p’s screen­ing skills are impor­tant as the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee turns to select­ing a run­ning mate. They would only become more cru­cial if he won the White House. Then, Trump would have to name more than 3,600 polit­i­cal appointees to senior gov­ern­ment posi­tions, includ­ing crit­i­cal jobs over­see­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty and the econ­o­my.

    In the Azer­bai­jani case, Garten said the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion had per­formed metic­u­lous due dili­gence on the com­pa­ny’s part­ners, but had­n’t researched the alle­ga­tions against the Baku part­ner’s father because he was­n’t a par­ty to the deal.

    “I’ve nev­er heard that before,” Garten said, when first asked about alle­ga­tions of Iran­ian mon­ey laun­der­ing by the part­ner’s father, which appeared in U.S. diplo­mat­ic cables wide­ly avail­able since they were leaked in 2010.

    Garten sub­se­quent­ly said he was con­fi­dent the min­is­ter alleged to be laun­der­ing Iran­ian funds, Ziya Mam­madov, had no involve­ment in his son’s hold­ing com­pa­ny, even though some of the son’s major busi­ness­es reg­u­lar­ly part­nered with the trans­porta­tion min­istry and were found­ed while the son was in col­lege over­seas. Ziya Mam­madov did not respond to a tele­phone mes­sage the AP left with his min­istry in Baku or to emails to the Azer­bai­jan Embassy in Wash­ing­ton.

    Garten told the AP that Trump’s com­pa­ny uses a third-par­ty inves­tiga­tive firm, which he did not iden­ti­fy, that spe­cial­izes in back­ground intel­li­gence gath­er­ing and search­es glob­al watch lists, war­rant lists and sanc­tions lists main­tained by the Unit­ed Nations, Inter­pol and oth­ers.

    Trump has described his back­ground research as pres­i­den­tial in qual­i­ty. Asked in a 2013 depo­si­tion why he had not per­formed for­mal records of due dili­gence on a busi­ness part­ner — a man Trump lat­er deemed “a dud” — Trump said he con­sid­ered word-of-mouth inquiries to be ade­quate.

    “We heard good things about him from a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” he said of his part­ner in the depo­si­tion. “That’s true with the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. You get ref­er­ences and some­times it’s good and some­times it’s not so good.”

    Trump’s lawyer, Garten, who was in the room at the time of Trump’s state­ment, told the AP that it was unrea­son­able to expect Trump to know the full range of the com­pa­ny’s dili­gence efforts.

    Any Amer­i­can con­tem­plat­ing a busi­ness ven­ture in Azer­bai­jan faces a risk: “endem­ic pub­lic cor­rup­tion,” as the State Depart­ment puts it. Much of that mon­ey flows from the oil and gas indus­tries, but the State Depart­ment also con­sid­ers the coun­try to be a way­point for ter­ror­ist financiers, Iran­ian sanc­tions-busters and Afghan drug lords.

    The envi­ron­ment is a risky one for any busi­ness ven­ture seek­ing to avoid vio­lat­ing U.S. penal­ties imposed against Iran or anti-bribery laws under the U.S. For­eign Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act.

    Trump’s choice of part­ners in Baku was Anar Mam­madov, the son of the coun­try’s trans­porta­tion min­is­ter. Anar Mam­madov did not respond to AP’s emails or mes­sages sent to his social media accounts or mes­sages left with his com­pa­ny.

    Garten said the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion had per­formed back­ground screen­ing on all those involved in the deal and was con­fi­dent Mam­madov’s father played no role in the project.

    Experts on Azer­bai­jan were mys­ti­fied that Trump or any­one else could reach that con­clu­sion.

    Anar Mam­madov is wide­ly viewed by diplo­mats and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions as a trans­par­ent stand-in for the busi­ness inter­ests of his father. Anar’s busi­ness has boomed with reg­u­lar help from his father’s min­istry, receiv­ing exclu­sive gov­ern­ment con­tracts, a near monop­oly on Baku’s taxi busi­ness and even a free fleet of auto­bus­es.

    “These are not busi­ness peo­ple act­ing on their own — you’re deal­ing with dad­dy,” said Richard Kau­zlarich, a U.S. ambas­sador to Azer­bai­jan under Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in the 1990s who went on to work under the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence dur­ing the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion.

    “What­ev­er the Trump peo­ple thought they were doing, that was­n’t real­i­ty,” Kau­zlarich said.

    Anar Mam­madov, who is believed to be 35, has said in a series of inter­views that he found­ed Garant Hold­ings’ pre­de­ces­sor — which has arms in trans­porta­tion, con­struc­tion, bank­ing, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and man­u­fac­tur­ing — in 2000, when he would have been 19. Anar received his bach­e­lor’s degree in 2003 and a mas­ter’s in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion in 2005 — both from a uni­ver­si­ty in Lon­don.

    Mam­madov’s state­ment that he found­ed the busi­ness in 2000 appeared in a mag­a­zine pro­duced by a research firm in part­ner­ship with the Azer­bai­jani gov­ern­ment. In oth­er forums, he has said he start­ed the busi­ness in 2005, though sev­er­al of its key sub­sidiaries pre­date that peri­od.

    Garten declined to dis­cuss spe­cif­ic back­ground research on Anar but said such checks were “com­pre­hen­sive.” The file for the Baku project would not have includ­ed any­thing on Ziya Mam­madov, Garten said, because the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion con­clud­ed that he would play no role in the project.

    “The younger Mam­madov did not build his busi­ness empire sim­ply by deliv­er­ing news­pa­pers,” said Matt Bryza, a for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Azer­bai­jan. He served on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil in George W. Bush’s admin­is­tra­tion and was appoint­ed ambas­sador from 2010 to 2012 under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    Ziya Mam­madov was described in March 2009 in leaked U.S. diplo­mat­ic cables as “noto­ri­ous­ly cor­rupt, even for Azer­bai­jan” and accused of work­ing close­ly on gov­ern­ment high­way con­struc­tion con­tracts award­ed to a for­mer senior Iran­ian mil­i­tary offi­cial in the Repub­li­can Guard, Kamal Darvishi. “We assume Mam­madov is a silent part­ner in these con­tracts,” the State Depart­ment cable said.

    Though the Baku hotel project has not been com­plet­ed, it has earned Trump a sig­nif­i­cant pay­day. He earned between $2.5 mil­lion and $2.8 mil­lion in hotel man­age­ment fees from a hotel that has nev­er opened, accord­ing to the finan­cial dis­clo­sures filed by his cam­paign. Trump licens­ing details gen­er­al­ly involve the receipt of a sig­nif­i­cant minor­i­ty stake in the prop­er­ty, too.

    The Azer­bai­jani case is not the only one involv­ing part­ners with unusu­al pasts.

    At least twice, Trump has been involved in devel­op­ment deals with con­vict­ed crim­i­nals. In 2001, Trump announced he was part­ner­ing with devel­op­er Leib Wald­man to build a mas­sive con­do and hotel tow­er in Toron­to.

    Two months lat­er, Cana­di­an news­pa­pers revealed that Wald­man had fled the Unit­ed States after plead­ing guilty to bank­rupt­cy fraud in the mid-1990s. His extra­di­tion sent the project into a tail­spin. Anoth­er devel­op­er even­tu­al­ly stepped in: Alex Shnaider, a for­mer Ukrain­ian met­als trad­er who sur­vived the often vio­lent pri­va­ti­za­tion of the post-Sovi­et steel indus­try in the 1990s.

    “We heard fan­tas­tic things about (Shnaider),” Trump told Forbes in 2005. “But some­times peo­ple say won­der­ful things whether they mean them or not.”

    Trump and Shnaider’s devel­op­ment com­pa­ny are now in lit­i­ga­tion. Trump alleges that Shnaider was an incom­pe­tent devel­op­er and bilk­ing con­do own­ers; Shnaider wants to remove Trump’s name from the build­ing.

    In the ear­ly years of the last decade, Trump also struck an alliance with Bay­rock Group LLC, an upstart prop­er­ty devel­op­ment firm that had recent­ly moved into the Trump Tow­er.

    As a part­ner, Bay­rock did­n’t have much of a track record. The firm was cre­at­ed in July 2001. Its two top offi­cials were Tev­fik Arif, a for­mer Sovi­et hos­pi­tal­i­ty min­is­ter whose pre­vi­ous devel­op­ment expe­ri­ence had been in Turkey, and Felix Sat­ter.

    Dig­ging into the back­ground of Sat­ter would­n’t have turned up much because Sat­ter did not actu­al­ly exist. But a man with a sim­i­lar­ly spelled name, Felix Sater, had been sen­tenced to prison for stab­bing a man in the face with a bro­ken mar­gari­ta glass and barred for life from sell­ing secu­ri­ties. A sub­se­quent com­plaint by fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors named Sater as an unin­dict­ed co-con­spir­a­tor, and pros­e­cu­tors also dis­closed that he had been con­vict­ed in a mafia-linked stock fraud scheme.

    The New York Times revealed in 2007 that Sat­ter was Sater and had his­tor­i­cal ties to the Mafia. Trump plead­ed igno­rance.

    “We do as much of a back­ground check as we can on the prin­ci­pals,” Trump said.

    Garten said Sater was mere­ly an employ­ee at Bay­rock, not an own­er. “There would have been no rea­son to per­form any dili­gence on Mr. Sater,” Garten said, though Sater has described him­self var­i­ous­ly as Bay­rock­’s founder and a top exec­u­tive.

    Sater pub­licly sep­a­rat­ed from Bay­rock in 2008, but Trump named him a senior advis­er and gave him an office in Trump Tow­er in 2010.

    “I don’t see Felix as being a mem­ber of the Mafia,” Trump said in a 2013 depo­si­tion in a case over a failed Fort Laud­erdale, Flori­da, con­do deal in which Sater had been involved. “I don’t think he was con­nect­ed to the Mafia.”

    “Do you have any evi­dence or doc­u­men­ta­tion to back that up?” the lawyer tak­ing the depo­si­tion asked.

    “I have none,” Trump respond­ed. Trump said he did not recall hav­ing asked Sater about it.

    ...

    Sim­i­lar prob­lems affect­ed hires for Trump Uni­ver­si­ty, a defunct real estate invest­ing sem­i­nar com­pa­ny. Though the instruc­tors were sup­pos­ed­ly “hand-picked” by Trump, he left the selec­tion to oth­ers, who did­n’t suc­cess­ful­ly vet all of them, either.

    Some of the instruc­tors had filed for bank­rupt­cy pro­tec­tion. Oth­ers were unqual­i­fied..

    “He defraud­ed us, OK?” Trump said of one for­mer instruc­tor’s dec­la­ra­tion that he knew lit­tle about real estate.

    Garten said Trump’s orga­ni­za­tion per­formed back­ground checks on every instruc­tor, men­tor and employ­ee it hired for Trump Uni­ver­si­ty, and said some instruc­tors were affil­i­at­ed with a third-par­ty licensee.

    In the depo­si­tion, Trump was san­guine about his hir­ing process.

    “In every busi­ness, peo­ple slip through the cracks,” he said. “No mat­ter how well-run a busi­ness, peo­ple come in and they’re not good, and you won­der, you know, how did they get there, et cetera.”

    “In every busi­ness, peo­ple slip through the cracks,” he said. “No mat­ter how well-run a busi­ness, peo­ple come in and they’re not good, and you won­der, you know, how did they get there, et cetera.”

    Yes, in every busi­ness, peo­ple slip through the cracks. And in Trump’s case those peo­ple are sons of noto­ri­ous­ly cor­rupt for­eign politi­cians, mob­sters, and gen­er­al grifters. Fun­ny how that keeps hap­pen­ing. It’s almost as if Trump’s “word of mouth” vet­ting sys­tem has some flaws:

    ...

    Garten told the AP that Trump’s com­pa­ny uses a third-par­ty inves­tiga­tive firm, which he did not iden­ti­fy, that spe­cial­izes in back­ground intel­li­gence gath­er­ing and search­es glob­al watch lists, war­rant lists and sanc­tions lists main­tained by the Unit­ed Nations, Inter­pol and oth­ers.

    Trump has described his back­ground research as pres­i­den­tial in qual­i­ty. Asked in a 2013 depo­si­tion why he had not per­formed for­mal records of due dili­gence on a busi­ness part­ner — a man Trump lat­er deemed “a dud” — Trump said he con­sid­ered word-of-mouth inquiries to be ade­quate.

    “We heard good things about him from a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” he said of his part­ner in the depo­si­tion. “That’s true with the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. You get ref­er­ences and some­times it’s good and some­times it’s not so good.”

    ...

    “We heard good things about him from a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent people...That’s true with the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. You get ref­er­ences and some­times it’s good and some­times it’s not so good.”

    That’s our Trump! When he vets the chil­dren of noto­ri­ous­ly cor­rupt politi­cians who are wide­ly seen as being front for their cor­rupt par­ents, the Trump team just sort of asks a cou­ple of peo­ple. And explic­it­ly do not ask about the cor­rupt par­ents:

    ...

    Trump often talks of hir­ing the best peo­ple and sur­round­ing him­self with peo­ple he can trust. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, he and his exec­u­tives have at times appeared to over­look details about the back­ground of peo­ple he has cho­sen as busi­ness part­ners, such as whether they had dubi­ous asso­ci­a­tions, had been con­vict­ed of crimes, faced extra­di­tion or inflat­ed their resumes.

    The Trump cam­p’s screen­ing skills are impor­tant as the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee turns to select­ing a run­ning mate. They would only become more cru­cial if he won the White House. Then, Trump would have to name more than 3,600 polit­i­cal appointees to senior gov­ern­ment posi­tions, includ­ing crit­i­cal jobs over­see­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty and the econ­o­my.

    In the Azer­bai­jani case, Garten said the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion had per­formed metic­u­lous due dili­gence on the com­pa­ny’s part­ners, but had­n’t researched the alle­ga­tions against the Baku part­ner’s father because he was­n’t a par­ty to the deal.

    “I’ve nev­er heard that before,” Garten said, when first asked about alle­ga­tions of Iran­ian mon­ey laun­der­ing by the part­ner’s father, which appeared in U.S. diplo­mat­ic cables wide­ly avail­able since they were leaked in 2010.

    Garten sub­se­quent­ly said he was con­fi­dent the min­is­ter alleged to be laun­der­ing Iran­ian funds, Ziya Mam­madov, had no involve­ment in his son’s hold­ing com­pa­ny, even though some of the son’s major busi­ness­es reg­u­lar­ly part­nered with the trans­porta­tion min­istry and were found­ed while the son was in col­lege over­seas. Ziya Mam­madov did not respond to a tele­phone mes­sage the AP left with his min­istry in Baku or to emails to the Azer­bai­jan Embassy in Wash­ing­ton.

    ...

    Anar Mam­madov is wide­ly viewed by diplo­mats and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions as a trans­par­ent stand-in for the busi­ness inter­ests of his father. Anar’s busi­ness has boomed with reg­u­lar help from his father’s min­istry, receiv­ing exclu­sive gov­ern­ment con­tracts, a near monop­oly on Baku’s taxi busi­ness and even a free fleet of auto­bus­es.

    ...

    Garten declined to dis­cuss spe­cif­ic back­ground research on Anar but said such checks were “com­pre­hen­sive.” The file for the Baku project would not have includ­ed any­thing on Ziya Mam­madov, Garten said, because the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion con­clud­ed that he would play no role in the project.
    ...

    Yep, that’s our Trump! The bold leader who will ‘Drain the swamp’ because he’s such a shrewd busi­ness man. And while it might be tempt­ing to view Trump as a giant Chump when recount­ing the web of inter­na­tion­al cor­rup­tion and orga­nized crime fig­ures that he appar­ent­ly keeps ‘acci­den­tal­ly’ part­ner­ing with, let’s keep in mind that the only chumps in this sit­u­a­tion are those that actu­al­ly believe Trump real­ly had no idea who he was part­ner­ing with in all these deals.

    Let’s also keep in mind the con­tent of FTR#570 and FTR#573 dis­cussing role the fig­ures affil­i­at­ed with Alfa bank, one of whom was report­ed­ly friends with Mohammed Atta, played in dirty deal­ings with Azer­bai­jan’s cor­rupt gov­ern­ment. And note that the pres­i­dent of Azer­bai­jan at the time of those deal­ings, Hey­dar Aliyev, is the father of the cur­rent pres­i­dent Ilham Ali­iyev, the admin­is­tra­tion Ziya Mam­madov and his son Anar are extreme­ly close to. That sure seems like a rock worth over­turn­ing!

    Let’s also keep in mind that Trump’s vet­ting track record isn’t just a giant red flag about his cab­i­net picks and thou­sands of posi­tions the admin­is­tra­tion is going to have to fill (quite pos­si­bly with neo-Nazis). Don’t for­get that Trump’s $1 tril­lion infra­struc­ture invest­ment pro­pos­al is actu­al­ly a giant pri­va­ti­za­tion scam where the gov­ern­ment gives the pri­vate sec­tor tax cred­its to be used for buy­ing and own­ing up pub­lic infra­struc­ture and run­ning it for-prof­it. And that means the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is going to have to do a whole lot of vet­ting of exact­ly the kinds of shady inter­na­tion­al pri­vate devel­op­ers that he’s been part­ner­ing with for decades. Uh oh:

    The New York Times
    The Con­science of a LIb­er­al

    Infra­struc­ture Build or Pri­va­ti­za­tion Scam?

    Paul Krug­man
    Novem­ber 19, 2016 9:26 am

    Trump­ists are tout­ing the idea of a big infra­struc­ture build, and some Democ­rats are mak­ing con­cil­ia­to­ry nois­es about work­ing with the new regime on that front. But remem­ber who you’re deal­ing with: if you invest any­thing with this guy, be it mon­ey or rep­u­ta­tion, you are at great risk of being scammed. So, what do we know about the Trump infra­struc­ture plan, such as it is?

    Cru­cial­ly, it’s not a plan to bor­row $1 tril­lion and spend it on much-need­ed projects — which would be the straight­for­ward, obvi­ous thing to do. It is, instead, sup­posed to involve hav­ing pri­vate investors do the work both of rais­ing mon­ey and build­ing the projects — with the aid of a huge tax cred­it that gives them back 82 per­cent of the equi­ty they put in. To com­pen­sate for the small sliv­er of addi­tion­al equi­ty and the inter­est on their bor­row­ing, the pri­vate investors then have to some­how make prof­its on the assets they end up own­ing.

    You should imme­di­ate­ly ask three ques­tions about all of this.

    First, why involve pri­vate investors at all? It’s not as if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is hav­ing any trou­ble rais­ing mon­ey — in fact, a large part of the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for infra­struc­ture invest­ment is pre­cise­ly that the gov­ern­ment can bor­row so cheap­ly. Why do we need pri­vate equi­ty at all?

    One answer might be that this way you avoid incur­ring addi­tion­al pub­lic debt. But that’s just account­ing con­fu­sion. Imag­ine that you’re build­ing a toll road. If the gov­ern­ment builds it, it ends up pay­ing inter­est but gets the future rev­enue from the tolls. If it turns the project over to pri­vate investors, it avoids the inter­est cost — but also los­es the future toll rev­enue. The government’s future cash flow is no bet­ter than it would have been if it bor­rowed direct­ly, and worse if it strikes a bad deal, say because the investors have polit­i­cal con­nec­tions.

    Sec­ond, how is this kind of scheme sup­posed to finance invest­ment that doesn’t pro­duce a rev­enue stream? Toll roads are not the main thing we need right now; what about sewage sys­tems, mak­ing up for deferred main­te­nance, and so on? You could bring in pri­vate investors by guar­an­tee­ing them future gov­ern­ment mon­ey — say, pay­ing rent in per­pe­tu­ity for the use of a water sys­tem built by a pri­vate con­sor­tium. But this, even more than hav­ing some­one else col­lect tolls, would sim­ply be gov­ern­ment bor­row­ing through the back door — with much less trans­paren­cy, and hence greater oppor­tu­ni­ties for give­aways to favored inter­ests.

    Third, how much of the invest­ment thus financed would actu­al­ly be invest­ment that wouldn’t have tak­en place any­way? That is, how much “addi­tion­al­i­ty” is there? Sup­pose that there’s a planned tun­nel, which is clear­ly going to be built; but now it’s renamed the Trump Tun­nel, the build­ing and financ­ing are car­ried out by pri­vate firms, and the future tolls and/or rent paid by the gov­ern­ment go to those pri­vate inter­ests. .In that case we haven’t pro­mot­ed invest­ment at all, we’ve just in effect pri­va­tized a pub­lic asset — and giv­en the buy­ers 82 per­cent of the pur­chase price in the form of a tax cred­it.

    Again, all of these ques­tions could be avoid­ed by doing things the straight­for­ward way: if you think we should build more infra­struc­ture, then build more infra­struc­ture, and nev­er mind the com­pli­cat­ed pri­vate equity/tax cred­its stuff. You could try to come up with some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the com­plex­i­ty of the scheme, but one sim­ple answer would be that it’s not about invest­ment, it’s about rip­ping off tax­pay­ers. Is that implau­si­ble, giv­en who we’re talk­ing about?

    “Again, all of these ques­tions could be avoid­ed by doing things the straight­for­ward way: if you think we should build more infra­struc­ture, then build more infra­struc­ture, and nev­er mind the com­pli­cat­ed pri­vate equity/tax cred­its stuff. You could try to come up with some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the com­plex­i­ty of the scheme, but one sim­ple answer would be that it’s not about invest­ment, it’s about rip­ping off tax­pay­ers. Is that implau­si­ble, giv­en who we’re talk­ing about?”

    Gee, could it be that Trump’s big infra­struc­ture invest­ment plan is just a giant scam to tax pay­ers that will be used to trans­fer tax-pay­er mon­ey and assets into the hands of Trump’s world of crony-cap­i­tal­ists? Hmm­m­mm....

    It’s all a reminder that while much of the world is assum­ing Don­ald Trump is in Vladimir Putin’s pock­et, when you look at Trump’s curi­ous­ly igno­rant deal­ings with a shady Azer­bai­jani oli­garch and con­sid­er Trump’s close ties to fig­ures asso­ci­at­ed with Alfa bank and Alfa’s shady his­to­ry in Azer­bai­jan — and that’s just one exam­ple of Trump’s decades of shady deal­ings — it real­ly does­n’t make sense to assume Don­ald Trump is in a sin­gle dic­ta­tor’s pock­et. He’s almost cer­tain­ly in all sorts of pock­ets all over the world. Pock­ets that desire more lin­ing. And if you think becom­ing Pres­i­dent some­how gets Trump out of those shady pock­ets, just imag­ine how many oth­er “Access Hollywood”-league audio or video tapes of Trump say­ing and doing hor­ri­ble things that could severe­ly embar­rass him prob­a­bly exist in shady hands all over the plan­et. Should we real­ly believe that inter­na­tion­al play­boy Trump, who was will­ing to brag about sex­u­al­ly assault­ing women while on an Access Hol­ly­wood bus filled with the show’s staff, was­n’t get­ting secret­ly record­ed by any of his shady/mobster part­ners say­ing all sorts of hor­ri­ble things?

    So as we see the Trump/GOP mass pri­va­ti­za­tion plan take shape, keep in mind that vet­ting is going to be a crit­i­cal issue unless you want the glob­al mafia to own and oper­ate the US’s for­mer­ly-pub­lic infra­struc­ture as part of some giant scam.

    And since this glob­al night­mare sit­u­a­tion could have eas­i­ly been avoid­ed at the bal­lot box, let’s also keep in mind that a nation­al focus on the con­se­quences of incom­pe­tent vet­ting should­n’t be lim­it­ed to Trump.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 19, 2016, 4:05 pm
  4. Uh oh, it looks like Don­ald Trump might be over­dos­ing on Bre­it­bart again. A flur­ry of tweets Sat­ur­day morn­ing charge Barack Oba­ma with approv­ing of what Trump char­ac­ter­izes as a ‘Nixon/Watergate’-style wire­tap­ping oper­a­tion of the Trump Tow­er phones dur­ing the cam­paign. And while he cites no evi­dence for the charge, the tweets come a day after Bre­it­bart pub­lished an arti­cle sum­ma­riz­ing a rant by right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin mak­ing the exact same charge so that’s where every­one is assum­ing this came from:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump, cit­ing no evi­dence, accus­es Oba­ma of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wire­tap Trump Tow­er

    By Philip Ruck­er, Ellen Nakashima and Robert Cos­ta
    March 4, 2017 at 3:55 PM

    Pres­i­dent Trump on Sat­ur­day angri­ly accused for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma of orches­trat­ing a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tow­er head­quar­ters last fall in the run-up to the elec­tion.

    While cit­ing no evi­dence to sup­port his explo­sive alle­ga­tion, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Sat­ur­day morn­ing that Oba­ma was “wire tap­ping” his New York offices before the elec­tion in a move he com­pared to McCarthy­ism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his pre­de­ces­sor, adding that the sur­veil­lance result­ed in “noth­ing found.”

    Trump offered no cita­tions nor did he point to any cred­i­ble news report to back up his accu­sa­tion, but he may have been refer­ring to com­men­tary on Bre­it­bart and con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio sug­gest­ing that Oba­ma and his admin­is­tra­tion used “police state” tac­tics last fall to mon­i­tor the Trump team. The Bre­it­bart sto­ry, pub­lished Fri­day, has been cir­cu­lat­ing among Trump’s senior staff, accord­ing to a White House offi­cial who described it as a use­ful cat­a­logue of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s activ­i­ties.

    Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Oba­ma, said in a state­ment ear­ly Sat­ur­day after­noon: “A car­di­nal rule of the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion was that no White House offi­cial ever inter­fered with any inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion led by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. As part of that prac­tice, nei­ther Pres­i­dent Oba­ma nor any White House offi­cial ever ordered sur­veil­lance on any U.S. cit­i­zen. Any sug­ges­tion oth­er­wise is sim­ply false.”

    Senior U.S. offi­cials with knowl­edge of the wide-rang­ing fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion said Sat­ur­day that there had been no wire­tap of Trump.

    Offi­cials at Jus­tice and the FBI declined to com­ment.

    Trump has been feud­ing with the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty since before he took office, con­vinced that career offi­cers as well as holdovers from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion have been try­ing to sab­o­tage his pres­i­den­cy. He has ordered inter­nal inquiries to find who leaked sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion regard­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing the cam­paign between Russ­ian offi­cials and his cam­paign asso­ciates and allies, includ­ing Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions and oust­ed nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn.

    Some cur­rent and for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cials cast doubt on Trump’s asser­tion.

    “It’s high­ly unlike­ly there was a wire­tap,” said one for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial famil­iar with sur­veil­lance law who spoke can­did­ly on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. The for­mer offi­cial con­tin­ued: “It seems unthink­able. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a fed­er­al judge would have found that there was either prob­a­ble cause that he had com­mit­ted a crime or was an agent of a for­eign pow­er.”

    A wire­tap can­not be direct­ed at a U.S. facil­i­ty, the offi­cial said, with­out find­ing prob­a­ble cause that the phone lines or Inter­net address­es were being used by agents of a for­eign pow­er — or by some­one spy­ing for or act­ing on behalf of a for­eign gov­ern­ment. “You can’t just go around and tap build­ings,” the offi­cial said.

    Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the rank­ing Demo­c­rat on the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence, issued a state­ment chastis­ing Trump for lev­el­ing a “spec­tac­u­lar­ly reck­less alle­ga­tion” against Oba­ma with­out evi­dence.

    Ref­er­enc­ing Trump’s descrip­tion of Oba­ma as a “bad (or sick) guy,” Schiff said, “If there is some­thing bad or sick going on, it is the will­ing­ness of the nation’s chief exec­u­tive to make the most out­landish and destruc­tive claims with­out pro­vid­ing a scin­til­la of evi­dence to sup­port them. ”

    Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vaca­tion­ing this week­end at his pri­vate Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his prac­tice to stir up new con­tro­ver­sies to deflect atten­tion from a dam­ag­ing news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Ses­sions and Rus­sia.

    After vis­it­ing one of his golf cours­es on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, Trump amend­ed his pub­lic sched­ule to add a late-after­noon meet­ing with Ses­sions and Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary John Kel­ly at Mar-a-Lago. The pres­i­dent also is plan­ning to have din­ner there with both sec­re­taries, as well as chief White House strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non, Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross, White House Coun­sel Don McGahn and White House senior pol­i­cy advis­er Stephen Miller.

    Trump had depart­ed Wash­ing­ton in a fury on Fri­day, fum­ing at a senior staff meet­ing in the Oval Office that morn­ing about Ses­sions’ deci­sion to recuse him­self. Trump was angry and told his top aides that he dis­agreed with the attor­ney gen­er­al’s deci­sion and that he thought the White House and Jus­tice Depart­ment should have done more to counter the sug­ges­tion that Ses­sions need­ed to step away. The pres­i­dent told staff he want­ed to see them fight back against what he saw as a wide­spread effort to desta­bi­lize his pres­i­den­cy, accord­ing to senior White House offi­cials who were not autho­rized to speak pub­licly.

    Ban­non and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who nor­mal­ly trav­el with the pres­i­dent, stayed behind in Wash­ing­ton to work on health care and immi­gra­tion poli­cies and were not with Trump on Sat­ur­day when he tweet­ed. Ban­non was expect­ed to fly to Flori­da on Sat­ur­day after­noon to attend the din­ner at Mar-a-Lago.

    Trump’s tweets took numer­ous top White House aides by sur­prise, accord­ing to one of the White House offi­cials. Sat­ur­day was expect­ed to be a “down day, pret­ty qui­et,” this offi­cial said, and there was lit­tle, if any, attempt to coor­di­nate the pres­i­den­t’s mes­sage on the wire­tap­ping alle­ga­tions.

    Here are Trump’s tweets, in the order they were sent:

    Ter­ri­ble! Just found out that Oba­ma had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tow­er just before the vic­to­ry. Noth­ing found. This is McCarthy­ism!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

    Is it legal for a sit­ting Pres­i­dent to be “wire tap­ping” a race for pres­i­dent pri­or to an elec­tion? Turned down by court ear­li­er. A NEW LOW!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

    I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma was tap­ping my phones in Octo­ber, just pri­or to Elec­tion!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

    How low has Pres­i­dent Oba­ma gone to tapp my phones dur­ing the very sacred elec­tion process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

    ...

    “Trump offered no cita­tions nor did he point to any cred­i­ble news report to back up his accu­sa­tion, but he may have been refer­ring to com­men­tary on Bre­it­bart and con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio sug­gest­ing that Oba­ma and his admin­is­tra­tion used “police state” tac­tics last fall to mon­i­tor the Trump team. The Bre­it­bart sto­ry, pub­lished Fri­day, has been cir­cu­lat­ing among Trump’s senior staff, accord­ing to a White House offi­cial who described it as a use­ful cat­a­logue of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s activ­i­ties.

    Yep, if there was a wire­tap approved on the Trump Tow­er cam­paign head­quar­ter phones, it must be because the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was prac­tic­ing ‘police state’ tac­tics. And not due to Trump being a walk­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty risk who does things like pub­licly court­ing Rus­sia to hack Hillary Clin­ton and has close asso­ciates like Roger Stone in open con­tact with Wik­ileaks. It could only be ‘Nixon­ian’ police state tac­tics. Tac­tics which were odd­ly not used to stop the high­ly pub­lic and dam­ag­ing FBI inves­ti­ga­tions of Clin­ton. At least that’s how Trump and Bre­it­bart see it.

    So what’s going to come of Trump’s new charges? Well, first, note the lan­guage of Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials’ denials of the accu­sa­tion: sources with knowl­edge of the fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions in pos­si­ble Russ­ian activ­i­ties in the elec­tion say there had been no wire­tap of Trump. And oth­ers famil­iar with sur­veil­lance law say they if there was wire­tap­ping of the Trump cam­paign in rela­tion to pos­si­ble Russ­ian col­lu­sion, it would have required a For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act (FISA) judge to approve it and that would have required prob­a­bly cause to sus­pect that a for­eign pow­er was uti­liz­ing those Trump Tow­er phone lines or inter­net con­nec­tions:

    ...
    Senior U.S. offi­cials with knowl­edge of the wide-rang­ing fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion said Sat­ur­day that there had been no wire­tap of Trump.

    Offi­cials at Jus­tice and the FBI declined to com­ment.

    ...

    Some cur­rent and for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cials cast doubt on Trump’s asser­tion.

    “It’s high­ly unlike­ly there was a wire­tap,” said one for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial famil­iar with sur­veil­lance law who spoke can­did­ly on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. The for­mer offi­cial con­tin­ued: “It seems unthink­able. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a fed­er­al judge would have found that there was either prob­a­ble cause that he had com­mit­ted a crime or was an agent of a for­eign pow­er.”

    A wire­tap can­not be direct­ed at a U.S. facil­i­ty, the offi­cial said, with­out find­ing prob­a­ble cause that the phone lines or Inter­net address­es were being used by agents of a for­eign pow­er — or by some­one spy­ing for or act­ing on behalf of a for­eign gov­ern­ment. “You can’t just go around and tap build­ings,” the offi­cial said.
    ...

    So is it just a dis­trac­tion that’s going to fade away when the next Trump dis­trac­tion or dis­as­ter comes along or could it be that there was a FISA war­rant issued against Trump Tow­er’s phone lines or inter­net con­nec­tion? Well, as the arti­cle below notes, there were actu­al­ly reports of a FISA war­rant opened against at least one inter­net-con­nect­ed device in Trump Tow­er: the Trump Tow­er serv­er mys­te­ri­ous­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Alfa Bank:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    ‘Sim­ply False’: Oba­ma Spox Denies Trump Wire Tap Accu­sa­tion

    By Alle­gra Kirk­land
    Pub­lished March 4, 2017, 2:35 PM EDT

    A spokesper­son for for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma on Sat­ur­day flat­ly reject­ed Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s claim that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion ille­gal­ly wire tapped his cam­paign head­quar­ters dur­ing the 2016 race.

    Trump’s alle­ga­tion, made in a string of tweets that offered no evi­dence of the information’s source, was “sim­ply false,” Oba­ma spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a state­ment.

    “Nei­ther Pres­i­dent Oba­ma nor any White House offi­cial ever ordered sur­veil­lance on any U.S. cit­i­zen,” Lewis said.

    Nei­ther @barackobama nor any WH offi­cial under Oba­ma has ever ordered sur­veil­lance on any US Cit­i­zen. Any sug­ges­tion is unequiv­o­cal­ly false pic.twitter.com/qF04X3NUvq— Kevin Lewis (@KLewis44) March 4, 2017

    Trump charged that Oba­ma had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tow­er a month ahead of the elec­tion, com­par­ing the alleged sur­veil­lance to “McCarthy­ism” and the Water­gate scan­dal.

    ...

    The Guardian and Heat Street have report­ed that the FBI applied for a for­eign intel­li­gence sur­veil­lance court (FISA) war­rant over the sum­mer to mon­i­tor four Trump staffers sus­pect­ed of hav­ing improp­er ties to Russ­ian offi­cials. The ini­tial request was turned down for being over­ly broad, but accord­ing to Heat Street, the FBI even­tu­al­ly received a war­rant in Octo­ber after the dis­cov­ery of a serv­er in Trump Tow­er con­nect­ed to a Russ­ian bank.

    The Guardian and Heat Street have report­ed that the FBI applied for a for­eign intel­li­gence sur­veil­lance court (FISA) war­rant over the sum­mer to mon­i­tor four Trump staffers sus­pect­ed of hav­ing improp­er ties to Russ­ian offi­cials. The ini­tial request was turned down for being over­ly broad, but accord­ing to Heat Street, the FBI even­tu­al­ly received a war­rant in Octo­ber after the dis­cov­ery of a serv­er in Trump Tow­er con­nect­ed to a Russ­ian bank.

    So accord­ing to a report in Heat Street just before the elec­tion, the FBI did indeed grant a FISA war­rant specif­i­cal­ly relat­ed to the dis­cov­ery of that Trump Tow­er serv­er that was con­spic­u­ous­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing a Russ­ian bank (Alfa Bank’s serv­er). And as we’ll see below, that Heat Street arti­cle also notes that the Trump Tow­er serv­er was appar­ent­ly mys­te­ri­ous­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with SVB Bank serv­er too (Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank, a lead­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley bank spe­cial­iz­ing in fund­ing tech start ups).

    And not only that, but it was thought in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that the war­rant would also cov­er any ‘US per­sons’ asso­ci­at­ed with the serv­er, which could include Trump and three of his asso­ciates. Plus, accord­ing to the Heath Street arti­cle, the war­rant was sought due to action­able intel­li­gence pro­vid­ed by a friend­ly for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice.

    So who knows, maybe Trump is cor­rect that Trump Tow­er phones lines were indeed get­ting wire­tapped...due to his shady Trump Tow­er serv­er and its shady com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Alfa (and SVB) and action­able intel­li­gence pro­vid­ed by a for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice:

    Heat Street

    EXCLUSIVE: FBI ‘Grant­ed FISA War­rant’ Cov­er­ing Trump Camp’s Ties To Rus­sia

    By Louise Men­sch | 10:18 pm, Novem­ber 7, 2016

    Two sep­a­rate sources with links to the counter-intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty have con­firmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was grant­ed, a FISA court war­rant in Octo­ber, giv­ing counter-intel­li­gence per­mis­sion to exam­ine the activ­i­ties of ‘U.S. per­sons’ in Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign with ties to Rus­sia.

    Con­trary to ear­li­er report­ing in the New York Times, which cit­ed FBI sources as say­ing that the agency did not believe that the pri­vate serv­er in Don­ald Trump’s Trump Tow­er which was con­nect­ed to a Russ­ian bank had any nefar­i­ous pur­pose, the FBI’s counter-intel­li­gence arm, sources say, re-drew an ear­li­er FISA court request around pos­si­ble finan­cial and bank­ing offens­es relat­ed to the serv­er. The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the sec­ond was drawn more nar­row­ly and was grant­ed in Octo­ber after evi­dence was pre­sent­ed of a serv­er, pos­si­bly relat­ed to the Trump cam­paign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the Times sto­ry speaks of meta­da­ta, sources sug­gest that a FISA war­rant was grant­ed to look at the full con­tent of emails and oth­er relat­ed doc­u­ments that may con­cern US per­sons.

    The FBI agents who talked to the New York Times, and rub­bished the ground-break­ing sto­ries of Slate ( Franklin Foer) and Moth­er Jones (David Corn) may not have known about the FISA war­rant, sources say, because the counter-intel­li­gence and crim­i­nal sides of the FBI often work inde­pen­dent­ly of each oth­er employ­ing the prin­ci­ple of ‘com­part­men­tal­iza­tion’.

    The FISA war­rant was grant­ed in con­nec­tion with the inves­ti­ga­tion of sus­pect­ed activ­i­ty between the serv­er and two banks, SVB Bank and Alfa Bank. How­ev­er, it is thought in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that the war­rant cov­ers any ‘US per­son’ con­nect­ed to this inves­ti­ga­tion, and thus cov­ers Don­ald Trump and at least three fur­ther men who have either formed part of his cam­paign or act­ed as his media sur­ro­gates. The war­rant was sought, they say, because action­able intel­li­gence on the mat­ter pro­vid­ed by friend­ly for­eign agen­cies could not prop­er­ly be exam­ined with­out a war­rant by US intel­li­gence as it involves ‘US Per­sons’ who come under the remit of the FBI and not the CIA. Should a counter-intel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion lead to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, sources say, the Jus­tice Depart­ment is con­cerned that the chain of evi­dence have a basis in a clear war­rant.

    In June, when the first FISA war­rant was denied, the FBI was report­ed­ly alarmed at Carter Page’s trip to Moscow and meet­ings with Russ­ian offi­cials, one week before the DNC was hacked. Counter intel­li­gence agen­cies lat­er report­ed to both Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates that Rus­sia had car­ried out this hack; Don­ald Trump said pub­licly in the third debate that ‘our coun­try has no idea’ if Rus­sia did the hack­ing. The dis­cov­ery of the Trump Tow­er pri­vate Russ­ian serv­er, how­ev­er, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Alfa Bank, changed mat­ters, sources report.

    To fur­ther com­pli­cate the sto­ry, the FISA war­rant was alleged­ly grant­ed in part because of the involve­ment of Vladimir Putin’s own daugh­ters. One is mar­ried to a senior offi­cial at Gazprom, where Carter Page and Paul Man­afort report­ed­ly have hold­ings; anoth­er to Kir­ill Shamalov, a bank­ing offi­cial.

    The fact that the alleged war­rant was a FISA war­rant is itself sig­nif­i­cant. The court exists to grant war­rants to exam­ine cas­es con­cerned with For­eign Intel­li­gence.

    Pur­suant to FISA, the Court enter­tains appli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted by the Unit­ed States Gov­ern­ment for approval of elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance, phys­i­cal search, and oth­er inves­tiga­tive actions for for­eign intel­li­gence pur­pos­es. Most of the Court’s work is con­duct­ed ex parte as required by statute, and due to the need to pro­tect clas­si­fied nation­al secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion.

    Bradley P. Moss is a nation­al secu­ri­ty lawyer. He told us:

    If a FISA war­rant was issued, it does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that the court con­sid­ered any U.S. per­sons as lit­er­al ‘spies.’ I can imag­ine an argu­ment hav­ing been made that there was prob­a­ble cause to believe they were “agents of influ­ence” who were unwit­ting­ly being influ­enced by a for­eign pow­er.

    If the oper­a­tion con­cerns sus­pect­ed mon­ey laun­der­ing involv­ing a for­eign gov­ern­ment, the FISA war­rant could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly encom­pass U.S. per­sons in that lim­it­ed con­text. A FISA war­rant is autho­riza­tion to col­lect evi­dence, not to arrest.

    On Octo­ber 9th, the Trump cam­paign released a large num­ber of doc­u­ments point­ing out what they alleged were Hillary Clinton’s ties to Rus­sia. On Octo­ber 12th, rumors of a FISA war­rant start­ed to sur­face online. Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign had not answered requests for com­ment on the mat­ter at time of going to press.

    ...

    “The FISA war­rant was grant­ed in con­nec­tion with the inves­ti­ga­tion of sus­pect­ed activ­i­ty between the serv­er and two banks, SVB Bank and Alfa Bank. How­ev­er, it is thought in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that the war­rant cov­ers any ‘US per­son’ con­nect­ed to this inves­ti­ga­tion, and thus cov­ers Don­ald Trump and at least three fur­ther men who have either formed part of his cam­paign or act­ed as his media sur­ro­gates. The war­rant was sought, they say, because action­able intel­li­gence on the mat­ter pro­vid­ed by friend­ly for­eign agen­cies could not prop­er­ly be exam­ined with­out a war­rant by US intel­li­gence as it involves ‘US Per­sons’ who come under the remit of the FBI and not the CIA. Should a counter-intel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion lead to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions, sources say, the Jus­tice Depart­ment is con­cerned that the chain of evi­dence have a basis in a clear war­rant.”

    And note that, accord­ing to this Heat Street arti­cle, the report that had come out a week ear­li­er that the FBI has con­clud­ed that the Alfa Bank serv­er mys­tery was pos­si­bly just spam was NOT what the FBI inves­ti­ga­tors con­clud­ed:

    ...
    Con­trary to ear­li­er report­ing in the New York Times, which cit­ed FBI sources as say­ing that the agency did not believe that the pri­vate serv­er in Don­ald Trump’s Trump Tow­er which was con­nect­ed to a Russ­ian bank had any nefar­i­ous pur­pose, the FBI’s counter-intel­li­gence arm, sources say, re-drew an ear­li­er FISA court request around pos­si­ble finan­cial and bank­ing offens­es relat­ed to the serv­er. The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the sec­ond was drawn more nar­row­ly and was grant­ed in Octo­ber after evi­dence was pre­sent­ed of a serv­er, pos­si­bly relat­ed to the Trump cam­paign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the Times sto­ry speaks of meta­da­ta, sources sug­gest that a FISA war­rant was grant­ed to look at the full con­tent of emails and oth­er relat­ed doc­u­ments that may con­cern US per­sons.
    ...

    So based on meta-data analy­sis the FBI con­clud­ed that the Trump Tow­er serv­er was maybe pos­si­bly just send­ing spam to the Alfa Bank (and SVB) servers. But the the nar­row­er FISA war­rant was grant­ed to exam­ine the full con­tent of emails and oth­er relat­ed doc­u­ments of the US per­sons involved. In oth­er words, those reports that came out a week before the elec­tion that the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion the Trump-
    Alfa con­nec­tion and found noth­ing weren’t fac­tor­ing in this addi­tion­al FISA-empow­ered inves­ti­ga­tion byt the FBI’s counter-intel­li­gence arm that allowed for emails and oth­er doc­u­ments to be exam­ined.

    So maybe Trump is right. Maybe the Trump Tow­er’s phones were tapped. Thanks to that shady Trump Tow­er serv­er and some for­eign intel­li­gence. And while it’s pos­si­ble Trump found out about this wire­tap­ping from with­in the gov­ern­ment, all indi­ca­tions are that he arrived at this con­clu­sion based on that arti­cle in Breibart which was a sum­ma­ry of a rant by Mark Levin that was based exclu­sive­ly on pub­lished arti­cles. And this is a ‘McCarthy­ist’ and ‘Nixonian/Watergate’ sce­nario in Trump’s mind despite the fact that the Heat Street arti­cle describes a legal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the wire­tap­ping if it took place.

    Also note that the Bre­it­bart arti­cle about Mark Lev­in’s radio show that laid out a case for inves­ti­gat­ing Barack Oba­ma for using ‘police state’ tac­tics against the Trump cam­paign specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­ences the above Heat Street arti­cle about the FISA war­rant suc­cess­ful­ly opened by the FBI to inves­ti­gate the Trump Tow­er server’s ties to Alpha Bank’s serv­er (#4 in Lev­in’s list of evi­dence). So it’s very pos­si­ble Trump is specif­i­cal­ly freak­ing out about that arti­cle about how the FBI had a FISA war­rant into the Alfa Bank and/or SVB Bank-relat­ed inves­ti­ga­tion when he was going on his twit­ter ram­page.

    It cer­tain­ly rais­es the ques­tion of why he’s so freaked out. It also rais­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Trump’s bom­bast and blus­ter may have act­ed as the oppo­site of a dis­trac­tion and instead helped focus pub­lic atten­tion on one of the most inter­est­ing pos­si­ble aspects of the inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump’s for­eign ties. Trump may have actu­al­ly blus­tered him­self from a bad sit­u­a­tion into a worse one. In oth­er words, if there is a ‘McCarthy­ist’ angle to all this it’s look­ing like a Melis­sa McCarthy­ist kind of angle.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 4, 2017, 4:24 pm
  5. Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty John Kel­ly shared some thoughts on Don­ald Trump’s wire­tap­ping accu­sa­tions on Mon­day: Kel­ly is pret­ty sure Trump has some sort of evi­dence for his claims. And he also does­n’t believe the reports that FBI Direc­tor James Comey was incred­u­lous over Trump’s tweets. So the head of DHS appears to believe Trump says and does things for good, valid rea­sons and not because he’s a dan­ger­ous lunatic: That does­n’t bode well:

    CNN

    Kel­ly on Trump’s wire­tap accu­sa­tion: ‘He’s got his rea­sons’

    By Daniel­la Diaz,
    Updat­ed 8:25 PM ET, Mon March 6, 2017

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN)Secretary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty John Kel­ly said that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump must have “con­vinc­ing evi­dence” for his alle­ga­tion on Twit­ter that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma ordered a wire­tap of his phones dur­ing the cam­paign.

    “I don’t know any­thing about it,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the Sit­u­a­tion Room. “If the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States said that, he’s got his rea­sons to say it.”

    Kel­ly con­tin­ued: “He must have some con­vinc­ing evi­dence that took place. ... I don’t pre­tend to even guess as to what the moti­va­tion may have been for the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion to do some­thing like that.”

    ...

    White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer, speak­ing at the White House on Mon­day, did not offer evi­dence to back up the claims, but dou­bled-down, say­ing, “There’s no ques­tion that some­thing hap­pened.”

    FBI Direc­tor James Comey was ‘incred­u­lous’ over Trump’s tweets

    Blitzer asked Kel­ly about CNN’s report that FBI Direc­tor James Comey was “incred­u­lous” over the week­end after see­ing Trump’s tweets accus­ing Oba­ma of wire­tap­ping. A source told CNN that Comey felt “insti­tu­tion­al­ly he has to push back on this” because of the mag­ni­tude of the alle­ga­tions that Comey knows not to be true.

    Kel­ly respond­ed by say­ing Comey is his “friend,” and said he does­n’t trust those reports.

    “With due respect to sources, I have been wrong so many times in the last six, sev­en weeks,” Kel­ly respond­ed. “(Sources) that were dead wrong. I don’t go much on sin­gle sources any­more.”

    Kel­ly said that he would expect Comey to turn Trump’s wire­tap alle­ga­tion over to “an inves­tiga­tive arm, and we can get to the truth or to the bot­tom line.”

    “Jim Comey is an hon­or­able guy,” he said. “And so is the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. And the Pres­i­dent must have his rea­sons.”

    “Kel­ly con­tin­ued: “He must have some con­vinc­ing evi­dence that took place. ... I don’t pre­tend to even guess as to what the moti­va­tion may have been for the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion to do some­thing like that.””

    Yes, accord­ing to the head of DHS, John Kel­ly, Trump must have some sort of con­vinc­ing evi­dence. He sim­ply must. Also, Kel­ly does­n’t trust those reports that FBI direc­tor James Comey was “incred­u­lous” over Trump’s tweet due to a lack of sourc­ing:

    ...
    Blitzer asked Kel­ly about CNN’s report that FBI Direc­tor James Comey was “incred­u­lous” over the week­end after see­ing Trump’s tweets accus­ing Oba­ma of wire­tap­ping. A source told CNN that Comey felt “insti­tu­tion­al­ly he has to push back on this” because of the mag­ni­tude of the alle­ga­tions that Comey knows not to be true.

    Kel­ly respond­ed by say­ing Comey is his “friend,” and said he does­n’t trust those reports.

    “With due respect to sources, I have been wrong so many times in the last six, sev­en weeks,” Kel­ly respond­ed. “(Sources) that were dead wrong. I don’t go much on sin­gle sources any­more.”

    Kel­ly said that he would expect Comey to turn Trump’s wire­tap alle­ga­tion over to “an inves­tiga­tive arm, and we can get to the truth or to the bot­tom line.”
    ...

    That’s right, the head of DHS is pret­ty con­fi­dent that Trump has “some con­vinc­ing evi­dence” to back up his claims and also that the reports that James Comey was­n’t very pleased with Trump’s tweets were prob­a­bly false.

    So what does Comey actu­al­ly think about all this? Well, aside from the reports that Kel­ly dis­missed about Comey’s out­rage over the tweets, there were the reports about what Comey told Trump. Which was noth­ing, accord­ing to the White House, since Trump has­n’t actu­al­ly asked Comey if the alleged wire­tap­ping took place:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Trump Has­n’t Asked FBI Direc­tor About Claims Oba­ma Wire­tapped Him

    By Esme Cribb
    Pub­lished March 7, 2017, 2:46 PM EDT

    White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said on Tues­day that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has not asked FBI Direc­tor James Comey for evi­dence to prove the unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claim that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma was “wire­tap­ping” Trump’s phones at Trump Tow­er ahead of the 2016 elec­tion.

    “It’s been a full three days since the Pres­i­dent said that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had his wires tapped, his phones tapped, at Trump Tow­er,” ABC’s Jon Karl said dur­ing Spicer’s dai­ly brief­ing. “In those three days has the White House come up with any evi­dence what­so­ev­er to prove that alle­ga­tion?”

    “I addressed this mul­ti­ple times yes­ter­day,” Spicer said. “We put out a state­ment on Sun­day say­ing we would have no fur­ther com­ment and we were ask­ing the house and the sen­ate intel­li­gence com­mit­tees to look into this con­cern and report back.”

    “Can’t the Pres­i­dent just ask the FBI direc­tor?” Karl pressed. “Has he asked him?”

    “No, the Pres­i­dent has not,” Spicer said.

    Spicer said that con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees are “the appro­pri­ate place” for an inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s alle­ga­tions.

    “I think there’s clear­ly a role that Con­gress can play with its over­sight capa­bil­i­ties,” Spicer said. “They have made it very clear they have the staff, the resources and the process.”

    He said that if the White House became involved in prov­ing Trump’s claims then the media would “write sto­ries” about it.

    “I think if we were to start to get involved you would then write sto­ries about how we were get­ting involved, so it’s a no-win sit­u­a­tion,” Spicer said.

    “Do you believe that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma ordered—” Karl began.

    “I’m not here to speak for myself,” Spicer said.

    The press sec­re­tary called it “a cute ques­tion to ask.”

    “My job is to rep­re­sent the Pres­i­dent and to talk about what he’s doing and what he wants,” Spicer said. “I’ll leave it at that. I think we’ve tried to play this game before.”

    In response to a lat­er ques­tion, Spicer said that he has not per­son­al­ly seen any evi­dence to sup­port Trump’s claims.

    “No, I’m not in a posi­tion that that would be reg­u­lar­ly part of my dai­ly duties for the Pres­i­dent to sit down and go through that,” he said. “That’s at prob­a­bly a lev­el above my pay grade.”

    ...

    “A car­di­nal rule of the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion was that no White House offi­cial ever inter­fered with any inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion led by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice,” Oba­ma spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a state­ment. “Nei­ther Pres­i­dent Oba­ma nor any White House offi­cial ever ordered sur­veil­lance on any U.S. cit­i­zen.”

    Spicer nev­er­the­less called on Sun­day for Con­gress to inves­ti­gate Trump’s claims, and House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R‑CA) said that his com­mit­tee will “make inquiries” into the alle­ga­tions.

    “Nei­ther the White House nor the Pres­i­dent will com­ment fur­ther until such over­sight is con­duct­ed,” Spicer said in a state­ment released Sun­day pri­or to his fur­ther com­ments on the mat­ter.

    ““No, the Pres­i­dent has not,” Spicer said.”

    Well, that’s a bit awk­ward. For every­one involved. Includ­ing all US cit­i­zens. But, hey, there must be some­thing that Trump was bas­ing his twee­t­rage on oth­er than that Bre­it­bart arti­cle, right? Right?!:

    CNN

    Birth of a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry: How Trump’s wire­tap claim got start­ed

    by Bri­an Stel­ter
    March 6, 2017, 11:20 AM ET

    An incen­di­ary idea first put for­ward by right-wing radio host Mark Levin is now burn­ing across Wash­ing­ton, fanned by Pres­i­dent Trump’s tweets and a huge num­ber of sup­port­ive com­men­ta­tors and web­sites — even though the facts don’t back up the con­clu­sion.

    Bre­it­bart News has giv­en the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry a name: “Deep­State­Gate.”. Oth­ers are going with “Oba­m­a­Gate.” And Fox News host Sean Han­ni­ty is ask­ing: “What did OBAMA know and when did he know it???”

    Lev­in’s orig­i­nal idea, advanced on Thurs­day, was that for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and his allies have mount­ed a “silent coup” against Trump using “police state” tac­tics. Levin cher­ry-picked news sto­ries that sup­port­ed his the­sis and omit­ted infor­ma­tion that cut against it.

    The next day, Rush Lim­baugh echoed Lev­in’s “silent coup” lan­guage, and Bre­it­bart colum­nist Joel Pol­lak pub­lished an “expand­ed ver­sion of that case.”

    That’s how the idea reached Trump’s radar. The Bre­it­bart arti­cle “cir­cu­lat­ed” in the West Wing, a White House offi­cial told CNN’s Jeff Zele­ny, and the infor­ma­tion “infu­ri­at­ed” Trump.

    To be clear, Levin and Lim­baugh and Pol­lak did­n’t pub­lish any orig­i­nal report­ing. They mere­ly claimed to have con­nect­ed some dots.

    The pres­i­den­t’s tweet­storm on Sat­ur­day morn­ing went even fur­ther than Levin and Pol­lak’s opin­ion pieces. Trump alleged that “Oba­ma was tap­ping my phones in Octo­ber,” just before Elec­tion Day, adding that he “just found out” about it.

    There is no evi­dence to back up this the­o­ry. While the gov­ern­ment has been inves­ti­gat­ing Russ­ian attempts to inter­fere with the elec­tion, a spokesman for Oba­ma called any sug­ges­tion that Oba­ma or any White House offi­cial ordered sur­veil­lance against Trump “sim­ply false.”

    “Most reporters I know are dig­ging on this,” CNN’s Jake Tap­per tweet­ed on Sun­day. “But every cur­rent intel voice is say­ing they know of noth­ing to back up this claim.”

    For­mer CIA offi­cer and inde­pen­dent pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Evan McMullin said on CNN’s “New Day” Mon­day morn­ing that Trump is “tak­ing action based on infor­ma­tion he’s receiv­ing from far-right, con­spir­a­to­r­i­al media out­lets.”

    “That is high­ly con­cern­ing,” he said.

    But some right-wing sites are treat­ing Trump’s unfound­ed claims like unde­ni­able fact. One of the top head­lines on The Gate­way Pun­dit on Sun­day read: “Incom­pe­tent AND Crim­i­nal: Oba­ma’s Wire­tap­ping of Pres­i­dent Trump Icing on the Cake of Worst Pres­i­dent Ever.”

    Oth­er sites are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tack, down­play­ing the sever­i­ty of the pres­i­den­t’s charges against his pre­de­ces­sor.

    Levin and Pol­lak’s opin­ion pieces relied heav­i­ly on anony­mous­ly sourced reports from the BBC, The Guardian and the new Mur­doch-owned con­ser­v­a­tive out­let Heat Street about requests under the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act from June and Octo­ber 2016.

    Wash­ing­ton Post fact-check­er Glenn Kessler said these are “sketchy, anony­mous­ly sourced reports.” CNN has not been able to con­firm them. But those reports, alleg­ing efforts by the FBI to mon­i­tor Trump asso­ciates with sus­pect­ed ties to Rus­sia, became the basis of the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry.

    Trump gen­uine­ly believes the reports, accord­ing to News­max CEO Chris Rud­dy, who said he spoke with the pres­i­dent twice on Sat­ur­day in Flori­da.

    “He is very con­fi­dent he will be proven right, said the first FISA was reject­ed, sec­ond one approved,” Rud­dy said in an email mes­sage on Sun­day.

    Rud­dy added that Trump “seemed to know the whole trails of the FISA actions and was recount­ing them to me.”

    This descrip­tion match­es what Bre­it­bart report­ed on Fri­day.

    Pol­lak post­ed a sto­ry on Sun­day night that reflect­ed the week­end’s suc­cess­ful refram­ing.

    “The spot­light is now on Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and his admin­is­tra­tion’s alleged sur­veil­lance of the Trump cam­paign,” he wrote, “as well as his aides’ report­ed efforts to spread dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about Trump.”

    Levin con­tin­ued to press the case on Sun­day through an appear­ance on Fox and a steady stream of social media posts.

    He dis­missed skep­ti­cal news reports as “fake news” and insult­ed indi­vid­ual jour­nal­ists who dis­agreed with him.

    ...

    “That’s how the idea reached Trump’s radar. The Bre­it­bart arti­cle “cir­cu­lat­ed” in the West Wing, a White House offi­cial told CNN’s Jeff Zele­ny, and the infor­ma­tion “infu­ri­at­ed” Trump.”

    So accord­ing to mul­ti­ple right-wing sources, includ­ing White House sources, that Bre­it­bart arti­cle was indeed the source of Trump’s orig­i­nal out­rage. And he appar­ent­ly has­n’t asked James Comey about it. So what about the fact that there are all these reports that Comey denies the wire­tap­ping alle­ga­tions? Does Trump share John Kel­ly’s sus­pi­cions that those reports are false? Well, accord­ing to a White House spokesper­son, sort of. But it’s not so much that Trump is sus­pi­cious of the reports that Comey reject­ed the wire­tap­ping claims. It’s that Trump does­n’t believe Comey report­ed denial that wire­tap­ping nev­er hap­pened

    Politi­co

    White House spokes­woman: Trump does­n’t believe Comey that Oba­ma did­n’t wire­tap

    By Louis Nel­son

    03/06/17 08:29 AM EST

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump does not accept an asser­tion from FBI Direc­tor James Comey that for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma did not order an ille­gal wire­tap of Trump Tow­er dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, a White House spokes­woman said Mon­day.

    Trump lev­eled the explo­sive accu­sa­tion on Twit­ter over the week­end, deliv­er­ing it with­out any evi­dence. Through a spokesman, Oba­ma has flat­ly denied the charge, as has James Clap­per, the for­mer direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence under Oba­ma. White House offi­cials have yet to offer any proof to back Trump’s claim, instead sug­gest­ing that the mat­ter should be inves­ti­gat­ed.

    And while Comey has not pub­licly addressed Trump’s alle­ga­tion, mul­ti­ple media out­lets have report­ed that he asked the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to knock down the president’s accu­sa­tion because it sug­gests that the FBI broke the law by car­ry­ing out the alleged wire­tap.

    Asked by ABC “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca” host George Stephanopou­los if Trump was will­ing to accept the denial of his FBI direc­tor, White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee Sanders said he was not.

    “You know, I don’t think he does, George,” Sanders said. “I think he firm­ly believes that this is a sto­ry­line that has been report­ed pret­ty wide­ly by quite a few out­lets. The wire­tap­ping has been dis­cussed in The New York Times, BBC, Fox News and we believe that it should be looked at by the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.”

    As he would wind up doing mul­ti­ple times through­out their inter­view, Stephanopou­los inter­ject­ed at that point to tell Sanders that what she had said was incor­rect and that none of the media reports to which she referred actu­al­ly backed up Trump’s accu­sa­tion. All told, the “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca” anchor stopped Sanders five times to cor­rect her over the course of their five-and-a-half minute inter­view.

    Asked if Trump had reached out to the FBI or any­one else in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, of which he is in charge, to ver­i­fy his claim that Oba­ma ille­gal­ly tapped his phones, Sanders said she did not know.

    ...

    “Asked by ABC “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca” host George Stephanopou­los if Trump was will­ing to accept the denial of his FBI direc­tor, White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee Sanders said he was not.”

    To sum­ma­rize, DHS chief John Kel­ly does­n’t know what evi­dence Trump has for his claims, but he’s pret­ty sure Trump has “some con­vinc­ing evi­dence” and is also pret­ty sure that those reports about James Comey’s incred­u­lous reac­tion to Trump tweets were false. Trump, on the oth­er hand, appears to have based his tweets sole­ly on the Bre­it­bart arti­cle and does­n’t believe Comey’s report­ed wire­tap­ping denials. And no one has actu­al­ly asked Comey.

    So what’s the plan from Team Trump? Are they just going to move for­ward with these charges and hope that Con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tions turn some­thing. up? Yes, that does indeed appear to be the plan. Along with the hope that right-wing media out­lets for basi­cal­ly turn Trump’s claims into “truth” through rep­e­ti­tion and a strong desire by the GOP, with near­ly unchecked pow­er but no abil­i­ty to gov­ern respon­si­bly, to keep Barack Oba­ma as a per­ma­nent right-wing boogey­man:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump and Repub­li­cans see a ‘deep state’ foe: Barack Oba­ma

    By David Weigel
    March 7, 2017 at 6:00 AM

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s week­end alle­ga­tions of a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to wire­tap his 2016 cam­paign con­fused intel­li­gence ana­lysts, befud­dled mem­bers of Con­gress and cre­at­ed fresh work for fact-check­ers. With­in 24 hours of his alle­ga­tions, made on Twit­ter, the admin­is­tra­tion con­ced­ed that the pres­i­dent was bas­ing his claim not on close­ly held infor­ma­tion, but on a Bre­it­bart News sto­ry quot­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive radio host and author Mark Levin.

    But in con­ser­v­a­tive media, where the claim orig­i­nat­ed, Trump has got­ten cred­it for crack­ing open a plot by a “deep state” of crit­ics and con­spir­a­tors to bring down his pres­i­den­cy. And the per­pe­tra­tor is for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    “It would [seem] that the ‘Rus­sia hack­ing’ sto­ry was con­coct­ed not just to explain away an embar­rass­ing elec­tion defeat, but to cov­er up the real scan­dal,” wrote Breitbart’s senior edi­tor-at-large Joel Pol­lak.

    “Trump con­founds these peo­ple because he’s always a step or two ahead,” Rush Lim­baugh told his lis­ten­ers on Mon­day. “It’s a direct line to the Demo­c­rat Par­ty and Oba­ma and mem­bers of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that Trump is sig­nal­ing, ‘You don’t face the usu­al feck­less bunch of oppo­nents who nev­er fight you back.’”

    Trump’s wire­tap alle­ga­tions com­plet­ed a feed­back loop that start­ed dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and has got­ten stur­dier since. The president’s media diet includes cable tele­vi­sion news shows, like “Fox and Friends,” where guests and hosts reg­u­lar­ly defend him. On Twit­ter, he fre­quent­ly ele­vates sto­ries that grew in con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio, or on sites like Bre­it­bart News and InfoWars, out of view of a star­tled main­stream media. Monday’s news cycle demon­strat­ed just how strong the loop was, as Levin him­self appeared on Fox News for 12 bare­ly inter­rupt­ed min­utes to share his the­o­ry that the alleged wire­tap­ping was a polit­i­cal hit job.

    “Don­ald Trump is the vic­tim. His cam­paign is the vic­tim,” said Levin, as a Fox News “alert” scrolled over the screen. “These are police state tac­tics. If this had been done to Barack Oba­ma, all hell would break loose. And it should.”

    A spokesman for the for­mer pres­i­dent denied that Oba­ma or a White House offi­cial request­ed sur­veil­lance of a U.S. cit­i­zen. And FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey asked the Jus­tice Depart­ment to issue a state­ment this week­end refut­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s charge (it has not thus far).

    Repub­li­cans in Con­gress tend to give the pres­i­dent the ben­e­fit of their doubt. In inter­views and com­ments since Sat­ur­day, they have sug­gest­ed that Trump over­stat­ed what was known — con­flat­ing, for exam­ple, media reports on wire­tap­ping with a grow­ing the­o­ry that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion seed­ed oper­a­tives through­out the gov­ern­ment to undo his pres­i­den­cy. But they have paired that cri­tique with promis­es to study what he’s alleged.

    “The pres­i­dent has at his fin­ger­tips tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in intel­li­gence appa­ra­tus,” said Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz (R‑Utah), chair­man of the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee, in a Mon­day inter­view with CBS News. “I think he might have some­thing there, but if not, we’re going to find out.”

    “The good news is there’s a paper trail, there’s a war­rant, there’s an appli­ca­tion, there’s judi­cial review,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R‑S.C.) in an inter­view Mon­day with radio host Lau­ra Ingra­ham, a die-hard Trump sup­port­er. “And right now the Jus­tice Depart­ment is not con­trolled by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. It’s con­trolled by Jeff Ses­sions.”

    Rep. Steve King (R‑Iowa), in a tweet to the pres­i­dent, went even fur­ther, say­ing that Trump “needs to purge Left­ists from exec­u­tive branch before dis­loy­al, ille­gal and trea­son­ist [sic] acts sink us.”

    That sto­ry line was build­ing long before Trump embraced it. Its ori­gins were rel­a­tive­ly banal. One week after the 2016 elec­tion, Oba­ma told mem­bers of his cam­paign group, Orga­niz­ing for Amer­i­ca, that the Trump years would be boom times for activism.

    “Now is the time for some orga­niz­ing,” Oba­ma said, accord­ing to a tran­script pub­lished by the White House at the time. “An elec­tion just fin­ished, so it’s not going to be straight polit­i­cal orga­niz­ing, but it is going to be rais­ing aware­ness; it’s going to be the work you’re doing in non­prof­its and advo­ca­cy and com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing. And over time, what’s going to hap­pen is, is that you will rein­vig­o­rate and inform our pol­i­tics in ways that we can’t antic­i­pate.”

    Since then, OFA, which has spent years as a punch­ing bag for Democ­rats who thought it divert­ed resources from the par­ty, has earned sur­pris­ing new sta­tus as a boogey­man. The rebuilt group has helped pro­mote and orga­nize protests and rau­cous town hall meet­ings to pres­sure Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress. On Feb. 18, New York Post colum­nist Paul Sper­ry tied togeth­er what was pub­licly known to pin the protests on Oba­ma and OFA.

    “It’s a rad­i­cal [Saul] Alin­sky group,” Sper­ry told Fox News’s Sean Han­ni­ty after the sto­ry ran. “It’s got a lot of mon­ey. And they’re train­ing an army of agi­ta­tors to sab­o­tage Trump and his poli­cies, while at the same time pro­tect­ing Obama’s lega­cy, like ‘Oba­macare’ and the ‘dream­ers.’ And here is OFA list­ed promi­nent­ly on Obama’s new Web site, OFA Orga­niz­ing for Action.

    ...

    The for­mer pres­i­dent has giv­en his bless­ing to the Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Redis­trict­ing Com­mit­tee, a project cre­at­ed to help his par­ty undo Repub­li­can-drawn leg­isla­tive maps. He made calls to help his for­mer sec­re­tary of labor Tom Perez become chair­man of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, and con­grat­u­lat­ed him when he won. And he record­ed a video for his post-pres­i­den­tial foun­da­tion, telling sup­port­ers that “true democ­ra­cy is a project that’s big­ger than any one of us.”

    Apart from that, Oba­ma has main­tained a low pro­file in the post-elec­tion world, with allies acknowl­edg­ing that he’s been absent as protests have built against his suc­ces­sor. At the NRDC’s Tues­day media brief­ing, for­mer attor­ney gen­er­al Eric H. Hold­er Jr. said that the for­mer pres­i­dent was ready to become a “more vis­i­ble” sup­port­er of the project.

    “It’s com­ing. He’s com­ing,” said. “And he’s ready to roll.”

    That com­ment caused a minor fren­zy with the online right. InfoWars, the con­spir­a­cy news site run by Alex Jones, repub­lished a sto­ry about the com­ment, and fol­lowed it with rumors about the new activ­i­ty. “Obama’s goal to ‘oust’ Trump from pres­i­den­cy via impeach­ment or res­ig­na­tion,” wrote InfoWars com­men­ta­tor Paul Joseph Wat­son on Thurs­day. On Fri­day, the site blew up a report about banks set­tling with non­prof­it groups after fraud law­suits to tell read­ers that Oba­ma had “fun­neled bil­lions to lib­er­al activist groups.”

    More main­stream sites have also stoked the­o­ries that Oba­ma was pulling strings. Last Wednes­day, the Dai­ly Mail pub­lished an inter­view with an unnamed “close fam­i­ly friend,” who claimed that for­mer White House advis­er Valerie Jar­rett had moved into Obama’s Kalo­rama home to help “mas­ter­mind the insur­gency” against Trump..

    “The Dai­ly Mail sto­ry is com­plete­ly false,” said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the for­mer pres­i­dent.

    But the Jar­rett sto­ry went viral on the right; on a Fox Busi­ness seg­ment over the week­end, radio host Tam­my Bruce cit­ed it as an “under­cov­ered” rev­e­la­tion that demon­strat­ed the forces arrayed against Trump. In her Mon­day inter­view with Gowdy, Ingra­ham argued that a Water­gate-lev­el scan­dal was build­ing — but at one point, she sug­gest­ed, hope­ful­ly, that the pres­i­dent was not sim­ply bas­ing his rhetoric on what was in con­ser­v­a­tive media.

    “He must know some­thing beyond what’s on Bre­it­bart,” Ingra­ham said.

    “I would hope,” said Gowdy, “giv­en the fact that he’s the leader of the free world.”

    “More main­stream sites have also stoked the­o­ries that Oba­ma was pulling strings. Last Wednes­day, the Dai­ly Mail pub­lished an inter­view with an unnamed “close fam­i­ly friend,” who claimed that for­mer White House advis­er Valerie Jar­rett had moved into Obama’s Kalo­rama home to help “mas­ter­mind the insur­gency” against Trump.”

    Yep, Barack Oba­ma is an evil mas­ter­mind cur­rent­ly plot­ting to lead “the insur­gency” to destroy Don­ald Trump and must be inves­ti­gat­ed by Con­gress. Push­ing that meme is the plan. And the more peo­ple ask the Trump admin­is­tra­tion for evi­dence of its claims, the more push­ing that meme is going to be the plan. And con­sid­er­ing that the heads of the intel­li­gence com­mit­tees in both the House and Sen­ate agreed to inves­ti­gate Trump’s claims, it would appear every­thing is going accord­ing to plan. At least so far.

    It’s all some­thing to keep in mind when John Kel­ly says Trump has “got his rea­sons” for act­ing like an unhinged lunatic over the mys­tery of the Alfa Bank FISA war­rant and wire­tap and con­stant­ly push­ing this “Oba­ma is out to get me!” meme despite a com­plete lack of evi­dence and an unwill­ing­ness to even talk to the direc­tor of the FBI about it. They may not be good rea­sons, but Trump and the rest of the far-right has them.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 7, 2017, 9:47 pm
  6. Don­ald Trump had an inter­est­ing mes­sage to FBI Direc­tor James Comey dur­ing a recent inter­view on the Fox Busi­ness Net­work: When asked if it was too late for Trump to fire Comey, Trump relied “No, it’s not too late...But you know I have con­fi­dence in him. We’ll see what hap­pens. It’s going to be inter­est­ing.” Yep, it’s going to be inter­est­ing. Not that the FBI’s strange posi­tion of inves­ti­gat­ing the Pres­i­dent that the FBI tried like hell to put in place was­n’t already inter­est­ing. It’s just more inter­est­ing now that Trump issued that bare­ly veiled threat to Comey:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Trump: ‘It’s Not Too Late’ To Boot FBI Direc­tor Comey (VIDEO)

    By Caitlin Mac­Neal
    Pub­lished April 12, 2017, 10:55 AM EDT

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump believes “it’s not too late” to ask for James Comey’s res­ig­na­tion, but he indi­cat­ed dur­ing a Tues­day inter­view on Fox Busi­ness Net­work that he does­n’t cur­rent­ly have plans to dis­miss the FBI direc­tor.

    “No, it’s not too late,” Trump said when Maria Bar­tiro­mo asked if it was too late to fire Comey. “But you know I have con­fi­dence in him. We’ll see what hap­pens. It’s going to be inter­est­ing.”

    Trump said he want­ed to “give every­one a good, fair chance,” but also argued that Comey had “saved” his Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial oppo­nent Hillary Clin­ton by not rec­om­mend­ing any crim­i­nal charges relat­ed to her use of a pri­vate email serv­er as sec­re­tary of state.

    “Don’t for­get, when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clin­ton,” Trump told Bar­tiro­mo. “Peo­ple don’t real­ize that. He saved her life. I call it ‘Comey I.’ And I joke about it a lit­tle bit.”

    ...

    “Trump said he want­ed to “give every­one a good, fair chance,” but also argued that Comey had “saved” his Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial oppo­nent Hillary Clin­ton by not rec­om­mend­ing any crim­i­nal charges relat­ed to her use of a pri­vate email serv­er as sec­re­tary of state.”

    In the same inter­view where Trump issues a “We’ll see...” threat to Comey’s job he lat­er sug­gests that Comey “saved” Hillary Clin­ton. Save her by not rec­om­mend­ing crim­i­nal charges in the inves­ti­ga­tion of her pri­vate email serv­er. An inves­ti­gat­ing that was always a bad par­ti­san joke. So, yes, one of the exam­ples of Trump’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Comey was how Comey did­n’t rec­om­mend charges in a high­ly par­ti­san inves­ti­ga­tion of a high lev­el politi­cian. And yes, he said this just weeks after we learn that the FBI had opened an inves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump cam­paign back in July, but nev­er revealed it to the pub­lic (while be very open about the inves­ti­ga­tions into Hillary’s email serv­er). And that inves­ti­ga­tion is ongo­ing:

    Politi­co

    Comey: FBI launched Trump-Rus­sia probe in July

    By Mar­tin Matishak
    03/20/17 11:58 AM EDT

    FBI Direc­tor James Comey told law­mak­ers Mon­day that his agency has been inves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble coor­di­na­tion between the Trump cam­paign and Russ­ian offi­cials since last July.

    The new­ly revealed time­line — which Comey detailed in a much-antic­i­pat­ed House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing — means the FBI probe was occur­ring dur­ing the peak of an alleged Russ­ian cam­paign to desta­bi­lize the pres­i­den­tial race and even­tu­al­ly help elect Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

    But Comey declined to com­ment on what kind of coor­di­na­tion or con­tacts between the Trump cam­paign and Moscow offi­cials the FBI was exam­in­ing.

    He also would­n’t dis­cuss whether the Trump team knew about any of the con­tacts var­i­ous Trump aides have acknowl­edged.

    Comey said he did­n’t know how long the inves­ti­ga­tion would ulti­mate­ly take.

    “There is no usu­al­ly,” he said. “It’s impos­si­ble to say, frankly.”

    But, Comey said, just because the probe has been ongo­ing since July does­n’t mean it’s close to wrap­ping up.

    ...

    “But, Comey said, just because the probe has been ongo­ing since July does­n’t mean it’s close to wrap­ping up.”

    So Trump’s “we’ll see...” threat to Comey is tak­ing place while the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia is still ongo­ing. Some might con­sid­er that con­spic­u­ous behav­ior. Although per­haps not as con­spic­u­ous as the behav­ior of the actu­al Trump team offi­cial who man­aged to get a FISA war­rant issued to inves­ti­gate his pos­si­ble ties to Moscow, which is anoth­er fun fact we learned short­ly before Trump did that “we’ll see...” inter­view:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Anoth­er Piece of the Trump Puz­zle: The Carter Page FISA War­rant

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Pub­lished April 11, 2017, 10:37 PM EDT

    The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a sto­ry this evening that adds a sig­nif­i­cant new piece to the Trump puz­zle. The head­line is that in the sum­mer of 2016 the FBI obtained a FISA war­rant to mon­i­tor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Carter Page, a key play­er in the Trump/Russia sto­ry. Obtain­ing a FISA war­rant is sig­nif­i­cant in itself since to do so the gov­ern­ment must show prob­a­ble cause that the tar­get of the war­rant is act­ing as the agent of a for­eign pow­er. What this means, what the gov­ern­ment has to show is set forth very specif­i­cal­ly in statute.

    Let me run through what I believe are the key points in this sto­ry.

    1. The arti­cle says that Page was the “only Amer­i­can to have had his com­mu­ni­ca­tions direct­ly tar­get­ed with a FISA war­rant in 2016 as part of the Rus­sia probe.” That’s a sig­nif­i­cant data point in itself since this appears to show cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly that none of the oth­er fre­quent­ly men­tioned play­ers were sur­veilled direct­ly.

    2. The war­rant was appar­ent­ly obtained in July 2016. At one point the arti­cle refers to the FISA war­rant being obtained “last sum­mer”. But lat­er it says the appli­ca­tion for a FISA war­rant “showed that the FBI and the Jus­tice Department’s nation­al secu­ri­ty divi­sion have been seek­ing since July to deter­mine how broad a net­work of accom­plices Rus­sia enlist­ed in attempt­ing to influ­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.” Ergo, I think we know that the appli­ca­tion was at least made in July. Con­ceiv­ably it was grant­ed in August. I’m not sure how long a peri­od there can be between the two.

    What else was hap­pen­ing in July? The first Wik­ileaks release of DNC emails was on July 22nd. Page him­self trav­eled to Moscow in ear­ly July and gave a speech there on July 7th. July was a crit­i­cal month on many fronts as you can see here. Was it one of these events that prompt­ed the FBI to seek the FISA war­rant? Some mix of both? Nei­ther?

    3. The Post reports, accord­ing to unnamed offi­cials, that “the government’s appli­ca­tion for the sur­veil­lance order tar­get­ing Page includ­ed a lengthy dec­la­ra­tion that laid out inves­ti­ga­tors’ basis for believ­ing that Page was an agent of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and know­ing­ly engaged in clan­des­tine intel­li­gence activ­i­ties on behalf of Moscow.”

    One part of the FBI’s case was the 2013 case — recent­ly report­ed — in which Russ­ian intel­li­gence oper­a­tives in the US met with and appar­ent­ly sought to recruit Page. But it says “the appli­ca­tion said Page had oth­er con­tacts with Russ­ian oper­a­tives that have not been pub­licly dis­closed.”

    On first blush, it’s not hard to imag­ine that the FBI’s atten­tion might be peaked by see­ing some­one who had ear­li­er met with Russ­ian intel­li­gence oper­a­tives and been the tar­get of recruit­ment pop­ping up as a major pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s advi­sor. But that does­n’t sound like it would have been enough to seek a FISA war­rant, let alone get one. The key point I think is that accord­ing to the Post’s account of knowl­edgable sources, the FBI believed it had evi­dence that Page “know­ing­ly engaged in clan­des­tine intel­li­gence activ­i­ties on behalf of Moscow.” That’s much more that cross­ing paths with the wrong peo­ple.

    For the moment, I don’t think this scoop dra­mat­i­cal­ly trans­forms our under­stand­ing of the broad­er sto­ry. But it con­firms and adds weight to a key part of it. The piece also pro­vides some inter­est­ing details about Page’s atten­dance at a num­ber of cam­paign pol­i­cy meet­ings. But these seem about what we’d expect of a named advi­sor. Not sur­pris­ing but good data points to have.

    The odd­i­ty of Page is that he cer­tain­ly was­n’t oper­at­ing under deep cov­er. Indeed, he parad­ed his pro-Russ­ian views wide­ly. In oth­er words, it’s not like Page was a mole — the most Rus­so­pho­bic advi­sor who turned out to be in Moscow’s employ. Page was right out in the open as a major crit­ic of US pol­i­cy who believed and said to all who’d lis­ten that the US should be far friend­lier to Rus­sia. Oth­er odd­i­ties are his con­stant press appear­ances. Why did he go on Chris Hayes show a few weeks ago? Why has he made so many press appear­ances, almost all of which have been han­dled weird­ly and bad­ly? Why has­n’t he just lawyered up and shut up? For that mat­ter, if Page was oper­at­ing as a Russ­ian agent, why would he trav­el to Moscow to give a speech harsh­ly crit­i­cal of the US a week before the con­ven­tion? Need­less to say, that’s cer­tain­ly going to draw atten­tion. It’s all a mys­tery.

    “The odd­i­ty of Page is that he cer­tain­ly was­n’t oper­at­ing under deep cov­er. Indeed, he parad­ed his pro-Russ­ian views wide­ly. In oth­er words, it’s not like Page was a mole — the most Rus­so­pho­bic advi­sor who turned out to be in Moscow’s employ. Page was right out in the open as a major crit­ic of US pol­i­cy who believed and said to all who’d lis­ten that the US should be far friend­lier to Rus­sia. Oth­er odd­i­ties are his con­stant press appear­ances. Why did he go on Chris Hayes show a few weeks ago? Why has he made so many press appear­ances, almost all of which have been han­dled weird­ly and bad­ly? Why has­n’t he just lawyered up and shut up? For that mat­ter, if Page was oper­at­ing as a Russ­ian agent, why would he trav­el to Moscow to give a speech harsh­ly crit­i­cal of the US a week before the con­ven­tion? Need­less to say, that’s cer­tain­ly going to draw atten­tion. It’s all a mys­tery.”

    Yep, if Carter Page was a Russ­ian agent he was a very con­spic­u­ous Russ­ian agent whose pri­ma­ry pur­pose for the Trump cam­paign appeared to be to look con­spic­u­ous­ly like a Russ­ian agent. As Josh Mar­shall puts it, it’s all a mys­tery. Worst. Agent. Ever. Unless con­spic­u­ous­ly seem­ing like a Russ­ian agent was his goal in which case he did a pret­ty good job.

    So Trump issues a pub­lic threat to Comey’s job right after we learn about this FISA war­rant that was issued for Carter Page as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion that was opened back in July. And while the tim­ing of this does seem incred­i­bly con­spic­u­ous and makes it seem like Trump is wor­ried about where the inves­ti­ga­tion into Carter Page is going, let’s not for­get that the inves­ti­ga­tion of Page isn’t the only aspect of the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble for­eign col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign that we also know is ongo­ing: the Trump server’s mys­te­ri­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Alfa bank. And based on this update from last month on where that inves­ti­ga­tion is head­ing, it sounds like inves­ti­ga­tors still have more ques­tions than answers about that sev­er mys­tery. In part because the sto­ries keep chang­ing. For instance, now we’re learn­ing that the Trump team is no longer claim­ing that the emails were actu­al­ly sent by a third par­ty con­trac­tor, Cen­dyn, to send Trump’s email spam. Why? Because the Trump team is now say­ing that it switched con­trac­tors back in March of 2016 to Ser­e­na­ta, a Ger­man con­trac­tor, and all these mys­tery com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the Trump serv­er and the Alfa serv­er took place lat­er in the year. In addi­tion, Ser­e­na­ta acknowl­edges it hired by Trump Hotels, but says it “nev­er has oper­at­ed or made use of” the domain in ques­tion: mail1.trump-email.com. And that’s the domain that Alfa’s serv­er kept look­ing up over and over and over. So that’s pret­ty inter­est­ing. Inter­est­ing­ly mys­te­ri­ous:

    CNN

    Sources: FBI inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues into ‘odd’ com­put­er link between Russ­ian bank and Trump Orga­ni­za­tion

    By Pamela Brown and Jose Pagliery,

    Updat­ed 6:00 AM ET, Fri March 10, 2017

    (CNN)Federal inves­ti­ga­tors and com­put­er sci­en­tists con­tin­ue to exam­ine whether there was a com­put­er serv­er con­nec­tion between the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and a Russ­ian bank, sources close to the inves­ti­ga­tion tell CNN.

    Ques­tions about the pos­si­ble con­nec­tion were wide­ly dis­missed four months ago. But the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI’s coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence team — the same one look­ing into Rus­si­a’s sus­pect­ed inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

    One U.S. offi­cial said inves­ti­ga­tors find the serv­er rela­tion­ship “odd” and are not ignor­ing it. But the offi­cial said there is still more work for the FBI to do. Inves­ti­ga­tors have not yet deter­mined whether a con­nec­tion would be sig­nif­i­cant.

    The serv­er issue sur­faced again this week­end, men­tioned in a Bre­it­bart arti­cle that, accord­ing to a White House offi­cial, sparked Pres­i­dent Trump’s series of tweets accus­ing inves­ti­ga­tors of tap­ping his phone.

    CNN is told there was no For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act war­rant on the serv­er.

    ...

    In addi­tion, com­pa­nies involved have pro­vid­ed CNN with new expla­na­tions that at times con­flict with each oth­er and still don’t ful­ly explain what hap­pened.

    The sto­ry — of a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion between com­put­er servers — is a strange tale because there are no spe­cif­ic alle­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing and only vague tech­ni­cal evi­dence.

    Inter­net data shows that last sum­mer, a com­put­er serv­er owned by Rus­sia-based Alfa Bank repeat­ed­ly looked up the con­tact infor­ma­tion for a com­put­er serv­er being used by the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion — far more than oth­er com­pa­nies did, rep­re­sent­ing 80% of all lookups to the Trump serv­er.

    It’s unclear if the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion serv­er itself did any­thing in return. No one has pro­duced evi­dence that the servers actu­al­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed.

    Slate and The New York Times were first to report the unusu­al serv­er activ­i­ty.

    The Times said the FBI had con­clud­ed there could be an “innocu­ous expla­na­tion.” And cyber­se­cu­ri­ty experts told CNN this isn’t how two enti­ties would com­mu­ni­cate if they want­ed to keep things secret.

    But for those who have stud­ied the data, the activ­i­ty could sug­gest an intent to com­mu­ni­cate by email dur­ing a peri­od of time when ties between the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and Rus­sia are being close­ly scru­ti­nized because of Rus­si­a’s alleged involve­ment in hack­ing the emails of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee and Hillary Clin­ton cam­paign chief John Podes­ta.

    This issue intrigued a dozen com­put­er researchers at a recent busi­ness con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. that pulled togeth­er the world’s top net­work oper­a­tors, the ones who help run the inter­net. To them, it’s a strange coin­ci­dence that mer­its fur­ther scruti­ny.

    ...

    What is known:
    Last year, a small group of com­put­er sci­en­tists obtained inter­net traf­fic records from the com­plex sys­tem that serves as the inter­net’s phone book. Access to these records is reserved for high­ly trust­ed cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firms and com­pa­nies that pro­vide this lookup ser­vice.

    These sig­nals were cap­tured as they trav­eled along the inter­net’s Domain Name Sys­tem (DNS).

    These leaked records show that Alfa Bank servers repeat­ed­ly looked up the unique inter­net address of a par­tic­u­lar Trump Orga­ni­za­tion com­put­er serv­er in the Unit­ed States.

    In the com­put­er world, it’s the equiv­a­lent of look­ing up some­one’s phone num­ber — over and over again. While there isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a phone call, it usu­al­ly indi­cates an inten­tion to com­mu­ni­cate, accord­ing to sev­er­al com­put­er sci­en­tists.

    What puz­zled them was why a Russ­ian bank was repeat­ed­ly look­ing up the con­tact infor­ma­tion for mail1.trump-email.com.

    Pub­licly avail­able inter­net records show that address, which was reg­is­tered to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion, points to an IP address that lives on an oth­er­wise dull machine oper­at­ed by a com­pa­ny in the tiny rur­al town of Lititz, Penn­syl­va­nia.

    From May 4 until Sep­tem­ber 23, the Russ­ian bank looked up the address to this Trump cor­po­rate serv­er 2,820 times — more lookups than the Trump serv­er received from any oth­er source.

    As not­ed, Alfa Bank alone rep­re­sents 80% of the lookups, accord­ing to these leaked inter­net records.

    Far back in sec­ond place, with 714 such lookups, was a com­pa­ny called Spec­trum Health.

    Spec­trum is a med­ical facil­i­ty chain led by Dick DeVos, the hus­band of Bet­sy DeVos, who was appoint­ed by Trump as U.S. edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

    Togeth­er, Alfa and Spec­trum account­ed for 99% of the lookups.

    This serv­er behav­ior alarmed one com­put­er expert who had priv­i­leged access to this tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion last year. That per­son, who remains anony­mous and goes by the moniker “Tea Leaves,” obtained this infor­ma­tion from inter­net traf­fic meant to remain pri­vate. It is unclear where Tea Leaves worked or how Tea Leaves obtained access to the infor­ma­tion.

    Tea Leaves gave that data to a small band of com­put­er sci­en­tists who joined forces to exam­ine it, sev­er­al mem­bers of that group told CNN, which has also reviewed the data.

    Pos­si­ble expla­na­tions
    The cor­po­ra­tions involved have dif­fer­ent the­o­ries to explain the serv­er activ­i­ty. But they haven’t pro­vid­ed proof — and they don’t agree.

    Alfa Bank has main­tained that the most like­ly expla­na­tion is that the serv­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion was the result of spam mar­ket­ing. Bank exec­u­tives have stayed at Trump hotels, so it’s pos­si­ble they got sub­se­quent spam mar­ket­ing emails from the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion. Those emails might have set off defen­sive cyber­se­cu­ri­ty mea­sures at the bank, whose servers would respond with a cau­tious DNS lookup. Alfa Bank said it used anti­spam soft­ware from Trend Micro, whose tools would do a DNS lookup to know the source of the spam.

    Alfa Bank said it brought U.S. cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm Man­di­ant to Moscow to inves­ti­gate. Man­di­ant had a “work­ing hypoth­e­sis” that the activ­i­ty was “caused by email marketing/spam” on the Trump server’s end, accord­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Alfa Bank and Man­di­ant. The pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion is now over, Alfa Bank said.

    Com­put­er sci­en­tists agree that such an expla­na­tion is pos­si­ble in the­o­ry. But they want to see evi­dence.

    Alfa Bank and Man­di­ant could not point to mar­ket­ing emails from the time peri­od in ques­tion. “Man­di­ant has found evi­dence of an old mar­ket­ing cam­paign, which... is too old to be rel­e­vant,” Alfa Bank said in a state­ment.

    CNN reached out to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion with detailed tech­ni­cal ques­tions but has not received answers.

    Cen­dyn is the con­trac­tor that once oper­at­ed mar­ket­ing soft­ware on that Trump email domain. In Feb­ru­ary, it pro­vid­ed CNN a Trump Orga­ni­za­tion state­ment that called the inter­net records “incom­plete” and stressed that they do not show any signs of “two-way email com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” That state­ment lends cred­i­bil­i­ty to the spam mar­ket­ing the­o­ry, because it says the Trump serv­er was set up in 2010 to deliv­er pro­mo­tion­al mar­ket­ing emails for Trump Hotels. But Cen­dyn acknowl­edged that the last mar­ket­ing email it deliv­ered for Trump’s cor­po­ra­tion was sent in March 2016, “well before the date range in ques­tion.”

    Spec­trum Health told CNN it “did find a small num­ber of incom­ing spam mar­ket­ing emails” from “Cen­dyn, adver­tis­ing Trump Hotels.” But it point­ed to emails sent in 2015, long before the May-through-Sep­tem­ber 2016 time peri­od exam­ined by sci­en­tists. Spec­trum Health said that it “has not been con­tact­ed by the FBI or any gov­ern­ment agency on this mat­ter.”

    Hav­ing the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion serv­er set up for mar­ket­ing also does­n’t explain why Alfa Bank and Spec­trum would stand out so much.

    “If it were spam, then a lot of oth­er orga­ni­za­tions would be doing DNS lookups. There would be evi­dence of wide­spread con­nec­tiv­i­ty with devices,” said L. Jean Camp, a com­put­er sci­en­tist at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty who has stud­ied the data.

    Cen­dyn has also pro­vid­ed anoth­er pos­si­ble expla­na­tion, sug­gest­ing a high­ly tech­ni­cal case of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.

    Cen­dyn rou­tine­ly repur­pos­es com­put­er servers — like the one used by the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion.

    Cen­dyn’s soft­ware, like its event plan­ning tool Metron, sends email and thus relies on the 20 dif­fer­ent email servers rent­ed by the com­pa­ny. After “a thor­ough net­work analy­sis,” Cen­dyn has said that it found a bank client had used Metron to com­mu­ni­cate with AlfaBank.com.

    But Alfa Bank stark­ly denies “any deal­ings with Cen­dyn.” And, it says, it’s unlike­ly that it received any emails from that serv­er. “Man­di­ant inves­ti­gat­ed 12 months of email archives and it found no emails to or from any of the IP address­es giv­en to us by the media.”

    On Wednes­day, Cen­dyn pro­vid­ed anoth­er expla­na­tion to CNN. Cen­dyn claims the Trump Hotel Col­lec­tion ditched Cen­dyn and went with anoth­er email mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, the Ger­man firm Ser­e­na­ta, in March 2016. Cen­dyn said it “trans­ferred back to” Trump’s com­pa­ny the mail1.trump-email.com domain.

    Ser­e­na­ta this week told CNN it was indeed hired by Trump Hotels, but it “nev­er has oper­at­ed or made use of” the domain in ques­tion: mail1.trump-email.com.

    Upon hear­ing that Cen­dyn gave up con­trol of the Trump email domain, Camp, said: “That does not make any sense to me at all. The more con­fus­ing this is, the more I think we need an inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    Oth­er com­put­er experts said there could be addi­tion­al lookups that weren’t cap­tured by the orig­i­nal leak. That could mean that Alfa’s pres­ence isn’t as dom­i­nant as it seems. But Dyn, which has a major pres­ence on the inter­net’s domain name sys­tem, spot­ted only two such lookups — from the Nether­lands on August 15.

    Alfa Bank insists that it has no con­nec­tions to Trump. In a state­ment to CNN, Alfa Bank said nei­ther it, bank cofounder Mikhail Frid­man and bank pres­i­dent Petr Aven “have had any con­tact with Mr. Trump or his orga­ni­za­tions. Frid­man and Aven have nev­er met Mr. Trump nor have they or Alfa Bank had any busi­ness deal­ings with him. Nei­ther Alfa Bank nor its offi­cers have sent Mr. Trump or his orga­ni­za­tion any emails, infor­ma­tion or mon­ey. Alfa Bank does not have and has nev­er had any spe­cial or exclu­sive inter­net con­nec­tion with Mr. Trump or his enti­ties.”

    Sci­en­tists now silent
    The bank told CNN it is now try­ing to iden­ti­fy the per­son or enti­ty who dis­sem­i­nat­ed this inter­net traf­fic. “We believe that DNS traf­fic in main­land Europe was delib­er­ate­ly cap­tured — in a man­ner that is uneth­i­cal and pos­si­bly ille­gal — in order to man­u­fac­ture the deceit,” it said.

    Fear has now silenced sev­er­al of the com­put­er sci­en­tists who first ana­lyzed the data.

    Tea Leaves refused to be inter­viewed by CNN and is now “hid­ing under a rock,” accord­ing to an inter­me­di­ary con­tact.

    Paul Vix­ie, who helped design the very DNS sys­tem the inter­net uses today, was quot­ed in the Slate sto­ry say­ing that Alfa Bank and the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion “were com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a secre­tive fash­ion.” Vix­ie declined to go on the record with CNN.

    Even the skep­tics have unan­swered ques­tions.

    Robert Gra­ham is a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty expert who wrote a wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed blog post in Novem­ber that crit­i­cized com­put­er sci­en­tists for pre­ma­ture con­clu­sions con­nect­ing the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and Alfa Bank.

    But he’s still won­der­ing why Alfa Bank and Spec­trum Health alone dom­i­nat­ed links to this Trump serv­er.

    “It’s indica­tive of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Trump, the health orga­ni­za­tion and the bank out­side these servers,” he told CNN. “There is some sort of con­nec­tion I can’t explain, and only they are doing it. It could be com­plete­ly inno­cent.”

    “Upon hear­ing that Cen­dyn gave up con­trol of the Trump email domain, Camp, said: “That does not make any sense to me at all. The more con­fus­ing this is, the more I think we need an inves­ti­ga­tion.””

    Yep, the mul­ti­ple sto­ries the Trump team was using to explain the Trump/Alfa serv­er mys­tery have com­plete­ly col­lapsed, in part because the sto­ries keep chang­ing:

    ...
    Alfa Bank has main­tained that the most like­ly expla­na­tion is that the serv­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion was the result of spam mar­ket­ing. Bank exec­u­tives have stayed at Trump hotels, so it’s pos­si­ble they got sub­se­quent spam mar­ket­ing emails from the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion. Those emails might have set off defen­sive cyber­se­cu­ri­ty mea­sures at the bank, whose servers would respond with a cau­tious DNS lookup. Alfa Bank said it used anti­spam soft­ware from Trend Micro, whose tools would do a DNS lookup to know the source of the spam.

    Alfa Bank said it brought U.S. cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm Man­di­ant to Moscow to inves­ti­gate. Man­di­ant had a “work­ing hypoth­e­sis” that the activ­i­ty was “caused by email marketing/spam” on the Trump server’s end, accord­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Alfa Bank and Man­di­ant. The pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion is now over, Alfa Bank said.

    Com­put­er sci­en­tists agree that such an expla­na­tion is pos­si­ble in the­o­ry. But they want to see evi­dence.

    Alfa Bank and Man­di­ant could not point to mar­ket­ing emails from the time peri­od in ques­tion. “Man­di­ant has found evi­dence of an old mar­ket­ing cam­paign, which... is too old to be rel­e­vant,” Alfa Bank said in a state­ment.

    CNN reached out to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion with detailed tech­ni­cal ques­tions but has not received answers.

    Cen­dyn is the con­trac­tor that once oper­at­ed mar­ket­ing soft­ware on that Trump email domain. In Feb­ru­ary, it pro­vid­ed CNN a Trump Orga­ni­za­tion state­ment that called the inter­net records “incom­plete” and stressed that they do not show any signs of “two-way email com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” That state­ment lends cred­i­bil­i­ty to the spam mar­ket­ing the­o­ry, because it says the Trump serv­er was set up in 2010 to deliv­er pro­mo­tion­al mar­ket­ing emails for Trump Hotels. But Cen­dyn acknowl­edged that the last mar­ket­ing email it deliv­ered for Trump’s cor­po­ra­tion was sent in March 2016, “well before the date range in ques­tion.”

    Spec­trum Health told CNN it “did find a small num­ber of incom­ing spam mar­ket­ing emails” from “Cen­dyn, adver­tis­ing Trump Hotels.” But it point­ed to emails sent in 2015, long before the May-through-Sep­tem­ber 2016 time peri­od exam­ined by sci­en­tists. Spec­trum Health said that it “has not been con­tact­ed by the FBI or any gov­ern­ment agency on this mat­ter.”

    Hav­ing the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion serv­er set up for mar­ket­ing also does­n’t explain why Alfa Bank and Spec­trum would stand out so much.

    “If it were spam, then a lot of oth­er orga­ni­za­tions would be doing DNS lookups. There would be evi­dence of wide­spread con­nec­tiv­i­ty with devices,” said L. Jean Camp, a com­put­er sci­en­tist at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty who has stud­ied the data.

    Cen­dyn has also pro­vid­ed anoth­er pos­si­ble expla­na­tion, sug­gest­ing a high­ly tech­ni­cal case of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.

    Cen­dyn rou­tine­ly repur­pos­es com­put­er servers — like the one used by the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion.

    Cen­dyn’s soft­ware, like its event plan­ning tool Metron, sends email and thus relies on the 20 dif­fer­ent email servers rent­ed by the com­pa­ny. After “a thor­ough net­work analy­sis,” Cen­dyn has said that it found a bank client had used Metron to com­mu­ni­cate with AlfaBank.com.

    But Alfa Bank stark­ly denies “any deal­ings with Cen­dyn.” And, it says, it’s unlike­ly that it received any emails from that serv­er. “Man­di­ant inves­ti­gat­ed 12 months of email archives and it found no emails to or from any of the IP address­es giv­en to us by the media.”

    On Wednes­day, Cen­dyn pro­vid­ed anoth­er expla­na­tion to CNN. Cen­dyn claims the Trump Hotel Col­lec­tion ditched Cen­dyn and went with anoth­er email mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, the Ger­man firm Ser­e­na­ta, in March 2016. Cen­dyn said it “trans­ferred back to” Trump’s com­pa­ny the mail1.trump-email.com domain.

    Ser­e­na­ta this week told CNN it was indeed hired by Trump Hotels, but it “nev­er has oper­at­ed or made use of” the domain in ques­tion: mail1.trump-email.com.

    Upon hear­ing that Cen­dyn gave up con­trol of the Trump email domain, Camp, said: “That does not make any sense to me at all. The more con­fus­ing this is, the more I think we need an inves­ti­ga­tion.”
    ...

    “On Wednes­day, Cen­dyn pro­vid­ed anoth­er expla­na­tion to CNN. Cen­dyn claims the Trump Hotel Col­lec­tion ditched Cen­dyn and went with anoth­er email mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, the Ger­man firm Ser­e­na­ta, in March 2016. Cen­dyn said it “trans­ferred back to” Trump’s com­pa­ny the mail1.trump-email.com domain.”

    So after all the pri­or expla­na­tions failed to pan out, Cen­dyn sud­den­ly seems to recall that it it was no longer the com­pa­ny Trump con­tract­ed to send its spam emails dur­ing the peri­od in ques­tion because Trump Hotels hired a Ger­man firm to do that work instead. And yet the com­pa­ny that Cen­dyn sud­den­ly remem­bers trans­fer­ring the mail1.trump-email.com domain to, Ser­e­na­ta, claims it “nev­er has oper­at­ed or made use of” that domain. Yeah, that’s inter­est­ing.

    And note this fun fact:

    ...
    As not­ed, Alfa Bank alone rep­re­sents 80% of the lookups, accord­ing to these leaked inter­net records.

    Far back in sec­ond place, with 714 such lookups, was a com­pa­ny called Spec­trum Health.

    Spec­trum is a med­ical facil­i­ty chain led by Dick DeVos, the hus­band of Bet­sy DeVos, who was appoint­ed by Trump as U.S. edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

    Togeth­er, Alfa and Spec­trum account­ed for 99% of the lookups.
    ...

    “Spec­trum is a med­ical facil­i­ty chain led by Dick DeVos, the hus­band of Bet­sy DeVos, who was appoint­ed by Trump as U.S. edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.”

    Spec­trum Health is owned by *drum­roll* the DeVos clan! Yowza.

    And don’t for­get, the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion into this whole thing remains open:

    ...
    Ques­tions about the pos­si­ble con­nec­tion were wide­ly dis­missed four months ago. But the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI’s coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence team — the same one look­ing into Rus­si­a’s sus­pect­ed inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

    One U.S. offi­cial said inves­ti­ga­tors find the serv­er rela­tion­ship “odd” and are not ignor­ing it. But the offi­cial said there is still more work for the FBI to do. Inves­ti­ga­tors have not yet deter­mined whether a con­nec­tion would be sig­nif­i­cant.
    ...

    Also recall that it was the inves­ti­ga­tion of that Trump-con­tract­ed serv­er that Trump based his entire “the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion wire­tapped Trump Tow­er! This is worse than Water­gate!” hys­ter­ics. .

    So while it’s pos­si­ble Trump’s pub­lic threat against James Comey was pri­mar­i­ly due to anx­i­ety over the recent reports about a FISA war­rant being issued against Carter Page (reports which sug­gest that there was strong evi­dence Page might be work­ing for a for­eign pow­er), let’s keep in mind that when it comes to con­spic­u­ous behav­ior it’s hard to get more con­spic­u­ous than Trump has been act­ing around that Alfa serv­er sto­ry. And it’s still an open FBI inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Hope­ful­ly it gets some extra FBI inves­ti­gat­ing now that Trump pub­licly threat­ened Comey’s job.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 12, 2017, 3:09 pm
  7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4432052/3‑killed-shooting-Russian-intelligence-agencys-office.html#ixzz4ewSqEGmY

    Teenage Neo-Nazi gun­man storms Russ­ian intel­li­gence agency killing two peo­ple before being shot dead

    By Dar­ren Boyle for MailOn­line
    PUBLISHED: 06:14 EDT, 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:23 EDT, 21 April 2017

    - One FSB agent and a civil­ian were killed in the shoot­ing in Khabarovsk, Rus­sia
    — Police believe a teenage neo-Nazi was respon­si­ble for today’s fatal attack 
    — One per­son was wound­ed and the gun­man was also shot dead dur­ing the attack
    — The man opened fire at offi­cials as he approached a met­al detec­tor  

    Rus­si­a’s FSB intel­li­gence agency says three peo­ple were killed — includ­ing the attack­er — and one wound­ed in an armed attack at its office in the Far East.

    The FSB, the main suc­ces­sor to the KGB, said in a state­ment on Fri­day that an uniden­ti­fied man passed by met­al detec­tors, entered the recep­tion area of the FSB’s office in Khabarovsk and opened fire at the peo­ple who were there. 

    One FSB offi­cer and one vis­i­tor were killed on spot and one was wound­ed. Secu­ri­ty shot dead the attack­er.

    An attack­er opened fire at the FSB’s head­quar­ters build­ing in Khabarovsk, east­ern Rus­sia.  

    The FSB would not imme­di­ate­ly release any details about the shoot­er.

    Social media users post­ed pic­tures of police cor­dons around the FSB build­ing in Khabarovsk with spe­cial forces stand­ing by.

    Accord­ing to the Tass news agency: ‘At 17:02 local time (06:02 GMT), an uniden­ti­fied man entered the FSB receiv­ing office and opened fire before cross­ing the con­trol zone.’ 

    One FSB offi­cer and a civil­ian were killed, while anoth­er vis­i­tor suf­fered gun­shot wounds.

    The gun­man, who has been iden­ti­fied as A.V. Konev, is believed to be 18. 

    A spokesman said: ‘Some infor­ma­tion points to his being a mem­ber of a neo-Nazi group.’ 

    Dead­ly attacks on Russ­ian law enforce­ment offi­cials are rare out­side the coun­try’s volatile North Cau­ca­sus region.

    The coun­try has seen sig­nif­i­cant sup­port for far-right groups that have sparked bru­tal con­fronta­tions with immi­grants from the for­mer Sovi­et region.

    Despite stok­ing nation­al­ist sen­ti­ment since the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, the author­i­ties under Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin have also cracked down on neo-Nazi extrem­ists.

    The coun­try has been on height­ened alert since an alleged sui­cide bomb attack on the metro in the sec­ond city of Saint Peters­burg on April 3 left 15 peo­ple dead.

    Posted by A. Webster | April 21, 2017, 7:04 pm

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