Trump’s Campaign 18 Secret Contact With Russian – Bombshell or Dud

INDEPENDENT [UK] – Andrew Griffin, 5/18/17

Headline – Donald Trump campaign repeatedly met with Russia to set up secret communications channel, report reveals

Tagline – Previously secret meetings revealed ahead of huge FBI investigation

Opening Paragraph – Donald Trump’s campaign made contact with Russia at least 18 times during his presidential race {April and November 2016}, according to a new report {Reuters article cited below}.  The interactions had previously been kept secret {e.g. not disclosed to the Independent} by the campaign but are now being reviewed as part of the FBI and congressional investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia.

Later the author acknowledged that that the “In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak {Russian Ambassador} and Trump advisers during that time.

{Is is reasonable to speculate that these are UNMASKED NSA intercepts? Confirmed by Reuters “Members of the Senate and House intelligence committees have gone to the CIA and the National Security Agency to review transcripts and other documents related to contacts between Trump campaign advisers and associates and Russian officials and others with links to Putin, people with knowledge of those investigations told Reuters”}

Before going further let’s get the most important item out front [emphasis mine] :

The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far {have only part of 18 have been reviewed or are more expected?}. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.

NB! Pressure to provide the FBI with full account of interactions will come in the form of a subpoena.   The Congressional Investigations also have subpoena power if they choose to use them, even though executive privilege will be an issue.

Bombshell No. 1 –

Conversations between members of Trump’s team and high-ranking officials including setting up a special backchannel for communications between the President and Putin, Reuters reported. That would allow the two talk without involving US national security officials. {NSA or White House National Security Council?}

The Washington Post Reported on this on April 3rd 2017 therefore not so secret:

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show {to each or in total?}. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

Bloomberg links also links Prince to the Trump campaign:

In the very public, post-election parade of dignitaries, confidantes and job-seekers filing in and out of Donald Trump’s marquee Manhattan tower, Blackwater founder Erik Prince was largely out of sight. And yet Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with his{Prince’s}activities.

In the Post Article, op. cit., both the White House and Prince deny any connection:

“We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

A Prince spokesman said in a statement: “Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”

Remaining Bombshells –

The Reuters Article which was the source for the Independent article provides more details:

Six {33%} of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.  {Where the conversations prior to Nov 8th, the previously disclosed chance meeting at public events?}

… discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said.  {sounds to me like things that incoming administration would want to discuss, no reports of collusion to influence elections}

One of those contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician, according to one person with detailed knowledge of the exchange and two others familiar with the issue.

It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation, the sources said. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Medvedchuk denied having any contact with anyone in the Trump campaign.  {Sounds like this is no consensus on what constitutes “Trump Campaign”}

“I am not acquainted with any of Donald Trump’s close associates, therefore no such conversation could have taken place,” he said in an email to Reuters.

In the conversations during the campaign, Russian officials emphasized a pragmatic, business-style approach and stressed to Trump associates that they could make deals by focusing on common economic and other interests and leaving contentious issues aside, the sources said.  {real bombshell there}




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