Attorney General Sessions SF-86 scandal, a Nothing Burger

In their May 25th article First on CNN: AG Sessions did not disclose Russia meetings in security clearance form, DOJ says they report:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.

Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn’t note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list “any contact” he or his family had with a “foreign government” or its “representatives” over the past seven years, officials said.

They go on to report, emphasis mine:

Sessions initially listed a year’s worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security clearance form, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. But she says he and his staff were then told by an FBI employee who assisted in filling out the form, known as the SF-86, that he didn’t need to list dozens of meetings with foreign ambassadors that happened in his capacity as a senator.

In an update CNN’s reporter Evan Perez and Manu Raju added, emphasis mine:

“As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” spokesman Ian Prior said. “In filling out the SF-86 form, the Attorney General’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

They went on to impeach this advice with their own expert Mark Zaid, emphasis mine:

My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business,”

My question to CNN is why didn’t you go to the National Background Investigations Bureau, the agency responsible for doing background investigation since it creation by President Obama in January of 2016.  I suspect, but obviously don’t know, that NBIB would have been “those familiar with the process” in the DOJ statement.

In my humble opinion, to quote Hillary “a nothing burger”

My inquiry to NBIB:

To  fisinquiries@opm.gov

In an article re: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ SF-86 CNN reports that he did not disclose meeting with the Russian Ambassador, in his capacity as a Senator.

The story references a DOJ  statement indicating that:

“”As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” spokesman Ian Prior said. “In filling out the SF-86 form, the Attorney General’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

What guidance does NBIB provide Congressional applicants regarding meetings with foreign officials in their official capacity?

June 9th Update

In a new story CNN again reports speculation (may, if, maybe, could, possibility …)  as fact, the article Blumenthal: If Sessions had 3rd, undisclosed Russian meeting, it ‘could be perjury’

CNN facts:

  • FBI Director James Comey told senators in a closed hearing that Sessions may have had a third interaction with Russia’s ambassador to the US, according to people familiar with the briefing.
  • Comey explained that the possibility there could have been another encounter was not something he wanted to discuss in the earlier public hearing, according to a source familiar with the briefing.
  • Comey told senators in the closed hearing that Sessions may have had a third interaction with Sergey Kislyak. That information is based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts, and Kislyak might have exaggerated the encounter, sources said.

    Note:  CNN is potentially disclosing “methods & sources” with this, if the subject Kislyak communication was by a secure channel, they now know that US has access to that channel and has broken the encryption.  If it wasn’t a secure channel then the probability of disinformation is very high.

    This is similar to the Kushner/Kislyak intercept reported by Washington Post.

 

 

 

Jared Kushner’s Ties to Abuse of EB-5 Visa Program

The following Huffington Post’s May 29th shot at the Administration has shown up on my FB Wall, posted by some progressive friends.

China

As best I can tell the Huffington Post is just regurgitating, with a sensational headline, a May 12th Reuters article, articles in other news outlets and Senator Grassley’s May 24th letter and his earlier May 10th letter on the same subject.  With no discernible original reportage.

As with most of these clickbait type news reports, you need to start with the final paragraph, in this case:

In his letter, the senator asked for responses [from DHS & SEC] by June 7 to inquiries about how the Chinese firm [Qiaowai] and a U.S.-based contractor [sic] called the U.S. Immigration Fund have previously been regulated and whether their actions can be legally punished.

“It appears the information regarding green card and no-risk guarantees violates our immigration laws,” Grassley wrote.

Note the action requested, and the potential illegal action is limited to Chinese Immigration Agency Qiaowai Group [1] and U.S. Immigration Fund (USIF).  Since January 2016 they [USIF] have offered the following investment projects to their clients seeking US Visas:

  • Brooklyn Public Library
  • 76 Eleventh Ave
  • TSQ Broadway Live
  • West Hollywood Edition
  • Halletts Point
  • 1 Journal Square (the Kushner connected project)

USIF describe themselves:

What We Do

Long-standing international relationships provide a steady and reliable source of investment capital from individuals seeking a U.S. Visa. USIF organizes the U.S. businesses (Regional Centers) that raise the Foreign Investor capital and manage the EB-5 process with USCIS.

The legal issue is:

… the firm [Qiaowai] guaranteeing a U.S. green card to Chinese investors in return for investment in the Kushner project. “They said the president would make sure it came through,” a technology executive told the Times. “They said there was no chance it could fail.”

[Does anyone else find “a technology executive” a strange source in a real estate/immigration matter?]

EB-5 Visas require the investment is “at risk”, which if Qiaowai is “guaranteeing” would preclude it viability as a EB-5 investment.  Likewise “it [visa] would come through” appears to be a guarantee of issuance of the visa, which is subject to US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS)  approval of Conditional Permanent Residence Status, Green Card and finally Naturalization.

EB-5flow
Credit: Klaskolaw.com

The smoking gun re: Jared Kushner appears to be:

a recent presentation featuring Kushner’s sister mentioned the connection [to Jared], according to The Washington Post.

The relevant WP passage is:

… that Nicole Kushner Meyer delivered a sales presentation in Beijing at which she urged Chinese citizens to invest in a New Jersey project being managed by the Kushner family’s real estate company. Meyer’s relationship to her brother was mentioned as part of the presentation.

So Jared sister mentioned his name in a sales presentation for the 1 Journal Square Project, a partnership of Kushner Companies,  WeWork and KABR Group, hosted by Qiaowai and U.S. Immigration Fund, in Beijing.  Jared sold his interest in the Kushner Companies in January.  I guess the smoking gun is in the eye of the beholder, I personally don’t see any illegality or perceived illegality on the part of Jared, his sister or the Kushner Companies.

In 2016 there were 7,516 EB-5 visa issued to citizen of mainland China.

Tidbits From Other Reportage

Various sources find venality, on behalf of the administration, in the fact that Congress pass and the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017 in early March, which extended the EB-5 program through the end of the fiscal year.

Reuters find the following incriminating, then in the final paragraphs acknowledge that they have no factual information {my emphasis and comments} :

In a promotional text message seen by Reuters, Qiaowai made note of Meyer’s relationship to Trump and called her {Jared sister Nicole Meyer} the event’s “heavyweight honored guest”.

In January, Qiaowai noted on its website that its founder and president, Ding Ying, had attended President Trump’s inauguration, meeting with the President and members of his family and cabinet.

“The fact that Ms Ding has once again been invited to attend a presidential inauguration shows that the U.S. Congress values and approves of the Qiaowai group,” it wrote.  {what other inaugurations has she attended?}

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Trump had met with Ding Ying. A spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence said his office has no recollection or record of any meeting taking place.

Checks of donors to Trump’s inaugural committee and a review of all contributions to presidential candidates in 2016 found no donations from Ding, Qiaowai or a U.S. registered subsidiary.  {checks of congressional campaign donations might prove interesting} 

[1] A 2010 article on Qiaowai Group (aka Qiao Wai Group) pointing  out some of their marking practices were the same as being alleged today by Sen. Grassley.

Washington Post Divulges Intelligence Methods

In their May 26, 2017 article Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin, Washington Post Reporters Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous and Greg Miller and the Post’s National Security Editor divulged a US Intelligence Community method.

Let’s analyze what happened, as reported by the Post.

Leak

Kushner – Kislyak Meeting

Nakashima, Entous and Miller reported in a 332 word article:

Purported Facts (italics are verbatim pulls from article)

  1.  Kislyak and Kushner met in Trump Tower on Dec. 1 or 2,
  2. The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser,
  3. Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring,
  4. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications,
  5. Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team,
  6. The White House disclosed the meeting only [sic] in March,
  7. Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance,
  8. The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment,
  9. Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts,  
    Note Bene! — Disclosure provide the Russians with confirmation that the communication channel is monitored.

Speculation

  1. Kushner’s apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than relying on U.S. government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia.
  2. people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

The Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) December 16, 2008 has 4 instances of the term “investigative interest”:

  1. (U) More broadly, detecting and interrupting criminal activities at their, early stages, and preventing crimes from occurring in the first place, is preferable to allowing criminal plots to come to fruition. Hence, assessments may also:be undertaken proactively with such objectives as detecting criminal activities; obtaining information on individuals, groups, or organizations of possible investigative interest, either because they may be involved in criminal or national security-threatening activities or because they may be targeted for attack or victimization in such activities; and identifying and assessing individuals who may have value as confidential human sources. (AGG-Dom, Part.II).  [pg 40]

  2. (U//FOUO) The sensitivity related to an academic institution arises from the American, tradition of “academic freedom” (e.g., ah atmosphere in which students and faculty are free to express unorthodox ideas and views and to challenge conventional thought without fear of repercussion). Academic freedom does not mean, however, that academic institutions are off limits to FBI investigators in pursuit of information or individuals of legitimate investigative interest. [pg 83]

  3. (U//FOUO) The sensitivity related to an academic institution arises from the American tradition of “academic freedom” (e.g., an atmosphere in which students and faculty are free to express unorthodox ideas and views and to challenge conventional thought without fear of repercussion). Academic freedom does not mean, however, that academic institutions are off limits to FBI investigators in pursuit of information or individuals of legitimate investigative interest. [pg 105]

  4. U//FOUO).An “undercover operation” is an operation that involves a series of related “undercover activities” over a period of time by an “undercover employee.” A series of related undercover activities consists of more than five separate substantive contacts by an undercover activities in employee violation with the individuals under investigation. In investigations relating to of federal criminal law that do not concern threats to the national security are listed or in foreign the AGG-UCO intelligence, undercover activity involving sensitive circumstances, which and the FGUSO, constitutes an undercover operation regardless of the number of contacts involved. A substantive contact is a communication, whether by oral, written, wire, or electronic means, that includes information of investigative interest. Mere incidental contact (e.g., a conversation that establishes an agreed time and location for another meeting) is not a substantive contact within the meaning of this policy.  [pg 137]

The first seems most applicable to the Trump Tower and the Russian Banker meetings.  The key phrases are:

  1. either because they may be involved in criminal or national security-threatening activities
  2. or because they may be targeted for attack or victimization in such activities;
  3. and identifying and assessing individuals who may have value as confidential human sources.

Since it is unlikely they would try to recruit Jared as a confidential human source, we can eliminate number 3.  The remaining choices are criminal or national  security-threatening activities or or they may be targeted for attack or victimization in such activities.

Until someone cites a criminal or national security-threatening activity that was potentially violated, I will lean towards the FBI is worried that Jared may be targeted for attack or victimization in a criminal or national security-threatening activity.

My Analysis

Let me define a few of my terms, some of which are in widespread use without specific definition:

  • Trump Russian Collusion – I interpret this to refer to collusion/conspiracy by the Trump Campaign team to help/coordinate with the Russian Government to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.  This would have occurred between June 16th 2015 and November 8th 2016.
  • Trump Transitions – November 8th 2016 – January 20th 2017.
  • SAP – Special Access Program – Special Access Program (SAP) is a high state of enforced need-to-know, and only a minimum number of cleared employees are given access to SAP information. It is established to control access, distribution, and provide protection for sensitive classified information beyond that normally required.
  • SSO – Special Security Officer – The Special Security Office (SSO) is a function within multiple arms of the United States federal government and armed forces with the mission to provide a reliable and secure means to receive and disseminate Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and Special Access Programs (SAP) to authorized recipients in the United States government and military organizations.
  • Diplomatic Pouch – A diplomatic bag, also known as a diplomatic pouch, is a container with certain legal protections used for carrying official correspondence or other items between a diplomatic mission and its home government or other diplomatic, consular, or otherwise official entities.

The Meeting

A meeting between an Ambassador and the Transition Team of an incoming President-elect is neither uncommon nor illegal.  There is much made of the “non-reporting” of the meeting.  To the best of my knowledge there is no requirement to report the meeting to any government agency, in a manner that would be public record.  In general anyone holding a SAP clearance is required to report foreign contacts to their Special Security Officer (SSO), but these would not be public record.  I believe there may be an exception for official duties.

I find it interesting that the date of the meeting is vague, I would expect the Intelligence Community (IC) transcript would have the date of the meeting, assuming that Kislyak would have included the date in his report or the IC would have the date from their surveillance of Kislyak.

ABC reportsKushner asked Russian ambassador for back channel on Syria and other policy matters.

The sources stress that the talk between Kushner and the Russian envoy about communications was focused on the U.S. response to the crisis in Syria and other policy-related matters.

The Post reporting has three obvious effects:

  1. Confirms the IC monitoring of the communications channel used by the Russians.
  2. Put Kushner and Flynn on notice that they need to coordinate their recollection of the meeting.
  3. Put Kushner and Flynn on notice that they need to provide their lawyers with copies of any notes they may have made.

The Intercept

The communications between Kislyak and the Russian Foreign Office (his superiors?) was either:

  1. Open channel – plain text, in which case the Russians would have known it would be intercepted.
  2. Open channel – encoded text, in which case the Russian now know the code has been broken.
  3. Secure channel – again confirmation that the secure channel has been intercepted and the code broken.
  4. Diplomatic Bag – confirms that US has access to information prior to being place in the bag, has illegally breached the bag to gain access, or had a source after it has been removed from the pouch at the destination.
  5. Diplomatic Courier – Same as above, with exception of breaching the bag.

Transmission of the report via 1 – 3 above, with a priori knowledge that the channel is insecure lends credence to the possibility of  disinformation (fact 9 above).

There were published reports of investigations into  “establishment of back channel communications” going back to September 2016.  Therefore a disinformation campaign would support other reports.

The Criminal Activity

The government official who disclosed classified information to the Post Team is guilty of violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 (18 US Code S-798).  Other than that the reportage has not cited any criminal violation.

Note; the duration of the back channel communications is implied to be the period between the meeting and January 20th 2017, base on “ between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin”.  After January 20th President Trump would have direct secure communications with the Kremlin, via White House communications systems.

The Back Channel

As described in Ellen’s video (below) the back channel would consist of using the Russian Embassy’s secure communications.  Like me she finds it incredulous to consider using the facilities of the most surveilled place in the US as a clandestine back channel.  Let’s see Jared would put on sunglasses, a fake mustache and a wig, sneak out the back door of the White House, Uber to the Russian Embassy, have a secure conversation with Sergey Lavroy and return to the White House undetected.

I have to wonder if Kislyak is sitting back laughing at the uproar his report is creating, especially if it was disinformation.

Does anyone else wonder why Kushner would be attempting to set up a back channel, if all of the reported communications between the Trump Campaign and Russia during the campaign existed.  The transition team should have been able to use the existing collusion channels.

My Conclusion

Either the Washington Post Team disclosed US Intelligence methods, assuming Kislyak didn’t send his report via an open or known compromised channel, or they participated in a Russian disinformation campaign, if the report was sent by an open or known compromised channel.

Ellen Nakashima’s Video

//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/4faa27a8-427e-11e7-b29f-f40ffced2ddb

Video caption from WP
“Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in December that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, asked him about setting up a communications channel between the transition team and the Kremlin using Russian facilities in the United States. (Video: Alice Li,McKenna Ewen/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)”

The headline’s photo, by Jabin Botsford, is completely unrelated, the photo and its original caption:

Botsford170420Trump14331

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni participate in a joint news conference at the White House on April 20. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

I may have to become a scofflaw.

Fernandina Beach, a very dog friendly place, is about to pass a “tethering ordinance” that I will violate, until forced to comply.

I “own or am owned by” two dogs, a Bouvier des Flandres (Poppy) and a Black Russian Terrier (Konna), who are sometime tethered when I walk them downtown, by myself.  Both are frequently seen downtown, at the dog park and at the many dog friendly restaurants.  Konna has his AKC Canine Good Citizen Title, does monthly visits to Council on Ageing, and has a blog (konnabrt.blogspot.com) with over 4,500 page views, while Poppy is an AKC Bench Show Champion (CCH Obvious Smart Alec).

If the proposed tethering ordinance (bit.ly/2qABI2q) is enacted we will be in violation.  When I am walking them downtown alone (happen infrequently) and either; go into 4th St. Deli or Amelia Tavern to order food to go or eat outside, go into the coffee shop for a cup of coffee to go, the ice cream shop for a cone, which is shared with them, or make a trip into the comfort station.  We will be in violation of:

  • Sec. 18-4, f, (1) A dog or cat may be tethered when it is in visual range of the owner, and the owner is located outside with the tethered animal.
    • I am sometimes out of visual range (walls) and I am not outside with the tethered animal.  PS, the human, unobstructed, visual range is 3.1 miles (bit.ly/1akqeAf).
  • Sec. 18-4, g, (2) The tether has the following properties: it is at least five times the length of the tethered animal’s body, as measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail; it terminates at both ends with a swivel; it does not weigh more than 10% of the tethered animal’s weight, and it is free of tangles;
    • Both are large dogs, 85-lbs, with body lengths in excess of 30-in.  Our standard walking lead is 5-ft vice 12.5-ft (150-in) and only has a swivel at the collar end.  I use a carabiner to secure the lead around a post or other fixed object at the various locations.
  • Sec. 18-4, g, (4) If there are multiple dogs or cats, each dog or cat must be tethered separately. The tethering of each dog or cat must be in accordance with the requirements of this Code;
    • Konna & Poppy are tethered to the same object.  They are in either sit or down stay, which they usually obey.  I frequently get comments from passersby, who have stopped to admire them, on how well behaved they are.  I sometimes have to step out to reinforce the command.
  • Sec. 18-4, g, (6) The dog or cat has access to water, adequate shelter, and dry ground;
    • They have neither water nor shelter while tethered.  Thanks to the many merchants downtown they have access to water as we do our walk.
  • Sec. 18-4, g, (9) … No animal shall be tethered so that it has access to public property, including easements and rights-of-way or property owned by another private individual or entity.
    • We are always either on public or property owned by another private individual or entity.

Note: the last of our violations would also cover any dog, tethered with its owners on the beach, under a cabana, with water, while the owners take a quick dip in the ocean.

Unless the commission see fit to add an exception to cover my situation and the owner on the beach, I guess, I will be in violation, I hope I get a sympathetic judge to hear my appeal.  This is a case where I will be a scofflaw, until forced to comply.

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}

IMHO DUD

 

Michael Flynn RT’s 10th Anniversary Celebration Speaking Engagement.

In December of 2015, Michael Flynn, Jill Stein (2012 & 2016 Presidential Candidate), Ken Livingston (London Mayor 2005), Raymond McGovern (CIA officer turned political activist) and others attended Information, messages, politics: the shape-shifting powers of today’s world, a conference, in Russia, to celebrate RT’s 10th anniversary.

Mr. Flynn was a paid speaker, via Leading Authorities, Inc. (his speaker’s Bureau) for which he was reportedly paid  $33,750, the lower end of his fee range of $30,000 – $50,000.

Flynn reported the trip to his former employer, the Defense Intelligent Agency, both before and upon his return as was required.  He did not report his speaker’s fee to Army as it was from a US company.

In an interview with Dana Priest he described the “gig”:

The gig was to do an interview with [RT correspondent] Sophie Shevardnadze. It was an interview in front of the forum, probably 200 people in the audience. My purpose there was I was asked to talk about radical Islam in the Middle East. They asked me to talk about what was going on in the situation unfolding in the Middle East. … The speaking agreement was done before Russian went into Syria, which was actually more interesting to me because … one of my discussions, I talked about the attacks in France … and the negative role that Iran was playing where I thought Russian could actually have a role. The statement that I made was actually: “Russia ought to get Iran to back out of the proxy wars they are involved in,” to include Syria, so we, the rest of the international community, could settle this situation down.

Part of the conference was a dinner, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, there are photos of Flynn sitting with Putin.

FlynnPutin
Somewhere I read that these were publicity shots as Putin moved from table to table, that is Jill Stein in right foreground.

Micheal Flynn and the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

In my lay opinion, for what it’s worth, Flynn Intel Group LLC, had no need to file a FARA registration, based on the work it did for Inovo, between August and October of 2016.

Micheal Flynn’s firm, Flynn Intel Group LLC,  entered into a contract with Inovo BV, a Dutch Firm on August 9, 2016.  After doing so, his firm  registered a new client for existing registrant,  IAW Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 on September 30, 2016 with an effective date of September 15, 2016.  The identified lobbyist was Robert Kelly.  It expected to do less than $5,000 for lobbying.

He was not obligated to register under The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as his firm wasn’t  “an agent representing the interests of foreign principal [1] in a political or quasi-political capacity [2].

Flynn Intel Group was assigned a task to “investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania” specifically; “to perform investigative research” on Mr. Gulen and “develop a short film piece on the results of its investigation.”

Mr. Gulen is represented by a prominent Washington lobbyist Tony Podesta  brother and partner in Podesta Group with John D. Podesta, HRC’s campaign manager.
Podesta Group has strong ties to Russia, they represent (as of 2016) the interests of Russia’s largest financial institution Sberbank of Russia, which controls approximately 30 percent of Russian banking assets.

On October 2nd 2016 Mr. Flynn had an Op-Ed article in The Hill “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support” which referenced Mr. Gulen.

The “short film piece” was never produced.

Flynn Intel Group was closed when Mr. Flynn was appoint to a White House National Security Advisor position.

In a letter to the Justice Department March 14th, Mr. Flynn’s lawyer said that he did not initially register as a foreign agent because the firm that hired him was not a foreign government. But the lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, said Mr. Flynn had decided to register after the fact because “the engagement could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

I could find no evidence of any “lobbying” done by Robert Kelly of Flynn Intel Group.

[1] The term “foreign principal” includes —

  1.  a government of a foreign country and a foreign political party;
  2.  a person outside of the United States, unless it is established that such person is an individual and a citizen of and domiciled within the United States, or that such person is not an individual and is organized under or created by the laws of the United States or of any State or other place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and has its principal place of business within the United States; and
  3. a partnership, association, corporation, organization, or other combination of persons organized under the laws of or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.

[2]  “Political or quasi-political capacity” includes —

  1. engages within the United States in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign principal;
  2. acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal;
  3. within the United States solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal; or
  4. within the United States represents the interests of such foreign principal before any agency or official of the Government of the United States;

As far as I can tell Flynn’s company did none of these acts.