Corsi and Wikileaks. Mueller's team reportedly obtained communications indicating Jerome Corsi, a right-wing conspiracy theorist, may have known about Podesta's stolen emails before Wikileaks published them. Sources state Mueller is investigating if Corsi told Stone, who passed on the information to Trump's team. Mueller also has emails sent to members of Trump's team in which Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi "take credit" for the release of Podesta's emails.
- NBC News: "Mueller subpoenaed Corsi in September, and he turned over computer, phone, and email records, the source said. Mueller's investigators have spent weeks interviewing many of his contacts, asking them what he said about WikiLeaks, the source said. Questioned by Mueller's prosecutors about why he appeared to know before anyone else that WikiLeaks had Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails, Corsi told them he simply figured it out on his own, the source said."
Corsi and Stone. CNN also reported on Mueller's investigation of Stone and Corsi, stating that Mueller's team may be skeptical of Stone's claim that Randy Credico was his main intermediary to Wikileaks; Jerome Corsi is suspected of being a second go-between for Stone and Assange. Additionally, sources told CNN Mueller has recordings of Stone stating he regularly talked to Trump in early 2016, providing the opportunity for information to have been passed along.
Stone pardon. Mother Jones reviewed text messages written by Roger Stone in which he admitted to "working with others" to obtain a "blanket pardon" for Julian Assange of Wikileaks. The messages, sent to Randy Credico, also included a warning: "It's very real and very possible. Don't fuck it up."
- Stone has confirmed he attempted to get a pardon for Assange and admitted to urging Andrew Napolitano, of Fox News, to support such a pardon. Credico claims the plan was for Napolitano to "float the idea on his show of directly to Trump."
- Former prosecutor Paul Rosenzweig told Mother Jones: "An effort by Stone to try to help Assange secure a pardon could be considered evidence of a conspiracy to obstruct justice."
- Note: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher also advocated for a pardon. After a three-hour meeting with Assange in London, Rohrabacher pitched Chief of Staff John Kelly on a plan to pardon him in exchange for proof Assange claims would prove Russia did not hack the DNC. Kelly reportedly did not pass the idea on to Trump.
Saudi meetings. Mueller has reportedly been looking into meetings in January 2017, shortly before Trump's inauguration, between a Saudi intelligence chief, Joel Zamel, Michael Flynn, and other transition team members. They met to discuss "a multi-pronged strategy" for ending the Iranian regime. George Nader, who is cooperating with Mueller, attended and brokered the meeting, seen as an attempt by foreign governments to gain influence in Trump's White House.
- Joel Zamel has been under scrutiny previously for his role in influencing the 2016 election. While representing his company, Psy-Group, he pitched the Trump campaign on an online manipulation campaign that involved the usage of thousands of fake social media accounts to help get Trump elected.
- Former CIA acting director John McLaughlin: "It's concerning to me as a former intelligence official because of the fact that it smacks of covert action planning, which is the most sensitive thing the U.S. government does and is so uniquely the province of the sitting president."
Agalarov's accounts. Mother Jones reported that US banks closed accounts used by Aras Agalarov's development company, partly because of suspicious transactions he made just after the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Agalarov helped organize the Trump Tower meeting and was integral in Trump's 2013 Moscow Miss Universe pageant. Agalarov's lawyer confirmed the accounts were closed, but implied it was because of the leaking of the suspicious transaction reports from a FinCEN official to Buzzfeed News. When asked for clarification, he did not respond.
- In September, "BuzzFeed revealed that 11 days after the meeting, on June 20, 2016, Agalarov used a company based in the British Virgin Islands to send $19.5 million to an account at Morgan Stanley. That day, a business tied to Crocus International also sent $43,000 to the same Morgan Stanley account. The article also notes that banks flagged as suspicious 19 wire transfers from Russia to a checking account controlled by Emin Agalarov. Those transfers, which began 13 days after election day, totaled $1.2 million."
Mifsud alive? The AP published an investigation of Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who allegedly told George Papadopoulos that the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Despite speculation that Mifsud was dead, his lawyer states he is alive and well, but hiding "under instruction of the intelligence agencies." His lawyer further claims unidentified spies were trying to keep Mifsud quiet so Trump could be discredited.
- The AP investigation "documented at least three previous efforts by Mifsud to drop out of the public eye after being caught up in controversies." It would seem to be his modus operandi when his actions catch up with him.
More Russia connections
INF Treaty. John Bolton announced the US is withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which prohibits all ground-based missiles with ranges between 300-3,300 miles.
- Generally, Russia does not seem to be bothered by the potential dissolution of the treaty. Experts state in the short term, Russia will benefit from the dissolution of the treaty as it has ground-based missiles "that are much closer to being deployable than the United States' missiles."
- Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono stated that she believes pulling out of the treaty is in Putin's interest, calling it a "gift to Putin." She argued that "Putin would like that to happen so that he can be unfettered in his aggression." At a speech recently, Putin joked about nuclear Armageddon.
- Ambassador Richard Burt, one of the chief negotiators in arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union, said, "You have to hand it to the Russians for their deft handling of this. The U.S. pulled out of a treaty the Russians never liked."
Trump-Putin meeting. After meeting with Putin for 90 minutes, John Bolton announced two upcoming summits between Trump and Putin, reversing the White house's previous position that no meeting would occur until after the completion of Mueller's investigation. On November 11th, both presidents will be in Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the WW1 armistice. The second meeting is set to occur next year – Bolton announced Trump invited Putin to Washington D.C. in early 2019.
Russian sanctions. Additionally, after meeting with Putin, John Bolton saidsanctions imposed by the US to punish Russia for the poisonings of former spy Skripal are still unsettled. The administration is "still considering what we may be obligated to do," Bolton told the press. The US State Department enacted sanctions against Russia under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act.
Russian interference. John Bolton told Putin and the press in Moscow that there is no evidence Russian efforts materially affected the outcome of the 2016 election. A Russian radio station has quoted Bolton as saying: "Today I told our Russian colleagues that their meddling in our election process had hardly had any real effect. But the important thing is the desire for interfering in our affairs itself arouses distrust in Russian people, in Russia."
Spying on Trump. US spy agencies have learned that China and Russia are eavesdropping on Trump's cellphone calls, which he insists on making from unsecured phones despite warnings from aides and intel specialists. Aides have given up trying to persuade him to give up his personal iPhone, hoping he wasn't discussing classified information because "he rarely digs into the details of intelligence he is shown and is not well versed" in the specifics of covert activity.
- Of the two nations, "Russia is not believed to be running as sophisticated an influence effort as China because of Mr. Trump's apparent affinity for President Vladimir V. Putin." So essentially, Russia is believed to be comfortable enough with Trump's love of Putin to not worry about trying to influence him – they know he already has Russia's back.
- China is "seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further."
Countermeasures. US Cyber Command announced a campaign targeting Russian operatives in an attempt to protect our elections. Operatives are identified and warned that their work is being tracked, in the hopes of deterring them from continued action.
- NYT: "Senior defense officials said they were not directly threatening the operatives. Still, former officials said anyone singled out would know, based on the United States government's actions against other Russian operatives, that they could be indicted or targeted with sanctions."
USA Really. The Russian media company USA Really admitted their Chief Financial Officer is Elena Khusyaynova, the Russian woman indicted by the DOJ two weeks ago for acting as the financier for a Russian disinformation campaign called Project Lahtka. USA Really is a DC-based website that tries to appear American.
Sayoc's Kremlin. The Washington Post detailed the references to Russia and its narratives found in mail bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc's social media accounts. In addition to referring to "my Russian brothers," Sayoc posted pro-Kremlin views and promoted Kremlin propaganda. Note, this is not to say he was in any way a Russian operative.
Papadopoulos testimony. George Papadopoulos testified before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees for seven hours on Thursday. Republicans left the interview decrying the FBI, arguing Papadopoulos's testimony proved the investigation into Trump's campaign should never have been opened. Democrats, on the other hand, found no value in his testimony, finding it not to be credible and the product of a "right-wing echo chamber."
- Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas: "We continue to question why the FBI and the Department of Justice felt there was probable cause to be looking at figures like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who had either minimal or non-existent contacts with the Russian government."
Papadopoulos immunity. In contrast to his voluntary testimony before the House, Papadopoulos is requesting immunity before testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Senate is conducting a different kind of investigation, focusing on Russian meddling and possible collusion. The House is instead investigating how the FBI and the DOJ handled investigations into Hillary Clinton and Russia. Thus, the House committees are more friendly to Papadopoulos.
Cyberattacks. The FBI has opened an investigation into cyberattacks against a Democratic candidate in a primary election in California. "Democrat Bryan Caforio was the victim of what cybersecurity experts believe were distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks. The hacks crashed his campaign website on four separate occasions over a five-week span, including several hours before the biggest debate of the primary race and a week before the election itself."
Zervos lawsuit. A judge has ruled Trump must answer questions related to claims made by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the Apprentice, who alleges Trump defamed her by denying he kissed and groped her against her will. While the judge also ruled Trump didn't have to answer questions about accusations made by other women, he will have to turn over documents related to "whether he had a strategy in responding" to allegations by other women that are already public.
- WaPo: "So far, Zervos's case has overcome multiple efforts by Trump's attorneys to kill or stall it in New York state. Lawyers for Zervos have started gathering pretrial evidence — including written answers from Trump — and may get the chance to depose him in the coming months."
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