Day 281: Significant concerns.
1/ Trump hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia because Rex Tillerson dissolved the office that implements them. After the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy office was eliminated just one mid-level official is now responsible for coordinating the implementation of sanctions across the State Department and other government agencies. The administration missed the October 1st deadline to implement new penalties against Russia, which were adopted by Congress in August. (Foreign Policy / The Hill)
2/ Trump claimed that it’s “commonly agreed” that he didn’t collude with Russia. Instead, he accused Hillary Clinton of working with the Kremlin amid reports that Clinton and the DNC paid for the dossier of accusations about Trump and his ties to Russia. Trump tweeted that “after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!” (Politico / The Hill)
It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2017
- Two top Democrats denied knowledge of payments to the firm behind the Trump dossier. Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz both privately told congressional Russia investigators that they did not know who had paid Fusion GPS for opposition research on Trump. (CNN)
3/ Republican lawmakers intend to wind down their Trump-Russia investigations even though the issue of collusion remains unresolved. The Senate Intelligence Committee wants the panel’s investigation to end by February – ahead of the first 2018 primary elections – while the House Intelligence Committee hopes to finish before that. (Politico)
- Feinstein demands White House hand over details on Russia, Comey firing. “The Judiciary Committee requested documents related to the White House’s interactions with FBI Director James Comey regarding the FBI’s investigation of alleged ties between President Trump’s associates and Russia, or the [Hillary] Clinton email investigation. … To date, we have received no response to these requests,” Feinstein wrote in a wide-ranging letter to White House counsel Don McGahn. (The Hill)
4/ The memo Natalia Veselnitskaya brought to the Trump Tower meeting was coordinated with the Kremlin, undercutting the Russian lawyer’s claim that she was an independent actor when she sat down with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. In the months before the meeting, Veselnitskaya had discussed allegations that Democratic donors were guilty of financial fraud and tax evasion with Russia’s prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. The memo she brought to the meeting closely followed a document that Chaika’s office had given to Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who is considered to be one of the most pro-Russia lawmakers in Congress and who heads a subcommittee that helps oversee U.S. policy toward Russia. (New York Times)
5/ Kellyanne Conway “can’t be bothered” that the Trump campaign’s data analytics firm attempted to partner with WikiLeaks. During the campaign, Cambridge Analytica reached out to WikiLeaks about locating Hillary Clinton’s emails. Julian Assange declined to work with the firm. Conway was Trump’s campaign manager at the time and said she knows “nothing about that.” (The Hill)
- A Trump donor asked Cambridge Analytica to better organize the Hillary Clinton’s emails released by WikiLeaks. Rebekah Mercer wanted to index the WikiLeaks emails to make them more searchable so they could be leveraged by the Trump campaign or a super PAC. (Wall Street Journal)
6/ Trump personally directed the Justice Department to lift an FBI informant’s gag order so they could testify to Congress about Russia’s attempt to gain influence in the uranium industry in the United States during the Obama administration. The request is unusual for two reasons: 1) The DOJ limits the White House’s involvement in criminal law enforcement, and 2) the request is related to Obama and the Clintons.
Before Obama approved the 2010 deal to give Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had evidence showing Russian nuclear officials routing millions of dollars to the US designed to benefit Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. She was not involved in the review by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which approved the deal. (CNN / The Hill)
7/ The Whitefish contract with Puerto Rico doesn’t allow the government to “audit or review the cost and profit elements” under the agreement. FEMA said in a statement that it was looking into whether the contract “followed applicable regulations to ensure that federal money is properly spent.” The statement added that FEMA “has significant concerns over how PREPA [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable.” (The Hill / Washington Post)
8/ The White House claimed it had no involvement in the Whitefish Energy deal. “This is a contract that was determined by the local authorities in Puerto Rico, not something that the federal government played a role in,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told Trump that “we have no role, the federal government, specifically he had no role in that contract.” (Associated Press / Politico)
9/ The White House: All of the women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment are lying. Last week Trump called accusations of sexual harassment by at least 16 women “fake news.” During a White House briefing, a reporter asked if the official position is that all of the women are lying. “Yeah,” Sanders said, “we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president’s spoken on it.” (Washington Post)
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