August - 2016

August 31 or September 1, 2016: Secret FBI source for Russia investigation, Sam Clovis, met with Trump advisor, Carter Page, during campaign

Sam Clovis (Credit: public domain)

“In late summer, the professor met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia, offering to provide foreign-policy expertise to the Trump effort. In September, he reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign-policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper.”

(…) “In late August 2016, the professor reached out to Clovis, asking if they could meet somewhere in the Washington area, according to Clovis’s attorney, Victoria Toensing.

“He said he wanted to be helpful to the campaign” and lend the Trump team his foreign-policy experience, Toensing said.

Clovis, an Iowa political figure and former Air Force officer, met the source and chatted briefly with him over coffee, on either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1, at a hotel cafe in Crystal City, she said. Most of the discussion involved him asking Clovis his views on China.

“It was two academics discussing China,” Toensing said. “Russia never came up.”

The professor asked Clovis if they could meet again, but Clovis was too busy with the campaign. After the election, the professor sent him a note of congratulations, Toensing said.

Clovis did not view the interactions as suspicious at the time, Toensing said, but now is unsettled that the professor never mentioned his contacts with other Trump aides.” (Read more: Washington Post, 5/18/2018)

August 29, 2016 – Harry Reid cites evidence of Russian tampering in US vote, and seeks FBI inquiry

Harry Reid (Credit: public domain)

“In a letter to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey Jr., Mr. Reid wrote that the threat of Russian interference “is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results.” Recent classified briefings from senior intelligence officials, Mr. Reid said in an interview, have left him fearful that President Vladimir V. Putin’s “goal is tampering with this election.”

(…) “Mr. Reid’s accusation that Russia is seeking not only to influence the election with propaganda but also to tamper with the vote counting goes significantly beyond anything the Obama administration has said in public.

While intelligence agencies have told the White House that they have “high confidence” that Russian intelligence services were behind the hacking of the Democratic committee, the administration has not leveled any accusations against Mr. Putin’s government. Asked about that in the interview, Mr. Reid said he was free to say things the president was not.

But Mr. Reid argued that the connections between some of Donald J. Trump’s former and current advisers and the Russian leadership should, by itself, prompt an investigation. He referred indirectly in his letter to a speech given in Russia by one Trump adviser, Carter Page, a consultant and investor in the energy giant Gazprom, who criticized American sanctions policy toward Russia.

“Trump and his people keep saying the election is rigged,” Mr. Reid said. “Why is he saying that? Because people are telling him the election can be messed with.” Mr. Trump’s advisers say they are concerned that unnamed elites could rig the election for his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Reid argued that if Russia concentrated on “less than six” swing states, it could alter results and undermine confidence in the electoral system. That would pose challenges, given that most states have paper backups, but he noted that hackers could keep people from voting by tampering with the rolls of eligible voters.” (Read more: New York Times, 8/29/2016)

August 27, 2016 – In response to Brennan’s briefing, Senator Harry Reid writes to Comey, calling for the FBI to open an investigation into Russian influence over Trump

On August 27, 2016, Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, responds to Brennan’s recent briefing by writing a letter to FBI director, James Comey, expressing concerns that Trump is an “unwitting agent” of the Kremlin and that Russia is attempting to influence the presidential election. He then requests that the F.B.I. open an investigation.

(Reid Letter to Comey, 8/27/2016)

August 26, 2016 – More Strzok/Page texts that express anger at Trey Gowdy and smelling Trump support at Walmart

In the early morning of August 26, 2016, Strzok sends Page a text expressing anger at Trey Gowdy and says, “he’s really starting to p*ss me off.”

(Trey Gowdy appeared on Fox News the previous evening, discussing the Clinton team’s use of BleachBit to destroy her emails.) (Fox News, 8/26/2016)

Later that day, Strzok writes: “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support…”

August 25, 2016 – CIA director John Brennan briefs Harry Reid and other “Gang of Eight” members on Russia’s efforts to help Trump

John Brennan (Credit: Al Drago/New York Times)

“The C.I.A. told senior lawmakers in classified briefings last summer that it had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president, a finding that did not emerge publicly until after Mr. Trump’s victory months later, former government officials say.”

(…) “The former officials said that in late August — 10 weeks before the election — John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director, was so concerned about increasing evidence of Russia’s election meddling that he began a series of urgent, individual briefings for eight top members of Congress, some of them on secure phone lines while they were on their summer break.

It is unclear what new intelligence might have prompted the classified briefings. But with concerns growing both internally and publicly at the time about a significant Russian breach of the Democratic National Committee, the C.I.A. began seeing signs of possible connections to the Trump campaign, the officials said. By the campaign’s final weeks, Congress and the intelligence agencies were racing to understand the scope of the Russia threat.

In an Aug. 25 briefing for Harry Reid, then the top Democrat in the Senate, Mr. Brennan indicated that Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election, according to two former officials with knowledge of the briefing.

The officials said Mr. Brennan also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election. The F.B.I. and two congressional committees are now investigating that claim, focusing on possible communications and financial dealings between Russian affiliates and a handful of former advisers to Mr. Trump. So far, no proof of collusion has emerged publicly.” (Read more: New York Times, 4/06/2017)

August 19, 2016 – Manafort resigns as Trump campaign manager

Paul Manafort (Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters)

“The Trump campaign announced Manafort was resigning from the campaign, nearly 5 months after he joined.

“I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process,” Trump said in a statement. “Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”

The Trump campaign provided no reason for Manafort’s resignation. But in the days immediately leading up to the announcement, the New York Times reported investigators were looking into $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the Associated Press reported he helped a pro-Russian party in Ukraine funnel money to lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.

“I think my father didn’t want to be distracted by whatever things Paul was dealing with,” Trump’s son Eric told Fox News after the resignation. “Paul was amazing, and, yes, he helped us get through the primary process, he helped us get through the convention. He did a great job with the delegates. But, again, my father didn’t want to have the distraction looming over the campaign.”

Shortly before Manafort’s resignation, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, now senior advisers to the White House, were brought on as the campaign’s chief executive and campaign manager, and ultimately led Trump to an unexpected victory in November. (Fortune, 3/22/2017)

August 15, 2016 – In response to Brennan’s warnings, Jeh Johnson floats the idea of designating state voting mechanisms as “critical infrastructure”

Jeh Johnson (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

“Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation’s archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms “critical infrastructure,” a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks.

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.

The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective.” (Read more: Washington Post, 6/23/2017)

August 15, 2016 – Strzok/Page text message says ‘We Can’t Take That Risk’ — discusses ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Trump presidency

“Two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation exchanged text messages last year in which they appear to have discussed ways to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

 

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. (Read more: The Daily Caller, 12/13/2017) (Strzok/Page/text messages)

August 2016 – Head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, flies to Washington and briefs John Brennan on an alleged stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow

John Brennan (l) and Robert Hannigan. (Credit: Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

(…) “Steele believed that the Russians were engaged in the biggest electoral crime in U.S. history, and wondered why the F.B.I. and the State Department didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Likening it to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt that President Obama needed to make a speech to alert the country. He also thought that Obama should privately warn Putin that unless he stopped meddling the U.S. would retaliate with a cyberattack so devastating it would shut Russia down.

Steele wasn’t aware that by August, 2016, a similar debate was taking place inside the Obama White House and the U.S. intelligence agencies. According to an article by the Washington Post, that month the C.I.A. sent what the paper described as “an intelligence bombshell” to President Obama, warning him that Putin was directly involved in a Russian cyber campaign aimed at disrupting the Presidential election—and helping Trump win. Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.) But, as the Post noted, the C.I.A.’s assessment that the Russians were interfering specifically to boost Trump was not yet accepted by other intelligence agencies, and it wasn’t until days before the Inauguration that major U.S. intelligence agencies had unanimously endorsed this view.”

(…) “In early September, 2016, Obama tried to get congressional leaders to issue a bipartisan statement condemning Russia’s meddling in the election. He reasoned that if both parties signed on the statement couldn’t be attacked as political. The intelligence community had recently informed the Gang of Eight—the leaders of both parties and the ranking representatives on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees—that Russia was acting on behalf of Trump. But one Gang of Eight member, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed skepticism about the Russians’ role, and refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning Russia. After that, Obama, instead of issuing a statement himself, said nothing.

Steele anxiously asked his American counterparts what else could be done to alert the country. One option was to go to the press. Simpson wasn’t all that worried, though. As he recalled in his subsequent congressional testimony, “We were operating under the assumption at that time that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and so there was no urgency to it.” (Read more: The New Yorker, 3/12/2018)

August 9, 2016 – The most damaging text between Strzok and Page suggests they will stop Trump from becoming president

“It was the most damaging of all the damaging texts exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. On Aug. [9], 2016, in the second week of the Trump-Russia investigation on which both were working, Page texted Strzok to say, “He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

(…) “The Justice Department gave Congress Page’s “not ever going to become president” text months ago, when it produced thousands of texts to Hill investigators. But lawmakers — and the public — did not learn of the explosive second part of the exchange — Strzok’s “We’ll stop it” answer — until last Thursday, when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the Clinton email investigation was  that given to Congress.

Why wasn’t that given to Congress?” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., asked on Fox News the day the Horowitz report was released. “Why did I find out about that today at noon?”

(…) “There had been a flaw in the FBI’s collection system, Horowitz said. Searching for the missing texts, Horowitz took possession of Strzok’s and Page’s phones and “undertook a series of steps to seek to exploit, to extract the missing text messages from the phones.” (Read more: Washington Examiner, 6/20/2018)